Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Heart Zeppole

Little fried balls of dough, they can be found at every fair, Italian-American festival and boardwalk “down the shore” in New Jersey. The dough might be a little sweet, but not terribly different from pizza dough. They are made to order and then put in a paper bag that absorbs the grease (and stains your shirt, if you are unlucky.) You can add powdered sugar or do what my mom and I do: add salt. Hold the bag tightly closed with your fist then shake it hard so that each ball is perfectly covered in sugar or salt. Be sure to eat them while they are hot.

I cannot find zeppole in Michigan or nearby. While Ann Arbor offers everything a girl needs to live, eat, and cook, the zeppole are missing. I’ve searched street fairs (like the enormous Art Fair), the State Fair close to Detroit and even the Italian Festival in nearby Toronto. No zeppole. You can find zeppole-like items: fried elephant ears or funnel cakes. Not the same. They are always too sweet for me.

In Atlantic City this fall for a Tiziano Ferro concert, my mom and I found zeppole. Forging dinner, we got a big plate of freshly made ones. I think I ate enough to get me through this second year in Michigan. Next summer, though, I’ll be due for more.

I’ve never had much success frying at home. My husband, voting for good health and a long life, doesn’t think we should have a fryer at home. I’m a little nervous using an old fashioned pot of hot oil without a temperature gauge. So, we’ve decided that some things are better eaten out. If only we can find them.
Zeppole are a very southern Italian dish (much like pizza and many of the Italian dishes that made it early on to the USA.) According to Wikipedia, they are essentially the donut to the St. Joseph’s pastry, which I would argue against.

My maternal grandmother’s family hails from Sala Consilina (SA), a place I’ve visited a number of times (and admittedly, never seen a zeppola.) In a cookbook I picked up there, La Riscoperta degli Antichi Sapori: Ricette traditionale del Vallo di Diano, zeppole are made with white flour, olive oil, rosemary, mandarin peel and salt. That sounds right.

If you wanted to try to make zeppole at home, here is a sweet-looking recipe from Bon Appétit.
If you know where we can find them close to Ann Arbor, please, please, please let us know.

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