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Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

esse di RaveoFor my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Esse di Raveo (“S” Cookies), a popular cookie created in 1920 in the Carnian town of Raveo. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.

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fave dei mortiFor my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Fave dei Morti (Almond Cookies). While other countries around the world are gearing up for Halloween or Dia de los Muertos, Italians are preparing to celebrate La Festa di Ognissanti (All Saints’ Day). While variations of these cookies—which translate literally as “beans of the dead”—are found in regions throughout Italy, they are especially popular in Trieste, where bakeries prepare them during the months of October and November. For my recipe, visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com.

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Latteria Sociale di CividaleAfter a late arrival in Udine the previous night, I awoke to the sound of rain pounding on my shutters. How I desperately longed to roll over, close my eyes, and sleep the morning away! Instead, I forced myself to change and head downstairs to Hotel Principe’s basement-level breakfast room, where the server, Luciana, greeted me like an old friend, even though it had been over a year since my last visit. The hotel’s breakfast buffet included a substantial array of choices: fresh rolls, croissants, and pastries; several types of cereal; the seemingly obligatory packaged toast; fresh fruit; orange and grapefruit juices; and my favorite brand of yogurt, appropriately called “Carnia,” my flavors of choice being frutti di bosco and albicocca.

Since it was raining and I still suffered from jet lag, I decided on a simple excursion to Cividale to ease me into my five-week-long stay. A quick train ride away, the town was by now quite familiar to me, but this time I had a brand new objective: to visit the Latteria Sociale di Cividale, located a short distance across the Ponte del Diavolo in an area I had not yet explored.

The Latteria Sociale is a dairy cooperative, founded in 1924. Members provide a daily supply of milk, from which the latteria produces a number of different cheeses, including the famous Montasio. I had emailed them in advance of my visit but, to my disappointment, received no reply. Unfortunately, the shop was packed with customers when I arrived, and no one was available to speak to me about their cheese production.

Back on the other side of the bridge, however, I stumbled upon a true gem called La Bottega del Gusto. A gourmet’s paradise, this tiny shop was filled to the brim with cheese, salumi, wine, and other artisanal products—not just from Friuli but from all over Italy. The shop owner was thrilled to hear of my interest in his region’s cuisine and offered me some samples. First, I tasted a bite of formadi frant, a cheese made from mixing cheeses of various stages of maturation. It had a golden hue and a salty, pungent flavor. Next, I tried a paper-thin slice of petti d’oca (goose salami), sweet and rosy with a wide border of fat. Another cured meat that I had read much about was pitina; while there were no samples to taste that morning, the shop did carry pitina, and so I bought one to try later.

strucchiMy next stop was the nearby Panificio Cattarossi, where I purchased a gubana Cividalese and a package of cookies called strucchi. Of Friuli’s famous spiral confections, I had so far tried putizza and presnitz in Trieste, and gubana delle Valli del Natisone in Cividale. The differences between the spiral cakes putizza and gubana delle Valli del Natisone were easily determined—for starters, I found that putizza contained chocolate and was baked in a cake pan—but whether there was any significant difference between the puff pastry spirals presnitz and gubana Cividalese remained an unresolved question. I asked the clerk, and although she did emphasize dried fruit in the gubana, her answer was predictably vague.

Ristorante Al MonasteroFor lunch, I returned to the restaurant where I had eaten on my last visit to Cividale: Ristorante Al Monastero. I was lured by the presence of two dishes from my master list—asparagi gratinati and gnocchi di ricotta—on their menu posted outside, but, as so often happened in my travels, those items were not on the actual menu inside. So instead, I ordered the antipasti misti, which included crêpe spirals filled with ricotta and an assortment of salumi—of which the prosciutto d’agnello (cured lamb) was the most unusual. To keep things on the light side, in anticipation of more than a month’s worth of culinary indulgences, I next ordered a plain bowl of minestrone. This meal was healthier than many, and the soup hit the spot on such a rainy day. To complete my meal, and in lieu of dessert, I savored a glass of Picolit wine—sweet and golden with notes of honey, fruit, and caramel.

