Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nearer My God to Thee by Margaret Ullrich


A couple of weeks ago I took the advice of the folks at astrology.com and tried to create a plan for applying feng shui to my home.
Well, within limits…
Yesterday was the first day of summer.
Tomorrow is Full Moon number six for 2013.
June is the time for folks in Winnipeg to plant their gardens.
Plants need a bit of time to get settled in before July's heat bakes the life out of them.
So I knew I had to get to our garden this month.


Funny thing about the items in Tisha Morris' book Feng Shui Your Life.
Some of them I completely understand.
And then there are a few others that I just don't get.
Among the phase two items she had:
  • Paint your front door     
  • Rearrange a room 


Tisha said a red door is more welcoming.
My front door had been done when our house's exterior was painted.
It still looks good.
So, I'm not painting my front door red.
Instead I found a wreath with red flowers for the front door.
Good enough.

About rearranging a room…
We've been living in this house for 25 years.
We've tried every arrangement possible.
Oddly enough, Tisha doesn't mention anything about a garden.
So, I decided to treat our yard as a room and spruce it up a bit.

Someone once said
One is nearer to God in a garden,
than any where else on earth.
We enjoy watching birds flitting about the flowers while we have our meals.
Well, nothing's perfect.

After we mowed and weeded, I finished planting the tomatoes and annuals. 
I decided to have some fun with the decor.
Near the peonies I placed a Curious George bubble bath container and a rubber duckie.
Well, it's different and a way of moving another couple of items.
We also bought some sod to repair the threadbare areas.
I can just feel the energy of spaces being harmonized with the earth's energy.
And I get a chuckle when I look at the rubber duckie.


In phase one Tisha had the item: 
  • Clean out the basement
  • Clear out old pictures  

Clean the basement.. now there's an item I understand.
Tisha says the basement represents our lowest form of consciousness, our subconscious mind.
She also said to divide it into sections, and determine what I really need.
Sorting a basement is a bit of a hard slog.
But now our basement, if not my subconscious, is improved.


I had three boxes of photographs.
The usual snapshots.. some good, some blurred, some who the heck is that?
Tisha said one should create space to meet new people and make new memories.
Sounds good.
Out with the blurs and mystery photos.
Then there are the photos in my computer.
Okay… that's going to take a few more days.


About tonight's full moon...
According to the folks at astrology.com:  Now, you have the chance to step back and assess the results of what you set in motion earlier this month. 
This full Moon in ambitious Capricorn provides a valuable look at where you're headed… do what you can to maintain a healthy balance between the personal and professional areas of your life.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Beer Can in Chicken's Butt Barbecue Recipe - Margaret Ullrich

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Father's Day.  It was about how Dads have changed since the 1950s.

I also talked a bit about Dads barbecuing…
     Speaking of the kitchen, a Dad's cooking used to be basic.  Raw meat plus fire produced small hard hockey pucks served with ketchup and relish in a bun.  Raw onion slices were added for the July first weekend.  Up to now the most exciting thing I'd ever seen a man do at that holiday's barbecue was to stick a can of beer up a chicken's butt so it could stand and roast.  It looked almost patriotic.  


I got a few e mails about that patriotic chicken with the beer in its butt.
No, I didn't make that recipe up.
Yes, it really is a recipe.
A very simple recipe.

Yes, I'm sorry I didn't post it before Father's Day.
But you can still make it for July 1st or 4th or whatever your national holiday is.
After the chicken is cooked you can put a small flag in one of its wings.
Or not.


About drinking the beer
If you'd rather not drink it, pour half into a cup.
Flat beer is also good as a hair conditioner.
That's what we did with leftover flat beer in the 1960s.
But it does seem like a waste when beer is not left over from a party.

About the beer left in the can after cooking...
It's gotten a bit nasty with chicken grease and stuff dripping into it.
Toss it.

About the rub...
The spices are just a suggestion.
If you've got a family recipe or a jar of something you got on sale, use it.



                        Beer Can in Chicken's Butt

Serves 4

Preheat barbecue for a medium-high heat. 

In a small bowl combine for dry rub
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Remove giblets and the neck from 
1 whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
Do not truss the bird.
Smear the rub all over the chicken. 

