The fruit hunter
By Letizia Mattiacci
oogle the dog is happy. The good season has started again. What a life she has. Her main worry is choosing an appropriate napping spot for one of her several daily pauses.
When she's bored, she can hunt the scurrying lizards, which are plentiful. There are also cute tourists to scratch her belly and secretly hand over her forbidden slices of salami. There's water in the stream nearby for a refreshing dip.
Every morning she comes into the house for a snack. She has a crust of our homemade bread, still hot out of the oven.
She then sits in a sunny spot on the terrace and watches us from outside the kitchen door while we prepare breakfast for our guests. We like to think she's watching TV and we are her favorite characters.
And so the day unfurls here on our magical mountain. We run around like crazy taking care of guests, doing the laundry, handling the renovations next door, dealing with a huge garden and in our "free" time coping with the necessary office work.
Google is there for most of the day, watching us, making us feel like stars each time we step outside, hoping for another treat.
She particularly loves fruit. In September she'll be climbing up the tree to pick figs or grapes.
Now, it's strawberry time, which we don't grow as it's too cold here. This means that the good stuff only comes out of the magic kitchen door, which she knows to watch it carefully.
Crema con le fragole (serves 6)
Ingredients for the custard
Ingredients for finishing up
I make custard in the microwave, it's easy and it's ready in a few minutes.
Using a tall glass container heat the milk until hot to the touch, about 2 minutes.
Using electric whisks, in a different tall container, whisk whole eggs, sugar and starch until smooth.
While whisking the egg, add the hot milk, first one tablespoon at the time until incorporated and then all the rest. Transfer the mixture into the microwave and heat for one minute. Quickly stir, then microwave for one more minute or until the mixture is almost at boiling point. Whisk again.
At this point the custard should be thick and steaming, this means it's ready. Add the vanilla extract, set aside to cool and refrigerate.
Whip the cream until firm and add to the cold custard. Refrigerate again until needed.
Just before serving distribute the custard mixture into pretty serving bowls, crumble the puff pastry over it, top with strawberries and sprinkle with brown sugar or drizzle with caramel.
The author's Sicilian mother worked to prove her dignity in a time when most Italian women stayed at home.
Italy's best oranges come from Sicily, and until recently the northward trek was rare.
For those who can't stand big-store Christmas shopping, try the artisanal alternative and then make cookies.
Even when things arent going your way (never mind Umbrian sunsets) there are always pumpkins.
When Google the Dog gets a whiff of figs, there's no more peace in the hills of Umbria.
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