Monday, January 31, 2011

Olive Garden - I have an "app" for that!

Cheese 15 bg 050306.jpg
Photo from
Last week we celebrated my older daughter's birthday. You and I were in the midst of a "soup-for-a-week" frenzy, so I didn't share the recipe with you. I can't hold back any longer.

The birthday girl saw an advertisement from Olive Garden for their "signature dinner" for the month. And, I have to admit, it sounded amazing - "Artisinal Pear and Gorgonzola Ravioli".

The good news is that obviously my daughter has excellent taste. The bad news (....not really)? --she didn't want to go out to eat. She wanted to have it here in our home. So, I donned my thinking cap and created Pear Gorgonzola Ravioli:

Pear Gorgonzola Ravioli
Equipment you will need:
  • 2-inch round biscuit cutter
  • pasta machine (not a necessity, but will certainly make your life easier)
  • food processor
  • pastry brush
  3 cups flour (plus additional for rolling, shaping, etc.)
  3 large eggs
  about 6 tablespoons water

Place flour and eggs in bowl of food processor. Pulse until combined--mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. While food processor is running, slowly pour in water through feed tube and process until a balls forms. (NOTE: you might not need all of the water--the amounts will depend upon the humidity). Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Cover and allow to sit for about 20 minutes. Resting the dough is important--it allows the gluten in the flour to relax so that it will be easier to roll out.

Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time and cover the remaining pieces. If you are using a rolling pin, I hope you took your multi-vitamin this morning. It's a workout, but well worth the effort. If you have a pasta machine (and honestly, I believe they are well worth the investment) follow the manufacturer's instructions and roll the dough to one step less than the thinnest setting. If you are using a rolling pin, roll the dough to about 1/16 inch thickness. Your goal is to achieve a strip of pasta dough about 6 inches in width and as long as possible. Lay saran wrap over your rolled pasta so that it doesn't dry out.

  8 ounces cream cheese
  1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  1/2 of a crisp ripe pear, finely diced (see note below)

Combine cheeses until smooth and well-blended (I used my food processor). Stir in pear until evenly distributed. Set aside.

Assemble the ravioli
Lay one strip of pasta on work work surface, one long side facing you. Place about 1 teaspoon of filling 1/2 inch in from the long edge, spaced about 2 inches apart. Using a pastry brush, gently paint a bit of water on the upper edge of the pasta (the part that does NOT have filling on it--just enough to moisten. Bring the far edge of the pasta toward you until the long edges are aligned. You should now have a long "rope" of pasta dough in which are enclosed evenly spaced teaspoons of filling . Gently press the spaces between the filling so that the two layers of pasta dough will stick together.

Using your 2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out the ravioli, making sure to center the cutter over the filling. Place the cut ravioli on a slightly floured surface and set aside. Continue rolling, filling, and cutting until all of the pasta dough is used up. Keep the ravioli in a single layer--don't stack them up or allow them to touch.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli (you can cook about 20 ravioli at one time) and turn your heat down so that they gently simmer (you don't want them to boil wildly--they are very delicate). They should be done in about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove with a skimmer, and place in a bowl to keep warm until all ravioli are done.

Serve with your favorite alfredo sauce or simply tossed with melted butter or olive oil. We topped our pasta with freshly grated parmesan and finely chopped walnuts.

NOTE: I used a red anjou pear. A bosc would also work well. You want a pear that has a crisp "apple-y" texture rather than a pear that has a more soft texture.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs

It's time to make soup again, and I didn't go shopping today , so I'll have to rely on whatever is in my pantry. Onions (of course), and a few Yukon gold potatoes. And in the frig there are a few strips of bacon, some deli ham from last Sunday's potluck luncheon at church (sandwiches), and half of a kielbasa.

Don't be frightened -- we can make this work. Trust me.

Kielbasa Chowder
2 or 3 Yukon gold potatoes (enough to make 1 1/2 cups, peeled and diced)
4 slices bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 slice deli ham, minced (enough to make about 1/2 cup)
1/2 pound kielbasa, diced
1 14-oz can cream-style corn
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2-3 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water to about 1 inch above the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan saute the bacon and onions about 5 minutes. Add the deli ham and kielbasa and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and the kielbasa begins to brown, about 2 minutes more. Add the reserved potatoes, corn, soup, and 2 cups of the milk.

Reduce heat to low and simmer until all ingredients are heated, stirring occasionally. If chowder seems too thick, add more milk. Taste and adjust seasoning.


