Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Very Merry Connie Staccato Christmas

It's Christmastime, which means one thing to the females of a Sicilian-American household:


For the benefit of you "out" people (non-Sicilians), this is pronounced koo-che-DAH-dee.  Also referred to as "Sicilian fig cookies", "Sicilian Christmas cookies", "Italian fig cookies", or simply "the figs" as in, "You gonna make the figs this year?"

I have never heard of one being referred to in the singular.

Cuccidati is an ancient recipe, if you judge by the ingredients, all of which are pre-Columbus-sailing-the-ocean-blue (except for the sugar in the dough, a modern upgrade).  Of course, there are certain people who think that everything has to be chocolate (def a New World thing) and add chocolate chips to the filling.  If you do this, stop it.  It's an infamia.  And your children will never respect you.

In my family, every Christmas season we baked cuccidati at my grandmother's house.  When I say "we", I mean every last donna of the famiglia and the male children under the age of twelve.  My grandfather would hide.  The non-Sicilian daughters-in-law were expected to participate, but were closely monitored.  Adult males were not invited to this gathering, even if they wanted to be, which they did not.  In fact, most of them resented the invasion because it took over the kitchen, the main room of a Sicilian household.  I once even heard my grandfather snarl, "Big deal.  Buy some Fig Newtons and put some frosting on them."  This sentiment was greeted by the mal occhio from my grandmother, but was otherwise ignored.  Take into consideration that my grandfather didn't like ricotta in his lasagna, and was therefore probably insane, and that baking cuccidati is a leisurely activity spread out over 2-3 days, and that's sort of an explanation.

I'm going to share the family recipe with you.  Yes, it's long and yes, it will probably take you three days, unless you have absolutely nothing else to do and that includes brushing your teeth.  But learn to make cuccidati and you can have your pick of handsome Sicilian men to marry (check their work history first).

Call your sisters and your cousins.  Put on your hoop earrings and your red aprons.  Leave plenty of time to argue about who's got the "right" recipe.

Part I:  The Dough


3 lbs of cake flour (13 1/2 cups.  I looked it up.)
6 tsp of baking powder (yes, six)
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp of salt (Never leave this out.  Never.  I did.  Once.  I will do time in Purgatory for it.)
3 sticks of cold butter (really)
1 cup of Crisco or lard
2 cups of milk

Sift together (or stir together; I'm not the kind of girl who "sifts") the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt, in a really big-ass bowl.  With a pastry cutter, cut in the butter and Crisco until crumbly.  Gradually add enough milk to make a medium-soft dough.  Knead dough until smooth, about 10 minutes.  Place in a covered container and put in the fridge for at least an hour.  Overnight is better.  Bring to room temperature when you're ready to use.

Part II:  The Filling


1/2 lb of dates
1 1/2 lbs of dried figs, as soft as you can find them, hard tips trimmed
1 cup of blanched, slivered almonds
1/4 cup of candied, chopped citron
1/3 cup of raisins
1 small jar of orange marmalade (or a cut-up orange, peel and all)
3 Tbl of honey
1 tsp of ground cinnamon
A little whiskey  (The good stuff.  And just a splash, because you get to drink the rest.  My grandmother liked Manhattans.)

Toast your almonds in a 300 degree oven until they're golden and you can smell them.  Roughly chop the dates and figs.  Combine the dates and figs in a big bowl with all the other ingredients.  Take this mixture and put it through a food grinder, using a coarse blade.  (A few words about food grinders.  I'm talking about the kind that my grandmother used that looks like something that would make Dick Cheney's eyes light up.  They are easy to find in thrift stores, and probably will be until they become a yuppie kitchen boutique "discovery" and they start selling them for the equivalent of a down payment on a car.)  Gather the filling into a ball, wrap in Saran Wrap, and put it in the fridge.  It will keep for at least a week.  I am of the opinion that you could put it in a time capsule and bury it somewhere in Boston's North End and three hundred years from now somebody could dig it up and make cuccidati.

Part III:  Baking and Icing

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Break off a ball of dough and roll thin.  Cut into rectangles about the size of an index card.  Put a teaspoon (more or less) of filling, shaping it like a Tootsie Roll, on top of each rectangle.  Close the dough over the filling and pinch the ends shut.  Make 2-3 little slashes on one side of the cookie and shape into a "C".  Bake on an ungreased (thank God!) cookie sheet for 17 to 20 minutes, or until cookies are very lightly browned.  Let cool.  

