Sunday, May 29, 2011

Whack 'Em by Margaret Ullrich

We've just gotten back from a small trip to Dubuque.
We had a lovely time.
If you get the chance, drop by there.
They have a beautiful arboretum and a fascinating Riverboat Museum.

Now, I admit, I don't travel easily.

I'm always afraid I've forgotten something.
I know, my husband tells me we're not going to the middle of nowhere.
If I've forgotten something, I can always buy it there.
I just can't help double and triple-checking what I've packed.
And packing spares.

I also over-examine our room before we leave.
I mean, I check drawers we haven't even used.
If someone saw me, he'd think I'd forgotten the Hope Diamond.

Let's be honest.
The most that I could've forgotten is a pair of peds.
And they probably have holes in them.
No, they definitely have holes in them.

Now there's a third vacation hassle for me.
Checking FaceBook when we return.

FaceBook is something new in my life.
And, just like everything else, it's a mixed blessing.

I've enjoyed making contact with old classmates.
Seeing family pictures is a pleasure.
I've even made a few new friends.

But all the notifications are driving me crazy.

Something just snapped when I saw I had over 100 of them.
I couldn't believe how they'd piled up in just a few days.
You know, comments on threads.
Lots of comments on lots of threads.
And, frankly, some of them are just lines like "Woo Hoo".
Some are just "Likes".

I opened my list of Friends.
I read the list.
I poured a drink.
I gulped the drink.
Okay, it was hot chocolate.

Then I "Unfriended" someone I'd never met.
I'd friended folks who had a few friends in common with me.
It was my fault they were in the same list as a blood relative.
At first it felt terrible.
Was I hurting someone's feelings?

Then the sugar kicked in and I realized something.
Some of these people have about 2000 "friends".
They were collecting people.
Like butterflies.
They had never commented or posted on my comments.
Hell, they couldn't even be bothered to "Like" a comment of mine.

I was getting notices that they had commented on other people's walls.
People I didn't even know.
But FaceBook had decided I had to know about these people's other friends.

Thanks loads, FaceBook.

I "Unfriended" two dozen names.
Total strangers.
It felt great!

Bye, bye, "Friends".

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Zuppa Ingles, Neopolitan Trifle

I hope you found my Ma's Cannoli to be a nice simple recipe.
Something you can whip up on short notice.
Or on a hot summer day.

We had a couple of below-freezing nights last week.
I still have hope that Spring will come.
And Summer.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist.

Cannoli is an easy recipe, using items usually in the house.
Wish I could say the same for Carmela's Zuppa Inglese.  

In the Holidays chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Neopolitan Trifle, Zuppa Inglese

I know... Zuppa Inglese translates into English Soup.
Some say it's a little joke to tease the English about their love of rum.
Some say there was so much rum in the first Zuppa Inglese that it had to be eaten with a soup spoon.
Some say it was first served to Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton in the 18th century.

There are many variations.
This is Carmela's.

Brace yourself.
This is not a quicky.
Not by a long shot.
And it requires stirring boiling liquids.
Not fun in the Summer.

Not as healthy as Ma's recipe, either.
We're talking all-butter pound cake, heavy cream, plus 6 large egg yolks.

What can I say?
Tony uses bullets, garrots, knives.
Carmela has her own way of getting rid of people.

I wonder...
How many servings would it take to get rid of Janice?
Did Janice binge and purge?
Nah...  Once down, her food stayed for the count.
Maybe Janice built up a tolerance...

                              Zuppa Inglese 

Place a mixing bowl and beaters in the refrigerator to chill.

In a large heavy saucepan combine
2 Cups milk
1 Cup heavy cream
1/2 Cup sugar
Stirring to dissolve the sugar, bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat.

In a large heatproof bowl, whisk
6 large egg yolks
1 Cup milk

Sift into the egg / milk mixture
1/2 Cup flour
Whisk until smooth.
Gradually beat in all of the hot milk mixture.

