Cook the books 1: Mustazzoli

Having finished my family home restoration project in Modica, I finally got time for my blog again. Writing posts again, after months of neglect, feels a bit wired, like staring at a blank page when trying to write a letter to an old friend we lost contact with. I was definitely waiting for the right push to start again and the event Cook the Books, hosted by Rachel at The Crispy Cook , did the trick.

Perhaps it is just the combination of two things I really like, cooking and reading, that pushed away the "empty page syndrome"; or perhaps it is simply the fact that the first book selection is Lily Prior's "La Cucina: A Novel of Rapture" which is all about life in Sicily and Sicilian food.

As a Sicilian woman I approached the book with caution and, indeed, I found certain parts of the novel were stereotyped descriptions of Sicilian life; however, overall, I enjoyed and appreciated the effort to describe the important role of food in Sicilian culture and, especially, in personal relationships through the description of Rosa's life.

One thing the book does perfectly well, through the story of Rosa, its protagonist, is describing the tight connection between food and relationships in Sicilian culture. Here special recipes do not mark only festivities and personal events like birth, marriage, death, etc, but are also an integral part of interpersonal relationship. Lovers, mothers and children, sisters, friends and so on, communicate through food. The are recipes to cheer you up (colorful caponata), food to comfort you (broad beans soup with wild fennel), food to give you extra energy (zabaione al marsala), food to increase passion ( Modica's chocolate with chilly), etc.

This is why for Cook the Books, I decided to make Honey Cookies called Mustazzoli, which Rosa makes when trying to overcome the grief for her grandfather's death. This biscuits are typical during Christmas and there are many versions around the island, here you find the ones we make in Modica.

300 gr flour
150 gr finely grounded almonds with the peal on
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix flour with, almonds and cinnamon, then start adding some honey and
work gently, adding as much honey as it takes to reach a workable soft
consistency which should not be sticky. With a rolling pin, spread the dough on a surface previously sprinkled with flour and cut the biscuits out of it ( you can use special biscuits ) round biscuits. Cook in a preheated convection oven at 180 Celsius for about
10/15 minutes (this depends very much on the kind of oven you are using).
Serve with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle with ground almonds.

Finally, pore a glass of Passito di Pantelleria, a wonderful Sicilian dessert wine and enjoy.

Written on
November 13, 2008
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