The pastry for this tart is given extra flakiness by folding it several times before rolling it, similar to the way French make puff pastry.
A cafe overlooking the Grand Canal or St. Mark's Square on a warm summer afternoon begs for a cool confection. An icy watermelon granita, followed by an inky cup of espresso, and you know it' Venice in summer. "To me it is the best refreshment," Francesco insists. Watermelon is so Venetian. Refreshing slices of the fruit were a popular snack in the 18th century. In 1527 Pietro Aretino, a Roman visiting the city, remarked on the sale of melons in the market. "Twenty or 25 sailing boats choked with melons are lashed together to form a kind of island where people assess the quality of the melons by sniffing them and weighing them."
Pink peppercorns suggest nouvelle cuisine, or as it is called in Italy, nouva cucina, but in reality they have been used in Venice for many centuries. Venetian traders introduced them from East Africa and, called â€œgrains of paradise,â€ they were first recorded in 1214. Fanciful Venetian glass goblets set off the poached pears. Adam Tihany would serve each in a different glass.
Zabaglione, that elegant creamy froth of egg yolks, sugar, and wine, is both comfort and party food. Francesco suggests that mastering the technique of whipping up zabaglione allows the cook to have a last-minute dessert on hand at all times. "You have eggs, you have sugar, and a little wine, so you put it over what fruit you have and serve it hot or chill it or even broil it to give it a nice finish." Even though plump fresh figs in season need no adornment, they become delectably lush under a mantle of zabaglione. This zabaglione is made Venetian-style with sparkling prosecco, not marsala. It can also be served with a whole fig placed in each dish.
Frozen espresso granita, an intense slush, is a welcoming restorative on a steamy day. It's important to start with top-quality brewed espresso at its most intense.
Sarah Venezia is Adam Tihany's young daughter, and this is her favorite dessert. It's simply a zabaglione that's briefly run under the broiler to brown the edges. Fresh raspberries are delicious alongside. At Remi the zabaglione is put into a star-shaped mold before broiling directly on a flameproof plate. To make the dessert at home, use shallow flameproof molds that can go directly to the table.
Peaches in light golden syrup are the essence of summer. If you can find lush, fragrant white peaches, by all means use them. And serving them unpitted, while less convenient to eat perhaps, enhances their flavor.
Semifreddo, meaning "Half cold," is kind of a frozen mousse that is extremely popular in Italy. It is easier than ice cream to prepare because it requires no churning as it freezes. This one is made with a zabaglione base and the seasoning, cinnamon and orange, recalls the days when Venice was at the crossroads of the spice trade. "It sounds unusual, but put on the chocolate sauce and everybody loves it." Francesco says.
The aroma of fruits in Venice is often as compelling as their lush taste. "The fragrance of ripe peaches is enhanced by baking them with a filling of amaretti," Francesco says.
The food of Venice is as much about fresh fruit as it is about fish. Peaches, pears, sweet cherries, figs, grapes, and melons perfume the market. Some simple poached fruit with cookies is all it takes for dessert. "We think Americans mostly like cake, but when we serve a fruit dessert like this one at Remi, everyone loves it." Francesco admits. It calls for the sweetest, most intense cherries of the season, one of the fruits that Francesco says are as flavorful and richly perfumed in America as they are in Italy. When buying cherries look for those with flexible green stems and pick them out one at a time so none are bruised or have soft spots.