Pour the mixture back into the large heavy saucepan. 
Return to the stove.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to boil.
Reduce heat and cook 30 seconds more.
Remove from heat and stir in
2 teaspoons vanilla

Use the custard immediately or transfer to a bowl, 
cover with plastic wrap pressed against the custard,
and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

In a large serving bowl, make a layer of 1/3 of
12-ounced all-butter pound cake, cut into thin slices
Sprinkle the slices with 
1/4 Cup Marsala, cherry liqueur or rum
Spread with
1/3 Cup sour cherry preserves
Pour on half of the custard.

Repeat with a second layer of cake:
Sprinkle the slices with 
1/4 Cup Marsala, cherry liqueur or rum
Spread with
1/3 Cup sour cherry preserves
Pour on half of the custard.
Top with remaining cake slices.

In the chilled bowl, whip until soft peaks form
1 Cup very cold heavy cream
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spread the cream on top of the cake.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, garnish with
fresh berries or shaved chocolate

Like I said, not something to whip up on short notice.
Especially in the Summer.
Yes, Summer will come.
At least for a few days.

Would I make Zuppa Inglese again?
My Ma's Cannoli is simpler and healthier.
And way cooler to make on a summer day.

Another recipe down.  Nineteen more to go. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Anna Sultana's Cannoli - Spongecake with Custard Filling, Maltese Style

Right off the bat, I have some explaining to do.

If you go to an Italian restaurant and order Cannoli, you'll get a deep-fried tube with a ricotta and chopped citron filling.

Well, except for the dairy and chopped citron filling, Ma's Maltese Cannoli isn't like Carmela's Cannoli.

Don't panic.
Ma has a good dessert.

Even healthier than the famous one.
No frying.
Less calories.

It just isn't the same.
Just so you know.

No, I don't know why they have the same name.

Sponge cake layers are sold in a pair, so you don't have to slice them.
If you make your own, make 2 layers.
Or slice one thick one.
It'll be completely covered, so no one will know.
If you'd rather use vanilla flavored ricotta, that's fine.

If you prefer crushed pineapple instead of citron, that's fine, too.
Maybe that's where Co-Op got the idea for their cheesecake.

No, I'm not going to make any cracks about Carmela's Cheesecake.
I ain't that dumb.
6-servings size package of instant vanilla pudding
               with 3 Cups milk as per package instructions
Set aside

Place in a deep glass bowl
1 8-inch sponge cake layer

Drizzle over cake
1/2 Cup white wine (your choice as to dryness)
Spread over it
1/2 Cup apricot jam
Sprinkle over that
1/2 Cup chopped candied citron or fruit

Top with 
1 8-inch sponge cake layer

Cover with 
prepared vanilla pudding
Sprinkle over that
1/2 Cup chopped nuts (almonds are nice)

Decorate with
2 Cups whipped cream

Easy, right?
And healthier.
So there.

No, I don't know why they have the same name.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Crazy-free Cul by Margaret Ullrich

B had burned all of A's financial papers - not good for someone with his own business.
There was a scorch mark in the yard, near A's bed.
A had thought that was where B had cremated his dog.
After having allowed him to do his business in the house for a few months.
Yes, B's dog had died.

The storage shed is packed with wood - source unknown.

All the usual items of western civilization - dishes, linens, lamps, etc. - had been tossed into the garbage used in the blockade in the house.

There's a weird squiggly path from the street to the door.
B never shoveled the concrete path.  
All winter.
A Manitoba winter.
B had walked on the lawn and created a hardpack path.
The hardpack had turned to ice and killed the grass.
In a weird squiggly path.

B had run up quite a few bills on their charge card.
A is negotiating with bankers, lawyers, etc.
He's hoping the bank won't take his house.

When he left, B had taken all of A's clothing.
B had left his clothing, which didn't fit A.
Remember, A had been refered to as 'the little guy'.
A had bagged B's clothing and asked B's relatives in Brandon to trade with him.
Wonder what B did to send him to the Psych Ward of the Brandon General Hospital?

