Posts Tagged ‘Sinatra Centennial’

A Sinatra Centennial Cookie

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

frankcupweb

Today music lovers around the country (and probably around the world) celebrate the centennial of the 20th century’s most popular singer. Frank Sinatra crossed generations in his appeal, then and now. He was born on December 12, 1915.

I actually fêted Frank and his birthday a bit early to avoid the rush. In August, with the help of my neighbor Alice Parker, I performed my own Sinatra concert in Charlemont, Massachusetts.

sinatra poster smaller copy

The concert was a delight. I didn’t actually try to BE Sinatra, of course. I don’t look like him, and I don’t sound like him. Instead, I tried to be Sinatra-esque in my approach to the music, working on my phrasing and feeling the melody and lyrics as much as I could.

The audience loved the evening—and so did I.

The concert was a fundraiser for the minister’s discretionary fund at the local church. We asked community members to bring refreshments to serve after the music. One of the offerings was particularly appropriate for the concert’s Italian-American subject.

Camille Azzalina White is a lively, attractive widow who directs the local senior center. Camille baked her grandmother’s Italian cookies for the concert. Everyone who tasted one fell in love. Naturally, I asked the baker to give me the recipe—and a little information about her grandmother.

Camille’s “Nana,” Marie Incoronata Danata Colantonio, lived from 1897 to 1988. Although her parents were immigrants from Frosolone, Italy (she was one of ten children), Marie was born in this country.

Nevertheless, because of a 1907 law that was fortunately changed during her lifetime, she actually lost her U.S. citizenship in 1916 when she married Angelo Melchionda, an immigrant who had not yet been naturalized. She was forced to take a test to regain her status.

Marie & Angelo Melchionda 1916

This and other vintage photos come courtesy of Camille White.

Camille grew up in a multigenerational house in Medford, Massachusetts, along with her parents, grandparents, siblings, and aunt and uncle. Her grandmother was a benevolent, generous matriarch.

“Although Nana worked full time outside the home [she was a stitcher in a factory in the north end of Boston],” her granddaughter remembered, “she found time to cook many delicious meals for her family, who always came first. Sunday meals especially became a family gathering with relatives visiting for dinner or dessert after dinner.

“In later years at different times, she was a caregiver for her ill mother, her husband, a widowed sister, and then for young grandchildren. She embraced her family with boundless love and gave comfort to others freely and without question.”

Nana making cookie frosting.web

Nana Melchionda makes frosting for her cookies.

One of Camille’s earliest recollections is of making these cookies with her grandmother, although the recipe has changed over the years. (It originally featured five pounds of flour and 18 eggs!)

“Each time I make and bake these cookies,” she told me, “I recall many happy childhood memories of family, anticipation for the holidays, and mostly so many loving times spent with my dear Nana.

“With this recipe, I continue to make new memories with my children and grandchildren….”

I’ll definitely make these cookies for Christmas this year. (I have a cookie swap coming up!) My baking will honor the Sinatra centennial—and also Camille’s Nana Melchionda.

Meanwhile, I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all….

Nana's cookiesweb

Nana Melchionda’s Italian Cookies

Ingredients:

1-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter at room temperature
4 eggs
1 teaspoon anise oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
confectioner’s sugar, milk, and lemon flavoring to taste
sprinkles for topping

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Cream together the sugar and the butter. Add the eggs, the anise oil, and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl blend together the sifted flour and the baking powder; then add them to the butter mixture.

The dough will be sticky. Refrigerate it for 1 to 2 hours, wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper, to make it easier to handle.

When the dough has cooled form rounds about a teaspoon wide (a little larger is acceptable) by rolling them between your palms. Place the rounds on the prepared cookie sheets, and press down on the top of each lightly.

Bake the cookies until they are lightly browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes–MAYBE LESS. Start looking at 13 minutes. Watch the cookies carefully as they can burn easily.

