Friday, September 28, 2012

Henderson Has Scored For Canada! by Margaret Ullrich, part 10, Weeding

A few days ago I posted about how plans don't always work.
Well, sometimes not having a plan is the best plan.
I mean, sometimes there are greater forces at work.
We just sort of go along for the ride.
And it works out even better.

We had crossed the border into Canada the last day of June.
We didn't know what Canada would be like.
So we lived as tourists for a while.
Saw all the sights.
We became very used to the nice four lane highway from Vancouver to White Rock.

By July 18 we were in White Rock.
Our trailer was set up in a nice shady spot.
To make room in the trailer, we threw anything we could into the car's trunk. 
Blankets, clothing, a coffee pot, etc. 
Our car's trunk and the back seat were our storage units on wheels.

Our fellow campers at Hiawatha Trailer Park were friendly.
They were retired folks, snowbirds, and expert campers.
They lived by Marjorie Main's code in The Long, Long Trailer:
"I'd like to know what a trailerite is good for if not to help another trailerite."

We joined the local Catholic church.
Father Leo was from the states.
We talked about life there, what we had studied.
Just the usual small talk.
Father Leo knew a local newspaper publisher who needed a fellow with Paul's skills.
By the end of August Paul had a job.

We decided to get our papers in order.
We chose a Thursday to go to the customs station.
Thursday was the day Paul had a later shift at the paper.
The paper was put to bed on a Wednesday, which always was a late night.

Mr. Hastings, Paul's new boss, had written a letter.
In it he said that Paul was one of the few people in Canada who could operate this certain kind of typesetting machine.
As no one had had the job before Paul, that sounded about right.

At that time Canadian immigration was on the point system.
Like passing a Math test.
At immigration, Mr. McGrath told us to cross the border to get our extra 10 points. 
We drove to the border, and there wasn't a line-up. 
The young U.S. customs agent took a quick glance at our trunk, and said, 
"Oh, you must've been camping, right?" 
We said yes. 
We had a coffee in Blaine, Washington, then drove back for our interview. 
Mr. McGrath had a small TV in his office, which he turned off.
After a couple of questions, we were done. 
We were allowed to stay in Canada!

We were sent out to the customs agent.
He was watching a small black and white TV.
He turned and asked what we'd brought across the border.
He was annoyed that we hadn't brought our trailer with us. 
But he seemed distracted.
Handing us a piece of paper, he said, "Make a list of what you've brought." 
He then went back to watching the TV. 
We wrote a list of all of our possessions.
It was a short list.

After we handed the list to the agent we drove back to White Rock. 
We went to a coffee shop to get our bearings. 
Everyone there was also watching TV. 

By now we'd figured that folks were watching a hockey game. 
There was much cheering.
But we were oblivious to the event. 
When Paul went to work he found out what had everyone so excited.

On September 28 Team Canada hockey team had played against the Russians.
It was the 1972 Summit Series.
Paul Henderson had scored the 6-5 goal at 19:26 of the final period.
Some compared the excitement to the celebrations at the end of World War II.

Here's a shot... Henderson makes a wild stab for it, and falls... 
here's another shot... right in front... 
They score!  Henderson Has Scored For Canada!

Almost any Canadian who is old enough can tell you exactly what he or she 
was doing on September 28, 1972.
Well, I know we can.

Paul was told he couldn't work for pay without a work permit.
After a month the permit arrived and Paul received all his back pay. 

Like I said, sometimes not having a plan is the best plan.
Paul later worked at Carolina Publications.
There he worked with Mr. McGrath's nephew Rick.
Rick worked as a reporter at the Richmond Review.
The Richmond Review was Carolina Publications main account.

On the 1972 Team Canada hockey team was Fran Huck. 
Six years later Paul was working with his ex-wife Barbara at The Winnipeg Free Press.

Coincidences or what?

Sometimes there are greater forces at work.
We just sort of go along for the ride.
And it works out even better.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wotan, Pop and British Columbia by Margaret Ullrich, part 9, Weeding

About two weeks ago I wrote about family in literature and movies.
I just felt like it after reading Uncle Junior Soprano's  
Junior's Ten Tips to Living Long and Living Well
in Artie Bucco's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.

Recently we watched Great Performances at the Met on PBS.
PBS ran Wagner's Ring Cycle - the whole cycle - over four nights in a row.
Das Rheingold... Die Walkure... Siegfried... Götterdämmerung.

