Saturday, April 30, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Chopped Vegetable Salad and Balsamic Oregano Salad Dressing

Okay... we've all got leftovers from last Sunday.

Hope you had a nice Easter.
Time to get back to normal meals again.  
Time to use up some of the leftovers. 
I mean, did anyone eat all the radishes?

In the Adult Birthday Parties chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Chopped Salad. 

This must've been a recipe Carmela had from her early days with Tony.
The days when she didn't have those long finger nails.
The days when they didn't live in a McMansion.

Carmela said, and I quote:
You can use other vegetables, like radicchio, fennel, radishes, celery, or carrots and whatever else is in season.

Or taking up space in the fridge.
Before they turn into compost.
Don't want that to happen.
Not at today's food prices. 

                           Chopped Salad
In a small jar, mix
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 - 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Shake well, cover and set aside.

In a large salad bowl combine
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
4 green onions, chopped 
2 small cucumbers, chopped
1/2 small head of iceberg lettuce, chopped
1/2 small head escarole, chopped 
(About 12 cups of vegetables, total, more or less)
Cover and refrigerate up to 3 hours.

When ready to serve, shake the dressing again.
Add the dressing to the salad and toss well.
Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

Would I make Chopped Salad again?
Especially when I have left over veggies sitting in the fridge.
Waste not, want not.

Another recipe down.  Twenty-three more to go.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Anna Sultana's Orange Cranberry Scones

What a time this has been... and will be.
Last week was Easter, with all that entails.

This weekend started out with the Royal Wedding.
With all THAT entails.
Thank goodness that wasn't our problem.
But, didn't the bride look elegant!
God bless them.

Next Sunday is Mother's Day.
No, you can't buy marked-down Easter candy for Mom.
She knows rabbits aren't traditional for Mother's Day.
A Mother's love only goes so far.

Monday is election day for us Canadians.
No, we Canadians don't enjoy voting.
We just have a sore loser in opposition who said he doesn't care if he's not elected AGAIN. He'll just vote non-confidence AGAIN, so we'll be stuck voting AGAIN.

What does he care?
We taxpayers are stuck paying for his bad attitude and love of bickering.
Bickering is the only thing he likes about politics.
He has the worst attendance record of all 308 MPs.
He missed 70% of the votes last year.

And yet he wants to be the head of our government.

On to something more pleasant...
Ah, the wedding!
We got up at 4:30 am to watch the fun on the telly.
Lovely, lovely.

In keeping with the situation, we had Twinings English Breakfast tea and scones.
One of the TV announcers mentioned how folks in Merry Old England were sitting down to a brekkie of tea and scones, too.

Scones are very easy to make.
As it is a British recipe, we Maltese make them, too.
Here's a recipe for Orange Cranberry Scones.
It's too late to make for the wedding.
But, maybe for a Sunday...  like Mother's Day...

                           Orange Cranberry Scones
grease a large cookie pan         
preheat oven to 375º        
bake 20 minutes

In a measuring cup beat together
1 Cup orange juice
1 Egg
Set aside

In a large mixer bowl, mix together
3 Cups flour
1/2 Cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cut in 
1/2 Cup margarine

milk/egg mixture
1 Cup cranberries (or raisins)
Knead about 6 times and place on cookie pan
Shape into a circle and flatten 
Score into 8 wedges (or more)

Sprinkle with 

Bake 20 minutes
Serve warm with butter 
or clotted cream (in the dairy section of most supermarkets)

Easy, no?
And perfect for a Mum.
Well, better than marked-down Easter chocolates.
Yes, she would know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!!

The Promise of Easter.... 

May joy fill your day

Hope light your path

And the many

blessings of Easter

warm your heart....

Wishing everyone a Happy Easter!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Traditional Family Easter (part 5 by Margaret Ullrich)

 Continued from part 4

   Aunt Demi announced, “We are having a traditional Maltese Easter dinner.  With a traditional figolli.”
    “Do you think our Blessed Mother baked a mermaid?” Aunt Rita sneered.  
    Demi lunged.  Liz wrote.  

    The lamb was ready.  If this dragged on much longer it would be a lump of coal.  

    Ma sighed, glared at her sisters-in-law and said, “I don’t care if our Blessed Mother made hot dogs and beans.  I’m tired of cleaning.  I’m tired of baking.  I’m tired of the whole damn holiday.  

