This week (Sunday) is Filippo Inzaghi's 36th birthday. I am celebrating.
His fans call him Pippo and, SuperPippo. He is a forward for my beloved AC Milan football club, where he's played since 2001. Before that he was with my other beloved club, Juventus, for four seasons. (Shhh, don't tell anyone I love both clubs, it's not allowed!)
Pippo has been on my radar in 2006 when I had designs on staying at Coverciano in Florence, where Italy's national team stays and trains for matches. I told my friends it would really rock my world to breathe the same air as Pippo Inzaghi. I'm really not sure why I said that but, never mind. It didn't happen.
Between then and now, I continue to be enamored with him ... maybe because he's a little older than other players, and he's just a very colorful character on and off the field. He seems to have only two faces besides his charming model-sort-of look (see photo). There is his smirky-almost-scowl and, his ballistic-celebratory-wide-yelling-kind-of-smile when he scores a goal.
Many admire him because he is relatively famous for coming through and scoring just when his squad needs him the most. By now his SuperPippo stardom equals having scored the most 'hat tricks' (3 goals in one match; he has 10) of any Serie A (Italian league) player in the last 25 years.
He scored both goals in May 2007 for Milan to win the Champions League (European Club Cup) Final, something he said he'd dreamed of since he was a child. It immortalized my passion for him. I was in Sicily at that hour and even still have the historic newspaper clippings tucked in my journal.
His handsome brother Simone also plays professional soccer in Italy, for Lazio. It is my understanding that Pippo is the proud and adoring uncle of Simone's young son, and it was reported at one time on a fan site that he really longed for true love and to have a family of his own.
By now he has fallen truly in love, with a stunning model, and they are truly beautiful together.
Having said that, I did have an amusing conversation with two Italian friends over dinner one night.
"I'm too late!" I laughed with them. "I hate when that happens!"
They said he found someone else because he never met me. Entirely possible (laugh!) but I think more so, it's because, my food's never been set in front of him!
If I were his Chef, what I'd serve is obvious.
In her fabulous book Romancing the Ordinary, Sarah Ban Breathnach shares a sensational July recipe called Breakfast Bliss. I'm borrowing a bit, from her red wine-sauced summer fruit pleasure, and adding something unexpected to compliment those sweet and sensuous flavors.
Mine is a sweet red wine sauce that adds more succulence to dark cherries, and makes elegant white nectarine slices blush. Made the day or night before, it is served cold and topped with a little yogurt or creme fraiche, toasted almonds since they are a legendary symbol of romance, and a tiny bit of freshly-grated nutmeg for a touch of spice.
Since he's Italian, I've taken my pizza dough and substituted butter for the olive oil proportion. The dough is made in advance, refrigerated, and baked fresh in the morning. It makes for a fluffy focaccia, and it's brushed with butter and cinnamon sugar right out of the oven.
This combination of flavors and textures is ... definitely blissful. Even though Italians don't typically eat much for breakfast other than espresso and maybe some bread, it won't matter.
If I had it my way, I wouldn't be serving breakfast until around noon anyway.
Happy Birthday Breakfast, for Pippo Inzaghi
Make focaccia dough, in advance:
1 envelope dry yeast or, 2 tsp fresh cake yeast
2/3 cup very warm water
2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp melted butter
Vegetable or olive oil, for greasing bowl
Dissolve yeast in warm water, set aside for 5-10 minutes. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt. Make a well in center. Add melted butter to yeast mixture, and pour liquid into center of well. With clean hands, combine all ingredients until mixture forms a soft ball. Place in a clean bowl which is generously oiled, cover with plastic wrap or towel. Set in warm, draft-free place for 1-2 hours for dough to rise. Gently punch dough down, and place in zipper bag. Refrigerate.
Make wine-fruit sauce:
1/2 cup red wine (I love Zinfandel for this)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 lb. pitted fresh cherries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large white nectarine, pitted, sliced
Finely grated zest of one orange or tangerine
Combine wine and sugar in saucepan over low-medium heat. Cook until sugar dissolves then add cherries, cook for about 5 minutes. Increase heat slightly and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine well, and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Transfer to container, cover tightly when completely cooled. Refrigerate overnight.
Prepared focaccia dough
Butter and cinnamon-sugar
Prepared wine-fruit sauce
Plain or vanilla Greek-style yogurt
Toasted almonds, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and oil a baking dish or pan for baking bread. Form small rounds about 1/2" thick and place on prepared pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until just firm and lightly browned. Remove from oven and melt butter on tops of rounds, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Top bowl or bowls of wine-fruit sauce with spoonful of yogurt, almonds, and a dash of spice. To enjoy, break pieces of warm bread and dip in sauce. Have napkins handy, or not.
Yields 2 servings with leftovers.