Thursday, February 28, 2013

Barefoot in the Park in Winnipeg by Margaret Ullrich


Last summer I posted about our move to British Columbia in 1972.
I explained that I had been deeply impressed by seeing Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's 
movie The Long, Long Trailer when I was in elementary school.
Inspired by Lucy's adventure, I was sure that one day I, too, would live in a trailer.


A few years later, Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park premiered on Broadway in 1963.
That production starred Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. 
The play was made into a film in 1967, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.
So, Barefoot was part of popular culture during my high school years.

In Simon's play a newly wed couple live on the top floor of a New York brownstone.
Corrie and Paul had to walk up 6 flights of stairs to get to their top floor flat.
Well... Five flights, if you don't count the front stoop.
The apartment was a tiny, barely liveable dump.
Snow drifted through the hole in the roof.
The bride was a well meaning optimist.
The groom said things like "Well, I'm 26, and cold as hell" and got sick.
The only sign of a neighbour was the pile of empty cans of tuna fish by the door.
An eccentric older man guided them through the adventure of life in their new city.


In 1975 I went from Lucy in the trailer to Corrie in the attic as a lifestyle role model.
Okay…  maybe I don't think things through.

Paul and I were living in an attic apartment which had one room and a kitchen.
It was a third floor walkup - four flights, if you didn't count the front stoop.
As was said in BarefootIt may be a stoop, but it climbs like a flight.
Thanks to the sloping ceiling, Paul couldn't stand up in half of the apartment.
A preschooler couldn't stand up in half of it.
We slept in our sleeping bags.
It was like we were perpetually camping, with all the discomforts.

We shared the bathroom with Mrs. Solomon, who lived across the hall.
Actually, it was bathrooms.
One room had a tub and a sink, the other room had a toilet.
We never saw Mrs. Solomon.
Every morning and afternoon we heard the clanging from her bag of bottles.
We spent many evenings debating whether they were bottles of soda or booze.


Winnipeg is where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet in the Canadian Prairies.
It's at the longitudinal centre of North America, away from mountains and oceans.
As a result, it has an extreme humid continental climate.
Extreme doesn't begin to describe it.
It has gotten as high as 42.2 °C (108 °F) in July 1936.
And as low as −47.8 °C (−54.0 °F) in December 1879.
That's a hell of a difference. 
Right.  If you're away on the wrong weekends, you can miss Spring and Fall.


Needless to say, there was no air conditioning in that apartment.
We barely survived the summer in it.
The summer of 1975 was a really hot summer.
Stores had run out of fans.
Updates on when fans might be coming to the stores were on the nightly news.
Paul came down with heat stroke.

We knew that winter was going to be just as bad.
We wondered about the heating system.
Six months later a second floor apartment was vacant.
We grabbed it.
Paul could stand up anywhere in the apartment.
There was a separate bedroom.
We bought a mattress and set up a bed.

Mr. Brown, the fellow who had explained the parking ban, was our new neighbour.
We shared another pair of bathrooms with him.
No problem.
Unlike Victor Velasco, Mr. Brown was bemused and helpful, like a kindly uncle.
Widowed, he had moved to the apartment to be near the Legion.

Paul enjoyed working in the art department of Bulman Brothers, a printing firm.
I liked working at an Italian bakery which was a couple of blocks from our apartment.
Things had taken a turn for the better.


In the 1970s Winnipeg didn't have many of the tourist things it has now.
Winnipeg had an active downtown, where people gathered, walked and shopped.
There were attractive store windows, like the toy-filled one that mesmerized the boys in A Christmas Story.
Winnipeg had fascinating small ethnic stores, historic movie theatres and restaurants.
This was before the oversized malls and big box stores destroyed many downtowns.


If there was a movie or show we wanted to see, we'd just stroll downtown.
After a show we'd pick up some treat - for a while we went through a 'fancy cheese' phase - and we'd nibble as we walked home.
We saw as many events, festivals and sights as we could.
Back then they crammed the whole world into one week.


Those were our Barefoot in the Park days…
Where it says keep off the grass 
Isn't recommended for the very old 
But when you're young and you're in love 
The world is beautiful.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Regina - Qu'Appelle - Moosomin - Brandon - Portage la Prairie - Winnipeg by Margaret Ullrich

Last Sunday we watched the 85th Academy Awards, hosted by Seth MacFarlane.
Lots of old favourites.
And many Taurus stars, I was proud and happy to notice.

