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April 4, 2014     Post-Gazette
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April 4, 2014

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Page4 POST-GAZETTE, APRIL 4, 2014 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore A Baker's Guide to Spring by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz As anyone who remem- bers my autumn columns can attest, the fall is my fa- vorite time of the year for baking. Something about the crisp air and the envel- oping early darkness calls me back to the cozy honeyed glow of the kitchen, where I can spend my evenings basking in the warmth of my oven as I mix ingredients. Furthermore, autumn offers a veritable bounty of products simply made for baking: juicy apples and sharp pears, spicy ginger and creamy PUmp- kin. However, autumn is far from my mind now as I revel in the joys of spring. My heart swells with happiness as I take in the daffodil stems peeking out of the dirt, the robins singing sweetly from the bushes, the increasingly warm sun- shine that falls butter-yellow from the sky. I am excited . to welcome in the wonderful ingredients that character- ize this season of rebirth and renewal, from fragrant herbs to snappy asparagus stems, tender peas and marinated artichokes. Yet these ingre- dients which I love so much are also more suited to cook- ing than baking, leaving an ardent baker like myself in a springtime conundrum. Through a lot of experimen- tation, however, I devised a baking guide for spring, find- ing a way to honor the sea- sonal ingredients in lus- cious desserts. Citrus: Early spring is a wonderful time to use up last winter's citrus before they go out of season! I absolutely love desserts made with lemon (limone in Italian) and orange (arancia) because the tartness prevents them from getting too cloyingly sweet. From creamy lemon bars to cakes accented with orange peel, citrus desserts are a wonderful way to bid goodbye to winter and welcome in the o spring. Italian dessert often include citrus peals or exfracts in them, such as the soft glazed cookies fre- quently seen at weddings to classic pizzeUes. This Eas- ter, I cannot wait to make my chocolate-ricotta pie with flecks orange peel in the filling. Tropical: When the weather becomes warm enough to leave home with- out a coat and the trees become bursts of various hues of green, my baking tastes turn to the tropics. I especially love to bake with banana and pineapple. Banana nut breads are one of my father's favorite des- serts, and I love them too because they are easy to prepare and come out so moist and soft. Pineapple upside-down cakes are an impressive finale to any springtime meal. Can't decide what tropical fruit to use? Make a Hummingbird Cake, which uses banana, pineapple and coconut, topped off with a velvety cream cheese frosting! If you want to make something that has both a tropical and an Italian flavor, try using kiwi--this little green fruit has become one of the most popular snacks in Italy, and Italy now produces more kiwifruit than any other country! Strawberries: When straw- berry baked goods start appearing in bakeries and stores, I know spring has arrived. Strawberries are a wonderful addition to short- cakes, frostings and cookies. My mother once made a tiramisu with strawberries and white chocolate, a spring-like twist on the classic Italian dessert. This Easter season, I plan 'to make Hot Cross Buns that include dried strawberries instead of raisins, modeled after a recipe I once encoun- tered at Panera. Strawber- ries, known as fragole, are often found in Italian des- serts, whether as a sauce dripped over panna cotta or marinated in balsamic syrup. Rhubarb: Rhubarb, one of the earliest crops of spring, is now one of my favorite ingredients to bake with, It is certainly a weird-looking food, resembling a red celery stalk, and its flavor is a cross between a strawberry and an apple. However, its tart- ness perfectly accentuates cake and other sweet . My father-in-law introduced me to a recipe for a scrumptious rhubarb coffee cake, moist with a cinnamon-crumb top- ping. I now make it for May Day. My mother and I also once made lemon=ricotta pancakes with a rhubarb sauce smothered on top. Needless to say, it derived rave reviews from my fam- ily. Rhubarb is the essential don't-j udge-a-book-by-its- cover vegetable, strange to look at but delicious to eat. So there you go -- four wonderful ideas, for spring- time baking. Don't wait for the colder temperatures in order to head back to the kitchen. There are so many delectable ingredients avail- able now, prime for sweet finishes to any spring meal. As we enter spring with hope and joy, I'd like to wish everyone a very happy April ... and happy baking! Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at adicenso89@gmail, com. Bring Your Bottles & Cans to STONE ZOO[ # Bakery and Function Facilities Visit our Shops for your Traditional Easter Specialties Open Easter Sunday 8 anl - 2 pm Pizza Grana (Wheat Pie), Pizza Ghiena, Strufoli, Taralles, St. Joseph Zeppole by Sal Giarratani It Was a Day for Heroes 'There is the unknown for every fire. You do your job, follow the plan, still something can go wrong." -- Inscription on the Firefighters Memorial on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall (Photo by Rosario Scabin, Ross Photography) Italian Pastry and more : 282 Bennington Street, East Boston 617-567-1992 Route One South, Lynnfield 781-592-5552 If you are interested in not only helping the environ- ment but contributing to a worthy cause, bring your empty bottles and cans to Stone Zoo during the Bottle and Can Drive - held the sec- ond Saturday of each month, April through October. All of the proceeds from this annual fundraiser benefit conservation efforts sup- ported by Zoo New England, Last week on Wednesday, March 26th, an alarm rung down at the Boylston Street firehouse and the two groups of firefighters from Lad- der 15 and Engine 33 headed out to the street toward some sort of fire on nearby Beacon Street. This firehouse has been quite active over the years. They were the first responders back on June 17, 1972 when an old hotel named the Vendome had a reported fire in progress. Ladder 15~ and "Er/gin'e 33 among other firehotises across the city felt great pain that day as the old building collapsed on a number of firefighters still in the build- ing after the fire was extin- guished. They were supposed to be moping up, but things turned quite tragic when nine firefighters got caught in the building's collapse. In 1994, 22-years later, Fire Lt. Stephen Minihan from Ladder 15 died in a warehouse fire in Charles- town just below the bridge. He was searching for other trapped firefighters when he himself got trapped. Recently, I was listening to an old folk song about days for heroes. Every day is a day of heroes for those brave men and women who run into burning buil tings try- ing to save anyone trapped inside. As I was watching_ the video of that fire last week and saw firefighters working on Michael Kennedy, one of the two firefighters who died that afternoon, I knew things weren't looking good. Hours later reportedly they found the body of Lt. Ed Walsh. How horrible when you can hear the "May-Day" cries and are helpless to do anything because of the raging fire blocking any rescue attempt. March 264 started out like any other day at that fire- house. Countless days look the same. Then, something changes when the guys arrive at a fire. An ordinary day in a moment becomes an endless day of horror. Last Thursday, two days after that fire, I found my- se'lf in Dorchester'a Meet- inghouse Hill and stopped by the firehouse t/cross from the First Church 'of DOrches- ter and around the corner from St. Peter's Church. All the guys from Engine 17 and Ladder 7 were sitting down for dinner together as a family because that is what firefighters are to each other. They were having dinner: chicken, sausages, fried peppers, salad and bread. They seemed happy to be alive and sharing the meal together. I noticed as I was leaving the firehouse, some of the smoke from the frying pan was making its way out to the apparatus? I asked Where's the smoke detec- tors and they pointed the exit door to me all laughing. The fact they could laugh I thought was a a sign of healing. At that moment they had each other for sup- port and about two tons of donuts donated to them by grateful residents. I will not forget the sacri- fices made over and over again by our heroic fire- fighters who have a job to do and do it well no matter the risks because that is what they do. They don't refer to them- selves as heroes, but we should. the non-profit organization that manages Stone Zoo and Order your copy of rank.n ark Zoo "Dates are: April 12th, May I0th. June 7th, July 12th. [~,_~ ~/~ T~ August 9th, September 13th and October 11th, IN TIME FOR YOUR EASTER DINNER Each Bottle and Can Drive | -~r recipes including asparagus is held from I0:00 am to I ~ frittata~iedinL manicotti and more. 2:30 pm in the Stone Zoo A T ena'sSU#ianHeritageandHerBelovedNonna. parking lot, 149 Pond Street, | printing with 10,000 copies sold. I $12~ shippl}lg and postage. Stoneham, MA. To learn [ FRANCENA enterville OH 45458 more,, visit their website at .[ 937-433-7313-