Welcome to my world - a blend of passion, taste, and old-world traditions.

Benvenuti nel mio mondo - un mischio di passione, gusto e vecchie tradizioni.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

48 Years of Wedded Bliss

The special day was August 6, 1966.  Where has the time gone!
 
 
St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church



      

So many years later, I remember many details so well.  Such journeys one never forgets.

Our first dance: Love is Many Splendored Thing
Our first honey-moon night at The Plaza Hotel, NY
Flew out the following morning to Rome. 
Our stay at the Villa d'Este, Lake Como.
Back to Casalbordino (Abruzzo) to celebrate with family and friends



Vasto - 1966





If I were to describe our marriage in a nutshell, I would say, it’s practical, unpretentious and precious. It’s not marked by grand displays of affection, the giving of lavish gifts or romantic getaways but one built on solid foundations of shared morals and values.












Over the years, we have had our share of conflict and some of our disagreements have not been pretty but we have managed to understand our differences, accepted and then adjusted to them.
 
Who said marriage was easy? It's not. Never was, never will be.
 

Spanish Steps, Rome
Piazza di Spagna, Roma
I stumbled upon this beautiful quote today and couldn’t agree with it more!

“If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.” F. Burton Howard



St Mark's Square, Venice
Piazza San Marco, Venezia

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Simple SPARERIBS

Personally, I do not like BBQ sauce on ribs or any other meat.  We like ribs seasoned with just salt and pepper and roasted at a high temperature.  Grilled corn on the cob makes a nice accompaniment.



 
 
2 slabs pork spareribs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
coarse or kosher salt
freshly ground coarse black pepper
 
 
Heat the grill at medium to high temperature.
 
Pat the ribs dry with paper towels.  Rub them with vegetable oil, then sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.
 
Place the ribs on the center rack, cover the grill.  Cook for 30 minutes, then turn the ribs and cook until well browned on the outside and no longer pink when cut at the bone, 40 to 45 minutes longer.
 
To serve, cut the slabs into single-rib pieces and mound on a warmed platter.
 
Enjoy with the grilled corn!
 


GRILLED CORN ON THE COB

Grilled Corn on the Cob is a popular menu item for barbecues and it’s easy to do. Fresh corn on the cob can be cooked on the barbecue either wrapped in aluminum foil or in its own husks.
 
 
Preparing Corn for Grilling:
 
If the ears of corn have many layers of husk on them, peel off only the first couple of layers, leaving a few layers for protection. Do not remove all the layers.

Soak the whole cobs in a pot of cold water for 15 minutes. Be sure the ears are completely covered with water.


While the corn is soaking, preheat the barbecue grill to a medium temperature.   After soaking, remove the corn from the water and shake off any excess water. 
 
Begin by pulling the husks of the corn back (but do not completely remove them). Remove and discard only the silk.

Brush the kernels with olive oil.

Grilling the Corn:

Place the prepared ears of corn on the grill, rotating the corn as needed to keep it from getting charred too much on one side. After a couple of turns move the corn to the side of the grill or on the top shelf of the grill, and close the cover.
Allow the corn to slowly continue cooking for approximately 15 minutes or as soon as the husk gets dark and kernels begin to pull away.
 
Don’t overcook the corn or it will become mushy.






 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Flowering Dogwood in my Mother's Memory

      This week the dogwood tree in my garden bloomed.  Every year it blooms around Mother's Day.  Although it brings great beauty to my garden for all seasons, it also brings sadness.  Ten years ago, when my mother died, I planted this tree to keep her memory alive.   It brought me great comfort to know that a new life was being set into the earth to mark her departure.
 

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) in May

Perhaps that's because a tree is a living thing.  Consider its life cycle:

     In the winter, the bare branches of this deciduous tree speak of endurance bracing against the weight of the snow and ice.

Dogwood after a snow fall

Late fall ice storm

     Miraculously, in late March you see the buds forming on twigs, a lesson of hope and renewal.  Then in May its floral display gives us beauty.

First leaves appear in early spring

     In the summer, its blossoms give way to light green leaves providing a welcoming shade.   Many times I sit on the concrete bench and reflect upon those who are no longer with us.


Concrete bench under dogwood


     In early fall, the foliage turns a stunning deep red and bright red berries ripen, a favorite of migrating birds.

 
 
bright red berries of a flowering dogwood define fall


     Then, by late November there comes the falling of the leaves, a symbol of vanishing vitality, reminding us how little time we have left and that the end is inevitable.

Year after year, the dogwood reminds me of my own mortality.




