It seems that there are two main categories of Mardi Gras food, rich, sweet cakes meant to use up all the sugar and fat before Lent, and savory,”lucky” foods. In the sweet camp are Polish Paczki, French galette des rois, Scandinavian Semla (called vastlakukkel in Estonia) or Hawaiian Malasadas. On the other hand are savory foods that are deemed lucky. In Eastern Europe, one such lucky, savory dish is a hearty pea soup. The classic Estonian Mardi Gras Soup is called hernesupp, and is a hearty mix of yellow split peas and pork. Check out these classic recipes from Nami-Nami (seen below) and Stanford.
Category Archives: Holidays
This year, Lunar New Year falls on a Friday! If you will be celebrating Lunar New Year in Korea the festivities are called Seollal, and you can expect a crazy amount of food and festivities. We covered one of the most traditional Seollal dishes previously on ETW, tteokguk (rice cake soup). However, that only scratches the surface. Most large Korean meals come with an assortment of small dishes called Banchan, and the Seollal table is no exception. However, to the uninitiated, the array of banchan presented alongside a meal can be overwhelming. Fortunately, the internet is brimming with banchan guides: Lucky Peach, Crazy Korean Cooking, Zen Kimchi, Thrillist and HuffPo, to name a few. Personally, my favorite banchan are japchae, radish kimchi and toasted seaweed. I love the concept that every meal comes with an additional portion of delicious, tiny dishes. Do you have a favorite banchan?
Happy New Year! Even though it is almost 2 weeks after the Gregorian calendar marks the new year – January 13 is celebrated as Malanka – “Old New Year’s Eve” – in the Ukraine. The holiday marks the Julian calendar’s new year and is one of the most festive days in Ukraine, full of caroling door-to-door, costumes, dancing the Kolomyjka, merry-making and of course food. We are novices when it comes to Ukrainian desserts, but we have found a holiday recipe for pampushky – fried donuts filled with poppy seed or prune. These seem to be a cousin of the paczki, another Eastern European donut (this one popularly eaten on Shrove Tuesday). You can find pampushky recipe from Claudia’s Cookbook (below) and Ukrainian Classic Cuisine. Who doesn’t love something indulgent and fried as a perfect cap to the holiday season?
Today is Three Kings Day / Epiphany – which officially marks the end of the Christmas holiday season! In addition to Epiphany (Epifania in Italian), the eve of January 6th is also when La Befana arrives in Italy. Similar to St. Nicholas Day in other parts of Europe, La Befana (who takes the appearance of a witch on a broom) leaves presents and candy for good children and coal for bad ones. In honor of La Befana and Epifania, we are heading to Sicily, where the holiday season is celebrated with a myriad of sweets including the fig and raisin-filled cuccidati cookies.
We have made cuccidati before, but we have recently learned that there is a similar holiday dessert that is basically a giant version of a cuccidati – a Buccellato ring cake. To add another layer of potential confusion, it seems that sometimes in Sicily buccellato refers to small-sized ring-shaped fig cookies, too. Now I am not really a huge fig or raisin fan (though M is) and even I like cuccidati cookies (which I guess are the distant ancestor of the Fig Newton). There are tons of cuccidati recipes with slight variations in filling according to region, family and personal taste so I will only include a few: A vintage Milwaukee recipe from 1965, Washington Post, Brown Eyed Baker and Savoring Italy (seen above). If you want to go all out, Cooking with Rosetta has a traditional buccellato recipe, as does L’Italo-Americano (seen below).
We love this Japanese candy advertisement wishing us a happy new year (in 1956) – we hope you have a Happy New Year, too!
One of our friends’ mothers recently gifted us a large Vasilopita cake in the shape of a fish (which seems to be one-of-a-kind)! Fish or not, there is a long tradition of having Vasilopita – an orange-flavored cake topped with nuts – on New Year’s Day for good luck. Much like a king cake, there is a hidden trinket or coin in the cake that is said to bring luck to the person that finds it. Vasilopita is popular in Greece and the Balkans, and I have seen several permutations of the cake: some including multiple tiers, or a vanilla glaze. Here is a two-tiered Greek version from Epicurious, a glazed version from My Greek Dish, and a Vasilopita with a more bread-like consistency from Bowl of Delicious. Happy new year! Ευτυχισμένος ο καινούριος χρόνος!
There is a major tradition around eating fried food for Hanukkah, since oil is such an essential part to the Hanukkah story – a miracle that allowed one day’s worth of oil to light a menorah for eight days. Though we love the traditional fried donuts sfenj and sufganiyot – there is also another Hanukkah tradition we have just learned about – eating cheese! The origins of eating cheese on Hanukkah begins with the story of Judith, who is said to have given an enemy general salty cheese to make him thirsty, becase of this he became drunk, allowing her to later kill him. So that may be a little morbid… but the importance of cheese to the story has led to delicious cultural traditions of enjoying cheese at Hanukkah time! Though the tradition is not as big in the US – it has a stronger foothold in Europe. Popular ways to enjoy cheese on Hanukkah are tasty Italian ricotta latkes, cream cheese rugelach and cheese blintzes.