    And I’m tired of bread.  A few days ago I gave a figolli to a friend who lives down the street.  Yesterday she came over and gave me a loaf of hallah.  So I have another traditional bread from Mrs. Cohen . . . Mrs. Cohen.  That’s it!!” 

    Without saying another word Ma turned and went back to the kitchen.  In a few minutes she returned with the glossy braided hallah on the platter.  

    “Our Blessed Mother was a Jew.  She would’ve made a hallah.  And that’s what we’re having for Easter.  It’s traditional.  Shut up, sit down and eat.”

    And so saying, Ma started our traditional Easter Dinner.

                                                    - The End -

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Traditional Family Easter (part 4 by Margaret Ullrich)

After forty days of fasting and scrubbing, Demi and Rita were lean, clean, Easter tradition machines.  Filled with the holiday spirit, they glared at each other.

    “What the hell is that?”  Aunt Demi spat.
    “It’s a dove, a symbol of peace, you idiot,” Aunt Rita shot back.  
    “It’s Easter.  We don’t need a damn dove.”
    “Throw that fish back in the sea.”  
    “The figolli is part of our tradition.”
    “Since when did Jesus swim with the fishes?”
    Waving a knife, Aunt Demi lunged.  “Give me that bread.  I’ll cut it up for sandwiches.”
    “Over my dead body.”
    “No problem.”

    My Aunt Liz was fascinated by her new in-laws.  She wrote down everything they said.  Maybe she thought the fight was part of our jolly ethnic holiday tradition.  I stayed close to Liz in case she didn’t have sense enough to duck.  

    Ma went back to the kitchen.  She knew she couldn’t reason with her sisters-in-law.  Her plan was to hide in the kitchen until the smoke cleared.  If they killed each other it would leave more food for the others.

    “Maria, get out here,” Aunt Demi yelled.  Ma came out.  The men and the younger children were nowhere in sight.  They were taking a walk to work up an appetite.  Demi and Rita were rolling up their sleeves.  Liz was taking notes.  
    “I went to all this trouble,” Aunt Rita whined.
    Aunt Demi barked, “Tell this idiot we are using the figolli.”
    “It took me forever to make this,” Aunt Rita whined again.
    Ma tried to be a good hostess.  “They’re so big.  We could put them on chairs near the table.”

    No luck.  The Aunts wanted her to choose one.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Traditional Family Easter (part 3 by Margaret Ullrich)

    In College Point, as Easter approached, the bakeries filled with cross buns, pretzels, braided almond loaves, Easter cookies and marzipan treats.  There were also large decorated sugar Easter eggs which had a hole in one end.  When we looked into the hole we could see tiny bunny villages.  There were also hot cross buns.  Ma knew about the cross buns.  Since Malta was part of the British Empire, Ma had eaten them in Malta, too.      

    We brought samples of our mothers’ holiday baking to school.  There were lots of pretzels.  Since they didn’t have fat or eggs, we could eat them during Lent without risking eternal damnation.  I liked the braided loaves which had been covered with almond paste.  They reminded me of colomba di Pasqua.  I brought some kwarezimal to school.  After I explained that the almond cookies didn’t have fat or eggs either, my friends agreed to try them.  

    Easter for my family was a simple celebration.  We went to church, wished everyone a “Happy Easter”, went home and ate our traditional foods.  There weren’t any problems until the year Ma’s brother Charlie married an American girl.  Aunt Liz wanted to learn more about Maltese customs.  Ma invited Charlie and Liz for Easter.  

    Pop told his oldest sister, Aunt Demi, that we had invited Charlie and Liz.  Aunt Demi was worried that our branch of the family was becoming too American.  So, Aunt Demi decided that she would come to dinner to make sure that Ma kept everything kosher.  

    Then Aunt Rita, one of my Sicilian Aunts, heard that we were inviting company for Easter.  Aunt Rita always took things personally.  She was insulted.  Why hadn’t she been invited, too?  Ma invited Aunt Rita, Uncle Tony and their children.  We had enough folding tables and chairs to seat everyone in the yard.  As long as it didn’t rain, Ma thought it would be a nice family dinner.

    Easter Sunday morning the sun was shining and the lamb was roasting on a spit in our yard.  The tables had been set.  Aunt Liz was taking notes and learning recipes.  She had brought a dozen cross buns and a jello mold.  The only thing missing was the centerpiece.  Aunt Demi had told Ma that she would bring a proper figolli.  

