Thursday, June 16, 2016

Anna Sultana’s Baked Penne with Cauliflower, The Strawberry Moon and The Summer Solstice

Sometimes a meal’s menu is based on cravings.
You know… you’re in the mood to have something.
No logical reason, just in the mood to eat it… Now.

And sometimes a menu is based on what’s in season.
Something, usually a vegetable, is available in large quantities and at a great price.
Saving a bit of grocery money is a very logical reason.
It’s always good to set a bit aside for upcoming holiday meals.

But sometimes logical reason gets trumped by illogical reason.
Case in point… Cauliflower was selling for a good price.
So, impressed by the price, I picked up one.
Then illogical reason came into play.
Paul reminded me that he doesn’t like cauliflower.
He loves broccoli, hates cauliflower.
Go figure.

Okay… Ma had faced a few meal planning problems in her day.
One of her solutions was to hide the problem ingredient, usually in a soup or stew. 
I mean, who pokes through all the bits in a tasty bowl of soup or plate of stew.

Another trick was to hide the problem in a baked favourite, such as Imqarrun il-forn.
Ma's Imqarrun il-forn is basically Timpana without the crust.
When Ma was in a rush, she would skip adding the crust.
And, if she was trying to use something, she would add it.

Back to the cauliflower…
It can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed, pickled or eaten raw. 
The florets should be broken into similar-sized pieces so they cook evenly. 
Eight minutes of steaming, or five minutes of boiling, gives you soft florets. 
Try not to disturb them when they are cooking as stirring can break the florets into uneven pieces.
The leaves are edible, but usually people toss them.

Cauliflower is very bland, so have fun with your favourite spices.

Low carbohydrate dieters can use cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes or rice.
Cauliflower can also be sliced a quarter-inch, such as a steak, lightly coated with olive oil, and broiled; or fried in a hot oiled heavy iron pan.
Serve with a good cheese sauce and your vegetarian friends will love you.

Cauliflower trivia…
Like certain legumes, including chickpeas, it can be turned into a flour for making pizza or biscuits.

Cauliflower has distinct fractal dimension, about 2.8.
One of the fractal properties of cauliflower is that every branch, or "module", is similar to the entire cauliflower. The angle between "modules," as they become more distant from the center, is 360 degrees divided by the golden ratio.
I know, who comes up with these things?


This recipe can be made hours, even a day, in advance.

About the macaroni…
Usually Ma used penne, rigatoni or ziti.
In a pinch, elbow.
You want something that can survive baking. 
Spaghetti would form a brick.
Not a good thing.

If you like a stronger tomato flavour, add a can of tomato paste.
You can also add a large can of plum tomatoes, undrained.

The cheese / bread crumb topping is optional.
If you like it and have time, do it.
If you don't, then don't.

                        Baked Penne with Cauliflower

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan or two 8 inch square pans

In a dutch oven pour
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 pound cauliflower florets 
Fry until lightly browned.
Remove the vegetables from the pot.

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
Cook for about 3 minutes.
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 Cup chicken or beef stock or wine
Stir in the cooked vegetables.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Season with
salt and pepper to taste.

While the sauce is being prepared, in a large pot place
4 quarts water
salt to taste
Bring to a boil.
1 pound penne 
Cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
You want it to be a bit firm, al dente
Drain the pasta well and stir it into the sauce in the dutch oven.

4 large eggs
Mix them into the sauced pasta.
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Stir everything together.
Pour into the prepared pan or pans.

Combine in a small bowl
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 Cup dry bread crumbs
Sprinkle over the top of the pasta.

At this point you can refrigerate for several hours, covered.
Preheat oven to 350º        
Place the pan, uncovered, in the preheated oven.
Bake the 9 x 13 inch pan for about 45 minutes; 
the two 8 inch square pans for about 30 minutes.

You want to see a few burnt spots.
Then you know it's perfect, a la Maltese style.

About the sky this week, thanks to the folks at The Farmers' Almanac

June 20: Full Moon at 7:02AM - The visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. See a video about June's Full Strawberry Moon. The Summer Solstice arrives at 6:34PM EDT. This is when the Sun reaches its farthest point north of the celestial equator. Summer is officially here.

June 21: The Sun rises and sets the slowest right before and after a solstice. The quickest sunrises and sunsets are during the equinoxes. This holds true in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

June 27: Last Quarter Moon at 2:19PM. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, heading toward the New Moon phase. 
Tonight’s sunset is the latest in 2016.


  1. Lucky for us that Paul doesn't like cauliflower, Margaret, just look at the meal you have shared today:) (love the crispy edge:)

    It just brings back those memories of simply making due at the best price, it's a gentle reminder to cherish:)

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe Margaret ad for those tasty tidbits of trivia:)

    P.S. Thanks for the reminder about the Strawberry Moon, Margaret. I did a post back in 2009 about the Strawberry Moon and Thanksgiving. I just checked it and it looks like I have to fix the pictures but, it's still there, lol..Here's the link Margaret in case you want to check it out.

  2. Thank you, Louise, for the link to your Strawberry Thanksgiving post!
    I’m always amazed at all the information you find to share with us. This post was so full of fascinating history, and from such a variety of sources! Luckily the picture for the recipes is still there.

    The Strawberry Rum Flame reminded me of Carmela Soprano’s Gelato Affogato.
    But isn’t that the way with old favourites - there are so many variations :)

    Yes, Ma was an expert at making do. She had a saying:
    Use it up, wear it out,
    Make it do or do without.

    Sounds like your Ma knew that saying, too!


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