Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Almond Cookies

The Black and White Cookies recipe reminded me of how nice it is to have a cookie with a cup of tea or coffee.

They’re usually simple to make and stay fresh tasting longer than either cakes or pies do.
Cookies also freeze well.
So they are handy to have during busy summer days.


Another easy cookie recipe of Ma’s is her Almond Cookies.
You don’t need fancy cookie cutters.
They’re great to dunk in milk, tea or coffee.
Or you can just munch on them undunked.


Hints:

For a little variety...
You can roll each section into a long log, to slice and make round cookies.

If you want a stronger almond flavour, use 1 Tablespoon almond extract instead of the lemon extract.
Or you can experiment.
Vanilla is always good.


                        Almond Cookies

Have 2 large ungreased baking sheets

Place in a medium pot
1 Cup water
1 pound almonds
Boil for 5 minutes.
Remove the almonds, let them cool and remove the peel. 
When they are dry, chop them and lightly toast them. 
Let the chopped almonds cool.

Place in a large bowl 
3 3/4 Cups flour
1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
Zest of one lemon (or 1 Tablespoon lemon extract)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Mix well.
Add
2 large eggs
1/4 Cup oil
Mix all the ingredients until well blended.
Stir in the toasted almonds.

Preheat oven to 375º F

Take a third of the dough and roll it into a stick about 8 inches long and 3/4 inch thick. 
With a fork, press on the roll to make a pattern (optional).
With a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut the dough (in rectangles or rhomboids or squares) so they are about 1 1/2 inches long.
Put the cookies, about 1 inch apart, on the baking sheets. 
Bake for 30 minutes.
Transfer cookies to racks and let cool completely.

Icing

Combine in a large pot
3 3/4 Cups confectioners' sugar 
3/4 Cup Water
While stirring, bring it to a boil.
Once the water boils, continue stirring about 5 minutes.
Stop stirring - if the bubbles do not disappear from the surface, the icing is ready.

Put 1 Cup of the liquid in a bowl.
Add a few cookies at a time.
Swirl them around with a wooden spoon until they are coated.
Place the iced cookies on a wire rack.
Repeat the process for the remaining cookies.

Let them dry for several hours.
The icing should be completely dry and have turned white.


Another easy slice and bake cookie recipe is Cardamom Cinnamon Cookies.
It doesn't have an icing, just so you know.

Want more iced cookies?

Why not make both? 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Black and White Cookies, New York Style


In the Coronation Chicken post I mentioned that the recipe had been sent from a relative in Malta to my Ma in New York while Queen Elizabeth was being crowned.
Well, recipes also went from Ma to her relatives… including me.

Favourite foods are often picked because of memories rather than fancy ingredients.
That’s the case with Black and White Cookies.

The IRT Flushing Line was major in my life.
Ma and I rode it when we went to Manhattan to shop during the 50s.
I rode it daily to connect to the train to my college in Brooklyn in the 60s and 70s.
Paul and I used it as our main form of transportation when we were dating.
I also used rode it daily when I worked in Manhattan.

Throughout all those years there was one constant - a tiny bakery kiosk by the staircase leading to the street in the subway terminal in Flushing.

As the saying goes… location, location, location.
Commuters would grab a quick breakfast on their way to work.
After a long work day, nothing hit the spot better than a black and white cookie.

It was vital to New Yorkers.
It was ours, it was unique, it was beloved.

Black and white cookies really are a New York icon.
They were mentioned twice on the New York based TV show Seinfeld
Jerry used the cookie as a metaphor for racial harmony.
He said that people should Look to the cookie!
Of course we knew which cookie.

Bette Midler - yes the The Divine Miss M!  - told Kramer: 
If I don't get a black and white cookie, I'm not going to be very pleasant to be around!
I hear you, Bette.


A few years after we moved to Canada I suddenly missed my old B & W cookies.
It was one of those things that was always there.
And then it wasn’t.
Until Ma sent me the recipe!


                        Black and White Cookies

makes 24 cookies

Line two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper

THE COOKIES

In a medium bowl combine 
2 1/2 Cups cake flour
2 1/2 Cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place in a large bowl
1 Cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 Cups sugar
Beat until it is light and fluffy.
Add 
4 large eggs
1 1/2 Cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
Beat until well combined.

