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Confession: I gave up sugar for lent. And I’m craving cookies.
If you know me well, you know that cookies are my downfall. And Italians have SO many good cookie recipes. The options run through my mind all day and it’s got to stop. On top of the cravings, I get emails – lots of emails – about cookies, especially during the spring.
Spring often means bridal showers and that means home baking for the cookie tables. I would guess this is one of the most popular times for baking each year (second only to Christmas). Have you never been to an Italian bridal shower? You can check out pictures from my own and my sisters from this previous post, then you’ll understand the allure. To help you get ready for your baking (for whatever the reason) and save me from eating cookies myself, I’ve found an easy, traditional and flavourful recipe to add to your repertoire. From Rosetta Costantino’s book Southern Italian Desserts, Pezzetti di Cannella (little cinnamon cookies) are the classic Nonna cookie. In fact, my husband’s eyes lit up when he grabbed a few off the tray the last time I made them, he hadn’t had them for years. Rosetta’s book is a recommended purchase for anyone who loves Italian desserts, I refer to it regularly! Enjoy the baking!
A foreword from Rosetta: My mother’s friend Yolanda Tateo shared her mother’s recipe for these cookies. Yolanda moved to the United States from Sava (Puglia) when she was in her twenties. This is one of the few recipes from home that she has kept over the years. These bite-sized cookies are perfect to have on hand for visitors or to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s worth splurging on good-quality cinnamon because it is the predominant flavouring. The recipe makes a lot of cookies; they can be stored for up to a month in an airtight container.
Pezzetti di Cannella
2 cups (264 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil
2 tablespoons whole milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
We spent the summer putting away fresh vegetables and meat products into the freezer. We like knowing where our food comes from, how it is prepared and preserved. Our freezer is well stocked for the winter and even has an accompanying spreadsheet and map (it’s needed! As are labels on everything!). But all that work means making sure we use everything too.
That can be a little difficult months later when you want to branch out to new dishes instead of the same old. There is only so much rapini one person can eat, says my husband, who, last summer, thought it was a good idea to freeze a bushel of the greens. When I pulled out what I thought was a packet of pork last week, and it ended up being chicken, it was time to break out of the go-to recipes and think about something we hadn’t had in a while.
The answer: chicken cacciatore. I’m not a huge fan of green and red peppers, which is why we don’t have this dinner often, but after making it this time, I’m not sure why not. I stuck to the recipe that my family uses, and they used at their Italian restaurant they had when I was young. This is a basic cacciatore recipe, relying on the flavours of the tomatoes, peppers and chicken, rather than wine or capers as you may see in more modern recipes. Smothering rice or pasta, it’s perfect for a workplace lunch the next day too. Now to find a way to get my husband to eat more rapini…
2 pounds, bone-in chicken pieces
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 pound button mushrooms
1 large onion
1 jar or can plum tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
There’s a draft coming in from the base of our sliding door. Maybe we need more insulation or a new door but for now, my feet, under the kitchen table, are getting stone cold. It’s funny how a little line of insulation, filling in the tiniest crack, can make all the difference to making you fill warm and comfy.
Protection from those icy winds of January, at least the ones we have here in Canada, can mean the simplest of things. A good warm blanket, a crackling fire. And to keep your belly and toes warm, a hot bowl of Nonna’s secret weapon: pastina.
My baby boy isn’t old enough yet to appreciate this recipe, but no doubt he will learn it soon enough. The subtle broth and simple pasta make a bowl of goodness that every Italian kid knows well from deep winter nights and those days spent home from school with a cold. Plain enough that every kid will eat it and hearty enough that even adults crave it years later, pastina is as basic as it comes and every Nonna knows it well.
This cold draft is starting to give me the sniffles, so it’s off to the stove to warm up some of this myself. Feeling chilly? Try out the recipe yourself…
1 cup pasta, any tiny kind like stars, rice shapes, or the most typical: acini di pepe
4 cups chicken broth
1 cheese rind (optional)
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste
If you follow this blog, particularly through the summer, you’ll know that I’m a huge supporter of local food and fresh food. From the garden and from the surrounding farms, we have tons of fresh vegetables to choose from when the weather is bright and sunny.
