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Breakfast for One, Italian Style
Though I was the only guest at Villa Pilati, on the west coast of Sicily, the breakfast table was the very picture of abbondanza, arrayed with several kinds of bread, a choice of orange or lemon preserves, three kinds of yogurt and a creamy molded sweet called biancomangiare that Maria Antonietta Aula--owner of this small and quite wonderful B&B--had prepared from her grandmother’s recipe. And, ah yes, one of my favorites: croutons made from sesame-crusted semolina bread, sprinkled lightly with dried oregano and drizzled with oil pressed from the estate’s own olives (pictured).
Back home in New York’s Hudson Valley, I made these oil-glossed croutons for my husband. He loved them as an alternative to toast spread with butter, and no doubt his cardiologist would feel the same way; since then they’ve joined our repertoire of quick breakfast options.
When the weather turns warm again, I’ll be ready to make a coffee granita like the one I had at Hotel Relais in Modica last October. Owner Antonio Modica chilled a mixture of sweetened espresso and cinnamon overnight, transforming it into granita the next morning with the aid of an ice cream maker. Dipping pieces of brioche into the coffee-flavored slush, it was hard to imagine a more refreshing eye opener…unless it was the mid-morning lemon granita I ate a few days later at Bar Roma di Aurelio in Sciacca, on Sicily’s southern coast.
At Palazzo Malaspina, located near Florence in a small hamlet called San Donato in Poggio, slices of coarse Tuscan prosciutto are served with anise-flavored tea bread that is “neither sweet or savory,” as inn keeper Maria Pellizzari puts it. Standing at the breakfast buffet, I carved chunks of semi-soft Tuscan pecorino cheese and spooned fluffy ricotta from a nearby farm onto my plate.
Maria’s homemade fig preserves are phenomenal and, at the height of the season, she makes an unusual jam from fresh tomatoes. In late fall and winter, it’s time to mix up a batch of Maria’s lemony carrot jam. I love to eat it over a thin layer of ricotta on crusty country-style bread, toasted or not. Or, for a most un-Italian but wonderful breakfast sandwich, team it up with peanut butter and whole-grain bread. With its vivid color, this jam makes a nice gift when presented in a glass jar topped with a pretty bow.
LEMONY CARROT JAM
(Marmellata di carote)
Makes about 2 cups
1 pound fresh carrots, peeled
1-1/4 cups sugar
Cut the carrots in 1-inch chunks (makes about 3-1/2 cups). Combine them with 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until very tender, about 30 minutes.
Puree the cooked carrots and remaining liquid in a food processor bowl or by passing through a food mill fitted with the medium cutting blade.
Meanwhile, use a zester to cut the lemon peel (yellow part only) in fine threads; alternatively, peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler and slice the pieces into thin strips (makes about 1 tablespoon). Squeeze the juice from the lemons through a strainer into a bowl (makes about 1/4 cup).
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar with the lemon zest and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir the sugar syrup and lemon juice into the carrot puree. Simmer until very thick. Cool.
Spoon the jam into a jar or other container; refrigerate or freeze.
© Toni Lydecker 2007
Toni Lydecker is the author of Serves One: Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own and is currently at work on a Sicilian-style seafood cookbook. To see more of her writing and recipes, visit www.tonilydecker.com.