Open 
1 (355 ml) can of beer 
Drink half of it (or not)
Punch a few extra holes in the can so the steam can escape during cooking.

Place the can on the grill grate.
Place the chicken on top of can.
Insert the can into the tail end of the chicken.
You should have the chicken, with the can in its butt, standing on the grill grate.
The untied chicken legs will make it look as if the bird is standing.
Especially if you've drunk a few beers.

Turn off the burners directly below the chicken.
Cover the grill and cook over indirect heat for 1 hour.

Brush chicken with 
1/2 Cup barbecue sauce
Grill uncovered 15 minutes, brushing with sauce occasionally, 
until internal temperature of thigh is 180º F. 

Remove the chicken from the grill and tent the standing chicken with foil.
Let it stand 10 minutes so the juices will settle, just like a regular roasted chicken.
Remove the can and place the chicken on a platter.
Carve and serve.

Saluting is optional.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Panzerotti - Neopolitan Style Potato Croquettes

Happy Father's Day!

This is really it.
The last Soprano recipe.
And what a perfect ending.
The recipe for Panzerotti - Neopolitan Potato Croquettes - is from Junior's chapter The Soprano Family Tradition in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.

Panzerotti are a bit heavy.
But that's what an immigrant family wanted for dinner.
Something that made you feel full, like you'd really eaten something.
Also something that didn't cost too much to make.
But the memories of those family meals… priceless.

Ma never made potato croquettes. 
We had lots of potatoes - mashed, baked, boiled, fried, roasted. 
But no croquettes.  
Potatoes are a regular part of Maltese cuisine.
Malta produces more than enough potatoes and even exports them to Holland. 
Somehow we missed out on eating potato croquettes.


It's been an interesting time going through the two Soprano cookbooks.
Some recipes were an adventure in cooking.
Some recipes were just fun to read.
Some recipes were a stroll down memory lane.
But, all good things come to an end.
So, here's the final (Yes, I double checked) Soprano recipe.
Enjoy!


                        Panzerotti

Makes about 24

Place in a large heavy pot
6 large boiling potatoes
Add cold water to cover, cover the pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, peel and mash until very smooth.
Let cool slightly.

Stir in
3 large egg yolks
1 Cup grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan)
1/4 Cup very finely chopped salami (about 2 ounces)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Spread on a sheet of wax paper
2 Cups plain dry bread crumbs

In a shallow bowl beat until frothy
3 large egg whites

Scoop out about 1/4 Cup of the potato mixture.
Form it into a sausage shape, 1 inch thick by 2 1/2 inches long.
Place it on a plate or a sheet of wax paper.
Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.

Dip the potato logs into the egg whites, then roll them in the bread crumbs.
Be sure to coat them completely.
Place the logs on a wire rack and let dry 15 to 30 minutes.

In a large heavy skillet pour
vegetable oil to a 1/2-inch depth
Heat over medium heat until a bread cube or a bit of the egg white will sizzle in the oil.  (If it's not hot enough, they won't fry crisply.)

Leaving about 1/2 inch between them and turning occasionally, fry the potato logs until they are evenly browned.
Place the panzerotti on paper towels to drain.
They can be kept warm in a 200º oven while you fry the rest.


Would I make Panzerotti again?
Yes.  They reminded me of snacks we used to eat in New York.
During the 60s and 70s New York had street vendors who would sell all sorts of food.
The Panzerotti reminded me of the knishes we enjoyed as we strolled downtown.


One recipe down.  The end.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Neopolitan Style Stuffed Peppers

Father's Day is this weekend.
Yes, we've covered main courses.
And we've touched on desserts.
Now for a vegetable.

You wouldn't know it to look at him, but Paulie Walnuts has a sweet side.
He said he often makes a potatoes and egg sandwich to improve the guys' morale.
They are in a high stress line of work, after all.


His chapter My Nucci in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook has nice easy recipes.
Except for the recipe for Neopolitan Style Stuffed Peppers.
It's not hard to make, but it does take a bit of time.

About Father's Day...
You could do the peppers' prep work the day before and refrigerate them.
Or you could prepare them while chatting with the company.
I mean, stuffing peppers is not brain surgery.

