I’ve mentioned before that Christmas Eve is a big tradition for Italians. In many ways Christmas Eve was more important that Christmas growing up.
For one thing, we opened up all of our gifts on Christmas eve. My brother and I were the first grandchildren on my Father’s side of the family – and we were for a few years until our other cousins came along. So on Christmas Eve Nick and I would have to stay up until midnight before we could open our presents i.e. we would be falling asleep on our Nonna’s couch. ‘Santa’ a.k.a my Nonno or Zio would dress up as Santa and come to my Nonna’s house at midnight to deliver presents.
Earlier in the evening we would eat our Feast of Seven Fishes dinner – Italians do not eat meat on Christmas Eve, only seafood. My brother and I were incredibly lucky to grow up with such amazing food and traditions. It was truly a feast to remember. We would begin with a seafood pasta course (usually tuna sauce my dad or nonna would make), followed by fish, prawns, mussels, clams, baccalà (salted cod), homemade calamari and other amazing dishes. It has always been my favourite memory of Christmas with my dads family.
As a child I remember stealing Pizzelles from the counter before dinner, when Nonna or Nonno weren’t looking. Pizzelles are incredibly thin, delicate waffle like cookies that are crisp and slightly sweet. You can eat about 6 in a minute flat. They were always the elusive holiday cookie that you would only get at Christmas or maybe Easter. Pizzelle makers were not popular so only my Nonna would have one therefore making it an even more treasured dessert that I looked forward to.
Now, I have my very own Pizzelle maker by a complete mishap that happened this summer. Long story short, the company Chef’s Choice sent me an e-mail on a completely different subject that lead me to respond and receive a response from a woman in their marketing department. After a few back and forth conversations about her daughter, myself and my family she offered to send me one of their products to make up for the mishap. Of course I chose the Pizzelle maker, as it meant I would not longer have to borrow my Nonnas. Also – that I could now make Pizzelle’s whenever I wanted.
I am also excited to be hosting my very first Christmas Eve dinner at our house this year. In honour of my Dad I hope everything turns out – though Christmas Eve has never quite been the same since he passed. Christmas makes me feel incredibly nostalgic. Nevertheless I am looking forward to having all of my family over to share a delicious seafood meal together – and Pizzelle’s will definitely be on the dessert counter. This time, I won’t have to sneak them.
Thin crisp waffle cookies
- 3 Eggs
- 1 3/4 cups Flour
- 1/2 tsp. Anise seeds (optional)
- 1/2 cup Butter or oil, melted
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1. Turn on Pizzelle Maker. In a medium sized bowl beat together the eggs and sugar until frothy.
- 2. Add the cooled melted butter or oil, vanilla and anise seeds (optional) and beat again.
- 3. In small bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add to the egg mixture stirring with wooden spoon.
- 4. Stir batter until well combined, it will be slightly stiff and dough-like. The dough should be stiff enough to drop by rounded spoonfuls.
- 5. Drop by spoonfuls in the centre of the Pizzelle maker. Be careful not to place too much dough, otherwise it will spill out over the sides. You want them to have delicate 'fingers' like lace.
- 6. Bake according to your Pizzelle Maker's instructions, usually only 20-30 seconds per batch. Carefully lift off using a fork. Place on cooling rack to crisp.
- Special Equipment Needed: Pizzelle Maker
- Pizzelle cookies last quite well. Place in airtight container (my nonna would always place paper towel over them) and store on counter for up to 2 weeks. You can also easily freeze them for ice cream sundaes, or ice cream sandwiches.
b a k e a h o l i c http://www.bakeaholic.ca/
We still have 5 days left of Summer before it is officially Fall. The weather has been totally confusing. Last week there were two incredibly hot days, in the high 20s. FYI that’s 20+ Celsius, not Fahrenheit. I had to laugh when I posted a picture of our weather on Instagram and an american follower said she had to remind herself it was C, not F. Because 26 degrees F is like -7 degrees Celsius. A temperature I would not be so happy about this time of year. However the weather quickly changed and we had a few days of rain, and to top off the weekend another thunderstorm last night.
We didn’t let the weather ruin our weekend though. We were actually just about to head out for a bike ride when our neighbours asked if we wanted to head downtown to bike around Stanley Park on the sea wall. We decided to bring some food and our new camp bbq to have a picnic after the ride. It was actually quite warm and the fog had burned off near us, but as soon as we started to drive into the city it actually started to disappear behind the blanket of grey clouds.
You could barely seen the Lions Gate bridge as it disappeared into North Van
It was still rather warm and good biking weather. By the time we had dinner though, it was pretty dark. We’re always up for a last minute adventure and still holding on to summer.
Zucchini is a late summer squash that everyone seems to have too much of. This is another great recipe to use up all of that zucchini.
I made this lasagne dish when I was doing my week of Vegan eats while Adam was away. However, he was super jealous when he found out I made it when he wasn’t home. I saved him a tiny, very tiny, piece to try when he got home. I’ve made zucchini lasagne a few times since learning of my wheat and corn allergy. I don’t eat pasta very often unless it’s brown rice, and zucchini for the lasagne sheets works perfectly. I actually prefer this over regular lasagne.
recipe for sauce adapted from Home with Love by Jennifer Perillo
- 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive-oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 small sweet yellow onion
- 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cups white button mushrooms, rinsed and cleaned
- 1/4 cup red wine
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Dice the onion and add 1/2 of the diced onion to pot. Using a garlic press add the cloves of garlic and cook until fragrant and golden (if you don’t have a garlic press mince with a knife.) Simmer for 2-4 minutes.