The Oscars show is a regular 'must see' show for us.
On April 10, 1972, two days after we had married, we were watching The Oscars.
Helen Hayes, Alan King, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Jack Lemmon were hosting.
The French Connection was the best movie.

On March 30, 1992, while vacationing in Regina, we watched The Oscars.
The Silence of the Lambs was the best movie.
Billy Crystal was hosting.
Yes, that's when his City Slickers' co-star Jack Palance did one-handed push-ups.

Anyway, in 1999 the ceremonies were moved from Mondays to Sundays.
Some said the film industry wasn't happy because it cut into the weekend box office.
In 2004, the show was moved from around April 1 to around March 1.
We are talking moving pictures, so I guess it's to be expected that they'd be moving.


Thirty-eight years ago February 27 was the last day of our move to Winnipeg.
We awoke in Regina and only had 571 kilometers more to drive.
We were quite happy to have made it through the mountains.
Paul even composed a giddy little ditty, to the tune for
Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning.
His ode to the capital city of Saskatchewan went like this:
Nothing could be finer than to be here in Regina in the morning.
Okay… it was funny the first dozen times.

Regina, the second-largest city in Saskatchewan, is a cultural and commercial centre.
Once called Pile o' Bones, it had been a tent settlement on a treeless plain near a small, winding creek.
Regina attained prominence in 1885 during the North-West Rebellion when troops were transported on the CPR before marching to the battlefield in the Northwest.
The rebellion's leader, Louis Riel, was tried and hanged in Regina.
Riel is now regarded as a founder of Manitoba.
A week ago, on February 18, we had a holiday in his honour.
So it goes.

They don't seem to have Hermetic code tours in Regina.
Just as well.
Regina now has an urban forest of more than 350,000 hand-planted trees.
It was renamed Regina in honour of Queen Victoria.
More classy, but I do wonder what Paul could have done with Pile o' Bones.


About a half hour out of Regina we were in the Qu'Appelle Valley.
The stuff of poetry, Qu'Appelle Valley is a popular tourist area.
Part of the attraction is that the surrounding area is flat farmland.
If one lives on the flat prairies, after a while one just needs a change of scenery.
Trust me.
The Qu'Appelle River flows east from Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan to the Assiniboine River in Manitoba.
Yes, we were heading in the right direction.


Moosomin, 230 kilometres east of Regina, hadn't changed much since 1972.
Well, in the 1970s, a lot of Saskatchewan looked like something out of Corner Gas.
We drove around a bit, just to see something - anything - other than the highway, then we headed east.
Yes, we'd been through this area before, going in the opposite direction.
When we were moving in 1972 we just zipped through from Winnipeg to Moosomin.
We had noticed the cute little round containers by the TransCanada Highway.
And that was about it.


Driving along the Assiniboine, we reached Brandon, Manitoba's second largest city.
We knew we were in Manitoba, in the home stretch.
Brandon has an interesting history.
One can take a walking tour of their historical buildings.
We didn't feel like being tourists that day.

It had just hit us.
Less than three years earlier…
We had immigrated across the border, then across the North American continent.
We had bought and sold our trailer.
We had bought and were selling our house.
We had been employed, then unemployed.

We had had a life plan that was supposed to be in effect until we were 100 years old.
Now we were moving.  Again.
Retracing half of our transcontinental drive.
Why the hell had we bothered crossing those damn mountains in 1972?


We didn't talk much during this trip.
Partly because this time the journey was so unpleasant.
Driving through mountains during the winter is something for the professionals.
Especially if you're dragging a box with everything you own.
No way could we pretend this four-day trip was a vacation.
No.  Plan A had screwed up, and we were going on to plan B.

We also didn't make any long range plans during this trip.
I mean, what was the point?
Maybe the planning had jinxed our stay in British Columbia.
This time we would just take things as they came.
As they say, Man plans, God laughs.
Well, we were tired of being the butt of a joke.


We soon found ourselves driving through Portage La Prairie.
Portage la Prairie is a small, pretty, but somewhat peculiar city.
It is one long, long main street with businesses straddling the TransCanada.
It has a museum and a very pretty park called Island Park which, in the winter,
becomes an Island of Lights.
We just were not in the mood that day.

We drove straight through to Winnipeg.
We had a job and an attic apartment - a room, a kitchen and a shared bathroom - waiting for us in Winnipeg.
The apartment was about half the size of our basement suite in Surrey.
Mr. R., the landlord, allowed pets.
We had paid the month's deposit and the rent for February.


