Monday, September 25, 2006


I think I’ve discovered the Italian equivalent of peanut butter cookies….or at least they work for me. As you may know, hazelnuts are abundant in the north of Italy. Nutella was invented back in the 1940’s when chocolate was rationed due to the war. Mixing the chocolate with toasted hazelnuts extended the supply….and gave us a new treat!

Of course there are those who think that
Novi crema not only tastes better, but is in fact, better for you, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. Unfortunately, I’ve never found Novi in the states, but Nutella is certainly easy to find. Sorry for the digression, but, for those who haven’t yet discovered the joys of Nutella (or better yet Novi), it was well worth it. So, now back to the cookies….

The point was, before I got thinking of chocolate, that hazelnuts are plentiful here. Peanuts and peanut butter can be found, but aren’t cheap, so the idea is, go with what’s plentiful and cheap, right? So here is the recipe for cookies that I’ve named “Hazelnutters”. (NOTE: I've revised this recipe slightly in February, 2007. Previously the recipe called for the dough to be formed into two logs, then chilled at least 4 hours. I don't think this step is necessary, so I've elimnated it. If you want to try it both ways, let me know what you think!)


½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
¾ cups ground toasted hazelnuts

In a mixing bowl beat shortening and butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat til combined, scraping bowl often. Beat in egg and vanilla til combined. Beat in as much of the flour as possible with the mixer. Stir in the remaining flour and add the hazelnuts.

Roll into 1 inch balls, press down with the tines of a fork, just like you would for peanut butter cookies, and place about 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375º about 10 minutes or until edges are firm. Makes about 60 cookies.

And yesterday I made quick pasta dish using the last of the tomatoes. It’s quick and simple, and although there are about a zillion recipes for spaghetti out there, what’s one more?

Summer Spaghetti (Spaghetti w/tomatoes, basil, olive oil & garlic)

1 lb spaghetti
1/4 cup EVOO
3 Tbsp thinly sliced garlic
2 lbs fresh plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced OR
3 cups canned whole tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
pinch of red pepper flakes

Put the garlic and all but one Tbsp of the oil into a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Cook until the garlic begins to sizzle. Add the tomatoes as soon as the garlic begins to change color. If using fresh tomatoes, cook until the liquid reduces, then season with salt. If using canned tomatoes, add salt along with the tomatoes. Continue cooking over a medium-high heat until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the oil, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the skillet.

While the sauce is cooking bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the sauce has reduced, add the torn basil leaves and the pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook 1-2 minutes then remove from heat.

To the pot of boiling water add 1 Tbsp salt and cook the pasta til al dente. Drain, saving a little of the pasta water. Toss the drained spaghetti in the skillet with the tomato sauce, adding the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add a little of the pasta water if needed. Serve at once.

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At 9/25/2006 06:46:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say how much I like reading your blog. You guys sure know how to retire in style!

You're also making me nostalgic for the time we lived in Italy (well, except for the immigration paperwork part!).


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