Keeping with the Thanksgiving theme, here is another of our family favorites adapted from Gina DePalma of Babbo in Greenwich Village. If you are not familiar with this recipe, you are missing something extraordinary. In it’s simplicity, Torta di Zucca delivers the essence of a fall evening in the Italian countryside – comforting, straightforward, and satisfying. The ingredients couldn’t be more Italian – olive oil, rosemary, raisins, Grappa, pine nuts; pleasantly evoking something typically prepared by a loving Nonna using only what she had on hand….
As we look forward to crisp evenings, toasty fires and Thanksgiving, I simply must share this recipe with you. I stumbled upon this dessert years ago when thumbing through Richard Sax’s wonderful cookbook, Classic Home Desserts. What originally attracted me to it was the incredible photograph of the Bosc pears, regally glistening in a baking pan. This stunning fall centerpiece is a wonderfully luscious way to end any meal. To make things even more perfect, Trattoria Pears are fat free, dairy free, and parve….
In searching for a simple cake, which used olive oil rather than butter, I stumbled upon Maialino’s straightforward rendition. Maialino is a gem of restaurant located in New York’s Gramercy Park area and part of Danny Meyer’s famed restaurant group; I think we will all agree that anything this man is involved with is worth visiting, starting with the Union Square Café. Maialino, features the essence of rustic Roman food including everything from Cacio e Pepe to Porchetta. No surprise since the English translation for Maialino is piglet.
Well, olive oil alone was not going to do it for me; I was searching for something that was nondairy to satisfy my dietary conscious daughter, La Levitt, as well as friends observing kashrut (which prohibits the mixing of meat and milk at a meal). Substituting almond milk for whole milk reflected my Calabrian roots, while increasing the amount of grated orange rind balanced the flavor nicely….
Growing up in an Italian American family in New Jersey, the granddaughter of immigrants, I was well acquainted with a vegetable garden and fruit trees. My maternal grandfather, being a man of few words, had a somewhat intimidating aura about him; being a child I never considered that it was possibly because his English language skills were somewhat limited. In an attempt to replicate what he left behind in Calabria, he planted the fruits and vegetables of his childhood, including a fig tree. Now, there is nothing unusual about that is there? Certainly not, however the eerie part of his fig cultivation ritual included an annual late fall removal of the fig tree from the ground, followed by an earthen burial to protect this native Mediterranean species from the harsh New Jersey winters. Somehow, looking out of my bedroom window during the bleak days of winter and gazing at the fig burial site, I felt a bit uneasy….