Mini Cannoli Bites...on a Moroccan fossil pedestal plate
Mini Cannoli Bites and a Tale of Turbans
by Victoria Challancin
Dear Loyal Readers,
I should start this post with an apology for neglecting you and my poor orphan blog for so long, but all I can say is that Life got in the way and I took a several-month-long hiatus from almost all things "internet." During that time, I did lead my 12th small group to Morocco, which was lovely beyond words--both my group and my beloved Morocco. I did manage to post photos on my private and public Facebook (Flavors of the Sun) pages and Instagram (vchallancin), but found it too daunting to post and type a proper post from my smaller devices while on the road. Happily, I am now staring at my desktop, which is smiling back at me, reflecting happy memories via photos of the trip and of the several cooking classes I have taught since my return.
In one such class, we, my Mexican students and I, focused on Italian cuisine. What better dessert than cannoli, I thought. A bit fiddly to prepare, but so quintessentially Italian...or Sicilian...or even Italian-American. As I searched online for a good cannoli recipe, I found one that captivated me: Mini Cannoli Bites, perfect for Holiday entertaining. Delightful and not too difficult to prepare.
Meche decorates the mini bites with chopped pistachios and mini chocolate chips
Cook's Notes: Instead of refrigerated pie crusts, I used a classic butter crust (1 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2/ teaspoon sugar, 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water--can be made in a food processor or by hand by mixing dry ingredients, adding cubed butter, and then ice water to achieve desired consistency). I reduced the oven temperature to about 360 degrees. There will be enough leftover filling to serve on its own, if desired, as a comforting pudding-like dessert.
Recipe: Mini Cannoli Bites
(Adapted slightly from a recipe by Tiffany of Le Creme de la Crumb Blog)
Makes about 28 mini cannoli bites
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
2 refrigerated pie crusts or homemade butter crust (see my version in the Cook's Notes above)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Toppings: mini chocolate chips, powdered sugar, chopped pistachios
1 15-ounce container of whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 - 1 cup powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you want it--I used 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
If using purchased pie crusts, allow to thaw if frozen. If making homemade, refrigerate for about 30 minutes before rolling.
Roll out pie crust dough on a floured flat surface.
Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the pie crust. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut as many circles from the dough as possible.
Gently press each circle into greased mini muffin tins to form little "cups." Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (or delay sprinkling until filled, as I did).
Prepare the filling by mixing the ricotta cheese and powdered sugar on medium speed for a minute, then high speed until completely smooth. Add remaining filling ingredients and mix well. Transfer mixture to a large ziplock bag, seal, and chill until ready to use.
Just before serving, snip the corner off the ziplock bag. Press the filling out of the snipped corner into each cooled pie crust "cup." Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips or crushed pistachios (or both, as I did) as desired and serve.
A Wee Tale of Turbans
Who exactly are the Berber people of Morocco? They are a pre-Arab culture that dates to prehistoric times. Called Amazigh (plural: Imazighen--spellings vary), or"free, noble men," in their own language, they ruled Morocco and a wide swath of North Africa for thousands of years. Never conquered, these hardy desert people fought against the Romans, Arabs, and French invaders of their land, all the while maintaining their proud culture and language. In modern Morocco, they represent a majority of today's population, functioning as farmers, merchants, traders, as well as working in the tourist industry, where I am lucky enough to count many as my friends and family. So what does all this have to do with turbans, you ask?
Turbans are not unique to the Berbers of Morocco, of course. Of course. Turbans are worn by various people all over the world, ranging from the Horn of Africa, the North of Africa, to Afghanistan (and neighboring "stans"), Myanmar, India, Greece, Armenia, Iran, and all the way to Indonesia. As a form of head covering they range from simple to dramatically complex and in colors from white or black to outrageous combinations of dynamic hues and patterns. They delineate peoples, tribes, and religion, being worn by Christians, Muslims, Jews, Rastafarians, and Sikhs.
I was probably first exposed to them by my own mother, who occasionally wore one as some sort of fashion statement in the early fifties, a perhaps misguided inspiration stemming no doubt from Hollywood. And in my various travels I have encountered turbans in all of the places I mentioned above, except for Myanmar and Armenia, where I have yet to visit. But my true fascination with the turban came with my exposure to its varying forms and regional styles in Morocco, where I am lucky enough to annually lead small groups. Whether simply wound and relatively plain, or elaborately styled and dramatic, turbans in Morocco are singularly beautiful and incredibly practical. Providing not only a unique style and personal fashion statement, they are amazingly practical as well, offering shelter from sun, wind, cold, and blowing sand. Yes, over the years I have come to appreciate them at multiple levels.
Here are a few photos of the turbans of Morocco, mainly worn by Berbers of various tribes. And friends. And by me, of course. I wouldn't leave for the desert without one!
A friend in the Rissani Souk, where I often restock spices--check out his huge ring showing the Berber alphabet
Outrageous and gorgeous, a colorful ensemble taken in Essaouira
Isham, near Ait Ben Haddou
In Chefchaouen in the Rif Mountains
Made even more special and personal with that touch of Rastafarian colors
Look at this beautiful wrapping worn in Ouarzazate
An enormous painting on a wall in Asilah
Another style worn by a Gnawa musician, a descendent of
Sudanese slaves, in the village of Khamlia
Sudanese slaves, in the village of Khamlia
I never know how my dear friend, Ali, will fashion his turban while in the desert, but I know it will always be beautiful--and practical
As for me...I always wear one when I go out on a camel trek for an overnight in the desert...and it always comes in handy as protection from the elements. Plus, I am just silly enough to enjoy the costume effect it has for foreigners like me. I may feel part Moroccan in my heart, but yes, I am still a tourist.
From a couple of years ago...
From last spring...
Tye-dye (I couldn't help myself...) from a few years back
From this past October...I fear I may be opting for more outrageous fabrics each year...My husband thought this one over-the-top
In October with my friend Ahmed, whose turban fabric I probably need. Nay, definitely need.
©Victoria Challancin. All Rights Reserved.
Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School and Travel
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico