Sunday, March 7, 2010
Carmela Soprano's Neapolitan Crostini with melon and prosciutto, Anna Sultana's Maltese Style Pickled Onions
Our local Safeway marks down day-old bread every morning. Pretty good deal. Last week they had a large loaf of Italian bread marked down. Tomatoes and cantaloupes were also on sale.
It was a sign.
I'd made melon and prosciutto before. No big whoop. Don't bother buying an Italian cookbook for this one. Cut the melon into 12 slices, toss the seeds and cut off the skin. Place 2 slices on a serving plate. Drape 2 or 3 slices of prosciutto over each pair of melon slices, sprinkle with pepper and garnish with a lemon or lime wedge.
Hey, not everything is as big a bother as Carmela Soprano's Baci Cake.
Back to the Italian bread and tomatoes... Carmela had a recipe for Neapolitan Crostini. Another Italian quickie. It's March and I'm sick of winter so this is as much effort as I'm putting into this project this week. So sue me.
Okay. Basically we're talking a broiled tomato and cheese sandwich here. An easy pizza substitute. I told you, it's March. I left the anchovies out of Paul's sandwich. He doesn't like them. I wasn't worried about some guys from Tony's gang pounding on the door because I'd left out a lousy anchovie.
If you need measurements, here are the recipes for Carmela Soprano's Neapolitan Crostini and for Carmela's Melon and Prosciutto.
Ma had something even easier than Crostini. She would cut the Italian bread into large chunks, slice each chunk horizontally, then smear tomato paste on each slice. Then she'd drizzle some olive oil on the tomato paste, sprinkle some salt and pepper and top with Maltese style pickled onions.
When I was little I helped Ma make pickled onions.
My earliest memory is of helping Ma at a chipped white enamel table in our back yard. The yellow jackets buzzed lazily while I peeled onions. The dry paper skin crackled and fell around my feet. Ma would gather her skirt between her legs and slowly climb the swaying ladder to the top shelves in the garage. Then she'd carefully bring down jars she'd saved. They weren't a pretty matched set. A pint-sized mayonnaise jar squatted next to a gallon-sized olives jar.
After I'd put the onions in her jars, Ma poured the wine vinegar syrup. The onions bounced in the bright red liquid. Then she'd tighten the lids and arrange the jars on the table so that the sun could cook the onions. There they stood, a monument to the passing summer. We knew winter was coming when Ma told us to carry the onions to the basement.
During the winter we'd taste summer in those onions when Ma placed them on fresh bread covered with tomato paste and olive oil. Ma and Pop would remember when they were young, before the war. They would laugh, drink glasses of sweet tea and talk about living on a tiny Mediterranean island where it was always warm.
Sometimes simple is better than fancy.
Another two recipes down. Yes, I'm counting the melon and prosciutto. It was in the book. Seventy-three more to go.