So, why did I call this "Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs"? The gold potatoes and three kinds of pork, of course!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gimme 5!!


Well, since I work out of my home I can't really relate any more, but not that many years ago I was in a 9 to 5 middle-management pressure-cooker environment. And 5 p.m. Friday was pretty sweet.

Yes, I'm still preparing soup for you (....I forget when are you coming over?), but it's not going to be anything fancy tonight. In fact, it's pretty simple. Five-ingredient simple:

Easy Black Bean Soup
1 small onion, minced
2 tsp. olive oil
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can refried beans
1 cup broth (vegetable or chicken)

In a medium saucepan saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until heated.

NOTE: If you really want to throw caution to the wind, you could up the ingredients a few more by adding any or all of the following:

Stir in :
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried cilantro
Add as a topping:
  • grated cheese
  • sour cream
  • avocado
  • salsa
  • crushed tortilla chips

Thursday, January 27, 2011

They do the work and I get all the credit

In 2004 Paulette Mitchell's "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup - The Best Vegetarian Recipes" was published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, California. My younger daughter is vegetarian, and I was desperately looking for some fresh ideas for easy, nourishing, interesting meals. (Even something as comforting as cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches can get boring after a while.)

The soups in this book are anything but boring -- "Black Bean Soup with Mango Salsa", "Jalapeno-Corn Chowder", "Caramelized Onion Soup" are just a few of my favorites. Today "Roasted Butternut Squash Soup" is on the menu. 

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the scent of sweet squash, carrots, onions and garlic caramelizing in the oven while you sit and relax. These heat-softened vegetables then become beautiful silky golden-orange bliss with the help of your blender. A few more moments in a Dutch oven on your stove top and your soup is ready. Your oven, blender, and stove top do all the labor and you reap the accolades.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), quartered lengthwise and seeded
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, halved horizontally (and also vertically if very thick)
olive oil for brushing, plus 1 tablespoon
1 whole head garlic
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground pepper, to taste
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the squash segments skin side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Surround with the onion and carrots. Brush all the surfaces lightly with olive oil. Gently remove the lose papery skin from the garlic head. Trim off the top stem and about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the garlic, exposing the cloves but leaving them intact; brush lightly with olive oil. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and place on the baking sheet.

Roast the vegetables in the center of the oven or about 40 minutes, or until they are very tender. Set aside until the squash and garlic are cool enough to handle.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins; scrape the flesh from the squash. Add half of the garlic, squash, onion, and carrots to the blender. Add about 1 cup of the vegetable stock and puree until smooth; repeat.

Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the curry powder; stir for about 30 seconds. Pour the soup into the pan. Stir in the remaining 1 cup stock, the sherry, brown sugar, pepper, oregano, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally,for about 10 minutes. Add the milk and stir until heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

So easy I can do this with my eyes closed

OK, this has been a  r-e-a-l-l-y busy day. I need to get dinner on the table in a hurry. I'm tired, I'm hungry, and even pancakes feels like too much work right now. And, I need to give you a soup recipe, don't I? So what am I going to do? ...You'll have to trust me on this one. It's good!!:

White Bean Rosemary Soup
2 16-oz cans white beans, drained
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup of your favorite marinara (red) pasta sauce
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Puree all ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered and stirring frequently, to blend flavors, 4 to 5 minutes.

Serves 4

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When is a baked potato not a baked potato?

Photo from

Before I began today's post, I attempted to research the history of the potato. I learned that archaeologists found potato remains dating back to 500 B.C. It is said the the Incas grew potatoes, concealed them in bins for safekeeping during times of war, carried them for sustenance during long journeys, and even worshipped them. (I really like potatoes, but I wouldn't go that far).  

Spanish conquistadors discovered potatoes when they were searching for gold in 1532. (Close.) From there potatoes were taken to Spain and then were carried on to England and Italy.

When I was growing up we ate a lot of potatoes, especially baked potatoes. I never tired of them. Crisp and brown on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside. What's not to love? But you know how to bake a potato, and today I promised another soup recipe. So why not...

Baked Potato Soup
2 lbs russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut in half (4-5 potatoes)
2 large onions, halved and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper
1 medium head garlic
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
6 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place potatoes in large bowl. Cut each onion half into 3 sections and place in bowl. Drizzle oil over vegetables and sprinkle in thyme. Toss well to coat. Spread vegetables in single layer on large baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the top third off head of garlic and discard. Place garlic cut side up in the center of a sheet of foil. Put 1/2 tablespoon of butter on top of the garlic. Bring the corners of the foil up to enclose the garlic head. Place on the baking sheet with the vegetables and roast for 45 minutes then remove garlic.

