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!
milk or cream
I love hearing about the origin of Italian dishes from my Momma, who grew up in Venice, Italy, and who became a gourmet chef when she arrived in America. One of my favorite stories is about a gourmet dessert that America has fallen in love with called Tiramisu. It is believed to have originated at a fabulous restaurant in Treviso, my Momma’s hometown, called Le Beccherie. It was the first place she took me to when I was 18 years old when visiting her town for the first time. Since then, Tiramisu has turned up in most Italian restaurant menus but few people actually know what Tiramisu means. It means “pick me up.” As Momma explained to me, during WW2, rationing was mandatory in Italy, and many people were under-nourished. That was a particular concern for pregnant women who needed to keep up the nutrients and calories to produce healthy babies. Tiramisu was the perfect solution. It’s loaded with protein-rich eggs, and calorie-rich heavy cream and Mascarpone cheese. The espresso would give one a boost of energy, and together the ingredients provided the perfect “pick me up.” The beauty of Tiramisu is that it is so easy to make. The only challenge is, you have to wait 8 hours for it to set up. But it’s worth the wait. Give yourself a delicious pick me up this week with melt-in-your-mouth Tiramisu!
Watch my How To Video for Tiramisu here!