I am often asked how I got started with my passion for cooking and yet when I reflect back it was more of an evolution than one life changing revelation.
I wasn’t any sort of prodigy in the kitchen. I certainly enjoyed good food and that is probably what eventually led me down this path. A glimpse at a snapshot:
•Adolescent = I frequently checked out recipe books at the library to hand copy recipes for breads and desserts. >Yes, I still have these recipes!<
•Teenager = Cookies took center stage – there was nothing I enjoyed more than a good old-fashioned cookie.
•College = These were the years of Mexican food, popcorn, and a few specialty Italian dishes. My culinary range was limited by budget and location and proper cooking facilities.
•Young Adult = Enter the years of soup and the start of cooking our traditional Italian family recipes. This also coincided with the dawn of ‘Martha Stewart Living’ magazine, which ended up becoming a catalyst for my cooking and entertaining exploration.
Suffice to say that as a college student I deeply missed all of the amazing family dinners that I completely under appreciated during my adolescent and teenage years. I wanted to cook and eat well, I knew I had a lot to learn, BUT incredible cooks surrounded me so there was hope was on the horizon. As a young adult I now had facilities to cook, advice from the family and the desire to create memorable meals. I had accidentally dabbled in recipe development, which for the most part remained unrecognized until much later on. The cast of recipe influencers grew locally and then again with exposure to travel and foreign visitors. Change was happening even if it was so subtle I was unaware of it. But the story I share with you now is that slowly, ever so slowly, the pieces started to amalgamate.
Flash back to my earlier comment about ‘influence’ and you’ll see just how effortlessly it crept up on me and still does! Over the past month we’ve been lucky enough to spend time with a young woman, Mati, from Parma, Italy. Our families have been friends for three generations and quite honestly they have always felt like family. There are so many great stories dating back to my teenage years that have been created with this special family. To now see this next generation spending time with our children is heartwarming. I can only imagine the ways in which they will influence each other; music, friendships, travels, etc.
It was clear from the first day she arrived that Mati shared our passion for food- and in particular, sweets. One hot day while out at the beach I introduced her to our local ice cream sandwich, the IT’S-IT. Her eyes closed and she visibly swooned over all of the flavors. Our conversation led us to talk about the Italian ice cream sandwich. It was a conversation that intrigued me and over the next few weeks it managed to find its way into our various conversations until I had to make my mark on it. The irony is that this all magically came together on #NationalIceCreamDay. I wanted to celebrate this ‘holiday’ and off we went to the store to create the perfect Italian inspired ice cream sandwich.
In case you are wondering why we’ve given this treat such an unusual name, I can tell you that I tasked Prima and Mati to make dinner for the family one night. The contending recipe list was long, but eventually given the available time they had to cook, I tried to gear them towards something on the easier side of the spectrum. >My ultimate goal is to make sure that before Prima hits college she has more than her knowledge of how to make popcorn, a quesadilla, a fried hot dog or brownies to survive on. < The girls really did a great job, the kitchen took a bit of a hit, however the food was very good. The menu – Sloppy Joes, corn on the cob, and olive oil skillet potatoes with brownies for dessert. While this dessert is far from the savory Sloppy Joe, the sloppy aspect is very relevant. And just like there is a Croque Monsieur and a Croque Madame we thought there should also be a Sloppy Joe and a Sloppy Joe-lene recipe.
The key is to have a tasty brioche bun – both sweet in flavor and soft in texture, which works well with grabbing onto the ice cream so that it doesn’t slip away. The ice cream flavors should be your top three favorites although in Italy they typically do a vanilla, chocolate and fruit flavored ice cream and then there are the toppings! There is no point in skimping now, this sandwich isn’t going to make itself.
Highlights recap: soft and sweet brioche bun, three scoops of your favorite ice cream flavors, lots of sliced fresh summer fruit and chocolate- peanut butter if you dare!
I am going to be straightforward with you. Eat this sandwich and it will change your life. It’s just not something you can un-taste once it hits your lips. Like a unicorn, it is magical. >Note: you have been warned!<
Sloppy Joe-lene Ice Cream – Italian Style Ice Cream Sandwich
Focaccia Gelato or Focaccia Dolce
Three flavors of ice cream
Brioche buns, if you can not find these a croissant is a good substitution
Nutella or fudge sauce
Bananas, sliced into thin rounds
Strawberries, sliced into thin rounds
Magic Shell ice cream sauce
To assemble: slice bread horizontally, leaving a small part still connected. Slather bread with peanut butter and then Nutella. Create a sliced fruit layer. Top with three scoops of ice cream, then coat with magic shell and top with a few more pieces of sliced fruit. Put the top bun on the sandwich and take a bite!