That evening, the futon frame, which had leaned on our shared fence, was cut apart.
The pieces were placed in the rollaway garbage can.

Well, that was the last we've seen of A.
He basically has to start over.
Not fun when you're over 50.

Like I said a few months ago, it's one thing to see this on TV, another to live near it.

Since he left the house, B had been trying to call A.
B was ignoring the rules of the peace bond.
Well, since when did B think laws applied to him?
He had his own way of doing things.
What he called, 'flying under the radar'.

It's a little awkward in the cul-de-sac now.
Folks are wondering about A.
Why he had let B into his - and our - lives.
B had been A's choice... and A was over 40 when they met.

It's not unusual for teenagers to be charmed by kids 'on the wild side'.
The kids who have more nerve than brains.
But kids outgrow this need to push the envelop.
Long before reaching 40.

Neighbors are swearing they'd run, not walk, away from someone like B.
Someone who 'follows his own rules'.
Someone who 'flys under the radar'.

Some say it's time to avoid someone who tolerated such behavior.
Some say it's a case of domestic abuse.
The little guy was scared.

We all agree on one thing.
We'd never let a bum like B into our homes again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Potato Pie

Okay... You now know about the great Maltese comfort food.
Baked Rice.
A one dish meal.
A miracle.

But Maltese eat more than just rice and pasta.
Malta produces a surplus of potatoes.  
Enough to export to other countries, primarily Holland.
So there.

In the Come to My Home chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Potato Pie. 
It's another one dish meal, using potatoes.
A lot of cheese and a bit of meat go into it. 
An oldie from Tony's button days.
An oldie but a goodie.

                              Potato Pie

grease well an oven casserole (2 1/2-quart size)     
preheat oven to 400º  after potatoes are boiled       
bake 50 minutes

Place in a large saucepan
3 pounds red potatoes, peeled and quartered
Add cold water to cover.
Cover pot and bring to a boil.
Simmer over medium-low heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
Mash potatoes.

Stir in
1 Cup warm milk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 Cup grated Romano cheese
2 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
4 ounces smoked (or more fresh) mozzarella, chopped
4 ounces sliced prosciutto or salami, chopped
Mix well.
Scrape the mixture into the oven casserole.
Smooth the top.

Sprinkle on top
2 Tablespoons grated Romano cheese
Bake, until it's browned around the edges.
Let cool 15 minutes before serving.
Serve with a salad or cooked vegetable.

Would I make Potato Pie again?
With Parmesan cheese.
And only fresh mozzarella.
Just saying.

Think of it as a heavier quiche.
See, we do eat more than pasta.

Another recipe down.  Twenty more to go.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Anna Sultana's Ross il-Forn - Baked Rice, Maltese Style

Okay... now we're talking Maltese comfort food.

It's funny how Americans think folks in the Mediterranean just eat pasta.
That just isn't so.

Don't get me wrong...  I've never met a noodle I didn't like.

But Ma filled us up on lots more than just pasta.
We had pots of potatoes and rice, too.

And not just boiled up and served with a dab of butter.
I mean, you've seen what can be done with a bit of wheat dough.

Ross il-Forn is Maltese cooking at its best.
Its total is so much greater than the sum of its ingredients.

Ross il-Forn.
It should be called a miracle.

                        Ross il-Forn

grease well an oven casserole (with a cover)        
preheat oven to 350º        
bake 30 + 60 minutes (plus 30 minutes for the sauce to simmer)

In a large heavy skillet heat
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Fry over medium heat
1 onion, finely chopped                             
2 slices bacon, chopped                       
After the onion has cooked, add
1 teaspoon tomato paste
300 grams ground beef or pork or a mixture 
Stir until the meat has browned.

350 grams canned tomatoes 
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 Cup water                         
Simmer for half an hour.

Mix into the sauce
1 1/2 Cups uncooked rice

Add and stir well
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese 
Place the mixture in the casserole.

