Sunday, September 26, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Grilled Meatball and Sausage Skewers and Anna Sultana's Fenek bit-tewm u bl-Imbid (Rabbit with garlic and wine, Maltese Style)

Like Julia Powell's latest book Cleaving wasn't bad enough.  
I had to go to the source - Julia Powell's Julie & Julia.
What the hell's the matter with me?
I'm still under the influence of her obsession.
Meat.


I have a cleaver, but I'm not about to split bones and scoop beef marrow out of them.  
No recipe's that good.  


I just wanted a nice simple meat recipe.  Carmela must have had days like this.  Found it!!  The perfect thing in Entertaining with The Sopranos for an autumn day - Grilled Meatball and Sausage Skewers.  

It's your basic shish kebob.  Italian pork sausages cut into 1-inch pieces, red onions cut into wedges and meatballs.  Again with the ground sirloin!  

There were 2 good hints: 
Don't make the meatballs larger than 1 1/2-inch, or they'll break apart on the skewers.
Cover and chill the prepared skewers 30 minutes to allow the meatballs to firm up. 

Easy.  done.  Tasty.


Yesterday Paul and I watched a bush bunny munching on the grass in our back yard.  Pop would've loved it.  He had a soft spot - right about where his stomach was - for rabbits.  He was also fascinated by seeing the fish swim by the Red River shore when we walked with him at the Forks. 

Pop loved ready, available food on the hoof, foot or fin. 


In 1973 Paul and I lived in Surrey, British Columbia.  My family came up for a visit.  I tried to be a good Maltese hostess.  But I couldn't find rabbit at our local market.  When I told Pop about the rabbit situation, he said not to worry.  

The next morning Pop got up before the rest of us and went for a little walk.  After Paul left for work, Pop came back with a rabbit.  When I asked, he shot me one of those Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies looks, like he usually did when he'd bring home something that had fallen off a truck.
  
My 18-year-old sister - picture Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinnie - and my 16-year-old brother, a hefty Al Pacino type, were New York born and bred.  
They'd seen it all.  
Twice.  
All I heard from them was, "OOO... Look at the cute widdle bunnie!!!"  

They'd never made the connection between cute little furry beings and the main dinner course.  I got the garlic and started chopping.  I didn't want to get attached.  
        
Pop stood it for as long as he could but, as dinner time approached, he figured enough was enough already.  It was time to get the cute little bunny ready for his starring moment.  Pop wanted the fruit of his loins to give him a hand.  Maybe he thought it would be some kind of family bonding experience.  

He had a plan: George would hold the bunny, Pop would knock it out and slit it down the middle and Rose would skin it.  

Well, a trip to Disneyland it wasn't.  
        
It took my siblings a few minutes to realize what was about to happen to Mopsie the bunny.  When they understood that, 'No, we won't be needing a little hutchie wutchie for our little bunnie wunnie', well, it wasn't what I'd call a Kodak moment.
        
Rose and George - who could cheerfully face a New York mugger and give him what for - raced to my bedroom and locked the door.  

Okay...  The show must go on.  
Pop went to plan B.  Like an understudy after the star'd come down with the flu, I'd go from garlic chopper to rabbit killer.  
I couldn't take the sudden promotion.  I ran and pounded on my bedroom door. 
"Let me in," I yelled. 
"You're the oldest," they yelled back.
        
Realizing that living in North America had made their children wimps, Ma helped Pop prepare Mopsie for dinner.
        
Paul had been at work while Mopsie had come and gone, as it were.  He just saw cooked meat and had seconds.  
Rose, George and I filled up on garlic and pasta.  
Paul said it was great.  He wanted me to make it a regular part of our diet.  

It was the first time Pop actually approved of his new son-in-law.  
Mopsie didn't die in vain.    


Would I make the Italian shish kebobs.  Sure.  With lean ground beef.

Absolutely. 
God bless multiculturalism.  Rabbit is now in stores.


Another recipe down.  Forty-four more to go.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

An Uncelebrated Birthday - Being 60 (week 21 - by Margaret Ullrich)

Yesterday was my Pop's 86th birthday.

It was the second birthday we couldn't call and wish him a Happy Birthday.  He died January 20, 2009.

