I know, I know...it's a beautiful time to spend with family and friends (and it really is great that way) but a lot happened this year to make it seem longer than usual (an ice storm and a major power outage will do that). But, hopefully, you all had some time to relax and enjoy some quiet time (an ice storm and major power outage will do that too).
I find that the older I get, it becomes increasing difficult to be everything to everyone during the holidays (maybe some therapy sessions might have been a better gift than the cookbook I got). My wish to all of you is that you were able to stop the craziness and enjoy the moment - even if it was just to gaze in amazement as the ice covered trees glistened!
I know it may sound weird to all of you (or maybe not), but I find much of my quiet time in the kitchen when everyone else is asleep. The quiet of the house makes me so happy and lets me reflect on all of the good times that have taken place in my kitchen. If the connection between food and happy times seems foreign to you, then maybe you may think I'm crazy (like my husband does!). But, if you get the connection, you will truly understand where I am coming from.
On January 1st, I woke up before anyone else and drank my coffee at my island as I watched two tiny birds fluttering about outside, wondering how they keep their little bodies warm in this frigid weather. I glanced over at my cookbooks and I noticed a notebook that I brought back from a trip to Tuscany almost 10 years ago. I remembered how much I fell in love with that part of the world (probably because it was my first trip to Europe)...I loved it so much that I had actually convinced myself that I should probably stay there. How hard could it be to make a living there, right?
Well, apparently, it's pretty hard (I'll explain later).
The place we stayed was a villa owned by Umberto Menghi who is a well known restaurateur in B.C. I had read about his villa when I was in university and had dreamed of visiting his place for years. On my 40th birthday, my husband and I went and it was spectacular.
It was honestly the best food I have ever eaten...simple, rustic and handmade with love and attention.
It doesn't get better than that! I just wish I had this blog back then...I would have loved to share that with all of you. But, I promise, I will make some of the things we learned and post them for you.
Because my background is Italian, I would sneak into the kitchen after our classes were done for the day and ask a ton of questions. I think Marianna loved to have someone who loved food as mush as she did. One day, we were talking about homemade cookies and I asked if she had a recipe for Bruti Ma Buoni (I had seen a recipe for them on Martha Stewart's website, but I wasn't sure how authentic it was).
She was so happy that she wrote out her recipe...of course, straight from her head!!
And the measurements are in weight...very European. Actually, weighing baking ingredients is always more exact but I will translate it into dry measures for you.
100 g butter (1/2 c minus 1 tbsp)
100 g sugar (1/2 c minus 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp milk
220 g flour (or about 1 1/4 c plus 1 tbsp)
2 tsp baking powder
60 g walnuts (about heaping 1/3 c walnut halves), ground roughly*
80 g dates (about 14 regular dates...not the big ones...about 3/4c), chopped
*NOTE: The walnuts should be roughly chopped (chop it by hand with a knife); it shouldn't be as fine as almond meal.
1. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar; add egg and milk and mix again.
2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and walnuts; add to the wet mixture and combine.
3. Add the dates and mix again.