Add and stir well
3 Cups of water
Cover and bake 30 minutes.  
Take it out of the oven, and stir thoroughly.
Sprinkle on top
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese 
Continue baking for another hour, until it's a rich brown.

Serve with a salad or cooked vegetable.

Miracle, right?
What can I say?
It's our version of Kraft's macaroni and cheese.
And way better.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The New Canada by Margaret Ullrich

I work as a poll clerk.
I cross off your name so that no one else can come and pretend to be you.
The days of 'Vote early and vote often' are long gone.
It's hard enough to get people to vote, never mind pretending to be someone else.
But sometimes politics, like money, can make people act crazy.
I mean, did you hear some of their campaign promises?

It's a government job.
It's like doing the income tax form.
I don't have to understand it, I just have to follow directions.

You probably think election workers are happy to have an almost steady income.
But we, if not the politicians, were getting embarrassed by the non-confidence crap.
The politicians who called for this don't have to face annoyed citizens.
The poll clerks and deputy returning officers are like the clerks in the store.
We're stuck apologizing for shoddy work.
Or, in the case of some politicians, no work.

Anyway, On May 2, I was at my post.
I was seated next to the poll for my neighborhood.
Neighbors dropped by to say hi as they left.
That's one of the perks of the job.

Well, it was until this week.

A, former partner of B, managed to find time to vote.
After he voted he stopped by my table.
He smiled and said he has to have us over for a glass of wine...
after he replaces the floor and the kitchen cabinets, which had been torn out.
Oh, and B is in the Psych Ward of the Brandon General Hospital.

Alrighty, then.

Luckily my DRO and I were busy with new voters.
A's tale of woe was forgotten while we sorted forms.

A couple of days after the election, Paul was raking the thatch.
A returned from work, and strolled over to Paul.
In the throes of euphoria - either at Kevin Lameroux's re-election or at his newly single life - A told Paul about his recent adventures.

It had looked like a 'Hoarder's' episode on The Learning Channel.
A had needed to shovel a path to get through the rooms.
Garbage and filth everywhere.
With a stench that took 2 days to air out.
A's friend almost vomited. 

About the laminate floors and kitchen cabinets... B had torn them out.
The flooring had been a 'lover's revenge' touch.
A and B together had installed the flooring in happier days.

Hell hath no fury as a bum about to be kicked out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Caponata, Italian Style Eggplant Appetizer

Okay... I told you there's an Italian recipe like the Maltese Kapunata.

And, lucky for us, in the Small Events for Men Only chapter of Carmela's 
Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Caponata, also known as Sweet-and-Sour Eggplant.

No, it's not a Chinese recipe. 

Like I've said before, I don't know who put together this book.
Perfect Lent recipes in the wedding section.
A family vegetable dish in the 'cigars and brandy' chapter.

Caponata is a simple vegetable dish.
Not just for Tony and the boys.
Bobby's kids could dip some bread in Caponata and snack away.
It's much healthier than candy or cake.

Whip up both and let everybody dig in.
Yes, even your fussy eighty-year-old Aunt.
She'll ask for the recipes. 


Cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large eggplant
Place in a colander, sprinkling each layer with salt.
Place colander in a pot so the water can drain.
Let stand 60 minutes to drain the excess liquid.

In a dutch oven, heat 
1/4 Cup olive oil
Fry over medium heat for 5 minutes
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 Cups celery, chopped

1 1/2 Cups chopped canned tomatoes  
Bring to a simmer, cook 15 minutes

Stir in
1 Cup chopped green olives
1/4 Cup capers, rinsed and drained
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/3 Cup red wine vinegar
Simmer gently 5 minutes.
Remove from heat.

Rinse eggplant with cool water.
Pat dry with paper towels.

In a large heavy skillet heat over medium heat
1/2 inch vegetable oil

Test by adding a piece of eggplant - it should sizzle rapidly.
Add some of the eggplant gently so it doesn't splash on you.
Don't crowd the pieces, you want them to fry, not stew.
Cook, stirring regularly, about 10 minutes.
Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. 
Repeat with remaining eggplant.