While the cookies are in the oven prepare the frosting. In a bowl whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, the milk, and the lemon flavoring until the mixture pleases you. It should be thick but not too thick.

Dip the tops of the cookies into the frosting, place them on wax paper, and add sprinkles to make them extra festive. Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.

M5 Marie Melchionda

Italian Fruit Tarts

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

fruit tartweb

“What makes this recipe Italian?” you may ask. Well … I wanted to honor Frank Sinatra. The 20th century’s most popular Italian-American singer would have turned 100 this year. And I am singing in a Sinatra tribute concert this coming Saturday.

To tell you the truth, a similar tart is made in many different places around the world. If I were performing a concert honoring Edith Piaf, I would call it a French fruit tart. If I were paying tribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer of Savannah, I would call it a Georgia peach tart. But … I’m paying tribute to Sinatra so by golly it’s Italian.

My concert will be called “To Be Perfectly Frank.” I am not actually going to try to BE Sinatra—that is, to imitate him. My voice is nothing like his. Even if it were, I would remain woefully aware that anyone who wants to hear Sinatra can listen to the real thing thanks to the enormous repertoire of recordings he left.

What I want to convey is his relationship to music—the way in which he made numbers his own, the emotion he conveyed while delivering a torch song, the fun he had with his colleagues and his audiences. Sinatra had a remarkable facility for putting across a song, a strong sense of self, and an aptitude for reinventing himself. I’d love to emulate him on all of those fronts!

With a little help from pianist Alice Parker and baritone Don Freeman, I’ll perform some of my favorites of his 1000-plus recorded songs on Saturday evening. I hope the audience will approve of our choices.

Donations at the door will go to the minister’s discretionary fund of the Federated Church in Charlemont, Massachusetts. The concert will include several sing-along numbers, and I promise it won’t last too long. Refreshments will be served when the singing ends.

If you can’t make it to Charlemont this Saturday, I hope you’ll listen to a Sinatra recording and make this yummy tart. I prepared it on Mass Appeal this week and later for company—and no one seemed to have any trouble finishing the tarts, even though they were a little large for individual consumption.

The tart-shell recipe comes from Wilton, from whom I purchased the tart pans. I love the fact that it requires no rolling; one just pats the crust into the pans. You may also use an 8- or 9-inch tart pan and have only one large tart. In that case you should reduce the tart shell and pastry cream ingredients by a third.

sinatra poster smaller copy

The Tarts

Ingredients:

for the tart shells:

1-1/2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the pastry cream (crème patissière):

1-1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
4-1/2 tablespoons flour
1 pinch salt
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla

for assembly:

fresh fruit in season as needed (I used local peaches from Clarkdale Fruit Farms—wet but luscious!)

Instructions:

Begin with the tart shells. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar until they are just blended. Add the flour and the salt, and stir until the mixture seems crumbly. (It will be dry.)

In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolk and the vanilla; drizzle this mixture over the flour mixture. Combine until the flour mixture is evenly moist; it will still be crumbly.

Divide the mixture among 6 (approximately) 4-inch tart pans. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the tart pans.

Bake the crusts for 16 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. Cool them for 15 minutes in their pans; then carefully remove them. Cool them completely before filling them. You may make them up to a couple of days ahead and store them in an airtight container.

Next, make the pastry cream. In a heavy pan heat the milk until it is hot, but do not let it come to a boil. Combine the sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl, and stir in the milk. Beat the mixture. Return it to the pan, and stir constantly over low heat for 4 to 6 minutes until it becomes thick and smooth.

Add a bit of the warm mixture to the beaten egg yolks, and then add a bit more; then stir the egg yolk blend into the rest of the pastry cream. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture resembles a thick custard. Cool, stirring every 5 minutes or so, and then stir in the vanilla.

When the pastry cream has cooled (allow at least half an hour for this; you may also cook it the day before and refrigerate it overnight), assemble the tart.

Spread the cream on top of the crust; then arrange the fruit attractively. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

And now the video:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a78HsXUYMH4[/youtube]