Italian Valentine’s Day

I’m always looking for a good excuse to try new recipes and Valentine’s Day seemed like the perfect occasion to force Dave to be my guinea pig make Dave something wonderful for dinner.

I got it in my head to make a traditional Italian meal. Maybe something reminiscent of Friuli, I thought.

We went to dinner to celebrate the birthday of one of Dave’s classmates a few weeks ago and we were served a chicken-over-polenta dish that I really enjoyed, so I attempted to recreate that for our main course. Dessert, I already knew, was going to be panna cotta, with some sort of fruit coulis (grocery store inventory, pending).

I’m going to go ahead and skip the entree and just let you know that my polenta was decent, but the chicken needs some work. I tried to recreate the tomato sauce in which the chicken was cooked, but no luck. I’ll work on it and get back to you though.

Dessert, though. Ha. Dessert. This was especially tasty because I had to really work to find the ingredients (odd, given that there isn’t much to panna cotta).

Anyway, to make panna cotta, you do need gelatin. I don’t use it much, but I know I can get it at the grocery stores in the States. My neighborhood grocery store here has an assortment of boxed, just-add-water pastries, but only really basic ingredients to make you own— flour, sugar, the usuals; but mostly it’s like walking down an aisle full of cake mixes. And gelatin, for the record, is NOT on the readily-available list.

So after visiting two grocery stores and coming up empty-handed in the gelatin department, I was starting to feel defeated, thinking of alternative desserts. After coming home to regroup and have lunch, I headed out to the grocery store farther away. I didn’t much mind because it was an absolutely beautiful, sun-shiney day. (This after yesterday, when the rains decide to return just as I was waiting outside for a bus home on the outskirts of town.) This grocery store did in fact have way more baking and confection ingredients and I was back in the game. Interestingly though, it’s not in powder form here. It’s in sheets. Sheets. Which you have to soak in cold water. Then wring out and use. They felt slippery and slimey— not exactly very appealing, but damnit, I was going to have a dessert made!

I used the panna cotta recipe from David Lebovitz and I’m pleased to report that it turned out splendidly and that Dave and I are now fully nourished and ready to watch the second season of House of Cards. We’ve literally been waiting months for this.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be a non-rainy day (we’ve lowered the bar on weather here) so we’ve also decided to take the train to Trieste as a Valentine’s Day treat!

Our first day trip to explore…I’m very excited, but in the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone!