CUCINA/LE FESTE – CELEBRATIONS
The 4th of July is a revelation, a not-to-be-missed tradition featuring fireworks, food, and drinking, all of which compliments my Italian heritage. Yet nothing brings out my Americanness quite like celebrating my country’s birth in my ancestor’s Italy. Basically, I throw red, white, and blue over everything and force my pasta-loving friends and family to indulge in American barbecue. (Talk about a challenge; it ain’t easy to make good barbecue in Italy.) While I dress everyone – including Nonna – in stars and stripes and plant flags all over the house and make super-sized burgers or finger-licking chicken wings (which Italians usually throw in the garbage rather than cook and savor), I try to throw the natives a bone.
One year that bone came in the form of the above strawberry tiramisu dessert. Like me, it looks American but has Italian blood in its veins. Normally, tiramisu, which means “pick me up,” is made with Savoiardi cookies, mascarpone cheese, whipped cream, and espresso. This recipe, however, replaces the espresso with strawberries. I threw in a few blueberries to get the blue and represent the stars on the flag.
I’ve adapted an old recipe by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis to remove the alcohol and make it kid-friendly. Trust me, however. Giada’s recipe is a winner with the adults; your Zio won’t be able to get enough, and you’ll get drunk on the whipped cream while making it. True story. I hope your people enjoy this recipe as much as mine do. Happy 4th!
1 and 1/4 cups Strawberry jam
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp Orange juice
1 pound Mascarpone cheese at room temperature to soften
1 and 1/3 cup Whipping or heavy cream
1/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 pounds strawberries, divided
30 to 50 Savoiardi cookies (Giada says you can use ladyfingers, and you can, but the Savoiardi are a must for Italians because they are much better at soaking up the flavors in the other layers)
- Whisk jam and orange juice in one bowl.
- Place mascarpone cheese and 2 tbsp orange juice in another bowl and gently blend.
- Using an electric mixer, beat cream, vanilla, and sugar until it reaches soft peaks. You want it to have the consistency of Cool Whip, not too stiff.
- Add some of the whipped cream mixture to the mascarpone mixture a little at a time. Gently stir it all together to blend.
- Hull and slice half of the strawberries. I slice them vertically for the top of the tiramisu, but I often slice them horizontally and thinly for the inside layers. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
- Begin layering. Place a thin film of the jam and juice mixture on the bottom of your rectangular dish. (Pyrex dishes work great, by the way.) Then, place a layer of cookies on top. Cut some of the cookies to cover the entire bottom. Then, put some jam and juice mixture on top of the cookies and follow that up with the cheese and cream mixture. Top that with sliced strawberries. Each layer should cover the one before it. Repeat the layers until you reach the top of the dish. Then, arrange your fruit to create the flag as seen in the photo above. Refrigerate overnight (or at the very least for many hours). The longer the cookies get to soak up the flavors, the better your dessert will be.
- Mangia, mangia!