Cheese Blintzes by Eliza Adam
Tomorrow is Christmas – and here it is blustery and cold – but imagine if you could go to beach! In this vintage Australia Christmas video, you can!
We first saw these show-stopping Lithuanian Christmas tree cakes – Šakotis – for sale by the Lithuanian Club of Cleveland at a cultural fair. Though you may see Sakotis for other special celebrations in Lithuania, they are associated with Christmas – especially since they look like Christmas trees! The cake is made by pouring batter over a rotating, horizontal spit over a heat source. The batter is simple – just sugar, eggs, flour and sour cream – and as the batter is poured over the spit, tree-like layers begin to form.
Other cakes made on a spit are found throughout Central and Eastern Europe with different names: like the German Baumkuchen, Polish sękacz, Czech Trdelník and Hungarian Kürtőskalács. Unless you have all this special equipment, you probably won’t be able to make Sakotis at home – but you can buy them straight from the Lithuanian Club of Cleveland online.
It is Christmas season again, and we have cake on the brain! In Nicaragua, Christmas means Pio Quinto cake (which may or may not be named after Pope Pius the 5th). It is similar to tres leches cake, but instead of being soaked in milk, it is soaked in rum! Pio Quinto is topped with a vanilla and cinnamon custard – called atolillo (which can also be served alone) and sprinkled with raisins and other dried fruits. You can find recipes for Pio Quinto from Serious Eats (seen below) and Leaders from the Kitchen.
Today is St. Lucia Day, one of the most important holidays in Scandinavia, and Christmas is right around the corner! We have covered some Swedish holiday cakes and cookies here on the blog previously, but did you know that candy canes may in fact have their roots in Sweden? In Sweden these striped candies are called Polkagris. Polkagris was invented by a female entrepreneur, Amalia Eriksson, in 1859 in the town of Gränna, Sweden. At a time when few women were allowed to be entrepreneurs, the widowed Amalia created the candy as a way to support her family (and the recipe was kept as a secret until her death). The traditional polkagris color is red and white with peppermint flavor, much like the candy canes we know in the US. However, there are a few differences – Polkagris is made with vinegar, which makes it softer and chewier – and creates a shorter shelf life.
If you live in the freezing Midwest like us, the winter holiday season may not immediately get you thinking of tropical recipes, but the Caribbean has huge tradition of delicious Christmas foods worth sampling. One emblematic Caribbean food that is a holiday staple is the simply named Black Cake (it gets its name from its rich molasses color). The cake itself is filled with figs and dried fruit soaked in wine, rum and is flavored with cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Caribbean Black Cake is a descendant of British plum pudding, and has an special stronghold in Caribbean countries that were former British colonies such as Trinidad and Jamaica. However, you will find it throughout the Caribbean and in most Caribbean-American communities around holiday time with assorted named like Christmas Cake, Black Christmas Cake, West Indian Fruit Cake, Caribbean Christmas Cake, etc. A unique ingredient that is essential to the rich taste of the cake is burnt sugar syrup, or “browning,” that is available in Caribbean markets (or you can make your own). Here is a recipe for Jamaican Black Cake from the Cooking Channel (below), Trinidadian Black Cake from Cooking with Ria and Caribbean Black Fruitcake from Chowhound.
When I think winter holiday foods, my mind turns immediately to the sweets – I can’t help it – who wouldn’t love spice cookies or a bûche de noël? However, I know that everyone doesn’t have a sweet tooth, and that savory dishes are just as important on the holiday table. For St. Nicholas Day we encountered mainly sweet treats – but Bulgaria, where the holiday is called Nikulden, has their own savory spin on the day. In Bulgaria, St. Nicholas is associated with fishing and fishermen, so it makes sense that his signature dish, Ribnik, is carp stuffed with walnuts, and wrapped in a pastry dough. This striking dish is then the centerpiece for St. Nicholas Day feasts. Here are recipes for two versions of Ribnik from the St. Nicholas Center, and another from Eclectic Cuisine (seen below).
Today is election day in the US, and while the eaters voted early in Ohio last week, it has still been a stressful day watching the news and the polls. I think we, and anyone else who voted, deserves some cake – maybe even some “Election Cake.” Though it has been out of fashion for over a century, Election Cake used to be an election day staple. Election Cake represented the most popular flavors of the time: it is a leavened sourdough cake with molasses, cinnamon, dried fruit and nuts. In the past, when people actually had to travel distance to the polls, election day was something of a celebratory affair. The election cake hails from a time before refrigeration, and when this type of stable cake would be necessary to last through a long day at the polls and the celebration after.