We got to the walkup at about 4 pm.
There was a caretaker, but we had to find Mr. R. for our key.
We drove to his house and left a message saying that we had arrived.
Then we drove back to the walkup and waited.
Finally Mr. R. arrived and allowed us into our apartment.
At the age of 24 we hadn't had experience or sense enough to demand the key when we had given him our rent and deposit.

We parked in front of the entrance gate and started unpacking.
Mr Brown, a single retired fellow who lived on the second floor, greeted us.
Then he told us to not park on the street as there was an overnight parking ban.
He also showed us where we could plug in our truck.
We didn't know what he was talking about.
We believed him, thanked him, parked behind the house and continued unpacking.
We'd figure out what parking bans and plugging in cars meant the next day.


We were just grateful that we didn't have to drive any more.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lethbridge to Medicine Hat to Moose Jaw to Regina by Margaret Ullrich


Waking in Lethbridge thirty-eight years ago was a good thing.
We had slept well the night before.
Supper at a normal hour, no paint fumes, no more mountains to drive through.
Lethbridge in 1975 was a quiet town, with half the population it has now.


The mild chinook winds were making Alberta quite comfortable that February.
We drove 51 km northeast to Taber, the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 36.
We just wanted to get to Regina as quickly as possible.
So we didn't take any time to see the sights.
Maybe, in hindsight, we could've spared some time.
Traveling through Alberta was a really easy drive.

On to Medicine Hat on the Trans-Canada Highway, the eastern terminus of the Crowsnest Highway, and the South Saskatchewan River.

The name "Medicine Hat" is the English translation of 'Saamis' (SA-MUS) – the Blackfoot word for the eagle tail feather headdress worn by medicine men.  
In 1883, when the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Medicine Hat and crossed the river a town site was established using the name from the Indian legends.

Medicine Hat has 2,512 hours of sunshine per year, quite a change from Vancouver.
It also has large natural gas fields.
Rudyard Kipling said it has "all hell for a basement".
We just kept driving through to Saskatchewan.


Saskatchewan doesn't get half as much notice as other Canadian provinces.
Which is a shame.
It has played a very important part in Canada's history.

Saskatchewan was the home of John Diefenbaker.
He was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada (1957 – 1963).
Okay… Diefenbaker was born in Neustadt, Ontario, on September 18, 1895.
But, in 1910, the Diefenbaker family moved to Saskatoon so that John and his brother Elmer could attend high school.

Saskatchewan was also the home of Tommy Douglas.
Okay… Douglas was born on October 20, 1904, in Falkirk, Scotland.
His family emigrated to Canada in 1910, settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

What was it about that year 1910?

In 1944 Tommy Douglas became premier of Saskatchewan.
Under his government, Saskatchewan became the first province to have Medicare.
That's government-funded mandatory universal medical insurance.
Canada's pride and joy!!

Under Douglas the government of Saskatchewan brought in groundbreaking measures:
Equality of education for all.
Collective bargaining for all workers including civil servants.
First Arts Board in Canada.
First to introduce a Farm Security Act in North America.
First to grant the right to vote at age 18.
First to introduce the 8-hour work day, the 5-day work week, and paid holidays.
First Small Claims Court in North America.
First Bill of Rights in Canada.

In 2004 Tommy Douglas was voted “The Greatest Canadian” in a national CBC Television contest.
Among the nominees were Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Terry Fox.

And let's not forget Tommy's daughter, actress Shirley Douglas, who married Canadian actor Donald Sutherland.
Their son Kiefer Sutherland portrayed Jack Bauer on the Fox series 24, and won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Satellite Awards.

Let's hear it for Saskatchewan!!


We soon drove through 218 kilometres to Swift Current. 
A survey of 100 cities by Meteorological Services of Canada shows Swift Current has the third most sunshine (a yearly average of 2,374 hours), the fifth clearest skies and the least smoke and haze in the country.
Also a very nice place, but we just wanted to get to Regina.


Another 170 kilometres and we were in Moose Jaw.
Moose Jaw is in south-central Saskatchewan, on the Moose Jaw River.
After the previous two days, we found it to be flat and extremely cold.
The chinook winds which made Alberta comfortable didn't reach Saskatchewan.
We were surprised that such sunny places could be so cold.
I mean, compared to the snow-capped mountains, shouldn't we have been warmer?


