Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Promise of Easter....

May joy fill your day,

Hope light your path,

And the many blessings of Easter
warm your heart....

Wishing you a Happy Easter!!

Thank you for visiting!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sweetened Condensed Milk Cheesecake, with and without fruit / Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk - Margaret Ullrich

Holy Saturday!
No, I'm not swearing.
Tomorrow is Easter.

Everything is ready for the family's feast.
Yeah, sure… you just got a phone call.
Would it be alright if a few more people joined your festivities?
You don't want to trash all the goodness you've developed over Lent.
I mean, you could drop dead right now and go straight up.
Sure, what's a few extra mouths… I mean… welcome guests.
The more the merrier, blah, blah, blah.

The main course usually gives you enough leftovers for a week.
No problem there.
But the dessert…

I've got just the thing.
A little over three years ago I did a post about The Great Cheesecake Battle.
Oh, yeah... I learned a lot after that beginner's post.

I mentioned that I make a quickie sweetened condensed milk cheesecake.
It doesn't need baking, just a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
Perfect for when it's hot.
Or for when you're getting hot under the collar.

About the crust:
You can use 2/3 of the mixture as a bottom crust and sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top as a garnish.
Or you can use all the crumbs as a bottom crust and top with a tin of pie filling.
Cherry usually is a favourite.
Or you can buy a prepared graham wafer crumb crust and top with the pie filling.

                        Sweetened Condensed Milk Cheesecake 

Combine in a medium bowl
2 Cups graham wafer crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
Press 2/3 of the mixture into a 10 inch pan (see above).

Combine in a large mixer bowl
1 (8 oz / 250 g) package of cream cheese, cut up
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 Cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat at medium speed until it is smooth.
Pour filling over the crumb crust and top with remaining crumbs (see above).
Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Top with pie filling (see above).

If you don't have cream cheese or pie filling but do have fruit cocktail, here's plan C.

                        Sweetened Condensed Milk Pie with Fruit Cocktail 

Combine in a medium bowl
2 Cups graham wafer crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
Press 2/3 of the mixture into a 10 inch pan (see above).

Combine in a large mixer bowl
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 Cup lemon juice
Beat at medium speed until it is smooth.

Fold in
1 can fruit cocktail, drained
3 bananas, sliced
Pour filling over the crumb crust and top with remaining crumbs (see above).
Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Top with crumbs (see above).

Don't have Sweetened Condensed Milk?
Have some bored kids?
Perfect.  Let them make this.
They'll really brag about the cheesecake.
And it'll look as if you, The Perfect Mom, had planned this all along as a way to involve them in the Easter festivities.
Take your bows wherever you can.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk - using Powdered Skim Milk

Mix in a blender
1 Cup dry milk powder
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
2/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup boiling water
Blend and use.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk - using Whole Milk

Mix in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat
1 1/2 Cup whole milk
1/2 Cup sugar
Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Once the sugar is dissolved lower the heat to very low.
Reduce the milk by half.
It will take about 1 - 2 hours.

Whisk in
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cool the mixture in the fridge for several hours until thick.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Insalata di Mare / Seafood Salad with Dressing (for 6 or 50)

Tomorrow is Good Friday.
Time for another fish recipe.

I really like the recipes in Charmaine Bucco's chapter, Cooking for the Whole Famiglia 
in her husband Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
Charmaine gives recipes for a regular crowd and for when you've invited all the
in-laws, cousins and relatives over.
As often happens during the holidays.
Like Easter.

Charmaine's recipe for Insalata di Mare is perfect as part of una bella mangiata.
A great meal.

If you have extra mussels, no problem.
They would be great in Carmela Soprano's Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce.

After the mussels have soaked, scrub them with a stiff brush to scrape off any barnacles or seaweed.
Discard any mussels with cracked shells, and those that don't close tightly when tapped.
Remove the beards by pulling them toward the narrow end of the shell.

The squid should be cleaned and prepared by cutting crosswise into 1/2 inch rings.

