Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cocked Up by Margaret Ullrich

Yesterday I wrote about how the British had come to Malta.
They were invited there to help kick out Napoleon.
Napoleon had said he just wanted some water.
Yeah, right.
Then he took over the place.
Doesn't make one feel warm and toasty about the French.

Well, along with eating, the Brits and Maltese did a bit of talking.
And they learned some of our language.

Ah, yes... cultural exchange.

British television shows are quite popular in Canada.
Dr. Who had its season premiere last night.
The show's been on since the 60s.
The Space channel ran a Dr. Who marathon all afternoon.
In case somebody is still confused.
I love it, but there are some things I don't get.
River couldn't have called Amy 'Mom' when they first met?
I mean, didn't River know?
I digress... 

Last night, after the premiere of Dr. Who, Torchwood was on.
Another British sci fi favorite.
Long story about a time when nobody dies.
Not such a hot idea.  Really.
I digress... again.

Our local public TV channel also runs British comedies on Saturday nights.
Vicar of Dibley, To the Manor Born, Fresh Fields, As Time Goes By...
Love seeing Dame Judy Dench when she wasn't a dame.
Just the shows to watch with a cuppa and a biscuit.
And let's not forget Merlin, an interesting twist of the Camelot tale.
Gotta love television shows from across the pond.

English is a funny language.
The British, the Canadians and the Americans speak English.
But there are little differences.

The British English still has a trace of Maltese in it.
I get the giggles whenever an actor says "Don't cock up" or "He cocked up".
Cock doesn't have the same colorful history as a few other four-letter words.
It's not as bad as "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge".

Cocka in Maltese means... 
How shall I put this?
Okay, the English word translates as:
excrement - usually considered vulgar.

Yeah, another four-letter word. 

During the war quite a few folks in Malta said cocka.
The word went back to England.
And lives on.

We got meat pies.
The British got cocka.

Ah, yes... cultural exchange.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anna Sultana's Meat Pie, Maltese Style

The English were in Malta from the time of Napoleon to 1964.
That's quite a while.
Too long to go without comfort food.

If you've ever been to England, you know Brits like meat pies.
Well, the cooks in the Maltese restaurants aimed to please their customers.
They got some English cookbooks and learned how to make meat pies.
So did the Maltese mothers.

And who could blame them?

Actually, meat pies are handy for using up bits and pieces.
You'd think meat pies were a Maltese idea.
You know how it is...
Too little to serve as a main course, too much to throw away.
But just the right amount to add to a meat pie.
Waste not, want not.

Oh, 200 grams is almost 1/2 a pound.
Don't worry if you've got more or less.
If you have 300 grams of one and 100 grams of the other, no problem.
I mean, what's a large onion?

Don't have kidneys?
Use more of the other meats.
It's your pie.
Same with the spices.
Maybe someone doesn't like allspice.
Adjust the seasoning.
The customer is always right.

                        Meat Pie

Preheat oven to 400º

Fry in some fat until tender
4 large onions, chopped

Chop and add to the onions
200 g kidneys
200 g beef
200 g pork
100 g bacon
Simmer for 10 minutes.

200 g peas
1 teaspoon allspice 
1/2 teaspoon curry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Simmer for 10 minutes.

Roll out
400 g puff pastry
Line a pie plate with half.
Place the filling in the pie plate.
Cover with the remaining puff pastry
Prick the top crust.

1 egg yolk with 2 Tablespoons water
Brush the top crust with the egg mixture.
Bake 50 minutes.
Serve hot.

Or cold.
Handy for a picnic.
Carpe summer!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Stromboli Bread with Provolone and Meat Filling

This has been a hell of a summer in Manitoba.
First we thought we needed to build an ark.
Water, water, everywhere.

It's been tinder dry for weeks.
Our lawns are brown.
The weather folks have been saying "30% chance of rain."
Every night practically.
Who are they kidding?
I haven't seen anybody carrying an umbrella.

The lousy weather hasn't stopped folks from eating.
And since winter is around the corner, outdoor eating is still popular.
I mean, next weekend is the Labour Day Weekend.
Fall.  Snow.  Winter.

Okay... time to go on a picnic.

In the Graduation Parties chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos, there's a recipe for Stromboli Bread.

Graduation Parties?
Maybe for A. J.'s graduation.
Yeah, right, like that's going to happen.
Maybe Carmela's editor has a weird sense of humor.
Or is totally clueless.

If you're from around here, you know fires have been forbidden.
If the wind is from the right direction, you can smell the woods burning.
So, stuff the Stromboli loaves in an insulated bag, and go to the park.

