Benevento is the name of a city and province in the region of Campania in Southern Italy. The city predates the Roman Empire, having been a city called either Malies or Maloenton belonging to the Samnite tribe of ancient Italic peoples. The Roman name for it was Maleventum. “Male” means “bad” in Latin/Italian. (Think of the malocchio, or evil eye.) When the Romans conquered it in 268 B.C., they changed the name of the town to something that would represent their future success there, as was their custom with places that they conquered. So Beneventum, “bene” meaning “good,” was born. The idea of witches being in this area goes back to pre-Roman times. And although the town got a new positive name, the legend of the witches remained and grew stronger through the years. According to Raven Grimassi, an expert in the field of Italian witchcraft, witches from all of Italy would congregate under one particular walnut tree in Benevento for their festivals. In 662 A.D., Saint Barbato, bishop of Benevento, wanted to convert the local pagans, so he cut down their sacred walnut tree, among other things. But the witches planted one of its seeds, and the tree which grew is standing in Benevento today. Women who were put on trial for witchcraft confessed to worshipping Diana or gathering for festivals under this tree. (According to Grimassi, the walnut was sacred to some Roman gods, including Diana.) The likeliest story is that pagan rituals from the time of the Samnites continued to be carried on here even after the Romans and Christianity dominated.
But this legend of the witches of Benevento gathering around the walnut tree is the inspiration for the logo of the famous Benevento liqueur, Strega. “Strega” means “witch” in Italian. Strega liqueur is a blend of 70 herbs and spices. It gets its yellow color from saffron. Father and son Carmine Vincenzo Alberti and Giuseppe Alberti created it in 1860. In the early 1900s, it became famous for its advertising posters.
Today, one can drink Strega or use it in baking like in the Pane Degli Angeli cake I blogged about before.
If you are in Benevento, you can visit the museum and store. At the store, you can buy Strega liqueur or chocolates, torrone and cakes made with it as well as other liqueurs like limoncello and Sambuca. You’ll find it refreshing after your search for the infamous walnut tree.
–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People, available at Amazon.com
Do you have some leftover Easter candy and don’t know what to do with it? Well, so did I, so I made some treats with it. First, I had gotten two Reese’s peanut butter eggs and a Reese’s peanut butter bunny. So I made this Easy Easter Pie from Hershey’s website. What I did–Instead of the 20 Reese’s peanut butter cups and 50 Hershey’s Kisses, I used one of the peanut butter eggs and the peanut butter bunny and melted them in a double boiler. I didn’t have a prepared graham cracker crust, but I did have graham cracker crumbs, so I made one.
I also made Rice Krispie Treats from leftover Peeps. I had a pack of five pink and a rainbow stick with four multicolored Peeps. So I added regular mashmallows and made the treats the traditional way.
They had a light pink hue to them that you can see better in the following picture. Here’s a piece of the peanut butter pie too.
Posted in Chocolate, Dessert, DIY, Holiday, Pie
Tagged Easter, leftover Easter candy, marshmallows, peanut butter pie, Peeps, Reese's peanut butter cups, Reese's peanut butter egg, Rice Krispie Treasts
I hope everyone is able to enjoy Valentine’s Day even if plans got a little messed up with the weather. I feel sorry for florists and chocolate shops because they may have lost a lot of business. Luckily, my flower delivery went through and so did my chocolates! I’m a happy girl! I got double chocolates for Valentine’s Day. First, I got a box from Anna Shea Chocolates in Illinois. I always wanted a box of artistically decorated chocolates. These are so lovely with bright colors and glitter. Some of my favorites from this collection included the candied bacon caramel (smooth with nice smoke–who knew I’d like bacon and chocolate?), aged balsamic caramel, cinnamon swirl (just like a cinnamon roll), cherry baby, raspberry blush (I love the taste of raspberry puree and chocolate), and vadelma.
I also got chocolates from FIKA, the Swedish coffee shop in NYC I mentioned in my Dina’s Guide to NYC Chocolate Shops. These truffles were melt-in-your-mouth good. Many were exceptional like the incredibly good goat cheese, macadamia nut, water sea salt caramel and hazelnut gianduja.
I love dark chocolate and one of my favorites is sea salt dark chocolate. In Raleigh, NC, there are two chocolate makers, Escazu Artisan Chocolates in Mordecai on Blount Street and Videri Chocolate Factory on West Davie Street in the Warehouse District. Escazu’s sea salt dark chocolate bar is 65% cocoa; Videri’s, 60%.
I decided to do a taste test involving three other people. We tasted both of these (they blind, me knowing) and it was 50/50 split of which is best. Two tasters thought Videri was too bitter and preferred the flavor of Escazu’s chocolate. (Escazu’s chocolate also has vanilla in it.) Two tasters thought Escazu’s was too salty while the other two thought Videri’s was too salty. Go figure. The taste and texture of both chocolate bars is different. For a taste test yourself, visit both shops. For $5, you can tour Videri’s factory.
Halloween is not a gift-giving holiday, but it can be if you want to give a gift to someone special or to yourself! I found some cool Halloween- and fall-related gift items.
The first is this adorable pumpkin-shaped cookbook of pumpkin recipes I saw at Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore in Manhattan. (They even have ones on potatoes, eggs and pasta too.)
If you want something a little more eerie, opt for the chocolate skull at Fika, a Scandinavian coffee shop in Manhattan.
Posted in Chocolate, Cookbook, Holiday
Tagged chocolate, cookbook, Fika, Halloween, Japanese, Kinokuniya, pumpkin, Scandinavian, skull