My favorite food magazine in the whole wide world is/was La Cucina Italiana, out of print for a while, but making a comeback in America soon.
This recipes comes from their December 2013 edition pictured below. In that edition, the editor paid tribute to Marcella Hazan (the year of her passing) and if you’ve been around here for a while, you know that resonates long and deep for me, as the editor so rightly calls her the godmother of Italian Cuisine.
I want to bring you more recipes from Marcella Hazan and more from La Cucina Italiana, so you can enjoy and come to appreciate the elegance of Italian cooking that hasn’t crossed over to America as much as it should have.
Last year I found this Italian date cookie from one of the issues and made it for a reader who was searching for the recipe.
It was everything a magazine should be.
It celebrated a culture, instead of pushing celebrity chefs and took great strides to photograph the food in a beautiful yet approachable manner.
La Cucina Italiana told stories.
For example, in that December issue it told the story of the La Caccia al Cinghiale, or Italy’s boar hunt, an event that nearly 100,000 participate in every year during boar hunting season. The first meal I ate in Tuscany was braised boar and I remember its hardiness and flavor.
In the same issue a recipe could be found for Braised Veal Shank with Truffle Sauce, Roasted Apple and Cauliflower, and step by step instructions for Pear Tartlets with Green Tea Gelato. There is something about this kind of Italian food that resonates with my appetite (let’s face it, I like to eat) and I have a thing for meat, vegetables and fruit.
The section that took my eye the most was this array of cookies, and when I saw the candied lemon and pistachio cantucci, I knew I had to make them.
If you’re wondering what cantucci is, it is the twice baked cookie. In Italy all cookies are called biscotti or a single cookie is called a biscotto. In America, we call the twice baked cookie biscotti.
I recently made these chocolate almond biscotti, which are more of an American recipe because they contain fat, (butter). True cantucci, a very ancient recipe (usually with almonds) contain no fat, and are meant to be served at the end of a meal with a dessert wine. It’s not that Americans make a mistake; it’s just that recipes evolve over time.
Even this cantucci is modernized as it has baking powder. I can’t imagine how hard the original cookies must have been without baking powder and eggs, but perhaps purposely so, as the wine dipping would have been a must.
Photo from La Cucina Italiana
After I made the cookies, I googled them and found the recipe at an on-line magazine called Swide with a section for food and travel.
The Candied Lemon Pistachio Cantucci Process
These cookies call for no fat, so they are very crisp, which pleases me. The recipe calls for candied lemons and I give you my quick short cut candy method, which is to take lemon peel that has no pith (no white part) and immerse in sugar for four or more hours.
At first the lemon will seem strong, but it mellows out once baked.
Merry Christmas from my family to yours. Take a break from social media and enjoy the real life adventure of conversation, food and laughter. xoxo
More Italian Christmas Cookies from Spinach Tiger
- 1¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ cup finely chopped lemon peel
- ¾ cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 lemons
- 1 cup sugar
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silpat
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Stir in candied lemon and nuts.
- Add in eggs until incorporated.
- Divide dough into 3 separate rolls, 9 inches long 1½ inches wide.
- Bake logs for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through.
- Allow to cool five minutes. Transfer to cookie rack to cool completely.
- Slice diagonally, using a serrated knife into ½ inch slices.
- Bake standing up for 20 more minutes.
- Store for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.
- Peel strips from each lemon, cutting away any white pith.
- Immerse in sugar for four hours or longer.
- Chop finely when dried enough.