Part IV:  Icing


1 box of powdered sugar
6 Tbl of warm milk
2 tsp of vanilla extract
2 tsp of lemon extract

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Add a little more milk if the icing is too thick.  Spoon icing on each cookie and shake some sprinkles on top.  Fast.  While the icing is still moist.  This is one of the times of life when small children come in handy.  They know sprinkles.  Do ten or so cookies at a time.  You may need more than one batch of icing.  

That's it.  Trust me, it's easier than it sounds.  The Manhattans help.  If you have extra dough, just roll it up and bake it without the filling.  Which your man will probably like better than the figs because, as you well know, he doesn't appreciate anything.

Buon Natale.  And, BTW, nobody sings "Ave Maria" like Perry Como.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


Listen, if I'm not ranting about something here, make sure you visit me at my other place:

Underemployed Is the New Organic

Plenty to love there.



Monday, July 31, 2017

Anthony, We Hardly Knew Ya

Dear Anthony,

I told you to stop shooting your mouth off, and now look where it got you.  Fired by a guy who puts ketchup on a steak.  And his Irish general friend.  If it makes you feel any better, your worst meal was better than anything they ever put in their mouths.

I'm sorry you got fired.  You were funny.  Not like the rest of those jamokes.

Well, take a vacation.  Write a book.  I'll buy it, promise.  And if you ever need a shoulder to cry on, you know where to find me.  Actually, you don't know where to find me. 

Ask the Russians.  They probably do.

In boca al lupo and don't be a stranger.

Your fourth cousin, once removed,


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hey, Anthony!

Jeez, calm down!

You're quoting Joe Paterno and talking about hanging people.  One more stupid thing out of your mouth and I'll be wondering - like everybody else - what you're putting up your nose.

Take a nap or something.

Your fourth cousin, once removed,

Connie Staccato

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Cousin Anthony

Would you believe it?  Anthony Scaramucci is my fourth cousin! 

Once removed.

Hey, Anthony!  It's me, Connie.  The last time we saw each other was at Aunt Lena's wedding and you were about six.  Congratulations, and don't get a swelled head.

I saw you on TV the other night.  Jesus, are you kidding me?  Anthony, some advice.  Stop combing your hair with a rake and put on a tie that isn't shiny!  You look like an undertaker, for chrissakes.  And stop telling everybody about all the shit you're gonna do.  That's not how Sicilians operate, in case you forgot.

And lastly, Mooch, listen to me here.  Just because you're hanging out with that big orange gagootz doesn't mean you can say stuff that isn't true.

Remember, St. Anthony can hear you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear President Cafone

Dear Mr. Trump,

How's that little vay-cay working out for you?  Here's what we know so far:
  1. Your wife can't stand you.
  2. Maybe because you're a rat bastard?
  3. Your son-in-law is even creepier than you are.
  4. Your suits don't fit.  Not even close.
  5. French people make fun of you.
  6. They didn't make fun of Obama.  Just sayin'.
  7. His Holiness thinks you're a jerk.  
  8. And when I first saw your ladies at the Vatican, I thought "Who died?"
  9. You really like Saudi Arabians. 
  10. Probably because they give you (and your creepy kids) money.
  11. And shiny things.
  12. World peace?  Fugeddaboudit.
So you're in Sicily now, are you? Let me give you a list of Sicilian words you're gonna hear.  A lot.  I don't know how they're spelled, but they sound like this:














They all pretty much mean the same thing.  Except for the last one.  But I think the word you're gonna hear the most is cafone.  Like, you are the EMBODIMENT of a cafone.  Take, for example, what you did to the Prime Minister of Montenegro.  Smooth move, James Bond.  The jacket flick was a nice touch. 

Seriously, chooch, in the Italian dictionary next to cafone is your picture.

Hope this helps,

Connie Staccato

(BTW, a special "grazi'!" to the American-Italian dictionary at americanitalian.net.)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Underemployed Is the New Organic - Available on Amazon

So my alter-ego FINALLY finished her book:

Underemployed Is the New Organic

Just the paperback is available right now, Kindle version to follow soon.  Also available on Amazon Europe.

Of course, as SOON as she (which is me, it's not easy being bi-polar) approved it for publishing, her (my) husband Anthony found a mistake in the text.  Which he thought was very funny.  Which she (I) thought was grounds for divorce.

Now the work begins on the second book (really Volume II of the first book), which has a working title of "Pass the Vodka".  (Wish I had some now.) 

And this time Anthony is gonna do the proof-reading.

God help him.