Want another do-together recipe?
My Ma's ravjul were often made at family gatherings.
Small, deep-fried ravjuletti are popular in Malta as an appetizer.


I don't know what happened when I counted the recipes.
I know this was supposed to be the last recipe.
But, after this recipe, there'll be another Neopolitan vegetable recipe.
Think of it as a bonus.


Hints:
Look for oil-cured black olives.
Gaeta olives would work well in this recipe.

This recipe is a bit salty.
If that can cause a problem, cut back on the capers.


                        Neopolitan Style Stuffed Peppers

Serves 6

Trim the ends from
2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound)
Cut them into 3/4 inch cubes.
Place them in a colander over a plate.
Sprinkle them with 
salt
Let drain for an hour to remove the bitterness.

Oil a baking pan that is just large enough to hold the upright peppers.
With a small knife, cut out the stems from
6 large red, yellow or green bell peppers
Remove the seeds and the white membrane.
Rinse the eggplants and pat dry with paper towels.

In a large deep skillet pour
1/2 Cup olive oil 
Heat oil over medium heat.
Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Stir in
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
3/4 Cup black olives, pitted and chopped
6 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons rinsed and drained capers
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
pepper to taste
Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in
1/2 Cup plain dry bread crumbs
Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 450º

Stuff the eggplant mixture into the peppers.
Stand the peppers in the prepared pan.
Sprinkle with
1 Tablespoon plain dry bread crumbs
Drizzle with
3 Tablespoons olive oil  

Pour around the peppers
1 Cup water
Bake for 60 minutes, until the peppers are tender and lightly browned.
Serve hot or at room temperature.


Would I make Neopolitan Style Stuffed Peppers again?
You have to ask?  I'm Maltese.
We practically invented stuffed vegetables.
And I can imagine sitting and making them with Ma, like when we made ravioli.


One recipe down.  One more to go. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Biscotti d' Pinoli - Pignoli Cookies


I can't believe it.
We've come to Carmela's final dessert recipe.

And it's really simple.
Only four ingredients.

The big surprise is that the recipe is in Bobby Bacala's chapter If I Couldn't Eat, I'd F**king Die in Artie Bucco's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.


Yes, Bobby's recipes are often in the The recipe is interesting to read,
but I'd f**king die if I had to go to the trouble to make this category.
But his recipe for Biscotti d' Pinoli - Pignoli Cookies - is really simple.

Pignoli, or pine nuts, are actually seeds about the size of slivered almonds.
Don't kill yourself trying to find them.
They're not as popular as almonds.
The slivered almonds will do just as well.

A bit of an aside…
In Italy a fussy, fastidious, meticulous person is called a Pignolo.
Don't be a Pignolo about your pignoli.


If you like the simplicity of these cookies try the recipe for Almond Macaroons.
If the gang is coming over, make both.
Yes, both of these cookie recipes are that easy.


Hints:
If the dough is too dry, beat in another tablespoon or so of beaten egg white.
The batter should be soft and sticky.
Be sure to cover the cookies well with the nuts.
This will help prevent them from sticking to the baking sheet.

If you are using slivered almonds and want to kick up the flavour,
add a teaspoon or so of almond extract.

If you do manage to find pignoli, get an extra bag and make Italian pesto sauce.
Yes, there are quite a few variations.
Carmela has a recipe for Poached Chicken with Pesto.
Even lovelorn Adriana has a recipe for Linguine al Pesto.
Hey, pignoli are just seeds.
As a snack they have to be healthier than a lot of the processed stuff in the stores.

Also pine nuts can be pressed to extract pine nut oil, which has a mild, nutty flavour.
According to one study Korean pine nut oil may suppress appetite.
So check where those pine nuts came from.
Assuming you can find them in your store.


                        Biscotti d' Pinoli

Makes 30

Grease a large baking sheet    
preheat oven to 350º 

In the large bowl of an electric mixer combine
8 ounces almond paste, crumbled
Beat in
2 large egg whites beaten (or a bit more)
1 Cup confectioners' sugar
Beat until smooth.