Bits of trivia…
Residents of Moose Jaw are known as Moose Javians.

The intersection of the Moose Jaw River and Thunder Creek was chosen as a site for the Canadian Pacific Railway, whose construction was significant in Confederation of Canada.  The water supply there was perfect for steam locomotives. 

Marked on a map as Moose Jaw Bone Creek in an 1857 survey by surveyor John Palliser two theories exist as to how it got its name: 
One is it comes from the Plains Cree name moscâstani-sîpiy meaning "a warm place by the river", thanks to the protection from the weather the Coteau range provides.
(Also the Plains Cree word moose gaw, meaning warm breezes.) 
The other is that the Moose Jaw River is shaped like a moose's jaw.
Take your pick...


After driving another 77 kilometres we were in Regina.     
Regina is the the capital city and the second-largest city in Saskatchewan.

Named after Queen Victoria, it started out as Pile o' Bones, a humble tent settlement on treeless plain near a small, winding creek. Today it has an urban forest of more than 350,000 hand-planted trees, an extensive park system, and major attractions. 

Residents are proud of the city they've built, and welcome visitors warmly with handshakes, helpful advice and genuine smiles.

All we met were the motel and store clerks, but they were nice enough.
Thanks to the none stop driving, we got there early.
Our room didn't have a kitchen.
No problem - a KFC was down the street.


We were quite relaxed after having driven about 770 kilometers.
It had been a cold, flat, uneventful drive.
While eating our chicken dinner in our room we watched the news.
Then we watched Hansel & Gretel on CBC.
All in all a very nice night in Regina.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Trail to Crowsnest Pass to Lethbridge, Alberta by Margaret Ullrich


One day down… Three more to go...
The paint fumes combined with the stress of driving through mountains got to us.
We asked the motel clerk where we could get something for our stomachs.
He pointed out the drug store, and we got some gravol.
After we paid our bill, the clerk said there had been an avalanche the week before.
We really didn't need to know that.

Driving up the hill to get out of Trail was a killer.
And we still had to do lots more driving up and down snow capped mountains.
After Trail the road was more winding, and mostly two lane.
It wasn't too bad, and there was very little traffic.
In retrospect it might have been better if we were on a busier road.
If anything had happened we could've ended up like the Donner Party.
The drive was uneventful.
For which we were grateful.


We finally reached Crowsnest Pass.
Crowsnest Pass, elevation of 1358 meters (4453 feet), is a mountain pass across the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies on the British Columbia/Alberta border.  

A bit of Geography and History about Crowsnest:
At this continental divide, North America's water systems flow in opposite directions: to the East the Crowsnest River carries water toward Hudson's Bay while water flows west toward the Pacific Ocean. 
These water systems were not illustrated on many maps until the Palliser Expedition in 1860. Michael Phillips was the first white man to cross the Canadian Rockies from the West to East when he blazed a trail in 1873 through an unexplored area. 
Now you know…

Crowsnest Pass has a fantastic view of rolling hills.
We could see forever. 
We could also see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel.
We were almost out of the mountains.


After we passed the Crowsnest Pass we drove past Frank Slide and Turtle Mountain.
It was a peculiar sight.
There is just a certain look to a regular healthy mountain.
They usually have a bit of vegetation on them.
There are also grooves along the surface.
They look lived in and wrinkled, like an old shoe.

Frank Slide was just that - a bare bald mountainside that looked like a kiddie slide.
It was scraped smooth, littered with tiny crumbled crushed rocks.
There was a mound of rubble at the base of the mountain.  
Thankfully we didn't know anything about its history:

The Indians of the area avoided Turtle Mountain. 
To them, it was the 'mountain that walked'. 
Their legend would soon become all too real.

In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, Turtle Mountain collapsed, resulting in the greatest landslide in North American history. In 100 seconds: at least 76 people were buried alive under tons of massive limestone boulders; three-quarters of the homes in Frank were crushed like balsa wood; over a mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed; and a river became a lake.


Mercifully ignorant, we just drove on to Lethbridge.
After Crowsnest Pass it was downhill all the way.
Driving through Alberta was a really easy drive.
We arrived at 6 pm, as per schedule.

Lethbridge, just south east of Calgary, is the largest city in southern Alberta. 
As Lethbridge was laid out in a grid it was easy to get around.
We found our motel within minutes.
Compared to our accommodations the first night, our suite was luxurious.
It had a separate bedroom and a kitchenette.
Instead of heading for a diner, we went out for groceries.