Using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes over the pot. Add the remaining liquid from the can and the white wine. Alternatively, you can blend the tomatoes in a blender if you like.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let cook 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place a skillet over medium-high heat and add a splash of olive oil. Dice the mushrooms chopping them finely. Add the other 1/2 of the diced onion to the pan along with the chopped mushrooms. Cook until golden for about 5-7 minutes. Season with pepper.
Add the red wine and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Add the mushroom mixture to the sauce and continue to cook.
To assemble the Lasagne
- 2 medium sized zucchinis
- mozzarella cheese (if vegan use Daiya mozzarella, if non-vegan I suggest goat cheese)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
I use a mandolin to slice my zucchini layers for this dish. If you don’t have a mandolin you can slice it as thin as you can in long strips. Secure the zucchini to the mandolin and slice at about the second setting (it varies on each brand, mine is usually 1/4” thickness). You want them thin, but not too thin otherwise it will be a little messy when cutting. Set aside the zucchini strips.
Using a 9×9 inch square pan, spread a spoonful of sauce on the bottom. Layer zucchini on top all facing the same way. Add another scoop of sauce on top and spread across the zucchini strips. Sprinkle with chosen cheese, and top again with another layer of zucchini.
Continue this pattern, zucchini, sauce, cheese until you’ve reached the top of the dish. Finish the top layer with another sprinkling of cheese.
Place baking dish on cookie sheet (in case any spills over) and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until sauce is bubbling and top is slightly browned. You can also stick a sharp knife in it to feel for the tenderness of the noodles.
Remove from oven, and allow to sit for a 5-10 minutes before serving. This will help the cheese set and make it easier to dish out.
Serve with a side salad. Refrigerate leftovers. And like most pasta dishes, this also tastes even better when it’s sat overnight.
The best thing about living in B.C is the local produce. Every summer I look forward to baking and cooking with fresh produce and fruit grown locally.
I have already visited Krause Berry Farms and sampled some of their delicious fruit and products. This past week my mom was in Osoyoos, the interior of B.C and Keremeos is also known as ‘fruit stand capital of B.C.’ There are tons of local farm markets you can visit and sample all the fresh and delicious fruit. Oliver is also the wine capital of Canada, an entirely different kind of fruit product ;)
When she came home, she said she had bought lots of fruit and was going to give me some. She brought back Peaches, Cherries, Transparent Apples, and green and yellow Zucchini.
The apples were very different than I had seen before, they felt as though they were made of foam! Very light and sponge like. She said they would probably be good for baking with. Translation: Make Pie.
I happily took home the veggies and fruit, and decided that I would make a pie to bring over for dinner the next night.
A Crostata is an Italian style pie. I have never made one, but thought since I’m Italian, I had better try it! :) Another pie I really want to try before the summer is through is a lattice-top :)
There are a couple differences for Crostata from a traditional pie dough. First, the addition of eggs. More specifically, egg yolks. Also, sugar. Lots of sugar. This creates an almost ‘cake-like’ pie crust, as Adam put it. It is more dense, but just as flakey and tender. It is really good! You could definitely serve this with a scoop of ice cream, or whipped cream. I simply sifted some icing sugar on top. You can serve it warm or cold, I had mine at room temperature and it was delicious!
Now, the apples I used were definitely not ‘hard’ apples. They were quite soft. So in the baking process, when you cook the apples first before baking it in the oven, they got extra soft. I think If I used a softer apple next time I might skip the first cooking process, and just bake it in the oven.
I also made my dough the night before, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
I will definitely be making Crostata’s in the future. Maybe even mini ones! I think this would be great for Easter, or ‘Pasqua’ in Italian ;) I’m sure other fruits would be delicious as well!
Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart’s New Pie’s and Tarts
- 3 Tbs. Butter
- 6-7 medium/large Granny Smith Apples, or Green Apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes
- 1 1/2. Tsp. Lemon Zest
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Sprinkling of Cinnamon
- 2 1/2 cups Flour (WW or AP)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 sticks plus 1 tbs. butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 tbs. ice water (use as needed)
Also: sanding sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling, and one egg for egg wash
- To make the crust, mix flour, sugar, and butter on medium speed until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add the yolks; mix slightly. Add ice water one tbs. at a time. Mix until just combined. Form dough into disk; wrap in plastic. Chill for 1 hour or up to 3 days.
- To make the filling, melt butter in a large pan on high heat. Add apples, and zest stirring until coated. Sprinkle sugar, and saute, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, liquid has thickened, and apples are almost golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet, and let cool to room temperature.
- To assemble, flour surface lightly. Roll chilled dough into a 1/4-inch-thick circle. Place dough on cookie sheet ( I used a pizza pan!). Mound cooled apple mixture in center, leaving a 3-inch border. Fold edges of the dough on top of apples, overlapping and leaving about a 6-inch round opening. Feel free to ‘tear off” any large amounts of excess dough. You can trim it with a pizza cutting as well before placing on baking sheet. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush edge of crust with egg, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until pastry is golden brown and apples are tender, about 30-40 minutes, up to 50 minutes if needed.Ciao~ Enjoy :)* I think the dough really makes this Crostata, but I may just use a regular apple pie filling next time, without the additional cooking, and butter. I also used two who eggs instead of four egg yolks this time, as I did not want to waste four egg whites =)
Lainey was helping too, of course. =)