Thank goodness the longest one was on a Friday night.
Gotterdammerung ended at 1:00 a.m.
By Saturday we were zombies.
They couldn't have run them on Sunday afternoons?

Wagner's Ring Cycle is all about family.
Okay... not your average family.
But still family.

Die Walkure was about a father and his daughters.
Wotan had plans for his daughter Brünnhilde's future.
Then he changed his plans and wanted her to get with the new program.
When Brünny didn't, Wotan had her confined, to sleep in a ring of fire.
Maybe Wotan was afraid her sisters would follow her example.

Yesterday would've been Pop's eighty-eighth birthday.
Like Wotan and many other Dads, Pop had plans for his kids.
He owned three houses, next door to each other.
Each of his three children was to live in one of the houses.
Of course, each of us would be married and have kids.

Not quite the way it worked out.

As the eldest, I was first out of the gate.
Paul and I moved to White Rock, British Columbia.
With my parents' help, we bought a house in Surrey, British Columbia.

The house was a duplex.
A four-bedroom house, with a one-bedroom apartment in the basement.
We lived in the basement.
The tenants' rent covered most of the mortgage.
We would move upstairs when we needed the bedrooms for our kids.
After they left, we would retire to the basement.
The rent would sweeten our old age pension.
It was a dandy 80 year plan.

Not quite the way it worked out.

My folks visited us in Surrey, British Columbia.
Pop liked our new home.
In the early 1970s, Surrey was farmland.
Pop always wanted to live on a farm.  

He'd had a wall of cages filled with rabbits along a side of his garage.  
Rabbits were a regular dinner item in Maltese homes.
While in Surrey, Pop managed to find a farmer who had rabbits.
He really enjoyed his dinner that day.

My parents hated the winters in New York.   
Pop loved the milder west coast climate.  
He even talked of buying a farm near our house.  

After a year British Columbia's economy took a hit.
Paul's union said there was work in Winnipeg.
So, we moved to Winnipeg and sold the house.

Winnipeg is sometimes referred to as Winterpeg.
It is notorious for its -40º winters.
They come complete with Alberta Clippers and Polar Pigs.
We dress for the weather, not fashion.

Pop knew about winters on the bald prairie.
He didn't talk about getting a farm in Manitoba.
He didn't come up for a visit for another 15 years.
During that time we heard less from him and the rest of my family.
It was like there was a ring of fire around Winnipeg.
Maybe Pop was afraid my siblings would follow my example.

There's an old saying...
Man plans, God laughs.

No, I think He'd understand too much to laugh.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Carmela Soprano's Escarole and Beans Soup - Zuppa di Scarola e Fagioli

Paulie Walnuts also wrote a chapter for The Sopranos Family Cookbook.  
The chapter, about his Mom, is called My Nucci.

No, Nucci is not Italian for Mom.
Nucci is from Marianuccia which means Little Marian.
Paulie had a thing for his Mom.
Well, he did until he found out Nucci wasn't his Mom.
Long story.

Back to the food...  Paulie likes to cook.
He used to prepare meals for his Mom.
He also took her shopping every Saturday.
Paulie was the perfect son.

When Paulie was at the shop on a cold day he likes to cook soup.
He thought it improved morale.
Zuppa di Scarola e Fagioli is a very good recipe. 
And it uses escarole.

About calling this Carmela Soprano's Escarole and Beans Soup...
I don't think anyone will google for Paulie's recipes.
So, I'm posting this under Carmela's name.
Another disappointment for Paulie.
So it goes.

                        Zuppa di Scarola e Fagioli

Serves 4

Trim off and discard bruised leaves of
1 head escarole (about 1 pound)
Cut off the stem end and separate the leaves.
Wash well in cool water.
Stack the leaves and cut in 1 inch strips.

In a large pot place
1/3 Cup olive oil
Cook over medium heat
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Cook until the garlic is golden.
the escarole strips
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped (or 1 Cup canned Italian tomatoes, chopped)
Cover the pot and simmer 20 minutes.

4 Cups beef or chicken broth (or water)
3 Cups cooked or canned cannellini or Great Northern beans
Cook for 20 minutes.

Stir in
1 Cup elbow macaroni or small shells
salt and pepper to taste
Cook for 10 minutes. 

Serve hot with grated parmesan or romano.

Would I make Zuppa di Scarola e Fagioli again?
Who can't use another escarole soup recipe?

