August 2007 Newsletter


I had a friend who was a Trappist monk. Brother Gerard lived near Dubuque, Iowa at New Mellery Abby. He was the bee keeper for the monastery and developed all kinds of flavored honey-spread which he sold to help support the monks. Brother Gerard's motto for the honey business was - "Spreading Sweetness in a Bitter World."   This was also his personal mission in life. What a positive guy - he made friends all over the place and was quite a help to me when I was a student at Aquinas Institute of Theology in Dubuque.

It's been many years since Brother Gerard passed over to the next life but his memory lives on. He is still very much alive in the hearts and minds of the friends he left behind. You might say he was a "sweet person". As I enjoy various Italian sweets with my friends I sometimes think we would be a better world if we not only served sweets, but worked at being sweet.


A big "Thank You" to Leo Bevon for sending in his Italian family memory. You can read it by clicking here or going to and clicking on the Italian Grandma Story  page.

If you have a story or memory you would be willing to share, just email it to me and I will post it.  Click here to send your story. You can type your story right into the email form or you can use a word processor and then copy the story and past it into the email. I'm not too big on attachments because of all the bugs and nasty things that can get into my computer by opening them.


One of my favorite treats, when I was a kid, was roasted pine nuts (pignoli). I still like them! Here is my choice for (Pine Nut) Pignoli Biscotti. Great with strong coffee, tea or Italian dessert wine. (I prefer the wine!)

2/3  cup pine nuts - roasted (directions below)
2  cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼  cup yellow cornmeal, stone-ground is best
¾  cup sugar
1 ½  teaspoons baking powder
¼  teaspoon salt
3  large eggs
2  tablespoons lemon juice
2  tablespoons grated lemon zest
1  egg white - lightly beaten

+ Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

+ Place the pine nuts in a baking pan and toast in the 325 degree oven for 5 or 6 minutes - just until they start to turn a golden color. Watch them carefully because they burn easily. Remove and let them cool.

+ In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Then add the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest and beat on low speed until all the ingredients are combined then fold in the pine nuts by hand so they won't break up.

+ Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it briefly. Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each into a log. Mack each log about 12 or 13 inches long. Place the logs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased with butter and floured. Be sure to allow about 4 inches between the logs. Brush the logs with the slightly beaten egg white and bake for about 25 minutes. Until the logs are firm to the tough and lightly browned. Remove the baking sheet from the oven but leaven the oven set at 350 degrees. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes - until you can handle the logs without burning your hands.

+ Slide the baked logs onto a cutting board. Use a serrated bread knife to cut each log diagonally into ½ to ¾ inch slices. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti for 5 minutes on each side.

+ Put the baked biscotti directly on wire racks and let them cool completely.

+ The cool crisp biscotti will keep in airtight containers at room temperature for about a month. But before you put them away, make some coffee or tea or better yet, pour yourself a glass of sweet Italian wine. Sit back and enjoy a cookie.

You can order pignoli (pine nuts) on line from  - We get most of our nuts from them. They are fresh and reasonably priced. Be sure to keep all nuts in the refrigerator or freezer in airtight containers. They get stale quickly at room temperature.


In case you are interested in what the Italians are celebrating this month, here's a list of the major festas:

Mostra d'Arte Cinematografica  -  Venice, Aug. and Sept.
(Film Festival) This international festival awards prizes that are among the most prestigious in the world of cinema.

Torneo della Quintana  -  Ascoli Piceno (Marche), first Sunday in Aug.
(Joust of the Quintana) This historical pageant features jousting.

Festa dei Candelieri  -  Sassari (Sardinia), Aug. 14
(Procession of Candles) People in Spanish dress carry huge wooden candles.

La Sagra degli Gnocchi  -  Opi (Abruzzo), Aug. 24
This feast features gnocchi (a kind of dumpling)

Settimane Musicali  -  Stressa (Piedmont), Aug. 25 to Sept. 20
(Music Festival).

Why not hold your own family festa in late August or September? Serve Italian food and cookies and share family stories. It can be a simple or as grand as you want to make it.


Last month I mentioned that we were working on a page all about Italian wedding traditions and cookies. We got behind because Sandy's daughter was taken to the hospital in very serious condition. She was given only a 10% chance of living. But I'm happy to tell you that she is doing much better and seems to be on her way to recovery. Diabetes is not a good thing. Hopefully we will be able to finish the page by next month. I'll keep you informed.  Till then - have happy days.

Thanks much for your interest in Italian cookies and Italian traditions. Come visit us soon or send a note.  -  God's blessings on you and your family - Rev. Fr. Mike