Lidia Bastianich: Nonna Tell Me A Story

Tell a good story, fill it with food, and you will inspire a hunger in children – to read, to cook, and to share the story with others.

Lidia Bastianch‘s Nonna Tell Me a Story (Running Press Kids 2010) with illustrations by Laura Logan, is a good cook’s tale. She tells a story about her family’s traditional Christmas in Istria, which encourages her grandchildren to forgo store-bought Christmas decorations, for ones they make themselves. The Christmas tree decorations are edible – cookies, dried fruit and nuts, and the like. She includes an important note in a letter to the reader:

In carrying out your unique traditions, may you appreciate the traditions of others as well, so together we may encourage communal values for all humanity.

So even if you have different traditions for your holiday, you and your children might want to make some of the cookies and sweets, too. At the back of the picture book Lidia includes a collection of wonderful recipes for Italian sweets, like “Ugly But Good” Cookies (Brutti Ma Buoni) made of egg whites and hazelnuts, Pine Nut Cookies (Amaretti Con Pignoli), and Sesame Cookies (Biscotti Ai Semi Di Sesamo). There are also recipes for Simple Sugar Cookies that can baked in a ring shape and hung on the tree. These are recipes to make with children after they read the book.

Super Chef urges more chefs to write books for children about cooking and food in their lives – with recipes. This is one of the best ways to reach children and their parents and teach them about healthy, good food, and its importance in their lives.

RECIPE: “Ugly But Good” Cookies (Brutti Ma Buoni)

8 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar sifted
2 cups shelled hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 275 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the egg whites and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer with the whisk attachment until foamy. Continue beating, adding the sugar gradually, until all the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites hold tiff and shiny peaks.

2. Scrape the beaten whites into a wide, heavy saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Stir in the hazelnuts and cook, stirring constantly, until the batter comes away from the sides of the pan and a light golden brown, about 20 minutes. (The batter will deflate quite a bit as it cooks.)

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Drop the batter by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared pans. Bake until goldn brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool completely before serving. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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