Tom's mother, Maria Liguori Sienkewicz is the only person I have ever seen make these traditional Italian pastries, though I have seen them in recipe books from time to time. She taught me how to do them, but there is more not written in the recipe than actually set down. I think she got the recipe from Cousin Tessie. Tom's father used to complain that the strufoli were not perfect little balls, as he had seen produced by some other people. They are much more like popcorn -- and the pictures I have seen in Italian cookbooks are like that too. The dough is like noodle dough and is not soft enough to blossom into perfect little orbs.
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients and knead well, adding a few drops of water if necessary to work dough. Once the dough is smooth and elastic, let it rest, covered, for twenty minutes or so, then roll out into ropes about 1/2 inch in diameter. Slice across each roll to form little discs about 1/4 inch thick. Fry the dough bits in deep fat until golden, remove with slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper.
In a deep saucepan boil honey with a small amount of lemon juice until it seems to thicken, then stir in the strufoli until well covered with syrup. Add candied cherries and other fruit and rinds, then turn out onto a decorative plate, mounding the strufoli into a pyramid. Sprinkle with colored sprinkles, more fruit and pine nuts.
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