We're still getting used to the changes in our family's dynamics.  Our old guard is passing away.  Only a handful are left.  Our generation is becoming the old guard.  Our babies are now adults, some with babies of their own.

For a boomer, who knew this could happen?


Funny the things one remembers about a parent.  Pop loved gardening and raising rabbits.  For the longest time he had a wall of cages perpetually filled with rabbits along a side of his garage.  Rabbits were a regular dinner item in Maltese homes and Ma cooked Pop's pets the good old Maltese way.  

Pop always wanted to live on a farm.  My parents hated the winters in New York.  They are longer and harsher than the winters in Malta.  

I don't know how we managed it, but Paul and I always lived in rural areas in Canada.  Pop loved that.  He even talked of buying a farm near our house when we lived in British Columbia.  

He didn't love what he'd heard about winters in Canada, but then again, who does.


Yesterday Eddie Fisher passed away at 82.  It seems his biggest claims to fame were his messy divorces and his being the father of Princess Leia.  My parents used to love listening to Eddie sing.  They turned a deaf ear to talk of his divorces.  

A few years after Eddie was an innocent heart throb, his songs became fodder for my High School Glee Club.  We weren't anything like TV's new hit Glee.  Sister Rose Cecelia stuck to family values and having us stand like statues as we sang.  

To be fair, so did the professional Motown singers.   


Well, Sister's idea of a showstopper was having matched songs.  One year she decided on parenthood as a theme.  There were 2 Italian songs about Mama and Papa floating around.  Roselyn Genovese was perfect for the Mama song.  Unfortunately, she was the only Italian in the bunch.

Sister looked at me.  I would sing Eddie Fisher's Oh, My Papa.  With Italian lyrics.  

Sure, why not?  I was studying Latin and Spanish.  What's a few lines in Italian?  I'm Maltese.  I could pass.   

Most of the audience was fifth generation American, from German and Irish stock, so what did they know?       


The night of the concert my parents overheard other parents commenting on "the 2 Italian girls" and how nice it was that they could sing in their mother tongue.

Pop just smirked.  I was good enough to fool the natives.


O, My Papa. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Polpettone and Anna Sultana's Pulpettun, Meatloaf, Maltese Style


Okay.  Even though I've finished and returned Julia Powell's latest book Cleaving, I'm still under the influence of her obsession.  

Meat.  Meat.  Meatloaf.

Carmela has a meatloaf recipe - Polpettone - she must have cooked up lots of times when Tony was just a button in the mob. 

Then again, it's a bit Carmela-esque. 

The recipe in Entertaining with The Sopranos has Carmela's special little touches: 
4 slices of day-old Italian bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces, then soaked in 1/2 cup milk. 

What is her problem with crusts?  What does she do with them? 

And, along with the 1/2 pound of ground pork, the recipe calls for 1 pound of ground beef sirloin.

Right.

If Paul saw me take a pound of sirloin and grind it up for a meatloaf, he'd call on Paulie Walnuts to pay me a visit.

I mean, who grinds up sirloin?

Maybe Carmela figured Tony would have the same reaction, because she throws
in 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano along with 3 ounces each of sliced prosciutto
(or mortadella) and provolone to throw Tony off the scent.


Ma had a similar recipe, Pulpettun.  But it's way more practical.

Hint:

This can also be prepared by placing half of the meat mixture in a 9 x 5 loaf pan, placing the 2 eggs in the centre, then topping off with the rest of the meat.
If you prefer a crusty top, don't cover the meat.


preheat oven to 400º           
bake 60 min.

Place in a large bowl
1 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef  (just beef - as cheap as you want to go)
1/4 pound ground pork liver (to sneak some liver into the kids)
5 slices of bacon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped onions
1 cup breadcrumbs
----
Season with
salt and pepper
----
Beat
4 eggs
Stir into the meat mixture
----
Place half the meat on a piece of foil
and put
2 hard-cooked eggs
on top
Put the remainder of the meat on top of the eggs
Form into a loaf
Roll the loaf in the foil and bake

To be on the safe side, the internal temperature should reach 155ºF.

The trick of Polpettone/Pulpettun is the hard-cooked eggs in the middle of the loaf.  Maybe it inspired Hostess to put the creme filling in their cupcakes.  A bright spot in the middle of all that dark.