If you are making the salad ahead of time, toss with only half the dressing.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Toss with the remaining dressing just before serving.

                        Insalata di Mare

Serves 6                                                                     Serves 50   

Place in cold water to cover
2 pounds mussels                                                        16 pounds
Let sit 30 minutes.
Drain and scrub them with a stiff brush (see above).
Place the mussels in a large pot with
1/2 Cup water                                                              1/2 Cup 
Cover and cook until the mussels open (about 10 minutes).
Discard any that refuse to open.

Half fill a large saucepan with                                       dutch oven
Bring to a simmer.
salt to taste
1 pound medium shrimp                                                8 pounds
Cook for 3 minutes.
Scoop out the shrimp and cool under cold running water.
Bring the water to a boil.
Drain the shrimp well.
Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Drop into the boiling water
1 pound squid                                                                8 pounds                                             
Cook about 1 minute.
Scoop out the squid and cool under cold running water.
Drain the squid well.

In a large bowl combine
the prepared shrimp and squid
1 Cup thinly sliced celery                                                8 Cups
1 Cup sliced pitted green olives                                       8 Cups

Whisk together
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil                                     2 1/2 Cups
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest                                1 1/2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste                      1 Cup, or to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley            1 Cup
2 garlic cloves, minced                                                     16
pinch of crushed red pepper                                          To taste

Pour the dressing over the salad mixture.
Toss well.
Taste for seasoning.

Garnish with 
1 lemon, cut into wedges                                              6

Would I make Insalata di Mare again?
Yes, especially for Christmas Eve.
It would be perfect as part of The Feast of the Seven Fishes.
I mean, it has three different forms of seafood already!!
Then there's the eel...

One recipe down.  Twenty-eight more to go.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Calamari Ripieni / Stuffed Squid in Tomato Sauce

Today is the start of Passover, an important time for the Jewish people.
On Friday it will be Good Friday, and on Sunday it will be Easter.
It's almost the end of Lent!

This isn't just a special time for folks of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Tomorrow is Holi, a Spring festival celebrated by Hindus as a festival of colours.
The backstory is that viruses and colds are caused by Spring's weather changes. 
The playful throwing of natural coloured powders made from traditionally medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors is supposed to help.
Well, everybody is laughing and laughter is the best medicine, so why not?

The third full moon of 2013 will happen tomorrow night.
Three already… time sure flies!
A few weeks ago I posted a recipe for Carmela's Fried Calamari.
There was also information about squid and other ways you can serve it.
I was asked if squid always has to be fried.
No, it doesn't.
Artie's chapter Mia Cucina in The Sopranos Family Cookbook has a recipe for
Stuffed Calamari, Calamari Ripieni.

There is also a recipe for a tomato sauce.
If the idea of eating squid makes you squeamish - or you can't find it in your store - the sauce would also be nice with other seafood.
If you are using fish, adjust the simmering time, since fish doesn't need tenderizing
as the squid does.
It's a nice sauce for lobster or jumbo shrimp.
Yes, I know that sounds funny. 

The skillet for making the sauce should be large enough to hold the squid in a single layer.  You want to evenly stew the bodies.
Yes, I know that sounds funny, too.

                        Calamari Ripieni

Serves 6 to 8

The Squid

Rinse thoroughly inside and out
2 1/2 pounds calamari
Set the bodies aside.
Chop the tentacles with a large knife or in a food processor.

In a medium skillet place
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Cook over medium heat 1 minute.
Stir in the chopped tentacles.
Cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

1/2 Cup plain bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped Gaeta olives
2 Tablespoons chopped rinsed capers
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Let cool.

With a small spoon, stuff the bread crumb mixture into the calamari bodies.
Do not fill them more than half full.
Pin the calamari closed with wooden toothpicks.

The Sauce

Pour into a deep heavy saucepan or large skillet
1/4 Cup olive oil 
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
Cook over medium heat 1 minute.
Add the calamari.
Cook, turning them gently, 2 minutes on each side.

