With the holidays behind me and finally a moment to relax and think about all of it, I am struck by a couple of moments that involve food and family and friends. The most prominent and perhaps pleasant thing to recall are the Christmas cookies. I do not want to appear non-pc, but they are Christmas cookies, not holiday cookies, so even though I am decidedly not Christian, I am going to stick with that name. These recipes are amazing both because they have been handed down from one home cook to another over several generations and because they are really damn good; and, on top of that, for me the preparation and distribution of these little treats is the greatest gift of the holiday season. Okay, I will admit it, I love the kudos I get for my cookies--go ahead, gush, I love it! A little history, first of all, I am Italian (an identity I previously struggled with, but now embrace), so if you have an Italian cook in your life, you understand. We take cookies pretty seriously both in quality and volume…no easy cookie, no small batches. Since I skipped Christmas last year (story for another time), I took it on in full force this year.
For starters, I wanted to spend some time getting back to my roots, so to speak. So I joined Grandma Rose and Aunty Mary for a holiday meal (yes, the ravs of which you have already read) and some cookie baking. My Aunt, known affectionately as Zia, makes a fabulous ricotta cookie that I was dying to learn to make. Sharing recipes requires that you bake with the cook...so if you want my recipes, get your ass in my kitchen next year and help!
Her recipe is her own, so I cannot detail it here (yes, we take that part seriously, too), but it is fairly simple. “Ricotta Rolls,” require a dough made with ricotta with a stuffing made also with ricotta (hence the name)that is spread inside. It requires no frosting because it is brushed with an egg wash, which is why I say simple...but it is delicate, flaky, and subtly sweet--so good, and it pairs nicely with a glass of earthly red wine.
We had a great day of making cookies, even Grandma Rose enjoyed the fruits of our labors with a small glass of nebiolo (the Deforville; if you have not had it, run don’t walk). The cookies are delicious, but what is special about the day is sharing time together and laughing so hard my checks hurt.
What is funny about cookies, you might ask? Well, first Grandma Rose hands me a measuring cup so old it has no marking left on it. When I point out to her that I cannot tell how much ricotta to use, she laughs, well more of a quick vocal burst of judgment that reads something like, “ha, you silly child, get out of my way, who doesn’t know what a cup of ricotta looks like…” I suppose I will get there, someday…we all need goals to strive for.
Then, there is Logan. Sorry, Zia, but he is quite possibly the ugliest little dog I have ever seen. He waits for snacks, but snaps at me if I get too close…not exactly the Christmas spirit…”hey, you gonna eat that…give it to me and no one gets hurts.”
Lastly, though in no way least, Zia, watches me work the dough, “oh, not that much flour, honey”; or, “I don’t do it like that, but okay”; and, finally, and with great relief, “that is okay,” though delivered with a little doubtful head tilt. Okay, I mentioned we are Italian, right? In the end, Grandma Rose, said, "not bad." That is the kind of approval we strive for;) Hey, what can I say, not all Italian Grandmothers gush; it makes you stronger! And, that is why I need the rest of you to do that. (yes, Chris R., you gush appropriately, and will be permanently on the christmas cookie list...okay, I will explain, Chris described himself as a drunk in the alley with my cookies as he motioned with his hands shoveling them into his face with his mouth wide open to receive the bounty. I love you, Baby!)
The best comedy was my aunt and I practicing for our own cooking show…I could share but we are still working on the pilot.
The next day I began my own production, and I am proud to say that all 9 types and nearly 100 dozen cookies have been distributed and hopefully consumed (that is not a typo). Seriously, friends, if they aren’t as good as you say, I won’t burden you with them…but I love the feedback that I am getting.
Whatever fills your holiday with fun, smiles, and laughter, remember it fondly throughout the year because it is that which gets us through the rest of the craziness.
Do you have a recipe to share? Let's have a cookiefest 2012...details to follow.
Merry, happy, joy, for whatever you celebrate!