Friday, April 27, 2012

"Fritto Misto Festival" And "Mamma's Fried Cardoon" Recipe

This weekend is the 8th Annual Fried Foods of Italy Festival called “Fritto Misto all’Italiana“. Thousands of foodies flock to the delightful Le Marche, a town of Ascoli Piceno in Italy, from April 25 - May 1, 2012. The meaning of Fritto Misto translates as follows; “fritto” means “fried” and “misto” means “mixed”. This fried finger food festival, (try saying that 3 times fast) includes regional treats from all around Italy.

Ascoli Piceno is a town in the Marche region of Italy and the capital of the province is the same name. Ascoli Olives are one of the most famous products of the Le Marche region. These stuffed olives date back to the 1800s and are a great accompaniment to a glass of regional wine. The olives are served hot and are stuffed (without the pit) by mixing together three types of meat, beef, pork, turkey or chicken. Added to that mixture are cheese, nutmeg, eggs, and then blended with herbs, celery, carrot and onion. Once the olives are filled they are then coated first in flour, then egg and breaded with breadcrumbs, which are fried to perfection. Sounds really very tasty and a great appetizer.

While strolling through the streets at the Fritto Misto festival you can see booths where visitors can taste fried food samples or better known as the Palafritto, (fried food to pass) from different regions of Italy. Various foods that you would be able to sample include fried vegetables such as, cauliflower, artichoke hearts, asparagus, eggplant, and cardoons. Some other specialty foods that you would enhance your taste buds would be the Sicilian Arancini or rice balls, calamari, plus you cannot forget the fried Zeppole. There are also samplings of the local wines and liquors along the streets. Some booths have demonstrations everyday as well as delightful dinners with a concert in the Piazza Arringo every night. Workshops and lectures are also events that take place, and combine the culture plus tradition, not only the fried foods of Le Marche, but also of the other regions within Italy. Some of these lectures include insights to dispel all myths and prejudices that specify the word “FRY” as a cooking technique to avoid.

My parents are both 100% Italian. I can’t remember a holiday or Sunday dinner that would not have some type of fried foods on the menu. My mom still to this day includes fried vegetables with our family dinners. The veggies are cut up in smaller pieces, which make them more appealing to young children. They also cook better when they are the same size. My mom uses the freshest ingredients and when she is frying them on the stove she can see with the corner of her eyes that some of the fried veggies are being stolen from the plate. So, it seems that we are eating them as fast as she is making them. I must confess that I was the thief one time, ok, maybe twice but I can not take the blame for all the other times, and you know who you are!

Mom & Dad (1999)
One of my family’s favorite vegetables to fry is the Cardoon. The Cardoon is a celery-like looking vegetable that is closely related to the artichoke. It comes from the thistle family and is grown in southern Italy. Its unique flavor tastes like the artichoke. The Cardoon is found in most grocery or Italian specialty stores. They are harvested in the Spring. The best months to purchase Cardoons from a farmers market would be in May, June and July. Once the outer thick stalks are removed, you can cut it in small pieces or lengthwise, and can be fried, braised, steamed and even added to soups.

My recipe this week is “Mamma’s Fried Cardoons” which is one that my mom taught me when I was younger. It is really delicious, sweet, but crunchy. You can serve these hot with any meal as a side dish or even as an appetizer. So enjoy "Fritto Misto" this weekend as you make your own “fried finger food frenzy“.  Now that’s a mouth full!!
Cardoon Stalk

Mamma’s Fried Cardoons

1 cardoon stalk (think celery) about 2 lbs
1 cup of flour
2 to 3 beaten eggs
1 to 2 cups of flavored breadcrumbs
3/4 cup of Pecorino Romano grated cheese
1/2 cup of vegetable oil (add more if needed)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Prepare cardoons by first removing the excess leaves, roots and rough parts of the stalks. Rinse with cold water, scrub with vegetable brush to remove “string” from other parts of the stalk. Boil in salted water for about 10 minutes or until knife tender. Avoid overcooking or stalks will be mushy. The younger the plant, the shorter the boiling time. Prepare 3 dishes; one with flour, one with beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste; and the third dish with the mixture of breadcrumbs combined with cheese. Bread the stalks very gently, first with the flour, then the egg mixture and the last with breadcrumbs. Pre-heat pan and add vegetable oil. Fry cardoons till golden brown and crispy by turning them in the oil. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. You may want to add more salt and pepper serve while hot, if they last till dinner.

