As I may have mentioned once or twice before (O.K. maybe a little more than once or twice), I’m turning 50 this year. This Sunday to be exact, and I’m really looking forward to it. No, REALLY. Sure my youth is gone, my parts have decidedly begun their march south (damn gravity), and I occasionally make old man sound when rising up off the couch. But luckily I’m healthy, everything still works pretty well, and despite lack of current romance or work, my mood is downright sunny. Not the usual for someone hitting the half-century mark. No hair pulling, no hand wringing, no woe-is-me-ing in sight. Early onset dementia you say? Well, no, not quite. I happily welcome my 50s because on Friday I’m packing the Pradas, and we’re off to celebrate in their birthplace — ITALY! Oh, the history, the art, the FOOD, the SHOES! And the men, ahhhh the men. I envision them all as Rosano Brazzi in “Summertime.” O.K., maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s my vision. Coins will be tossed, canals will be crossed, and cocktails sipped under Cinzano umbrellas. I will eat and shop, and shop and eat, from Milan to Venice to Rome!
So how did this all come about? As beautiful visions often do — during a mani-pedi. You laugh, but many great visions are channeled in big cushy massage chairs while digits get pumiced and polished. Anyway, last summer during mid-soak, I was asked what I wanted to do for my 50th. Obviously since work was scarce and funds even scarcer, I responded “a Carvel ice cream cake would be nice…” My reply was quickly pooh-poohed. I was told I should suspend current reality, and I was commanded to think again. “O.K., if I could do anything, I mean anything, I’d like to go to Venice.” Be careful what you say to your fairy godmother. Yes, I have a fairy godmother, and she just happened to be sitting in the chair next to mine. Estelle is her name, (Mrs. Finklestein to you), and she lives within my sweet friend Darryl. Satisfied by the new wish, Estelle smiled. That’s how fairy godmothers work you see. They just smile; meanwhile wheels start to turn in their fervent fabulous heads. A wish became an idea, the idea turned to reservations, and this Friday Darryl and I (and Estelle) wing our way to the land of pasta, proscuitto, and PRADA! Through an act of incredible generosity from an amazing man, this gal is celebrating cinquanta anni in Italia! Know what’s even better? I get to share it with my wonderful friend. There’s only one problem: How am I’m going to pack all those shoes!
Get ready for a LOT of recipes D’Italia in the coming weeks and months. I mean, how could I possibly eat my way through Italy and not share it? So just to whet the appetite, here is the first of many on a theme.
The inspiration for my Schiacciata con Pesche came from Jim Lahey’s Pizza Bianca. In his book My Bread, he includes a sweet variation of it with raisins and grapes. That gave me an idea. On my 45th birthday, I threw a cocktail-and-dessert party and included a peach pizza. So adapting a Pizza Bianca recipe to peaches seemed like a brilliante idea to me. Happily, it was delicious too! Not overly sweet, this is a flatbread, not a cake. It’s perfect for breakfast with some ricotta or mascarpone on top, and makes an incredible panini with fresh mozzarella melted in-between. And since it’s based on a no-knead technique, you can make the dough the night before and let it proof overnight. Mangiamo!
Schiacciata con Pesche
Makes one large sized flatbread, about 17” x 13”
3 cups flour
Heaping ½ tsp active dry yeast
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 ½ cups cool water
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing on pan and dough (I use an EVOO spray)
For the peaches:
2-3 large peaches, sliced in half, pitted and cut into about ½” pieces
1-2 tsp sugar for sprinkling on top