Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Carmela Soprano’s Vegetable and Pasta Courses

Okay... you've had a chance to view and pick a few of Carmela's appetizers.

The next course could be vegetables.
Either in a salad or a special dish.

A vegetarian course is always a safe bet.
You never know if someone has decided to avoid meat, whether by choice or for health reasons.
But fresh vegetables well prepared and beautifully served are usually safe.
And, during Spring and Summer, they are an absolute treat.

Italians can serve their families a completely filling and satisfying dinner without having to go anywhere near the meat counter.
Picture a starch covered with a delicious sauce and served with beans or cheese.

You might even go straight from the pasta to dessert.
If anyone is still a bit peckish after all those carbs!

Carmela Soprano's Insalata di Mare / Seafood Salad with Dressing (for 6 or 50)

Carmela Soprano's Insalata Caprese (Mozzarella and Tomato Salad)

Carmela Soprano's Verdure alla Griglia - Grilled or Broiled Vegetables

Carmela Soprano's Eggplant Parmigiana (for 6)

and Anna Sultana's Minestra tal-Haxix (soup, Maltese Style)

Carmela Soprano's Panzerotti - Neopolitan Style Potato Croquettes


Carmela Soprano's Pasta e Patate (Pasta and Potatoes)

Carmela Soprano's Pasta Fagioli (Pasta and Beans) l Preparing Dried Beans

Carmela Soprano's Pasta E Ceci (Pasta and Chickpeas) l Preparing Dried Beans

Carmela Soprano's Pizza - Ah Beetz' (for 8 or 50)

Carmela Soprano's Sfinciuni - Sicilian Onion Pizza (for 10 or 50)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Carmela Soprano’s Appetizers

Summer is coming.
Celebrations and holidays are coming.
The family and friends are coming.
They must be fed.

Charmaine Bucco's chapter Cooking for the Whole Famiglia in her husband Artie's book The Sopranos Family Cookbook has some nice recipes that can easily feed a crowd.

There were other Soprano recipes that are also great for big get togethers.
So I've selected a few recipes for each course.

A big meal takes a bit of planning.
But, if you take it step by step, it can be done without any stress.
Let’s start with appetizers.

Appetizers, if done right, are a great help to the budget.
People take the edge off their appetites, leaving less room for the the more expensive main course and the super fancy dessert.

Clever, no?

and Anna Sultana's Stuffed Green Peppers, Maltese Style (Bzar Ahdar Mimli)

Carmela Soprano's Fried Mozzarella Sticks and Anna Sultana's Appetizers

Carmela Soprano's Arancini (Rice Balls) / Saffron Substitute / Testing a deep fryer

Saturday, May 2, 2015

I'm Old Fashioned by Margaret Ullrich - Old Fashioned Recipe

Okay… It’s official.  I’m 65.  I’m a senior citizen.
I’ve been enjoying getting birthday greetings from family and friends.
I’m grateful to have reached this milestone.
Too many of us born in 1950 weren’t so blessed.

Television producers love to mark the anniversaries of events.
This weekend they observed the 45th anniversary of Kent State.
That’s when the Ohio National Guard killed four students during an antiwar rally. 

Sandra Scheuer, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder and Allison Krause were about my age at the time.
They were four college students who never got any older.
They didn’t live to be old enough to vote when Nixon ran again.

By June the National Guard had been called 24 times at 21 campuses in 16 states.
One such campus was that of my own school, Pratt Institute.
I was working my way through college by being a librarian’s assistant.
I fitted working hours in between classes.
That year I qualified to get full time library work during the summer.

A National Guard fellow was stationed in the library.
He seemed to be about my age.
I regularly had to pass him when I went up and down the staircase.
He was armed with a rifle that had a bayonet.
I was usually carrying a stack of books.

He never smiled.
I never made eye contact with him.
Students regarded the National Guard as one would a strange dog.
You just never knew what might set them off.

Nixon had said that college students were bums.
My parents said that if I quit college, I'd be a bum.
Ah… the sixties… fun times.

During a conversation on Facebook comparing movies of the sixties to the movies of today, my friends and I agreed we were old fashioned and missed movies that had more acting and less special effects.
And what’s wrong with being old fashioned?

In the 1942 film Rita Hayworth sang and danced with Fred Astaire.
A few years later, in 1950, the film All About Eve premiered. 
That’s where Margo, at a social gathering, told her friends
Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night.

All About Eve also had dialogue like:
Margo: Encore du champagne.
Waiter: More champagne, Miss Channing?
Margo: That's what I said, bub.

We miss movies with characters - and lines - like that.

Alcoholic drinks seemed to play a prominent role during the fifties and sixties.
Jim Backus in Stanley Kramer's 1963 film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World stepped away from the controls of his airplane to mix himself an Old Fashioned.
Don Draper on the series Mad Men, set in the 1960s, usually orders an Old Fashioned.
The drink was well known in the 1960s, but was nearly forgotten by 2007. 
The series brought a renewed interest in this and other classic Cocktails.

The ingredients for a Cocktail are similar to those in an Old Fashioned.
The Old Fashioned, developed during the 19th century, was named in the 1880s.
The most popular "old-fashioned" cocktails were made with whiskey, according to a Chicago barman quoted in The Chicago Daily Tribune in 1882.

