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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Saint Lucia and the Cuccìa: a delicious Sicilan tradition

Today December 13th, it is Santa Lucia, Saint Lucy who was a young Christian martyr who died during the Diocletianic Prosecutions. 

Lucy's Latin name Lucia shares a root (luc-) with the Latin word for light, lux. This has played a large part of Saint Lucy being named as the patron saint of the blind and those with eye-trouble. The relics of Saint Lucia rest in my Venice after they have been moved and stoled many times in history.

They rest now safely in the Church of Saint Geremia in the sestiere of Cannaregio. They were transferred there when the church of Santa Lucia was demolished in 1861 to make way for the new railway terminal. The train station in Venice is for that called Santa Lucia.

It is said, between history and legend, that around the seventeenth century the Sicialian people were hit by a severe food shortage when a ship arrived in Palermo bearing wheat and grains on Santa Lucia’s Day, December 13th. There was not time to make flower and they started to eat it as it was: in it’s grain form.
To this day in Sicily people eat a variety of dishes made with wheat berries or barley that is called Cuccìa. The word itself is Sicilian and means crock or grain. So on this day Cuccìa is the only wheat eaten… no bread or pasta.  
Cuccìa is typically made with wheat berries or barley and it is prepared differently from family to family and regions. Some make Cuccìa as soup, others as a pudding. 
This tradition is especially celebrated in the Sicilian city of Palermo, and also in Syracuse where Santa Lucia was born.
You can vary the recipe as Sicilian do. Everyone tweaks it to their own taste.

Here below you can find the family recipe as I have learned to make it from my dear friend from Palermo, Angela.


1lb Barley
½ lb dark chocolate
2 and ½ ounces of bitter cocoa powder
4 spoons of sugar
1 quarter of a gallon of milk
3 and half ounces of heavy cream


Put the barley in a large bowl, cover with water and let it sit for 1 hour. Rinse it and pour it into a saucepan, cover with cold water. When the water starts to boil, leave it to cook for 1 hour.
Drain and allow it to cool.

Pour the milk, the bitter cocoa and dark chocolate and the sugar in a saucepan, and stir with a whisk, on low heat until the chocolate does melt completely. Finally add heavy cream an cook for another 10 min, till warm.

Add the barley to the milk and chocolate, stir it.
The Cuccìa is ready. Let it cool in the refrigerator and serve the Cuccìa preferably in individual bowls.

From Venice with Love,


Friday, December 9, 2016

A delicious Christmas treat: Baci di Dama

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, so today I want to share with you a simple recipe for a sweet treat I make every Christmas with my mom in Italy.
They are called Baci di Dama “Lady Kisses”.
It is an easy and simple recipe. You know me, I’m always on the run,  working on my music projects, doing Concerts and writing songs. But I love to eat delicious food so it needs to be delicious and fast to make.
So here is a faster variation of the recipe, where you can buy the amaretto cookie instead or making them from scratch like in the original recipe. My favorite are the Matilde Vicenzi Amaretti d'Italia. Delicious. 

The Baci di Dama is a typical recipe of Piedmont cuisine. The origin of these sweets is an open battle between those who support their origin from the city of Tortona in Piedmont and those who makes them go back to an invention of a pastry chef of the House of Savoy in 1852.
The name of these little pastries seems to derive from their shape that recalls two lips kissing. It was my grandfather Ruggero favorite sweets, and he was indeed from the Piedmont region and of coursed believed it was  from there.

Here how to make them:


- 120 Amaretti d'Italia Matilde Vicenzi  (macaroons)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of Nutella
- 1 to 3 cups of coffee mocha (coffee is fine without sugar)
- Grated coconut


1. In a bowl pour the coffee (the coffee needs to be cold) and have some grated coconut ready for the decoration. Have the Nutella ready and a little spoon.

2. Spread now the amaretti cookies with the Nutella. Put the Nutella on an amaretto cookie, on the straight part, then take another one and do the same. Now push them together gently to avoid breakage.

3. Take the stuffed amaretti cookies and dip them one by one in the coffee and then in the grated coconut. Then place them in a baking dish or tray. I love to staple them in a circle so to recreate little Christmas trees.

4. When finished, put the “Baci di Dama” in the fridge for at least half an hour, so all the ingredients will marry beautifully with each other. When it's time to enjoy them, take them out of the fridge and serve them immediately. 

The “Baci di Dama” with coconut and Nutella are perfectly paring with both coffee, tea or herbal tea. Are also excellent on their own, and if you love sweet wines, even with some Marsala.

One little variation to the recipe: You can also add to the cream some mascarpone.  In this case you need to mix together 125 grams of mascarpone and add 1 tablespoon of Nutella. Mix them together in a bowl until you get a smooth cream. Then proceed from point 2.

I hope you will enjoy making them and eating them with your loved ones.

Let's hope it will be a Christmas filled with love for all of us.