Add about a cup at a time of the flour mixture to the wet mixture, stirring well between each addition.

Preheat the oven to 375° F

Drop a heaping tablespoonful of dough for each cookie onto the cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between each cookie. 
Spread each spoonful of dough gently into a circle. 
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn a pale golden. 
Remove the cookies to a wire rack.
Let the cookies cool completely before icing.


THE GLAZES

In a large bowl place
4 Cups confectioners’ sugar
Stirring constantly slowly add a little at a time
1/3 to 1/2 Cup boiling water
Just add enough to make a thick, smooth paste.
Add
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stir in.

Put a medium sized heat-proof bowl in a a small saucepan of simmering water.
In it place
1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
Stir the mixture until the chocolate melts.
Add half of the vanilla glaze.
Stir the mixture until it is smooth and thick.
Remove the saucepan from the heat, but keep the bowl in the hot water so that the glaze doesn’t harden.

Use a small spatula or butter knife to spread the white glaze on half of each cookie.
Spread the chocolate glaze on the other half of each cookie. 
Allow the glaze to harden and set for 30 minutes before serving.

Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Anna Sultana’s Coronation Chicken, Maltese Style

We just celebrated Queen Victoria’s birthday.
The British Royals have been in the news recently, what with the birth of Queen Elizabeth’s new great-granddaughter, Princess Charlotte.

In 1952 Elizabeth II was crowned Queen.
In honour of the occasion, Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume invented Coronation Chicken.

Coronation Chicken, an easy chicken salad recipe, may have been inspired by jubilee chicken, which had been prepared for the Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth’s father, George V in 1935.
For the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002, a second Jubilee Chicken recipe was created.

I know... you’d think they’d have a fancy beef roast, like a crown rib roast.
Maybe the royals just like chicken salad.

As Malta was part of the British Empire, the recipe found its way to Malta.
It was printed in Maltese newspapers and magazines.
A clipped recipe was sent to Ma when we were living in New York.
So, as British subjects, we were able to celebrate the coronation properly.


Hints:

If you’d like a bit of crunch, lightly toast a few almonds, let cool, chop and add.
You can also use flaked almonds, toasted or not, if you have some in the pantry.
You can add raisins in addition to, or in place of, the apricot jam.
If you’d like a deeper yellow colour add a bit of turmeric.

This can be prepared the day before you need it.
The flavour will improve if you give it a bit of sitting time.

This can also be used as a filling in Cream Puffs which looks a bit festive.
Or you could serve it over cold rice as a buffet dish.
Not as pretty, but good.


                        Coronation Chicken

Serves 8

Have on hand
4 cooked chicken breasts or leftover roast chicken breast, diced

In a large saucepan heat over low heat
2 tablespoons olive oil
Add
1 small onion, finely chopped
Cover and let cook for 5 minutes until the onion is soft but not browned.
Stir in
1 tablespoon curry powder
Cook for another 2 minutes.
Add
1/3 Cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1⁄2 lemon, juice of
2 - 3 tablespoons apricot jam
Stir until the mixture begins to bubble.
Simmer for 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
Allow to cool for half an hour.

Stir in
1 Cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons heavy cream 
Add the diced, cooked chicken and mix throughly.
Cover and place in the fridge.
Let it age for a few hours for the flavours to meld.

Put the filling on bread to make 8 sandwiches.
Quarter the sandwiches and arrange on a platter.

A nice pot of tea would add the right touch.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Happy Victoria Day Weekend! by Margaret Ullrich - Bloody Mary Recipe


Here in Canada we’re having a three day weekend to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday.
She was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India during the nineteenth century.

Okay… this is a little complicated.

Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819.
But the third Monday in May was picked to be her official birthday so that everyone could have a proper three day weekend in which to celebrate.
It’s time to par-tay!!

A bit of royal trivia…
Since September 24, 1896 Queen Victoria has had the longest reign of anyone - either kings or queens - for the British Isles. 
Her great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II on September 9, 2015, will, God willing, surpass Queen Victoria’s reign.
What a year for her royal majesty: a new great-granddaughter, Princess Charlotte, and setting a new record!
Yes, indeed, it’s time to par-tay!!


