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XXX New This Month
Sunday, December 29th, 2013
Originated from: Close to home
Occasion: Natale's Movable Feasts
Contributed by: Webmaster, Mary Melfi; image courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery

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Baking powder
Vegetable oil
Marsala wine, Rum or Sherry
Lemon Zest
Vanilla extract

Vegetable oil for frying

For decoration
Icing sugar


Work ingredients into a malleable firm dough.

Using a pasta maker roll dough out into 1/8 inch thick.

Cut strips of long strips of dough -- between 8 inches long and 26 inches long and 1/2 inches wide.

Shape the short dough strips into lovely little bows, and the long ones into rosettes or pinwheels.

Fry until golden.

Dust with icing sugar, or drizzle with honey.


In the old days and in the old country (Could that possibly be Italy, the country currently known for its ultra-modern designs in cars, furniture, clothing and edible goods?) you couldn't have a real Christmas unless the hostess brought out a ton of fried dough which was beautifully sweetened with table sugar or honey. Almost every region in Italy has a variety of fried Christmas sweets; they go by different names but they're all quite similar. Essentially, they're all delicious, though those of us brought up in the new (?) country and in the new age have been taught to dislike and look down upon anything fried. Supposedly fried foods are no good for you (Though Dr. Oz did say something recently about "fat" being good for one's brain!). Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in Montreal, Quebec, I myself dismissed my mother's and aunts' sweet fritters alla Molisana as being "Not Good Enough." Now that I'm older, that acquired taste that one needs to nourish and develop for country-fried-foods, I got plenty of that. Italian internet cooking sites have loads of recipes for fried sweets. This website also has dozens of recipes. There is no shortage of recipes. Prior to World War II many households in Italy did not have ovens in their homes (They had to use communal ovens, which they had to pay for their use), so they fried their sweets. They did have fireplaces and frying pans, and a bit of flour, though not too much sugar (That was expensive). So home cooks were inventive, creative, and frugal. Thankfully most of the recipes were eventually written down in the later half of the 20th century and now we have Italy's culinary heritage at our fingertips (through Google & friends). This month I was so busy putting together my own Christmas festivities that I didn't add too many new recipes to this site. I did add a Christmas recipe for "Susamielli," a Neapolitan Christmas S-shaped, spice, honey cookie, and a recipe for (See Italy Revisited/Cookies without Nuts) and "susmelli," a filled cookie recipe from Abruzzo (See Italy Revisited/Calconi). The two words sound so much alike, yet the recipes are very different. Also, a number of people who were born in Molise were kind enough to give me their recipes -- one of them is for "Pepatella" and the other, from Brigida Cordileone, is for Molise's famous almond wedding cookie (See Italy Revisited/ Cookies with Nuts). She managed to simplify the difficult recipe so anyone can do it. Micheline Di Gerolomo, who was born in Marche, also gave me some recipes from Molise. Her late mother was good friends with a number of women born in Molise (My late aunt being one of them) and as they all loved to bake, they exchanged recipes and lucky for Micheline and her sisters, her mother actually wrote down the recipes she collected in the 1960s. As Micheline herself likes to bake, she gave me her own recipe for a Nutella jellyroll cookie recipe. That recipe was adapted from a Molisana jellyroll jam-filled cookie recipe that my late aunt used to do, but it's so different from the original, that it actually belongs to Micheline. Nowadays, everyone is looking for Nutella recipes, and there are plenty of cookbook writers that specialize in this, but it seems that home cooks are also capitalizing on Nutella's great-tasting product and making use of it, however they can (for Micheline's recipe see Italy Revisited/Cookies with Nuts). This month in addition to the other recipes from the region I was born in, I added recipes for "colac" and "cippillati," both of which are miniature calzone al forno. "Cippillati" is filled with Molise's fabulous sour cherry jam, which if I had access to it (Unfortunately it's not available in North America), I won't use it in any baked good, but eat it as is (It's that good!!!!). My aunt, Zia Rosina Melfi, says that a sour cherry tree grew on her father's property. The sour cherries were "black" (when they were ripe) and not "red" as they are in other parts of Europe. Her mother made sour cherry jam -- used half a pound of sugar for every pound of fruit. She indicated that the jam did not keep for very long as it was stored in ceramic containers (Her family had glass jars but as they were expensive they were used for canning tomatoes.). Still, while the sour cherry jam was fresh, it was loved (And I could see why -- it's probably the best tasting jam in the world!). Sadly, the black sour cherry jam can only be found in Molise; it is commercially available there, but no other place (as far as I know). My sister actually bought me a jar in Casacalenda, Molise, this year as she went there for a brief vacation, and I have to say it is truly magnificent. If only someone would import it. Oh well. Back to the recipes -- I also added some new recipes (which I adapted) from the cookbook, "La Tavola Italiana" by Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow (New York: W. Morrow, 1988). This cookbook can be borrowed for free from the on-line public library, www.openlibrary.org. The recipes from this cookbook that I used are:: "Nocciolette," hazelnut cookies and "Biscotti di Prato" (See Italy Revisited/Cookies with Nuts); "biscotti di San Francesco," cookies made with yeast and "Anise Toast," an anise-flavored twice-baked nut-free biscotti (See Italy Revisited/Cookies Without Nuts). All these recipes are traditional and have been around for centuries. And because of that they can't possibly belong to the individual who wrote down the ingredients in any one book (The recipes are available in many books)..... The big challenge for me this month was coming up with my own version of the now-famous Tuscan almond biscotti. There are dozen of recipes for this style of biscotti on this website, many of which I tried and enjoyed, but which I found a bit too difficult to do. I think my version is a touch easier than any other I tried, but I can't say that for sure. I do know it's a lot cheaper because it uses a lot less almonds, but as it is flavored with orange and lemon zest, the loss of almonds is not that noticeable. Still, whatever recipe I came up, it won't surprise me if I changed it sooner or later. I am one of these home cooks that is never satisfied with a recipe -- there is always room for improvement, and I am one of those home cooks who gets easily bored. If I am not trying out a new recipe I'm not happy. I like the challenge of doing something new. The challenge helps me keep the focus on the recipe, and not anything else, and that's very relaxing. That's why I keep at -- collecting, adapting, and cooking for the fun of it..... This month I also added some new illustrations of traditional clothing to the Photo Archives of this website. Some are from Calabria and some are from Sardinia. And that's about it. Time to bring in the new year.....

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