    It was the biggest figolli I’d ever seen.  The icing was as thick as my thumb.  While Aunt Demi was placing the Easter egg on her mermaid, Aunt Rita marched in and pulled a Colomba di Pasqua out of her tote bag.  The colomba had a three-foot wingspan.  There was barely room enough for one centerpiece.  

    Fish or fowl, which would Ma use?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Traditional Family Easter (part 2 by Margaret Ullrich)

    During my earliest years in Corona, a small town in Queens, New York, Easter was Italian.  Palm Sunday was the Day of the Olive.  Small blessed olive branches were offered as tokens of peacemaking.  For Easter breakfast we had Colomba di Pasqua.  Colomba is bread shaped to look like a dove, the symbol of peace, and covered with almond paste and almonds.  An Italian Easter dinner also had traditions.  First we had manicotti.  That was followed by a roasted whole baby lamb with a mixed salad, sauteed spinach and roasted artichokes.  For dessert there were cream tarts, cookies, spumoni, nuts and roasted chestnuts.  The adults had coffee.

    Then my parents moved to College Point, another small town in Queens, which had been settled by Irish and German families.  They had their own Easter customs.  Since Easter was not as commercial as Christmas, no one noticed when we followed our own customs. 

    When I was seven I had to follow what Ma told me were the Church’s rules during Lent.  I ate kwarezimal, an almond cookie that was topped with honey and chopped pistacchio nuts.  Ma said we could eat it during Lent because it didn’t have any fat or eggs.  For Maundy Thursday Ma baked bread in the form of a ring.  Its top was crusted with sesame seeds and pierced with roasted almonds.  Our Easter dinner menu was the same as it had been in Corona.  But, instead of making a Colomba di Pasqua, Ma baked a figolli, a Maltese sweet bread with a marzipan filling.  

    A figolli was harder to make than a colomba.  The dough was rolled about one centimeter thick.  Then Ma cut the dough into pairs of figolla with a figolla cutter.  They looked like a large letter J, but the stick part ended in a fish’s tail.  On one side of a figolla Ma spread jam and marzipan.  Then she covered it with the identical shape, as if she was making a sandwich.  After the figolli had been baked and cooled, they were covered with colored icing and piped royal icing.  Then a decorated Easter egg was placed on top of each figolli.  For the final touch a cardboard woman’s face was inserted into the mound of the J.  

    The odd thing about Ma’s traditional figolli was that it was a mermaid.  I asked Ma why a mermaid and not a dove.  She said, “I don’t know.  It’s our tradition.”  

    Well, you can’t argue with tradition.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Traditional Family Easter (part 1 by Margaret Ullrich)

In 2007, the following story was published in 'A/cross sections : new Manitoba writing', which was edited by Katharine Bitney and Andris Taskans and published by the Manitoba Writers Guild.  The book is still in the library system, adult nonfiction section.  Check it out.  There are lots of stories and poems by Manitoba writers in it.

    I made a loaf of soda bread to serve with the corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.  I don’t know why I did it.  I’m Maltese.  My husband is German/Swedish.  Not a single Irish person among our ancestors.  Then, on March nineteenth, I made a lasagna and cream puffs for St. Joseph.  I’d be twenty pounds lighter if I just ignored holidays.

    Yeah, right, like that’ll ever happen.     

    I’m a sucker for holiday traditions.  And, just like Christmas, Lent and Easter are loaded with holiday traditions.  Lent is the time to really clean the house.  Ah, spring cleaning.  Scrub and wax the floors, wash the windows and launder the curtains.  Everything from cellar to attic is glowing.  After being sealed in tighter than a drum all winter who could argue with giving the house a good cleaning?

    Lent is also a time to cut back on the calories.  Let’s be honest.  Who doesn’t want to drop the pounds gained during December?  Between the fasting and the exercise we get from cleaning house, we’re almost able to fit into the clothes we wore before Christmas.  Alleluia!!  Religion can be good for the body as well as the soul.  

    And then there’s Easter, when Christians celebrate Christ’s Resurrection.  We attend church in new outfits.  Little boys in little suits and little girls in fluffy dresses and shiny white patent leather shoes make families look like Hallmark cards.  