In a small bowl place
2 Cups pignoli nuts or slivered almonds

Drop a tablespoon of the batter into the nuts and roll it into a ball.
Drop the ball back into the nuts to coat the cookie.
Place the ball on the prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining batter and nuts, placing the cookies 1 inch apart.

Bake 20 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned.
Let cool 2 minutes on the baking sheets.
Using a thin metal spatula, transfer the cookies to wire racks.
Cool completely.

Dust the cookies with
confectioners' sugar
Store in airtight containers or in the freezer up to one month.


Would I make Biscotti d' Pinoli again?
Absolutely.
It's quick and easy.
And, in January, it's a great way to use up the almond paste.


One recipe down.  One more to go.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Chicken Francese - Fried Chicken in Wine Sauce, Italian Style


Further thoughts on Father's Day…
Sometimes a Dad thinks it's loads of fun to show off at the grill.
And sometimes a Dad has a 'Been there, done that' attitude about being the chef.
Either that, or he's figured out he was doing some actual work.

Humour him.
It is his day.

A simple main course for the family will be just fine.
And you don't have to spend all day in the kitchen, either.

In Artie's chapter Mia Cucina in The Sopranos Family Cookbook there's a handy recipe for events like this - Chicken Francese.
It's a good idea to have this as a back up, even if Dad does want to barbecue.
With the crazy weather we've been having, it could rain on Father's Day.

Look, plan ahead.
You couldn't find veal, so you bought chicken breasts.
It rains.
You go to plan B - Chicken Francese.
The mozzarella sticks from the Spiedini can go on the appetizer platter.

Are you the perfect hostess or what?


Hints:
If you don't have a meat pounder or mallet, just use a heavy plate or a hammer.
You might want to give the hammer a quick wash first.
Plastic wrap does tear sometimes... especially when it's being whacked.

Cook the number of cutlets at one time that will fit in the pan without crowding.
You want them to get nice and crisp, not soggy and glued together.
Turn down the heat if the butter starts to smoke and burn.


                        Chicken Francese

Serves 4

Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap
1 pound thin-sliced chicken cutlets
Gently pound the slices to a 1/4-inch thickness.
Sprinkle the chicken generously with
salt and pepper 

In a shallow bowl beat until well blended
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Spread on a sheet of wax paper
1/2 Cup flour

In a measuring cup mix together
1/2 Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup dry white wine
2 to 3 Tablespoons lemon juice (to taste)

Place in a large frying pan 
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Heat over medium heat until sizzling.

Dip a few cutlets in the flour and then in the egg mixture.
Add them to the pan and brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
They should be golden brown.
Transfer them to a plate and keep them warm.
Repeat with the remaining cutlets.

When all of the chicken is done, add the broth mixture to the pan.
Raise the heat if it had been lowered.
Scraping the bottom of the pan, cook over medium heat.
The liquid should get slightly thickened.
Add
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Return the chicken cutlets to the skillet.
Turn them twice in the sauce.
Serve immediately, with lemon wedges.


Would I make Chicken Francese again?
Sure.  Even if it's not a special event.
The sauce would be nice with rice or pasta.
Or some Italian bread if things are getting hectic.


One recipe down.  Two more to go.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Bedroom, My Sanctuary by Margaret Ullrich


Time is just flying by, in a good way.
Tonight we'll have new moon number six for 2013.
Yes, the new moon is the blacked out moon.
Still... gotta love a new beginning, even if we can't really see it.


I've been trying to follow Tisha Morris' book Feng Shui Your Life.
Yes, I'm still going at my prenatal rate.
And I'm not quite following her plan exactly.
Tisha did say: …if and when you get a spontaneous urge to clear something out, go with it.  Clearing clutter can be an instinctive process, and it can be an intuitive step for self growth.

Okay… last week I got a spontaneous urge to clear our bedroom.
I decided to go with the urge.
It was part of my instinctive process, an intuitive step in my self growing.
And it was on the list.  Really.

In phase two Tisha had the item: 
  • Make your bedroom a sanctuary.
Well, I don't know about our bedroom becoming a sanctuary.
I  figured I'd be ahead if I could just get rid of the junk.

I also got an urge to tackle three phase one items:
  • Clean out your closet
  • Get rid of unwanted gifts 
  • Get rid of 'just in case' items
Our crappy gifts and 'just in case' stuff were in one of the Bedroom closets.
Was that a sign or what?

