Tuesday, March 30, 2010

p.s.

I received several requests since my post this afternoon for the recipe for my mom’s Easter Bread. Since my mother’s recipe does not make a braided bread, nor does it include directions for placing eggs into the braids, I did a little research and revised her recipe to include directions to make either loaves or braided rings.

The recipe is now available on the Mangia, Figlie Recipe Collection website, or you can view it through my profile at Foodista.com by clicking here:

Italian Easter Bread on Foodista

If you try this recipe, or any others from the Mangia, Figlie blog, I’d love your feedback. You can post by clicking the “COMMENTS” link at the bottom of this or any post. Or feel free to post comments on the Mangia, Figlie Facebook page.

Either way, I do hope to hear from you soon!

Tradition

In years-gone-by, I could always count on two food traditions on Easter Day: my mom’s braided Easter bread and a nice Italian cheesecake for dessert – made with ricotta, of course, instead of other cheeses. In Italian, we call it pizza di ricotta – ricotta pie.

The braided bread tradition faded years ago – I can’t say why – but when I walked into my favorite local Italian bread store last weekend and saw them on the counter, I knew I had to order one for the holiday ahead. As for the pizza di ricotta, it continues to grace our Easter table every year.

Traditional ricotta pie is made by mixing ricotta, sugar, cream, lemon juice, baking powder, anisette, and candied citron if desired, and baking it all in a flavored crust. But I was never a fan of the citron or the crust, which was always gushy from the water content of the ricotta. Thankfully, many years ago, my Aunt Ann offered a recipe for a no-crust/no-citron pizza di ricotta.

You may remember Aunt Ann from my second post of this blog. To remind you:3-23-2010 11;07;09 AM

“…she’s the one who cooks furiously and always has something ready to go in the freezer for when 30 people just happen to drop by on a Sunday afternoon. You can find a seven-course meal in her freezer, and you’ll enjoy every bite of it!”

She is the oldest of my mother’s two younger sisters, she is my godmother … and she is a home-taught cook extraordinaire. Did I mention she baked all the Italian cookies for my wedding? Enough to feed 100? She is a good soul and has been a fantastic godmother to me throughout my 45 years. Oh, and look, she’s beautiful too.

I do love tradition, there is no doubt. But even more fun is starting new ones for our children. My friend Stephanie, over at Conversations from the Cul-de-Sac, posed this question in a post last week: “Does everyone put a new swim suit in their kid's Easter baskets or is it just me?” It’s a tradition her mom started and Steph has continued for her beautiful children. Isn’t that just a great idea? Perhaps that is where some traditions originate – from our friends who do cool things.

Other traditions, no doubt, are the result of practicality. For example, several years ago, my nephew and his family came for Easter with their three children. Instead of putting together three separate baskets, I “thought outside the Easter box” and purchased a spring-themed piñata for the kids to break … with candy to share. And they seemed to enjoy it. So last year when our friends and their children joined us for Easter, I did it again! It was at that point that I decided to officially claim it a Boyer Easter tradition … one we will continue each year for our children … and someday for our grandchildren.

We are headed to my brother’s house for Easter this year, and with our new Boyer tradition in mind, the first thing I asked was: “Can I bring the piñata?” My sister-in-law, being a good sport, quickly agreed. In fact … I just got an idea: I’m going to fill the piñata with extra candy – Italian candy that only the adults will like – and bring enough bags for all of us. What fun that will be!!

Easter bread, pizza di ricotta, piñata … salud to traditions old and new, my friends, and Buona Pasqua!

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Aunt Ann’s
No-Crust Pizza di Ricotta
(Click here to view
and print recipe)

 

 

No-Crust Pizza Di Ricotti on Foodista

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

“Mommy and Maggie Cooking”

We are a Food Network family, there’s no doubt about that. Our family’s idea of reality TV is “The Next Food Network Star.” We make our picks early in the season, then see if we’re right. The best star yet – Guy Fieri, no doubt about it. My son, Joe, called it from Day One.

