Would you like to know the first thing I tasted made by Liz Benedettini Larkin…with her dark hair, big smile and very Italian name? Scones! Yup, scones! You see, Liz is known around these parts as “The Scone Lady” because she bakes these amazing scones and sells them under the name of Mrs. Larkin’s Scones. Blueberry, Cinnful, Cranberry, Nuts and Seeds to name a few. Oh yeah, and she also bakes these incredible Chubby Hubby cookies, too. In addition to being a phenomenal baker, Liz is an incredible cook and she has a very unique family background. Her family is from the one of smallest countries in the world – and she’s sharing one of her favorite things to cook.
My parents, Ferrante and Anna Benedettini, were born and raised in the town of Serravalle, in the Republic of San Marino. They met in 1953, started dating, got engaged, and were married on March 2nd, 1954. Talk about a whirlwind romance! Nine days later, my Dad left for New York on the ship Andrea Doria, from the port in Genoa, Italy. It took 10 days to get to New York by ship. This was the same ship that sank two years later in 1956, when it was struck by the Stockholm.
My Mom stayed behind in Serravalle for two years while Dad found a job and a place to live, and Mom applied for a passport. Two years later, Mom left for New York and traveled on the ship Leonardo Da Vinci. They moved to 105th Street in New York City. The neighborhood was full of friends and had all kinds of shopping nearby, like the butcher, the deli, the cheese man, and the baker. It was like being back home. In 1962, they moved to Westchester County, and still live in the house I grew up in.
San Marino is the oldest and one of the smallest countries in Europe, founded in 301 a.d. and measuring 24 square miles. Nestled between the Italian regions of Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche, San Marino shares a lush cultural and culinary history with these two regions, well-known for their gastronomic delights.
One of the coolest aspects of being a child of San Marino citizens living abroad is being able to participate in the country’s Soggiorni Culturali, or cultural stays, during the summer. It’s sort of like a study abroad program, but with a lot more fun and really good food. I was fortunate to participate in 1987. I can honestly say this was one of the best times of my life, and recall quite clearly how much I did not want to come home.
Many of San Marino’s traditional recipes are peasant dishes handed down through generations of cooks. One of the first recipes my mom taught me is Piadina, a rustic flat bread. It’s one of the first recipes she learned as a young girl, and the first recipe I taught my children. As a kid, I loved playing with the dough and rolling out my very own piece, misshapen and crooked. With 45+ years of practice, I’ve gotten better at shaping my Piadine. Not quite perfect, but still delicious. In our family, Piadina is a fixture at almost every get-together, be it lunch or dinner. We love to eat it sandwiched, taco-style, with paper-thin slices of Prosciutto di Parma, and a schmear of fresh, soft cheese, like squacquerone or stracchino (or even cream cheese here in the States), or sliced mozzarella, or maybe a slice of frittata, or Nutella. The possibilities are endless. My favorite way to eat Piadina is with a salad of sliced onion and wild home-grown greens that we call radicchio, but are more like bitter dandelion greens. A light dressing of olive oil and red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and pepper completes the dish.
Over the years, I’ve adapted my own recipe for Piadina, which is very similar to my mother’s version. If the thought of vegetable shortening or lard gives you the heebies, then try it with olive oil, or coconut oil. Any fat will work, really. I stick with tradition and always use Crisco, unless I’ve got lard in the fridge, in which case the ghosts of all the nonnas past will be smiling down upon me.
Facebook: Mrs. Larkin’s LLC
I’m not just enthusiastic about travel—I live travel, each and every day. From plotting out my clients’ next great escape, to logging airmiles on my own adventures (I always have a suitcase packed and at the ready!), travel drives me in everything I do.
I’ve learned a few things along the way, and I’d love to share them with you. Learn a bit more about my journey to founding my own travel agency—it involves quite a few glasses of Italian wine!
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