friday feast: the proof is in the panna cotta

Thanks to Diane Shipley DeCillis, we now know why the course of true love never did run smooth.

Curtain up!

* * *

via Da Silvano

OPERA BUFFA

At La Dolce Vita, in the village,
the gnocchi lifts itself off the fork,
floats like a cloud in your mouth,
the marinara so fresh,
it ripens the tomatoes, garlic
and basil right on your tongue.

Clemenza’s in the kitchen
stirring the sauce,
telling everyone he really doesn’t eat
that much, it’s the fumes
that have permeated his body,
gotten under his skin
and made him fat.

My date Antonio closes his eyes
after each bite, groans,
Marona, this is as good
as my mother’s.

Satisfied, he lays his folded napkin
on the empty plate and slumps
in the chair while I,
having saved room,
crane my neck looking for the waiter.
What, you want dessert too?
He seems surprised.

I’d like to see what they have,
though I’ve committed it
to memory.
Aren’t you full? he asks.
Am I full? I think to myself.
It’s bad enough that we have to die,
that I’m not taller, that my metabolism
is molto lento, but to dine with someone
who is indifferent

to a chilled plate
of Panna Cotta,
silky, quivering cream
adorned with fresh berries,
or Torta Strega, cake
perfumed with liqueur,
filled with pastry cream
and finished
with hazelnut meringue.

I cannot live on lasagna alone
and the fact that Antonio
doesn’t sense this threatens
our chance for a future.

The waiter smiles as he unravels
the dessert menu, handwritten
on rough brown craft paper.
Tiramisu
Umbrian Apple Tart
Selville Orange Sorbetto …
This is so beautiful
, I say,
ordering the Panna Cotta.
May I keep the menu?
Of course Signora
, he says.
And you sir?

No. Nothing for me,
just a cup of espresso
.

Oh Antonio, Antonio what
are you thinking?
How can I trust a man
who doesn’t like sweets?
At La Dolce Vita
what could have been the start
of a beautiful romance—
snapped like a broken string
on a Stradivarius!

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003
Tribute to Italian Poets. Posted by permission of the author, copyright © 2013 Diane Shipley DeCillis.

 

via Da Silvano

* * *

Diane on “Opera Buffa”:

I often write about food and tend to use a collage of autobiographical and other experiences in my poetry, with garnish.

When I first dated my husband, we were joined by another couple at Da Silvano in NY. The food was delicious and it reminded me of an authentic Italian restaurant I’d frequented in Detroit, back in the 70’s. The owner’s mother was a marvelous cook and I remembered meeting her in the kitchen, as she stood over the stove stirring a pot. She was rather plump and made a comment about how just the smell was making her fat. The image of her reminded me of Clemenza in “The Godfather” making his spaghetti sauce for the Corleone’s.

The waiter at Da Silvano presented the dessert menu on rough hewn paper, which looked like a work of art to me (I later framed it). It was the first time I’d had panna cotta, recommended by my husband. It was like the foie gras of dessert, thick and decadently creamy. The other man chose not to have dessert and I thought, I’m glad I’m not dating him! As I wrote the poem, it seemed natural to dramatize it, Italian opera style.

* * *

Diane had me at the second line with “gnocchi lifts itself off the fork.” *kisses fingertips*

I pretty much floated through the rest of the poem, hooked by the theatrical narrative, loving the sensory detail, appreciating that delicious layer of sly humor, naturally wondering why I had never tried any “silky, quivering cream adorned with fresh berries.”

Well.

We would certainly have to change that. I was happy when Diane agreed to share her favorite recipe for Panna Cotta. Only after further investigation did I discover that she’s married to an award-winning chef, herself an art connoisseur who incorporates her passion for literature, music, and the culinary arts in her poetry and fiction. I would say she definitely married the right man.🙂

Did her Panna Cotta actually quiver? Oh yes! It gently jiggled when released from its mold, so polite and unassuming. Rich, velvety, tantalizing the tongue, there’s nothing like Italian cooked cream to smooth the course of true love. It made me feel like an indulgent cat, ecstatic with her bowl of milk, purring and licking herself all over.

