Culver City chef gives Thanksgiving desserts Italian twist

Tuesday, November 22, 2016
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When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, most families have their tried and true recipes. But one local chef suggests giving your sweet dish an Italian twist!

CULVER CITY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When it comes to Thanksgiving desserts, most families have their tried and true recipes, but one local chef suggests giving your sweet dish an Italian twist!

Even though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, chef Akasha Richmond is whipping up her holiday desserts with an Italian twist, for good reason.

"There's so many things that are the same in Italy as we have here in Southern California," Richmond said. "So much produce, pumpkins, squash, pomegranates, broccoli."

And let's not forget olive oil. In her new Culver City restaurant AR Cucina, Richmond showcases how to give our tried and true favorites some Italian flair.

First up, Richmond uses olive oil instead of butter for her chocolate hazelnut torte.

"Of course, it's extra virgin olive oil," Richmond said.

Eggs, olive oil, light brown sugar, maple syrup, hazelnuts and chocolate make a great twist to a standard pecan pie.

"In Italy, they make ricotta cheesecake, so we're doing a pumpkin ricotta cheesecake that's part cream cheese, part ricotta cheese, which works beautifully in that kind of baked pie," Richmond said.

With all the recipes you have to put together, Richmond says one of the easiest is an Italian tiramisu.

Richmond explained that tiramisu means "pick me up," because it contains ingredients like coffee, sugar and chocolate.

"This recipe is so fast. You can make it the night before, the morning before," Richmond said.

Blend up the pumpkin and all its pie spices into a mousse with this very important distinction - mascarpone.

"This is the mascarpone. It's Italian cream cheese. You can't substitute regular cream cheese. Don't even try, because this will whip like whip cream," Richmond said.

After making mousse, dip store-bought ladyfingers in cold brew coffee and amaretto, if desired, and layer your dish -- a layer of coffee-dunked cookies, followed by a layer of mousse, then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Recipes from Akasha Richmond of AR CUCINA:

Pumpkin Tiramisu


1 (15 oz.) unsweetened pumpkin puree

cup light brown sugar

cup cane sugar

teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch cloves

teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups mascarpone cheese

2 cups strong cold coffee (store bought cold brew works great)

1 tablespoon amaretti liquor

3 tablespoons cane sugar (for the coffee)

2 (7 oz.) boxes savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers)

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus additional for garnish

Slivered candied ginger


- In a large bowl whisk the pumpkin puree, sugars, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, salt and vanilla. Add the mascarpone, whisk to combine.

- Using electric hand beaters, or in the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat mixture until soft peaks form. Set aside.

- In another bowl, mix the coffee with the 3 tablespoons sugar and amaretti liquor.

- One by one, quickly dip both sides of eight ladyfingers into the coffee and place side by side, on the bottom of the dish. Top with one cup of the pumpkin mixture. Repeat this five more times, ending with pumpkin cream. Refrigerate overnight.

- Whip the cream with the powdered sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg. Place on top of the assembled tiramisu. Garnish with candied ginger and a few sprinkles of nutmeg.

Hazelnut Chocolate Tart

I first learned about using olive oil instead of butter in a nut based tart or pie from my friend Theo Stephen, owner of Global Gardens, an award winning olive oil and artisan foods company based in Los Olivos. This recipe is inspired by Theo's Olive Oil Pecan Pie.

For the crust:

1 cups all-purpose flour

teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, chopped into 1-inch pieces

2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

10-inch tart pan with removable bottom

For the filling:

3 eggs

1/3 cup olive oil

2/3 cup sugar

cup light brown sugar

cup maple syrup

teaspoon salt

1 cup toasted and chopped hazelnuts

cup chopped dark chocolate (65% plus)

Make the crust:

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold butter. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Place in a bowl. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough holds together. Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour. The dough can be made the day before, or frozen for weeks.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured board, roll the crust out to about 12-inches. Place the dough into the pan, pressing on the bottom edges and into the sides. Trim with a sharp knife. Save any scraps to make small decorative pieces. Chill in freezer for 30 minutes.

Make the filling:

In a medium bowl combine the eggs, sugar, light brown sugar, maple syrup and salt.

Whisk to combine.

Place the chilled tart shell on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Pour the egg and sugar mixture into the chilled tart dough. Evenly add the hazelnuts and chopped chocolate. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Crust should be golden, puffed up a bit, and filling will be firm. A cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool before slicing and serve with whipped cream.