Continue roasting vegetables until tender, about 15 minutes more.

In large saucepan bring broth to a simmer. Transfer one-half of the roasted vegetables to a food processor and add 1/2 cup of hot broth. Process until smooth and then transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining vegetables to the food processor. Squeeze the garlic pulp from the garlic head and add to the vegetables in the food processor. Add another 1/2 cup broth and process until smooth. Return all of the pureed mixture to the saucepan of broth.

In a small saucepan melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in milk and cook; stirring often, until thickened. Stir into the soup.

Soup may be garnished with any of the following:
  • minced green onions
  • crumbled cooked bacon
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • sour cream

Monday, January 24, 2011

A little trip half-way around the world

450982Well, yesterday's soup was so tasty (and the weather is still so "wintery") that I've decided to make another batch of soup today. But I have a bit more time available, and lots of goodies in my pantry. I like it when I can prepare a meal that doesn't require a special trip to the store.

I don't remember where or when I obtained this recipe--but it has been a staple in our house for many years. It has so much going for it (at least from our perspective): (1) it uses canned goods that you already  have in your pantry, (2) it's vegetarian, (3) it makes a LOT of food, and (4) it's easy!

Moroccan Chickpea Soup
2 tsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cans (14 oz each) vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 cans (14 oz each) diced tomatoes
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
1 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried corriander
1/2 cup orzo pasta
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (garbanzoes)
3 cups cooked lentils

Saute onions in olive oil over medium heat in large soup pot until they begin to soften. Add the broth, water, tomatoes (undrained), and herbs and seasonings. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.

Uncover, stir in the orzo. Cook, uncovered, until the orzo is tender, about 6-8 minutes.

Rinse and drain the dried chickpeas. Stir the chickpeas and lentils into the hot soup and continue to cook until heated through.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

We need soup STAT!

977599We had a beautiful memorial service at our church this afternoon for one of our members who passed away almost two weeks ago. The service was filled with scripture passages, psalms, and hymns that were very meaningful to Ruth--ones that she had picked out knowing that her time on earth was nearing its end.

But that's not why I'm writing about soup.

After the service, as all good Lutherans do, we had refreshments in the church basement. Now, to most people "refreshments" means coffee and perhaps some stale cookies from the nearest grocery in-store bakery. Or, if you're lucky, a sheet cake from the warehouse store. But as the teens would say "that's not how we roll."

There were sandwiches--at least 8 different kinds, and just as many if not more salads. Plus cookies (homemade, of course), coffee, and iced tea. None of us had eaten lunch, and so when 3 p.m. rolled around...well, I know I should have restrained myself, but I was starving and husband and daughter were in the same condition. We ate, chatted with friends, shared our remembrances of Ruth with the family, and ate some more. All of us, and still there were leftovers.

But that's not why I'm writing about soup.

Somehow, when 7 p.m. rolled around, the spaghetti sauce I had planned to reheat just didn't sound quite so alluring anymore. Too heavy. Too much. We wanted/needed something lighter. But not a 2-hour-simmer-on-the-stove production. Soooo.....

Cream of Broccoli Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large stalked celery, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
8 cups broccoli florets
3 tablespoons margarine
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups non-fat milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat; add onions and celery and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add broccoli and broth. Cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Puree soup in blender and pour into a bowl and set aside. (NOTE: Use extreme caution when blending hot liquids in your blender. It is best to do it in small batches. Some blender manufacturers suggest removing the center section of the lid and covering with a clean cloth.)

Place the large pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Once the butter has completely melted, whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly until there are no lumps. Continue to whisk while adding the milk. Stir until thickened and bubbly. Add the pureed broccoli and stir. When hot add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A spinach salad that isn't

803945I just returned from my favorite warehouse store--the prize find today was a HUGE bag of fresh spinach. Enough spinach to make salads for a week....or two. I love salads, and I try to eat dark green vegetables every day. But it's cold and rainy outside. I'm just not in a "salad mood".