    Easter has more customs than the Bunny has eggs.  A popular tradition is to gather together and share a feast.  Over the centuries women have made this a glorious occasion with beautifully decorated eggs, colorful coffee cakes and traditional breads.

    According to tradition, an angel appeared to Mary to tell her that Jesus would arise on Easter.  To show her joy, Mary baked bread to share with her friends.  And to make the loaf more special, she put an egg, a symbol of life, on the top.  Now, I have to admit I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me that a recently deceased relative was rising from the dead.  I guess baking bread is as good a thing to do as any.  The only problem is that over the past two millennia something got lost in translation as that bread recipe went from country to country.

    And that’s when Easter went to hell in a bread basket.

Please go to part 2

Monday, April 18, 2011

Anna Sultana's Kwarezimal - Almond Biscotti, Maltese Style

On Saturday I posted Carmela Soprano's Quaresimali.

I know, I have a hard time picturing Carmela making them, too.
It's not that they're hard to make.
But can you picture Tony and AJ sitting down to a plate of them?
Would Christopher bring a box of them to the guys hangin' at Satriale's?
No way.
Well, maybe during Lent.

Kwarezimal is a Maltese Lent basic item.
It is called a Lenten sweet in the Maltese cookbooks.
Our editors are a bit more honest.
Not like Carmela's.
Just saying...

grease a large cookie pan         
preheat oven to 350º        
bake 20 minutes

In a large mixer bowl, mix together
200 g flour
400 g ground almonds
200 g ground rice
400 g brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of ground cloves
1 Tablespoon cocoa
1/2 orange rind, grated
1/2 lemon rind, grated

1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
water or milk to make a stiff paste

Divide the dough into 6 portions.
Shape each portion into a sausage shape
Flatten each portion, leaving each piece fairly thick
Place them, 2 inches apart, on the baking pan

Bake 20 minutes
Remove from oven and, Place them on a cutting board 
spread with 
sprinkle with
chopped pistachio nuts
chopped roasted almonds
Cut into slices

Cool the cookies on a rack.
Store in an airtight container.

I have to admit I have a soft spot for the Italian Quaresimali.
When I was a kid in College Point, I was a bit of an oddity.  
My classmates were either Irish or German. 
One thing we had in common was that our mothers baked.
The other was that we were Catholics in a school run by Dominican nuns.

When we were in grade 3 we had to start following the Church's rules on fasting.
My German classmates brought Zwieback cookies to school.
I brought some of my aunt's Quaresimali.
We traded cookies.
The cookies were kind of the same. 

After that, things got a little better at school.
Maybe they figured I was kind of the same, too.

Do I make Kwarezimal?
Like I said, I have a soft spot for the Italian Quaresimali.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

F. B., or not F. B. - Being 60 (week 50 - by Margaret Ullrich)

It's Palm Sunday.
Oh, crap.

I didn't do anything on my Lent List.
I didn't even manage to read that little black book every day.
Don't be ridiculous.
Not THAT little black book.
I haven't had a little black book like that for over 40 years.
Well to be honest, I never had a little black book like that.
At most I had a page's worth of phone numbers.
Not a whole book's worth.
We're talking the 60s.
Now folks need a page to keep track of someone's phone, cell, email, etc. etc.

I'm talking about the little black book I got from church on Ash Wednesday.
I was supposed to read 2 pages every day.

I meant to.
It seemed simple enough.
The book has large print.
I don't know where the time went. 

Well, maybe I know where some of it went.
Okay... quite a bit of it.

It started simply enough.
I got in touch with some relatives.
Then some old classmates.
Then some friends.
Then some work-related people.
Then some friends of friends I met through FB conversations.


Okay... there's one week to go before Easter.
Time to bite the bullet.
Time to show I haven't forgotten everything I learned at St. Fidelis.
Time to show I still have that old time religion.
Time to show I still have the 'right stuff'.
Time to show I still have some self control.

Time to stop facebooking.
At least until Easter.

I can do that.

Can't I?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Quaresimali, Cinnamon Nut Biscotti

Hoo boy... Tomorrow is Palm Sunday.

Lent's almost over.
And all that suffering you planned to do during this Lent... well, if intentions counted for anything, they'd be printing holy pictures with your face on them right now. 

Can't exactly use "Time flies when you're having fun" as an excuse for not doing anything on your Lent List.

