20130727-_DSC0112 20130727-_DSC0194Christmas was never a big gift-exchange holiday when I was young. Besides, my parents grew up with the tradition of receiving presents — usually limited to only one or two — on the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, or on the 12th day of Christmas. At our house, it’s always been more about the food and the edible “gifts” we bring to the table. It’s about my mother’s iconic lasagna, my dad’s stuffed mushrooms, my sister’s pomegranate salad, my brother’s big bowl of mussels, the baked cardoons and, to top it all off, our delectable Christmas fig cookies (Purciddati di Natale), all of which are featured in THE HEALTHY ITALIAN. Click HERE for the Christmas Fig Cookies recipe. Even before our family plans the Christmas menu, we set a date to make these heavenly cookies, a long-standing tradition in our house. My parents, my kids, my niece – we all get in on the action, if not to get our hands into the dough or to pulse the chunky filling, then it’s to be the first ones in line to taste them as they come out of the oven piping hot. With a sensory-awakening mix of ingredients like figs, oranges, almonds, cloves and chocolate, can you blame us for wanting to hold onto this ritual forever?