If you have a food processor, use it.
If not, a big bowl and some elbow grease will do. 

                              Stromboli Bread 

Makes 3 12-inch loaves

In a small bowl combine
1 1/2 Cups warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
Let stand 5 minutes, then stir.

In a big bowl combine
3 1/2 Cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
Add the yeast and mix.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead about 2 minutes
Add a little more flour for a smooth and elastic dough.
Oil the big bowl.
Place the dough in it and turn the dough over so the top is oiled.
Cover and place in a warm spot.
Let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the dough from the bowl and flatten it.
Cut the dough into 3 even pieces and shape each into a ball.
Place the balls on a floured surface and cover.
Give them some room.
Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425º
Oil a large baking sheet

Have on hand
8 ounces sliced mild provolone
8 ounces sliced capicola, salami, or boiled ham
1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 Tablespoons water

On a floured surface roll out one ball of dough into a 14-inch circle.
In the middle of the circle place 1/3 of the cheese and the meat.
Tightly roll up the dough and filling.
Pinch the seam to seal and tuck the ends under.
Place the roll seam side down on the baking sheet.
Make 2 more loaves.
Brush the loaves with the egg mixture.
Cut 4 shallow slashes on top of each loaf.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes.
Serve the bread warm, cut into diagonal slices.

You can also cool, wrap and store them in the refrigerator overnight.
Or freeze them up to a month.

Would I make Stromboli Bread again?
It's a different way to serve cold cuts.

Oh, I would cut down the salt to 1 teaspoon.
But, that's just me.
Maybe you, too?

Another recipe down.  Six more to go.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bye, Bye, MSOS & Aqua Books by Margaret Ullrich

Maybe there's something in the air.

On July 31, The Manitoba Society of Seniors shut its doors.
The MSOS, a non-profit organization, had been in Manitoba for over 30 years. 

MSOS members paid an annual fee of $20; $30 for a household. 
In return they received free personal income tax preparation, the monthly Journal, Fifty and Beyond, as well as recreation and travel discounts. 

Now if one was over 50 and wanted those items, that seemed fair.
But, if one didn't want those services, well, there are better ways to spend $30.

According to the MSOS, they represented the views of older Manitobans with government, the media, business and employer groups.

The Manitoba Society of Seniors' closing wasn't covered by the media.
So much for their media presence and contacts.
The only media that covered the MSOS ending was their journal, Fifty and Beyond.
A stack of F & B was at the Winnipeg Free Press building, along with the free weeklies.
I don't know where or how else a non-member would have heard of their news.
I googled.

Fifty and Beyond's editor, Andrea Geary, had her own opinion of the MSOS ending. 
Her editorial was almost as good as Professor Hill's Trouble.
His show-stopping solo from the musical The Music Man.  

Yep, we've got trouble, right here in River City.
Nobody is going to speak up for us poor defenseless Boomers.
She made it sound like we're losing the vote.
According to Andrea, we're now invisible.

Andrea pointed out that the over-50 crowd is growing.
Well, duh.
And the board members of MSOS had expected every Boomer to join the MSOS.
Yet, their numbers have steadily fallen over the years.

Well, Andrea knows what's wrong with the "younger seniors".
We don't know we're getting old.
We're not joiners.
We lack a community spirit.

Yeah, right.
Maybe we can do our own taxes and don't want to go on their tours.

When McDonald's tries a new product and it doesn't sell, the folks at Micky D don't call customers names.
They just stop selling that product.

The customer is always right.

Speaking of customers...
On August 11, after being in business a dozen years, Kelly Hughes announced he was shutting Aqua Books' doors.

Aqua Books is a secondhand bookstore / restaurant / you name it.
Music, classes, yoga, plays.
It was almost guaranteed there was something for everybody.

According to Kelly's e-mail, "Smart phones, Facebook, and the internet are all part of what has replaced reading time. 
I won't beat it to death, but it's an irreversible change in people's habits." 
Technology is making people read books less.
Yeah, he spread the word through an e-mail.
Ironic, eh?

News of Aqua Books' Closing hit all the media.
Radio, newspapers, television, the internet.
The CBC has an online version where people can post comments.
Pro and con. 
Some folks did say they were going to miss Aqua for a read or a feed.

But others had a different view on why Kelly's store had failed.
Along with comments on changing times, some got quite specific.
Everything from overpriced books and meals to the staff's attitude was covered.

Then there was Mr. Hughes himself.
One person posted a link to Kelly's blog.
Some had found Hughes humorous.
Some didn't.