1/2 Cup dry red wine
Bring to a simmer.

2 Cups Italian peeled tomatoes, with their juices
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt to taste.
Bring to a simmer.
Partially cover the pan and cook for an hour, 
turning the calamari occasionally.
If the sauce becomes thick, add water.
Serve hot.

Would I make Calamari Ripieni again?
It's a nice recipe.
But I don't cook squid that often.

One recipe down.  Twenty-nine more to go. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Cassata / Iced Sponge Cake with Ricotta Filling l Palm Sunday Customs

And almost everybody has fresh palm leaves to prove it!

In Malta, on Ħadd il-Palm, both palm leaves and olive leaves are used.
Many parishes there have a shrine of 'Jesus prays in the Olive Garden' (Ġesù fl-Ort).
In memory of that, people take a small branch of olive to their homes.

In Italy palm leaves and small olive branches are also used.
These are placed above the door, where they stay until the next Palm Sunday.
Small olive branches are also used to decorate traditional Easter cakes.

In parts of the world where it's difficult to get palms, other traditions have arisen.
Palm Sunday is also called Yew or Willow Sunday, or just Branch Sunday.

Whatever branch or leaves you have, it's a day to celebrate.
It is time to make a nice dessert.
And who would know better dessert recipes than Bobby Bacala.
Bobby's chapter If I Couldn't Eat, I'd F**king Die in Artie Bucco's
The Sopranos Family Cookbook has terrific traditional recipes.
They're not something you can whip up in a few minutes.
His Cassata is fancy, yet light.
I mentioned Cassata in the post about Carmela Soprano's Ricotta Cheesecake.
Ricotta is a nice low-fat cheese.

The Cassata would be a perfect dessert for Easter.
Not everybody thinks fancy bread is a true dessert.
If you need a quick dessert today, Ma's Cannoli is similar but fast.
No, Ma's Cannoli is not as complicated as Carmela's Cannoli.
Really.  Take a look.

The sponge cake layers can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.
Wrap in foil or plastic wrap.

The filling can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance.
Cover and refrigerate.


For the Sponge Cake

Preheat oven to 375º
Grease 2 9-inch layer cake pans
Line the bottom of the pans.
Grease the paper.
Dust the pans with flour and tap out the excess.

In a large mixer bowl, beat at low speed
6 large eggs, at room temperature
Slowly add (gradually increasing the mixer speed to high)
2/3 Cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Beat until the egg mixture is thick, light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.

While the eggs are being beaten, place in a sieve
1 Cup flour
Shake about 1/3 of the flour into the egg mixture.
Using a spatula, very gently fold the flour into the eggs.
Repeat, in 2 additions, adding the flour.
Fold the flour in only until there are no streaks.
Turn the batter into prepared pans and spread evenly.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
The tops should be light brown.
The center of the cakes, when pressed, should spring back.
Place the pans on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.
Invert the cakes onto the racks and remove cakes from the pans.
Carefully peel off the paper.
Let cakes cool completely upside down.

For the Decoration

Knead briefly to soften
4 ounces almond paste
Place it in a food processor or small bowl of a mixer.
2 or 3 drops green food colouring
Process until the almond paste is evenly green.
Add more colouring if you want it darker.
Turn the almond paste out on a work surface.
Shape it into a log and wrap it in plastic or use it right away.

For the Filling

Line a large strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl.
Scrape into the strainer
1 pound ricotta (either whole or part skim milk)
Cover with plastic wrap.
Place a plate on tope of the ricotta and a weight on top of that.
Let the ricotta drain overnight in the refrigerator.

In a large mixer bowl beat together
the drained ricotta
1/2 Cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat until smooth and creamy.
Fold in
2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 Cup chopped candied fruit, citron or orange peel

To assemble the cake:
Place one layer cake on a serving platter.
Spread the filling on top.
Place the second layer on top.

