Every person in an Italian family has to be useful. If you don’t bring anything to the table (literally and figuratively), you’re out. There’s one guy who does the plumbing, and another who does the electrical work. There’s one guy who works at the banquet hall, where everybody gets married or christened. There’s another guy who knows a guy who sells cars. Nonna makes the meatballs. Nonno becomes the chauffeur. Sometimes, it’s the other way around, but you get the point. I’m the family historian and tradition maker, or at least that’s what I like to think. After all, livin’ the dream means making photo props and pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse, doesn’t it?
Usually, everyone who cooks becomes known for a few signature dishes. It is what you are expected to bring to the family reunion or neighborhood block party. Funny enough, my relatives in Italy ask for different bits of deliciousness than those who live in the United States. Even different branches of the family in those areas ask for different things. For example, my husband’s sisters really love these chicken wings I make with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and both chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. My father’s side of the family in the United States will disown me if I ever stop making them pumpkin ice cream for Halloween and gingerbread ice cream for Christmas. They also expect me to recreate Mango Poppyseed dressing from Walt Disney World’s Ohana restaurant at the Polynesian Village Resort. And I never have enough salad on hand.
Still, my mother’s side of the family, especially one of my great uncles, keep me in the family for my ability to make Strawberry Tiramisu – the boozy version. I have made this for kids with orange juice instead of Cointreau, but the big kids prefer the alcohol. It’s an old recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. And what’s great about is that there’s no cooking or baking whatsoever, so it’s really easy to make. Also, you can use the strawberries to make a design that matches any theme. The one I made above was for my son’s birthday party, so I used his initials. You could make a heart for Valentine’s Day, a four-leaf clover for St. Patrick’s Day, or a bunny for Easter. Let your imagination guide you. Remember to soak those Savoyardi in the Cointreau mixtures to guarantee your spot in the family – at least for this week.