Anyway, to my way of thinking, Ma's meatloaf makes sense.
Ground beef?  Burgers, meatballs or meatloaf.
Would I make Carmela's meatloaf again.
Would I grind sirloin?
No way.


Another recipe down.  Forty-five more to go.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Who the hell are you? - Being 60 (week 20 - by Margaret Ullrich)


You think you know somebody.

I mean, we've been together since November, 1968.  We've been married since April, 1972.  I thought I knew every nook and cranny, every little twist of how my husband's mind worked.

Phhttt.  I knew nothing.


I had just finished reading Philippa Gregory's latest historical novel The Red Queen.  I zipped right through it.  Couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.  I love the way she makes History - with a capital H - read as good as a paperback you'd pick up before getting on an airplane.

She's that good.  


So, I handed it to my husband.  Paul had always been a History buff.  He also has this weird memory.  He remembers tons of things.  

Sometimes, that's not so hot.  But you take the bad with the good, you know?


Anyway, he took The Red Queen and said he'd read it.  And he did, every night, just before going to sleep.  A few pages every night.


Well, I had borrowed the Queen for the usual 3 weeks.  Seeing that Paul was about halfway through, I tried to renew Queenie.  No dice.  There's a waiting list.

Something - call it a wife's second sight - made me get on the waiting list to get The Red Queen back into our house.  I'm number 93.

I warned Paul that Queenie would have to go in 2 days.

I thought he'd hunker down and do some serious reading.

The kind a kid does the day before a test.


He just smiled and said it was okay.  He'd just read what he could at his usual pace.  Old Red could go back, unfinished.


I couldn't believe it.

He was up to page 265.  Margaret Beaufort was getting high from smelling the musky holy oil they were rubbing on Queen Anne.

There were only 112 pages - covering 2 years, 1 month and 2 weeks - left.

How could he just return a book, unfinished?

He said he knew how it was going to turn out.

Phhttt.  What does that have to do with it?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Peppered Pork Tenderloins and Anna Sultana's Roast Pork, Maltese Style


I just got through reading Julia Powell's latest book Cleaving.  The subtitle says "A story of marriage, meat, and obsession".  

The emphasis was on the meat.

It wasn't pretty.

I know myself well enough to know I shouldn't read anything scary before I go to sleep.  Now I know I shouldn't read butcher-focused books, either.  All that talk of how to cut up cows, pigs and poultry...

Oy, such dreams.

But they sure made me hungry for some meat.  


Back to Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos.  That gal may have had her problems with Tony and the kids, but she hasn't failed me yet.  

Yep, she has a good meat recipe - Peppered Pork Tenderloins.  It's a nice simple recipe.  

Trim and tie like a roast to even the thickness
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds)
Combine 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black pepper
Add the meat.
Cover and marinate up to 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the broiler pan 4 inches from the heat.
Grill or broil about 15 to 20 minutes, turning with tongs.
The meat thermometer should be inserted in the middle
and read 150º to 155º F.

Transfer the meat to a cutting board.
Cover with foil and allow to stand 5 minutes.
The temperature continues to rise 5 to 10 degrees as the meat rests. 
It'll be pink and juicy.
After removing the string, carve the pork into diagonal slices.
Fan out on a serving platter.  
Serve warm or at room temperature. 

I know.  It could just as easily have been called Mustard Pork.  Carmela went for alliteration.  

The pork can be either cooked over a medium-hot charcoal fire or a gas grill or under a broiler.
With the kind of weather we've been having, I went for the broiler. 

Carm is great at presentation.
Ma wasn't. 

Maltese are not vegetarians.  Malta has been known for centuries for its high quality pork.  D. H. Lawrence, in his book Sea and Sardinia talks about the great bacon he had in Malta.  
Okay, we can do bacon.   

But cooking regular, uncured meat - be it beef, pork or poultry - was not Ma's thing.

Maybe it wasn't her fault.  My Maltese cookbooks have recipes for cooking rabbits - lots of rabbits.  And I did find a recipe for roast pork.  
A 2 1/2 pound roast is baked for about 1 1/2 hours in a hot 400º oven.  Forget pink and juicy.

When we were first dating, Paul was invited to dinner at my parents' home.  He asked me what we were eating.  I didn't know.  I asked Ma.  She just looked blankly and said, "Meat."   