Our bedroom has a small closet and a large closet.
Our small closet holds our clothes.
With room to spare.
And some clothes that should've been tossed last century.
Paul and I aren't Clinton and Stacy from TLC's What Not to Wear.
Yes, the big-shoulder clothes from 1988.
Yes, the fashions that the salesclerk had said were timeless.


Then there's the large closet.
The catch all closet.
Where did all that crap come from?

We had thrown out stuff when we'd moved here in 1988 from our previous home.
We had sworn we'd never let junk clutter our lives again.
We had started out with all sorts of good intentions.
And our closet got filled with all sorts of junk.
What is it about living in a house for twenty-five years?

Well, out they went.
The junk, the unwanted gifts, the 'just in case' items.
Four more items checked off.
I just know I'm glowing with self growth.
Tisha would be so proud.


About tonight's new moon...
According to the folks at astrology.com:  Lucky Jupiter joins today's new Moon... bringing abundance on all levels: more ideas, numerous projects, lots of conversations, and fresh plans… this is not the most clear-thinking time… new Moons mark new beginnings… create a plan. 


About some of the clutter in our bedroom's large closet…
I was following Tisha's rules.
The first thing she said to do was remove clutter.
So I did.
Some of the clutter got tossed out immediately.
Some was boxed for recycling or donating.
But some of the clutter was moved to the spare room.
It's sitting next to the clutter that had gathered there over the past quarter century.
Well, that can't be good.

Like the folks at astrology.com said:
This is not the most clear-thinking time… create a plan. 
Yeah… I need to create a plan.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Tonno alla Griglia - Grilled Tuna Steaks or Chicken Breast

Tomorrow is Friday.
It's a good time to prepare Carmela's final fish recipe.

The recipe for Tonno alla Griglia - Tuna Steaks with Lemon and Oreganois in 
Tony's chapter Grilling - Italian Style in Artie's The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
Yes, I know it's not Lent, but fish is good for you.
And this is another recipe for the barbecue.


I must have eaten a hundred times my weight in canned tuna.
Lunches at Catholic schools - elementary and high - and packed lunches for work must have accounted for quite a few dead tuna.
But tuna steak?
Hmmm… to be honest I've never seen a tuna steak.
Time to pay another visit to the butcher/fish monger at my local market.
He gets a laugh when I ask for some of Carmela's more exotic ingredients.
Trust me, tuna steak is exotic for a shop in the north end of Winnipeg.

Yes, he got a laugh out of this one, too.
I should take pleasure in knowing I make him laugh.
I should, but I don't.


After he stopped laughing he told me all about tuna.
Tuna isn't in danger of becoming extinct, as the swordfish is.
But somehow fishing for tuna got tied in with the whaling industry.
And dolphins.
Tuna swim with dolphins for protection against sharks.
Yes, Flipper can hold his own against a shark.
Who knew?
Tuna are caught by using nets, which also catches the dolphins.
There have been some improvements, but it's not perfect.
The improvements are putting sharks, other oceanic fish and turtles at risk.
Did the nuns know how much trouble was caused by telling us to eat tuna?

Tuna is an oily large fish, just like mackerel and swordfish.
So, yes tuna steaks will grill well… if you can find them.

Tuna can be a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and of protein.
But, just like swordfish, it has high levels of mercury, especially in the larger tuna.
Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children should limit their intake of tuna.
Guidelines recommend one 6 oz. can of light tuna a week for those weighing less than 110 pounds and two cans a week for those who weigh more.
Did the nuns know we were slowly poisoning ourselves?

According to a report in 2008, the levels of mercury in some sushi tuna are "so high that the Food and Drug Administration could take legal action to remove the fish from the market."
The Japanese are gonna drop like flies along with us dumb Catholics.


About the more familiar canned tuna...
Canned tuna was first produced in 1903, and quickly became popular.
In North America, on average, 52% of canned tuna is used for sandwiches.
No kidding.
Also, 22% is used for salads; and 15% go into casseroles.
Some common canning methods destroy much of the omega-3 oils, so the level of omega-3 oils found in canned is highly variable.
Great, the damn tuna fish sandwiches wouldn't protect me from a heart attack.


