Ready to keep traveling? Our first major stop in Italy was Florence, where we spent five days. What a city! While not all that big, Florence is busting at the seams with museums, gorgeous architecture, Renaissance history, art, swarms of tourists, and gelato…a lot of gelato.
We did everything you “should” do while visiting Florence. We saw the David, the Uffizi Gallery, climbed to the top of the Duomo, and watched the sunset from the Piazzale Michealangelo.
Of course, one of my favorite moments in Florence was visiting the outstanding food market near the center of the city. I was in heaven! Salame, Prosciutto, dozens of varieties of Pecorino cheese, vibrant fruits and vegetables, wine, olive oils, artisans making huge batches of fresh pasta, and every cut of meat you could imagine. We bought some soft Pecorino cheese (by far the best and most unusual Pecorino I have ever had), robust Salame, crusty bread, and perfectly ripe strawberries. We lugged our treasures to the Piazza della Signoria and ate in the shadow of the Palazzo Vecchio.
Overall, we found the food in Florence mediocre. Granted, we could have just made poor decisions in restaurants, but we were never blown away by anything we ate. The one exception to that would be the gelato. Florence definitely boasted more gelaterias than any other city during our visit and they have it right. The most memorable of all the gelato we ate was from a fancy cafe just of the Ponte Vecchio. Besides gelato, this shop was stocked with all sorts of pastries and a lovely espresso bar, but we were immediately drawn to the gelato case. Before I knew it, after shelling out more money that I ever have/will for frozen milk, I was the proud owner of a heaping cup of the most flavorful black cherry and pistachio gelato. Quite possibly the best 8.50€ ever spent.
In memory of our favorite afternoon snack, I have adapted a semifreddo (semi frozen) recipe from the latest Bon Appetit. No ice cream maker or euros required.
Pistachio and Cherry Semifreddo
Adapted from Bon Appetit June 2011
1 1/2 cups shelled unsalted pistachios
4 tablespoons sugar divided, plus 1/2 cup
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, divided
1 1/2 cups frozen cherries, thawed (about 6 oz)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9x5x3″) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.
Grind pistachios and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 3/4 cups milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in 1/4 teaspoons almond extract; set pistachio mixture aside.
Puree cherries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon almond extract and set mixture aside.
Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high speed until it triples in volume and an instant-read thermometer reads 170°, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from double boiler and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Add one-half of egg mixture to both the pistachio and cherry mixtures; fold each just to blend.
Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add one-half of cram to each of the pistachio and cherry mixtures; fold each just to blend. Cover cherry mixture and chill in refrigerator. Pour pistachio mixture into prepared pan; smooth top. Cover; freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently pour cherry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
To serve, uncover semifreddo, lift from pan and invert onto a chilled platter; peel off plastic. Slice crosswise.