Our raspberry patch has finally exploded with a bounty of beautiful red and golden raspberries, ushering in one of my favorite summer experiences. Every morning Giovanni and I head out to the backyard, bowls in hand, ready to reap the day’s harvest.
I started this raspberry patch eleven years ago, with a vision of little Nasellos someday foraging through the bushes in search of sweet, juicy treasure. Little did I know that our son, Giovanni, born the following year, would be an even bigger fan of this succulent fruit than I am.
Earlier this year, during the Seemingly Endless Winter, Tony, Gio and I were sitting around, musing about what we looked forward to doing most once summer arrived. When it was Gio’s turn to answer, he didn’t skip a beat: “Picking raspberries with you, Mom,” he said. “And all of us together, getting Lost on the Prairie.”
He was referring to the family adventure we began two summers ago, when we traveled to a different part of North Dakota every weekend. I wrote about our travels on our blog called “Lost on the Prairie.”
We fell in love with North Dakota that summer in a way I never expected to happen, and came away with a deeper appreciation of where we come from. Tony and I have traveled to all seven continents and have had some pretty amazing experiences along the way, but that summer coursing through North Dakota was one of the best travel experiences of our lives.
Maybe it was because we were sharing the experience together as a family, with a goal to learn as much as we could about North Dakota in one summer. Maybe it was discovering the wonderful diversity of North Dakota’s terrain: from the flatlands of the Red River Valley to the gently sloping hills of the Turtle Mountains, the way the endless miles of open prairie suddenly transform into the sheer, rugged beauty of the Badlands. Or maybe it was because, after logging thousands of miles of car travel, we all still liked each other at summer’s end.
Whatever the reason, that summer ignited a passion within all three of us to continue our exploration of North Dakota, and this weekend we’ll be doing just that at one of our new favorite places on the prairie, the Coteau des Prairies Lodge.
Located in southeast North Dakota just outside the town of Rutland, the lodge is perched dramatically at the northern end of the Coteau nearly 200 feet above the surrounding prairie, with cattle grazing freely in the pasture below.
We’ll be there for a special, sold-out dinner event called “Italy on the Prairie,” where Tony, Gio and I will be partnering with the Breker Family to produce an unforgettable feast of Italian food and wine.
The Brekers have been farming in this area for generations, and they have infused the lodge with a strong sense of place, tradition and family. The building has been uniquely and meaningfully designed, using a combination of native North Dakota pinewood and steel architecture, with windows all around to ensure constant access to the breathtaking scenery.
We are eager to leave our mark upon this special place, and have created a six-course menu with some of our favorite Italian specialties, including antipasti and marinated olives, insalata Caprese, Tony’s homemade gnocchi puttanesca, watermelon balsamico, and pollo tricolore.
For the grand finale, we will be pairing our Nasello Limoncello with one of our favorite Italian desserts – Grand Marnier Zabaglione. Zabaglione (pronounced zah-bul-yoh-nee) is a foamy, frothy custard-like sauce which originated somewhere in southern Italy. Simple and inexpensive to make with just a few staple ingredients, zabaglione is light, heavenly and elegant, or as Tony says, an Italian gift to the world.
This is a simple dessert, but one with enough elegance to make your guests marvel at your culinary powers. Unlike other custards, zabaglione contains no milk or cream, consisting only of eggs and sugar, with a flavoring of some kind added in (a liqueur, fruit extract, chocolate, etc.).
Tony says that the only challenge with making zabaglione is in achieving the perfect consistency, which should be light and oh-so-airy. The secret is all in the wrist – or the whisk, rather. To achieve the desired consistency, plan to whisk the custard in a double boiler (we use a stainless steel bowl over a pot of boiling water) continuously for at least ten (10!) minutes until thick, foamy and frothy. The custard should easily coat the back of a spoon.
For purists and/or those with amazing arm strength, feel free to take the old-school route and whisk away. Tony, a purist with very strong arms, insists that this is the only way to make a real zabaglione; however, that’s just too much elbow grease required for this home cook, so, if you’re like me, feel free to cheat and use a handheld electric mixer set on low. You’ll still need to put in the time, but you’ll have some energy left to actually enjoy the zabaglione when it’s ready.
Zabaglione is traditionally flavored with Sicilian sweet Marsala wine, but we’re using Grand Marnier for this occasion and you can add any flavors you like, even chocolate. It is great when used as a sauce or filling for cake, or layered with pieces of angel food cake (yum!). But we prefer to serve ours in a martini glass over fresh berries, garnished with a little orange zest and a heaping of freshly-picked, homegrown raspberries.
Featured Recipe: Grand Marnier Zabaglione