April 9, 2013
My Roman friend Roberta–who has moved to Sicily–proposed that I host an afternoon tea.
Great idea, you say?
Ha. Consider this: Roberta works for Gambero Rosso, Italy’s gastronomic bible, which pitilessly rates and ranks food. She’s reviewed fancy Michelin-starred restaurants all over Italy … and Paris … and London … and New York. She’s penned cookbooks and other food books and now runs a restaurant near the shore with her new Sicilian marito.
So the thought of feeding my food-goddess amica filled me with a kind of horror.
But I’d been fed at her table plenty of times, so it was time to step up and act like a Big Girl.
Whaddya serve at a tea party, anyway? Was Roberta expecting high tea or low tea? I was sure mine would be low–very, very low.
You eat breads and cakes, don’t you? I can do that. I like to bake. I ran my usual repertoire through my head.
- Cranberry-nut loaf. (But there are no cranberries here!)
- Pumpkin tea loaf. (No canned pumpkin here!)
- Chocolate chip cookies. (No chocolate chips!)
- Blueberry-oatmeal muffins. (No blueberries or oatmeal!)
- Buttermilk biscuits. (No buttermilk here!)
- Etc, etc, etc Ach!
Every single thing I’d ever baked in my entire life contained a key ingredient that this isle lacks.
So to the Wide Web I went, trolling for lemony-orangey things. Because mountains of lemons and oranges we have.
Then I got to work squeezing lemons, chopping nuts, whipping eggs. It was warm enough to toss the doors wide open. Big furry bees circled the honey.
I made Tuscan lemon muffins using whole ricotta instead of skim (no such thing here), and more lemon zest than the recipe calls for.
And an orange-nut loaf.
And lemon meringue pots de creme, a NY Times recipe.
And raisin scones, totally unworthy of a photo.
You can just get a glimpse of them below–those things in the back that are flat and hard as hockey pucks. What self-defeating instinct made me put pucks on the table????? The fact that I had good mandarin marmalade and zagara honey to scoop on them was no excuse.
I had a Plan called Prosecco. When my guests arrived, I would get them tipsy so they wouldn’t care what they were eating. I let the Moroccan mint tea steep and steep while we tossed back the sauce. We toasted the slaves of Milan and New York who do not know the perks of the free-lance life, and we toasted Sicily.
The Tuscan lemon muffins were good and moist, but Roberta reserved her praise for the lemon meringue pots de creme.
Hooray! I got the Gambero Rosso thumb-up!