Love comes in all shapes in sizes and the older I get the more I cherish the many special relationships that I have been blessed with. Friends are like the family you have the priveledge of selecting, and without our California family I do not know what we would have done for all of these years; each in their own a fundamental part of the fabric of our lives.
A little more than a year ago, the circle widened as we came to know and love a very special young couple whom I will refer to as I Tesori. It was clear from the start that this relationship would be something meaningful, something lasting. Early on, I was able to meet La Mamma of Il Tesoro and quickly understood how this young man developed into the fine person he is.
So you ask, what do all of these belle parole have to do with food, Italian food in particular? For me the ultimate gift I can receive is a gift from the hearth whether is be a small jar of honey, a few homemade cookies, or perhaps a basket of garden vegetables. Recently La Mamma sent me a jar of her special bitter orange preserves or conserve di arance amare from Friuli and I couldn’t have been more touched. Painstakingly packaged by hand with meticulous detail, my initial impulse was to slather it on a toasted bit of country bread but this delicious gift deserved to be the centerpiece of something more spectacular.
San Valentino, the patron saint of love, celebrates the relationships we are blessed to have as we walk through life and dolce is always a part of that celebration. Coeur de la Creme or Cuore della Crema in Italian, in culinary terms always signifies “heart with cream”. Traditionally made in a heart shaped wicker basket lined with cheesecloth or a porcelain heart shaped mold filled with any combination of lightly sweetened dairy products. The drained Coeur de la Creme or Cuore della Crema is most often served with a combination of fresh berries and perhaps some berry sauce. Accompanying this Valentine specialty with the conserve from Michela would be a way in which to honor her gift in the way it should be.
The combination of ricotta and mascarpone distinguishes this recipe from others, giving it undeniable Italian flair. Lighted sweetened with barely a dusting of confectioner’s sugar this dessert is reliant on the highest quality ricotta and mascarpone available. The conserve was indeed an artisan product, intense in flavor with the ideal balance of bitter and sweet making it absolutely heaven sent.
Although this makes a rather impressive presentation, it takes little skill in the kitchen and comes together quite easily. Draining the mold for a 24 hour period is however essential.
Coeur de la Creme or Cuore della Crema, is an elegant dessert to serve at Valentine’s Day or any other time of the year you want to show those that you love how much you care. Grazie da cuore Michela, for such a special gift and of course for sharing you wonderful children with us.
- 1½ cup of high quality ricotta
- 8 ounces of mascarpone
- ½ cup cold heavy cream
- 3 Tbs. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
- grated peel of ½ large orange
- High quality preserves or fresh berries
- Large piece of culinary cheesecloth soaked in lemon water and wrung dry
- Porcelain Coeur de la Creme mold - 6 inch
- Chilled medium sized mixing bowl and beaters
- Place a strainer over a mixing bowl, add the ricotta and press through the strainer using a spatula and/or table spoon, be sure to scrape the residual ricotta from the bottom of the strainer. This will help to smooth out the texture in a way which is not possible from beating it alone.
- Line the porcelain heart mold with the lemon treated cheesecloth, allowing tit to cover the interior with enough excess cheesecloth to be folded over the top of the filled mold.
- Add the sifted confectioner’s sugar, orange peel and vanilla to the prepared ricotta and mix together thoroughly.
- Using a hand held electric mixer add the mascarpone and beat a few minutes until blended well, set aside.
- Whip the heavy cream in the chilled bowl with the chilled beaters until stiff peaks are formed. Fold the whipped cream into the ricotta - mascarpone mixture until no uneven streaks appear.
- Spoon the mixture into the lined mold, smoothing it out with a spoon. Fold the excess cheesecloth over the top of the mixture. Place the filled mold on a shallow pan and put into the refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to serve, have a decorative plate ready for the cream heart. Unfold the cheesecloth from the top, wipe any residual liquid or whey from the mold and invert onto the serving plate. Spoon a bit of the conserve on the top of the heart. Serve on individual dessert plates, including some of the preserves with each portion.