Food Network shows also spill over into playtime. The kids have often set up their own “Iron Chef America” in the basement play area. Usually one parent and one child are pitted against each other with play food, while the other child fills the role of Alton Brown, Food Stadium commentator extraordinaire. The leftover parent is the judge.

In our real kitchen, the kids are experts at making scrambled eggs and dicing up vegetables. In fact, last year I bought them each their own kid-sizP3220001e Furi knife and safety glove.  Yes, I admit it, I love Rachael Ray — because from her I learned to easily peel and cut an onion, and because from her I learned how great parsley can be as an ingredient (as opposed to just a garnish) … and I love QVC. Put them together (Rachael Ray lent her name to the knives and she was on QVC selling them), and it was a disaster for my checkbook. Oh well, the kids are happy. Isn’t that how we rationalize it?

Most fun of all, though, is a real-life “show” my daughter has developed for helping with dinner in our kitchen. In “Mommy and Maggie Cooking,” she dices and commentates while I do all the mommy work. I’ve got to hand it to my girl, she makes it fun, asking me questions: “So, Mommy, tell us exactly what you are doing now.” And, “Mommy, why do you use that [silicone] spoon instead of the wood one?” And, “Now, Mommy, how long do we have to boil this?” It is the cutest thing ever.

So this week, Mommy and Maggie Cooking (with the help of “Mighty Joe”) presents my mother’s infamous Spaghetti and Clams – the white kind. It’s actually one of my favorite go-to recipes when I’ve planned nothing else for dinner. Everyone likes it, it’s simple to make, and the ingredients are easy to keep in the pantry for weeks on end. The only fresh ingredients are garlic and grated cheese – and since these are staples in my kitchen, well, no worries there.

We begin by boiling the water for the spaghetti. I know linguine is the classic choice, but I prefer thin spaghetti or capellini myself. My mom taught me that. This meal we use angel hair pasta. Barilla angel hair pasta. We like Barilla. And however long Barilla says to cook the pasta on the package, I add one minute and it comes out perfectly al dente every single time!

Next, the garlic. Six cloves. Peeled and minced.

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Add the pasta to the boiling water, 7 minutes on the clock for the angel hair.

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And while we’re talking spaghetti, here’s another thing I love from Rachael Ray — her spaghetti pot is genius! All my life, I’ve fought with spaghetti that didn’t fit in the pot I was cooking it in … but not anymore:

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It is the perfect size and shape! And I use it for everything! (You know I do; this isn’t the first time you’ve seen it here! If it is, you need to go back and read this blog from the beginning!) Next sale at Kohl’s, I highly recommend you get yourself one!

But back to dinner: Add the garlic to the olive oil in the pan, sauté a few minutes, then add your three cans of minced clams in their juice.

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Aren’t they good helpers?

When the pasta is done, drain it, add the clam sauce and grated cheese, mix, add black pepper if desired, and enjoy immediately.

Quick, easy, delicious! Mamma e Maggie (e Giuseppe), si cucina.

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Spaghetti and Clams
(Click here to view
and print recipe)








Spaghetti and Clams on Foodista

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Saint of a Different Name

On March 13, 1966, when I was a mere 15½ months old, my mother cut an article out of The New York Times entitled “Sweets for San Giuseppe.” It was written by a 45-year-old Craig Claiborne, one of American journalism’s original “foodies.” That clipping survives today amidst the many recipes in my mom’s recipe basket:

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In that article, Mr. Claiborne very aptly wrote:3-16-2010 2;03;31 PM
“Foods and feast days seem inalienably linked. [March 17], of course, is Saint Patrick’s Day and, in this country at least, the association is with corned beef and cabbage. But two days later … is the lesser known feast of St. Joseph. In Italy – and in the Italian neighborhoods of New York – the traditional dessert for the festival is zeppole, fried cream puff rings, filled with sweetened ricotta.”