Stir the cooked eggplant into the sauce.
Simmer 10 minutes.
Cool and serve at room temperature.
It's also nice with crusty bread.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 3 days.

Would I make Carmela's Caponata again?
I just prefer my Ma's Kapunata.
Less trouble, less oil and less frying.
And I like the green peppers.
Suit yourself.

Another recipe down.  Twenty-one more to go.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anna Sultana's Kapunata, Maltese Style Caponata, Eggplant Appetizer

Okay, I know how it is.
Eggplants are like potato chips.
It's hard to stop at just one.

Maybe I am overstating it, just a teenie bit.

But really, eggplants are a staple in the Mediterranean.

If you flip through an Arabic cookbook, you'll see a recipe for 'The Imam Fainted'.
It uses eggplants.
No, the Imam didn't faint because it smelled funny.
Legend has it that the Imam's new bride had been given dozens of huge jugs of extra virgin olive oil as part of her dowry.
No cracks about the extra virgin.

After dinner, the Imam noticed the jugs were empty.
The oil was all gone.
It had been used in preparing that dinner.
Knock it off with the extra virgin jokes. 

Maybe the legend is overstating it, just a teenie bit.

But sucking up oil is a slight fault of eggplants.
Nothing's perfect.
When folks loved the pre-Dancing With the Stars Kirstie Alley look, no problem.
Now most people brush a bit of extra virgin olive oil (extra virgin has a stronger olive taste) on each side of an eggplant slice and broil the slices instead of frying them.

Oh, what we do to stay slim and trim.
Quit the cracks about the extra virgin.  Now.

We Maltese eat lots of eggplants, too.
Kapunata is similar to the Italian recipe Caponata.
So here's a recipe for our Kapunata.


Peel and chop 
2 large eggplants                                
4 large tomatoes  
6 green peppers                                
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic                                     

In a dutch oven, heat 
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fry the vegetables together.  

1 Tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt                                 

Cover and simmer until the vegetable are tender.  

3 tablespoons capers
1/4 Cup pitted olives
Stir well.  
Serve hot or cold.
It's nice with crusty bread as an appetizer.

This keeps well in the fridge.
Handy for the hot summer days that are coming.

Yes, they are coming.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day by Margaret Ullrich

Happy Mother's Day!!
Wishing Moms and their families a lovely day!

May is a busy month for Catholics.
Little seven and eight-year-olds are receiving their First Communion.
The first big day in a Catholic's life.
I mean, who remembers being baptized, which usually happens when we're infants.

Paul and I are Eucharistic Ministers.
That means we help give out Communion at Masses.
Extra hands means that part of Mass gets done more quickly.
We were Eucharistic Ministers today.
No surprise.
Gloria plans the list way in advance.

Sometimes being an EM can be funny.  
A few weeks ago, while I was giving a Mom her Communion, her little girl (whom the Mom was holding) reached out for the host. 
The Mom and I laughed.

Times have sure changed for us 'Catholics of a certain age'.
Back in the 50s, only the priest could touch the host.
It was placed on a person's tongue.
Our hands couldn't touch Jesus.
Receiving Communion was like playing soccer.

We were not allowed to eat anything from midnight.
We'd heard how people avoided food to 3:00 pm, to receive at a wedding.
We'd also heard how some people fainted.
Our First Communion Mass was in the morning.
That meant no breakfast.
We prayed we'd stay upright until we could eat the snacks our Moms brought for us to eat after the big event.

And the host was never chewed.
As my second grade teacher asked, "Would you bite Jesus?"
We were horrified at the thought.
I mean we'd just gotten through Lent.
The whipping and crucifixion were bad enough.
No way would we bite Him after all that.

And the host was to be swallowed dry.
As is, no water, no nothing.