But there's a way to turn a spinach salad into a warm and comforting meal:

Spinach Pasta "Salad"
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced sweet red bell pepper
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package (16-oz) bow-tie pasta (farfalle)
1/2 pound white or crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
4 cups fresh spinach
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place 3 paper towels on a microwave-safe plate. Lay the bacon on the paper towels in a single layer, making sure that the strips are not touching. Cover with another paper towel. Microwave for about 4 minutes or until crisp. When cool enough to handle, crumble and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute onions and red pepper until soft--about 2 minutes. Stir in broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer 2 minutes. This is the sauce for your pasta. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to kettle. Add the onion/chicken broth sauce, mushrooms, and spinach. Toss over medium heat until sauce is absorbed and spinach is wilted.

Divide mixture among four plates. Top with grated parmesan and bacon.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I'm not sure when I first tasted pesto, but it wasn't all that long ago. Maybe 10 years? Oh, how many years (decades) wasted without knowing the joy of pesto! What a tragedy.
But, I'm not talking about that stuff they sell in a jar at the grocery store. It's way too oily, sour, and hugely overpriced. No, I'm talking about the pesto you can make in your own kitchen for just a fraction of the cost.

Here's a basic recipe, and then I'll let you know how you can adjust it to accommodate what you have in your pantry:

Basic Homemade Pesto
2 cups basil leaves, gently packed
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup salt

Place basil, walnuts, and garlic in bowl of food processor. Pulse into finely chopped. Add oil, cheese, and salt and process until a smooth paste, stopping several times to scrape down sides of bowl.

NOTE: You can use spinach or arugula leaves in place of 1 cup of the basil. Almonds, hazelnuts, or pine nuts can be used in place of the walnuts. Romano, smoked gouda, or mizithra cheese can be used in place of 1/2 cup of the parmesan.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When I dream of pasta...

al pesto
In 2006 my husband, daughters, and I travelled to Europe. We began our trip in England, drove through Austria, and spent a few days with cousins in Slovenia. But the bulk of our stay was in Italy.

The weather was amazing. Our trip spanned mid-September to mid-October, and we had only one day of rain. Actually, not even rain. Just a slight drizzle. The days were warm, but not hot, and evenings were a balmy, shirt-sleeve temperature. Absolutely perfect. Of all the places we visited, my fondest memories are of the Cinque Terre. Our younger daughter had to return home early and so missed this part of this trip. How I wish she could have been with us.

Cinque Terre (5 Lands) is five small coastal villages on the west coast of Italy. There is Monterosso, the northernmost town and the only one that feels "touristy". If you love the Riviera (beach, boardwalk, luxury hotels) this is the place for you. Then there is Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza. These four still hold their old-world charm with narrow crooked streets, bell towers, castellos, fishing boats--and a foot path links all five of them together. My favorite of the five, and the place at which we stayed, was Vernazza.

Aah, Vernazza--a quaint little fishing village, and so much more. Colorful homes cling to the cliffs. A lovely harbor nestles under the shadows of an ancient castle. The hills are dotted with ancient olive trees and wine-producing grape vines which are still tended by hand on steeply terraced slopes.

We arrived in the late afternoon. After checking into our apartment, there was just enough time to walk down to the breakwater and watch the sun sink slowly into the sea. Although it was mid-October, the air was warm, with just a hint of a breeze. As night approached we dined in the courtyard of Gianni's (owner of the restaurant and hotel) . Our meal began with a mixed seafood salad, a basket of crusty bread, and a bottle of Gianni's family wine. We asked our server for his recommendation and he said we must try the Trofie.

It was love at first bite. Trofie is a free-form pasta (no machine required). It is most often cooked with thinly-sliced new potatoes and slender fresh green beans, all tossed with homemade basil pesto. The people of Vernazza brag that pesto was invented in their town. I don't know if that is true, but Gianni's pesto was so wonderful I am willing to spread the rumor.

One word of caution--this is not a meal you can whip up in 30 minutes or less. Making this pasta takes time. So do this one on a rainy afternoon. You could even enlist the kids to help

Make the Dough (can be made the day before):
You will need:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt (or 1 tsp table salt)
1 cup cold water

  1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a fork, start mixing the flour into the water keeping the wet mixture in the center of the well. When the mixture gets too thick for a fork, mix the dough with your hand until all the flour is incorporated and the dough looks cohesive.
  2. Clean your hands and press your thumb into the dough. It should feel tacky, but your thumb should come out clean without any dough stuck to it. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, kneed for a minute and test again.
  3. Once the dough is the right consistency, it needs some serious kneading. Place it onto a clean work surface and knead for 8 minutes by folding and turning 90 degrees after each fold. Always turn the dough in the same direction. Do not short cut this step! You should end up with dough that is as smooth as a baby's bottom.
  4. Form the dough into a thick disk, sprinkle with flour, wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Shape the Trofie (1-2 hours before serving):