I’ve been getting used to being a senior citizen.
Actually, it’s quite nice.
I’ve been taking advantage of a few of those senior discounts. 
And who doesn’t like a bit of a bargain?


I mentioned that the flat glass that looks like a bowl is called a Victorian coupe.
It had nothing to do with Queen Victoria.
According to legend, it was designed using a mould of Marie Antoinette's left breast as a birthday present to her husband, Louis XVI.
That girl also knew how to par-tay!!

In honour of this being the birthday of Queen Victoria - more or less - we ought to have a drink with a bit of a royal connection.
How about a Bloody Mary?

The name Bloody Mary is associated with Queen Mary I of England.
She was called that in Foxe's Book of Martyrs for her... well... bloody efforts to re-establish the Catholic Church in England in the sixteenth century.

The Bloody Mary recipe is not nearly that old.
Fernand Petiot claimed to have invented the Bloody Mary in 1921 while working at Harry's New York Bar, a favourite Paris hangout for Ernest Hemingway.
No one knows why he picked that name.

A Bloody Mary is a popular cocktail that is open to variations.
It can contain combinations of other spices and flavourings including piri piri sauce, beef consommé or bouillon, horseradish, olives, cayenne pepper, and celery salt. 


Some say a Bloody Mary can cure a hangover. 
Its heavy vegetable base settles the stomach, the salt replenishes lost electrolytes and the alcohol relieves the aches. 
Others just think the alcohol slightly numbs the pain.
Its reputation as a cure led to the drink becoming a popular brunch drink.
A perfect drink for a holiday weekend!

Want an alcohol-free drink with your brunch?
If you don't add the booze you'll be enjoying a Virgin Mary.

Don't even think it.


Hints:

Don’t have any celery?
No problem, if you have celery seed. 
It has the flavour of celery, but doesn't wilt or need chopping.
A good thing to keep in your pantry.

Add a bit to your Mary and you won’t have to cope with a dripping celery stalk.
Perfect, right?


                        Bloody Mary

Combine
1 1/2 ounces vodka or gin
3 ounces tomato juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
dash of Worcestershire Sauce
dash of Tabasco Sauce (optional)
salt and pepper (optional)
ice cubes
Shake and strain into a highball glass.
Garnish with a celery stalk and lemon slice (optional)


About the moon next week…
According to the Farmers Almanac:

On May 18 there’ll be a New Moon.  Don’t get excited, you won’t be able to see it.

On May 19 you’ll be able to see a tiny sliver of the waxing crescent Moon low in the west, below Venus. Start looking west after the Sun sets.

On May 22 Saturn will be in opposition, that is 180° from the Sun in relationship to the Earth. This is the best time to view a superior planet – one beyond the Earth’s orbit.

On May 23 Saturn will be closest to Earth, the closest it will be in 2015. The waxing crescent Moon is also very close to Jupiter.

About your garden…

Plant flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground during the waxing moon, from the day the Moon is new to the day it is full.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Carmela Soprano’s Shrimp Aragonate

Got an email.
Could I post the recipe for Carmela’s Shrimp Aragonate?
Ah…  Shrimp Aragonate… Great recipe… in a lousy post.

It was one of the early Carmela recipes from the Entertaining with The Sopranos cookbook that I had posted about.
About is the operative word.

When I started posting Carmela’s recipes in 2010 I wasn’t particularly big on details.
Just a chatty piece, with a quick description of the ingredients and comments about how much Paul and I enjoyed eating it.
I know, big help.

Together they made for a really great meal.
A year after that first post I got an email asking for the cake recipe.
Nobody asked for the Shrimp Aragonate recipe.
Until now.

Shrimp Aragonate can be served either as an appetizer or as a main course.
Either way, it’s quick, easy and delicious.
And Paul and I really liked it.


Hints:

In the recipe Carmela used fresh bread crumbs made from Italian or French bread, with the crusts removed.
I used store-bought unseasoned bread crumbs.
The box didn't say what country they came from.
I would guess Canadian.

She also used 1/3 Cup chopped fresh flay-leaf parsley.
I used 1/4 Cup dried.

What can I say?
Paul and I really liked it.


