I’ve dreamt about visiting the Cinque Terre for years – since before Thom ignited my love for travel and long before I had enough money in a savings account to do so. There was something about the area’s rolling hills and colorful coastal villages that caught my eye and put it at the very top of my bucket list. And now, here I am with my favorite person – in Vernazza – nestled right in the heart of it all. We’re renting a kitchenless apartment without a television or connection to the internet (and only enough hot water for two five minute showers), but I’m embracing it and using it as an opportunity to disconnect from the world and to try to know myself better. I think it’s a good thing – every once in a while – to be without wifi or any other sort of technological distraction, and to be forced to sit here with our wild thoughts and our beating hearts and take in the almost overwhelming stillness of a place.
Early this morning Thom left to tend to matters surrounding our train tickets, and I did just that: I sat in bed, beneath a pile of covers, eating porridge from a mug while soaking up the silence and trying to process the things I’ve seen and felt and experienced these past few months. Moments after settling into my comfy place, a woman came by my window, sweeping and humming as she made her way through the convoluted stone pathways. Eventually her hums turned to words and I found myself hanging onto every last one of them. With each long pause I wanted to jump from bed and throw open the shutters and beg her to keep going; to keep singing because I needed her soothing vocals more than I needed to clear my mind or to try to make sense of what the hell was going on at that strange art exhibit in Warsaw. But I didn’t. Instead I zoned out in the stillness for a good hour, listening to her intermittent version of Maria, Mari, before I decided it was time to pull myself from the comfortable nook I created and get on with the rest of the day.
We have less than 18 hours in the place that once sat at the top of my bucket list (CHECK), and despite the fact that the world outside our apartment is cold and windy and gray, it’s not going to stop us from putting on our warmest clothes and setting out to find the best fresh pasta, dark chocolate gelato, and wine straight from the vineyards we’ve hiked through these past couple of days. Tomorrow morning we board a 6AM train that will carry us to the south of France – and although I’m not ready to leave this place, I’d be lying if I said I’m not a little bit excited to stuff my face with fresh baguettes, again (even if my body has been disagreeing with the influx of gluten it’s been receiving these past couple of weeks).
Wherever you are, I hope your hearts are full, heads well rested, and bellies in the mood for a little something indulgent, but still relatively healthy: My best raw chocolate gelato, sans all the processed stuff.
Notes: There’s a lot of fat in this recipe. It’s made with nuts. It’s a dessert. If you want something healthy, eat a fruit salad. If you want to reduce the fat, add more water (or use fewer cashews), but it’s not going to be nearly as creamy. If you prefer super a super thick base, reduce the water to 2 1/2 cups. I’ve tried making the gelato using both almonds and pistachios as the base, but neither version turned out nearly as creamy as the cashew variety. As for the sweetener, fruit is the only true raw sweetener (looking at you, agave nectar), but if you’re not concerned with preserving true raw status, you can use 1/3 cup of maple syrup, coconut nectar, agave nectar, etc.
RAW CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO GELATO
1 3/4 cups raw cashews
3 1/2 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking
14 medjool dates, pitted and soaked 15 minutes
1/2 cup cacao powder
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
Place the cashews in a small bowl, cover with water and soak for 6 hours, or overnight (if you don’t have a high speed blender, the longer you soak the cashews, the better). Once the cashews have soaked, discard the soaking water and transfer the cashews to the container of a high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the water and blend on high speed for 45-60 seconds. Add the dates (soaking water discarded) and cacao powder; blend mixture on high speed for at least 90 seconds, or until super smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour. Once it’s chilled, transfer to the bowl of your ice cream maker and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the gelato starts to thicken, add the pistachios. You can store it in a freezer safe container until ready to consume. Thaw for 20 minutes prior to serving.
Yield: about 2 quarts