Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Zaletti are one of the many traditional Italian dishes based on corn; the word "traditional" in this case always makes me smile since corn wasn't present in Europe until after the introduction of food sources from the Americas.  Once corn came to northern Italy in the mid 1500's, all sorts of wonderful dishes arose- soft savory polenta, olive oil and polenta cakes, and, my dear, zaletti.

Originally developed in the region around Venice, the  combination of corn and lemon pays tribute to the trading history of the area while staying true to the textures and flavors expected from European baked goods.  This cookie is lightly sweet with a distinct toothsome texture unique to cornmeal products.  They are equally fantastic with tea, espresso, and sweet wine.   

The dough is made of a combination of fine polenta (American cornmeal works just fine) and all purpose wheat flour, with a bit of sugar and leavening.  It is then enhanced by the combination of plumped dried currants and lemon zest.  Depending on your liquor cabinet and personal taste, the currants can be plumped with water, brandy, grappa or any other liquid you have on hand.  Each option will give a slightly different flavor- today I moistened my currants with Cointreau to play off of the citrus notes in the lemon zest.  Here is the link to my favorite zaletti recipe : http://www.babbonyc.com/dolci-zaletti.html