To say I was raised on a diet of gelato and caffé latte with cookies for breakfast would not be an exaggeration. That's what you get when you're born in the 70s, the daughter of an Italian father (Roman, to be precise) and a Jewish mother (from Miami Beach). I didn't complain. Neither did my older brother Bernardo.
1978: In Maratea, a village above the sea, with my brother eating gelato.
What I learned from summers spent on the Italian coast then returning to the States just before the start of each school year was that the Italian way of living always started and ended with food. Not just any food, but handmade food, often simply prepared yet bursting with layers of flavor.
Any day of the week—usually every day of the week—this could look like waking up early to be one of the first to arrive at the open-air or covered food market with stalls of local farmers, cheesemakers, butchers, bakers, pasta makers, fishermen. The experience was as much about community as it was about handmade foods and hand-picked fruits and vegetables.
1985: In Vieste, at an open-air market with my brother and our Neapolitan nonno.
This summer, I turned 51 and I've been a bit nostalgic, longing for the simplicity, ease and joy that comes from everyday rituals, from making something decadent out of something seemingly basic. I've raised my kids Isaiah and Chiara with this food lifestyle philosophy. We've even churned gelato from scratch with hand-picked, sweet ruby red Tristar strawberries from the farmer's market we slow-roasted into a caramelized delicious mess. Is there really anything more satisfying?
From left: TriStar strawberries at the NYC Union Square Greenmarket and slow-roasted, hand-churned strawberry gelato from my first book, Cooking for Isaiah.
Spoon or drizzle over yogurt, ice cream, buttered toast or stack of pancakes. You can also combine some of the puree with balsamic or sherry vinegar for a summery vinaigrette.
680g (1½ pounds) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, preferably from the farmer's market
1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the strawberries on the parchment paper and cook until the natural juices are released, about 40 minutes; let cool slightly.
2. Depending on the application of the roasted strawberries, leave whole, chop or transfer to a high-speed blender or food processor and process until smooth.