Saturday, December 31, 2016

An Italian Dinner

There have been major developments in Ms. Foodie's life, the main one being moving to a house. A big house! This is great in so many ways - mainly that now I can indulge my little heart in doing lots of entertaining. I quickly discovered, however, that lots of entertaining means...lots of cleaning up, cooking, shopping, and then cleaning up afterwards! Oh well, it's worth it! Accordingly, let me present the first of my long dreamed-of entertainments - an Italian dinner al fresco!

The long table was set. I have been reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, a wonderful book set in Italy that is nothing like the movie. In the movie, the romance is between two people - in the book, it is a three-way love affair between Mayes, her boyfriend, and a 200-year old villa. And what a passionate affair it is! I am so glad that Mayes renovated the villa, because now I never have to - like any love affair, it sounds exhausting!

She set up her long table under a linden tree. I have no linden tree, but thought this looked charming too.

This photo shows the magic of the whole affair rather better - I put up palm trees all around the lovely big patio, and a Moroccan carpet in the gazebo. I fancy it gives the whole place an exotic feel - all in the suburbs of Ottawa!

All well and good, but what did we eat?? Well, I went simple - a store-bought seafood lasagna, baguette, asparagus, and mussels in white wine and garlic. Simple and yum. The appetizers featured smoked salmon, so we truly ate the ocean that night.

Dining alfresco was so lovely. Truly, Italians do it better! 

Buon proveccio! 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

More cake!

What, you want even more cake?

Well, all right.

My children's school had a carnival lately, and there was a silent cake auction! We had glorious plans of making a mermaid-themed cake, complete with an island and pirate ship. The children argued over it for quite some time. In the end, it remained just a beautiful dream. Oh well. At least I donated some books (with underlining - eek!)

I did, however, head over to the carnival with a fist full of money, ready to spend!

First priority, of course, was COTTON CANDY!

Heheh, no. Sorry kids, the line up was too long. First priority was the book sale! I got lots of great books and some fun toys.

After that it was on to the bake sale! I ogled the cakes in the silent auction:

I love these parents! So colourful and inventive! 
Last year there was a "dirt cake", complete with gummy worms!

My favourite was this purple flower sparkle cake. So beautiful!  
Beside it is a basketball cake!

Shopkins cake - adorable! (but is her face supposed to be SO squished?)

Ah, lovely, lovely cakes. I bid on a few but, alas, was outbid. I suppose it's okay, as I had no party planned, and getting through a cake on our own would have been a bit of a chore. (Silent auction cakes look good, but invariably are made with hydrogenated oil frosting, which has less charm than people seem to think).

I did, however, get some Chinese turkey dumplings and an ice cream cone cupcake. 

And, later on, the kids did get their cotton candy (phewf!)

Keep on munching! 


In India, cassata is a layered ice cream treat with fruit and even nuts. This is all I ever knew of cassata - a cool treat on a hot day.

One day, reminiscing about cassata on Facebook, an Indian friend said that this was her favourite treat. So, of course, I had to get one for her! But when I googled it, lo and behold, I discovered that it is actually, and also, an Italian cake! Who knew? And not just any cake, it is a gorgeous cake! Green marzipan fancifully decorated with candied fruit, swirls and whirls of frosting.

The interior sounded a little less enticing - ricotta cheese! Well, you know I have to try anything new I hear about, so a-cassataing I went!

My first attempt, of course, involved Pasticceria Gelateria, the famed Ottawa Italian bakery. I am not overly fond of their treats; the last few times I went there the pastries were a bit....ahem, stale! But if I ordered a cake fresh, surely it would be okay. So I ordered a cassata cake for my birthday party (which my friend was attending). On a hot July day I headed over to Preston St. to pick it up. But what to my horrified eyes should appear but an ice cream cake coated in chocolate!

"What is this?" I asked.


"But this isn't what I wanted! It's supposed to be green, with fruit and frosting!

"Oh no, that's a cassata Siciliana. This is a cassata Milanese!"

There is more than one kind of cassata! Who knew?

Fortunately, they were willing to keep the cake and sell it to someone else who knew what she was looking for! I headed off to my trusty Swiss Pastries and got an "Elegant Black Forest Cake". So don't cry for me, friends, because Ms. Foodie always gets her cake!

Recently, for mother's day, I decided to try again. I had actually called Pasticceria Gelateria to ask if they sold torta della nonna, a mouthwatering-sounding Tuscan pie that I had read about in a Frances Mayes book (yes, I am on an Italian kick lately). It occurred to me that I should ask about cassata Siciliana again.

"Yes, we can make it."

"With green marzipan and candied fruits? Very fancy?"


I sent them the photos of the fancy cakes I had seen. No, they wouldn't make it that way. They had one style of cassata Siciliana, and that's what I was going to get. Could they at least use the shiny maraschino cherries, I asked? Yes, they could do that.

Ooh, now this was exciting. I decided to order it. After all, mama deserves the best on Mother's day!

My first cassata Siciliana, shiny cherries and all

And how did it taste? Umm..not bad! The cake was moist and very, very fresh. The ricotta filling was sweet but not too sweet. My husband said it reminded him of cakes in India, which I think is a compliment. 

I found it a little bland, to be honest. The marzipan didn't have the rich almondy flavour of the Marzipan Bombe cake at Swiss Pastries (my very favourite) and the moist layers, while very pleasing, lacked something. The following day (okay, for breakfast, if you must ask) I ate another piece with some of the candied ginger. That gave it more of a punch. I think nuts and candied fruit in the layers would augment the flavours. 

Luscious layers of ricotta and cake

So there you go! My cassata cravings were answered, but that was just the beginning of my cassata adventure. Someday I will try making it myself, and will add in orange blossom water, candied fruits, nuts...all the flavours of Southern Italy!

Buon proveccio!