The biggest attraction in Lethbridge at the time was the High Level Bridge.
Compared to the day before we had arrived early, so we took a look.

The High Level Bridge, built in 1907 - 1909, is the longest and highest steel trestle bridge in the world.  It is 5,327 feet (1,623 meters) in length and 314 feet (95.7 meters) above the bed of the river.  It was finished on June 22, 1909.  At the time it was described as one of the "wonders of the world." 

So, yes, it was hard to miss.
After seeing that the bridge was still up, we went back to our motel.
Along with a home cooked dinner we watched a bit of television.
Because of the energy crisis, the United States had cut Daylight Savings Time.
Shows were on an hour earlier in Canada.
Paul was asleep by 9:00 pm.
I watched Johnny Carson at 9:30 pm!


Vancouver to Lethbridge in two days - roughly 1057 kilometers.
Lethbridge to Winnipeg in two days - roughly 1335 kilometers.
A longer distance to go in the same time, but we slept better.
We were out of the mountains!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Surrey to Hope to Osoyoos to Trail by Margaret Ullrich

Tomorrow is the second full moon of 2013.
In 2011 and 2012 we were having mild winters.
Well, mild for Winnipeg winters.
There wasn't much snow.
We had thought that was due to global warming.
Nope, just a fluke.

This year we're having a more normal Winnipeg winter.
An exposed skin freezes in a matter of seconds winter.
We had replaced our windows last year.
Now, thanks to the improvement, there's more moisture in our house.
Good in that our skin doesn't feel like dried out raisins.
Bad in that, due to a thin film of ice, our doors keep freezing shut.
We keep having to break out of our house.


We had explained to our parents that we were leaving British Columbia.
He had grown to like British Columbia.
Warmer weather, cheap land and houses… what wasn't there to like?
He had been thinking of moving there, too.

Maybe the economy would've gotten better and we would've gotten jobs.
Maybe it wouldn't and we would've stayed unemployed.
We knew there were jobs in Winnipeg.
So it goes.


We had sold our mattress and arranged for the sale of our house.
We were packed and ready to go.
Everything we owned was packed in our Datsun Sport Truck and a 4 x 6 U Haul.
The U Haul was 5 feet high.
I could barely stand up in it.

We had driven across the TransCanada when we moved to British Columbia in 1972.
During the western part the TransCanada hugged the Frasier, giving some rather dramatic views of the river far below.
When we had been near Hell's Gate Bridge our car had overheated.
Not much risk of overheating when driving in February.

But, we also had travelled the TransCanada during our summer vacation in 1975.
The TransCanada has some extremely steep hills which were fresh in our memory.
So, we thought that the the Hope-Princeton Route would be easier.
Shows what we didn't know.

Vancouver to Winnipeg, roughly 2232 kilometers.
We planned to cover the distance in four days.
We made reservations for motels along the way.
We weren't as carefree as we had been in 1972.


On Monday, February 24, 1975 we were on our way back east.
After a couple of hours going up and down the Coast Mountains we reached Hope.
Hope is between the the Coast Mountain Range and the Cascades
where the Coquihalla Canyon meets the Fraser River.
The canyon walls open into the valley. 
There are awe-inspiring desert canyons, vast stands of coastal rainforest, rugged 
snow capped mountains, expansive alpine meadows and fast-rushing rivers.
Tourists love vacationing in Hope.
Tourists who aren't hauling everything they owned through the mountains.
Tourists who weren't crawling along two hours behind schedule. 

Next we had to go through the Cascades and the Selkirks.
They make the Rockies look flat.
It was worse than when we'd gone through there in 1972.
In the summer of 1972 our radiator was bubbling.
Now we were wondering if we'd be swept away by an avalanche.


We stopped in Osoyoos, in the Okanagan Valley, north of Washington state.
Osoyoos is surrounded by grasslands, highlands and, of course, mountains. 
People come to Osoyoos for water activities, golf, hiking and cycling in summer and 
downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
We were there for gas.
Paul had to get a key to use the station's washroom.
The guy told Paul he couldn't take our dog Peaches into the washroom. 
So, Paul walked back to the car so I could hold Peaches and he could...


