I'm nesting - prepping the home for family. This happens every winter when the days are shorter than the eves. I gaze at my home and think "This doesn't work" and then I move everything around. Saturday I changed everything in my kitchen cabinets. Confusing my family who now cannot find the cereal but are grateful I left the coffee in the same place.
The upside of changing everything in your kitchen around is suddenly you have a new kitchen and you want to make everything - all at once: cookies are baked, soup is stirred, vegetables are cut, meats are braising and if I was an octopus I'd simultaneously have an arm in all those pots. But I did pretty well with two arms
Pere alle Spezie (Spiced Pears)
These hail from Piedmont - a large northern province in Italy that actually does see winter. The baking of the pears in a spiced-sugared wine showcases the creamy, sweet "meat" of the fruit. Perfect after a heavy meal. More perfect in the deep, dark days of December - the perfect month to rejoice in cloves, cinnamon and ginger. They bring comfort and joy to the table.
Ingredients (from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Italy)
1-1/2 cups 12 fl ounces) fruity red wine (such as Barbera)
1/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar
6 whole cloves
8 firm, ripe pears (Anjou, Bartlett) Bonus: You don't need to peel them
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). In a baking dish large enough for the pears but small enough to have them fit all snugly and upright, place your pears. In a small mixing bowl, stir the wine, sugar and cloves. Pour over pears. Bake the pears 45-60 minutes, occasionally basting the pears with the liquid. The pears are done when tender - just pierce one with a fork and see how easily it glides. Cool to room temperature before serving.
In the words of my daughter, "Boom! Done!" How easy was that?
(I've made these cookies for so many years, I have lost the source of the recipe. I suspect it may be Tastes of Italia.)
Think of these as once-baked biscotti. These are easy, melt-in-your-mouth sliced cookies that celebrate vanilla and and almonds. Just a tad crunchy on the outside, and tender-melty inside. They hail from my grandmother's region of Basilicata and are reminiscent of Italian wedding cookies.
Vanilla-Almond Cookie Ingredients (makes about 28)
1/2 pound butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
1 cup sugar
5 ounces sliced almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups flour
Cream the butter and slowly add the sugar - beating well. Add the almonds and vanilla and mix. Add the eggs - one at a time - beating well after each addition. Similarly - add the flour 1/4 cup at a time and and mix each thoroughly before adding the next 1/4 cup.
Gather dough into a ball and form a thick log. (My log was about 10 x 2 inches.) Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight or a week. It's a content, unfussy dough. (Dough will keep up to ten days. If you don't want to bake the entire log - just slice as many as you want and bake - you can have fresh cookies all week.)
To bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 1-2 cookie sheets. Slice refrigerated dough into 1/4 inch slices (you can slice thinner - just adjust baking time). Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes - just until the edges start to brown - you want tender, white cookies.
Through these cookies I have grown as a person. I have learned to practice acceptance. Because of these cookies - I can reach into my innermost soul and state - that in the ways of the world in December - I will not be taking off my extra Italy weight anytime soon! A raw carrot does not have the same song as an Italian cookie.
Yesterday, my daughter actually accused me of adding Pippin (her cat) to the end of my blog posts as a cheap gimmick to solicit comments!
I won't even dignify that accusation with an answer.