Usually, La Festa di San Valentino, Valentine’s Day, overlaps with Carnival festivities here in Venice. If this is not the case, the official beginning of Carnival is just round the corner. For this reason, a typical dish we love to eat for La Festa di San Valentino, as hearty breakfast, after lunch, or with coffee, is frittelles! So, as a little Valentine Day’s gift to our readers, we are sharing a special recipe for frittelles today.
You can find a number of posts on Carnival, its flavors and traditions, on our blog, and we also tell more about frittelles in this post. As Carnival is just round the corner, the pastry stores in Venice are now all test-baking :) Most often, you can taste the classic fritola, or fritoa in Venet, in Venice now.
There are also special frittelles, enriched with local ingredients yet tasting very unusual. Venetians have always loved to make syrups and creams, a major part of our culinary heritage so deeply rooted in Levantine cuisine. And today just like in the past, we make our syrups from both exotic ingredients, but even more often, from herbs and blossoms available here in the Lagoon.
Even the original recipe for frittelles contains rose-water, as rose petals became a favorite in Venice in the 12th century, that went into food and drinks. Just like in the frittelles you can see above, probably looking very similar to the original recipe, that is, rather flat and round, while they could also be longish. And to celebrate San Valentino, we put them into rose paper cups for the day.
The recipe is rather easy – make frittelles just like we describe in this post on our blog, plus make a cream consisting of two cups ricotta cheese, which you flavor with two teaspoons freshly pressed lemon juice, 1 tablespoon cane sugar, and 1 tablespoon rose-water. Just spread the rose cream evenly on the frittelles, and enjoy!
Now, there are two other variants in which we use local plants. In the Lagoon, like on many shores of the Mediterranean sea, you can find mimosa trees. Not in all parts of Venice, though, but there are gardens in which these trees take quite well. It always depends on “what” is beneath your garden, which in Venice might be bricks, the palafitte (wooden poles on which about ten per cent of Venice is built) or if you are lucky, solid island ground. And in that case, mimosa will love your garden! They love the mild, foggy and humid days of spring. By the way, their buds should open within the next few days, or are already open now in case the mimosa tree grows in a sunny spot.
Lust like you use rose petals to flavor creams, you could use mimosa blossoms to flavor your frittelles, both the dough and the cream. First, you could enrich the dough with “mimosa dust”, as we say, because the blossoms are so flimsy and easily disintegrate. That’s what Nonna Lina does, because the mimosa blossoms convey a special flavor to the frittelles, very zesty like lemons and soft like vanilla at the same time. We strongly recommend that you buy mimosa blossom balls at a deli, or get them at your pharmacist’s, to be on the safe side, for there might be different varieties of mimosa in your country.
In Venice, Rosa Salva, a pastry store, sells mimosa balls, and I used them to make the longish mimosa frittelles you can see in the title image. Bake your frittelles, and while still warm, cover them with the soft cream we mentioned above. The recipe for mimosa cream goes as follows:
Prepare two cups ricotta cheese, which you flavor with two teaspoons freshly pressed lemon juice, and one tablespoon cane sugar. Instead of rose-water, use a handful of mimosa balls and add them to the cream. They should disintegrate and release their flavor. In case that doesn’t work immediately, you could also cut the mimosa balls, very carefully, into tiny pieces before working them into the cream.
The third way we could flavor frittelles is making a green cream consisting of pine syrup! I’ve chosen this recipe on purpose because I promised a friend to share the recipe for pine syrup here on the blog.
There are two ways of preparing your pine syrup. One is the traditional way, using fresh shots of pine, which we won’t get until late May, as we use the pino mugo growing in the Alto Adige region and in the mountainous Belluno area.
Of course, pines have been present in the Lagoon at least since Roman times, when the lidi sottili – the thin long islands separating the Lagoon from the open sea, were “held together” by the roots of the pine trees. In particular, the northeastern fringe parts of the Lagoon were practically covered with pine trees. We know from the Roman historian Titus Livius that on the lidi sottili, around the village of Equilium (Iesolo) wild horses, wolves and bears were living in the sandy dunes and pine tree Lagoonscape. The kind of pine trees growing here is called Mediterranean stone pines, and from them we harvest the pinoli, pine nuts, which also go into the frittelles.
So, to make pine syrup yourselves in a very easy manner, anytime during the year, just use dried pine twigs! You need 1/4 cup of dried pine (or fir) twigs (from a pharmacy), 1 teaspoon dried thyme and cover them with one cup boiling water. Leave to infuse for about 15 minutes. Drain the liquid and bring it to the boil again. Stir in approx. six tablespoons cane sugar, and flavor the mixture with two teaspoons freshly pressed lemon juice and a hint of cinnamon. Now add most of the syrup to your ricotta cream, cover the frittelles.
In case you are suffering from cold or bronchitis, add a teaspoon blossom honey, and this may work miracles. So yes, you could also use this syrup as an easy-to-prepare, home-made remedy. Just add one teaspoon pine syrup to 1/4 liter warm water, and sip this drink.
Please click here to see the original recipe for home-made frittelles, called Le Veneziane, which you could then enrich, ancient Venetian style, with one – or all! – of the three creams I’m describing in this post. We hope you’ll enjoy your frittelles!3