Friday, September 30, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Cheese Puffs (appetizers)

Thanksgiving's coming.
You've got your main courses under control.

But, you need something for a bit of a nosh.
Something to serve with appetizers or after dinner fruit and cheese.

No problem.

In the Fit for a Bride chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos
there's a recipe for Cheese Puffs.  
They look so cute in the picture.
There's ham wrapped around breadsticks.  And bubbly!
Cheese Puffs are party animals. 

Just like the Cannelloni, Cheese Puffs can be prepared in advance. 
The raw mounds on the baking sheets can be covered with foil and 
refrigerated up to 24 hours before baking.

They can also be baked, cooled and stored:
Refrigerated up to 2 days
Frozen up to 2 months
Just cool and place in tightly sealed plastic bags.
Reheat, unthawed, on a baking sheet in a 350º oven.
Handy, no?

Carmela's editor added a little note at the top of the page.
Wedding Reception.
Yeah, well, don't just wait for a wedding to make these.

One of these days I'm going to e-mail that editor... 

                              Cheese Puffs 

Preheat oven to 400º
grease 2 large baking sheets

Put in a medium heavy saucepan over high heat
1 Cup water
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter is melted.

1 Cup flour
Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture pulls away 
from the sides of the pan.
Continue to cook and stir 1 minute more.
Remove the pan from the heat.

With a wooden spoon (or electric mixer on high speed) beat in one at a time
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
Beat well after each addition.

1 1/2 Cups grated Gruyere
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Beat until blended.

Make small mounds, about 2 inches apart, on the baking sheets by scooping 
less than a tablespoon of the mixture, and using a second spoon to push the 
batter onto the sheets.
Dip your fingers into cold water and pat the mounds to round the tops.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. 
Serve warm or let cool on a rack.

Would I make Cheese Puffs again?
I bake them one sheet at a time.
Serving half cooled, the other half warm from the oven.
An easy way to let guests have a choice.
Happy Holidays!!

Another recipe down.  Two more to go.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Anna Sultana's Ravjul / Ravioli with Ricotta Filling, Maltese Style

Maybe I should have printed Ma's recipe first.
I know some folks don't eat meat.
Such guests are wonderful for the budget.
But they can be a nightmare for a hostess.

Okay... if you have vegetarians coming, here's a safe first course.
All cheese, no meat.
Maybe they'll just fill up on the ravjul.
More turkey for everyone else.

When Ma made ravjul, it wasn't because we were vegetarians.
It was her way to cut the cost of a big family dinner.
We filled up on the cheese ravjul first.
After that our stomachs had less room for the turkey.
More turkey leftovers for other meals.
Clever, eh?


Sift together
200 g semolina
200 g flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
enough water to make a dough
Roll dough out very thinly, form into long strips about 10 cm wide.


400 g ricotta
2 eggs 
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

The filling should be placed on the lower half of the pastry strip, 
a teaspoonful at a time, about 4 cm apart.
Turn the upper half of the pastry over the lower part, covering the filling.
After moistening your fingers, press down the sides of each ravjola.  
Cut each ravjola with a pastry cutter.

Cook ravjul in boiling salted water for 8 to 10 minutes.
Strain well and serve with tomato sauce, topped with parmesan cheese.
The Bechamel Sauce would be nice, too.

Yes, this is a ravioli recipe.

Looking for my Ma's Maltese Tomato Sauce recipes?

This recipe also includes a recipe for meatballs.

This recipe uses fresh tomatoes.  Great in late summer!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Cannelloni (Pasta with spinach / veal / pork filling)

Back to the Cannelloni in the Fit for a Bride chapter of Carmela's 
Entertaining with the Sopranos.

This makes a grand first course.
Especially for a big holiday dinner.
The Cannelloni can be prepared up to a day ahead.
Leaving you free to prepare other - fussier - stuff.
Just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

On to the Cannelloni... 
Take the Bechamel Sauce out of the fridge.
Or make some.  Now.



2 10-ounces packages frozen chopped spinach 
Drain and squeeze dry.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
1 pound ground veal
8 ounces Italian-style pork sausage, casings removed
1 large garlic clove, minced
Cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is no longer pink.
Spoon off the excess fat.

Stir in 
cooked spinach
1 Cup of the Bechamel Sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Remove from heat.
Stir in 
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)

On a table have a large bowl of cold water.
Spread a few large towels (not terry cloth) on the table.

Bring to a boil a large pot of salted water.
Add, a few at a time, from
1 1/2 pounds fresh lasagna sheets, cut into 4-inch squares
Cook less than a minute (they should be underdone).
Remove and place in the cold water until cool enough to handle.
Place the cooked squared flat on the towels.
Prepare the remaining pasta in the same way.

