Frittelles don’t just disappear from Venetian pastry stores over night just because Carnival is over ! They are still present in our family kitchen and in many others in Venice. I think it’s a reminder that until 1797, Carnival in Venice lasted well into June. That’s why at least through the early weeks of spring, Venetians loved eating frittelles!
Actually, there’s a special kind of fritola (frittelle) marking the first day and week of Lent. The first day of Lent, at least in the head of a Venetian, coincides with longing for spring to come, even though we are rather early this year. We are now in a culinary confusing season, with spring still ahead and the winter ingredients slowly disappearing from the markets. This in-between period will last only for a few weeks. When I was a child, my aunt from Padua used to call in the last week of February, telling us that the apricot tree in her garden was blossoming …
If you take a very close look around Venice, like I did in the picture below, you can make out the very first sights of spring in Venice. There’s this tell-tale scent of lemon-vanilla hovering above some streets in Venice, betraying the presence of mimosa blossoms :-). Just above one’s head, with only their luring scent, so unique and refreshing, giving them away. Or, mimosa twigs protrude from just beyond the canal, like you can see below.
Foodwise, you don’t notice that spring is approaching right now. The colors and ingredients of late winter are still present, the last of the local apples and pears. Then we get walnuts, pistachios and the pastry stores show off their pastel chocolates, left-overs from Carnival and San Valentino.
In the pastry stores, you can eat sbreghete cookies, a miniature edition of the bigger flaky yet soft torta sbrisiolona, made from soft butter and tasting slightly of vanilla. Then, I noticed this tray of coriandoli at Pasticceria Marchini in Campo San Luca. These are left-overs of Carnival too, a favorite light lemon-flavored sort of cookie, fried in peanut oil, which we love to bake with children.
So these are the typical sweets we get during Lent in Venice. Just perfect for the humid and ever-changing weather so typical on the threshold of spring.
On Mercoledì delle Ceneri, this past Ash Wednesday, we bake a special variant of frittelles for Lent, fritole alle mele – apple frittelles made from ingredients so typical for winter in the Lagoon, like the last of the pears and apples.
The recipe for apple frittelles is really easy. Just add a few more ingredients to the basic recipe, which you can find here: 1 spoonful grappa or brandy, 2 spoonfuls lemon juice and two apples cut into tiny cubes, and a teaspoon cinnamon powder. Before serving, roll the frittelles in a sugar and cinnamon, and enjoy with apricot-flavored tea (my favorite :-) )
PS – Expect our post on how Venetians cook with spring blossoms very soon :-)10