Cut the almond paste lengthwise into 4 slices.
Place one slice between 2 pieces of wax paper.
With a rolling pin, flatten it into a long ribbon, 2 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick.
Trim off any rough edges.
Repeat with the remaining almond paste.
Wrap the ribbons around the side of the cake, overlapping the ends.

Gather the scraps of almond paste into a ball.
Roll it flat.
Cut it with a pasta cutter into stars or hearts and use them for decorations.

For the Icing

In a medium bowl, whisk
2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Cups confectioners' sugar
Stir until smooth.
Spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake.
Decorate the cake with the almond paste shapes and
Candied or dried cherries, pineapple or oranges

Would I make Cassata again?
That depends...
Carmela Soprano's Cassata?  No.
Anna Sultana's Cannoli?  You have to ask?

One recipe down.  Thirty more to go.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Salmon Steaks with Avocado Salsa

Today is another Friday in Lent.
But we're in the home stretch.
Only another week to go until Easter.

Lent is a good time to visit the shrink, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, M.D., M.A., M.F.T.
She can't absolve us of our guilt, but she does try to help in her own way.

Dr. Jennifer Melfi's chapter Rage, Guilt, Loneliness, and Food in in Artie's
The Sopranos Family Cookbook actually has some nice simple recipes.
Her Salmon Steaks with Avocado Salsa is a nice light meal.
And very healthy, especially if you have a cholesterol problem.
Avocado, olive oil and salmon are filled with good fats.
Yes, there are good fats.

This is a recipe even Guilty Eaters, Angry Eaters and Single Eaters can enjoy.
Dr. J is always trying to help.

When done, the fish should be slightly translucent if cut near the bone.
If the steaks are boneless, flaking is another way to tell if fish is done.

                        Salmon Steaks with Avocado Salsa

Serves 2

In a small bowl stir together
1 Cup plain, low fat yogurt
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
salt to taste

Fold in
1/2 Cup diced ripe avocado
1/2 Cup diced seeded tomato
1/2 Cup diced seeded cucumber

2 salmon steaks (about 8 ounces each)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle with
salt and pepper

Place the broiler pan 4 inches from the heat.
Preheat the broiler.
Broil for 4 minutes, until lightly browned.
Turn and broil another 4 minutes.

Serve the salmon steaks immediately, accompanied by the salsa.

Would I make Salmon Steaks with Avocado Salsa again?
Sure.  And I'd serve it with rice or cornbread.
I'm also thinking the salsa would go well with broiled chicken.
Another heart healthy favourite.

One recipe down.  Thirty-one more to go.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Anna Sultana's Pane di Pasqua all 'Uovo / Italian Easter Sweet Bread

The First Day of Spring!!

I have to admit Spring in Manitoba is not the same as Spring in Queens, New York.
There's something about shovelling snow and slipping on ice that just doesn't make it feel springlike.
Oh, well... the calendar says it's Spring, so, it's Spring.

While I miss the New York Spring weather, there are some things I don't miss.
My family's Easter celebrations were sometimes stressful.
My family is Maltese.
Some of my relatives are not.
And everybody has traditions.

After The Great Figolli Fight, Ma always tried to make something for everybody whenever she invited the relatives over for a holiday celebration.
So she'd bake an Italian style Easter bread, along with the Maltese Figolli.
I don't know which Aunt gave her the recipe.
Maybe it was Aunt Betty.
Ma always added her own touches, so it doesn't matter.
This is Ma's recipe.

This is a little different from Carmela Soprano's Easter Sweet Bread.
You can check both recipes and see which you'd like to make.

                        Italian Easter Sweet Bread

Lightly grease a baking sheet                 
Bake 40 minutes

Color in advance and refrigerate
5 eggs

Into a measuring cup pour
1/2 Cup warm water (@ 110º F)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
Let stand about 10 minutes, then stir.

In a bowl, combine
1/2 Cup warm water
1 1/2 Cups flour
the yeast/water mixture
Beat until smooth.
Cover and let rise in a warm place 2 hours.

