Saturday, December 29, 2012

Making Pignolata (Struffoli) - An Italian Christmas Favorite

One of our family's favorite treats at Christmastime is having pignolata (peen'-yo-la-ta) also known as struffoli (stru'-fo-lee).  Others serve them on New Year's Eve as well.  These are tiny pieces of light-textured fried dough drenched in honey, strained, then decorated with sprinkles.  Over the years, we've had the pleasure and privilege of enjoying this wonderful dessert when it's been made by our dear cousin, Clara.  Last year she generously shared her recipe with us.  While my husband, Greg, was making them, I recorded his technique.

Of course, there are many recipes available online for this traditional Italian favorite.  Check out Mario Batali's recipe from the Food Network.  No matter which one you choose to use, consider following our technique when ready to make your pignolata (struffoli).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Surprise: Cannoli Martini Recipe Is In!

What's this in my mailbox? It's definitely a book with an envelope attached to the front of the box. But, I didn't order a book. Alright, I've seen this before. The envelope will disclose that I have two options; 1) keep the enclosed book and pay the shipping cost; or 2) send it back within so many days or else receive a new book every month until I cancel the subscription. I let the box sit on my shelf unopened for several days. Last Sunday I passed by it for the last time. I opened the envelope to see what my options were. Here's where the excitement comes in!

The enclosed letter began with, "Greetings and good news! We are delighted to inform you that you are receiving a copy of the Taste of Home Christmas 2011, which includes your recipe on page 138. This complimentary copy is yours to keep free of charge. It's our way of saying "Thank you!" for contributing to this one-of-a-kind holiday collection." You never saw anyone open a box quicker than I did. This is the book I received!

I had absolutely no idea which one of my recipes they were referring to, so in a flash I flipped to page 138. This is what I saw! My Cannoli Martini recipe! At this moment I am just stunned. All I could do was gaze at page 138.

When I showed my son, Joseph, he pointed out that my Cannoli Martinis are showcased in the "Enchanting Endings" photo and that it's the first recipe in this section of the book. Unbelievable!

I created this recipe back in December 2009 to compete in the online “Make it Fabulous with Fillo” Recipe Contest! sponsored by Athens Foods, the world's largest producer of fillo dough. I wanted to come up with a fancy dessert that incorporated my family's authentic vino cotto (Italian cooked wine syrup). Out of 10 Finalists my Cannoli Martini recipe came in 1st Place, and it came in 3rd Place as the Fan Favorite in the Athens Foods' online vote. This was the first time I ever entered a recipe that I created into a contest.  I was completely amazed to win the competition. Two years later, who knew this recipe would appear in the distinguished Taste of Home Christmas 2011 cookbook? Taste of Home is a registered trademark of The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.

In the Taste of Home Christmas 2011 cookbook, a couple of variations were made to my original Cannoli Martini recipe. To get the same results that made this an award-winning dessert, I recommend using vino cotto rather than reducing 3 cups of dry red wine. The other variation made was the garnish they used.  I simply inserted a square of Lindt® Intense Orange dark chocolate at an angle into each Cannoli Martini. Kumquats were used as their garnish choice. A kumquat is a small, oblong fruit whose taste is similar to that of a tangerine or clementine. Their thin skin is sweet and edible, which is definitely a perfect complement to this dessert.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ultimate Italian Snack Mix

Looking for a new snack mix?  You've got to try the Ultimate Italian Snack Mix!  Italian-seasoned Crispix® cereal with zesty pepperoni, Pecorino Romano, Provolone and Grana Padano cheeses make this munchy a crowd pleaser.  I developed this recipe in April 2011 and have received great reviews for its robust flavor.  Is it the ultimate snack taste sensation?  You be the judge!

The Ultimate Italian Snack Mix

The Ultimate Italian Snack Mix Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups Kellogg’s® Crispix® cereal
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • pinch of dried parsley flakes
  • hot red pepper flakes, finely ground (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup Provolone cheese, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch squares
  • 1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch squares
  • 1/2 cup pepperoni 1-inch round stick, casing removed, cut to 1/8-inch thick, 1/4-inch pieces

  1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
  2. In a glass measuring cup, add the olive oil, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, then stir. Microwave on high for 40 seconds, then stir to dissolve most of the salt.
  3. In a large bowl, add the Crispix® cereal.  Stir the seasoned oil mixture, then drizzle it over the cereal.  Immediately toss to evenly coat each piece of cereal.
  4. In a 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish, add the seasoned Crispix® cereal.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Optional:  For a spicier snack mix, also sprinkle with hot red pepper to taste, toss to combine.
  5. Bake for 5 minutes, toss, repeat, until the cereal is crunchy, about 20 minutes.  Transfer the cereal onto a paper towel lined cookie sheet, and cover with a layer of paper towel.  Allow to cool completely.
  6. In a large bowl, add the seasoned Crispix® cereal, cheese squares, and pepperoni pieces.  Toss to combine.  Transfer to a serving bowl. Enjoy!
NOTE:  The seasoned Crispix® cereal can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container.  Do not refrigerate.  Add the cheese and pepperoni just before serving.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Is It A Salad Or Dessert?

I was craving a salad, and it had to be something different.  Getting tired of the same old thing, I rummaged through the refrigerator looking for ideas.  I found some thinly-sliced prosciutto and a bag of mesclun mixed lettuces and greens--then bang, it hit me!  Off to the store I went.  In my carriage went a package of dried apricots and goat cheese.  Meandering through the aisles wasn’t an option this time.  I was hungry and my creative juices were flowing. 

The combination of tender lettuces and greens with tangy, yet sweet pieces of dried apricots and the saltiness of fresh prosciutto was amazing.  The sweet fig-like flavor of the authentic vino cotto drizzled over the salad pulled the whole thing together, minimizing the piquant taste of the goat cheese.  Was I eating a dessert?  No, but it certainly tasted like one.

This salad was quick and easy to prepare and made a delightful presentation, perfect for any holiday table or dinner party.

Mesclun Mix with Goat Cheese, Apricots, Prosciutto and Vino Cotto Recipe

    1. Cut a prosciutto slice in half lengthwise, then cut into thirds crosswise (6 sections per slice).  Tightly roll up each section, then cut it in half.  Repeat. 
    2. Onto each salad plate, add a handful of lettuce, a few morsels of goat cheese, apricot pieces, and prosciutto rolls. 
    3. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and vino cotto, then top with black pepper.  SERVES 4

      Mesclun Mix with Goat Cheese, Apricots, Prosciutto and Vino Cotto

      vino cotto

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      Falmouth, Our First 2011 Beach Day

      Weather throughout our vacation has been rather bleak, with a long-term forecast of much the same.  It hasn't slowed us down any, but, really, where's the sun?  To our surprise, however, we woke up yesterday to glorious rays of sunlight, something we haven’t seen in a couple of weeks.  Quickly, I logged onto the computer and checked the latest forecast.  Yes, it was going to be sunny all day with temperatures in the low 70s.  Falmouth, here we come!

      Photo by Cape Cod USA Real Estate

      With bathing suits on, our beach towels, chairs, snacks and water swiftly made their way to the car.  We returned to Menauhant Beach in East Falmouth, a spot we visited on Tuesday, but could only enjoy its ocean view from inside the car.  Is this the same place?  It looks considerably different!  Replacing the undesirable cold, gusty winds and gray, overcast skies, is now this hazy and warm day with gentle breezes.  The ocean’s rhythm keeps perfect time with each rolling wave.  Scattered about are just a few couples doing exactly what Greg and I set out to do...relax and become intoxicated by the sounds and smells of the ocean.