Photo by Janessa Gursky

A “locavore” is a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. Along those lines, every month, local chefs welcome Orlando’s locavore, Misty Heath, into their kitchens to break down how to make some of their signature dishes for our readers to make at home.

This column is also featured in our monthly print product, available in restaurants and storefronts across the City Beautiful.

I have a confession. I’m obsessed with anything and everything Italian, to the point where I’ve secretly wished my family was from Italy just to justify my obsession. I adore the hyper-local attention on ingredients, customs, boisterous gatherings with mounds of food, the language. Some people are Francophiles, others Anglophiles. But for me, I’m an Italophile… yes, it’s a thing.
So when Maria, Diana, and the whole amazing family from Stasio’s Italian Deli (Facebook) welcomed me to listen in about their holiday traditions and how they plan to bring the traditions to their newly-opened Milk District location, I jumped at the chance.
They open early (I started my day with espresso and biscotti), have great lunch sandwiches, and their dry good section can provide you all of the groceries you need for a delicious dinner.  Maria is known to get into work at 4 a.m. (she suggested we meet at 6 a.m.—I politely suggested 9 a.m).  If you need some advice or help on an Italian dish, they love to advise.  Feeling stressed for Feast of the Seven Fishes?  They’ve got you covered!
The Stasio family is deeply entrenched in the food business and have owned and operated numerous Italian eateries.  Maria, the matriarch of the family, is originally from the Neapolitan region of Italy but immigrated to the US and her family spent much of their time in New York.  The family is a charming blend of Italy and New York, with a splash of southern style mixed in (every once in a while I heard a “Y’all” coming from Maria). For the holidays, the family goes all out and they were kind enough to share a traditional family holiday cookie recipe that you can execute from home and that is simple, creative, and delicious.

Anginettes (Italian Wedding Cookies)

6 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4  eggs at room temperature, beaten
1 cups salted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled
1 cups orange juice (fresh or store-bought both work)
2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream (milk or water work, too!)
2 teaspoon preferred flavor—lemon zest, orange zest, almond extract—or get really fancy with anise, amaretto, limoncello
Drop of food coloring (optional and less is more)
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. With a fork, begin mixing in wet ingredients one at a time. Once incorporated, knead the dough with your hands 1-2 minutes. If dough gets a bit wet (sticks to hands), mix in a few tablespoons of flour. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 1 hour (or up to a few days).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Begin hand rolling out cookies in fun shapes (simple balls, little knots, etc), ensuring uniformity in size. Feel free to use a small ice cream scoop or measuring spoon.  Cookies will rise quite a bit, so about one tablespoon per cookie will work. Place two inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (for easy clean up). Bake eight to 10 minutes until lightly browned on bottom.  This makes about 100 cookies.
For the Glaze:
Whisk together the base glaze and your preferred flavoring.  Decorate by frosting, glazing, powdered sugaring and add in some springs.  This is where you can get fun and creative!
  • I tried a few different flavor profiles and found that a dash of almond extract with lemon glaze was fantastic. The interesting-fan fave from our small test group was anise and cardamom infused simple syrup I put in the dough then simply dredged in powdered sugar.
  • Use fresh baking powder and soda. If yours is older than six months, get a new package. It’s so cheap. Don’t waste a great batch of cookies by ignoring this little detail.
  • Cookies can be baked off, then frozen but be sure defrost first and then glaze. They’ll be perfect for last minute guests or a last-minute after party.
  • Cookies will last a long time, and even if they become a little crisp they’ll still be ideal for coffee and tea dunking.
  • The dough can be made in advance and chilled.  It may need to sit out 30 minutes or so to allow for easy shaping.
  • If using sprinkles or other fancy decorative stuff, be sure to work fast and in batches as the glaze will dry and stuff won’t stick.

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