Well, it’s still sunny today but in the winter, these clear blue skies mean it’s achingly cold outside, the kind that hits you right down to the bone. And the view from my kitchen window is one of barren winter land. My backyard garden is a pile of snow. And in the kitchen, root vegetables and pantry items abound. Sigh. In the winter, I have to think long and hard about what to pull together to eat.
On a side note: I do not go in for those hothouse tomatoes in stores this time of year. They get soft on the outside but are strangely still hard on the inside and taste like water.
But a brand new cast iron pan I got in the post-Christmas sales (75% off folks!) is calling my name and may provide the solution this week. Seasoned up, it’s a good tool for making frittata. I’ve done a couple of other frittatas (spaghetti and asparagus) on the blog, but none in the oven so this is a bit new. What’s on hand: potatoes and onions and one of my favourite cheeses: goat cheese. Put together and warm and hearty, it should make those winter blue skies look warm, at least from this kitchen window. Happy cooking everyone… (p.s: you don’t need a cast iron pan for this recipe, a oven-proof pan will do!)
Potato and Onion Frittata
1/2 cup whole milk
2 medium yellow onions
2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold
100g goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
What was missing from your Christmas table? What foods are part of your best holiday memories? Looking for an old family recipe?
Every year in December my blog and email inbox get really busy. In the lead up to Christmas, everyone is searching for their favourite old recipes like a cookie or treat their mother or grandmother used to make. The best emails I get are from readers who have just found old recipes on my site and tell me all about the memories they had of those foods and what a joy it was to have them again at the table.
In 2015, instead of searching at the last minute for a recipe just like Nonna’s, let’s help each other out and get those recipes together starting now.
Since the holiday season has just passed, and what was missing from the table is still fresh in our minds, now is the time to ask you: what are your favourite Italian Christmas dishes? Maybe it was something your mother used to make, or maybe a cookie an Italian neighbour used to always bring you. What recipes are you missing or searching for? Give me the English or Italian names of your Christmas dishes (and maybe a bit of a description!) and I’ll work to search them out and put together a Christmas recipe guide.
Here’s a brief list (after the jump) that I have so far of some desserts. From pasta to fish to fried treats, tell me what to add in the comments section of this post!
One, two, three, six….ten…..just how many panettone or pandoro do you have in your house this season? My current count is four, but I imagine more are on their way, especially when they go on sale. I can’t resist the chocolate ones. Of course, buying more panettone, on top of the ones you receive, is just an excuse to make panettone French toast!
As much as a Christmas tree or turdilli are traditional, piling up panettone is also an Italian tradition. (At least I think so!) You might find these breads under two names: panettone or pandoro (like the one pictured in this recipe). What’s the difference? Where they are made, the shape and the history of each bread differs. Here’s an account of the differences, but for this recipe either will work. This sweet Italian bread, studded with raisins, dried orange or chocolate is a typical gift between friends and family during the holidays. Usually served with espresso after a meal or during friendly visits, the breads are so popular they can tend to pile up in the cupboard or catina. In fact, in areas of the city where many Italians live, whole aisles in some grocery stores are dedicated to variations of this treat.
So after you’ve eaten a few with your coffee, what are you do to? Get creative! Use it in bread pudding. Try an ice cream bombe (here’s the recipe I wrote for Aurora Importing). The quick and easy way is this: the day after Christmas, my family has panettone French toast, making this sweet bread a breakfast treat. Other than an excuse to essentially have cake for breakfast, the best part of panettone French toast is it is totally Italian-Canadian: Italian sweet bread served with Canadian maple syrup. Perfect! Here’s how to do it at your house:
Panettone French Toast
1 panettone, sliced into 8 -10 servings
4 large eggs
½ cup milk or cream