I used to HATE tiramisu. I don't know why, something about soggy espresso soaked cake with cream that just didn't do it for me. When I moved to Rome,  I went from hate to love in 0 to 60 seconds.

I was out to dinner with a group of girls from my study abroad program. Everyone wanted to get some dessert at the end of our meal so they ordered a tiramisu for the table. Because I can't resist a little something sweet after dinner I decided to have a bite despite the fact that I didn't like it. What can I say, I ended up LOVING it. I don't know if I was just embracing all things Italy or if my palate changed but tiramisu tasted like heaven!

From then on, at every restaurant I went to in Italy, and I mean every restaurant, I ordered a tiramisu. It became something of a ritual for me and my roomie Ashley. Any time we went to dinner we'd order a tiramisu to share. Every time it came to the table we were shocked and surprised because no two tiramisu's were alike. We had it in pudding form, in thick almost frozen form, schlop it out of your mama's caserole dish form... you get the idea.

About halfway through our time in Italy a group of classmates and I took a cooking class. For dessert, the man taught us how to make, yep, tiramisu! I learned some key tricks in making the perfect tiramisu and I have to admit, it was VERY tasty. 

Over the years I have tweaked the recipe until I came up with MY perfect tiramisu. It's inspired by all the variations I had while eating in Italy. I took my favorite parts and replicated them. Heavy on the cream, a hint of booze, lots of chocolate and perfectly tender but not soggy lady fingers. I hope you enjoy my tiraMOsu!

3 T. instant espresso powder
1 ½ c. water
4 T. dark rum

2 - 8 oz containers of mascarpone @ room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy whipping cream
8 egg yolks*
½ c. granulated sugar
1 T. dark rum

4 T. dark chocolate powder
6 oz dark chocolate
2 boxes (~60) dry biscuit lady fingers**

yields ~9 servings

Boil water and place in a shallow bowl. Add espresso powder and stir to dissolve. Add 4 T. of dark rum (or booze of your choice - see improv options below). Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, beat egg yolks with sugar on high until it becomes light and forms ribbons. Add 1 T. dark rum (or booze) and softened mascarpone and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined. In a separate bowl beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to turn it to butter though! A trick for whipping cream faster is to place your bowl and beaters in the freezer before whipping. Gently fold half of the whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone mixture. Then add remaining whipping cream mixture, stir just until incorporated.

You're all set to assemble! I use a 9x9 glass container to put my ingredients into. Start by quickly dipping 1 ladyfinger in the espresso mixture. This is the key to the perfect tiramisu... make sure you don't dip the cookies for too long, they'll get soggy. Literally drop the cookie in, flip it real quick and pull it out. Place them in a single layer in the baking dish. Place layer of cream mixture on top and evenly spread. Lightly dust cream with dark chocolate powder and shave some dark chocolate on the layer. Add another layer of dipped ladyfingers and then another layer of cream, chocolate powder and chocolate shavings. 

Here's where I shock you... this is best if you make it 4 - 5 days in advance. I know, it sounds gross but all the flavors blend together and the texture becomes incredibly rich and thick and decadent. If you can't wait, by all means dive in. But patience is a virtue with this dish and I would make it a few days in advance if you can. 

* note i don't cook my zabaione (the cream, egg, marscapone mixture). you should use the freshest eggs possible to avoid getting sick.
** make sure you get the hard cookies, not the soft ladyfingers found in the freezer or refrigerator sections. They should have the sugar crust on one side and snap when broken in half. 

improv style:
i like my tiramisu heavy on the cream, if you like more of a balance or more cake, halve the cream mixture. if you don't have dark rum, you can substitute it for a brandy, cognac, marsala, kahlua or coffee/chocolate liquor. you can also leave the alcohol out if you're serving it to kids or don't like booze. if you like your tiramisu to be on the wet side, you can pour some of the espresso mixture over the lady fingers so that they get a little soggy. experiment with different techniques and flavor combinations until you make your perfect tiraMEsu!