The customer is always right.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anna Sultana's Tomato Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes and Bacon, Maltese Style

I guess I'm my father's daughter.
My yard isn't complete unless I'm growing a few vegetables.
Especially tomatoes.

But, I'm also my father's daughter in that I'm annoyed at the fact that, just when they're red and ready to eat, tomatoes are at bargain prices in the stores.
Isn't that always the way?

Funny thing about most tomato sauce recipes.
They usually call for canned tomatoes.
Oh, well, it's one way to use up what you bought on sale before buying the 2011 crop.

Ma's tomato sauce uses fresh tomatoes.
Perfect for this time of year.

                              Tomato Sauce 

1 small onion
1 carrot
1 slice bacon

In a medium saucepan place
2 tablespoons butter
Heat and add the chopped items.
Cook for about 5 minutes.

6 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
Simmer for 10 minutes.

Blend together
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Cup water
Stir into the sauce. 

pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If too thick, add a little water.
Serve hot with meatballs, pasta, etc.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Quick Tomato Sauce

You may have noticed Carm mentioning Tomato Sauce a few times.
Big surprise.
I mean, she did write an Italian cook book.

If you'd like to go for the total Carmela experience, then have I got the recipe for you.
In the Graduation Parties chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos, there's a recipe for Tomato Sauce. 
Yes, the Tomato Sauce she's mentioned in quite few of her recipes.
Now you'll know Carm's secret.

This sauce can be prepared 3 days ahead of time; cooled, covered and refrigerated.
It can also been frozen.

Small hints:
- I would give the onion a head start of about 5 minutes.  
Garlic tends to burn easily.
- The amount of basil leaves isn't set in stone.
You might like more or less basil (or garlic).
I used a teaspoon of dried basil.
- Also, if you've frozen the sauce, check the taste before serving.
Sometimes freezing affects spices.
It might taste stronger or blander than you want it to be. 

No, I still don't understand Carmela's editor.
Graduation Parties? 

                              Tomato Sauce 

Makes about 3 Cups

In a medium saucepan pour
2 tablespoons olive oil

Cook in the oil, over medium heat, about 10 minutes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped

1 28-ounce can Italian-style crushed tomatoes
2 fresh basil leaves, torn into bits
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.
Serve hot with meatballs, pasta, etc.

Would I make Carmela's Tomato Sauce again?
Sure, when I'm in a rush.
It's pretty simple.
Wait'll you try Ma's recipe.

Another recipe down.  Seven more to go.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Unsandwiched II by Margaret Ullrich

Maybe I wasn't clear last week.
I got a few e mails.
Annoyed e mails.

First off, I really admire grandparents who do more than an occasional babysitting.
Sudden expenses can send the best of budgets into a tailspin.
In today's market, jobs can suddenly end.
Marriages can end, too.
Emergencies happen.

And elderly parents can need help.
A fall can change things drastically.
The parents were there when needed.
It's only fair to be there for them.

When there is a real need, it's great to know a family will pull together.

It was about pulling rank.

The post was about the gung-ho Granny who has to run the show.
Her children have adult children of their own.
Her children have managed to raise the next generation.
They did a fine job.
They're all known as responsible, hard-working folks.
No matter.
For birthdays, confirmations, graduations, engagements, whatever parties,
gung-ho Granny has to be the hostess.
For every holiday on the calendar her children, and their children, have to go to Grandmother's house.
Like a horde of Little-Red-Riding-Hoods on a forced march.

The post was about the gung-ho Granny who sees herself as the hub of the family.
I know one New Yorker who had decided to throw her elderly father a birthday party.
Great-Grandpa was visiting from Florida.
It was late December.
Grandpa hates the cold, but he went north for the holidays.

It wasn't enough to invite the man's grandchildren and their children.
Oh, no.
Equally elderly folks, related by marriage, had to attend.

Elderly folks who had thought they were beyond peer pressure.
Elderly folks who didn't relish the hazards of a long winter's drive.
That meant driving to a house that was about two hours away.
And another two hours driving home in the dark.

That was driving in the summer.
Not in the winter.
Newsmen had said that the icy conditions were dangerous.
No matter.
They had been told to come.

They complained to their children about the drive.
They hoped to guilt their own children into driving them to the party.
No dice.
Their children had other plans.
It was the holiday week, after all.

Back in the 50s and 60s, relatives stayed closer together.
Especially when they were just-off-the-boat immigrant relatives.
Two sets of my relatives lived in the same tri-plex.
Another couple was on the same block, six houses away.
It was a snap to get everyone together.

That was then, this is now.