Before getting to the recipe itself, I should talk a little bit about feast days in general, and Saint Joseph in particular. According to the Catholic Saints’ informational website at catholic-saints.info, saints’ feast days “first arose from the very early Christian custom of the annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths, at the same time celebrating their birth into heaven.”

As time went on, the Church designated more and more feast days – to the point where every single day of the year commemorates, on average, three saints. While many feast days fall on the date of death of the saint, others celebrate their birth. Such is the case for St. Joseph – “San Giuseppe” in Italian – the husband of Mary who raised Jesus as his own, no questions asked. Today is his birthday, his feast day … and also interesting, today is Father’s Day in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

Mr. Claiborne’s point in his short paragraph is well taken: though Saint Patrick duly earned his place in Church history, his feast day for the most part outshines that of Joseph. But not in my mom’s house … nor in mine.

Being from one of those “Italian neighborhoods of New York” Mr. Claiborne was talking about, my mom still enjoys making this special treat once a year, though she now bakes the cream puffs instead of deep frying them, just to lighten them a bit. For me, the day became all the more special in 1999, the year my oldest child – Joseph – was born.

Did we eat corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s this year? Sure, we almost always do. It’s a nice diversion from boring old chicken, pork, or pasta. And we did enjoy it. But more enjoyable is what’s in store for dessert tonight – the sweets of San Giuseppe. 

This year I volunteered to bake the zeppole – my first attempt ever – so to share the recipe here with you. Coincidently, I am 45 years old – the age Mr. Claiborne was when he wrote the article I hold in my hand.

I admit, I was a bit intimidated at the start, as I can’t say I’ve ever boiled dough before. P3180002That was the first step, after all. But overall, the preparation really wasn’t difficult. The trickiest parts were incorporating cold eggs into a warm dough without scrambling the eggs … and piping the dough. As you can see, I could use a little practice at the latter.

As you peruse the recipe and hopefully try it yourself, I would simply tell you to take your time. Follow the recipe step by step, and you too will make St. Joseph’s pastries as good as my mom’s … which, I think, is saying a lot.

And tonight when you hit the bar for one last drink in memory of St. Patrick, take a minute to make a second toast to fathers everywhere … and to their patron saint: “Auguri, San Giuseppe!”

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Zeppole di San Giuseppe
(Click here to view
and print recipe)








For other good recipes posted today from around the globe, check out Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!


Zeppole Di San Giuseppe on Foodista

Monday, March 15, 2010

Road Trip!

Here was the Mangia, Figlie question of the day: Do I stay on task and offer up a nice Italian family recipe, or do I take a little trip to the southern United States? Read on… 

My family and I are just back from a long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. A longtime friend of mine was getting married, so we put the kids in the car for a little road trip (only 24 hours of driving, here and back – not too bad).

As with any road trip we take, whether a half an hour away or halfway to Florida, our itinerary always includes at least one of the following – cars, planes, boats, zoos, aquariums – and always food! This trip was no exception, taking in the South Carolina Aquarium and Charleston Harbor, as well as Patriots Point, where we toured both the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the USS Clamagore submarine.

Foodwise, of top importance was finding a good plate of shrimp and grits for my husband. A good Pennsylvania Dutchman and a former Marine trained and stationed in the South, he takes kindly to all things carb-filled and greasy. This trip, he lucked out; we all did. Not only did we sample the shrimp and grits at Chucktown’s famous Hominy Grill (along with the restaurant’s phenomenal she-crab soup in the background)…

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…we also enjoyed a tomato-based version at the wedding as well. What a fun surprise that was!

Both dishes were quite good, but they were very different. The tomato-based version had more of a sauce to it, while the Hominy Grill version did not. Also, Hominy Grill’s recipe uses bacon, which I did not detect at all in the wedding version. I could go on a bit more, but let me get to my point.