Preheat oven to 350º
Oil 2   11 x 8 x 2 inch baking dishes


Spread a thin layer of sauce in each baking dish.
Leaving 1/2 inch space on one side, place some of the filling in each square.
Starting at the filled side, roll up each square.
Place the rolls seam side down in the baking dishes.
Spoon the remaining sauce over the pasta.
Sprinkle with
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Bake 30 minutes (longer if it's been refrigerated) or until the sauce is 
bubbling and the top has browned.
Serve hot.

Would I make Cannelloni again?
Oh, yeah.
With ground chicken.
My local grocers don't carry veal.
I'm making a dinner, not searching for the Holy Grail.

Another recipe down.  Three more to go.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Bechamel Sauce

Yes, I know Carmela's Almond Roll recipe last week was long.
Brace yourself.
This week's recipe is long, too. 

Well, it could be.
But I'm splitting it.
Sort of.

In the Fit for a Bride chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos
there's a recipe for  Cannelloni.
There's even a picture.
A gorgeous, stick to your ribs main course.
Or first course, if you're feeding a crowd.

Like at Thanksgiving.
Yeah, that's coming up.  

Carmela's editor has done it again.
What was he thinking?
Or drinking?
Fit for a Bride.
Give me a break.
Holidays.  Sure.
Welcome to the Family.  Another good chapter for Cannelloni.
Why did he even bother creating Fit for a Bride?

Back to the Cannelloni.
The first item mentioned is Bechamel Sauce.
Okay, today we'll make 4 Cups of Bechamel Sauce.
It's easy and can be stored until tomorrow.  

                              Bechamel Sauce 

Heat in a medium saucepan
4 Cups milk
Heat until small bubbles form around the edges.

Melt in a large saucepan over medium-low heat
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
Add and stir well
1/4 Cup flour
Cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Very slowly, stirring constantly, add the milk to the flour/butter mixture.
Don't panic!  It'll look lumpy, but it will smooth out.
After all the milk has been added, Add
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and WHITE pepper to taste

Raise the heat to medium and simmer 2 minutes.
Remove from heat.

Pour into a bowl and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface.
This prevents a skin from forming.
The sauce can be chilled and stored up to 24 hours in advance.

You now have a batch of Bechamel Sauce.
Perfect for Cannelloni.
Or for when you'd like a change from tomato sauce.

Another recipe down.
Sort of.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Community by Margaret Ullrich

Thinking of Halloween got me thinking about Community.
The Catholic Church is big on Community.
For Catholics, dead or alive, you're in the community.

The All Hallowed have made it.
Some of them are famous, most aren't.

The Not Quite Hallowed are getting there.
Many we know on a first name basis.
Departed family, friends, neighbors, store clerks.

Then there's the rest of us.
Doing the best we can, with a little help from our friends.

Well, that's what Community is.

The Hallowed remember what it was like and help us out.
That's just the way they are.
The Not Quites need help from the Hallowed and us.

We can help the Not Quites and each other.
Family, friends, neighbors, store clerks, strangers.
When there's a drought or flood, we know it's time to help out.
We don't need a name or much personal information.
We just know someone needs help.

Last week we paused and remembered how folks helped each other on 9/11.
Ten years ago and it feels like yesterday.
It wasn't just the professionals who were helping others.
Regular people, who just couldn't leave someone stranded, jumped in to help.
Some stayed with strangers to the end.
If you die with someone, is he a stranger?

The Bible is big on the importance of neighbors.
Both Testaments....
Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off. Proverbs
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.   Leviticus 
            also in Matthew, Mark, Romans, Galatians, James

Don't like the Bible?
How about literature...
No man is an island...every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
John Donne


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Anna Sultana's Dead Man's Bones / Traditional Maltese Cookies for All Souls' Day

I admit that the Almond Roll with Strawberry Sauce was a long recipe.
Not complicated, but labor intensive.
One of Ma's recipes - Dead Man's Bones - is easier.

Don't panic.
No grave robbing necessary for this recipe.
It's just a name.

A lot of our Maltese dessert recipes are tied to certain holy days.
On November 1, Catholics celebrate the feast of All Saints.
All Saints, both famous and not.
The world celebrates the night before, Halloween.
Halloween comes from "All Hallow's Eve".
The Eve of the Saints, who are all hallowed.
HALLOWED not hollowed.
Hallowed means holy.

Well, Catholics believe there's a place where the not quite hallowed souls are.
We have a door number three.
Almost in Heaven, just need a bit of a clean up.
We Catholics remember these folks on November 2.
We've been doing this since 998.
Madison Avenue had nothing to do with it.

A Maltese traditional recipe for All Souls' Day is Dead Man's Bones.
A nice simple recipe.
Low cholesterol, too.
Nobody's in a rush to be a not quite hallowed soul.