Maybe it's time to let the idea of gathering relatives together go, like dial phones. 
Maybe it's time to let the 40-year-old children host a family dinner.
Maybe it's time to let the elderly stay home, guilt-free.

Maybe it's time for gung-ho Granny to get a new hobby.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Anna Sultana's Broiled Chicken Oregano, Maltese Style

I have a confession to make.
Ma never served ground chicken.
We ate chicken.
But Ma left it up to our teeth to do the grinding.

To be honest, I don't remember ground chicken being in the store until recently.
Maybe it just didn't sell in my neighborhood until recently.
Maybe it's something new.
Like raspberry vinegar.

Here's a nice easy chicken recipe.
The meat is still on the bone.
It can be broiled or barbecued.
With fresh ingredients Ma always had on hand.
Like garlic.

                        Chicken Oregano 

4 pounds chicken parts, rinsed
Place on large cookie sheet
Sprinkle lightly with
salt and pepper 

1/3 Cup olived oil
1/4 Cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
Brush chicken generously with this mixture. 

Place on broiler rack about 6 inches below flame.
Broil 20 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Brush chicken occasionally with the liquid. 
When done, arrange chicken on platter.
Pour remaining liquid over chicken.
Serve very hot.

The chicken can be served with pasta or rice.
If you're at a picnic, crusty bread is nice, too.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Little Chicken Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Don't get upset.

The recipe for Little Chicken Meatballs is in the Graduation Parties chapter of 
Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos. 

I know the graduation season is long gone.
The stores have Back-To-School sales.
Yeah... Time flies when you're having fun.

Anyhow, I don't think this is only for June.
I mean, along with the meatballs, there's also a recipe for Tomato Sauce.
In the same chapter.

Tomato Sauce only for graduation parties?
Yeah, right.i
Give me a break.

Somebody really has to have a word with that editor.
I know I've said he must be a relative of Carm's.
But he makes Christopher look like a genius.
That's saying something.
Even when Christopher's not stoned out of his mind.

Back to the meatballs...
Remember how the past two weeks, Carm's used breadcrumbs "homemade 
This time she uses fresh bread crumbs made from Italian or French bread 
She also uses freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and coarsely chopped pine nuts.
And, you guessed it, finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.

I left the crusts on.  
Who could tell crust from chopped nuts?
I used pre-grated Parmesan and that old standby, dried parsley.
About the pine nuts, put them in a sandwich bag and smash them with a hammer.
Did that ever feel good!

Oh, big hints:
Make the meatballs the same size.
The meatballs can be prepared ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerated.

If you've just crawled home from a Back-To-School sale, listen up.
There are chicken and turkey balls in the frozen food section.
Yeah, really.
Right next to the frozen beef meatballs.
Give yourself a break.
Throw some pine nuts in the sauce and serve with Parmesan and parsley.

                              Little Chicken Meatballs

Preheat oven to 350º
Lightly oil a large roasting pan

Soak until the milk is absorbed
1/2 Cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 Cup milk
Lightly squeeze the bread crumbs.

Mix together thoroughly in a large bowl
the soaked bread
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 Cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan)
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped pine nuts
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper

Rinse your hands with cold water.
Shape the mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
Place the balls in the prepared pan.
Bake the meatballs about 12 minutes, until lightly brown.

Pour into a large heavy saucepan 
1 1/2 Cups Tomato Sauce
Bring to a simmer over low heat.
Add the meatballs and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add water if the sauce is too thick.
Serve hot, with a sprinkle of fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Would I make Little Chicken Meatballs again?
Only I'd use the frozen chicken balls.
Especially in the summer.

Another recipe down.  Eight more to go.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Unsandwiched by Margaret Ullrich

Summer is a great time for get-togethers.
Graduations, weddings, anniversaries, reunions.
Facebook is abuzz with folks planning for or returning from visits.

It's a little easier to travel when you don't have to pack 20-pound coats.
Cheaper, too.
Gotta love the itemized airline surcharges.
They really think that makes the final ticket price more acceptable.

I grew up in a just-off-the-boat immigrant family.
Every weekend was planned.
It was easy.
We - the family - got together.
The same thing we'd done the weekend before.
And the weekend before that.

Since there weren't our parents' old schoolmates, neighbors or friends on the continent, the guest list was all set.

It wasn't totally like Logan's Run.
There were a few elderly people at the table.
They were the parents of the Sicilian in-laws.
They were invited, made comfortable, and allowed to nap when the mood hit.
Why not?
They were over 60.
They'd done their share of hosting.
They'd earned the right to let someone else - like their kids - do the work.

Those were the days....