Combine in a small bowl
3/4 Cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large mixer bowl, cream
3/4 Cup shortening

1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon grated lemon peel
Add gradually the sugar / salt mixture.

Add, one at a time
2 Large eggs
Beat thoroughly.

the yeast/water mixture (after it has sat for 2 hours)

Add gradually
1 1/2 Cups flour
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface.
Knead and add about
1/2 Cup flour
Knead until it is very smooth (about 10 minutes).
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.
Cover and let rise in a warm place about 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and cut it into 2 even pieces.
Roll out one piece, between your hands, into a rope about 26 inches long.
Repeat with the other piece of dough.
Lay the ropes side by side and braid them together.
Place the braid on the baking sheet and bring the ends together to form a ring.
Pinch the ends together to seal and tuck the ends under so it looks nice.

Place the colored eggs in the wreath, evenly spaced.

Cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º

Beat together
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon water or milk
Brush the bread dough with the beaten egg mixture
Scatter on top
Multicolored round candy sprinkles

Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from pans and place on a cutting board.
Slice and serve, just like regular bread.

About the eggs... You never know, someone may want to eat them.
So, it might be safer to store the bread in the fridge.

Or remove the eggs after the dinner and just refrigerate them.
After a few slices have been removed, it just looks like bread.

Not as pretty, but it still tastes good.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Carmela Soprano's St. Joseph Zeppole / Yeast Proofing

Tomorrow is St. Joseph's Day!!
Now we're talking celebrating, Mediterranean style!!

In Entertaining with The Sopranos there was a recipe for Sfingi, also called St. Joseph's Day Zeppole.
Carmela Soprano called it Sfingi, Anna Sultana called it Zfineg. For St. Joseph, the Sopranos and the Sultanas are one.

Sfingi / Zfineg is a tiny ball of puff pastry, fried like a doughnut ball, split open and stuffed with a ricotta and candied citron filling.  
The filling is strictly for St. Joseph's Day.  

Sfingi / Zfineg has a lot of Mediterranean mojo attached to it.
As it was explained: 
If it is not St. Joseph's Day, you can just shake these, without the filling, 
in a bag with cinnamon sugar and serve them like donuts.

Religion doesn't have to make sense.  
It just has to follow the rules and be done right.  
Even for Tony and the boys, some things are sacred.

Maybe in Tony's line of work, only a lucky few turned 60.
For those of us who have, well, some old favourites can cause problems.
Cream Puffs are baked and they can be stuffed with the ricotta filling.

If there's someone in the crowd who is lactose intolerant, Bobby's recipe for Zeppole in his chapter If I Couldn't Eat, I'd F**king Die in Artie Bucco's The Sopranos Family Cookbook would at least show you cared.
And St. Joseph would understand.

Proof means you let the yeast sit to see if the liquid gets foamy.
If, after 10 minutes the liquid has no foam, the yeast has died.
It will not work.  You've been warned.

If you don't have a deep-frying thermometer, test the oil by slipping a bit of the dough into the oil.  It should sizzle and turn brown in 1 minute.


Serves 10 to 12

In a bowl sift together
2 Cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl combine
1 Cup warm water (110º to 115º F)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
Stir until the yeast has dissolved.
Let sit 10 minutes to proof.
Add the sifted dry ingredients.
Stir until well blended.
Cover and let rise in a warm place 1 1/2 hours.

In a deep saucepan or deep fryer pour
about 2 inches vegetable oil
Heat to 375º on a deep-fry thermometer or test with dough.

Drop the dough by tablespoons into the hot oil.
Don't crowd or they won't fry properly.
Cook, stirring a couple of times, about 2 minutes,
until they are crisp and golden.
Remove the zeppole with a slotted spoon.
Drain on paper towels.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Put the zeppole in a paper bag.
1/2 Cup confectioners' sugar
Shake the zeppole until coated.
Serve immediately.

Would I make Zeppole again?
Sure, one can't hurt.
Everything in moderation.
Including moderation.