Let's raise an Old Fashioned to all of us who are honest enough to admit that we are indeed old fashioned!

                        Old Fashioned

Place in an Old Fashioned glass
1 teaspoon sugar
2 dashes bitters
a dash of plain water
Stir until dissolved.
Fill the glass with ice cubes and add
4.5 cL Bourbon or Rye whiskey
Garnish with an orange slice, and a cocktail cherry

About the Full Moon on May 3…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

May’s full Moon is called the Full Flower Moon. 

On May 4 and 5 get outside and see the Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower! The best viewing is between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., looking to the southeast. 
The Eta Aquarids get their name because their radiant lies within the constellation Aquarius, near one of the constellation’s brightest stars, Eta Aquarii. 
The nearly-full, waning gibbous Moon may obstruct viewing of these showers.

On May 5 The Moon and Saturn will be very close together. Look to the southeast to see the waning gibbous moon rise first, then Saturn, which will follow the Moon high in the sky. 
See if you can locate the bright, reddish-hued star Antares. 
To find the blue-white star, Spica just remember a little mnemonic device popular among stargazers: “Follow the arc to Arcturus and drive a spike to Spica.” (Find the Big Dipper, and follow the curve of its handle down to Arcturus. From Arcturus, it’s a straight line in the same direction to reach Spica.)
You’ll always find the star Spica in the same place in the sky throughout the month of May every year.

Getting an early start on your garden?
Plant flowers and vegetables that bear crops below ground during the waning moon, from the day the Moon is full to the day it is new.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Spaghetti Pie #3

Ma served Spaghetti Pie a few times a month when I was growing up.
Spaghetti, as well as all types of pasta, is very kind to the budget.
Our Sundays weren’t Sundays if we hadn't eaten a plate of spaghetti as our first course.
And yet there was always quite a bit of leftover spaghetti - enough for Monday’s dinner.

Ma also always had eggs in the fridge.
During the fifties, no one worried about cholesterol.
Eggs are an economical source of protein.
On Mondays Ma would use a half dozen or so to make a pie.
Ma always added bits of leftovers to the pie to give us a little variety.

Spaghetti Pie is a delicious, easy recipe and there are so many ways to prepare it.

I posted Ma’s recipe for Froġa tat-Tarja - Spaghetti Pie, Maltese Style - a couple of years ago.
I also posted a variation of Ma’s Spaghetti Pie, along with a recipe for her Pasta with Butter and Ricotta, a few months after that.
About that time I also posted the recipe for Carmela Soprano's Spaghetti Pie.
Yes, the Sopranos enjoyed Spaghetti Pie.
Even if money is no object, or the ingredients just ‘fell off a truck’, Spaghetti Pie is a treat everyone enjoys.

A recipe that uses similar ingredients is Ma’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara.
Bacon, onion, cheese and spaghetti… what more do you need.


Vermicelli is the traditional pasta used for this dish.
But, if you have spaghetti or spaghettini, no problem.
Just adjust the boiling time for the pasta.

Ma would cook the spaghetti pie until the underside was golden, about 6 minutes. 
The she would place an inverted large platter over the skillet and, with oven mitts, firmly grab both the platter and the skillet, and carefully flip them over. 
Then she would place the platter on the counter and lift the skillet off the spaghetti, place the skillet back on the stove and add 2 Tablespoons olive oil to the skillet.
Then she would slide the spaghetti from the platter (raw side down) back into the pan to cook the other side.

While the pie was cooking she would wash the large platter.
After the pie had cooked 8 minutes she would take the clean platter, invert it over the skillet and, with oven mitts, firmly grab both the platter and the skillet, and carefully turn them over.
Then she would serve the Spaghetti Pie. 

Yes, that is a bit tricky.
You can also cut into the pie with a heat-proof spatula and turn over the sections.

I posted my easier method.
Forgive me, Ma.

                        Spaghetti Pie

Serves 2 to 6

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
400 grams (about 1 pound) spaghetti or vermicelli
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain the pasta well and place it in a large bowl.

Heat in 10-inch oven proof skillet over medium heat
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 rashers bacon, diced
Cook until browned.
1 1/2 Cups onion, chopped 
Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. 
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Cook about 1 minute. 
Pour the mixture into a small bowl. 

In a large bowl, lightly beat
6 large eggs
1 Cup ricotta
1/2 Cup milk
Stir in the onions, along with
3/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated 
1 Tablespoons parsley, dried
1 teaspoon basil (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Add the cooked pasta.
Mix the ingredients well.

Heat in the same skillet over medium heat
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Pour the pasta mixture into the skillet.
Cover the pan and cook 10 minutes.
The eggs should be almost set and the bottom lightly browned.

Preheat the broiler while the pie is cooking.
Place the skillet under the broiler to brown the top (about 3 to 5 minutes).
Slide a spatula under the pie to loosen it.
Tilt the pan near a serving platter and slip the pie onto the platter.
Cut into wedges.

Serve hot, cold or at room temperature with a sprinkling of parsley.