Now folks around 60 are called the "Sandwich Generation".
Responsible for caring for their even older parents and the kids.
And, the kids' kids.

It's a world-wide situation that crosses all income levels.
Picture it... 
Charlie and Cam have to fire up the grill for his parents, Elizabeth II and Philip.
Don't forget the three sibs, their spouses and kids.
And their own boys and the new daughter-in-law.
Oh, and is that a baby bump we see?
The Boomers must host them all, for however long they live.
Didn't the Queen Mum live past 100?

Yesterday I listened to my friend rattling off her plans for a reunion.
D-Day took less work.
Yessiree, she was planning a humdinger.
Her kids, in-laws, grandkids, and gloryoski, a great-grandson! 
Don't forget her six siblings, their spouses and the parents.

One of the kids offered to host at his home, the McMansion, and have it catered.
My friend wouldn't hear of it.
This was her party.
With the proper medication, her blood pressure would be under control.
She just expects them all to come to her house.
After all, she's still the Mom.


Maybe it's time to pass on the apron.
Maybe it's time for the kids to take over.
Maybe it's time for the lid to come off the sandwich. 

Maybe it's time for Mom to call herself "Grandma".

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Hot Meatball & Mozzarella Heroes

In the Small Events for Men Only chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos, I found Hot Meatball and Mozzarella Heroes. 

No, Carm isn't being snarky about Tony and his crew.

This is a recipe for a hot sandwich.
Nice if you have some spare time.
Also if the weather is not too hot.
If it is - or you have a steak - then check out Ma's recipe for Beef Rollettes.

Back to the meatballs...
Just like in the recipe for stuffed hot cherry peppers, Carmela uses breadcrumbs "homemade from Italian bread".
She also uses freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
And, of course, finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.
For the love of....
It's hot.
People get nasty when it's hot.
Don't add to the agita.
Do what you gotta do.

About the crusty rolls...
You can also use Italian bread, cut into wedges, and then split.
It doesn't hold the filling as well, but will do.

The meatball recipe will work just as well if you're serving pasta.
Of course that calls for a big pot of boiling water.

                              Hot Meatball and Mozzarella Heroes 

Mix together thoroughly in a large bowl
1 pound ground beef (or a combination of beef and pork)
1/2 Cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1/2 Cup grated Romano cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less)

Rinse your hands with cool water.
Shape the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.

Heat in a large heavy saucepan 
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Add the meatballs and brown them on all sides.
They'll finish cooking in the sauce.
Remove the meatballs.

Pour into the same saucepan 
2 1/2 Cups Tomato Sauce
Bring to a simmer over low heat.
Add the meatballs and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the broiler.
Open and pull out some of the soft bread of
6 crusty hero rolls
Add the meatballs and sauce.

Top the meatballs with a slice or two from
8 ounces mozzarella, sliced

Place the open sandwiches on a baking sheet.
Broil them for a few minutes to melt the cheese.
Close the sandwiches and serve immediately.

Would I make Hot Meatball and Mozzarella Heroes again?
Only I'd double the recipe and freeze half of the cooked meatballs.
Handy for another meal - with pasta or rolls.

Or I'd use meatballs leftover from a spaghetti dinner.

Another recipe down.  Nine more to go.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anna Sultana's Beef and Bacon Rollettes, Maltese Style

We're still in the middle of a rather hot summer here on the prairies.
It really isn't a great time to fire up an oven.

But people still get hungry.

Some folks just say "The hell with it" and hand out cold cuts.

Well, Ma figured if you had a butcher you REALLY trusted, that's okay.
In a pinch.
Can't be too careful.

But, then again, Ma had a way of making something quick and hot.
With fresh ingredients she always had on hand.
You guessed it.
And bacon.
Malta is famous for its bacon.
No, it's not fatty.

This is really easy to make.
The rolletes can be prepared ahead and refrigerated.
Ready to be cooked on a barbecue or at the beach.

The rollettes can be served in crusty bread or with pasta.
Rice is nice, too.

                           Beef and Bacon Rollettes

Slice about 1/4 inch thick and cut into 3-inch squares
1 1/2 pounds top round steak

Slice for filling
3 strips bacon (about 1-inch)
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic

Have on hand
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper 

Place in the center of each square
onion slice
pinch of parsley
Fold over 2 opposite sides to keep the filling from oozing out.
Fold over the other 2 opposite sides to make a rollette.
Fasten each rollette with a toothpick (or tie with string).

Place on broiler rack about 5 inches below flame.
Broil 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Serve very hot.

My vote is to serve them in crusty bread.
Less to clean up.