La Crostata

In honor of National Pie Day, here are some ideas of making an Italian standard- La Crostata.  La Crostata is simply pie.  Of course there many variations and recipes; apple, frutti del bosco, apricot, blueberry, and the list goes on.  The word crostata derives from the Latin word crustata.  La Crostata is also known as coppi in Naples and  is sfogliate in the region of Lombardia.  The word first appeared in dictionaries in Italy as far back as the late 1500’s with actual recipes.

A true crostata is recognizable by the design.  A crostata is closer to a tart than a traditional pie and the top is criss cross of lattice dough.  Home cooks, bakeries, and of your course your nonna can make the most delightful and various crostatas using simple ingredients and fruit.  Since there is so many to choose from, we found a recipe from La Tavola Marche recipe box that embodies a true and traditional marmalade crostata. Buon Appetito! 

CROSTATA DI MARMALADE (Jam Tart)
1 1/3 cup butter
5 scant cups of flour
1 1/4 cups of sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 full eggs + 3 yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
drop of booze – grappa, rum, brandy, anything you like
favorite marmalade/jam, about a half a cup depending on your taste

Cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in all the eggs & vanilla.
Sift together all the dry ingredients.
Incorporate the flour into the butter & egg mixture with a few strokes of a wooden spoon forming a dough.  Take 1/3 of the dough & press into a parchment lined tart pan to 1/4 inch thickness. If the dough is sticky wet your finger tips slightly.
Generously spread marmalade on the shell.

To make the lattice work top:
Pull off a pinch of dough & roll into a long snake. This is an easy dough to work with if it breaks just pinch it back together. This is a rustic tart. Moist hands will help if the dough is sticky.
Continue until you have enough to make your lattice top.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the top is nice & brown, the bottom is cooked & the dough should shrink away from the pan a bit.

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The Epiphany

dsc05091The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  That historical date is rooted as the three Magi presented its’ three gifts to the baby Jesus twelve days after his birth.  The Feast of the Epiphany or “little Christmas”  is an important holiday in

Italian culture.  Aside from the religious significance, the fabled “Befana” features prominently in Italian tradition.

If one is not familiar with La Befana, the translation is a witch.  She is more or less an old woman who flies on a broomstick on the eve of January 6th delivering gifts and sweets to all the good children in Italy.   The bad children receive lumps of coal in their stockings.  According to legend, the three Magi stopped at the old woman’s house asking for directions.  The Magi invited the old woman to join them on their journey however the old woman replied she was too busy.  The old woman has since regretted it and now visits all the children of Italy once a year.

As in large festivals across Italy, La Befana has regional celebrations. The Befana is also interpreted as a symbol of discarding negative experiences of the past year and bringing in the new. For example, Veneto holds a symbolic bonfire called the “panevin.” In other northern regions, bonfires are held and glasses of mulled wine and Panettone are served. Venice holds gondola races dressed in Befana costumes. Residents in Rome and Florence display a puppet in the window. Let’s not forget Christmas markets all over Italy partake in the celebration by selling toys (giocatolli), nuts, fruits, and cheeses. However way you celebrate La Befana…we leave you with a traditional poem.
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col vestito alla “romana”
viva viva la Befana!!
Porta cenere e carboni
ai bambini cattivoni
ai bambini belli e buoni
porta chicchi e tanti doni!
[English]

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all broken
With a dress in Roman style
Up, up with the Befana !!
She brings ashes and coal
To bad nasty children
To the nice good child
She brings candies and many gifts!

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Tips On How To Ring In The New Year With Style

  1. The Little Black Dress– you should always have a little black dress for any occasion.  New Year’s Eve is about confetti and glitter.  Add sparkle with a choker necklace.  Velvet, Leather, and Rhinestone are just a few of the season’s choker varieties.  Go bold or go home with a vibrant color and matching bag and shoe.
  2. Earrings– Luckily the imagination can run can go where no man has gone before.  Depending on your ensemble, simple but classic or long and big.  Fringe made a big comeback this year so why not let your ears take center stage.  Pair up feather and tassel earrings with a button down and leggings or pantsuit. Earring cuffs and “plate” styles are sure to bring music to your ears.
  3. Shoes– The ankle boot is the star of this season.  Take a break from your strappies and go with a cocktail dress with a pair of glitter boots.  Peekaboo ankle boots, fringe or lace up will have the dance floor making room for you.
  4. Bag– the right kind of bag will make a statement anytime.  Focus on a party atmosphere and fun, by opting for a smaller style like a clutch or cross over.  You’ll be free to head to the bar or dance the night away without being bogged down.  Multi color stone or metallics give shine to your New Year’s Eve.

 

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Holiday Party- Italian Style!

 

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The holidays are here and we all know Italians do it better! An Italian Christmas dinner usually abides by tradition such as a Christmas Eve dinner of the Seven Fishes. We decided to come up with ways to host a holiday party with a contemporary twist. So if you’re looking to celebrate in the true  Italian Christmas spirit, here a few ways to bring friends and family together that won’t break the bank or a sweat.