One recipe down.  Seventy-eight more to go.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Family: The Godfather, The Sopranos and Pop by Margaret Ullrich, part 8, Weeding

Artie Bucco's The Sopranos Family Cookbook has something from everybody.
Even Tony Soprano, more or less.
As seen on the show, Tony enjoyed grilling.
But he didn't enjoy talking.

Artie included Tony's advice in the chapter Grilling-Italian Style.
There are barbecue recipes.
But there's also an interesting page from Uncle Junior Soprano:
Junior's Ten Tips to Living Long and Living Well.

Some of Junior's tips have to do with food:
drink red wine, eat a bowl of spaghetti every day, eat with friends.

But the first rule was a little odd:
Always trust blood relatives over friends, but not very far.

Relatives...  Family... the stuff of legends, literature, plays.
Shakespeare's Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and King Lear are all about family.

Hamlet's Dad wants his brother, who had killed Dad, brought to justice.
Hamlet ends up dead.
Juliet's parents want her to 'make a good marriage'.
Juliet ends up dead.
Lear wants his daughters to flatter him.
His most honest daughter ends up dead.

Real relatives' bad situations have been with us from the start.
The first pair of brothers, Cain and Abel, had their problems.
Abel ends up dead.
So much for brotherly love.

Think our favorite gangsters didn't have family issues?
Guess again...

In The Godfather II brothers Fredo and Michael had their problems.
Fredo ends up dead.
In The Sopranos cousins Tony S. and Tony B. had their problems.
Tony B. ends up dead.
Also in The Sopranos Junior wasn't too thrilled with nephew Tony S.
Tony S. almost ends up dead.
Maybe that's where the warning about trusting relatives came from.

Pop had his own problems with family.
Pop trusted his brothers who'd told him to come to America.
The Atlantic Ocean was between them, so the brothers were far apart.
It's too bad Pop didn't know about Uncle Junior's first rule.

Paul and I have lived in Canada over 40 years.
Most of our blood relatives are in New York and Ontario.
Too far to be a part of our daily life.
And maybe that's a very good thing.

Shared DNA doesn't mean shared everything else.
Families can be great.
But they can also be a royal pain.
Ever wonder why folks hit the bottle during the holidays?
Especially when the relatives are all under one roof?

There's a presidential election going on in the United States.
Our American relatives are Republicans.
We tend to agree with our American friends, who are Democrats.
That can be awkward, even on Facebook.

We can't pick our relatives.
We can pick our friends.
Maybe that's why there's this saying in the Bible:
Better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.  Proverbs 27:10

Or even a brother near.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Carmela Soprano's Pastina with Ricotta

Eleven years ago our world really changed.
September 11, 2001 was also a Tuesday.
Everyone remembers where they were when the Towers were hit.
And feels a bit down.

This is a good time for some comfort food.

Carmela's chapter Feeding my Family is really becoming a favorite.
I'm so glad I bought Artie Bucco's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
Even if some recipes lead to laughs in the meat department.
Well, what's wrong with a few laughs?

Pastina just means tiny pasta.
Usually it's in the shape of little stars or circles.
Perfect for a baby.
Or for anyone who could use a little babying.

Carmela even had a few words about Pastina with Ricotta.
She said it is healing food.
It's probably one of the first solids a baby has.
Easy to digest and not much to chew.

                        Pastina with Ricotta 

Serves 1 or 2

In a small pot place
4 Cups water
Bring to a boil.
salt to taste
1/2 Cup pastina
Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Reserving some of the water, drain the pasta.
Place the pasta in a bowl.
1/4 Cup ricotta
1 teaspoon butter
Mix well.
Add some of the cooking water if it seems dry.
Serve immediately.

Would I make Pastina with Ricotta again?
Even when I'm not feeling sad. 

One recipe down.  Seventy-nine more to go.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Carmela Soprano's Escarole and Little Meatballs Soup - Minestra l Tiny Meatballs Recipe

Ah, Escarole, where have you been all my life?
I don't remember Ma ever serving it.
Then, again, we lived in College Point.

During the 50s and 60s College Point was a strictly German and Irish town.
The church suppers weren't very interesting.
More like "Welcome to the world of cabbage and boiled meat."
Oh, well, so it goes.

Since I just made the 'Schcarole for the two of us, I had a half head leftover.
Back to Carmela's Feeding my Family in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
There's a recipe for Minestra.
Carmela calls it Minest'.
The half recipe of soup used up the rest of the head escarole.
And soup makes a nice meal in Autumn. 