We had originally planned to arrive at the motel in Trail at 6 pm.
We were driving through the Kootenay Rockies.
Four of British Columbia's seven national parks are located in the Kootenay area.
There are rivers, lakes, waterfalls, beaches, mineral hot springs, alpine meadows 
and snow capped mountains. 
During the winter, the Kootenay Rockies offers fine powder skiing and snowboarding.
Head-rushing descents to expanses of groomed cross-country trails.
You get the picture.
More driving through damn snow capped mountains with possible avalanches.


Finally,  at 10 pm, we were in Trail.
Trail is in the West Kootenay region along the banks of the Columbia River.
Trail, a heavy industry town, has guided tours of the smelter plants facilities.
It is also where many world-class athletes have trained.
If we had arrived at 6 pm, we might have gone to the Visitor Centre.
At 10 pm, in late February, the Trail Visitor Centre was closed.
It didn't matter… we were too tired to see a smelter plant.


Since it was the slow season - no sane person drives through Trail in February - 
the owners were doing some maintenance work.
The room stank of fresh paint.
We took the room anyway.
We could stop driving up and down snow capped mountains and get some sleep.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Ricotta Cheesecake / Uses for Ricotta


A little while ago I posted Carmela's Ricotta-Pineapple Pie.
And, yes, I do like it better than Carmela's New Jersey Cheesecake.
It's an almost guilt-free cheesecake.

Ricotta is low in fat.
It is similar in texture to cottage cheese, but lighter.
And, like cottage cheese, it is a dieter's friend.




It can be a substitute for mayonnaise in egg or tuna salad.
It can be used as a sauce thickener.
Add cinnamon sugar or chocolate shavings, and served ricotta as a dessert. 
Ricotta, combined with citrus and pistachios, is the filling of the Sicilian dessert cannoli.
It is layered with slices of cake in Palermo's cassata.
Combined with eggs and cooked grains, ricotta is in La Pastiera and Pizza Rustica, which are traditional Easter dishes.
Ricotta is also used in main dishes: pasta, calzone, manicotti, lasagne, stuffed shells, and ravioli.


There is another ricotta pie recipe in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
In the chapter contributed by Robert Baccalieri - better known as Bobby Bacala.
Bobby's chapter If I Couldn't Eat, I'd F**king Die, is a sweet ending to the cookbook.

Okay… Bobby is not a poster boy for diet food.
But you can't blame Ricotta Cheesecake for that.
Really.

According to the intro to the chapter,
Bobby is a connoisseur of Italian-American desserts
Some of the other desserts probably didn't have ricotta in them.


                        Ricotta Cheesecake

Serves 12

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Spread over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Dust the pan with flour.
Tap out the excess.
Place the pan on a 12-inch square piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Squeeze the foil tightly around the pan so that it will be water-proof.

Preheat the oven to 350º

While preparing the cheesecake, boil
about 6 Cups water

In a blender puree until very smooth
3 pounds ricotta cheese
Scrape the ricotta into a large bowl.
Add
8 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Beat until well blended.

In a small bowl combine
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/3 Cup cornstarch
Add to the ricotta mixture and stir until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Place the pan in a large roasting pan and place them on the oven rack.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the roasting pan to a depth of 1 inch.

Bake for 90 minutes.
The top of the cheesecake should be golden and a knife inserted 2 inches
from the center should come out clean.
LEAVE THE CHEESECAKE IN THE OVEN.
Turn off the oven and leave the door open a crack.
You can prop the door with a wooden spoon.
Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the oven.
Remove the cake from the roasting pan and remove the foil.
Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack until room temperature.

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.
The leftover cheesecake can be stored, wrapped, in the refrigerator.


Would I make Ricotta Cheesecake again?
Absolutely.  A cheesecake with less calories?
What's not to like?
I also like Carmela's Ricotta Pineapple Cheesecake.


One recipe down.  Forty more to go.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Pizza Rustica recipe / Pizza Gaina / Italian Easter Pie with Ricotta and Meat

It's Louis Riel Day in Manitoba.
Family Day in Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
We're also in the Church season of Lent.
That means Easter is coming.
That means it's time to make traditional recipes.
Remember: 
For the traditionalist, holy day does not mean holiday.


Some readers told me that I hadn't given a proper recipe for Pizza Rustica.
It's an Easter recipe in Entertaining with The Sopranos.  

Warn the kids that it isn't the pizza they're expecting.
It has a lattice top crust like a cherry pie. 
But this is more of a savoury pie than a sweet pie.
it's more like a quiche.