Shrimp has low levels of mercury.
It is considered heart healthy because it doesn't have much saturated fat.
Shrimp's cholesterol improves the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol.
And shrimp also lowers triglycerides.
Why didn't the nuns tell us to eat more shrimp?

If someone died of mercury poisoning caused by eating tuna fish sandwiches every Friday, like a good Catholic should, would the Pope make that person a saint?


Back to this recipe…
The butcher didn't have any tuna steaks.
Big surprise there.
He suggested using skinless, boneless chicken breast.
Which is always available.
Okay, then… I'm back to grilling chicken breast.
Chicken breast doesn't have mercury and is also heart healthy.
Why didn't the nuns tell us to eat chicken breast on Friday?

Hint:

The pan should be 4 inches from the heat.


                        Tonno alla Griglia

Serves 4

Prepare a medium hot fire in a grill, either charcoal or gas.
Or preheat the gas grill or broiler.

In a small bowl whisk together
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Generously brush with olive oil
4 tuna steaks, about 1 inch thick, trimmed
Season with
salt and pepper to taste

Grill the tuna, turning once, until browned, but still pink inside, about 5 minutes.
Give the lemon juice mixture a quick whisk and pour it over the tuna.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Would I make Tonno alla Griglia again?
Sure, using chicken breast.
It tasted fine with the lemon and oregano.
Chicken breast worked for the Rollatine di Pesce Spada.
I've eaten quite enough mercury as it is.

I really should look into what the sainthood requirements are.


One recipe down.  Three more to go.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Carmela Soprano's Almond Torte with Raspberry Jam and Chocolate Glaze

Father's Day is coming.
It's time to buy a gift.
Gather the family.
Feed the family.

Now, lots of Dads love to show off at the grill.
Perfect.  That takes care of the main course.
All you have to do is provide a suitably festive dessert.
No, a bucket of ice cream won't quite cut it.

Artie's wife Charmaine has a chapter called Cooking for the Whole Famiglia 
in The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
Charmaine's recipes usually come in a 'for 8 / for 50 format'.
Handy if you're cooking for lots of happy customers.
But her recipe for Almond Torte is just your basic 'serves 8' recipe.

I'll bet it's a Father's Day favourite of Artie's.
Maybe she whips this up for many family gatherings.
And so should you.


                        Almond Torte

Serves 8

Place in a bowl
6 large eggs
Let the eggs come to room temperature (about 10 minutes).

In a blender combine
2 Cups blanched almonds
1/4 Cup white sugar
Grind the nuts very fine.
Blend in
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350º
Grease and flour 2  9 inch round pans
Line the bottom of the 2 pans with wax paper circles.
Grease the wax paper.
Dust with flour and tap out the excess.

Take the 6 large eggs and separate them, placing the whites in a mixer bowl 
and the yolks in a large mixer bowl.
Whip the 6 egg whites until soft peaks form.

In a large mixer bowl, beat the 6 egg yolks until thick and light.
Beat in 
3/4 Cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Stir in the ground almond mixture.
Gently fold the egg whites into the almond/egg yolk mixture.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
When touched in the centre, the cake should spring back.
Place the pans on a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the pans and peel off the paper.
Turn the cakes right side up.
Let cakes cool completely on the rack.

Place strips of wax paper around the edges of a cake plate.
Place one cake layer upside down on the plate.
Over the top surface spread evenly
1/2 Cup seedless raspberry jam
Place the second layer right side up in the first layer.

Break into small pieces in a small heatproof bowl
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
Place the bowl over, not in, a pan of simmering water.
When the chocolate starts to melt, stir in
1/2 Cup heavy cream
Stir until smooth.
Let the glaze smooth slightly.
Pour the glaze over the top of the cake.
Allowing some of the chocolate to drip down the sides of the cake, 
smooth the top of the cake with a spatula.
Smooth the chocolate over the sides.
Let the chocolate harden, then remove the wax paper strips.
Chill briefly before serving.


Would I make Almond Torte again?
Yes, and not just for Father's Day.
It's light but tastes rich.
Although I would just leave the chocolate drips on the sides as they are.
I think it looks prettier that way.