Oh, the recipe calls for either veal or beef.
Guess what I used.

Carmela also used 8 ounces of ditalini or tubetti.
They are very small pasta.
She also suggested spaghetti broken into bite-sized pieces.
You get the idea.

No pasta?
About a half cup of rice is also nice.
Oh, add the rice a little sooner since it takes longer to cook.


Serves 6
Trim and discard bruised leaves of
1 head escarole (about 1 pound)
Cut off the stem end and separate the leaves.
Wash well in cool water.
Stack the leaves and cut in 1 inch strips.
There should be about 4 Cups.

In a large pot place 
the escarole strips
3 large carrots, chopped
6 Quarts chicken broth
Bring to a simmer.
Cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the Meatballs
In a large bowl combine
1 pound ground veal or beef
2 large eggs
1/2 Cup finely minced onion
1 Cup plain bread crumbs
1 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Shape the mixture into tiny meatballs.
Drop the meatballs into the soup.
Simmer about 15 minutes.

8 ounces small pasta or broken spaghetti
Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.
Taste and correct the seasoning.
Serve hot with grated parmesan.

Would I make Minest' again?
Winters in Winnipeg are really long and cold.
Soups are perfect for our climate.
And it's a great way to use up the leftover escarole.

One recipe down.  Eighty more to go.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Carmela Soprano's Sautéed Escarole or Endive with Garlic

A few of the recipes in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook worried me.

Some of the ingredients, like the veal, were out of my league.
Well, asking for the veal gave the butcher a laugh.
And he did make some good suggestions for substitutions.

Ah... one day I will find, and buy, some veal.
It's high on my bucket list.

Another thing that was a problem was Escarole.
Or 'Schcarole as Carmela calls it.
She cooks up quite a bit of it in her chapter Feeding my Family.

I live in the north end of Winnipeg.
Most of my neighbors are from Poland, the Philippines and India.
Yes, it does make for interesting church suppers.

I figured I was in the same spot as Goodfellas' Henry Hill.
Henry Hill ended up in the Federal witness protection program.
It saved his life.
But his new neighborhood deprived him of real Italian food.
So it goes.

Try as I might I couldn't find Escarole.
I looked in in the produce section and the frozen food section.
I even looked in the canned food section.
Finally I took a look in Wikipedia.
There it was!!

Escarole, or broad-leaved endive (var latifolia) has broad, pale green leaves and is less bitter than the other varieties. Varieties or names include broad-leaved endive, Bavarian endive, Batavian endive, grumolo, scarola, and scarole. It is eaten like other greens, sauteed, chopped into soups and stews, or as part of a green salad.

Endive is rich in many vitamins and minerals, especially in folate and vitamins A and K, and is high in fiber.

Mystery solved.

                        'Schcarole with Garlic

Serves 4
Trim and discard bruised leaves of
1 head escarole (about 1 pound)
Cut off the stem end and separate the leaves.
Wash well in cool water.
Stack the leaves and cut in bite-sized pieces.

In a large pot place
3 Tablespoons olive oil
Cook over medium heat
3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
salt to taste
Cook until the garlic is golden.
Add the escarole and stir well.
Cover the pot and simmer 15 minutes.
Serve hot or at room temperature.

Would I make 'Schcarole with Garlic again?
Now that I know what it is.
Fiber, folate and vitamins.  Perfect. 

One recipe down.  Eighty-one more to go.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clutter Decisions by Margaret Ullrich, part 7, Weeding

This past Labor Day weekend I got started on clearing out our yard.
We weren't doing much besides watching The Big Bang Theory reruns.
They didn't have that big an assortment.
By the third go through, I was saying the dialogue along with the actors.

It's been a hot, dry summer.
And the garden and lawn look it.
I don't expect any miracles this September.
The garden won't suddenly get all perky looking.
It was easy to put it out of its misery.

In Winnipeg we have those huge roll-away garbage cans.
They get picked up and emptied by a mechanized garbage truck.
Anyway, in 2 hours I had filled the can.
That's all the weeding I can get rid of this week.

I wish it was that easy to get rid of stuff in the house.
No, my home doesn't look like a candidate for one of those Hoarders shows.
It's just that things have a tendency to come and stay.
Our home doesn't have that nice, empty look like the houses in the magazines.

I've read the articles.
A recent one made it sound so simple to get the crap out.
According to the author, clutter is often just unmade decisions.

