This article, written by Domenica Marchetti, appears on The Washington Post.
Give the sugar a rest: These holiday snacks have savory Italian flair
Enough with the Christmas cookies. It’s time to take a walk on the savory side of baking. The holiday season is in full swing, which means office parties, open houses, family gatherings and gifts from the kitchen. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if, instead of another batch of rum balls or Mexican wedding cakes, you showed up with something salty and crunchy: a basket of fennel-and-pepper-spiced taralli (rings) or a bundle of elegant grissini (breadsticks) as long as a baguette?
I have what my friend Ivy Manning calls a “snack tooth.” Although I like sweets just fine, I will almost always choose salt over sugar. Manning is the author of “Crackers & Dips: More than 50 Handmade Snacks” (Chronicle Books, 2013), and it is thanks to her that I often make my own savory treats rather than open up a box of Triscuit or Ritz.
“Homemade crackers are as easy to make as a batch of cookies, they are much tastier than mass-produced crackers, and they’re great to give as homemade gifts,” she writes in the book’s introduction. She’s right. Most crackers and other savory snacks are made with the simplest of ingredients: flour, oil, salt and sometimes yeast, and flavored with herbs or spice. They are usually rolled thin and baked, or sometimes fried.
Not surprisingly, the savory snacks I make tend to have an Italian accent. A few years ago, while I was visiting the southern Italian region of Puglia with my family, we more or less became addicted to taralli, those hard little bread rings that are seasoned with black pepper, hot pepper or fennel. We ate them for breakfast with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and took them along as snacks on long day trips. Get the recipes for all three homemade crackers and read more at The Washington Post.