Italians, it is often said, are healthy in part because they finish meals with a piece of fresh fruit rather than a rich dessert. In fact, the Italians have a fierce sweet tooth. They make plenty of desserts at home and frequent local pasticcerie
(pastry shops) regularly. They do, however, usually enjoy these sweets as afternoon snacks, as treats on special occasions, or when received as gifts
In Desserts and Sweet Snacks, Viana La Place concentrates on the simplest homemade desserts. Some of them barely involve a recipe. She suggests placing on the table an ice-filled bowl containing whole fruits, for example. If this seems too minimal to qualify as dessert, just read the passage describing the end-of-meal ritual of selecting and peeling a piece of fruit, and then leisurely eating it, savoring the aromas, succulence, and ripe sweetness.
When you must have something more elaborate, La Place offers peach halves stuffed with crumbled amaretti and baked or espresso, lightly gelled and topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
Baked desserts include a dense, nut-studded Italian Rice Cake and Hazelnut and Lemon Meringues. But La Place really proves how less can be more: it's as simple as finding ripe fruit and embellishing it with liqueur or some other simple flourish. --Dana Jacobi
From Publishers Weekly
It's come to this?apparently Italians even snack better than anyone else. Not content to rip open a bag of chips, they spread sauteed apples and apricot jam on toasted bread or munch on rustic bread and bittersweet chocolate to satisfy their cravings (so do the French, but it sounds more fun in Italian). Riding the wave of enthusiasm for all things Italian, La Place (Panini, Bruschetta, Crostini; An Unplugged Kitchen) has put together this bite-sized collection of rustic sweets inspired by home cooks throughout Italy. There's a rich semolina cake studded with diced candied orange peel and pistachios, and she suggests enhancing Sweet Olive Oil Quick Bread with pink honeydew ice cream. What could be simpler than topping fresh ricotta with cocoa, brandy and almonds? Just as welcome are her chic ideas for serving fresh fruit, from fresh figs stuffed with chocolate and almonds to the simple goodness of ripe peaches dipped in a glass of red wine. On the other hand, readers may have a hard time conjuring up when they might eat a piece of bread sprinkled with sugar and soaked in red wine. The least justifiable fat in the book is found in the short essays that accompany the recipes, most of which are clearly filler. But La Place does manage to tickle the imagination as well as taste buds. Hardcore types, either Italophiles or snackers, will come away from this idiosyncratic little book with a new perspective on eating sweets.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.