Okay... I'm not here to make you feel guilty.
Things have gotten a bit loosy goosy since Vatican II.
It's the twenty-first century and we live in a multicultural world.

But this is the last week of Lent.
Let's at least try to do something Lentish.
Within reason.

In the Adult Birthday Parties chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Quaresimali, Cinnamon Nut Biscotti. 
Perfect for Lent.
I'm not kidding.
Check out the recipe, not the chapter title.

I don't know what gets into that girl.
Some of the wedding recipes were a bit cheesy.
Even for one of Janice's weddings....
I mean, really.

Maybe Carmela's editor just took her Lent recipes and scattered them in different chapters, hoping nobody would notice.

Yeah, right. 

Carmela used cinnamon oil.
She bought it in a gourmet shop.
She measured it out in drops.
Give me a break.
I just increased the cinnamon. 

grease and flour 2 large cookie pans         
preheat oven to 350º        
bake 20 + 10 minutes

In a large mixer bowl, mix
2 Cups flour
1 1/4 Cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs 
stir in the dry ingredients

Stir in
1 1/2 Cups toasted almonds
1 1/2 Cups toasted hazelnuts

Divide the dough into 6 portions.
Wet your hands so the dough won't stick so much.
Shape each portion into a log, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
and place them, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheets.

Bake 20 minutes, until the logs are firm when tapped in the center. 
DON'T turn off the oven.
Place the logs on a cutting board and cut into 1/2 inch slices.
Place the slices back on the cookie sheets.
Bake 10 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown.
Cool the cookies on a rack.
Store in an airtight container.

If they seem familiar, you probably bought them as teething cookies (minus the nuts) for your kids.
But as a dessert for a wedding?
Eh.... Maybe a wedding in Lent.

Would I make Quaresimali again?
And even when it's not Lent.
Can you say 'Low Fat'?

Another recipe down.  Twenty-four more to go.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Anna Sultana's Qassatat tal-Pizelli, Small Pies with Peas, Maltese Style

Yesterday I posted Ma's Qassatat ta I-Irkotta, small ricotta pies.

A friend e mailed and asked if there was anything similar for the lactose intolerant.
No problem.

Qassatat ta I-Irkotta can easily be prepared as Qassatat tal-Pizelli.
A Qassatat with a peas filling.

Great for the lactose intolerant and vegetarians in the crowd.
And everybody else.

                        Qassatat tal-Piżelli 

grease a cookie pan         
preheat oven to 375º        
bake 45 minutes, until golden brown

Fry in oil or butter
1 large onion, chopped
400 g cooked peas (or canned, drained)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix well
Let cool

In a large mixer bowl, mix
400 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Rub in
200 g margarine
enough to form a soft dough

Roll out the dough, and cut using a round 18 cm cutter
Place some of the filling in the center of each circle

Brush the pastry ends with water
Gather the edges toward the center,
leaving it uncovered over the filling.
Bake 45 minutes 

As with the Qassatat ta I-Irkotta, you can use frozen puff pastry.

Qassatat ta I-Irkotta and Qassatat tal-Piżelli are good hot or cold.

Make both and give the folks a choice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Anna Sultana's Qassatat ta I-Irkotta - Small Ricotta Pies, Maltese Style

On Saturday I posted Carmela Soprano's La Pastiera.
Just a few sentences.
Live and learn, right?

They're both pie recipes, have a ricotta filling and a crust.
There the similarity ends.
Ma's recipe is 100% simpler.

You can prepare it for lunch the same day.

And, it's healthier.
Watching your cholesterol?
No problem.

                        Qassatat ta I-Irkotta 

grease a cookie pan         
preheat oven to 375º        
bake 20 minutes, until golden brown

In a medium bowl, beat together
250 g ricotta
1 large egg

In a large mixer bowl, mix
400 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
Rub in
200 g margarine
enough to form a soft dough

Roll out the dough, and cut using a round 18 cm cutter
Place some of the filling in the center of each circle

1 egg 

Brush the pastry ends with the beaten egg
Gather the edges toward the center,
leaving it uncovered over the ricotta.
Brush the pastry and ricotta with the beaten egg
Bake 20 minutes 

Simple, no?

Qassatat ta I-Irkotta isn't just for Easter.
It's handy for lunch boxes and pic nics, too.
Just so you know.