Good enough.

Would I make Carmela's Peppered Pork again.  Oh, yeah.

Sorry, Ma.


Another recipe down.  Forty-six more to go.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Love in Winnipeg - Being 60 (week 19 - by Margaret Ullrich)


Julie Powell should've come to Winnipeg.

Okay...  I got into blogging because of Julie Powell and her first book Julie & Julia.
  
I thought Julia's latest book Cleaving, which has as a subtitle "A story of marriage, meat, and obsession" would be a perfect book for this month's theme of Eat Pray Love.  Alright, not much praying, but 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

I mean, how much could a person change in a couple of years?

Hooo, boy.  Plenty.

Julie has a thing for butchers.  Unfortunately her long suffering, super patient husband Eric isn't a butcher.  D, Julie's lover, isn't a butcher, either, but that doesn't seem to matter.  He has, shall we say, other talents.

Julie goes to the Catskills to a family-owned butcher shop to learn the craft under the guidance of a delightful group of "meat hippies".  She gives lots of details on how to cut up cows, pigs and poultry.  Pages and pages of info.  Her lover dumps her.

She drinks a lot of booze.  
She eats a lot of meat.  
She developes carpal tunnel syndrome.
She decides to go on a quest.

Julie goes to Argentina, a country of cattle markets.  She watches the gauchos, goes to stockyards and has some fun with the butchers.  She drinks a lot of booze.  She eats a lot of meat.  She tells a fellow she's looking for "Whatever you've got."

Alrighty, then.

Julie goes to western Ukraine.  Some vampire thing.  She has some fun with the butchers. 
Oksana tells her, "We don't expect so much, maybe.  Or we're happier because we know what we want."  
Julie says, "Maybe."  She drinks a lot of booze.  She eats a lot of meat. 

And some raw pig fat.

Julie goes to Tanzania.  She lives in bomas.  She has some fun with the butchers. 
A woman asks, "What is the center of your life."  
Julie was hoping they'd tell her.  She's almost raped.  She eats a lot of meat.  She drinks a lot of booze. 

And some raw blood.  Cow and goat.

Julie goes back to New York.  Her husband Eric takes her back and makes some beef stew.  The way to a woman's heart... 
Julie makes a date to meet her ex lover.  He rattles off a grocery list of the crazy things she did.  She agrees she acted nuts.

Eric knows Julie met with D.  They hug.  They eat shrimp gumbo.  They drink a lot of booze.  Julie writes about her Jack the Ripper theory and goes back to work with the upstate butchers.  They chat about Eric and his girlfriend.

Oh, and there are recipes. 
  

What does all this have to do with love?

Maybe the women Julie met had it right.  Maybe Julie wants too much.  You have to be pretty well off to go on that trip just to watch butchers in action.  A person has to have a center in life.

And maybe, just maybe, a more balanced diet.  

Friday, September 10, 2010

Have I got a Kugel for you: Potato Kugel, Barley Kugel, Rice Kugel and Noodle Kugel

Rosh Hashanah was on Thurday, today Ramadan ends, and tomorrow is Ganesh Chaturthi.  

Happy Holidays, everyone!!!
I just love holidays.
Great food, great times.
What's not to love?

Since Yom Kippur is just around the corner, I thought I'd post some kugel recipes.  In the Middle Ages, when Jewish cuisine as we know it was developing, vegetables were available only during the harvest season.  In their place kugels were substituted.  

A potato kugel is so good that it may be served at any meal, and most people make enough so there will be leftovers.  Kugel is delicious hot or cold.  It's great to prepare in advance so the cook can spend more time with friends.

I hate fussy, last minute recipes.  Don't you?


       Potato Kugel

preheat oven to 350º           
bake 60 min.

Beat until thick
3 eggs
----
Stir in
3 cups grated, drained potatoes
1/3 cup potato flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons grated onion
4 tablespoons melted butter or fat
----
Turn into a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.
Bake 60 minutes or until browned.

***********************
       Barley Kugel

preheat oven to 350º           
bake 40 min.

Combine in a saucepan
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups boiling water
Bring to a boil.  Add
2 teaspoons salt
Cover and cook over low heat 45 min.  
Drain
----
Brown
1/2 pound chopped mushrooms
2 onions, diced
in
2 tablespoons fat or butter
----
Add vegetables to the barley along with
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Taste for seasoning.
----
Turn into a greased casserole or baking dish.
Bake 40 minutes or until browned and set.

