Saturday, January 30, 2010


Things In The Life  Of  An Italian Child  

01.  You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an  entire year after a funeral
02.  You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was  pronounced "sangwich."
03.  Your family dog understood Italian.
04.  Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting your grandparents and extended family.
05.  You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals a day, not seven.
06.  You thought killing the pig each year and having salami, capacollo,  pancetta and prosciutto hanging out to dry from your shed ceiling was absolutely normal. (Wow, that's really Italian!)
07.  You ate pasta for dinner at least three times a week, and every Sunday, and laughed at the commercial for Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day.
08.  You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that  the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.
09.  You were as tall as your grandmother by the age of seven.
10.  You thought everyone's last name ended in a vowel.  

11.  You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.
12.  Your mom's main hobby is cleaning.
13.  You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.
14.  You thought that everyone made their own tomato  sauce.
15.  You never ate meat on Christmas Eve or any Friday for that matter..
16.  You ate your salad after the main course.
17.  You thought Catholic was the only religion in the world.  

18.  You were beaten at least once with a wooden spoon or broom.
19.  You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your hand
20.  You can understand Italian but you can't speak it.
21.  You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.
22.  All of your uncles fought in a World War.
23.  You have at least six male relatives named Tony, Frank, Joe or Louie.
24.  You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.
25.  You have relatives you don't speak to.  
26.  You drank wine before you were a teenager.
27.  You relate on some level, admit it, to the Godfather or the Sopranos.  
28.  Your grandparent's furniture was as comfortable as sitting on plastic.  Wait!!!! You were sitting on plastic.
29.  You thought that talking loud was normal.  
30.  You thought sugared almonds and the Tarantella were common at all weddings.
31.  You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.
32.  Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.
33.  There was a crucifix in every room of the house.
34.  Wakes would be held in someone's living room.
35.  You couldn't date a boy without getting approval from your father. (Oh, and he had to be Italian)
36.  You dreaded taking out your lunch at school
37.  Going out for a cup of coffee usually meant going out for a cup of coffee over Zia's house..
38.  Every condition, ailment, misfortune, memory loss and accident was attributed to the fact that you didn't eat something.. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I made my first one.  My friends are going to be thrilled as I get rid of my attempts until I get it right.
So far it does not look bad but it did have a crack.  Will taste it tonight.  I tasted the batter and it was perfect so I think I will like it.

Crack reasons:
1. Too high a cooking temperature.
2.  Change in temperature caused by cooling it too fast. Center should be wiggly when you turn the oven off and keep it closed for an hour.  It continues to cook.
3. No water bath below the pan.  The water slows the cooking of the sides so it matches the center.
4. Not enough butter greasing the sides of the pan so the cake does not stick and pull apart.
5. Beating the eggs too much.  I DID THIS ONE FOR SURE.

The eggs grab the air and expand on cooking and then shrink down and can form a crack or two.
All ingredients should be at room temperature when you start of course.

More reports to follow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Wonderful accident.  I was in a favorite Italian shop and I noted in the deli there was a refrigerated cheese pie.  It looked like the cheesecake my mother used to buy in the 50s. It was our Saturday shopping treat to take home. It was made in a loaf pan. Of course I bought 2 pieces and had eaten one before I hit the next store.  What a wonderful flavor.
I immediately went home and started researching Italian cheese cake.  I found several recipes.

Now my new goals are the perfect risotto and the perfect ricotta cheesecake.

I shall be busy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

RISOTTO - IT'S A MYSTERY, as my father used to say.

First, I must state I have not been a fan of rice for about 20 years.  No reason, just not crazy about it.  I do eat it.  I went to a very good local Italian restaurant.  I ordered my pasta and my friend ordered risotto and pork. When the dish was served, she immediately said, "This is the best risotto she has ever had".  Well the foodie in me responded and I tried some of it. I was in heaven. Wonderful flavor. Perfect. I immediately asked if the chef would give out the recipe. He was happy to do so but it was oral and I tried my best to make it like he instructed.

First, the ingredients are not a big deal.  However, the proportions and preparation are 98% for the final result.

I have researched several recipes.  I tried one and I gave it a "C".  Just not the wonderful dish I had tasted.  So, bottom line, soon there will be a new recipe here for risotto as soon as I have made it several times and given myself an "A".

                  (This part is for real foodies now)
Problems were:
Italian Arborio rice to stock to wine  (2 cups to 8 cups to 1/4 cup)  Not so good. I will try 2 to 6 to 1/2 next time.               
Note: Long grained rice will not do because the grains will stay separate.Never use minute rice -- it won't absorb the condiments, and again the grains will remain separate.

butter or oil,  ( I used both)
parmesan cheese.  (too much at 1/2 cup) I will try 1/8 cup next time.
Stirring and temperature of the sauce pan is major.  This takes all your time. Low heat and lots of stirring.
Mushrooms - several different kinds will do.

Friday, January 1, 2010


In case you were not sure what to buy for your slow cooking stews, etc...  The beef cuts to buy are the cheaper ones. When looking for meat for your slow cooker, here are the cuts to look for:
Shanks  Shoulder  Round   Rump
Marbling, are the fat patterns in cuts of meat, although marbling is not wanted in lean cuts. This fat in the meat is desirable for the slow cooker.  So skip the expensive cuts. My experience is that they become dry in texture even when surrounded by moisture from the liquid added.  Fat is beneficial in the slow cooker.  You might say very necessary.

Stew cuts, chuck roasts, all work really well and give you a good texture and flavor for your recipe. If you find a round steak with little marbling at a good price, pass it by.  Its just a bad choice.

Since the slow cooker retains moisture within the pot, the meat comes out juicy and tender despite its less desirable cut. Slow cooking also allows beef to better absorb flavors from herbs and spices. 
A word about Chili.  
When cooking chili in a slow cooker, the flavors tend to be bolder so require less spices etc... Also slow cooker chili comes out thicker and heartier than cooking on a stove top.  
Chili can be reduced in calories by using ground turkey and the spices effectively hide any change in taste from beef.