This weekend I officially had my mind blown by Chicago. They have a festival called Baconfest, yes, BACONFEST! How could I not love my new city when it has a festival devoted entirely to bacon?! To say I love bacon would be an understatement. And while I try not to eat it too often, Baconfest was definitely a great reason to splurge! 

Funny story about bacon... when I was about 8 years old I ate an entire package of bacon with breakfast. My mom joked with me that I was going to die an early death from clogged arteries. Me being stubborn as I am replied "Fine, I'm never eating bacon again!". And I didn't, for about 8 years. I don't know what I was thinking... bacon is too delicious to not eat and life is too short to live without bacon! 

On to the main event, Baconfest details! TONS of famous chefs and restaurants from around Chicago came to share their hog inspired dishes. The most innovative and my personal favorite from the event was the bacon cannoli. It BLEW my mind! Some other highlights were the crispy polenta cake with cheese fondue and bacon ragu, creole bacon sauce over cheesy grits with jalapeno bacon cornbread, maple bourbon ice cream root beer float with bacon jimmies, and bacon soup. I even got to meet Girl and the Goat's Stephanie Izard, Top Chef Season 4 winner - she ROCKS! Her bacon soup for the event was complex and bursting with flavor! Nom nom nom!
In honor of Baconfest, I thought I'd share one of my favorite but simple bacon dishes, enjoy!

Arugula, Bacon + Date Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

for the dressing:
3 T. olive oil 
1 T. dijon mustard
½ T. aged balsamic vinegar 
½ lemon - about 1 T. juice
1 small clove garlic minced
salt + pepper

for the salad:
3 c. arugula
6 slices of crispy bacon
6 dates diced
¼ c. shaved parmesan

For the dressing mix ingredients together with a whisk until it emulsifies. That's a fancy way to say it becomes thick like a salad dressing. I use a 25 year aged balsamic vinegar because i find the flavor to be less harsh and the thickness adds great texture. If you don't have an aged balsamic you can make a reduction of regular balsamic vinegar to achieve similar flavor/consistency.

Throw your greens, bacon, and dates into a bowl and toss with the dressing. Be careful not to add too much dressing, you can always add more. Toss and top with shaved parmesan. Simple, quick, and so tasty! 

improv style:
if you don't have dates, candied pecans would be great as a substitution or in addition. you can do a reduction of regular balsamic vinegar if you don't have aged balsamic. try it with turkey bacon if you're trying to be healthy or leave it out to make it vegetarian. if you're not a fan of arugula i really encourage you to try it in this dish. I don't usually love it either but there's something about the pepperiness that works really well with the salty bacon and sweet dates. If you still aren't buying it, this salad would be great with mixed greens or an italian blend. 


feeling naked

I have some amazing friends. I know everyone thinks that they have great friends, but I'm pretty sure mine are better! 

I've been so busy with getting settled in this new city, with the new job, cooking, and trying to explore the city that I've been VERY good at procrastinating the design and branding of my site. My blog, to say the least has been incredibly naked. 

I wrote one of my amazingly talented friends from AD school telling her that when I finally got around to designing my blog's logo that I would be channeling her. She always had killer designs and ideas (I was always a little jealous of her talent). Seriously, check out her work, she's incredible! 

Well, I sent that email and a month came and went. Guess what I never got around to doing... Friday morning I opened my email and there it was with the subject line: "SURPRISE!". My amazingly talented friend decided to mock up an AWESOME logo idea. 

THANK YOU NICOLE, you made my day! Now I have to actually get down and dirty and lay this site out properly! Maybe I can get to that this weekend? Hopefully another month doesn't come and go before that happens! 

I am so overwhelmed by the love my friends and family have been sending my way. I'm so glad everyone is enjoying the stories and recipes I share here! Now if I can only get you all to post comments on my blog instead of my facebook posts about my blog, haha!

Have a great week everyone!