Persimmon crostata

The persimmon is to winter what the peach is to summer. The bright orange “kaki” keeps company to the faithful apple in fruit bowl arrangements throughout the northern regions of Italy. Peeled and cut into wedges after many a lunch and dinner, they are symbolic of the Christmas season and the misty months that follow.

In this comfort inspired recipe, persimmons are stewed in freshly squeezed orange juice and subsequently wrapped in a crumbly pastry for a crostata tart. As the tart bakes the aroma of nutmeg, vanilla and star anise fill the kitchen like a warm pudding.

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Sweet and savory apple-mushroom stuffing

 

Thanksgiving apples and mushroomsCranberries, apples, sage and thyme are the symbolic elements of winter holidays at home. Christmas brings back visions of favorite family moments, of avid conversation against a backdrop of lively kitchen noise made by a stove filled with pots and pans. My absolute favorite at the Thanksgiving table was my Mom’s stuffing made with mushrooms and apples. As a child I ate spoons of it at dinner, covered with ladles of warm gravy. Next to stuffing, I loved the bright tanginess of cranberry relish made with oranges. The following recipe works perfectly for filling poultry.  It also stands beautifully on its own as a deep dish casserole or as the filling for a squash or pumpkin. It is yet another of countless examples of my mother’s intuitive talent in cooking that I proudly carry on in my everyday tasks in life.  Continue reading

Cranberry relish

 

 

Cranberries and a silver spoonCranberry relish did not come out of a jar at my Mom’s house. My mother made everything from scratch, giving her homemade specialties to her friends and neighbors. I cannot find all of my mother’s recipes in the recipe card box she made for me. When in doubt, I use my memory as a backdrop and my experience as a cook to reconstruct my absolute favorites. As I stand and stir in the pan with a wooden spoon, I can just hear my Mom’s voice explaining how she makes her homemade relish.

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Caldogno at Christmas in 1964


At the age of three I moved with my parents and my brother to Italy. I remember the trip vividly, though in bits and pieces from a child’s point of view. Our family stayed in a hotel in the middle of the city of Vicenza while my parents looked for a place to live. This in itself was a great adventure. Ultimately my parents found a place to live to the town of Caldogno, to the north of Vicenza, along the provincial road to Dueville, in the direction of the mountainous region of Asiago.

We moved into the ground floor of a two-story , white house paved with marble. Angela, our neighbor from upstairs, had a balcony and hung over it often to talk at length with my Mom. Luigi lived nextdoor. He was our “landlord” my mother explained. This sounded quite mysterious to me at the age of three. Luigi had thick dark glasses, wore a navy blue beret and had a leather satchel across his shoulder. He drove about on a scooter. He took care of our garden.

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