You know, I do try to remember that the holidays aren't just about food, but I come from a family of what I like to call compulsive feeders, so in a way...it really kinda is. My plan for the next couple of weeks is to toss in a recipe every now and then. It's something of an odd, eclectic collection of dishes because...well, I'm somewhat odd.
The first recipe is for strufolli, AKA honey balls. Struffoli is an Italian Christmas classic so, of course, being half Italian you'd think I'd grown up eating it, right? Not right. My family is Sicilian and struffoli is originally from the Naples area. According to Sicilians, Napolitanos are not quite right in the head. Which is not a good reason for giving this dish a skip, IMO, but that's another story.
I first sampled struffoli when I was dating my first Italian boyfriend--who my parents could not stand, btw, leading me to think I was Juliet--probably not the effect they intended. Honestly, I can't imagine what their problem was with him. Unlike some members of my family, I never dated anyone with mob ties. And I learned a lot from that boyfriend. Things like minestrone, calzones and struffoli.
And to think, my parents were worried about where it might lead. But, I digress...
We dated for about a year--long enough for me to sample struffoli at the houses of various of his relatives and friends because, that's something else you should know about Italian Americans. Come Christmas--they like to visit. Anyway...it didn't last. We had a falling out over a ham sandwich--I kid you not. Also our tastes in soda were completely incompatible. A year later, I met my husband. Come Christmas, I met his grandmother. And his aunts. And his cousins. They knew all about struffoli too.
Turns out his grandmother's family did come from the Naples area and, truth be told...the Sicilians maybe have a point. But, for struffoli...ah, I'd risk a little insanity for these babies. Any time.
- 2 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 tsp salt (sea salt, preferably)
- 2 cups oil
- 2 cups honey
- juice and zest of one lemon (preferably a Meyer's lemon--but that's just me. I have rather a thing for Meyer's lemons)
- Place the flour in a large mixing bowl and make a well in center.
- Add the eggs, zest and salt and knead until smooth.
- Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll the dough out on lightly floured board until 1/4 inch thick.
- Cut the dough into 1/2 inch strips, and then cut the strips into tiny pieces 1/2 inch long. To be honest...I tend to make them a bit bigger--because I have no patience whatsoever and all those little teeny pieces take waaaaay too long to make.
- Shape pieces into balls.
- Heat oil to 350F.
- Drop the balls into the oil a few at a time.
- Cook until lightly golden, turning constantly with a wooden spoon.
- Remove balls and drain them on paper towels.
- Combine the honey and lemon juice in a saucepan and boil over low heat, stirring constantly, until thin.
- Add fried cookies, 1 cup at a time, and cook in honey syrup, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Remove and allow to cool--on a plate or tray.
- When cool enough to handle shape into pyramid/cone (or a Christmas tree?) shape. Can be decorated with colored sugar, sprinkles, etc...or not. Personally, even though it looks deliciously festive with sprinkles, I don't care for the crunch. Call me a purist. But, then again, what do I know? I'm Sicilian. I leave the crazy Napolitano stuff to my husband.