In a rush?
You can use that frozen puff pastry.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mother's Daughters - Being 60 (week 49 - by Margaret Ullrich)

I got a few emails about a piece I had written a couple of weeks ago.
I had compared my childhood to Loretta Lynne's Coal Miner's Daughter.
I said my siblings had the Crystal Gale experience.

I guess I wasn't clear enough.

It wasn't about the green "Alien Registration" postcard every year.
It wasn't about being the go-between, the translator.
It wasn't about the paper trail I have to show to explain where I was born.

It was about how families change.
Not for the better or worse.
Just change.

Picture it...
A couple in their mid-twenties have their first baby.
They're settled in a country where, for centuries, their families had lived.
They have family, friends, his job seniority, a home, furnishings.
Wife is content.
Husband wants to live near his siblings.
In another country.
On another continent. 
Wife with baby has no choice.

They leave everything to share a four room apartment with his brother's family.
That's four room, not four bedroom.
Baby shares cousin's crib.
Wife has to get a job in another town so they can buy a home, furnishings.
Relatives, Maltese and Italian, babysit.
Wife is, shall we say, stressed.

After two years the couple buys a house.
It is near the factory where they work.
It is away from the relatives. 
Wife is still working.
Toddler is babysat by German neighbors.

After three years, Wife is expecting again.
She has miscarried twice.
Doctor orders her to quit working and rest.
There isn't any threat of moving again.
Wife and Husband are becoming American, less content.
They have more than they had, but less than they see.

The new baby is brought home to a crib of her own.
Wife is now a stay at home Mom, busy with the baby.
After six months the eldest starts school.
The family stays in that house for 14 years.

Another time.
Another place.
Another Loretta Lynne / Crystal Gale situation.
So it goes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Carmela Soprano's La Pastiera - Easter Ricotta Pie, Italian Style

Okay... we're in the homestretch for Easter.
Time to get back to basics.
I'm not talking theology.
Something more important.

Even people who aren't religious - the C & E relatives - are expecting you to do your bit for their holiday enjoyment.

It's time to start pulling out the Easter recipes.

Last April I just gave a quick comparison of Carmela Soprano's La Pastiera (also known as Easter Dessert Pie) and my Ma's Qassatat ta I-Irkotta.
A half dozen sentences or so and I was done.
What was I thinking?

I've learned my lesson.
Snarky comments can't cut it.
Not for the holidays.
We're all in the holiday mood and ready to kill.

Here's the link for the recipe for Ma's Qassatat ta I-Irkotta.
And below is the recipe for La Pastiera, from the Holidays chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos.

I don't know where Carmela bought orange flower water.
I used orange juice.
No, not fresh, as Carmela suggested as a substitute.
From concentrate.
It's Lent.
I'm hungry.
Don't push me.

The recipe's not that hard to follow.
It does take three, four days.
Not involving you, just stuff sitting in a fridge.
Plan ahead.

If you're nervous about things like cholesterol, it's a killer.
Lots of butter and eggs.
Well, what else would you expect from Carmela Soprano?
You've been warned.

Some hints:
The hulled wheat can be found in Italian markets and health food store.
Carmela also used 3 Tablespoons orange flower water.
Good luck with that.
If the dough mixture seems dry, add a spoon or two of ice water.
If all the eggs in the recipe scare the bejesus out of you, try my pie crust recipe.
The wrapped pie can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving.

                        La Pastiera

Serves 8 - 10

Day one before baking:

Soak in cold water to cover
4 ounces (1/2 Cup) hulled wheat
Refrigerate overnight.

The next day:

Drain the wheat and place it in a medium saucepan.
fresh cold water to cover.
1/2 teaspoon salt
Over medium heat bring to a simmer.
Cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
Drain the wheat and place it in a large bowl.
Stir in
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Stir until the butter melts.  Let cool.

The Filling
Beat together in a large bowl
1 15-ounce container of ricotta
4 large eggs
2/3 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Stir in
the wheat mixture
1/2 Cup very finely chopped candied citron
1/2 Cup very finely chopped candied orange peel
Cover and refrigerate.

The Dough
In a large mixer bowl beat until light and fluffy
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Cup confectioners' sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
Beat until smooth.
Beat in
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3 Cups flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix until a dough forms.
Shape 1/4 of the dough into a disk.
Shape the remaining dough into another disk.
Wrap each disk in plastic wrap.
Chill 1 hour, or overnight.

