Archive of ‘Italian Recipes’ category
This weekend I am giving you three great Italian recipes in three days.
This recipe comes with a particularly good story.
The first year I knew my husband, before he was my husband, I already knew I was in love. I actually thought so as soon as I met him, but there was a moment soon after that confirmed it.
One hot summer evening, John (whom his family calls Giance, for Gancarlo, and most of his friends call JC) had to pick up something he’d been storing in his mom’s garage (I can’t remember what it was now, but maybe after he reads this post it will refresh his memory), and he invited me to come along. This was a very big deal.
I’d only met his mother once before. Also, I’d never been to her house. So that evening, as the sun was setting, we drove out of Manhattan and into Queens.
When we got there, John got busy doing whatever man thing he needed to do in the garage, and his mother took me on a tour of the house. I was most excited to see his old bedroom, the place where my future husband (yes, I thought of him that way even then), had slept and dreamed, and possibly, even dreamed of me.
At that time, Lil and I were still on formal ground. I remember looking around the room, and from the corner of my eye, I could see her gauging my reaction as I studied the framed family pictures she put on his old desk, and John’s old belongings. At last my eyes rested on the wall, where there hung a framed letter from the astronaut Alan Shepard. As I read the letter, Lil told me that it was a response to a letter John had sent him, complete with illustrations. My husband is an artist, and even back then, Lil said, his talent was apparent.
I cannot begin to explain how touching I found it that John wrote to his hero, and I could imagine the hopeful excitement he felt when a letter arrived for him in the mail several weeks later, with Alan Shepard’s name on the top left side of the envelope. I imagined my husband as a little boy ripping it open and pulling out the note to read it.
I just wanted to break down right there and confess to Lil, “I love your son so much. I promise I will take good care of him. Really, you don’t have to worry.”
But, I couldn’t say any of that. It was too soon. What I could do though, was show her.
Soon enough I was invited to her house again, this time for dinner. Determined to impress, I researched Italian cookie recipes and found this one for Florentines. I spent an afternoon baking, and then arranged the cookies on a pretty plate to take for dessert.
Lil is a smart woman. I knew when she saw me bringing homemade cookies, homemade Italian cookies, she’d be on to me. And really, that was just fine. She could infer what she wanted. She would probably be right.
Almost ten years later, I am still fond of these Florentines. The thin, delicate cookies pack a surprisingly big crunch, and the zest of orange and chocolate do the tango in such a way as to compliment, but not overpower, each other. Sort of like me and John. The cookies look fancy, but are not all that hard to make. Some good parchment paper or a Silpat mat are the only extravagant tools you need.
Now that John and I are married, and we have a family of our own, these Florentines still come in handy. If I find myself exhausted, and irrational at times, as is easy to feel when you are tired, stressed, and have small children, I think of that night at his house when I first saw his old bedroom. Imagining the little boy he was then, the excitement that prompted him to send an illustrated letter to his hero, somehow calms me, and keeps me from flying too far off the handle. Not always, but usually.
As for the Florentines, they can also be quite romantic. After all, they’re made of lace.
This weekend I’m giving you three days of three great Italian recipes, starting with yesterday’s Sicilian shrimp cous cous.
Tonight, we’re having meatballs for dinner, and what I like about the recipe for these tangy, spiced meatballs is that you don’t need to serve them with pasta. They make a great stand alone meal, with a little sauce on top. If you want to serve them with something on the side, try a brown rice, quinoa, or sweet potatoes. I like mine with a salad. Remind me this week to post my favorite salad dressing recipes. I will show you how you can have big flavor, without a lot of fat.
This weekend I will be posting three great Italian recipes, starting with this one.
I love this picture. I took it Saturday afternoon at Agata and Valentina on University Place, where their 20th anniversary celebration was in full swing! On the right are Agata, Joe, and Valentina, proprietors of one of my favorite markets in the city.
On the left is Michael Lomonaco, star inspiration and star chef. He was there to prepare Sicilian shrimp and cous cous. During the demonstration, Agata explained that although cous cous is from Morocco, it’s close enough to Siciliy that they can almost kiss. It’s no surprise then that cous cous made it’s way to the southern tip of Italy. (Okay, it was a little surprising to me, because I don’t think of cous cous as Italian at all.)
Here’s his recipe for Sicilian shrimp and couscous. It makes a great light supper!