One recipe down.  Thirty-two more to go. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Potato and Cabbage Casserole for St. Patrick's Day - Margaret Ullrich

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.
As the patron saint of Ireland, well, he wasn't exactly a biggie in Mediterranean circles.
Still, we ought to prepare something to remember him by.
I mean, he is a saint, and still on the calendar.

When I was growing up in College Point I had many Irish neighbours.
The big debate among my classmates was whether the proper meal was corned beef and cabbage or lamb stew.
As a Maltese, St. Patrick's Day was not my field of expertise.
So I stayed out of it and ate a Kwarezimal.

This is a very good casserole which would go nicely with the corned beef.
Or it could stretch out the lamb stew.
Or it would go well with pork or sausages.
Or just serve the casserole with Irish soda bread.
Your Irish vegetarian guests would love it.

Like I said, St. Patrick is not my field of expertise.

                        Mashed Potato Casserole

Serves 12

Grease a large baking dish
Preheated oven to 425º

Place in a large heavy pot
5 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Add salted water to cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, 10 to 20 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, 
place into another pot of boiling salted water (about an inch)
6 Cups green cabbage, shredded
Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 6 minutes. 
Drain and set aside.

When the potatoes are tender, drain and return the potatoes to the pot.
Place over low heat and shake, uncovered, for about 30 seconds to 
evaporate excess moisture. Remove from heat and mash the potatoes.

Add to the potatoes
4 ounces cream cheese, softened & cut into pieces
1 teaspoon salt
Mash until smooth. 

Fold in
1/2 Cup green onions, thinly sliced
the cooked cabbage
Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Spread mixture in the greased baking dish.

Top with 
1 Cup old cheddar cheese, grated
Bake casserole, uncovered, for 30 to 50 minutes.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Biscotti Regina (Sesame Cookies) / Cookies for Lent

I know this is Lent.
Strictly speaking we should confine ourselves to very plain fare.
And no desserts.

Well… There are ways to get around that.
Think it through.

We're allowed bread and pasta, which are made from flour.
Eggs are an economical source of protein.
Cookies are made from flour and eggs.

So, if we make very plain cookies, like Carmela Soprano's Quaresimali or
Ma's Kwarezimal or Ma's Biskuttini tar-Rahal or Ma's Qaghag tal-Gulglien
Well, it's just bread, right?

Janice Soprano's chapter Sunday Dinner in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook
has a recipe that should be perfect as a Lenten dessert.
I can believe that Livia prepared Biscotti Regina to finish off a Sunday dinner in Lent.
Sure… Livia and Janice would prepare this with a clear conscience.
I would agree with their logic.
Which, I guess, isn't really saying much for my conscience.
Oh, my….

                        Biscotti Regina

In a shallow bowl pour
1/2 Cup milk

On a piece of waxed paper spread
2 Cups unhulled sesame seeds

Grease and flour 2 large cookie pans         
Preheat oven to 375º        

Mix together
4 Cups flour
1 Cup sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium bowl whisk together
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange zest 

In a large mixer bowl, on low speed beat 
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
Gradually add the dry ingredients.
Stir in the egg mixture.
Blend well.

Pinch off a golf ball size piece of the dough.
Shape it into a log 2 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch thick.
Dip the log into the milk, then roll it in the sesame seeds.
Place it on the prepared pan and flatten slightly.
Repeat with the remaining dough and place them, 
1 inch apart, on the baking sheets.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the logs are well browned. 
Let cool on the cookie pans for 10 minutes.
Transfer to racks to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.

Would I make Biscotti Regina again?
Sure, and I still think they're perfect for Lent.
I mean, they make sesame butter.
Which is like peanut butter.
So this is just a kind of crunchy sesame butter sandwich, right?
Oh, hell...
Bless me, Father, for I have eaten...