Eating these two very Southern, very comfort-filled recipes left me thinking that shrimp and grits is the Southern family’s equivalent of Italian spaghetti sauce: though every family’s recipe is well worth eating, no two recipes are exactly alike … and I’m going out on a limb here, guessing that if you asked a Southerner, “Who makes the best shrimp and grits?” – their answer in most cases would be: their mom … their aunt … or their granny.

I’ve tried making a couple of different shrimp and grits recipes over the years as a treat for my husband, and this post I’m sharing my favorite to date. It is not tomato based and is not very saucy (hee hee, what a great word!) – though my husband has asked me to play with that part of the recipe in the future, as he favors gravy on his carbs. This recipe is instead heavy on the sauteed onions, which gives great overall flavor to the dish.

I should also take a minute to disclose, by no means am I an expert on grits. I just know I’ve tried the instant kind and the slow-cooked kind, and slow-cooked are much better. I’ve started using a brand – Byrd Mill – that I can easily find in my local grocery store and that has proven a good choice time and again. I can honestly recommend Byrd Mill’s Old Tyme White Grits, though I encourage you to try whatever brands you have available where you are and see which you like best.

I must also disclose that my hunt for other versions of this great southern dish is far from over. I will continue to experiment with this recipe, and I will try others I find along the way … and again, I encourage you to do the same … because, southern manners or not, we are never too old to play with our food.

Later in the week, I will be back on task with a great recipe for a great patron saint (and no, it’s not St. Patrick). Till then, y’all enjoy!


Maria's Shrimp and Grits on Foodista

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moving Day

Here I am night-writing again, though I’ll wait till morning to post. I suppose it’s the excitement of what I’m about to say that has me clicking away on my keyboard instead of peacefully dreaming in my bed. With this post, I welcome you … to the new and improved “Mangia, Figlie” blog!

Early on in this adventure, I was reading a lot of other blogs, to get a feel for the craft and see what other people were blogging about. Blogger.com has proved to be a fine home for my little stories and recipes – it’s easy to write and to post photos, and making corrections and enhancing my site is a snap. The one downfall is, there aren’t many page layouts (aka templates) available … which means many other blogs had the same background as mine. If you know me at all, you know that just wouldn’t do. I strive to be different from the masses and decided I needed a background all my own.

That’s when I enlisted the help of my friend Wayne, a website guru extraordinaire (and the husband of my friend and former coworker, Renée). Wayne’s company, Kessler Freedman, has been in the web design business since the early days – 1995 to be exact. I sent him a few links to styles I liked, he made some suggestions, we perused photos for purchase, and he used his genius to bring you this wonderful new design. I am especially fond of the colors and old-time feel. It perfectly matches the low-resolution, but endearing photos I throw in every once in a while. It’s exactly what I’d hoped for!

The second part to this move is the result of an email I received from a reader. A native Italian now living in Vermont, she had found my blog through a Facebook group we both belong to (I was pitching my blog there), and she noticed I had misspelled the title. I know, I know … I make a professional living as a copyeditor; yes, I do see the irony in the situation. And yes, my OCD tendencies have kicked in and all things “Mange, Fille” (the French for “Eat, Child”) are now correctly “Mangia, Figlie."

So here we are – new name, new look, new URL, new email. And so we come to the final business of the move – this post’s recipe. Hmm…

When I picture moving day, I think of a long day of hard work, an aching back and tired bones. What would be the perfect end to such a day in this little Italian online world I’ve created? Of course! A nice cup of espresso doused with a bit of anisette, and a bite of biscotti!

Unfortunately, I have no family recipe to share for biscotti (or anisette, for that matter). But I do have a favorite recipe from Williams Sonoma, whose chocolate hazelnut biscotti have been tested in my kitchen many times in the last 10 years. You can use the link below to find the recipe and try it for yourself. I think you’ll find the biscotti crunchy and satisfying.

