Welcome to the May edition of Cucina Conversations! We are having some fun with this month’s theme: foods named after parts of the body, both human and animal. It might sound a little creepy, but I promise it’s anything but! You may remember when I wrote about occhi di bue cookies for Valentine’s Day, I also told you about a few Italian foods named after parts of the body. I had so much fun writing about this subject, that my fellow Cucina Conversations bloggers and I unanimously decided it had to be the topic for this month’s posts. My contribution are these delightful butter cookies called lingue di gatto (cat’s tongues). The recipe for these cookies comes from one of my favorite cookbooks entitled Biscotti: Recipes from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome, a compilation of recipes born out of the Rome Sustainable Food Project.
As you can see from the photographs, lingue di gatto take their name from the resemblance to a cat’s long, narrow tongue. They are a simple and delicate cookie made from a batter of butter, sugar, egg whites, flour, and vanilla extract. Lemon zest is sometimes substituted for the vanilla extract for bright, fresh flavor. They are sometimes curved over a rolling pin when they are still warm out of the oven. A version known as lingue di suocera (“mother’s-in-law tongues”) sandwiches melted dark chocolate between two still-warm cookies which are then curved. There is also a Sicilian version made with pasta frolla and filled with lemon marmalade. Lingue di gatto are one of many types of cookies known in Italian as pasticcini da tè, (“tea cookies”) because of how well they accompany a cup of tea. They all share the characteristics of a small shape, a delicate texture, and are typically made with butter for rich flavor. Some pasticcini da tè will be partially dipped in dark chocolate or lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Others will be simply adorned with a candied cherry, or sandwiched with a chocolate or marmalade filling. Most Italian forni (bakeries), biscottifici (cookie shops), and pasticcerie (pastry shops) will have an entire case dedicated to these darling cookies, all beautifully displayed on trays in neat rows. Although lingue di gatto are delicious as-is with a hot cup of tea, they’re especially enjoyable served with Italy’s dolci al cucchiaio, desserts that are eaten with a spoon, such as tiramisù, panna cotta, chocolate mousse, or zuppa inglese. They’re also the perfect cookie to garnish a bowl of fresh berries or a refreshing scoop of gelato–just in time for the upcoming summer season.
My Cucina Conversations friends are sharing some great recipes this month, all of them with creative and amusing names. We are all posting a little late this month, so as the recipes are published, I will be back here to link to each of them. Marialuisa made minne di Sant’Agata (Saint Agatha’s breasts), small cassata-like cakes named after the breasts of Saint Agatha, the martyr and patron saint of the Sicilian city of Catania; Carmen made fresh orecchiette pasta (“little ears”), which, thanks to her post, I am no longer intimidated about making; Francesca is showing you how to make Rome’s classic saltimbocca alla Romana (“jump in the mouth”), paper-thin veal cutlets topped with equally paper-thin prosciutto and an aromatic sage leaf; Rosemarie also went the fresh pasta route and made pansotti, a stuffed pasta from Liguria resembling a pot belly; and Daniela made brandacujun, a traditional recipe of Liguria made with baccalà (salt cod) and potatoes.
I will be skipping the June Cucina Conversations post as I will be spending the better part of next month at the Italian Cultural and Community Center preparing for and teaching three cooking classes, but I will resume these fun monthly posts in July.
Enjoy our recipes!
Lingue di Gatto
Adapted from Biscotti: Recipes from the kitchen of the American Academy in Rome by Mona Talbott
and Mirella Misenti
Special equipment: stand mixer (or hand-held mixer), piping bag, #12 round piping tip
3 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (60 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup + 1 Tablespoon (90 grams) granulated sugar
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 375° F (190°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg whites and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Sift the flour and salt into the butter mixture and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a #12 round tip. Pipe the dough into 3-inch (9 cm) strips onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing each dough strip 1 -1½ inches (2.5 – 3 cm) apart.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are a deep golden brown and centers are a pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely on the baking sheets before transferring them to a platter for serving.
The cookies are best eaten the same day they are made.