When author Tembi Locke’s mother-in-law came to L.A. to see her cancer-stricken son over the holidays, she arrived with a suitcase filled with braided garlic, specialty cheeses, tomatoes, olive oil, almonds, and lots of dried figs. Intent on soothing hearts, Locke’s mother-in-law took to making cuccidati (“little bracelet”), the traditional Sicilian Christmas cookies. In this article, Locke recounts what these small, buttery cookies taught her about her own grief, her mother-in-law, and the power of forgiveness.
Both the dough and the fruity, nutty filling for these classic Italian holiday cookies come together quickly in a food processor. Nonpareils (tiny round sprinkles) are the traditional adornment, but lemon zest or chopped pistachios are great too. The orange zest in the filling, though optional, really makes the flavors sing.