Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Nonna used To Say...

Got Agita? It's Not What You Eat; It's What Eats You

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ode To Joe & The Onion

"What would you bring to a desert island?"  Without a doubt... olive oil, garlic and onions. There is nothing more wonderful than the smell of an onion sauteing in a pan. It is equally good raw whether it be a red onion sliced on a burger, a Walla Walla chopped in egg salad, or a sweet Vidalia diced in bruschetta.
The onion is one of the oldest vegetables known to man and dates back to 5000 BC.  It was worshipped by ancient Egyptians who believed that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternal life. It was used to pay rent during the Middle Ages and its supposed medicinal prowess range from reducing the swelling of a bee sting, healing blisters and sea urchin wounds to destroying osteoclasts in the battle osteoporosis in women. Some studies show that the onion contain chemical compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties such as quercetin. (Wikipedia 2010). It can be said that not only do onions taste good, but are good for you.

I know there are those who don't enjoy onions. One of them being my brother, Joe. Onions weren't the only thing Joe could have lived without. For years he waited to have a brother, but six times in a row....he got a sister. And while the sisters double and tripled up in a bedroom, Joe slept on a pull-out couch in the family room. He didn't have his own room until Mom & Dad could afford a large Dutch Colonial in the country.  He painted his room black. For years, he denied he had sisters.  When we found this out, we planned an "attack".  Knowing he was on a bowling league and his buddies were on his team, the sisters waited for the next league night and showed up unannounced. We were young, stylin' and cute..something Joe never noticed.  In groups of two, we sashayed into the bowling alley and stopped at the lane where Joe was seated. The first two sisters chimed sweetly, "Hiii Joey". All the guys turned at the sound of feminine voices. Their eyes got wide. Joe ignored us. The second set of sisters came over and called out, "Hiiiii Joey." The guys almost spilled their beers. Joe ignored us. The third set of sisters came in and said, "Hiiii, Joey."  The guys jaws dropped. Finally, one of Joe's buddies found his voice, "And you girls are?" We answered in unison, "Joe's sisters, of course."  The jig was up. He was busted. And he couldn't ignore us. His friends turned on him...."Your sisters?" Another said, "Wow." Another said, "All of them?" Joe just stared at us and shook his head. We stayed long enough to make a lasting impression, blew kisses and left.  Mission accomplished.

Onions and sisters...Joe cared little for.  As a kid, he would pick the onions out the tomato sauce set before him. Weird, huh? Yet, there was one dish...a meal of pounds of onions that he loved. Weird, huh? It is called, Genovese. It is a family recipe handed down through the ages. It can be best described as an Italian Pot Roast. The recipe consists of a beef roast, onions, salt, garlic powder, a pat of butter and pasta. It is absolutely heavenly as it simmers for hours until the meat is tender and the onions soft to a point of sauce-like.  The onions natural sweetness really comes through. It is a hearty meal fit for the best company. It took years for Joe to appreciate having so many sisters, but it took only one forkful of Genovese to make this meal one of his all time favorites.


1 approx. 6 lb. beef roast: rump, top round or bottom round
6-9 lbs of yellow onions: each onion peeled and quartered
1 box perciatelli (fat, hollow strands of pasta) or Thick Spaghetti
garlic powder & salt
pat of butter
1/4 cup canola oil
NO water

Season roast with salt. In a large, tall pot brown roast on all sides in oil, then season with garlic powder.  Add all the onions into the pot. Sprinkle salt on the top. Add pat of butter. Cover pot with lid and simmer for 4-5 hours. Stir every so often to keep onions from sticking to pot. Onions will soften and meat will become tender. Remove roast and let rest. With an immersion stick blender, blend onions into a sauce. Don't over blend. Sauce should be full-bodied not liquidy. Can, also, blend in covered blender in small batches and returned to pot. Adjust salt to your taste.
Cook perciatelli according to directions (al dente) and drain well. Carve roast into slices. Pour blended sauce over pasta. Can serve meat on top of pasta or on a separate dish.  Put extra sauce in a gravy boat on table. Serve with Italian bread and a green salad.  Serves 6
*Can be cooked in crock pot on low for 8-9 hours. Leftover freezes well.
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Remember To Make Memories At The Table

