Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Authentic Italian Cookies

I always have knitting to share but occasionally I like to mix it up with a recipe or other fiber related craft.  In this post I'm sharing a recipe that is special not only because it is an authentic Italian family recipe but also because it came from an exceptional person.

This recipe comes from Eileen Doran who was in charge of the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic the Summer that I worked there.  She is one of those rare individuals who has a passion for helping those less fortunate, is tireless in her good works, and is one of the very few lawyers that I admire.  Thinking about her takes me back to the Summer that I worked at the clinic.

With the luxury of unlimited time to pour into a project (a luxury usually reserved for students and those unconcerned about billable hours) I was assigned to work on a political asylum application for a Hungarian youth who was fearful of returning to his home in a far away land where a war was waging and the Hungarian youths were being conscripted and used as cannon fodder on the front lines (due to their ethnicity).  I researched the situation and spoke with various human rights organizations and, at the end of my Summer internship, I submitted a Petition on his behalf.  The follow up for the case was assigned to another student.

It wasn't until years later when I was in practice that I thought about this case again.  One day the receptionist told me there was someone in the lounge who wished to speak with me.  It was the young man whom I had written the Petition for and he wanted to thank me in person.  His petition had been granted.  In the twenty odd years since that Summer my professional career has largely involved complex business litigation and I've had some  impressive wins.  But none have felt as good as being thanked by that young man.

I also remember fondly working at the clinic because Eileen would bring in some of her delicious baked goods and in addition to being a terrific lawyer she had a talent for Italian cooking and my favorite was her Grandmother's Nini's Special Torta cookie.

I consider this cookie part of my whole grain diet because, well, there are a lot of nuts in it.  And nuts are good for you.  Eileen says they are great with a cup of coffee and she's right.

Grandmother Nini's Special Torta Recipe
Originally published in Notre Dame magazine along with an article about Eileen Doran (reprinted with permission).

6 cups flour
3 cups sugar
6 tsp. baking powder
1/2 lb. butter
1/2 tsp. anise oil or 3 tsp. anise extract
3 eggs and 4 egg yolks
1 lb. blanched chopped almonds (I use a food processor to chop the nuts otherwise this is a chore)

1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2.  In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and baking power.  Using a pastry mixer, add butter and blend until it forms a coarse mixture.
3.  Add anise extract to eggs, beat lightly.  Incorporate egg mixture into flour mixture using hands.  Work dough with hands until smooth consistency.  (N.B.  This takes some time and effort so be patient.  I find using my breadboard is helpful.)
4.  Add chopped almonds.  Pat into a 13x9x2 pan.  Bake 1.5 hours at 300 degrees.
5.  Cut into diamond-shaped pieces. Cover with plastic or foil and keep in a cool, dry place.  Keeps for several days.

I'm a Grownup Now

I don't understand it.  Simcha is 1 year old now but I've aged 5 years since he's come home.

Until next time be well and love well and why not take time to bake cookies, you'll be glad you did!


SissySees said...

What a beautiful post! Those cookies sound incredible, and bravo to that man for coming back to thank you in person. Simcha is a handsome young gent too. Perhaps the growing pains are over?

jillian said...

What a wonderful story!!

betty said...

Happy Birthday, Simcha! You're a very handsome lad.

I had such good success with that cranberry cake recipe you posted that I will have to try making these cookies also.

Do they have a dry-ish biscotti-like texture, but maybe not as hard?

Anonymous said...

Claudia, this post means a lot to me because both my parents were Hungarian. Simcha is a beautiful animal. I do hope you get some of those lost years back! Will have to try those cookies. I love anything Italian.

Unknown said...

What a lovely story, and I'm DEFINITELY going to try that recipe. I thought maybe I'd do it right now but alas, no almonds.

Bridget said...

That is so very cool about the person you helped thanking you!

Those cookies look like they would be really yummy. I love Italian cooking,and the desserts I've tried are fabulous.

Happy Birthday Simcha! You are a handsome boy.

gMarie said...

Those cookies look lovely - but I don't bake. Maybe I can get the hubby to bake them.

and don't let that beautiful 1 year old trick you - he's not nearly grown up yet. I hope you don't continue to age 5 years to his one until he's a big boy for real. g

Kristen Rettig said...

I love your summer internship story, how heartwarming. I cannot believe that your doggie is already a year old. Well, he keeps you on your toes but that is a good thing I'll bet.

t does wool said...

delicious...and if you want or need any amount of authentic Italian recipes,Claudia..
I am the bearer of my grandmother's recipe box..
and she...was THE best cook...evah........xx

Beverly said...

Those cookies sound great! I've bookmarked your post so I can remember to make them when I buy anise extract (?). I really, really wanted to have all ingredients on hand, but that and the almonds messed me up.

