Posted by: lisetta | January 6, 2009

La Befana

AKA: the Epiphany, which  marks the official end of the much dreaded holiday season. Just two days back at the office and I am officially completely overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done before the end of the month. The only positive to come of it all will be, finally, after two years of research and meetings, we’ll have a tangible product for all our efforts. Whether it actually succeeds at this point is, of course, a whole ‘nother story! 

Went in to the office kitchen this morning and found a table full of Italian treats from Kristine, who has a second home in Tuscany:

ricciarelli

What ARE these? You mean there’s great Italian food outside of Piemonte? LOL. I had never seen nor tasted either the ricciarelli (almond cookies) or the copate (thin torrone), but now that I’ve arrived home and have the chance to Google to my heart’s content, I can share what I learned. (Can’t help but long, though, for the good old days of f2f human interaction, when I might have simply stopped by her office to get the scoop. Who has time for that these days?) 

Of all the sites I came across, by far the most interesting and comprehensive was written by “Diva”, at Over a Tuscan Stove. Why should I bother paraphrasing? Click here and read all about ricciarelli. You even get a recipe which, compared to others I read online, appears doable! 

According to Tuscany Travel, copate, like ricciarelle, likely have Oriental influences. 

Copate are a special type of crumbly nougat wrapped in two small wafers. The name Copate is yet another indication of the Eastern origin of these sweets. It actually comes from the Arab word qubbaita, which meansalmond flavoured (sweets similar to this and with similar names are sold a little in all the regions throughout Italy). This is due to the fact that almonds are, quite obviously, the one of the main ingredients of this dessert.

img_0244

Funny how the mind maps to the familiar the tastes of something new. Eating these Sienese specialties today reminded me of one of my favorite French treats: calissons d’Aix. Why? The almond and citrus flavors of the ricciarelli and the the rice paper sandwiching the copate: flavor/texture also found in calissons.  I also recalled Communion hosts, but that’s another story …. or is it? So interesting, then, to come across this excerpt from the NYTimes article on calissons

Calissons are served three times a year – on Sept. 1, Christmas and Easter – at Notre Dame de la Seds to commemorate the end of the great plague of 1630. With its bottom layer of rice, or azym, paper, the calisson replaces the host and is believed to guard against sudden death and contagion. The priest offers the sweetmeats from his chalice, repeating three times ”venite ad calicem” (come to the chalice). The congregation replies, thrice, with the Provencal ”venes toui i calissoun” (we are coming).

Ha ha. I guess connections are everywhere when we’re open to seeing them. Perhaps we should eat some calissons with the launch of the Commons in a few weeks?

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