Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Traditions & "Sicilian Rice Balls" Recipe

Family, traditions, religion, giving, sharing, and food. All of these words describe what Christmas is all about to me. As Christmas is almost a week away I sometimes wonder what traditions are really all about? I know that in my Italian family our customs are very important as we celebrate the Birth of Jesus, which is what they say is the "reason for the season". Our festivities include being together as a family, Christmas Mass, plus enjoying all the foods that have been passed down through many generations. We all know about the Christmas tree, Santa, and the Nativity. But do we really know how these customs became traditions?

The word Christmas is derived from the English “Christemasse” which it’s meaning is “Christ’s mass”, hence forth the word Christmas. This day commemorates the birth of the baby “Jesus”. Although no one knows the exact date Jesus was born, Christians have favored December 25th since ancient times. It is the date on which the Romans marked the Winter Solstice.

Modern customs include gift giving, exchange of Christmas cards, various decorations including the Christmas tree, lights, and of course Jolly Old Saint Nick. Santa Claus is also referred to as Father Christmas. It is believed that Santa first appeared in the 19th century and resembles Saint Nicholas. The first Christmas tree was brought to America from the German people that immigrated in the early 1800s. Tradition states that the tree symbolized the cross that Christ died for our sins. The green tree represents new life and the lights on the tree symbolize the birth of Christ, that He is the “Light of the World“. Red ornaments signify the blood Jesus shed for our sins. To top the tree either an angel or a star is used, to symbolize the angels that were there when Jesus was born, and the Star is to guide the Three Wise Men or the Magi to the baby Jesus.

Grandparents, Julia & Louis Fiore & me
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is a time when family and friends enjoy feasting on traditional foods, sweet desserts, and drinks to enjoy the season. Eggnog, Fruit Cake, Gingerbread Men, Candy Canes, and Cookies are very popular at this time of the year. My mom would prepare her menu and guest list many days ahead of time. My maternal grandparents used to live upstairs from my family. I remember when I was young going upstairs, my grandfather would play with me. He loved wood puzzles, the kind that you had to fit the pieces into a ball or square. My grandfather Louis died when I was 7 years old so I can only remember a little of my time with him. But whatever I remember he was a loving man and my grandmother Julia, was a sweet, person who loved her family very much. She died much later in my life, when I was about 20. So I remember many times baking with her and my mother. In Italy, Christmas Eve is called “La Vigilia di Natale” and Merry Christmas is called “Buon Natale”.

My recipe this week I would love to share is called “Sicilian Rice Balls” or “Arancini”. These fried balls of tasty rice are filled with cheese and Italian ham all rolled into one ball of delightful flavor. You just can’t have one.

Sicilian Rice Balls

1 cup of Arborio rice
3 large eggs
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup of grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
1/4 cup of diced mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of diced Prosciutto or ham (about two ounces)
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh parsley
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup of tomato sauce
Vegetable oil for deep-frying

Cook rice in 2 1/2 cups of boiling water for about 15 minutes. The rice should be still quite firm. Drain and put in bowl. Lightly beat 1 egg and add to the rice, along with the grated cheese, parsley, 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce and salt plus pepper. Mix well. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes. In another bowl, mix the mozzarella cheese, prosciutto or ham and the remaining 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce.
With floured hands, divide the rice mixture into 8 or 10 portions and roll each portion into a ball, the size of a small orange. Poke a hole into the center of each ball with your finger and insert about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mozzarella mixture. Reshape and smooth the balls to enclose the filling. In a shallow dish, beat the remaining 2 eggs. Put breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. Dip the balls into the eggs, coat well. Then coat into breadcrumbs evenly. Let them dry on a plate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
In deep fry pan, heat oil to 375° F. Fry the balls until they are golden brown on all sides. Drain them on paper towels and serve immediately, with some tomato sauce. Enjoy..Abbondanza!!!

Till Next Time……….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment