If You're Going to San Francisco...

JUNE 29, 2014
This past weekend, I traveled to San Francisco with my husband. It was the perfect, sunny weekend and a great way to recharge. I think California leaves that impression on most Midwesterners. The sun was shining, the wind was cool, and the atmosphere felt slow and relaxing. Although it had been awhile, we had traveled to San Francisco a few times in the past, so the city felt familiar in some ways. I am mostly referring to the sourdough bread, the steep hills, and morning muscle pain, which inevitably results from walking up and down and up and down those streets! On this quick trip, we skipped some of the famous tourist attractions, but still went out of our way to explore Columbus Avenue in San Francisco’s Little Italy, North Beach. North Beach has a fantastic collection of shops, cafes, delicatessens, and cool landmarks. The neighborhood is bordered by Fisherman’s Wharf to the north, Chinatown and the Financial District to the south, Telegraph Hill to the east, and Russian Hill to the west.
 
As we explored, my stomach naturally grew hungry—very typical when you are in an Italian community! With delis to the left and bakeries to the right, I started daydreaming about the taste of an authentic cannoli. The ones in the bakery case at Stella’s looked just like the ones I snacked on throughout Italy. I begged my husband to stop, and it didn't take much to convince him to indulge with me. The bakery happened to have a perfect window seat open—as if they were waiting for us to step inside. The first bite of the fresh cannoli was delicious. Memories flooded my mind, and I couldn't help but smile as I people-watched and chatted away the afternoon with my love. 

Travel provides a great opportunity to make memories, and what better way to recreate some of those memories than in the kitchen. Sometimes a simple taste or smell can turn a hard day at work into a distant memory as you smile while remembering a special dinner or event. Eating a cannoli has always been a special treat for me. It wasn’t a tradition to make them in my family. Nor did we stock them in our house for dessert. In fact, the thought of making a cannoli at home had never sounded like fun to me. Rolling and frying the cannoli shell alone seemed like work, not fun. That was until I discovered the following recipe for cannoli dip. How could I not think of this? It’s so easy, and, I don’t know about you, but the cannoli filling has always been my favorite part anyway. This recipe also gives you the freedom to make unique variations (pumpkin cannoli dip anyone?), or it can give you the flexibility of serving it to allergy-prone guests (gluten and nut free).
 
Enjoy a taste of Italy and San Francisco in one bite! Cheers!
 
Cannoli Dip
1 (15 oz) whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I prefer Greek) or sour cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
 
In a small bowl, beat together the ricotta, yogurt, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips, reserving a few to sprinkle on top.
Variations: stir in a 1/2 tsp of orange zest, or fold in a few chopped pistachios with, or instead of, miniature chocolate chips.
Serve with waffle cone pieces, graham crackers, or fruit.

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