pitinaBack in my hotel room that afternoon, I opened up my box of pitina—inside was a round hunk of meat, about the size of a tennis ball. Since the early 19th century, pitina (also called peta and petuccia) has been prepared in the mountainous areas of Val Tramontina and Val Cellina in the northern part of Pordenone province. Like all cured meats, pitina was originally created as a way of preserving the meat, in this case mutton, goat, or game such as chamois or venison. The conventional method of sausage-making, which involved stuffing pig intestines with ground meat, was impractical due to the scarcity of swine in these hills. So instead, the meat was seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, and red wine, then rolled into balls and dredged in cornmeal. Once prepared, these meatballs were placed above a fogolâr (fireplace) to smoke for several days, typically using juniper wood to give the pitina its distinctive smoky flavor. They were then relocated to a cool, dry place to age for several months. Today, only a few artisans still prepare pitina from wild game. This particular brand was made with a combination of pork, beef, and lamb and tasted like smoky salami.

Ristorante Al VaporeLater that evening, I found myself at Ristorante Al Vapore for dinner. Since my last visit three years earlier, the restaurant had renovated and was under new management. The morning showers had gradually tapered off, and I was seated in their outdoor patio area under a red awning. The air was muggy and filled with mosquitoes. I started with one of Friuli’s traditional dishes, toç in braide: a mound of piping hot, creamy polenta topped by a sauce of thinned ricotta, drizzled with a bit of toasted cornmeal in browned butter, and garnished by a ring of sautéed porcini mushrooms. The polenta was so filling that I chose a light dish of trota affumicata (smoked trout) for my second course. This rosy fillet of trota salmonata (salmon trout) was delicately smoked and served on a bed of mixed greens, radicchio, carrots, and zucchini. As I ate, I perused the rest of the menu, intrigued by the lengthy list of salads, particularly the one dubbed the “Equilibrio”—meaning “balance,” this happens to be the name of my publishing imprint!

Back in my hotel room, I cut myself a slice of gubana for dessert. Shaped into a snake-like spiral, flaky puff pastry enveloped a dense filling of raisins, walnuts, and spices. As far as I could tell, it was practically identical to the presnitz I had tasted in Trieste (although a side-by-side taste test would perhaps have yielded a clearer comparison).

strucchiI also sampled a couple of the strucchi. Named for the Slovenian dumplings called štruklji, these small rectangular cookies were made with the same filling as the gubana, deep-fried, and dusted with sugar. Here is my version of the recipe. It makes about 10 to 11 dozen cookies.

DOUGH:
6 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, lemon peel, and salt. Blend in the butter, a little at a time, until crumbly. Add the eggs and vanilla extract; mix until the dough forms a solid mass. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

FILLING:
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup grappa or rum
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
3/4 cup finely crushed biscotti or amaretti cookies
1/2 cup diced candied orange peel
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg

1. Place the raisins in a large bowl; add the grappa and let soak for 30 minutes.

2. Finely grind the walnuts and almonds in a food processor; add to the bowl of raisins. Stir in the crushed biscotti, candied orange peel, pine nuts, melted butter, sugar, cinnamon, and egg.

TO PREPARE:
Vegetable oil
Sugar

1. Working in batches, roll the dough on a sheet of waxed paper to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into 1 by 1-1/2 inch rectangles. Place 1/2 teaspoon filling in the center of one rectangle; cover with another rectangle, sealing the edges tightly. (Keep the unused dough refrigerated until ready to use.)

2. Pour 1-1/2 inches of vegetable oil into a large pot. Heat the oil to 365°F. Working in batches, carefully place the strucchi in the hot oil; fry until golden brown, about 1–2 minutes. Remove from oil; drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with sugar.

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fave dei mortiMy recipe for Fave dei Morti (Almond Cookies), as excerpted from Flavors of Friuli: A Culinary Journey through Northeastern Italy,  is featured today at www.chicgalleria.com. Translated literally as “beans of the dead,” Italian fave dei morti cookies are typically prepared during the months of October and November to celebrate All Saints’ Day. This recipe was given to me by the Stoppar family at Pasticceria Penso in Trieste.

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