Also, I loved the story of the Hungarian young man. What a wonderful treat to meet him!

Anonymous said...

That is a wonderful story. And those cookies looks delicious!

Allie said...

What a blessing to have that young man come and thank you - I can understand how that would mean more to you than anything. GREAT story, Claudia!
That cookie sounds so good, hubby tried to make some chocolate chip/walnut cookies tonight. He found a bag of walnuts in the pantry [I don't remember buying them!] and they had gone bad....the cookies tasted AWFUL. I'll have to give him this recipe AND buy the fresh ingredients, lol. Simcha is purely gorgeous!

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Thank you all so much ~ I'm glad you enjoyed the story and I know you will love the cookies. Betty, that's a great comparison, these cookies are similar to biscotti but are more moist and have a stronger/fresher flavor. They make a nice dessert with a bowl of fresh fruit or a dish of vanilla ice cream. The recipe makes a large quantity so it's handy to have on hand when you have company or if you want to drop off a plate of cookies.

Froggy said...

Thank you for sharing such a lovely recepie!!

At Home Mommy Knits said...

Beautiful post Claudia, thank you for sharing it. The cookies look delicious!

Tracy said...

Oh, I love this story... what a fun post, Claudia! And Happy Birthday, Simcha! Such a big, beautiful boy his is. Hopefully there's no terrible two's with dogs. ;o) Thank you for the wonderful recipe. It's cold here...bbbrrr... Tea and cookies sounds very good just now. Your tea mug is such fun. :o) Happy Days, my friend ((HUGS))

Anonymous said...

That's such a wonderful story, Claudia and I can imagine the emotion meeting him all those years later!

That italian cookie...yum! Another recipe being put over into my favourites.

And last but not least, happy birthday to the young man. He sure is handsome!

Rebekah said...

What a nice story that is!

Those cookies sound very similar in taste to Springerle cookies which my great-grandmother used to make. I'm going to have to try this receipe, maybe this weekend.

Simcha a year old! Already? How is that possible? Seriously the last year is but a blur. He's still the most handsome dog I've ever seen.

kathy b said...

You had me at ANISE

I just made Christmas cookies today... my kitchen wasnt' finsihed in time to make them for Dec 25th. I am having 2 friends for our late Christmas dinner tomorrow and now we have Christmas Cookies, fresh and sweet for tomorrow

Rachel said...

What a beautiful story...I love when the taste or smell of food brings back fond memories. Thanks for sharing...both the story and the recipe. Simcha gets more handsome every time I see a picture of him...

subliminalrabbit said...

what a lovely, heartwarming story and YUM!

Knitting Out Loud said...

Lovely story! Yes, there is nothing more fulfilling than helping another person.
And wonderful looking cookies, which I may try tomorrow. We're getting more snow and it's my daughter's last day at home, a perfect cookie making day.

Elsa said...

Wow really amazing of him to thank you personally like that. I love the cake photos it looks delicious, thanks for sharing!

Renee said...

What a heart warming story!

Mmmm, will bake those cookies as soon as I pick up fresh almonds, thank you. :-)

Simcha really didn't mean to age you so much, he'll be better in 2011 I'm sure!

Hilary said...

Well, those cookies look incredibly delicious -- thank you for sharing the recipe and the WONDERFUL, touching back story! That young man's life was forever changed by your work. How cool that he came to thank you in person.

Happy birthday to handsome Simcha! He really is a beautiful dog.

Prairie Rose said...

Mmm, I will certainly be making these soon.
I made these a long time ago and It was my Itailian Grandma's recipe too!
But, I will be pulling it out soon since you reminded me.
I know what you mean about your puppy dog, We rescued a German Shepherd Mix last year.
She had been abused and was practically a wild animal when we found her.
She is getting better,but it has been a hard road!
They are worth it though:)
Have a great Day!

Ally Jay said...

Simcha looks very sedate and handsome now.

Bubblesknits said...

What a wonderful story. : ) And I love that he tracked you down to thank you.

Thank you for sharing the story and the cookie recipe! I'll see if I can persuade my resident cook/hubby to make a batch. ; )

raining sheep said...

I so enjoyed your story Claudia. Being an import myself, I have a complete soft spot for end well immigration stories. Can't get over how handsome Simcha is and I can truthfully say you have NOT aged five years. Not at all. Hope you are having a great January, I am glad mine is almost over. I am busy and, well, I hate January and February.

knittingdragonflies said...

Oh yum, I just gained 5 pounds with this post!
Simcha is so beautiful. He will calm down with age. When we got our two, an elderly neighbor (who has always had hunting dogs) said, "yep, they will be good dogs in about 5 years), he was right, they are 5 now, and really behaving.