1. What is your favorite holiday . . . and why, if you care to elaborate, especially those holidays not widely known . . .
My favorite time of year is from Halloween to Christmas. I love to decorate the house for each. Christmas tho is the grand finale. I go crazy in the house decorating and making cookies and planning for our Italian Christmas Eve Dinner. I start right after Thanksgiving with making my fruitcakes for family. They must be started this early because I soak them each week with brandy and then the final week with Grand Marnier. And yes folks EAT these, in fact they request them and are disappointed when I don't send them one.
SOUTHERN FRUITCAKE Makes 4 loaves
5 beaten eggs
1 c. dates
1 c. apricot jam
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. butter
1 c. nuts
3 1/2c. flour
1 c. sour milk ( make it by adding a tb. vinegar to it or use buttermilk)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
Mix butter and sugar together and add beaten eggs. Mix fruit with some of the flour and combine with remaining ingredients. Bake 1 1/2hrs at 325 degrees.
I put four loaf pans on a baking tray, sometimes it just rises so much I get a bit of over flow. Ive changed this recipe which was my mother in laws. I now also add some candied orange peel and substitute some of the other fruit with dried cherries. I never liked that candied citron and stuff. I soak the dried fruits in Grand Marnier or Brandy first. Once baked and cooled, I pour 1/4c. of brandy over each, each week. The week that I mail them out I pour 1/4c. of Grand Marnier over them and pkg them up. I wrap these in saran wrap so I can undo it ez to soak, then rewrap. I have some wonderful old fashioned enamelware boxes so I just store them in there till they are ready to be mailed.
Your four favorite foods or drinks associated with this holiday . . . appetizer, main course, side dish, dessert . . . your choice . . .
2. Italian Antipasto- I make many of the things myself and add to it with store bought.... marinated artichoke hearts, marinated mushrooms, stuffed cheese peppers, eggplant capananto, roasted peppers, olives, imported provolone cheese, pepperoni, tiny breadsticks rolled with prosciutto. Frankly with just this and dessert I could skip everything else :)
3. Italian Zeppoli-I can never make enough of these. I make mine with ricotta cheese and they are nice and moist and I always hide some cuz I love them the morning after with my coffee. These can be quite filling and yet everyone that comes here just sucks them up so fast! One year a friend of my daughters came and he loved them so much. The basket later on fell off the buffet somehow and the dog started to eat them. I just scooped the whole thing up and tossed it in the kitchen to toss them out later. My daughters friend started to eat them and I said NO! they were on the floor and the dog got to them! lol He didn't care , he just ate them all up!
4. The seafood-Italian Christmas eves consist of 7 fishes as tradition. We have cut back on that alot. Now I only serve shrimp and crab with cocktail sauce and the mussels with marinara sauce. I did away with oysters, spaghetti with squid, fried flounder, scallops, eel, and baccala salad. Altho sometimes I still made the baccala if I know enough will be here to eat it too. Many times I make it and add that to my antipasto dish instead.
5. Italian pastries-This is the only time of year I get these anymore, not like when I lived in NJ and there were bakeries everywhere for this stuff. I try to get to San Francisco if there's enough time to do that depending on what day Christmas falls on . But now Ive found something better. I can order canolis right from Ferraras bakery in NYC. Yea they cost bank but I only do this once a year so I make it worth while. I order chocolate covered canoli and another pastry I just love called Sfogliatella. They are clam shaped pastries with lots of layers filled with a ricotta cream filling. BTW for those that don't know ...Ferraras is THE BAKERY for Italian things and just screams HOME to me. If your curious heres the link http://www.ferraracafe.com/