This decadent dessert is deceptively easy to prepare — just combine cream, sugar, vanilla, and gelatin and chill. I drizzled mine with a little fresh raspberry coulis. Share it soon with your loved ones for a truly operatic experience.

Bellissima!

* * *

PANNA COTTA

(adapted from Judy Witts Francini, Divina Cucina)

(serves 8)

4 cups (1l) heavy cream (or half-and-half)
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 packets powdered gelatin (about 4-1/2 teaspoons)
6 tablespoons (90ml) cold water

1. Heat the heavy cream and sugar in a saucepan or microwave. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

(If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean, then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)

2. Lightly oil eight custard cups with a neutral-tasting oil.

3. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

5. Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into the prepared cups, then chill them until firm, which will take at least two hours, but I let them stand at least 4 hours.

6. Run a sharp knife around the edge of each Panna Cotta and unmold each onto a serving plate, and garnish with berries.

If you don’t want to use cup molds, just serve the panna cotta in dessert dishes.

* * *

Diane Shipley DeCillis’s poetry and stories have appeared in CALYX, The North Atlantic Review, Nimrod International Journal, Connecticut Review, Gastronomica, Slipstream, The Southern Indiana Review, and numerous other journals. She’s been awarded the Crucible Poetry Prize and the Ocean Prize, and won the MacGuffin National Poet Hunt. Her poems have been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and for Best American Poetry. She is co-editor of Mona Poetica, an anthology dedicated to the Mona Lisa. A new poetry collection, Strings Attached, is forthcoming in Spring 2014.

* * *

poetryfriday180The warm and lovely Linda Baie is hosting today’s Roundup at TeacherDance. Please take her a dish of Panna Cotta and check out the full menu of yummy poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week.

BTW, Does your spouse or significant other usually order dessert?

Funny addendum: There is a nice restaurant called La Dolce Vita just 10 minutes from home. We’ve dined there many times and enjoyed the food, but have never ordered dessert. Oh Leonardo, Oh Leonardo, what were we thinking?😀

* * *

wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food related posts. Put on your best bib and come join the fun!

 

 

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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

70 thoughts on “friday feast: the proof is in the panna cotta

  1. What a gorgeous description of marinara sauce! The whole poem is perfect. “Oh Antonio, Antonio what
    are you thinking?
    How can I trust a man
    who doesn’t like sweets?” — good question.

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    1. I hear you, Iza. It’s a finely wrought piece of writing that appeals to the senses and the sensibility. This was my first time eating and making panna cotta and now I’m hooked.

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  2. Jama, a marvelous poem, look at human nature, how we perceive the smallest details. I love the story, and Diane grabbed me at “I cannot live on lasagna alone”. I often want to check out the desserts so I can manage to order the right entree and still have room… And yes, my husband did order the sweets, although pie was always at the top! Thanks for sharing about Diane and her poetry, too.

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    1. I check out the desserts ahead of time too, but most often I don’t have room after a good restaurant entree. Lately I’ve been skipping appetizers and salad if there’s a dessert I especially want to try.🙂

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  3. my mouth is watering at the delicious smells and tastes of this poem. If it weren’t 7:00 a.m. I would rush to my favorite Italian restaurant… wonderful way to start the day!

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  4. Love the poem and its sensibility, Jama – especially the line “the fact that Antonio doesn’t sense this threatens our chance for a future.” I think I’d feel the same way!

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  5. Oh this poem is delicious, although it’s making me worry…I’m married to someone who can live on lasagna alone! (But he’s magnanimous enough to help me out when I order dessert.)

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  6. Fun story bejind the poem. My gorgeous sister is to my knowledge single and she says the guy is not allowed to share her dessert he has to get his own. That’s her date test lol.

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  7. I should never, ever read these posts on an empty stomach. My favorite panna cotta is a lemon version. I don’t make it these days because I have two men in my life who don’t eat sweets! (You can see why the line “How can I trust a man/who doesn’t like sweets?” speaks to me!)

