Monday, June 2, 2014


You might remember that my family is now basically sugar-free thanks to Dr. Lustig and his anti-sugar campaign (YEAH, THANKS). I say "basically", because we still want to make room for the occasional treat, such as an unmissable dessert at a good restaurant, a cup of fresh gelato, or a homemade sweet that is as fun to make as it is to eat. We try to break The Rule a couple of times a month, and then we make sure to flog ourselves with a cat o' nine licorice ribbons.

In this regard, Italian sweets have become a perfect solution, since many of them tend to rely on less sugar than the American ones. In fact, I found that many recipes rely on 1/2 cup sugar, and that includes cakes. Mind you, these do not originate as healthy sweets: They are genuine recipes with no claim other than deliciousness. So here starts my 1/2 CUP of SUGAR series, for sweets that still need to be consumed in moderation, but should not hurl you and your family into leptin annihilation. (For this last comment, refer to Dr. Lustig's Youtube lecture linked above.)

The first recipe is for Zaeti (or Zaleti), the traditional Venetian cornmeal cookie. They are rustic and crumbly, like a hearty shortbread. They contain raisins, but sometimes also pine-nuts. I know them mostly shaped like diamonds—or to be more precise, like rhomboids—but they can be flat and round, or plump and oval. I made them both with coarsely-ground cornmeal and with finer one. I must say I prefer them on the coarser side, but medium-coarseness will leave some hard corn bits. Readers with dental crowns and fillings: Watch out.

Venetians usually have Zaeti in the afternoon, accompanied by a sip of white wine, but I'm not one to put limitations on their consumption. So if you prefer to stuff some in a paper cup and eat them in the car on your way to work, you have my blessing.

The powdered sugar is not really supposed to be there. Oh well.


3/4 cup of raisins
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup cornmeal
a pinch of salt
a pinch of baking powder
a pinch of grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
10 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
powdered sugar (optional)

  • Heat the oven to 350F.
  • Soak the raisins in a little warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain them and squeeze out the excess water.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until mixture has thickened and is a very pale yellow.
  • In another bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest. Add the melted butter and the vanilla extract to the flour mixture and stir well.
  • Pour the eggs and sugar into the flour mixture, together with the raisins. The final dough with be very coarse and wet. 
  • Roll the dough carefully on a floured surface, adding more flour if necessary, to a 1/4'' thickness. If the dough seems too crumbly, you can add a little bit of yogurt to make it more manageable. Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the dough into long 2'' stips, then cut the strips diagonally every 2 1/2 inch or so to make little diamonds.
  • Transfer them to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and then into the oven for 12–13 minutes, or until they start to color and they are not soft in the center. Let the Zaeti cool down for 15 minutes before serving them. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar if you prefer or if they don't look as you expected.

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