Auntie Poldi was at a crossroads in her life at 60, looking for a home. She decided to leave Munich to settle in Sicily near her late husband’s family. She enlisted Martino, her sister-in-law, Teresa’s, husband, to drive her around looking for the perfect property. Being an intuitive type, she couldn’t define exactly what she was looking for, she only knew that when she felt the energy of the right place, she’d know it. And it needed a sea view.
After settling in at 29 Via Baronessa in Torre Archirafi, Poldi was immediately drawn into local intrigue when the young man she hired to help with household repairs turned up dead on her favorite beach. With hints of Mafia, the word that Sicilians are not supposed to say, (like Voldemort) corruption, romance, betrayal – Poldi, with a taste for the hunt, promised Valentino, posthumously, that she would find his killer. Consequently, her meddling into police affairs created tension between herself and Vito Montana, the Commissario Capo of the State Police assigned to the case.
This whodunnit is filled with food, drink, history, landmarks and a sense of the Mediterranean lifestyle that Sicilians enjoy. In the background of it all is majestic Etna, the still active volcano that commands attention with its enormity. Reading this made me want to hop on a plane and visit the beauty of this island. There were intimations in the story of things in Poldi’s past that she’d rather not think about, like her time in Africa, but I think more will be revealed as this is the first book of a series. I hope that author keeps the characters I’ve just met in future books. I love that aspect of a series – looking forward to spending time with old (be they fictional) friends.
Mount Etna dominates the landscape of Catania. It is a very active volcano with 5 craters at the top and vents on the sides. The last eruption on March 16, 2017 injured 10 people including a BBC News television crew. There is something endlessly fascinating to me about volcanoes. On our first trip to Hawaii, to the Big Island, I couldn’t get enough of the volcano, with a helicopter ride, trips to the caldera, and writing my name on the black lava rock with white stones. The hotel we stayed at had an outdoor shower made of lava rock that was decorated with native plants. It was so beautiful. That bathoom will always be my dream bathroom.
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When Poldi has a guest, (potential lover) for dinner, he arrived with chocolate and pistachio gelato and a bouquet of white roses with olive sprigs. This charmed her because that is the bouquet she carried the day she married Peppe. How the man ever figured that out is beyond me.
From what I understand, the very best pistachio paste is made with Sicilian pistachios. The paste online was well over what I wanted to spend, so I made my own using roasted pistachios, as that was all I could find. I will make this again, using raw pistachios that I’ll have to buy online. My husband loved the roasted flavor of this gelato, but it didn’t impart the green pistachio color that I like. (Using food coloring is cheating!)
Makes 1 quart
4 large egg yolks
¾ C sugar
2 C milk
1 C heavy cream
¾ tsp. kosher salt
6 T pure pistachio paste (not pistachio cream)
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until well combined. Whisk in the milk, cream, and salt until combined.
Set the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking frequently, until a thermometer inserted into the mixture reads 170°. Remove from the heat and whisk in the pistachio paste until well combined.
Set a fine strainer over an airtight container and pour the mixture through. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days (this helps cooked custard bases achieve a stable consistency).
In the bowl of an ice cream make churn for about 15 minutes, until it’s firm and billowy, and a spoon dragged across the top leaves a lasting impression. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until hardened, at least 4-5 hours. Later on, if it’s too firm, thaw it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before scooping and serving. For best results, eat within 2 days of freezing.
1 C unsalted, unroasted raw pistachios
¼ C almonds or almond flour
⅓ C granulated sugar
2 T water
1 or 2 T peanut or sunflower oil
To remove the pistachio skins, bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the pistachios when the water comes to a rolliing boil. Let them boil for 1 minute or so, at which point you will see the peels lifting off. Strain the nuts, drop them into an ice bath immediately to chill them. When the pistachios are thoroughly chilled the skins should lift off. Air dry the skinless pistachios on a rack. When thoroughly dry, place them on a parchment paper lined sheet pan and toast them, at 300º F for 15 miinutes. Then let them cool down.
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan on medium heat. When the sugar syrup reaches 300º F throw in the pistachios and stir for a few seconds. The pistachios will crystalize. When they are covered in sugar and almost no syrup is left in the saucepan, remove them and scatter them on parchment paper to cool down slightly.
Place the pistachios, the almonds or almond flour in a food processor. Mix for about 2 minutes until you obtain a coarse mixture. Add 1-2 tablespoons of peanut or sunflower oil.
Keep mixing for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a thick paste.
6 tablespoons pistachio ready for the freezer guess which bowl is mine