***********************
       Rice Kugel

preheat oven to 350º           
bake 40 min.

Boil in a covered saucepan for 10 min.
4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups rice
Drain
----
Beat until thick
6 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
----
Stir in the rice, along with
1/2 cup seedless raisins
1/3 cup melted butter or chicken fat
----
Turn into a greased casserole or baking dish.
Bake 40 minutes or until browned.

***********************
       Noodle Kugel

preheat oven to 375º           
bake 50 min.

Beat until fluffy
3 eggs
4 tablespoons brown sugar
----
Add
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
4 cups cooked broad noodles
1/2 cup seedless white raisins
1/2 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons melted butter or chicken fat
----
Turn into a well-greased ring mold or baking dish.
Sprinkle with
2 tablespoons bread crumbs
Bake 50 minutes or until browned.

Serve with meat and poultry dishes or as a dessert with a sweet fruit sauce.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

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

Tomatoes are ripe and filling the garden in my imperfect world.

Wouldn't you know, Sobeys is also trying to unload their bumper crop of tomatoes this Labour Day weekend.


Okay, I can take a hint.  It's time to make something with fresh tomatoes.


Back to Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos.  Found it!!  The perfect thing for a holiday weekend - Insalata Caprese.  

Calm down.  It's just a Mozzarella and Tomato Salad.  Very simple and basic.  


Cut 6 ripe tomatoes - Carmela says "preferably New Jersey beefsteaks" (Yeah, she would) - into 1/2 inch thick slices.  
Cut 1 pound of mozzarella into the same number of slices (Yeah, she would).  

Alternate the slices, overlapping slightly, on 1 or 2 large platters.  
Sprinke with salt and pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

This salad tastes best if it's prepared just before serving.  
It doesn't refrigerate well.  Trust me.


This is one of those toast and butter recipes.  Everybody who has tomatoes handy has made it.  Feel free to add whatever else you'd like to the table and take it easy.  
If you prefer a prepared Italian salad dressing instead of plain olive oil, go ahead.

Ma would also dish up anchovies, olives, tuna, peppers and whatever else was taking up room in her fridge.

For a bit of starch, a few loaves of Focaccio would go nicely.

Would I make it again. Sure.

Happy Labour Day!!


Another recipe down.  Forty-seven more to go.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pray in Winnipeg - Being 60 (week 18 - by Margaret Ullrich)


Last week I wrote about how food has become more than just something we have to eat to live.  Cookbooks have developed from simple how-to manuals into rollicking tales of adventure the author had, usually in some far off land, while hunting for the perfect peach, wine or bottle of olive oil.   

Ah, to find the perfect _____!!!!  
You fill in the blank.


Lately religion has become a big topic, too.


I don't know if it's because of the Age of Aquarius or if people are just fed up with the scientific approach to life.  There isn't better living through chemistry.  The answer isn't in a pill.

If anything was learned from watching The Sopranos, Psychiatrists don't have all the answers, either.  Hell, sometimes they're even crazier than the patient.  We're a little more complex than Freud had dreampt we are.


Religion, in one form or another, has been with us an awfully long time.  Most religions, at heart, have the same basic ideas: there is a God in charge of everything, we have to be grateful and remember Him or Her with a few annual festivals, and we should be nice to each other.

No problem with those ideas.
  

The problem is that God isn't the only one in the house of worship with us.

Other people are there.  
Some are in charge.  
And some people, shall we say,  are a little odd.


I just finished reading Philippa Gregory's latest historical novel The Red Queen.  It's about Margaret Beaufort, the grandmother of Henry VIII of England.  Feminists would've loved the way she masterminded one of the greatest rebellions of all time, just so her sonny boy, Henry VII, could get the job of King of England.

The thing is, she really thought she was on a holy quest; that God was personally speaking to her and telling her to lead an army just like her hero, Joan of Arc.  According to the book jacket, Margaret was "a proud and determined woman who believes that she alone is destined, by her piety and lineage, to shape the course of history."


I guess the problem of religion being used by a power hungry politician has been with us an awfully long time, too.