Sunday, August 29, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Stuffed Mushrooms and Anna Sultana's Qaqocc Mimli (Stuffed Artichokes, Maltese Style)

In a perfect world meals are the result of study and reflection.  Without the culinary arts, existence would be unbearable.

Well... that's what Hugh Jackman said in Kate & Leopold and I believed everything he said while he was wearing that cute suit.

I live in an imperfect world.  

Sometimes my meals are a result of scanning the flyers.

This week Sobeys is having mushrooms, buy one - get one free.

Alrighty then.

Back to Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos.  Eureeka!!!  Carmela has a recipe for Stuffed Mushrooms.  If stuffing mushrooms is your thing, you know what to do.  Snap stems, fill with finely chopped stems, seasoned breadcrumbs and olive oil, and bake at 400º for 20 minutes.

Want exact measurements?
Here's the recipe for Carmela Soprano's Stuffed Mushrooms.

She said to wash the mushrooms under running water.  I prefer wiping them with a damp cloth so they won't get mushy.  

Mushrooms weren't on the menu at Ma's house.  I don't know if they weren't available in College Point or if she'd had a bad experience with a mushy one.

I've looked through my Maltese cook books and there wasn't any mention of mushrooms.  Maybe it just wasn't part of the regular diet.

Qaqocc Mimli is a bit more of a hassle than the mushrooms.  

The artichokes have to be soaked in salted water for 25 minutes.  Then the leaves have to be opened by taking the upside down artichokes and smashing them against a table top.  The stuffing includes finely chopped anchovies, garlic and olives, along with the breadcrumbs.

The artichokes are then placed in a saucepan.  Oil and vinegar are drizzled on the chokes and water is added to the pan.  Cover and simmer for 1  1/2 hours, or until the leaves can be easily pulled out.

Like I said, more of a hassle.

Would I make Carmela's Stuffed Mushrooms?    

Sure, they're easy and mushrooms are often on sale.

Another recipe down.  Forty-eight more to go.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eat in Winnipeg - Being 60 (week 17 - by Margaret Ullrich)

I don't know what's going on lately.  
Food is a basic necessity of life.  
You starve, you die.

But in the past few years food has become an art form for some and an obsession for others.  I'm not saying Julie Powell, author of last year's Julie & Julia, is totally to blame.  In 2003 the movie Under the Tuscan Sun made people rush out to buy or borrow Frances Mayes' book, thinking it was a cozy tale of a plucky gal who conquers all while eating a gelati.

Sometimes I wonder why they even bother to buy the movie rights to a book.  Frances' best seller was more about food than plumbing.  

Spoiler Alert: She wasn't a single woman who totally pulled up stakes and plopped herself down in Tuscany.  Oh, no.  The villa was basically her summer cottage, if you please.  Her day job was teaching creative writing at San Francisco State University, along with writing books and articles.

She'd written a college text book.  
That's better than an RRSP.

Frances' book had Tuscan recipes which inspired readers to suck up lots of olive oil, wine and garlic, all the while thinking it would turn their lives into a Fellini movie.

Yeah, right.

I don't have any problem with Italian food.  I never met a noodle I didn't like.

But reading about how Frances would spend a morning searching for the perfect peach for the perfect meal...  I mean... give me a break.

If one wants to spend a vacation in a produce market, I say sure, it's your holiday.  But in a regular day to day, 9 to 5 life, it just doesn't work.

There's more to life than The Perfect Peach.

Why is food becoming such a hassle?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carmela Soprano's and Anna Sultana's Homemade Lemon Ice Dessert

This has been one crazy summer weather-wise.  We've been hit with bad news daily about flooding and mudslides in Asia, record heat in Europe and forest fires that are still blazing in an unusually dry British Columbia.

Here in Manitoba we've been breaking records - on August 9 it was the hottest it's been in 3 years, and then, 8 days later, on August 17 we dropped 20º celcius and broke a record for the coldest day in the month.

Okay.  We're Manitobans.  We're tough.  We can handle anything.

But we're not gluttons for punishment.

Hot muggy days are not the times to crank up the oven.  And with the humidex making it dangerous to be outdoors, barbequing has lost its appeal.  

Liquids are important.

Back to Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos.  Carmela has a handy recipe in her chapter on Adult Birthday Parties.  Carmela really is a Mom.  This is something even infants can cool off with on a hot muggy day. 