                        Shrimp Aragonate

Serves 6

Oil a large baking pan.

Cut into wedges
2 large lemons

In a medium bowl combine
1 Cup bread crumbs
1/3 Cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (or 1/4 Cup dried)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Stir in
1/8 to 1/4 Cup olive oil (just enough to moisten the crumbs)

Arrange on the oiled baking pan in a single layer
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
Curl each shrimp into a circle.

Preheat the oven to 450º F

Spoon some of the bread crumb mixture onto each shrimp.
Bake 10 minutes - the crumbs should be browned and the shrimp should be cooked through when cut in the thickest part. 
Place the shrimp on a large serving platter.
Garnish with the lemon wedges.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Flower Gifts by Margaret Ullrich

Isn't it great.
Mother Nature has finally realized it's Spring!

Parents in the wild weren't confused by the crazy weather we've been having.  We live in a cul de sac near farmers' fields in the north end of Winnipeg.  Geese and ducks have been making nests and babies in our local ponds.  We've been watching bush bunnies chase each other like race horses at the track.

Our kitchen has a picture window facing our garage, where we have a grapevine growing up a trellis, then continuing over wires to the window to give us some shade.  
  
On top of the trellis, under the garage's eaves, two robins recently set up housekeeping.  Rain or shine, they knew it was time to have babies.  And, they did.  While we ate, we watched them take turns keeping the eggs warm.  A few weeks ago we saw the babies' wide open mouths over the edge of the nest.  When I went out to hang laundry, I heard the birds chirping overhead.  
     
When you live in the 'burbs, it's almost the law to have a garden.
You know it.  Your neighbours know it.
And every store in town knows it.

So, marketing folks, ever eager to make a buck on anything - especially guilt - have hooked Mother's Day to Gardening.  In a way, it's a natural.  

Everyone can remember proudly giving Mom a bouquet of freshly picked weeds.  Okay.  It's the thought that counts.  And, as a gift, the weeds weren't bad.  Mom could smile, plunk them into anything from a vase to an empty coffee tin, set them anywhere and everybody was happy.  Mom could ignore them until they flopped over.  Nobody cared when Mom tossed them out.  Hey, they were free weeds. 
  
The problem is, kids grow up.  They learn how to read.  They read the flyers.  They get some cash.  They get suckered.

One large chain, whose buyers have some serious size issues, recently came out with a lawn and garden flyer.  They proudly announced, We make gardening REALLY EASY!

Uh, huh.  By this they meant they'd packed to overflowing huge planters with annuals, about which they said, and I quote, It's like adding another room to your house.

Yippee!  Picture it.  Lugging around a kitchen chair, then climbing it to hang 'another room' from a hook you can barely see because the darn heavy thing has to be hung high enough so no one will walk into it and knock himself out cold.  Having to unhook 'the room' which is hanging a few feet above your head so you can water it.  Regularly.  Every couple of days.

Hey, what did you expect?  They're honking big flowers.  They're thirstier than sailors on shore leave.  It was your lousy gift, so there you are, hoisting something that weighs as much as a toddler over your head.  Oh, and you had just watered it.  Dirty water is running down your arm.  Happy Mother's Day.   

Okay.  The kids meant well.  You can't return them - the kids or the flowers.
Let's grab a cold one, sit down and think this through.  

They're just flowers in a pot.  You buy annuals in a box.  What do you do with the annuals?  Just separate them and plant them where you please.  Hose them down every so often.  No climbing or weight lifting required. 

Alrighty then.  Upend that oversized pot and do likewise to those overpacked petunias.  They'll be grateful for the breathing room.  Hey, would you like to spend a scorching Manitoba summer crammed six to a bed?  Neither do flowers.  

But, that leaves you with an empty pot.  And even though the kids barely look you in the eye, there's still a chance they'd notice that the pot - their gift - is now empty.

No problem.  Can you say Dollar Store?  Just waltz in and buy any flowers you like.  Think you have to get the same flowers?  Get real.  How much do you notice the uniqueness of each potato in a twenty pound sack?  The kids bought those flowers by the basket, 25 bucks each, two for 40.  They shopped with friends and had a few bucks left for snacks.  All they noticed was that the baskets were heavy.  