 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

POLPETTE DI CACIO e UOVA (Meatless balls made with cheese and eggs)

Or as known in my birthplace "Pallotte Cace e Ove".  This is a typical dish which flavors   bring me back to my childhood in Casalbordino, (Abruzzo):  A time when meat was scarce and only seasonal products were used.  A time when dishes were marked by the rhythm of the season and modified only by the arrival of Sundays and religious holidays.

 

Eggs, cheese and day-old bread are mixed together, shaped into balls and fried, then simmered in sugo semplice (meatless tomato sauce).

Sauce or Sugo semplice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 lb. ripe tomatoes finally chopped (alternate 2 cans good San Marzano canned tomatoes)
Sprigs of parsley and basil
Hot pepper (optional)
Salt and Pepper

Heat the oil in saucepan over moderate heat, add the onion and cook until golden.  Add the tomatoes and remaining ingredients.  Simmer over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes.


Ingredients for Pallotte:

  1. 2 cups of mixed grated cheeses (my choice Gran Padano, Parmigiano e Pecorino)
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 cup of stale, artisan bread, crusts removed and soaked in water and squeezed dried
  4. 1 or 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  5. A few sprigs of finely chopped fresh parsley
  6. Salt and pepper
  7. 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
 

 

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Let the mixture rest for a while.
Use damp hands to form 1 1/2-to-2-inch balls. (I like them oval or egg shaped).
Shallow fry in olive oil until golden brown, turning the balls as needed so they brown evenly.
Once all of the pallotte are fried, transfer them to the tomato sauce (sugo semplice) and let them simmer for a good 30 minutes.  The pallotte will swell as they cook and resemble sponges.


 

Serve immediately.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

MOSTACCIOLI o Pasta nera di mandorle

During the holidays, it's obligatory to have the classic mostaccioli on the table. These diamond-shaped biscuits are so called because they derive from a cake prepared by the ancient Romans with "mustaceum', i.e. grape must cooked over bay leaves.



Dough
8 large eggs
2 cups roasted almonds (without skin), ground

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups honey
1 cup espresso coffee
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup bitter-sweet grated chocolate
4 teaspoons baking ammonia
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon baking powder
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Flour as much as needed (5 to 6 cups)

For frosting
about 2 pounds bitter sweet chocolate


 

  
 

 
Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

2. Roast whole almonds. Grind.

3. Make espresso coffee.  Reserve 1 cup.

4. Grate a block of bitter-sweet chocolate and measure 1/4 cup.

5. Using an electric beater, beat eggs. Add espresso coffee and honey.

6. Add vanilla and the rest of the flavorings.

7. Slowly add flour -- using the electric beater at the beginning. When the dough gets thick, use a wooden spoon. The resulting dough will be dark in color, and should be thick in consistency.


8. Take a lump of dough -- the size of a baseball -- and on a floured wooden board flatten the dough out using the palm of your hand.

9. Cut a diamond-shaped cookie from the flattened out dough [Diamond measures about 4 inches at longest point, 3 inches at widest point].

10. Place the diamond-shaped mostaccioli cookie on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.

11. Continue cutting out the cookies until the baking sheet is full.  Leave ample space between the cookies.


12. When the baking sheet has been filled up, bake in the middle rack for about 12 minutes (The cookies should still be a bit soft when they are removed).

13. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool for several hours (or overnight).

14. Using a double boiler, melt the block of bitter-sweet chocolate.

15. Using a fork, dip the mostaccioli cookie into the melted chocolate (Place the end of the fork on the underside of the cookie, so that only the top of the cookie is coated with chocolate).

16. Place the frosted cookie on a table that has been lined with wax paper.

17. Continue processing the cookies until they have all been frosted.

18. Let the frosted cookies air-dry on the table for 6 to 8 hours.


19. Store the cookies until needed in a cold space or fridge.

 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

STUFFED MUSHROOMS - Funghi Ripieni


With Thanksgiving around the corner, stuffed mushrooms make perfect appetizers for a  memorable holiday meal or a dinner party.  The mushrooms can be prepared the day before and then baked before serving.

 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 3 scallions (alternate 1 medium onion) chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 25 medium to large white mushrooms, stemmed

 
 

 
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Wash the mushrooms one at a time under running water for one second.  Dry immediately.  Pull stems from mushroom caps and finely chop them.  Put mushroom caps, stemmed sides down, in a lightly oiled large shallow baking pan and bake in middle of oven until mushrooms exude liquid, about 15 minutes, then remove from oven.
 
While mushroom caps are baking, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat.  Sauté scallions briefly.  Add chopped stems, stirring, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the bread crumbs, cheese, parsley salt and black pepper. Mix well.
 
 
 
Turn mushroom caps over.  Using the remaining butter, place a small piece inside each cap.  Mound mushroom filling in mushroom caps, pressing gently.   Bake until mushrooms are tender and stuffing is golden brown, about 20 minutes.