When I was a senior in high school I created my own study abroad program. Meaning, I convinced my school counselor and teachers to let me take off the first half of the school year and study in Italy. The credits didn’t transfer, but I didn’t mind, I just wanted the experience. Since I was past my junior year, the typical year to study abroad, I had to get creative. I saved up money for the school by working at a coffee shop early in the mornings and my parents said they would match whatever I made. I ended up in Florence in September of 2003 studying Italian and Art History and learning about Icelandic, Swedish and Israeli culture in the evenings from my three new friends I met at school. I lived with an orange haired woman named Guisy and a Japanese boy named Hayato, both of whom didn’t speak English. Well Guisy randomly knew “sugar,” and proudly asked me each morning if I wanted some in my espresso. The answer was always the same; I think she just liked saying it. We lived on the top floor of a charming flat in the very center of town and my bedroom window looked directly at the Duomo. I am not embellishing here. It was seriously right in front of my eyes, even while I laid in bed! The view made up for Guisy’s hyperactive dog “Rrrrooott,” and the fact that she accidently threw away my passport while cleaning up my room. It was a very eventful few months to say the least. The bottomless jars of nutella in her kitchen almost made up for the missing passport, constant barking and bizarre overcooked dinners every night. She was Italian; she just didn’t cook like one. Every morning for breakfast and truthfully, every snack in the afternoon consisted of espresso and ciabatta with Nutella. The smell of both takes me straight to bliss. To this day I can still smell stale cigarette smoke, hear beautiful rolling r’s and see the charming allies I often got lost in. When I smell or taste nutella, I think of independence and self-discovery. I see a fearless, adventurous version of myself that I don’t get to see as often these days. It is still there though, and when I made this Nutella, it all came flooding back. Whether you and this spread have memories that run deep or if you have yet to experience it, I promise it will change your life. Or if nothing else, make you really really happy!
(Makes a little over 1 cup)
2 cups raw hazelnuts
1 bar of milk chocolate (I used 33%)
3 tbsp. powdered sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
¾ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 375. Put hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 13- 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Put hazelnuts inside a kitchen towel and rub together for a few minutes until all the skins fall off. There may still be a few left on, you just want the majority to be removed. In a food processor or high powered blender, like a vita-mix, blend hazelnuts until it forms a paste and is very smooth. This took me about 5 minutes, but might take a little longer depending on the power of your processor. (Make sure to take a good long smell as the hazelnuts are blending, it is absolutely divine!) Melt 1 bar of chocolate in a pan, this takes just 2-3 minutes. Once the hazelnuts are as smooth as you can get them add in melted chocolate, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Blend a few more minutes until silky and smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 10 days. Enjoy on toast, apples, bananas, or just by the spoonful!