    Another delicious post! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Oh, I feel for you. Odd that neither likes sweets?!! And you’re such a good cook and baker! Don’t they realize what they’re missing?

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  8. One of the things I love about your posts is how so many of us gravitate toward the same favorite lines. I immediately copied, “I cannot live on lasagna alone
    and the fact that Antonio doesn’t sense this threatens our chance for a future.” YES! My true love *splits* desserts with me so I don’t feel as guilty. I almost always check the dessert menu before everything else, just in case I want salad and dessert!😉 Thanks for sharing with such entusiasmo!

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    1. That so many of us gravitate to the same fave lines shows how skillfully the poet has chiseled her words for maximum impact. Happy to hear you often split desserts :)!

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  9. What a fabulous poem–and post! Some months ago I read and reviewed a book by one of these writers who tells one how to live a productive, satisfying life. One of his tips: Eat dessert first. I think that’s definitely how to really appreciate panna cotta.

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  10. Bellissima indeed! And, as for whether my spouse or significant other usually orders dessert… Well, he always claims he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. But I don’t know what happens to the cakes and pies and such I make.🙂

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  11. Yet another reason I’m glad I married the man I did — he AWAYS has room for dessert! And he’ll be happy to try homemade Panna Cotta as soon as I have time to make it!

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  12. Loved the poem! We don’t always order dessert, but I’m always telling my husband that I would have never married him had he been a picky eater. LOL. I adore panna cotta but never made it myself. Now I must give it a try.

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    1. Picky eaters are definitely a challenge. I imagine that even if he were a PE, he would have soon changed his ways after eating your good cooking.

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  13. I have to admit to not really caring much for pudding and custardy types of desserts, except for the occasional creme brulee, but this post and the poem are very convincing! I need to try this recipe, but will wait till my poor dessert-loving husband is able to go off his diet a little.🙂

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    1. I’m just the opposite. Love puddings, custards and definitely creme brûlée! This is a nice easy recipe for when you’re feeling indulgent.

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  14. I adore that poem. We don’t order dessert so much any more. My fine dining rule, these days, is “wine or dessert, not both.” But when we were younger and dating and calories fell off like breathing, we generally ordered one dessert, two spoons. That’s always romantic.

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  15. That poem is so much fun! I don’t really like going to restaurants (don’t hate me), so the biggest incentive for me is that there will be dessert, something I may not make at home. I always find it vaguely disappointing if someone doesn’t order a sweet!

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    1. Restaurants interest me as much for the people watching and social experience as the food. Often I am astounded at how much some people can eat at one sitting!

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  16. Great post, Jama – I have been planning to try doing a savoury panna cotta using agar agar instead of gelatin… hopefully it will work out at least half as well as yours! Cheers

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  17. “he really doesn’t eat
    that much, it’s the fumes
    that have permeated his body,
    gotten under his skin
    and made him fat.”

    Love it!!!

    I’ve never had that dessert before, it looks yummy!

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  18. Jama, I also loved “the gnocchi lifts itself off the fork,/ floats like a cloud in your mouth.” It’s no wonder I married an Italian. The FOOD. I’ve never had panna cotta, though. It looks wonderful.

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  19. Yum!🙂

    This week, I’m posting Mortimer’s Minute for Poetry Friday, and I’m looking for someone to tag. Would you like to participate? For an example, here’s Bridget’s post when she tagged me:
    http://www.weewordsforweeones.blogs pot.com/2013/10/mortimer-minute-for-poetry-friday.html

    Email me directly or leave a comment at my blog to let me know either way. Dankeschoen!

    Like

  20. Oh, this is a wonderful poem, Jama! I have a sweet tooth, and I (try to) always make room for desserts! Books and desserts (and books about desserts) are man’s best friends! Love the imagery and the lyrical storytelling in this poem. And now I want some panna cotta! =)

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  21. Mmm… that panna cotta looks lovely! I’m not really a sweets person, but anything that creamy has a good chance of winning me over (if served with coffee, of course!). Thanks for sharing the photos and poem!

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