The day of baking:

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350º
Butter and flour a 9 x 3-inch springform pan.
Tap out the excess flour.

Roll out the larger piece of dough to a 15-inch circle.
Drape the dough over the rolling pin.
Carry the rolling pin to over the prepared pan.
Fit the dough into the pan.
Flatten any wrinkles.
Scrape the filling into the pan.

Roll out the smaller piece of dough to a 10-inch circle.
Cut the dough into 1/2 inch wide strips.
Lay half the strips 1 inch apart over the filling.
Give the pie a quarter turn and place the remaining strips on top.
Press the ends of the strips against the dough on the sides of the pan firmly to seal.
Trim the excess dough.

Beat together
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon water
Brush the lattice top with the egg mixture.
Bake for 70 minutes.
The pie should be golden brown on top and the filling should puff up.
Cool the pie in the pan on a wire rack 15 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the sides of the pan.
Let the pie cool completely.
Wrap the pie in foil or cover, and refrigerate at least overnight.

The day of serving:

Just before serving sprinkle with
Confectioners' sugar

Would I make La Pastiera again?
No way.
My Sicilian Aunts never made it.
My doctor would kill me.

La Pastiera was mentioned - briefly, I know - last year.
So, it isn't part of the countdown.
There's still twenty-five more to go.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Anna Sultana's Figolli recipe / Traditional Maltese Easter Sweet with Royal Icing and Almond Filling with and without eggs

On Saturday I posted the recipe for Carmela Soprano's Easter Sweet Bread.

The picture of the Sweet Bread in Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos cookbook inspired me to write a post last year about the Easter Breads of my youth.  

That post was recently included in Dust & Fire, Writing & Art by Women 2011, which was published by the Women's Studies Department of Bemidji State University.   

The Italian Sweet Bread was a major part of my family's Easter Dinner.
Well, the Sicilian part of the family.

When we moved from Corona to College Point, Ma returned to following our Maltese traditions.
For our Easters, she made a Figolli.

As I explained last year, a Figolli is harder to make than an Italian Easter Sweet Bread.
But, it is prettier.
It's more a dessert than a bread.

And it is traditional.
A little weird, but traditional.
That's just our way.


Makes 2 Figolli
grease 2 large baking sheets         
preheat oven to 350º           
bake 15 min., until golden brown 

Color for Easter, in advance
2 eggs
In a large mixer bowl, rub together
1 kilo flour
400 g butter
400 g sugar
1 teaspoon almond or lemon extract
2 eggs
water or milk to make a soft dough

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface.
Knead about 3 minutes.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl.
Cover and let it rest about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough.
Roll out 1 cm thick and cut the figolli pairs.
Remember: you will be making a sandwich of each pair. 

Bake 15 minutes or until golden
Remove from pans
Cool completely on a rack

Mix together
200 g ground almonds
100 g confectioners' sugar
100 g sugar
1 teaspoon almond or lemon extract
Add, to make a firm mixture 
2 egg yolks
Knead thoroughly

400 g confectioners' sugar
warm water to make a firm icing
Color different portions of the icing different colors

Take a pair of Figolli, cover the top of one with  
a layer of jam
a layer of almond filling
And put the other identical shape on top

Decorate the Figolli with piped royal icing 
and a decorated egg.

Want to cut down on the eggs?
No problem.
Use this

Mix together in a medium pot
200 g sugar
1/2 Cup water
Bring to a boil
1 teaspoon almond or lemon extract
When mixture 'threads' add
400 g ground almonds
Stir well and remove from heat
Let cool

Now about that mermaid...
That was Ma's traditional shape.
That was the shape of the cutter she used.
I don't know if the shape meant anything special to her.
Maybe she bought the cutter on sale.
Sometimes things become traditional after they've been used a few years.

It's too late to ask her now.

The Figolli can be cut in any holiday shape - a lamb, a basket, a cross.
Just cut a large enough shape to hold the icing and the egg.

And about the egg...
Like I said on Saturday, sometimes kids are turned off by hard cooked eggs.
Green rings and all.
No problem.
You can use a chocolate egg.
Or a few small foil-covered chocolate eggs.

This is a dessert for Easter.
Make something with ingredients the family likes.

Wishing you a Happy Easter!!