If you'd like a filled Ghadam tal-mejtin with an icing, try
 Anna Sultana's Dead Man's Bones #2

Combine the sugar and ground almonds.  Then add the mixture to the beaten egg whites about a tablespoonful at a time.  You just have to stir enough to get the mixture blended in, the same as you would if you were making a meringue topping.

Instead of dusting with confectioners' sugar, you can brush on a simple glaze made of confectioners' sugar and water.

                        Dead Man's Bones

Preheat oven to 375º
Place the rack in the middle of the oven
Grease a baking sheet

In a large mixer bowl beat until very stiff
2 large egg whites

Gradually beat in 
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
150 g sugar
150 g ground almonds

Shape the mixture into long bone shapes.
Place on the baking sheet and bake 20 minutes.
Let cool on a rack.

Before serving, dust them with
Confectioners' sugar

Easy, no?
The chopped toasted almonds in Carmela's recipe reminded me of the cookies.
Which would also be nice served with berries and cream.
Or sliced peaches and cream.
Or apple sauce and cream.

Just saying.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Almond Roll with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Cream Filling

It's Autumn.
I know the calendar says September 23 is the first day of Autumn.
But... get real.
We've had a couple of 0º Celcius nights.
That's Frost Warning.
Summer's over.
What do you need?  Snow?

I know it's too soon.
Last weekend it was over 30º Celcius.
But we live in Manitoba.
Like the saying goes, "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes."
Don't pack away the summer gear until November.

When it starts getting cooler, it's time to start baking.
The bucket of ice cream just won't cut it as a regular dessert.
Nobody needs to cool off that much.

I found the perfect recipe in the Graduation Parties chapter of Carmela's 
Entertaining with the Sopranos
Light, but a real dessert. 
Almond Roll with Strawberry Sauce.
Complete with picture.  Lovely.

Yes, I know it calls for fresh strawberries.
I should've done this during the summer.
But, well, there were those buckets of ice cream... 

                              Almond Roll with Strawberry Sauce 

Preheat oven to 375º
Place the rack in the middle of the oven
Grease a 17 x 12 x 1-inch jelly-roll pan

Sift together in a small bowl
2/3 Cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a large mixer bowl beat until foamy 
4 large egg whites
pinch of salt
Gradually beat in 
1/4 Cup sugar
Beat until soft peaks form.

In a second large mixer bowl beat until light
4 large egg yolks
Gradually beat in 
1/2 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Gently fold in 
the flour/baking powder mixture
the beaten egg whites
1/2 Cup VERY finely chopped toasted almonds

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
Bake 12 to 14 minutes
The cake should spring back when touched in the center.

While the cake is baking, spread a large towel (not terry cloth) on the table.
Dust it with
Confectioners' sugar
Also wash the beaters and place them and a large bowl in the fridge.
The cold bowl and beaters will help the cream to whip better.

As soon as the cake is removed from the oven, run a knife around the edges.
Quickly flip the cake out onto the prepared towel.
From a long side, roll up the cake and towel.
Place the rolled-up cake on a rack to cool.


When the cake is cooled, remove the beaters and bowl from the fridge.
In the cooled bowl place
1 1/2 Cups heavy cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whip on high speed until soft peaks form. 

Unroll the cake, but leave it on the towel.
Beginning at a long side spread the whipped cream, but stop 2 inches from the other long side because the cream will spread when the cake is rolled up.
Reroll the cake, but keep it on the towel so you can lift it.
Trim uneven bits by sawing them off with a serrated knife.
Place the cake seam side down on a large serving platter.
Remove the towel.
Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.  Overnight is better.


Combine in a blender
2 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
6 Tablespoons sugar, more or less
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, more or less
Process and check for sweetness.
The sauce can be covered and chilled up to 24 hours.

Before serving
Sprinkle the cake generously with
Confectioners' sugar
Cut into 1-inch slices
Serve with the sauce and fresh strawberries.

In a pinch, frozen strawberries could be used for the sauce.
This could work with blueberries, too.
Or raspberries.
Yeah, really.

Would I make Almond Roll with Strawberry Sauce again?
What's not to like?
A nutty spongecake, with whipped cream and berries.

Yes, it's a little late for strawberries.

Another recipe down.  Four more to go.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 Memorial by Margaret Ullrich

Lori Hootah and Lori Sterneck Odishoo posted this idea on Facebook.  

I shared it a few days ago on Winnipeg is Better Than Chocolate.  

I'm posting it here today in case you don't read my Winnipeg blog.  

If you don't have the right candles, you still have some time to buy them. 
If you want to light other candles, that's fine, too. 
It's the thought.  

Peace, everyone.   

10th Anniversary Candle Memorial   

Sunday, September 11 · 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm  

Right where you are.  
Outside in front of your home, apartment, where ever you happen to be.  

