Tag Archives: Italian

North Carolina Zabaglione

Zabaglione is an Italian custard made from only eggs, not eggs and milk.* It comes from the Piedmont area of Italy, but I’m claiming it for the Piedmont of North Carolina. Why, you may ask? Well, it is a staple dessert of the Waldensian people from Northwestern Italy who settled the town of Valdese, North Carolina, 125 years ago. In Valdese, it is known as zabaione. I have made it even more North Carolina by using Raleigh, North Carolina’s own Oak City Amaretto, instead of the traditional wine.

North Carolina Zabaglione

1 dozen egg yolks from pasteurized eggs

1/3 cup superfine sugar

3 tablespoons (1 shot) Oak City Amaretto

amaretti cookies

In the top of a double boiler (off the heat) whisk the egg yolks and sugar. Add the amaretto and continue whisking until frothy. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water and bring to a simmer or slight boil. Put the top pot in the double boiler and whisk vigorously for 3-4 minutes until the mixture looks like a smooth custard. There is a risk that you could get scrambled eggs, so you want to whisk continuously and with a strong arm. Serve immediately or slightly warm in sherbet glasses. Serve with amaretti cookies.

*I have seen some recipes that use milk as well, but most of the traditional and older recipes do not.

–Dina M. Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People, available at Amazon.com

***All writings and photographs are the intellectual property of me, unless I’ve noted otherwise, and can only be used with permission. If you are inspired by this blog, please use professional courtesy to note it.***

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South Jersey–Italian Since the Civil War and Host to America’s Longest Running Italian Festival

South Jersey looks a lot like rural North Carolina farm country. I know it’s not, though, because instead of shack-like stores on the side of the two-lane roads selling barbecue, they sell ravioli. Instead of large crosses and “Thank you, Jesus” signs, there are monuments to Padre Pio. It is otherworldly to me, a parallel universe where the Italians took over the Heartland of America. I mean, what says it more than the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a John Deere?

Hammonton, New Jersey, was settled by Italian immigrants during the American Civil War. The community was started by one Sicilian immigrant who encouraged others to come. They did, establishing farms, and their descendants now grow Jersey’s famed tomatoes, blueberries and peaches. Each July, Hammonton also hosts the longest running Italian festival in the U.S., the Our Lady of Mount Carmel festival that celebrates the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on July 16. In its 143rd year, the festival runs from July 9-16. There’s plenty of Italian food, and this is probably the one place in America where you can get broccoli rabe added to your sandwich.

The highlight for me is the procession of the statues in front of Saint Joseph’s Church.

If you donate a dollar, you get a prayer card of the saint that is passing by.

If you travel to the area, don’t forget to visit Penza’s Pies for blueberry pie or Bagliani’s Italian Market for Italian products.

–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People

The Italian Pantry: Orange Blossom Water

Orange blossom water is a flavoring added to baked goods. You can find orange blossom water or aroma fior d’arancio at an Italian specialty grocery or at a Middle Eastern or Lebanese market.


What is it used for? Italians use this in baked goods. For example, in the Neapolitan pastiera or in the Easter rice pie. It’s also used as a flavoring in fillings for pastries like sfogliatelle.

–Dina Di Maio

Peaches in Wine

Peaches in wine is a simple snack or dessert that we Italians serve during summer when peaches are in season. It’s very easy to do. I take organic peaches, washed and sliced (pits thrown away). I use a food-safe glass container to soak my peaches in wine, but you can use a pitcher or bowl too. You can also slice only one peach if it’s just for you, but we do a bunch and let them soak. I prefer to use Chianti or another red wine, but you can use any wine you’d like. I keep the container in the refrigerator and eat them as a snack until they are gone.

Peaches in Wine

8 small organic peaches or 6 larger organic peaches

1- 1 1/2 bottles Chianti or red wine, enough to cover peaches

food-safe glass storage container or pitcher

Wash and slice peaches, throwing pits away. Put peaches in clean glass jar and cover with wine. Cover container. Refrigerate–usually for a few hours to a day and then enjoy!

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Digestives/Liqueurs

Italians love digestives and liqueurs. They are an acquired taste. So many of them have a licorice-like flavor. They are concoctions of herbs, plants and spices. Anisette is a liqueur made from the anise plant. It tastes like licorice. I’ve written about Strega before.

Strega

Frangelico is a hazelnut-flavored liqueur. I like its monk-shaped bottle.

I also like the Galliano bottle shaped like an Italian carabiniere, like my great-grandfather.

Of course, we still have the more familiar bottle, too, with its long, distinctive shape standing heads above the other liquor bottles on our buffet.

What is it used for? As a digestive after a big dinner or holiday dinner. It’s also used as a flavoring in coffee. You can also bake with them like the pane degli angeli cake with Strega recipe.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Wine

Wine is probably the drink most people associate with the Italian culture. While many cooking shows show wine being added to Italian food, e.g. tomato sauce/gravy, neither side of my family added wine to their cooking. My grandmother said Sicilians used Marsala in their cooking, which makes sense because it comes from there. But we didn’t. We drank wine that was made by someone in the family.

What is it used for? Wine is used for drinking and sometimes cooking.  We drink wine (mostly red) with our Sunday dinner or a big meal. In summer, we cut up peaches and soak them in red wine for a snack/dessert.

–Dina Di Maio

The Italian Pantry: Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are another item you will see in an Italian pantry. You can make your own breadcrumbs using stale or hard Italian bread, but I think these days, most people buy Italian breadcrumbs. I’m not a huge fan of doing this in this day and age because a lot of the breadcrumbs available contain soy flour. But on the other hand, unless you live in the Bronx or a similar neighborhood, you can’t find good Italian bread anymore either…. But if you decide to make your own breadcrumbs, you can season them however you like, with some salt, pepper, grated cheese, parsley.

What is it used for? Breadcrumbs are used to make meatballs. They are an ingredient used (along with other ingredients) to stuff vegetables like artichokes, zucchini, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, peppers or mushrooms. Italians are big on stuffing vegetables. Breadcrumbs are also used as a coating for frying things like chicken cutlets, veal cutlets or eggplant. Sicilians also use breadcrumbs for other purposes like to top pasta with aglio e olio, anchovy sauce or similar sauces.

–Dina Di Maio