In the meantime, once again I welcome you – benvenuti. I hope you will visit again soon.


Maria Boyer on Foodista

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Sneezing on Thursdays!

Let’s pretend it’s a Thursday back in 1974. My family is visiting relatives in Harrison, New York, my father’s hometown. We are all gathered in the house my grandfather built (literally), and all of a sudden … I sneeze! “No sneezing on Thursdays,” my Grandma 2-28-2010 3;33;03 PMMarietta says! Or if it was a Tuesday and I coughed: “No coughing on Tuesdays!” It makes me smile just to think about it.

My grandmother died in August 1994, 11 years after my father. She lived to see many people in her life – her parents, her brothers, her husband – die, but bearing my father, then witnessing his life from start to finish – that was the most heartbreaking event of her life, she once told me. I’ll never forget that.

I’ll also never forget how beautifully she crocheted and cross-stitched – many pieces of her handiwork are scattered in family homes throughout the northeast. She crocheted this quilt for me:

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…and this doll quilt:

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…and she cross-stitched this tablecloth:

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Yes, Gram was focused and talented, but she also liked to have fun. Her favorite game was 500 Rummy, probably because she always won. My cousins and I used to say that she cheated, but really, she wasn’t afraid to hold onto a handful of cards for when she might need them later on. I believe she could have won in one hand if she really wanted to.

Her long fingernails were always painted bright red, perhaps to distract from her terrible arthritis. But those fingers worked just fine when one of us was staring at our draw of cards trying to decide what to do. Gram would quickly, but methodically tap her fingers – one at a time, starting with her pinky and working her way to the pointer – over and over again on the tabletop, causing distraction and tension all at the same time.

My mom also reminds me that my grandmother made the best salads ever. The reason: the nail polish, they teased. Gram always tossed her salads by hand, and surely tiny flecks of red nail polish were the secret ingredient that made her salads stand out among all others.

The last time I saw Grandma Marietta alive was when I took my husband Dave to meet her in the nursing home two years before he and I were married. We had a nice conversation, the three of us, and Gram seemed to think him a nice guy. I remember knowing when we left that I’d likely never see her alive again. It made me cry then and makes me cry now. She died not long after, at the fair age of 85 … but as we all know, memories never die.

Every grandmother has one signature dish. My niece’s grandmother on her mother’s side made the most interesting meatballs I’ve ever had. On the outside, they looked like every other meatball, but hiding inside were pine nuts and raisins. I rarely like raisins, but the sweetness and added texture made these meatballs unique and flavorful – and some of the best I’ve sampled in my 45 years.

As for my grandmother, in my book her signature dish is her meatloaf. Again, from the outside, it looked like any other meatloaf, but hiding inside were hard-boiled eggs. Gram must have liked hard-boiled eggs – she also added them, chopped up, to her lasagna, along with pieces of sausage.

I’m not a grandmother yet, but I know having both of mine around into my 20s was a real treat. Grandmothers have many things to offer that as mothers we are sometimes too distracted to remember – things like:
  • Children like when the adults in their lives say silly things on purpose.
  • Children really can handle the truth … and in fact, they come to cherish that you shared it with them.
  • It’s important to leave hand- and heart-made items behind for your loved ones to hold onto.
  • Children need to learn to take chances, and though sometimes they may fail, more often they will not.
  • Red fingernails are pretty … and never forgotten.
  • And most importantly, children love surprises! 
We journey on without our grandparents and eventually our parents, but to the end, they live on in what we say and do and make and believe. They are where we come from … and even if only in spirit, every day they help us move forward to where we want to go. Sapendo questo mi conforta.

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Meatloaf,
Marietta-Style
(Click here to view
and print recipe)




 
Also highlighted in this blog:
Lasagna, Marietta-Style
(Click here to view and print recipe)


Meatloaf, Marietta-Style on Foodista