I was terrified.
I just knew I was going to choke on Jesus.
Or have him stuck to the roof of my mouth.
Or spit Him out.
Or, worse yet, I'd vomit.
Jesus covered in puke.
I'd go to Hell, for sure.

My Ma tried to reassure me.
The hosts were small, I'd gulped bigger things, I'd do fine.
No dice.
I was sure I'd puke and be damned.

Then Ma came up with the idea of practice communions.
She would tear a slice of Wonder Bread into tiny bits, squish them as flat as she could, and then place them on my tongue.
We practiced every night for a few weeks before my big day.
The bits gradually became bigger.
I got used to swallowing dry bread.

On the big day, Jesus was easy to swallow.
No choking.
No puking. 
No damnation.

A few years ago in May, during one of my parents' visits, Paul and I were on the list to serve as Eucharistic Ministers.
As we were going to Mass, we didn't call anyone to substitute for us.
It was no big deal.

During Mass we sat with my parents.
Paul and I walked to the altar in plenty of time to serve.
We got into position, as we'd done hundreds of times.
Folks came for Communion, as they'd done hundreds of times.

But, then my Ma came down the aisle for Communion.
She didn't receive from the priest.
She turned from him and approached me.
She was smiling in a way I'd never seen before.
I gave my Ma Communion.
The real thing.
Not squished Wonder Bread.

I remembered and almost cried.
We'd come full circle.
The giver was now the receiver.
From the one she had taught.

Erma Bombeck once wrote about driving her Mom to an appointment.
Erma had to brake suddenly.
Her arm shot out to prevent her Mom from smashing into the dashhboard.
Something parents always did before safety belts were invented.
And even after they were invented.
An old habit from when dashboards were metal.
Something Erma's Mom had always done for her daughter.
Erma and her Mom exchanged a look. 

Parents and children sort of change places.
In church.
In cars.
In life.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Meatless Eggplant Rollatini

Okay... you bought the eggplants, but you don't have any meat in the house.
Not even the fake stuff.

Don't panic.

How about cheese?
Yes, this is for an Italian recipe.
Mozzarella, not American.
In a pinch, the plastic wrapped slices will do.
It's gonna melt, so who's to know?

And some Romano.
That's what Carmela uses.
Hey, if you prefer Parmesan, I won't tell.
Maybe even Meadow prefers Parmesan, too.
No, Paulie won't pay a visit.
Don't even mention Mother's Day to him.

In the Welcome to the Family chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos, Carmela has a recipe for Eggplant Rollatini

This must've been another recipe from Carm's early days with Tony.
I mean, no meat.
Not even ground hamburger, 40% fat.

Carmela says this serves eight.
Maybe it was a side dish.
Maybe there was a steak on the table.
She doesn't say.
Suit yourself. 

                           Eggplant Rollatini                       
have 2 plarge cookie sheets handy       
grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish         
preheat oven to 450º  after the eggplant has drained 
bake 20 + 25 minutes

Cut into 1/4 inch thick diagonal slices
2 eggplants
Place in layers, sprinkling each layer with salt,
in a colander placed in a pot so the water can drain.
Cover the top layer with a weight. 
Let stand 30 minutes to drain the excess liquid.

Rinse eggplant with cool water.
Pat dry with paper towels.

Brush slices on each side with
olive oil
Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet
Bake 10 minutes, turn slices and
Bake 5 - 10 minutes, until tender.
Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350º. 

Spoon into the 13 x 9 inch baking dish
1 Cup tomato sauce

Slice into 1/2 inch sticks
8 ounces mozzarella
Place a stick across the long end of a mozzarella slice
Roll up, place seam side down in baking dish and repeat.

Spoon over the slices
1 Cup tomato sauce

Sprinkle with
1/4 Cup grated Romano 

Bake 25 minutes, until sauce is bubbling.
Serve hot with your favorite pasta.

Would I make Eggplant Rollatini again?
And Paul likes it better.
My Paul, not Paulie.

Another recipe down.  Twenty-two more to go.