From tiny villages to large cities, Italy is a country of festivals!
Religious, worshiping saints, (and there are many) civic, celebrating the city’s good fortune and sagre, (country festivals) giving thanks for nature’s bounty, are the main types of festivals throughout the year.
There is a “special” food for every festival, and it would seem there is a festival for nearly every food, and if you are in the right place at the right time, you just might happen upon one.
During a week-long stay at the charming Villa Maria in Lake Garda, (Italy’s largest lake) my son, Joe, and I took a bus trip on this particular day. Due to a heavy rain, the road we were going to take washed out, so a detour was in order.
We had just left Bassano and I don’t even remember where we were headed, but it couldn’t have been more magical than where we ended up.
We walked in the main entrance, (through the ancient town walls) and entered the square, (Piazza del Castello) and on the top of the hill, we saw a large, ruined castle with massive walls that enclosed the entire hill and the town they protected.
We were in the Veneto region of northern Italy, the province of Vicenza, in a small medieval town. Marostica is, famous for her cherries, and Joe and I, with the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time, landed in the throes of the town’s Festivale di Ciliegie (cherry festival).
The fragrant, sweet, smell of fresh cherries filled the air (and our stomachs). Good-hearted Italians, shared wine and Asiago cheese (made in the town of the same name down the road) and the Piazza (as it turned out) was a perfectly delightful detour.
Having celebrated God’s abundance, with people I’d only just met, left me with a feeling of communal joy, a large bag of cherries, and this recipe.
Zabaglione, a light Italian dessert, is made by whisking egg yolks, wine and sugar, thickening into an airy custard.
Typically, zabaglione, is made with Marsala in Sicily, but according to my new friends in Marostica, I should use Maraschino, a fine Italian liqueur, made from the pulp and crushed pits of Dalmatian marasca cherries, (not the artificially colored cherries in the supermarket).
Not only have I been making zabaglione with Maraschino, (instead of Marsala) but the warm cherries are excellent with a splash of the cherry liqueur, spooned over vanilla gelati.
- 24 fresh sweet cherries
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons water
- 4 egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons Maraschino or cherry brandy
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch salt
- Rinse cherries, (do no dry).
- Place 1 tablespoon of the sugar on a small plate, roll eight cherries (one at a time) in the sugar and set aside.
- Stem, pit and roughly chop the remaining 16 cherries.
- In a small saucepan, place the cherries and the water, bring to a simmer and cook until they release their juices(about 5 minutes). Remove from heat.
- In a large metal bowl, combine the egg yolks, cherry brandy, lemon juice, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
- Set the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, with a handheld mixer, beat the mixture (medium-high). Using a rubber spatula, make sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl, so eggs don’t scramble.
(This will take about 7-8 minutes, mixture will triple in volume and form a thick ribbon when beaters are lifted. Remove from heat).
- Heat up the cherries, just until warm and juicy.
- To serve, divide cherries among glasses. Spoon zabaglione over the top of each serving. Serve warm with a couple of the sugared cherries and perhaps an espresso.