San Remo on the Riviera dei Fiori
Buona Sera! It's been a busy day playing catch up after last week's busy-ness, but today was productive. While finishing the breakfast dishes, I was casually mentioning that I needed to decide what to cook up for our next blog post. That's when my 13 year old son casually threw out his own observation- "Why don't you just do those cookies?" THOSE cookies. The ones I've made in my sleep over the years. The ones that always bring a flood of memories. The ones even my pickiest son hordes in his room. The ones that seem so simple that it never occurred to me to blog about them. And yet, I've served them at the most formal functions as well as nibbled them while sitting up with each of my 6 babies. And I did have them on my to-do list today...
My mother's parents were born and raised in northern Italy. The foods they knew, cooked and ate were typical to the region and heavily influenced by the cuisines of the borders they shared, one of which is France. During the summers we spent with my grandparents, we made many visits to the area of Liguria and the "Italian Riviera" which leads the way into France. I found this on the wonderful world wide web:
Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco
The 'Italian Riviera' is a loose term usually applied to the stretch of coast in Liguria which borders France. Like its neighbour, the more famous French Riviera, this coastline boasts blue seas, stately resorts with casinos and palms waving along the promenade, and attractive inland villages.
The blue waters, the attractive coastline and beaches, and the exceptionally mild climate have long been the Italian Riviera's biggest attractions. Sheltered from the north by the Maritime Alps, the strip of land by the sea has a micro-climate of its own; with sunshine and comfortable temperatures the whole year round.
Riviera dei Fiori
The Riviera of Flowers is the section of the Liguria coast nearest to France. Running from Ventimiglia in the west to Cervo in the east, the coastline is famous for its blooms; the most colourful and elegant resort is San Remo.
Liguria is well served by railways. A major railway line follows the coast for its entire length, and the region is easily accessible from Rome, Naples, Milan, Florence and other major cities. Genoa has two railway stations; sometimes you must change here for the trains that run westward towards France. The railway stops in most of the seaside towns in Liguria, and continues into France, with an easy -and scenic - journey to Menton, Monaco, Nice and Cannes.
The Italian Riviera is famed for its all-year-round mild climate, and was a popular destination for European nobility, who could promenade along the sea front or stake their inheritance on the fall of dice in the coast's casinos. The Mediterranean resort is busier and hotter in summer, but makes a pleasant destination at almost any time of the year. Within Italy, one of Sanremo's chief claims to fame is as the host resort for an annual pop music competition, the Sanremo Festival. Unless you have a real passion for contemporary Italian pop music, it's best to avoid the crowded city in the first weeks of March.
One of Sanremo's principal tourist attractions is the town itself. For a small resort, Sanremo presents an impressive variety of faces to the visitor. There is a harbour where swanky yachts jostle for space, and old men tinker with more dilapidated marine transport. There are busy shopping streets where you can pick up jewellery and clothes, and a hectic market, crowded with French trippers who throng over the border in a quest for bargains. There are broad palm-lined streets where Sanremo's exotic past visitors - from Empresses to poets, via Tchaikowski and Alfred Nobel, resided in luxury villas. And most atmospheric of all is the old town, the Pigna, named after a pine cone for the way the tight-packed buildings cling to a steep hill.
Like other Ligurian towns, Sanremo was built with defense in mind - early foreign visitors were not extravagant tourists but marauding pirates. So the oldest part of Sanremo consists of winding narrow alleys diving under arches and buttresses towards the hill's summit, crowned with a church.
Individual tourist sights of interest in Sanremo include the pretty domed Russian Orthodox church built by the town's many wealthy emigres in the early 1900s. The Casino is one of the town's most famous sights, a glaring white palace with a range of options for those in love with chance. You'll need to dress up to enter some of the gaming rooms, but anyone can have a go on the one-armed bandits in the main halls. If you visit early in the day, the main clientele consists of respectable-looking elderly women with manic gleams in their eyes, clutching their buckets of tokens. (this sounds like my Mom now when she visits Atlantic City!)
I remember my Mom reading her movie star magazines and sighing over pictures of the beautiful and elegant Grace Kelly, then Princess Grace of Monaco. Her grace and beauty were legendary.
This is what my kitchen looked like this lovely Carolina morning
I love this time of day
I'm not the only one that loves to chase the sun
How could I resist?
I learned to make these cookies/biscuits from a French friend's Aunt many years ago. I could never pronounce her name and always called her Aunt Madame- she always giggled at that. I make them often and keep them in a canister alongside my biscotti. They are very similar to a shortbread cookie, but richer due to the egg content. According to Aunt Madame, they originated in Breton and are always made (as are all the pastries of the region) with a lightly salted butter known as “beurre demi-sel” from Nantes. Traditionally, they are cut with a round cutter and scored in a lattice pattern. Today I used a rectangle cutter and used them to make a quick dessert to serve a drop-in friend. I simply whipped some sweetened cream and stirred in a few macerated strawberries. Cut a cookie in half and set it alongside. Simple, but oh so good!
Butter Cookies- Petites Gateaux Bretons
6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp milk
2 cups flour
7/8 cup superfine flour
7/8 cup lightly salted butter at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter cookie sheets or line with parchment. Mix 1 Tblsp of egg yolks with the milk to make a glaze and set aside. Sift the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Add the egg yolks, sugar, and butter and work together to make a smooth, creamy mix. Gradually work in the flour from the edges to make a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
Flour your hands and pat out to 1/2 inch thick and cut out with a 3 inch cutter. Brush with a bit of the egg glaze and score each cookie with the back of a knife to form a lattice pattern. Bake 12-15 minutes till golden. Cool on the sheets on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove carefully to rack to cool completely.
Sometimes I make these to serve at a cocktail or wine and cheese event. In that case, I have been known to add a sprinkle of coarse pink salt on top before baking- looks so pretty and makes a wonderful savory snack. I have found this wonderful pink salt at Trader Joes (LOVE that place!)
Buon Alimenti, Buon Amici
Pattie and Allie