Every culture has symbolic rituals surrounding the beginning of a new year, each of which focus on good health and prosperity; Italians are no different. New Year’s Eve marks a special celebration for Italian families; whether referred to as La Festa di San Silvestro, Sera di Capo di Anno or simply Trent ‘Uno food is center stage. Family and friends gather round the table to recall the blessings of the past year while looking ahead optimistically. There are regional specialties typical of local areas, but most Italian celebrate with one important ingredient, lentils. The tiny round legumes symbolize coins and are sign of good fortune in the year to come; it is said that the more you eat, the richer you will become. More often than not, the lentil dish includes cotechino, a large sausage, or a zampone, stuffed pig’s trotter representing the richness of life in the coming year….
Archives for December 2014
Baccala Mantecato – Creamed Codfish
Baccala Mantecato, translated as mashed or worked cod, is a Venetian classic available throughout the year and typically served at intimate neighborhood cantinas called baccari. At the baccaro, Venetians take time for some small nibbles and a glass of wine wine known as Cicheti & Ombre in the Venito. Cicheti or snacks, are generally displayed on the bar countertop in small plates and include the gambit of specialties the city has to offer. One may find fried olives, polpette (little meatball) of veal, sardelle in soar (sweet and sour sardines) and other local specialties. Cicheti is always accompanied by Ombre or shade, which is a glass of wine enjoyed away from the sun; a moment to set aside the worries of the day….
Nothing should put a smile on your face more than mounds of minature fried dough balls bathed in honey, that makes complete sense doesn’t it? Struffoli are the quintessential holiday treat during the month of December. Their mere appearance can pull you out of the deepest holiday funk. Generally, I loathe any stereotypical associations between Italian Americans and organized crime, however I feel compelled to mention a scene from iconic series The Sopranos where in Carmella, noting that Tony was in one of his depressive states (moosha moosh) presented him with a heaping platter of these honey glazed confections, a loving gesture to cheer the dysfunctional mob boss….
If you are from an Italian American family with roots in southern Italy and lived in the greater New York area, you know what these are. Anginetti were a part of every family celebration – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Engagements, Weddings, Baptisms, First Communions, Graduations – you name it they were there. These were usually made by the family matriarch, more often than not the grandmother, who began the production line days before the event monopolizing the kitchen table along with every other surface at home. The finished Angenetti were arranged on dollie lined aluminum pie tins, wrapped in cellophane and transported to the party destination to be proudly placed on each table….