It didn’t feel right to Eleonora nor me to continue publishing the Casa Mia blog without acknowledging the Coronavirus. We are here and will be here to welcome you in 2020 and beyond. We remain optimistic. Most importantly, our thoughts are with all those affected, be it directly or indirectly by COVID-19.
With Italy in complete lockdown, Casa Mia (Eleonora and I) are taking lots of walks and spending more time in our respective kitchens. We’ve decided to create a few new series that will bring a little bit of Italy into your homes.
The first series will be recipes. The recipes will be seasonal or “comfort food” and many will be healthy. My first contribution is Ma’s date nut bread recipe. A quick side-note – Ma is my maternal grandmother pictured below.
When I close my eyes and think of comfort, I see her. I see, smell and taste the food that she made. She’s there in her housecoat. I loved the bright cobalt blue cardigan that she wore when she felt chilly in winter months. It was soft as were her arms, face and touch. Papa sat at the rectangular table looking toward the back door. He was my hero. In trying times, I find myself in their kitchen. There were always delicious smells. There was no need for a pie scented Yankee candle in this house. There never would be. It’s one of my happy places. Life was simple.
I’ve been quiet on social media since the outbreak of the Coronavirus. I have been waiting and watching it unfold. I’ve been in disbelief. I check in with my sister daily. She works in healthcare and is my rock in this storm. I’ve been through a different version of this horrible film. I’ve been reluctant to admit it but the feelings keep resurfacing. Despite the current situation being completely different, I feel very much the way I felt after September 11th.
The sun was shining. The sky was crystal clear. My metro stop was the World Trade Center. I got to work early that day. I stopped for an iced coffee and a bagel. I walked under the towers to the office. In an instant, my life, our lives changed. I ran to the river with two colleagues. The police told us to jump into the water if another plane flew overhead. I turned around to see objects falling from the sky, from the windows in the distance. I watched the world crumble, void of control, numb and very aware of the distance between myself and my parents and sister. That’s where I am today. I’ve been here before. It’s eerily familiar. I feel the distance from my family more than I usually do.
Now like then, I know that we will get through this together. Italy and the world will unite as it did after September 11.
And so I grasp for comfort by baking, making hearty soup, and getting my hands dirty in dough. It brings me peace and grounds me. In times like these, it’s more important than ever to be present. This recipe is Italian-American. Sweet dates, aromatic coffee and buttery walnuts bring me to my grandparent’s kitchen. Make yourself a coffee, take a seat and enjoy a slice.
Stay healthy, stay safe and wash your hands.
- 1 cup brewed coffee
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1.5 cups flour
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Add chopped dates and baking soda to boiling coffee. Stir for 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Cream the butter with sugar, eggs and vanilla extract and add the room temperature date mixture to it. Slowly add the flour/salt and walnuts in turns until the batter is consistent.
Grease and flour a plum cake pan. Pour batter in pan.
Recommended baking time is 1 – 1.5 hours.