Carmela's Pizza Rustica is not great if you have a cholesterol problem.  
No, the cholesterol  and calories don't disappear if you eat this on Easter. 
If you're trying to cut the fat, if not the cheese, go to my pie crust recipe.  
That'll make for a lighter bottom crust.  It'll be our secret. 


In an aside, Carmela added:  You can substitute other meats or cheese as you prefer, like capicola (gobagool), cooked sausage, mild pepperoni, provolone, etc.  Some people add sliced hard-cooked eggs too.

Also…
If the dough mixture seems dry, add a spoon or two of ice water.
The wrapped pie can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. 


                        Pizza Rustica

Serves 8 - 10

The Dough

In a large mixer bowl combine
4 Cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Add
1/2 Cup solid vegetable shortening
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pulse until the mixture resembles large crumbs.
Add
2 large eggs, beaten
Pulse until the mixture forms a soft dough.
Don't over mix, or the dough will be tough.

Shape 1/3 of the dough into a disk.
Shape the remaining dough into another disk.
Wrap each disk in plastic wrap.
Chill 1 hour, or overnight.


The Filling

Beat together in a large bowl
2 pounds ricotta
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Stir in
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
4 ounces sliced boiled ham, chopped
4 ounces prosciutto, chopped
4 ounces sliced soppressata ( or other salami), chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Preheat the oven to 375º
Butter a 9 x 3-inch springform pan.

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

Roll out the smaller piece of dough to a 9 1/2-inch circle.
Cut the dough into 3/4 inch wide strips.
Lay half the strips 1 inch apart over the filling.
Give the pie a quarter turn and place the remaining strips on top.
Press the ends of the strips against the dough on the sides of the pan firmly to seal.
Trim the excess dough.

Beat together
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon water
Brush the lattice top with the egg mixture.
Bake for 75 minutes.
The pie should be golden brown on top and the filling should puff up.
Cool the pie in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the sides of the pan.
Let the pie cool completely.
serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.


Would I make Carmela's Pizza Rustica again?
Nope.
When I say pizza, Paul expects a pizza.
This healthier Pizza Rustica is also a favorite.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Carmela Soprano's New Jersey Cheesecake recipe / Graham Wafer Crust


The post about Carmela Soprano's Ricotta-Pineapple Pie got some folks curious.
Curious enough to request the recipe for Carmela's New Jersey Cheesecake.
All it had was a beginner blogger getting herself into a lot of trouble.


Back to the cookbook Entertaining with The Sopranos… 


Here's the straight recipe.
No wisecracks.
I've learned my lesson.


Some hints:

If you don't have 1 1/4 Cup crumbs, crush 10 whole graham crackers.
Over beating the filling after adding the lemon juice puts too much air into the filling and can cause the cake to sink when it cools.
The wrapped cake in the pan can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before serving.
The cake can be topped with fruit when served.


                        New Jersey Cheesecake

Serves 12 - 15

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Butter the bottom of a 10 x 3-inch springform pan.
Preheat the oven to 325º

The Crust

Combine in a small bowl
1 1/4 Cups graham wafer crumbs
1/4 Cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 
Press the mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan.
Bake 8 minutes.
Place on a rack to cool.
Leave the oven on.


The Filling

Combine in a large mixer bowl
1 1/2 Cups sugar
1/4 Cup flour
Add
2  8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
Beat at medium speed until smooth.

Add
3  8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Beat at low speed until smooth.

Add, one at a time
4 large eggs
Mix well after each egg is added.

Add
1 Cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Beat just until smooth.  Do not overbeat.
Spoon the filling into the prepared pan.
Bake for 75 minutes.
The pie should be set around the edges, with a slightly soft center.
The centre will be wobbly.  That's the way it's supposed to be.
Cool on a wire rack 1 hour.
The cake will crack.  That's the way it's supposed to be.
Keep the cake in the pan, wrap it in foil, and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

About an hour before serving remove the cake from the refrigerator.
Run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the sides of the pan.


Would I make Carmela's New Jersey Cheesecake again?
I ain't talkin'.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Uova in Purgatorio - Eggs in Purgatory / Valentine's Day Traditions

Happy Valentine's Day!
January's flower is the carnation.
The carnation should have been the flower for February.
The deeper red carnation represent true and lasting love.
Deep pink and light red symbolize a relationship full of admiration and respect.


In Korea, young girls braid three carnations in their hair so they'll be lucky in love.
Live outside of Korea but you're looking for love?
Place two red carnations in a white vase in the 'Romance' area of your main floor.
That's the southwest corner.
Change these to two fresh carnations every nine days for a total of three times.
During that month you just might find a new love.
Well, for sure the florist will love you!