                        LEMON ICE

bring to a simmer
1 Cup water
1 1/3 Cups sugar
stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves
remove from heat
place in a large bowl
5 Cups ice cubes
add the sugar syrup and stir until ice is melted
stir in
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Cup lemon juice
refrigerate 1 hour
pour into a pan
freeze, then break into chunks and puree
serve or store in freezer in covered container

Easy, no?

Okay.  It wasn't rocket science.  

But my Ma had something even easier.  She saved sticks - the ones from popsicles and ice creams - and gave them a good scrub.  When the heat was on in New York she'd put small paper cups in a tray, fill them with fruit juice and insert the sticks.  Then she'd pop them in the freezer.  We got some fruit and we cooled off.   

Carmela's lemon ice reminded me of ices we used to buy at the corner store when I was a kid.  Back then empty calories weren't a problem.  Now they are.  

Would I make Carmela's lemon ice again?  No.  

The fruit juice has a few vitamins.

Sorry, Carmela.  
I'm sticking fruit juice in my freezer.  

Another recipe down.  Forty-nine more to go. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Eat Pray Love in Winnipeg- Being 60 (week 16 - by Margaret Ullrich)

This year's big chick flic is Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love.  Last year I saw Julie & Julia and decided to try my hand at blogging.  

Can I get guidance from Julia Roberts' latest movie?

Well, why not?  

Can that be any worse than when the ancients examined animals' internal organs for guidance?  And they were paid professionals, seeking guidance for kings and countries.  They actually made their living from staring at livers and such.

I'd rather look at a movie than an intestine.

Julia shouldn't get all the credit for Eat Pray Love.  It was originally a book, as was Julie & Julia.

Julie & Julia sparked renewed interest in Julia Child's recipes, with her "Cholesterol be damned" butter overload.  That just lead to buying a cookbook.  Or going to a library.  Or just watching reruns of Julia Child on PBS.  

Eat Pray Love is like a Disney cartoon for adults.  There are tie-ins all over the place: kitchen appliances, clothing, jewelry, furnishings and candles.

In other words, with the right props, I, too, can be enlightened.

Or at least look like I'm as enlightened as Julia.

Hmmm...  Maybe this isn't as straightforward as jumping into blogging.

I'm turning 60.  
Time for a review of my life.  Where I've been and where I'm going.  

But, to paraphrase the  message from another classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, maybe everything I need is right here in my own back yard.

Maybe I don't need to buy all the tie-in junk, too. 

Well, maybe the candles. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Something New - Being 60 (week 15.5 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Welcome to the NEW I'm turning 60...!!!!

Last weekend was a bit hectic, so I didn't have time to post anything for I'm turning 60...


I missed you, too.

But, maybe it all turned out for the best.  

I was going to write a late post about turning 60 and, well, one thing led to another.  I browsed a few of the gadgets blogger has and decided to update my blogs.

Here on I'm turning 60... I've added cute animal and scenery pictures, tons of offers (coupons - hey, I'm 60, remember?), moon phases, a fish tank, a tetris game and a sudoku game. 

And on Winnipeg is Better Than Chocolate I've also added daily horoscopes, a way to send free e-gifts and e-cards, and monthly updated seasonal foods with recipes (okay, it's from Minnesota, but that's as close as I could get).  Click and enjoy. 

It's also easier to add your comments.  

Please let me know what you think.

Like, now.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Veal and Pepper Heroes and Anna Sultana's Heroes II (Cold Cult Sandwiches, Maltese Style)

Time for another picnic.

Back to the sandwiches in Carmela's Small Events for Men Only chapter in Entertaining with The Sopranos.

The recipe for Veal and Pepper Heroes looked nice and simple.  The veal shoulder is cut into strips and fried with the sliced bell peppers and onion.  A can of Italian tomatoes is thrown in to make a bit of a sauce.

One small problem.

Neither of my local supermarkets carries veal.  They're not exactly big stores on a major drag.  Half the time the clerks say "We didn't get the shipment" when they don't have an item mentioned in their flyer.  Veal?  In this neighborhood?  They carry 5 kinds of hamburger.

Okay.  This isn't the first time I've had to make do.  When we first moved to Canada in 1972 we lived in Surrey, British Columbia.  Our local Safeway prided itself on its selection of cheeses.  There was a wall of cheese.  It would've done itself proud in that Monty Python sketch.  If it was a British cheese, it was there.  