In the hopes the list will help you, here it is:
1. How often do you use it?
2. Why are you keeping it?
3. Does it fit your current lifestyle?
4. Do you have space for it?
5. Do you love it?

The list didn't help me at all.

For example, take question 1.
I have a honking big black roasting pan with a lid.
I also have a turkey baster.
And a large platter with a turkey design carved into it.
They get used on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The other 362 days a year they just take up space.
Clutter, right?
I should just toss them, right?
I'll bet they'll flunk the other questions!

Why keep them?
Well, we haven't gone vegetarian, especially for the holidays.

Does it fit my current lifestyle?
I don't have a lifestyle, just a family that eats meat.

Do I have space for them.
Let's just say the roaster is an eyesore that occupies a space.

Do I love them?
Get real.  Who loves a turkey baster?

I started to waver.

The author got deeply philosophical with me.
There was another set of questions, like
What is the worst, and the best, that could happen?
There was something about the Law of Attraction.
According to that law, what I focus on, I attract.
She said imagining the worse-case scenario would be the opposite of what I want.
I should imagine the best case scenario.

Alrighty then...
I'll toss the roasting pan, the turkey baster and the large platter.
According to the Law of Attraction I will focus on the best case scenario.
A work free, stress free holiday dinner.
Sure, that's what I want!
Paul will notice that the roasting pan, the turkey baster and the large platter are gone.
He will want a holiday dinner.
He will make a dinner reservation at a nice restaurant.

Hmmm... I don't think so.
I shouldn't expect any miracles this October, either.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Carmela Soprano's Manicotti with Ricotta Filling / Filling for Large Shells

In food, as in life, one thing often leads to another.
Everything is connected.
We are stardust.
Yeah, well, so the song says...

Last week I posted about Ma's Stuffed Shells.
I mentioned that you're supposed to put something in the jumbo shells, just like you would with the manicotti tubes.

Got some e mails...
"Can I put the same cheese stuff in the manicotti tubes?"
There aren't any manicotti police checking out what's in your tubes.

If you want a little variety in your stuffed pasta, there's a recipe for Manicotti  in 
Janice's Sunday Dinner chapter of Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.

According to Janice, if you want to sound authentic, call it Manicott'.
Like I said, there aren't any manicotti police checking out what you're saying.
And I don't think Janice will drop by.

Janice includes a recipe for the tubes, which she calls crepes.
I find that confusing.
I call them tubes.
You could make the tubes, but why bother?
And I don't think Janice made the crepes, either.

Anyway, the crepes can be made 2 days in advance of filling them.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Or you can just buy a box of manicotti tubes and do this:
In a large pot place
4 quarts water
Over high heat bring the water to a boil.
salt to taste
225 grams manicotti tubes
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked but slightly chewy.
Drain the tubes and rinse with cold water.
Stuff the tubes (it's easier to cram a bit in from each end). 
Place the tubes in the prepared 13x9x2 inch baking pan.
Cover with sauce, cheese and bake.

Yes, you can also prepare stuffed manicotti in advance and freeze.
If you're in a cooking frenzy, make extra for another dinner.


For Tubes

In a bowl combine
1 Cup flour
1 Cup water
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat until smooth.
Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Heat a 6-inch nonstick pan over medium heat.
Brush lightly with oil.

Grip the handle because you are going to tilt it so the batter will cover the pan.

Spoon in about 1/3 cup batter
Do the tilting to cover the pan and pour any excess batter back into the bowl.
Cook the crepe for 1 minute.
With your fingers, flip the crepe over.
Cook for 1 minute.
Place the cooked crepe on a plate.
Cover with a piece of waxed paper.
Repeat with the remaining batter and stack the crepes.
Yes, each crepe gets a piece of waxed paper. 

For Filling

In a large bowl combine
2 pounds ricotta
4 ounces mozzarella, chopped or shredded
1 large egg
1/2 Cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 Tablespoon dried)
salt and pepper to taste

Have on hand
Marinara Sauce (a double recipe wouldn't hurt)

Preheat oven 350º

Place a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch baking pan.
Place 1/4 Cup of the filling lengthwise down the center of a crepe.
Roll it up and place it seam side down in the baking pan.
Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling, placing them close together.
Spoon the remaining sauce over the tubes.
Sprinkle with
1/2 Cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until the Manicotti is heated through.
Serve hot.

Would I make Manicotti again?
Sure, with store bought tubes.
It's an old family favorite.
And I hope it becomes a favourite of yours, too. 

One recipe down.  Eighty-two more to go.