Nourished Kitchen has a great Election Cake recipe (pictured above). But if you want to get a little more historical, here’s a recipe from the Washington Post from 1796. This was long before women could vote, so making these kinds of cakes was one way to participate in the electoral process. Election Cakes are making a comeback thanks in part to Old World Levain Bakery, in Asheville, N.C., who started the “Make America Cake Again” project, encouraging knowledge of historical cakes, and encouraging bakeries to sell Election Cakes and donate the proceeds to the League of Women Voters. You can check out more recipes on the OWL page, and to see if there is a bakery selling Election Cakes near you.
Our international bakery tour continues today with some special treats for Dia de los Muertos! One of the major things we miss in Chicago is the proliferation of Mexican bakeries. There are at least a few in every neighborhood, but the largest concentration is in Pilsen and Little Village, and we have spent a lot of time exploring the best bakeries. One of the longest-running bakeries in Pilsen – open since 1973 – is Panadaria Nuevo Leon (1634 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608), and it is one of our favorites.Nuevo Leon is absolutely full of wooden and glass pastry cases, and you pick up a set of tongs and a metal tray to make your own selections. There are a huge variety of pan dulce: emblematic conchas, cuernos de mantequilla (butter horns), empanadas, guava pastries, puerquitos (seen below), and a huge selection of assorted cookies (our favorites are the smiley faces and the watermelon shapes). The prices are not as cheap as some other Mexican bakeries in the area, but are still really reasonable. One of the other unique features is that there is a wide selection of made-in-house flavored tortillas (mole, chipotle, avocado, etc.). Plus, they mark vegan items (and there are quite a few).We love that Nuevo Leon stocks up on the special holiday treats. For Day of the Dead, Nuevo Leon is our go-to for tasty anise-flavored Pan de Muerto in both small and large sizes, with both the traditional round shape with bones (above) and others shaped like miniature people. You can see below that they also set up an ofrenda above the baking racks for Day of the Dead. However, this is not the only time of year to visit the bakery for something special. Around Christmastime their buñuelos (thin, fried dough with cinnamon and sugar) are a must! We can’t wait to go back for the next round.
Happy Halloween! In honor of this delicious day, we are making a traditional recipe for All Hallows’ Eve / Samhain from the UK, “Mash O’ Nine Sorts.” This funnily- yet descriptively- named dish consists of mashed root veggies (traditionally nine types, including turnip, potatoes, parsnips, etc.) and cheese, and is eaten in the Northern UK at this time of year. It is also tradition for the lady of the house to hide her wedding ring in the dish, and the person who found it would be the next to get married. While pumpkins are the most popular in the US, other old-world root veggies have pride of Halloween place in the UK. It was even traditional in Scotland to carve tunips! Lavender and Lovage has a recipe for Mash O’ Nine Sorts here (seen above). If you decide to make Mash O’ Nine Sorts, here is some mood music to help you out – “The Monster Mash!.”
Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos are right around the corner – but so is Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which falls on October 30 this year. Diwali is absolutely awash with sweet treats (some of which we have covered before), collectively called Mithai, and the proper Diwali table is full with as many sweet treats as possible. One popular genre of Indian sweets is called laddoo/laddu, which are basically round truffles that come in a myriad of flavors. Today, I’m going to be sharing one of our favorite and simplest recipes for coconut laddo, which are super easy to make. Check out recipes from Veg recipes of India, Cooking and Me and Rak’s Kitchen (seen below). These laddoos also remind us of Brazilian beijinhos, one of the most popular sweets across the country. Seems like condensed milk and coconut have fans on pretty much every corner of the earth!
One of our favorite holidays of the year is All Saints’ Day / All Souls’ Day (Celebrated as Dia de Los Muertos in Latin America), and we love the tradition of honoring departed loved ones not with sadness and tears, but with food and festivities. We are branching out a little bit from our typical coverage of Italy and Latin America this year to a traditional treat for All Souls’ Day in Croatia, bobici (which translates to little broad beans). These simple almond, cherry and lemon cookies are traditionally given out as treats on All Saints’ Day for wishes of a long life. They also have roots in the Italian fave dei morti cookies, from when the Venetians ruled the Dalmatian Croatia. You can check out recipes for Bobici from Plates n Planes and Adriatic Figs (below).
Somehow in the past week of posting downtime, it has gone from a balmy 80 degrees to a cool, blustery, fall-like 45! Moreover, that Halloween chill is in the air and we are seeing pumpkins everywhere! Accordingly, we’re going to start featuring some seasonal treats. First up are the classic Sicilian treats for All Saints’ and Souls’ Day (Nov 1 and 2), the famous fruit-shaped marzipan confections called frutta martorana. These almond-paste candies can be found year round in Sicily, but they are particularly popular this time of year, when artisans around the island take pride in making the most realistic fruit shapes possible. In Sicily, children traditionally received these marzipan fruits and other gifts on November 2nd. Check out this video of an assortment of martorana from Toronto. If you want to make your own, the recipe is not that complicated, but the key is in the intricate design and details!