At dusk light 3 candles in memory of all those that we lost 10 years ago.   

RED: for the FDNY firefighters and EMS workers 
WHITE: for all the citizens that were lost that day 
BLUE: for the NYPD and PAPD officers and Military  

This is similar to what was done the first couple of nights after the attack. 
There are no words that can describe the loss and pain of that day, so let 
our actions speak for us.  

Light your candles to show the world we will never forget September 11th, 
to show the survivors that we still are thinking about them and 
to show all those that lost loved ones that we still grieve with them.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labour Day by Margaret Ullrich

Labour Day is a wonderful holiday.

It's one of the few holidays when folks actually do take a holiday.
The other holidays have stores open for as many hours as the law allows.
And folks prowling the aisles, just like on any other day.

But nobody messes with Labour Day.
Not in Canada.
Not even in never-pay-full-price Winnipeg.

Maybe it's because it's the last holiday before winter hits.
It's still warm enough for a day at the beach.
Swimming on Thanksgiving?
I don't think so.

Maybe it's because it's the last holiday before school starts.
The last hurrah before hitting the books.
The last weekend before the family is tied to the school schedule.
Meetings, projects and homework.

Maybe it's because it's the last holiday of an old year.
There's a feeling of a new beginning in the air.
Tom Hanks even noticed that in the movie You've Got Mail.
And you can't argue with Tom Hanks.

So... I'm wishing you a restful day.
A day to enjoy.
A day to reflect.
a day to make choices.

Why wait until January 1?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Anna Sultana's Kabocca Moqlija bil-Bacon / Cabbage and Bacon, Maltese Style

Like I said yesterday, it's time to cook vegetables with more heft.

Frankly, I'm a little tired of lettuce.
Lettuce is great when it's too hot to cook.
And when folks don't have much of an appetite.
Eating lettuce doesn't feel like you're eating anything.

But now it's time for real meals.
Something steaming... soups, casseroles, cooked vegetables.
Broccoli is nice.
Cabbage is nice, too.

Cabbage - green or red - is one of those good-for-what-ails-you veggies.
Remember the boys' Ma cooking red cabbage in the movie A Christmas Story?
Winter... meatloaf... mashed potoes... boiled cabbage.
Yeah, cabbage!

My Ma had a cabbage recipe that was a meal in itself.
Well, it was when there was some crusty bread on the side.
Or some pasta.

                    Kaboċċa moqlija bil-bacon

1 cabbage

Into a large pot pour
1/2 Cup water
Add the shredded cabbage.
Simmer until tender.  Drain.

4 rashers of bacon

In a dutch oven pour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Add the bacon and fry.
Add the cooked cabbage.
Stir until reheated thoroughly.
Serve hot.

This, served with bread or pasta, made a meal.
Ground meat - whatever you have (as in Ma's meat pie) - could be used 
instead of bacon.

For a little variety, Ma sometimes made a one pot meal.
After adding the cabbage to the cooked bacon:
Stir in 1 cup of rice and 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt.
Cover and cook until the rice is done, about 20 minutes.

Some folks stuff cabbage leaves with cooked rice.
This is way easier.
Someone should tell them... 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper

Summer is drawing to a close.
Here we are... Labour Day, the start of Autumn.

Well, it is, for all practical purposes.

Time to get back to routine.
Time to pack away summer clothes.
Time to get back to real meals.

Summer is the time for salads.
But now it's time to eat vegetables with more heft to them.
It's time to make like a bear and bulk up for Winter.

Broccoli and pasta is perfect.

In the Final Celebration chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with the Sopranos
there's a recipe for Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Hot Pepper.  

Maybe the nephew / editor has a point.
Nothing says you're alive like sitting down to a heavy meal.

Well, okay, maybe something else can remind you you're alive.
But, this is a family-oriented blog.
We'll stick to food.

Honestly, some people...

In the movie Goodfellas, Paulie uses a razor blade to thinly slice garlic.
Yeah, well, what else did he have to do while he was locked up in prison?
You have a life.
If you'd rather finely chop than slice, go for it.

Remember garlic burns easily. 

                              Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper 

Into a large skillet pour
1/4 Cup olive oil
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes.

2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 Cup water
Salt to taste
Cover the pan and cook about 5 minutes.
Check half-way through that there's enough liquid.
If it's too dry, add some water.

Serve hot or at room temperature.
Carmela suggests tossing the cooked broccoli with hot cooked pasta.

Would I make Broccoli with Garlic and Hot Pepper again?
The pasta toss is a nice idea.
But I prefer broccoli with Roasted Beef Tenderloin.

I know Carm served the beef tenderloin with asparagus.
But that's for Spring.
Now's the time for broccoli.

Another recipe down.  Five more to go.