One recipe down.  Four more to go.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Father's Day by Margaret Ullrich

     People talk about how Christmas has changed over the years.  Well, I think Father's Day has changed even more than Christmas has.

     In the fifties, Father's Day was pretty simple.  It was a snap to shop for Dads.  Moms were hard.  There were so many different toilet waters.  Lipstick colours changed every year.  One year Lucille Ball Red was popular.  The next year every lady was wearing Flaming Fuschia.  I mean, how was an elementary school kid supposed to know what to get?  
   
     Dads were easy.  They always needed a pair of socks or another tie.  There WAS something about an Aqua Velva man.  The bottles of blue water came in a variety of sizes and they were all cheap.  If you had to soften Dad up for the report card that was coming, you could splurge on Old Spice or English Leather for a few pennies more.

     If you'd blown all your money for Mother's Day - an easy thing to do - you could get another tube of Brylcreme.  Those little dabs went fast and Dad always needed another tube so he could look debonaire and Mom could run her fingers through his hair.  

     Keeping the family car spiffy has always been a Dad's job.  Remember when they were unwrapping their presents in the movie A Christmas Story?  Dad Darren McGavin was thrilled to get a tin of Simonize for his car.  It was big.  It was heavy.  It was cheap.  

     That was the Golden Age for Dads' gifts.  But now?  Let's just say that Dads are getting to be as big a problem as Moms are, gift-wise.

     I always thought of men as being rough and ready in their grooming needs.  I've raised a son.  He once took a bath, answered nature's call, then went straight to drying everything - and I mean everything - with the bath towel.  He'd thought cutting out a small step would save some time.  At least that was his excuse when I asked him about the skid marks on the yellow towel.  

     Now men have discovered their inner Alan Alda.  They know about brands like Nivea.  Soap on a rope has lost its ooomph.  A bag of blades and a can of Barbasol just won't cut it anymore.  Guys have discovered grooming sets: shower gels, body washes, face scrubs, after shave balms and a post-shave soother that the nice sales clerk swore would control his beard's growth.  You know, the same crappy sales pitches they've been throwing at women for years.  

     And for the guy who's really into his feminine side, there are events like the Papa-razzi Package at the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver.  The 36-hour getaway includes an hour-long massage, a facial, foot care, a souvenir shaving kit and a round of golf.  The package costs $2,165 plus taxes and airfare if you don't happen to live in Vancouver.  Hey, femininity never came cheap. 

     Tools have always been popular gifts.  Something is always getting lost or broken, right?  Time was when, after being showered with a 32 piece wrench set, a 14 piece clamp set and a 65 piece screwdriver set, every Dad was ready, willing and eager to wrench, clamp and screw any and everything in the house. 

     Fellows, I was wondering… if a man receives a 205 piece drill and screwdriver set (consisting of screw driving bits, nut driving bits, spade bits, high speed drill bits, hole saws, masonry drill bits, sanding drums and a countersink which, I've been told, are ideal to use on wood, metal, plastic, brick, mortar and concrete) would he really use them all or just stick to a half dozen favourite pieces?  You know, the way we women use the same favourite spoons and pans in the kitchen.  Sometimes wretched excess is just, well, wretched.

     Speaking of the kitchen, a Dad's cooking used to be basic.  Raw meat plus fire produced small hard hockey pucks served with ketchup and relish in a bun.  Raw onion slices were added for the July first weekend.  Up to now the most exciting thing I'd ever seen a man do at that holiday's barbecue was to stick a can of beer up a chicken's butt so it could stand and roast.  It looked almost patriotic.  

     Dads made simple basic food.  And healthy.  No E coli bacteria could ever survive a Dad's barbecue.  

     Now folks are dropping like flies because Dads have discovered cuisine.  Ketchup and mustard have disappeared.  Guys who flunked Geography and can't find their way to their in-laws across town without help from GPS are now into Japanese, Mexican and Thai recipes.
  
     While at the Liquor Commission, I once picked up the freebie Flavours magazine.  On the cover it said Sassy sauces for your grilled goodies.  Uh, huh.  I don't know what my Pop, a Maltese farmer's son, would've thought of things like sorrel-spinach sauce.  On salmon, yet.  