  1. Sprinkle a large cookie sheet with flour.
  2. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Place the dough on floured work surface and keep it covered with plastic wrap except when using.
  3. Cut a 2/3-inch strip from the dough with a knife.Roll it on lightly floured surface with 2 hands into a 1/3-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into 1/4-inch wide pillows.
  4. Pick up one pillow with your right hand and place it at the heel of your left hand. Hold your left hand in place over the cookie sheet. Roll your right hand forward in a fast motion applying pressure. Your piece of pasta will turn into a little cylinder with tapered ends. Drop it onto the cookie sheet. Don't roll your hands back and forth or you'll untwist the pasta. Repeat with the remaining pillows of dough, dropping them all over the cookie sheet so that they touch as little as possible.  
  5. Sprinkle the trofie with extra flour and gently toss them around to coat.
  6. Trofie can be shaped 1 hour before cooking and kept uncovered at room temperature.
Assemble the Amazing Meal:

In addition to the trofie pasta you will need

  • new potatoes (Yukon golds are wonderful)--enough to make 2 cups sliced
  • fresh green beans--again, enough to make 2 cups sliced. Look for green beans that are thin/young
  • about 1 1/2 cups pesto (home made is best--see my post)
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (at least 4 quarts). Season heavily with salt (pasta will be in the pot for less than a minute, so your water has to be salty enough to season it).
  2. When the water comes to a simmer drop in the potato slices and cook until almost tender--about 2 minutes. Lift out with a skimmer and set aside.
  3. Next, drop in the green beans. I remove the stem end and cut them in half--leaving the blossom end in tact. Cook about 2 minutes or until tender-crisp, and remove with a skimmer and set aside.
  4. Pour the pasta from cookie sheet into a colander and shake to remove the excess semolina.
  5. When the water is at a rolling boil, pour the pasta into the pot, give it a stir and cover. After 30 seconds, start testing every 15 seconds until the pasta is desired tenderness. It should be supple with a little bite. This usually takes 30 seconds to 2 minutes depending on the size of your pasta and how long it sat on the cookie sheet.
  6. Return the cooked potato slices and cooked green beans to the pot--wait 15 seconds, and then drain the pasta.
  7. Put pasta/potatoes/green beans back in the pot and mix with the pesto. Pour into a serving bowl and top with grated parmesan. Toss and serve.

I cooked this meal for my younger daughter last night--the one who wasn't able to visit the Cinque Terre with us. Although she doesn't share memories of that place with us, I hope she can now appreciate a bit of the love we have for that place, and how much I love her.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Can I be lazy and still be decadent?

I love Italy. I've been there twice and long to go back again. One of my sisters lives there. She moved there for a job with the U.S. Goverment years ago, and loved it so much that, when it came time to retire, she opted to stay.

Smart lady (....takes after me!)

And I love Italian food. Right now I'm making plans for an Italian dinner tomorrow night (Sunday). The main dish I will share with you tomorrow, but the dessert I'm actually making today because it's frozen. Biscuit Tortoni. Have you heard of it? Well, where do I begin? It is almost ice cream, but isn't and it is almost Italian, but isn't..........or, well I'm just not sure.

The dessert is usually attributed to Giuseppe Tortoni, a Neapolitan who owned the popular Café Tortoni in Paris in the early 19th century. The café, know by Manet and Balzac, was famous for its ice cream. It’s assumed that tortoni was one of the ice creams sold at the café. But tortoni, which is also called biscuit tortoni, was most popular during the mid-19th century in America, where it was served in restaurants and sold in cups from street carts.

That's the history. So how does that figure into the dinner I'm planning? It's semi-quasi-almost Italian and it's EASY! At least it is if you make it the way I do (and Carb Diva LOVES easy!):

Biscuit Tortoni
1 8oz. container extra creamy frozen whipped topping, thawed
1/3 of a 14.5 oz. pkg Keebler dark chocolate almond sandies (9 cookies)
1/4 cup marascino cherries, chopped
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup coconut
1 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. rum

Scoop the whipped topping into a large mixing bowl.

Chop the cookies into small crumbs--I used my food processor, but you could achieve the same result by placing them in a plastic zip-lock bag and then crushing with a rolling pin.

Fold the cookie crumbs, chopped cherries, almonds, coconut, and flavorings into the bowl with the thawed whipped topping. Stir gently until blended.

Spoon into 6 parfait glasses. Place in freezer and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.