I don’t know what it is, but pretty much everyone I know here since I moved seems to appreciate great quality food. I’m not talking about those expensive restaurant critic-type people either. Quality of food is valued highly here whether you are at that rundown building that turned rustic restaurant serving fresh carne on the grill, or a nice seafood ristorante on the sea. Moving here has taught me so much about food and how much quality and freshness is absolutely number one no matter where you are. Using produce that is in season and that is organically grown makes a huge difference. That’s what makes Italian cuisine so special.
One ingredient that is a staple in Italy is the tomato. Typically tomatoes, pomodori, are used like a vegetable even though they are technically considered a fruit. Well have you ever thought about making a dessert with tomatoes? (Do you think I’ve gone off the deep end?) I know it sounds crazy, but about two months ago E’s mom told me about a local contest going on that her friend’s company were involved with here in town. You must invent a dessert recipe using tomatoes. I was sold! Pretty much everyone loves tomatoes, right? Except for my grandma who will only eat tomatoes if they are cooked. (Grandma, you are missing out!) E’s mom is good friends with a lady who her and her family own a business for jarred organic tomatoes, vegetables and sauces all made from raw materials . It is the most darling store. Antonella and her two sister’s father started the business and they are carrying on the family name, Mediterranea Belfiore. The contest guideline is to use the tomatoes from Mediterranea Belfiore, write the recipe and send it in with a photo and Chef Loretta Fanella will pick five finalists to participate in the final where judges will then taste your creation.
Last week when E was in the United States for work, I spent some time at his mom’s house. One day we decided we would try experimenting desserts with tomatoes. It was a lot of fun, but also quite difficult. E’s mom made an amazing dessert, Master Chef worthy. She made a pureè with the tomatoes and tried three different spices to sweeten them; ginger, cinnamon and vanilla. We narrowed it down to the ginger and cinnamon as the best flavors. She made a gelatin with the puree and ginger spice. She then made thin almond waffle crisps and a fluffy whipping cream with cream cheese and heavy cream. Layered the three ingredients in a glass. It was delicious!
I am not so experienced in the kitchen, especially when it comes to desserts. Since I needed to be thinking of tomatoes as the fruit they are, I tried to think of a fruit that is similar. Persimmons are pretty similar but aren’t in season anymore. Oranges? Oranges would be a good idea to try, I thought. I also knew that I wanted to involve some kind of cream to the dish. Cheesecake! Cheesecake with a biscotti crust, layer of pureed tomato sweetened with sugar, orange and lemon and then the layer of cheesecake using fresh ricotta and cream cheese. E’s mom helped me with the idea to become a reality and reminded me that we must use two products from Medierranea Belfiore. On top as s glaze I would put un vasetto di passatina which is a product from them, a light and sweet tomato and lemon sauce.
I sent out the recipe and three days later to my absolute surprise I was chosen to be a finalist! I am still in shock and I can’t believe that my recipe was chosen by Chef Loretta Fanella! I am so grateful and excited to participate in this Friday’s event. (Not to mention a little nervous seeing as it will all be in Italian.) Thankfully E’s mom is very supportive and will help me out. Tomorrow I must make six small cheesecakes and two large ones for the contest. I will keep you posted on how it turns out tomorrow and will post the recipe as well. HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!