     There was also an article about the joys of salt water.  According to the folks at Flavours, soaking food in brine is the key to a killer barbecue.  I don't know.  I remember one picnic forty-five years ago when the boat tipped over, everyone and everything fell out and all the food got doused with good old salty Atlantic Ocean water.  No one thought that was anything worth repeating. 

     Shish kebabs used to be simple.  Meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper… meat, onion, green pepper… until you ran out of everything.  Well, now bamboo skewers aren't good enough anymore.  Oh, no.  One recipe in Flavours should earn a cook a Boy Scout badge.  Get this: Peel fresh ginger and cut into several four inch long skewers.  Then carve the ginger on one end into a sharp point.  If your local grocer is out of long chunks of ginger, don't panic.  You can also do the same thing to lemongrass stalks.    

     Oh, pull-lease!!  If God meant us to spend our short summers carving little sticks He never would've made those nice clean bags of bamboo skewers.  
Life - and a Manitoba summer - are way too short for that kind of nonsense.  
     
     There was a time when a bag of coal big enough to burn down a house could warm the cockles of a Dad's heart.  It could keep a fellow busy for a whole summer's worth of Sundays.  Now charcoal has some competition.  Have you been exposed to Mesquite Flavoured wood chips?  Our neighbour, Lou, really loves Mesquite.  He chopped some chips up and sprinkled them on the salad.  Okay.  Lou isn't quite right in the head.  Last week he served up what he called homemade grilled pizza.  Uh, huh.  Like we didn't notice the take-out boxes.  

     We have an old gas barbecue that chugs along with 11,000 BTUs.  It's been doing a dandy job of turning meat into blackened briquets for quite a few family gatherings.  Have you seen the new barbecues?  When did guys start pimping their grills?  The big selling feature for these monsters is how many BTUs are under the hood. 

     I checked the dictionary.  BTU means British Thermal Units.  Well, that was a big help.  I needed to get BTU into terms I could understand.  I looked around my house and found that my gas water heater has 30,000 BTUs.  The heater is plastered with little notes from Furnaceman.  Cheery messages like: Third degree burns can occur in six seconds when the water is 60º C.  Death is also possible.  Hmmm…  

     My water heater has 30,000 BTUs and it can get water hot enough to kill somebody.

     A Kalamazoo Bread Breaker Two Dual-Fuel Grill with an infrared rotisserie cradle system and a side burner has a 154,000 BTU capacity.  It has a temperature gauge that reaches 1000º.  It also has nighttime grilling lights.  Why?  Would a middle-age hubby, after his 3 a.m. pee, get an uncontrollable urge to wander out to the Kalamazoo and cremate a couple of turkeys? 

     The manufacturer says it's geared to the Man cook with fire market segment.
    
     Middle-aged men, who complain when asked to heat water in a microwave, are gathering around these monster barbecues and acting like a bunch of teenage boys.  They're checking under the hood, twisting dials and rattling off phrases like Mounted smoker box… warming rack… hi-dome cooking lid… porcelain coated cooking grid… heat plates with the same slobbering enthusiasm most had for their first car.

     There are also barbecue accessories.  And I'm not talking long handled forks and aprons that tell folks to Kiss the Cook.  The Centro food prep station is a buffet, cooler and more.  It can be connected to the barbecue to create a complete outdoor kitchen.  

     Hey, fellas!  There's a room that has all this stuff.  You're welcome to come and flex your cooking muscles all year round.  Sorry the oven only goes to 500º, but, we girls have been able to crank out complete holiday dinners in it.  It's called the kitchen.

     Maybe the Discovery Channel was trying to do a public service.  One Father's Day they had a special on the 1883 Krakatoa catastrophe.  When Krakatoa went Kablooie, it produced an ash cloud.  The ashes and gases reached 1000º.  Most of the people in a 30 mile radius were killed by the extremely hot air which liquified their lungs.
      
     Dads, if some fool gives you the Bread Breaker, think of Al Gore and take it back.
     The Ozone Layer will thank you!
     The environment will thank you!!
     The lungs of everyone within 30 miles will thank you!!!
     And, most important, the family's burgers and wieners will thank you!!!!