Monday, February 8, 2010

Indian Cuisine: A Feast For The Senses

My Grandfather Joseph and Nana Florence lived in an apartment building in the Bronx (NY). What I remember so clearly is the smell of the halls when we visited after Mass on a Sunday. You see, my other grandparents had their own house and the scent of their home smelled..well....Italian. It was familiar to me, the rich tomato sauce, the onions and garlic, roasted lamb or fried zeppole (dough). But at Grandpa Joe's...kielbasa, Hungarian goulash, or chicken soup from Mrs. Goldberg's assaulted my senses. It wasn't offensive... just different. My mother was an incredible teacher to her students as well as to her children. I remember holding her white gloved hand as we walked the halls of Grandpa's building. "Mmmmm. Do you smell that Nanette?" She breathed deeply of the air around us. "Moussaka, I think. Eggplant, ground beef, tomato." And she would smile down at me with a look that meant we would have Moussaka within the next few weeks.
It was in those young, informative years that my love affair with food began. Thanks Mom. I recall her in an apron, eyeglasses at the end of her nose, peering into a cookbook. Polish, Greek, German, whatever caught her fancy she'd try. The cupboards were as magical as Mary Poppin's carpetbag. Out of them came spices, seasonings, different kinds of flour, baking chocolates, and exotic ingredients I couldn't pronounce. Is there any wonder that I have adventurous tastes? This was to serve me in good stead as I grew into adulthood and created meals on my own.
One of my first attempts at the "unusual" was curried tuna molded in the shape of a fish! It didn't go over very well. I realize now that I had to go through all the "in" ethnic cuisines before my world was ready for Indian/Middle Eastern cooking. So, I blazed through Mexican making Tacos the way my aunt Mim, from Arizona prepared hers...fried in lard, Oh, My! Next was Asian...Happy Walnut Shrimp and a zillion Stir-Frys. And there was German Sauerbraten and tons of Polish Kielbasa meals. Then it happened, curried foods and recipes from India and the Middle East weren't so odd any longer. Restaurants offering this fare were popping up everywhere and little "Bombay" markets could be found in our upstate county. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven! My palate adjusted to the heat and spices of this cuisine even quicker than the heat from a dish of Mexican food. I adore Indian cuisine.
When in Rome do what the Romans they say. My test of this theory came when the summer replacement priest at the church I work for arrived from India. The rectory cook found several Indian recipes and honed her skills to accommodate Fr. Jacob's tastes. She even bought a rice cooker. The fragrant scent of cumin, cardamon, turmeric, coriander and ginger simmering in a pot with chunks of lamb delighted my senses.
It so happened that a group of visiting priests and nuns were getting together at a near-by church and I was invited to their Indian luncheon. When I arrived, the nuns greeted me like an old friend and chatted as they bustled about the kitchen sprinkling a spice in this pot and stirring the meats in another. They worked quickly and expertly always laughing and bantering with each other. A priest would poke his head in the kitchen, make a comment then disappear. I felt right at home as I asked questions about the different ingredients and cooking techniques. The atmosphere was as joyful and amicable as any of my Italian gatherings had ever been.
Finally, the many dishes were finished and set upon the long dining room table. They insisted that I sit in a place of honor and fussed over me, being sure that my plate was heaped high with food. It was not only the most fragrant meal I ever had but a feast for the eyes. Yellow Curry Shrimp, Chicken Tikka with bits of coconut, Lamb Biryani an aromatic yogurt sauce seasoned with garam masala, garlic, ginger over saffron rice, warm Naan bread and puffy samosa (peas and potato in a pastry) even the cauliflower had a unique taste. Did I mention that I thought I'd died and gone to heaven?
Not forgetting to give thanks, we bowed our head and said grace, then I reached for my silverware. There wasn't any. I looked around....not a spoon or fork or knife in sight. To my surprise, all were eating with their fingers. I would have received a slap in the back of my head had I tried that at home... Picking up a fried chicken leg was one thing, but scooping up rice and meat with a sauce was something all together different. I tried not to stare. Should I do what was their custom? I, I, I...didn't know if I could.  A lovely young Sister looked up from her plate. Her large, doe eyes caught mine. She smiled and rose, padding back with a set of cutlery. Respectful as always, no one commented or made me feel uncomfortable. I picked up my fork and just as quickly set it down. Why not, I thought, and dug in, scooping the food into my mouth like the others. It felt right...just like chopsticks at an Asian meal. It made the food taste better. After my first initiation, I must confess, I resorted to using a spoon. I didn't want to waste one grain of rice.
It was a wonderful, unforgettable meal. I made new friends, enjoyed a new dining experience and it was confirmed that food brings everyone together no matter the culture..and that we are all God's children.