Get whatever you like.  Um... on second thought, try to stay with the season.  I have a friend who loves Christmas.  She packed her pot with flaming red poinsettias.  Even her kids thought there was something odd about their Mom's pot.  She just smiled, hugged them and gave them a cookie.  A store bought cookie.  It worked.  

While you're at it, get some fake flowers for the yard, especially for those dark, hard to grow areas and window boxes.

I got a lovely assortment of blue, white and orange flowers for our yard.  Mama Robin ignored me as I placed some flowers in a large pot under our chokecherry.  She chirped as I inserted some into my kitchen window's flower box.  

Then I tried to hook a few onto the trellis under her nest.  Mama Robin flew onto our neighbour's roof, to watch me beautifying her neighbourhood.  Then she started screeching like a banshee.  I glanced up just in time to see her act like a kamikazi pilot, talons aimed straight at me.  I ducked and ran.  The grapevine can stay flowerless until her kids have flown the nest. 
            
Ah, the circle of life!  Ah, Nature!  Ah, crap!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Carmela Soprano’s Italian Main Courses with Meat

The family is coming for a big family dinner.
Are they ever in for a treat!


Something for everybody… 
More or less.
There is Uncle Vito.
Uncle Vito… the family patriarch… 
The family meat eater.

No way will he be satisfied with Baked Ziti in Bechamel Sauce.

Uncle Vito wants… no, needs… meat to make his meal complete.
Aunt Carmela will give you THE LOOK if Uncle Vito goes home unhappy.

It won’t end there.
Aunt Carmela will call the relatives.
She'll tell everybody - yes, everybody - Vito had to sit through a cheap meal that didn’t have meat.

And we all know how Uncle Vito needs his meat.
It's for his health, for Christ's sake.
Are you trying to kill an old man?
He needs his protein from REAL MEAT.

No problem.
Here are a few of Carmela’s best meat recipes.
Uncle Vito would love each one of them.

And Aunt Carmela won’t give you THE LOOK.
Bonus!!


Carmela Soprano's Sunday Gravy (Tomato Sauce with Meat) and Homemade Meatballs

Carmela Soprano's Lasagne / Anna Sultana's Lasagne, Maltese Style


Carmela Soprano's Cannelloni (Pasta with spinach / veal / pork filling)

Carmela Soprano's Ziti al Forno / Baked Ziti with Tiny Meatballs


Carmela Soprano's Pollo Cacciatore al Forno - Baked Chicken Caccitore (for 4 or 50)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Carmela Soprano’s Desserts, Cakes and Cookies


After feasting upon Carmela's appetizers and Carmela’s vegetable and pasta courses your guests might still have a tiny bit of room for a dessert.

Why not treat them to a total Soprano feast!

Since I first started posting Carmela’s recipes there have been two top favourites:
Carmela Soprano's Mom's Pear and Grappa Pound Cake and
Carmela Soprano's Ricotta - Pineapple Pie (Cheesecake)

About the Ricotta - Pineapple Pie…
If you’re looking for a cheesecake recipe, you’ll find an assortment in this post.
Some take a bit of effort, while there are a few that just need refrigeration.
All are good.

If you’re looking for something a little different - or would like to prepare a platter of cookies - here are a few recipes you might like to try.


DESSERTS


Carmela Soprano's Pears al Vino Bianco  - Pears in White Wine

Carmela Soprano's Tortoni - Almond Cream Dessert

Carmela Soprano's Zuppa Ingles - Neopolitan Trifle

Carmela Soprano's Cream Puffs - Baked Sfingi and Ricotta Cream Filling


CAKES

Carmela Soprano's Cassata - Iced Sponge Cake with Ricotta Filling 
     Palm Sunday Customs

Carmela Soprano's Tiramisu - Ladyfingers and Nillas





Carmela Soprano's Torta Caprese - Capri Chocolate Almond Cake 
     How to Separate Eggs




COOKIES

Carmela Soprano's Anginetti - Italian Lemon Knot Cookies with Lemon Glaze




Carmela Soprano's Venetians - Rainbow Cookies

Carmela Soprano's Mostaciolli - Spiced Chocolate Cookies with Rum Frosting

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.
Seriously.

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