I already posted a few possible Valentine dinners
as well as a possible dessert, Ricotta-Pineapple Pie, with links to other cheesecakes.
Hope you found something you'll enjoy.
Or maybe you'll be eating out.
Whichever, Happy St. Valentine's Day!


Tomorrow's the first Friday in Lent.
Time to cut back the eating just a bit.

Paulie Walnuts' chapter My Nucci in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook has easy recipes.
Some are perfect for Lent.
Or a quick cheap lunch.

The man knows his garlic.

Here's how Paulie gently adds eggs to the sauce:
He breaks an egg into a small cup.
With a spoon, he then makes a small depression in the tomato sauce.
Then he slides the egg into the sauce.
And he continues with the remaining eggs.

If you're in a rush, you can break all the eggs in a medium bowl and
gently slide a yolk and some white into the sauce.
Just don't tell Paulie.


                        Uova in Purgatorio

Serves 4

Into a medium skillet over medium heat pour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Cook
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
cook about 2 minutes, until lightly golden.
Add
2 Cups canned tomato puree
4 fresh basil leaves torn into pieces (or a pinch of dried oregano)
salt and pepper to taste
Simmer for 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens.
Discard the garlic clove.
Gently add
8 large eggs
Sprinkle over eggs
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Cover and cook 3 minutes, more or less,
depending on how well done you like your eggs.
Serve hot.


Would I make Uova in Purgatorio again?
Sure.  It's a nice lunch with toast, rice or pasta.
If you're really into garlic, garlic toast.
Just maybe not on Valentine's Day.


One recipe down.  Forty-one more to go. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Ricotta - Pineapple Pie (Cheesecake)

I haven't posted a dessert recipe in quite a while.
Well, what with trying to drop the holiday pounds, it didn't seem like a good idea.
But Valentine's Day is coming up.
And what's a Valentine's Day without a dessert?

Carmela's chapter Feeding my Family in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook has a nice dessert recipe.
Ricotta - Pineapple Pie.


This recipe comes highly recommended by Carmela:
I once made a ricotta pie with pineapple to give to a local professional woman to do me an important favor… She must have really enjoyed it - she came through so nicely.

Yeah… It was the pie that made the woman come through, MRS. SOPRANO.
Like the local professional was clueless about Carmela's hubby Tony.
Whatever…
It's a good recipe.


Ricotta is a soft bland cheese. 
The texture is like a very well blended, smooth cottage cheese.
So, yes, this is a cheesecake recipe.


I've learned a lot from blogging over the past three years.
That I learned from getting snarky about Carmela's New Jersey Cheesecake.
It's a motherhood type of thing.
Maybe because cheese is made with milk.
Milk… Mothers… 
No, don't insult anyone's cheesecake.
Even if it's not as famous as Lindy's Cheesecake.
Or as much a sentimental favourite as the 1960s Co-op Refrigerator Cheesecake.

If you're in a rush - or prefer cherries to pineapples - you can top the cooled cheesecake with canned cherry pie filling.
Or blueberry… or apple pie filling.
Hey, it's your pie.

Prefer a ricotta cheesecake without fruit?
Try Carmela's Ricotta Cheesecake.


Just pick a cheesecake recipe, cook, serve and enjoy.
And keep your opinions on cheesecake recipes to yourself.
Trust me.


                        Ricotta - Pineapple Pie

Serves 8
Preheat the oven to 350º

Spread over the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan (or a springform pan)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Add
1/4 Cup fine graham wafer crumbs
Shake the pan so the crumbs coat the bottom and sides.

In a large bowl combine
1/2 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch 
Add
1 15-ounce container of ricotta
2 large eggs
1/2 Cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for 50 minutes.
The pie should be set around the edges, with a slightly soft center.
Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.

The Topping

Drain well, but save the syrup
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple in syrup

In a medium saucepan combine
1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch  
Stir in 
1/2 Cup of the saved pineapple syrup
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Cook, stirring until thickened, about 1 minute.
Add 
the drained pineapple
Remove from heat and let cool.

Spread the pineapple mixture over the pie.
Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.


Would I make Ricotta - Pineapple Pie again?
Sure.  
I like it better than Carmela's New Jersey Cheesecake.
Oh, Lord… Why did I say that?


One recipe down.  Forty-two more to go.