  1. Festive Place Settings.

Remember the idea is to be casual but look like a million bucks. Keep it simple and opt for premium plastic ware. You want to appear that you put some thought into your gathering and save yourself the cleanup. Gold, white, green, red color combos will add sparkle to your place setting. Natural pine and winterberry in a vase makes an excellent holiday center piece.

  1. Food and Spirits.

Food is the hands down the star of the show. That doesn’t mean you have to cook up a feast worthy of your Nonna. All it takes are quality food products. The less is more approach is actually more satisfying and half the work. An appetizing tray of prosciutto and aged cheese will go a long way. Add a few roasted vegetables and fresh fruit and you’ll have yourself a delightful party. Spirits include great wine and liquor. If you want to elevate your party to the next notch, Barolo, Valpolicella, Amaretto, and limoncello are delightful brands to add.

3.    Desserts.

Simple classics such as Pizzelles, ricotta Christmas cookies, and even Panettone will complete your menu for a holiday party Italian style. Your guests can nibble on these traditional sweets without the guilt.

4.    Cocktails.

Everyone loves a holiday cocktail to get the season going. A Negroni is a quintessential concoction that appeared in Florence in the early 20th Century and currently enjoying a renaissance. Warning- Negroni is not for the faint however if you’re looking for lighter refreshments, a Bellini is a nice festive alternative. There are plenty of mocktails that are delicious and will add lots of good fun. Try San Pellegrino Sparkling water with lemon and basil, or Italian blood orange soda with Maraschino cherries.

The most important ingredient of all is laughter with family and great friends.   We hope these tips will make your party or gathering an occasion to remember for another Cent’Anni!

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Struffoli- An Italian Christmas Specialty

One of the many treasures of celebrating Christmas Italian Style, is savoring Struffoli during the festive season.  Sticky and at times a little messy but oh so so sweet, Struffoli is an Italian Christmas specialty that shines across tables all over the world during the holiday season. Many Italian grandmothers practically have their own traditional recipes.

Struffoli is believed to have originated from the Greek poet Archestratus. There is evidence of a written recipe lost in historical data of a “dough ball fried in olive oil.” The actual name struffoli comes from the Greek word “strongulos” and means “round in shape.” Namely a Neopolitan delicacy, Struffoli has quite a few apellations. Pignolata, Cicerchiata, and in Honeyballs are other popular monikers. No matter what you call it, Struffoli is sure to add brightness and a little of bit it Italy to your Christmas.

CLASSIC TRADITIONAL STRUFFOLI

3 large eggs
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups All-Purpose Flour Unbleached
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup honey
1 Tsp. Olive Oil
1 Tsp. granulated sugar
1 Tsp. of powdered sugar
Oil best for frying
Colored sprinkles

Whisk the eggs, butter, tsp of sugar and olive together until the mixture takes on a foam texture. Add the baking powder and slowly add the flour while whisking. Delve your hands and knead the mixture until it forms a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 20-30 minutes.

After resting time, place the dough on a wooden board or surface and sprinkle flour to prevent the dough from sticking. Roll the dough into a long strip about a foot long and width about the size of an index finger. Cut the dough into about 1 inch pieces and roll into a small ball the palm of your hands.

Heat up the frying oil in a large pan or deep fryer to 375 degrees F.. Take your rolled dough and fry in the heated oil first. Once they become nice and brown, take a slotted spoon and transfer to another flat surface. Place the honey and ½ cup of sugar and in a large flat pan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Once the honey and sugar become liquid, take the honey balls and coat them right in the pan.

Once fully coated in honey, take your struffoli and place them in a dish or other decorative container. Add colored sprinkles and powdered sugar for extra sweetness and color. Please be aware they will harden therefore you will want to make sure you will be able to break them apart as seamless as possible. From our table to yours, enjoy this delectable Christmas Tradition for many years to come!

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“Fall” in love with Monnaluna Jewelry-New Collection Made in Italy

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Fall Look Pair Ups

Looking for ideas on mixing and matching?  Now that the cool weather is settling in, here are some ideas to look your best!

  1.  Don’t be afraid of bursts of color.  Winters may be gray on the outside but that doesn’t mean you have to dress like it.  Burgundy and Aubergine are huge colors this season.  Try a bold trench coat for that business trip on the train or Friday night drinks with the girls.
  2. Micro bags are all the rage.  We may be used to big carry ons that contain everything but why not liberate yourself?  Micro mini bags can be your own personal carry on or over the shoulder.  They’re the perfect size to hold your basic essentials and keep your hands free while out on the town.
  3. Bowler Bags are another Fall trend.  The bowler bag can make a power statement while keeping to a classic style for the office or a power lunch.  Pair up with a power suit or skinny pants and oversize weather.

The weather may be cooling down but these looks will keep you hot all year round!

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