Giacomo ‘Jack’ Radioli leaned forward in his armchair to glance outside the living room window. “She looks good,” he commented. “She a always looksa best six weeks after the pull.” He said, nodding. Gina and Laura nodded in agreement.
“Yeah,” Laura said, “the first few weeks after an appointment” she said, making imaginary quotation marks in the air, “Mamma’s so bloated and swollen”
“And TIGHT!” Gina added. “She looks like a surprised water balloon.”
They all nodded slowly in agreement.
Looking over at Jack and then glancing out of the window to the woman approaching my house, it was hard to believe Graziella and Jack were the same age. Jack didn’t look bad, but he looked like a 70 year old man and Graziella looked like a woman who was desperately trying not to look 70 years old.
“Don’t make her ring the doorbell. She hates that for some reason.” Gina said.
But I understood this. We had chatted on the phone the week before and she had given me a fairly detailed time itinerary of her trip. A woman like Graziella expected that you would know she was coming, and if you knew when she was coming, why on earth would you make her wait at the door?”
I opened the door to greet her. “Ciao!”
“Oh Ciao BELLO! Devi essere Terry!”
“Sì, certo.” I replied and was greeted not with the expected air kisses to either side of my face, but two full-contact cheek kisses. I was surprised by the open affection. I had expected her to be a bit more guarded and was pleasantly surprised she was not.
She held my hand as she turned to greet her daughters and ex-husband. She released my hand and extended her arms to commence the familial group hug.
They all started speaking but I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. Gina must have seen the confusion on my face and said, “It’s Sicilian.” Italian I understood, dialect, not so much.
After the love fest, we all glanced at each other and burst out laughing. Our faces were covered in red lipstick, but oddly, Graziella’s lipstick was not smudged in the least. That was an art.
After I had passed around the tissue so we could remove the residual cosmetics from our faces, Graziella took Jack's arm and we all walked out to the patio to have a beverage and Gina said to her Mother, “Terry has a surprise for you!”
The women made themselves comfortable while Jack opened some Prosecco and I brought out the Lemon Tarragon Sorbetto I had made for Graziella upon Gina’s recommendation.
“È magnifico bello” she beamed, “But a what is that?!” She said pointing her manicured finger to the Espresso Shortbread Caramel Almond Tart I had made that was on the patio table. “I woulda like a piece of that!”
“I thought you didn’t eat dessert like that.”
“My daughters told a you that didn'ta they?. Well, I don’ta like bad dessert, but after this sorbetto, I would trust you with my life! And you know.” Graziella whispered in my ear, “my daughters don’t know everything about a me. We will talk.”
And I could hardly wait!!
Chocolate, Almond and Caramel Tart in Espresso Shortbread Crust
For the Crust:
½ cup powdered sugar
1 ¼ cups flour
¼ cup rice flour
1 tablespoon espresso powder
1 ½ sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the Filling:
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
½ cup Mrs. Richardson's caramel
For the Mousse:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 large eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan with
parchment spray with a baking spray such as Pam.
2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse both flours, espresso powder, and powdered sugar until combined.
3. Add butter and pulse until the mixture forms a dough.
4. Empty contents of food processor bowl into a mixing bowl and slightly knead the
dough to make sure all ingredients are fully combined.
5. With floured fingertips, press dough into prepared tart pan and freeze for 20 minutes.
6. Bake crust until golden, about 20-25 minutes.
While crust is baking, prepare mousse:
1. Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler. When chocolate is almost melted, remove from heat and whisk until smooth.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine eggs, yolks, and sugar and whisk. Place mixer bowl over the double boiler and whisk until the mixture is warm to the touch.
3. Place egg-sugar mixer on the stand mixer and whip at medium-high speed until triple in volume. Fold in melted chocolate.
1. Remove tart shell from oven. Drizzle the caramel sauce evenly over the baked tart shell. Sprinkle with almonds.
2. Spoon mousse mixture evenly over the caramel and almonds, making sure to
spread the mousse mixture to the edge of the crust.
3. Return to oven for 10-12 minutes until mousse has a matte finish and looks dry.
4. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 1 hour
5. To serve, cut with hot, dry knife (place under hot tap water and the dry). Clean knife after each slice.