One recipe down.  Thirty-three more to go. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Ravioli alla Bucco / Anna Sultana's Ravjul and Ravjuletti

Sometimes recipes, like Melfi's Minestrone, are quick.
And sometimes recipes aren't.
Artie's Ravioli alla Bucco, in his chapter Mia Cucina in The Sopranos Family Cookbook, 
is one that takes a bit of time.

Ravioli, like pyrogies, is basically dumplings.
Our parish, which has a Polish base, has pyrogy making days.
Especially before Christmas and Easter.
It's a fundraiser for the parish and a nice way for old friends to spend a day.

Artie's ravioli recipe has a bit of meat in it.
My Ma's ravjul is meatless, and easier to make.
Especially if you don't have a pasta machine.
She often served it as a first course.
No, we weren't vegetarians.
It was just Ma's way of cutting our appetites.

Want an appetizer?
Small, deep-fried ravjuletti are popular in Malta as an appetizer.
They're a little different from the regular ravjul.
But a handy recipe to know when holidays are coming up.
Like Easter…

If the dough tears, dust it with flour, fold it and pass it through the machine again.
After you've placed the ravioli on the baking sheets, you can freeze them until firm,
then place them in a heavy duty plastic bag, seal and freeze them up to one month.
Do not thaw before cooking.

When cooking the ravioli, just put in enough to fit comfortably.
Don't crowd or they'll stick together, even worse than spaghetti would.

And prepare the sauce the day ahead, either

                        Ravioli alla Bucco

Serves 8


In a food processor or large bowl of a mixer place
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 Cup cool water
1 teaspoon olive oil

Gradually add
2 1/2 Cups flour
Mix until the dough forms a moist, but not sticky, ball.
Add more flour if needed.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.
Knead for 1 minute, or until it is firm and smooth.
Shape the dough into a ball, cover with the bowl, and let rest 30 minutes.


Mix in a large bowl
16 ounces whole-milk ricotta
4 ounces mozzarella, very finely chopped or coarsely grated
4 ounces prosciutto, very finely chopped
1 large egg
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese 
2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
pepper and salt to taste
Cover and refrigerate.

To Make Ravioli

Line 3 large baking sheets with towels.
Dust towels with flour.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces.
Put 7 of the pieces back under the bowl.
Shape 1 piece of dough into a flat disk.

Lightly dust the rollers of a pasta machine with flour.
Set the rollers at the widest opening.
Pass the dough through the machine.
Set the rollers to the next setting.
Pass the dough through the machine.
Continue setting and passing until the dough is very thin.

Lay the strip of dough on a lightly floured surface.
Mark the lengthwise centre so you don't overfill it.
About 1 inch from a short end place the filling, in a straight row,
a teaspoonful at a time, about 1 inch apart.
Lightly brush around the mounds of filling with cool water.
Turn the unfilled half of the dough over the filled half, covering the filling.
After moistening your fingers, press out any air bubbles and seal the edges.
Cut between each ravioli with a pastry cutter or a sharp knife.
Separate the ravioli and press the edges with a fork to seal each one.
Place the ravioli in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.
Cover the ravioli with a towel and refrigerate until needed, up to 3 hours.
They need to be turned a few times so they won't stick to the towels.

Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

While the ravioli are cooking reheat over low heat either
Carmela Sopranos' Tomato Sauce  or
Carmela Sopranos' Marinara Sauce, double recipe
Pour some of the sauce into a large heated serving bowl.

To Cook Ravioli

In a large pot place
4 quarts water
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle boil.
salt to taste

Cook the ravioli, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 5 minutes, 
depending on their thickness and if they were frozen.
With a slotted spoon scoop the ravioli out of the pot and drain well.
Place the ravioli in the prepared heated serving bowl.

Pour on some more sauce.
Sprinkle with
1 Cup Parmesan cheese
Serve immediately.

Would I make Ravioli alla Bucco again?
No, I'd rather make Ma's Ravjul.
Especially if it's a holiday meal.
It just wouldn't be a family meal without Ma's recipe.

I just wish we could sit and make them together again. 

One recipe down.  Thirty-four more to go.