However, I wanted to make a lasagne.  

No problem.  Pizzas were popular.  


I asked the manager if perhaps they hadn't received the ricotta that week.  He said he'd never heard of it.  I explained what I needed ricotta for and he checked into a big fat book of cheese.  He smiled and said I could substitute cottage cheese.

When I got home and opened the tub I wasn't sure if it was supposed to look like that.  It had lumps in it.  Ricotta is smooth.  It was also a bit watery.  Hoping it would cook itself into the proper consistency, I made a pan of lasagne.  It didn't.  I got into the the habit of draining the whey and giving the curds a whirl in the blender when I made lasagne.  

What would Ma do if a recipe called for veal?

Easy.  Substitute skinned chicken breasts.

College Point in 1950 had a Bohack and an A & P.  They were both tiny markets which supplied basic food needs.  They didn't waste any space on items that didn't fly off the shelves.  Veal wasn't right up there with bread and milk.  Ma would buy a few chickens and cut them up to suit her needs.  

Veal and Pepper Heroes?  No.

Chicken Breast and Pepper Heroes?  Yes.   

Another recipe down.  Fifty more to go. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hot in Bed - Being 60 (week 14 - by Margaret Ullrich)

My relatives don't believe me when I tell them our summers are hot.  Hot enough so that we have to use our central air conditioner.

Our summers are hot.

Trust me.

We recently had a hot muggy stretch, when our AC was going 24/7 to keep us at a comfortable 21º Celcius, instead of the 40º plus it felt like.  Then we had a rainy day, which got rid of the humidity.  The rainy day was to be followed by a night when it would dip to 8º.      

That's when the shit hit the fan.

When couples are about to get married they usually discuss things they think are important - sex, money, religion.  Big whoop.  They never discuss what really matters.

What's a cool night and how to deal with it. 

I was thrilled when John Sauder said it was going to hit 8º.  To me air conditioning is a poor second to fresh cool air.  I sleep more soundly when it's cool.  The cooler the better.  I wanted to turn off the air and start opening windows.

Paul's reaction to the weather forecast differed from mine.  He repeated "8 degrees" as if we were being threatened by a tsunami.  He wanted the air left on and the windows closed.

We compromised.

I turned off the air and started opening windows.

Paul placed our heavy comforter over his half of the bed so he could sleep through the new Ice Age.  

I made do with the top sheet.  Slept like a log.

Paul got a lot of exercise.  After a few hours he was sweating.  He got up, removed the comforter and carefully placed a doubled blanket over his side of the bed.  After a few hours he was sweating.  He undoubled the blanket.  After a few hours he was cold.  He redoubled the blanket.  After a few hours he was sweating.  He undoubled the blanket.  Then he couldn't sleep. 

I couldn't stop laughing.

Well, he'd thought hot flashes were funny.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Prosciutto Bread and Anna Sultana's Sausage Bread, Maltese Style

Hard to believe, but, according to Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela bakes bread - Prosciutto Bread.  

Don't worry.  She doesn't stick those long nails into the dough.  Sheesh!!  Can you imagine trying to get all the sticky goop out of those nails.  

Carmela uses a food processor to make her Prosciutto Bread.  She cuts up prosciutto and soppressata - 4 ounces each - and 2 ounces sharp provolone and scatters them over the bread dough before forming it into a loaf and baking it.

You don't have to run out and buy a machine to make bread.  Here's an easy meat bread recipe.

You can use different ground meats, even fake if you're worried about cholesterol.  Just add some spices, like garlic powder and oregano.
Yes, it is 12 tablespoons oil!

                        ANNA SULTANA'S SAUSAGE BREAD

grease baking pan         
preheat oven to 375º           
bake 30 min.

500 grams Italian sausage
remove casing and crumble in frying pan
1 medium onion, chopped 
brown with sausage meat 
let cool 
combine in large bowl
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 Cup warm water          
let stand 5 minutes
stir in 
1 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon sugar            
12 tablespoons olive oil
add gradually 
3 3/4 Cups flour
knead 15 minutes, flatten
spread meat/onion mixture on dough
knead in and form into a round loaf
place on prepared pan
let rise 30 minutes
combine for glaze
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
beat together and brush loaf

Another recipe down.  Fifty-one more to go.