Holiday Recipes from Around the World.
A good recipe is more than a collection of ingredients or a set of instructions. A good recipe—one that has been practiced, tasted, and shared many times—always comes with a story.
This idea is basic to the Slow Food movement, along with the sentiment that we should give ourselves time to savor the rituals and honor the stories involved with the making and eating of our meals. And it’s never more true than during the holiday season, when we remember to pull away from our busy lives and to gather for the sake of sitting with people we love. We send out invites and spend days in the kitchen, hours at the table, sharing recipes, moaning over delicious bites, swapping the stories of how they came to us.
Inspired by Moroccan spice markets, the mountains of southern Spain, and the traditional country tables of Tuscany, here are a few of my favorite recipes for the holiday season. Each is paired with a story, and comes straight from the kitchen of an old friend.
Perfect Party Fare:
“Pick Me Up!” Tiramisu
A few years ago, my friend Moya told me a story about her Tuscan mother-in-law, who used this phrase in a sentence whenever her husband told a bit of gossip. She said, “Tiramisu le calze!” Translated: “Well, pick up my stockings!” This tiramisu, served individually in wine glasses, is a favorite elegant dessert and always pleases.
3 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) container mascarpone cheese (1 scant cup)
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
2 cups very strong brewed coffee or brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
2 tablespoons sweet Vin Santo (more traditionally Tuscan) or Marsala wine
18 savoiardi (crisp Italian ladyfingers, 6 oz)
1/4 cup fine-quality bittersweet chocolate shavings or 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
8 “balloon” red wine glasses
Fig and Walnut Tapenade
This recipe comes from my friend, Kim Schiffer, who co-leads our Spanish cooking program in Andalucia. Made with the ingredients of late autumn, it’s a wonderful party appetizer (tapas, the Spanish would say) especially when served with manchego or a soft goat cheese and crostini.
1 cup chopped dried Calimyrna figs (or one’s you’ve dried yourself)
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T drained and rinsed capers, chopped
1 1/2 t chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
Combine figs and water in a heavy medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until liquid evaporates and figs are soft. About 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.
Season to taste with salt and pepper if it needs it.
Francisco Lillo’s Sweet Potato Fritters
A great alternative to Thanksgiving sweet potato pie! And bite-sized to boot.
3 cups sweet potatoes (cooked and mashed)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs (beaten for egg wash)
1 1/2 cups crushed almonds
oil for frying
Heat safflower oil in a deep frying pan.
In a large bowl thoroughly mix together the sweet potatoes, butter, salt, 2 eggs, cinnamon, vanilla and sugar.
Shape the mixture into croquettes (small rolls).
Roll the croquettes in the egg wash, and then in the crushed almonds.
Fry the croquettes in oil until golden (a couple minutes per side). Be careful not to burn.
Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with a little sugar.
For Family Gatherings:
The Antionazzi Family Recipe for Tuscan Turkey Stuffed with Sausage, Prunes and Chestnuts
In Tuscany, recipes (especially those passed down through families) are often written in paragraph form, rather than as specific lists of ingredients and instructions. They come as a story: a little bit of this, a little bit of that, like a long letter.
This recipe came to me just like that, from my dear friend and designer Rafaella Antionazzi in Florence, Italy:
I’m sending you the turkey recipe from “La Nony” Antoniazzi, the mother of my father and aunt Bebi. She was born in San Pellegrino, near Bergamo in Lombardia and was the daughter of Tommaso Manfredi, the doctor of the village. A handsome man who attended to the sick by horseback from village to village.
La Nony’s name, Erminia, is also my middle name. She was the second of three children between Tommasina and Pino. She was a fantastic cook, but not only. She painted, wrote (the story of her life!) and had other brilliant ideas that were too forward for her time. She was an Aquarius. I adored her.
Here is the recipe. She must be a female turkey because the meat will be more tender e non troppo grande for 8-10 people. Clean the cavity of the turkey well, then sprinkle good sale marino (sea salt) inside and out, but don’t exaggerate. The stuffing is pork sausage, pitted dried prunes, and chestnuts that have been cooked on an open fire, peeled and mashed in a pan with butter and bay leaf.
You stuff the turkey with this delicious mixture and set it in a pan with high sides. The base of the pan should have generous olive oil and butter. Don’t exaggerate, as the pork has fat as well. We want it to be tasty but not too heavy. Put in a few bay leaves and whole black peppercorns also.
The oven should be hot at the beginning to brown the meat for the first 20 minutes. (400F?) It’s important to use a baster to marinate the meat from above. Then turn the oven down to let it cook more slowly until done. (350F?) During the cooking, bathe with a heated broth that you have prepared before. Take out of the oven, let rest, then carve! Bon appetito.
And for special occasions:
Bahija’s Pineapple Upside-down Turned Around Cake
Bahija Lafredi, my friend and chef in Marrakech, Morocco, has a sensibility for the extraordinary in food and never ceases to amaze me. It comes easy to her. Unpretentious in her kitchen whites or traditional tunics, she is like a neutral book cover to a colorful, classic novel. Full of surprises, her imagination takes something as simple as a sponge cake and dresses it to the nines with a flip of the wrists.
200 grams flour (1 cup)
200 grams of butter
100 grams of sugar (1/2 cup)
6-8 apples ( pears optional)
1 cup of sliced, pitted and chopped dates
1 cup of slivered almonds
2 T orange or strawberry marmalade
2 T baking powder
a pinch of salt
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