You get two Italians together and it’s not long before the conversation settles food and family. Thus began my friendship with Vinny Dejohn, who worked in the wine shop at Whole Foods when I met him. Getting his suggestions for a good vintage was great, but getting his vintage family recipe for an Italian fig cookie was even greater. It’s one of the most delightful and delicious Sicilian holiday treats called Cucidati. Thankfully, Vinny’s mission a few years ago was to rescue this recipe! “Great Auntie Antoinette Arnone was 93 years old when she died. Ten years ago during the holidays, I went back to New York and I made arrangements to spend time with Auntie Arnone and have her teach me how to make ‘Goog-i-dottie’ as she would call them. We spent all afternoon making the cookies. Not only did I leave with Cucidati, but also her hand-written recipe card and her grandmother’s meat grinder that she herself has been using to grind the fig mixture for 60 years! I was so appreciative of her for taking the time to pass along her recipe. I often think of those treasured moments together.” Vinny’s version of this soft, flavor filled fig cookie with icing and little colorful candies is now part of my own holiday tradition. What better way to honor my Sicilian father!
Church fund-raising cookbooks are generally compilations of recipes by the family and friends of the church-goes. But in the case of The Bishop’s Bounty Cookbook; Food from Heaven that Tastes Divine, the book highlights the life, accomplishments and abundant recipes of the Bishop himself, The Most Reverend Charles Pascal Greco from the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. I like to think that finding this old cookbook was a gift from above, since it has so many easy and delicious dishes in it, many of which are Father Greco’s authentic recipes. Throughout the chapters, you not only get great meal ideas but also a glimpse into one life that accomplished many things. Father Greco, born in 1894, built churches, schools, camps and even a ninety-six foot ship for “children to play and adults to sit and relax.” The Star of the Sea took five years to complete. But more than anything the Bishop loved to cook and share his recipes with anyone and everyone one. I chose the Chinese Barbecued Ribs because it’s so simple and savory! It makes enough to load up a platter and share, a notion that I think Father Greco would find absolutely heavenly.
It’s called Char Siu. (Pronounced “Char Sue”) But we know it as Chinese BBQ Pork, and it’s of the most popular items on a Chinese Restaurant menu. I never thought of making it at home—it seemed complicated and intimidating. But when I finally decided to give it a try, I quickly found it is neither. It’s a fun, simple dish that ends up tasting exactly like the restaurant version! While it seems as though there are a lot of ingredients, it’s mostly inexpensive bottles of things like soy sauce, molasses, honey, rice wine vinegar—all things you can keep in your refrigerator so you can make this dish many times, which, I think you will! As far as the steps, it’s basically whisking the marinade ingredients, pouring it over the pork, refrigerating it overnight and then cooking it up! It’s that simple. The most important step is making sure you buy pork shoulder, as tenderloin is too lean. Char Siu may be your new favorite!
Watch my How To Video for Chinese BBQ Pork here!