Last time our good friend, Laura D’Amelio, asked us to write for her wonderful blog (An Italian Canadian Life) we discussed growing up Italian and the tradition of zeppoli. By popular demand, we’ve decided to post our recipe for these delightful dough-balls.
This widely known Sicilian street food is served year round but it is especially popular on March 19th for the Feast of St. Joseph. As legend has it, a severe drought in Sicily, around the middle ages, had many people pray to St. Joseph to bring the rain. When the drought ended the people celebrated and made these zeppoli as a tribute to the saint. It’s suspected that St. Joseph had worked as a baker making these very delightful sweets at some point in this life.
That’s the story I grew up with anyway. There might be other variations out there but one thing is certain, these fritters are absolutely delicious.
Zeppoli can be made savory or sweet. If savory they’re usually made with anchovies or lightly dusted with salt. If sweet there are many possibilities including drizzling honey, nutella, and cannoli cream or even just lightly dusting them with sugar, which is the traditional way to eat them.
Please keep in mind that this recipe has been in our family for well over 75 years. It’s been modified only slightly over the years. In Sicily, the recipe and the preparation varies depending on which region you’re in. I have found that most families have their own special way of making these. The beautiful thing is that you can have fun experimenting and coming up with something unique and special. As you read through the recipe remember to have fun.
Cooking should be a joyous occasion. Buon Appetito!
Zeppoli Ingredients (Yields about a dozen zeppoli)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup of water
A pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons of oil
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (optional) *
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Oil for frying
I’ve been a little slower on the blog postings the last couple of weeks…why? Well, it’s the season for gift shopping, cookie baking and get togethers. Like the bright lights in the photo above, life around these next few weeks becomes glowing with activity and joy. I’m trying hard to keep a balance. So for today, we’re doing a quick review of the month in Italian-Canadian news and buzz.
This month…mob stories, sausages, and some jazz singing. More after the jump.
Frost has been coating our roof and backyard lately, the chill is in the air here. I’ve been lucky to be able save the last of our summer harvest to still enjoy as the nights get colder. Our third collection of parsley from our herb garden, wrapped well in paper towels to keep them fresh, were begging to be used this weekend after spending a few weeks in the fridge. I wanted a way to keep the flavour of parsley for the winter in a refreshing way, so I mixed it with citrus to create a parsley lemon pesto. This recipe works well fresh or from the freezer. Now I’ve got a couple of jars to get me through the winter.
Parsley Lemon Pesto
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs (store bought are fine, but the large homemade kind are even better)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Salt to taste
My house has more than it’s fair share of kitchen gadgets – more than I think my grandparents ever had and I still can’t match the quality of food they used to put on the table. But there’s one thing they used constantly in the kitchen that I can’t live without either.
I learned early on when I was on my own that all I really needed to cook or warm up food or get that good home cooking taste was a frying pan. My grandparents would slow cook frittatas, potatoes even “spaghetti pie” in a frying pan. A microwave was no way to warm up pasta, it goes rubbery in a hurry, but a little water in a frying pan made it piping hot in minutes. Those frying pans, large and small, held a meld of fresh garden vegetables and home spun recipes that were a throw-back to old Italian living.
Fall brings with it a lot of root vegetables, which generally I like. Except for beets. I’ve never been a fan. They taste ok but they look like a mess to work with. After an over-zealous shopping spree at a farmer’s market, I found myself staring at two beets in my fridge wondering what to do with them. I was pretty much resigned to giving them to my mom, who loves beet salad, when I found a way to work them into one of my favourite Italian dishes – arancini – and it’s a win-win situation.
Arancini are balls of plain risotto, breaded and fried until crispy. You’ll usually find meat, cheese, peas and/or sauce in the centre. My favourite arancini from a bakery near my parent’s place are about four inches wide and are a meal on their own. I haven’t mastered that recipe just yet, but these arancini are a good stand-in as an appetizer or snack. The beet flavour is mellow and slightly sweet and the colour makes for a surprising first bite. Enjoy!
Beet Risotto Arancini
To make the risotto:
2 red beets
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup minced red onion
2½ cups arborio rice
7 cups chicken stock
5 tablespoons grated parmigiano cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
To make arancini:
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
oil for frying
When I was younger, I distinctly remember the days after Halloween as muted ones. They didn’t have the zest and excitement of the black and orange candy feast of October 31, that was for sure. And truly your stomach takes days to recover from that onslaught of goodies that, though it pains you, you must keep eating. For the record, I always left the Smarties behind.
But it was more than just the candy hangover and life in ordinary clothes that changed the mood. My grandparents, who lived just next door, would light a candle that would stay on for all of November. It sat on the dining room table and you could see it from the hall, the front door, the kitchen while we ate dinner. It became this haunting little light that I don’t think for years I understood properly. They would also gather up flowers and cemetery candles (the type surrounded by tall glass and bearing the picture of Jesus or a saint) and head to the graves of relatives. Unfortunately, with their passing, I understand more about the All Souls Day traditions that fall on November 2 which include attending church and visiting the cemetery to remember the loved ones we’ve lost. (more…)