Coconut Curry Shrimp Made Easy (UPDATED 2013)
*I begin my base cooking sauce by using most of a jar of  either of these sauces or whatever is your favorite. Tiger Tiger (brand) Chicken Tikka or Trader Joe or Kikkoman (brand) Thai Yellow Curry Sauce or Patak's (brand) Korma Curry.  If you want a good "from scratch" chicken recipe visit and try Chicken Chicken Curry by Madhu.

also coconut flakes & curry powder
8 jumbo shrimp, cleaned
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 tablespoon golden raisins (optional)
1 tablespoon walnuts or cashews
1/2 cup of peas or more
1 Tblspoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup coconut milk, cream, or 1/2 & 1/2
Rice noodles, thin
*In this recipe I used, Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
Prepare noodles or rice according to directions
1. Pour Curry Sauce or whatever cooking sauce chosen in a skillet. Heat on low. Add honey, curry, coconut flakes. Sir and simmer. Add raisins & walnuts. Simmer for a few minutes.
2. Add shrimp to sauce. Stir and cook shrimp until pink. Add peas then stir in coconut milk & sesame seeds. Cook through.
3. Serve over rice noodles or basmati rice with Naan bread. Serves 2
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lent: Simple Meals Of Self-Denial

It seems as though we just took down the last red bow and ate the final Christmas cookie, and here it is just weeks before Lent/Easter begins. How different these two liturgical seasons are.  Try as I might to focus on the true meaning of Advent & Christmas, I tend to get caught up in the hype and do more partying than praying. And the consumes my senses. Advent/Christmas bursts into my life, twirls me around and around, then pulls out in a blur. This coming season is different.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with the words, "Remember: you are dust and unto dust you will return."  It is a time of reflection, meditation and prayer. If time is put aside to contemplate the true meaning of this Holy Season, it is a cleansing experience. In my family, tradition has it that we visit an odd number of churches on Holy Thursday....just to sit and contemplate the significance of that night and the days to come. Good Friday is spent in quiet meditation and prayer esp. during the hours of Noon & 3 PM when Jesus was crucified. On Saturday, we break our fast late in the afternoon as we gather for a meal of Italian cold cuts, special cheese and meat pies (Pizza Rustica & Pizza Di Grano), stuffed artichokes, hard boiled eggs and other simple foods. The sadness and solemnity of Lent is broken with the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.
"The Salad of Lent" was published in France around 1520. It offered a allegorical interpretation of the penitential dishes of the Lenten season. The salad represented the Word of God, which gives courage. Fried beans symbolized the reception of the sacrament of penance. The puree added to Lenten dishes, passed through a strainer, brought to mind, "the resolution of abstaining from sin." The expensive fish dish, lamprey, foretold the release from sin, the price of which requires the ceasing of all bitterness. The seasoning of Lenten soups and sauces with saffron represented the joy of heaven. The thought of the joy of heaven was essential for good "spiritual soup". (The Magnificat Lenten Companion 2010)
Lent is a time to sacrifice by fasting or at least to eat less, it is an Act of Voluntary Self-Denial. Fridays are put aside to fast from meat. That doesn't mean that a Lobster Dinner is the way to go. I was taught to eat a simple meal that does not include meat.
There was a time when meat was not eaten on any Friday throughout the year. So, many non-meat suppers have been passed down and now each Lenten Season those simple recipes are dusted off and prepared once again. It is a time to enjoy Pasta Fagioli minus the ham, Mozzarella in Carozza, Pizza Margherita or Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Pizza, Linguine & Clam Sauce, Pasta with Anchovies & Cauliflower. The most traditional dishes before the grand finale, Easter Dinner, are Stuffed Artichokes and Spaghetti Pie. So although, Lent is a time of sacrifice and must feed the body as well as the soul.

Mozzarella In Carozza

1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into slices (about 8)
Eight slices white or wheat sandwich bread
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt & garlic powder
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (add more if needed)

This is like preparing French Toast.  Beat the eggs and cream in a bowl.  Add salt and garlic powder. Mix. Dip two slices of bread in the egg mixture. Fry one side in olive oil. Be careful not to burn the oil. Flip the slices of bread over, and place two slices of mozzarella on the cooked side of one slice of bread and place the other slice of bread (the fried side) over the mozzarella. Press it down slightly with a spatula so the cheese melts. Fry both sides until golden brown. Repeat with remaining bread and mozzarella. Place on a plate with a paper towel.  Serve with a tomato salad. Peaches in syrup is also good with this sandwich.
Makes 4 servings

***Come back again for my post: Holy Saturday Spaghetti Pie***

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