Till Next Time……

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Friday, April 20, 2012

Celebrate "Earth Day" And A Recipe Made With Carrots, "Golden Pennies"

This Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day. In 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated by 20 million people across the United States with Senator Gaylord Nelson as its founder. Senator Nelson realized that the US cities were being choked by smog and the rivers were getting polluted which meant that our environmental landscape in the USA was gloomy. This US Senator from Wisconsin succeeded in passing a Congressional resolution declaring April 22, a National Celebration of the Earth. This ground breaking effort earned Senator Nelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom award. On April 22, 2000; the 30th anniversary of the first Earth Day, more than 5,000 groups from 184 countries celebrated Earth Day. National events were held across the globe from Africa to Washington D.C., where thousands of people marched on the National Mall. Today, Earth Day is an event to celebrate the environmental victories of the past four decades and consider the many opportunities for improvement in the future of our Mother Earth.

Did you know that the overall rate of recycling in the US today stands at about 28%? That is double what it was a decade ago. Did you know that Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every single hour? It takes 700 years for a plastic bottle to start to decompose in a landfill. Did you know that 100 acres of the Amazon Rain Forest are being cut down every minute? Continued deforestation and global warming will lead to irreversible damage of up to 80% of the rain forest over the next 21 years. Did you know that one in every four mammals face the threat of extinction? The world has lost so far 68 animal species. Less than half a century ago, there were 100,000 tigers roaming our planet, but today fewer than 5,000 are still alive in the wild. All great cats currently face a mortal risk.

A great way to celebrate Earth Day is to prepare your food in a way that is easy on the environment. Earth day recipes should include local produce of fruits and vegetables which would contain less harmful pesticides as well as support your local farmers. If you use organic it could cut your families pesticide exposure by almost 90%. Purchase foods with less packaging so you do not create more waste. Use your own reusable containers for your grab and go foods. Start to rethink the most energy efficient cooking methods for your foods. Avoid using your oven, and go for using your stove top, crock pots or even a toaster oven. When cooking, prepare enough to save or freeze to eat later. You will use fewer resources. Eat more raw foods, less to cook and better for your health. Run only full loads of dishes or clothes with Energy Star appliances. Wait till after 8PM, as it saves energy by avoiding the power “rush hour,” when more resources are strained by higher emissions. These are just some ways to help out planet earth and our environment.
My friend Caroline
My recipe this week is a very environmentally friendly dish. You can use organic vegetables from your local farm growers and only use your stove top to prepare this recipe. This cold carrot salad is very appealing and colorful. The sweet and sour flavor marries together which gives it a pungent taste. This delicious side dish is what I call, “Caroline’s Golden Pennies Salad” and was taught to me by a very close friend and colleague of mine, Caroline. Sadly she is in a better place, so I would like to dedicate this recipe and blog post to her. Don’t forget to celebrate Earth Day and be environmentally friendly! Enjoy!!

"Caroline’s Golden Pennies Salad"

2 lbs of raw carrots, sliced in rings
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 large onion sliced in rings
1 (10.75 once) can condensed tomato soup (no water added)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
3/4 cup of distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil, then add washed sliced carrots and cook until they are tender (not soft) approximately 10 minutes. Drain well and cool in a bowl. Mix rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir well. Then add the carrot while liquid is hot. Mix all of the vegetables until coated. Cover and refrigerate to allow flavors to marinate. Can be served as a side salad dish, either hot or cold. I prefer it to be cold. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, if you still have leftovers.
Till Next Time…….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Tribute to Thomas Kinkade & "Green Bean Casserole"

All you have to do is say “The Painter of Light” and mostly everyone knows that you are talking about the beloved Thomas Kinkade who died last Friday at the age of 54. (January 19, 1958 - April 6, 2012) I would love to share and write about Thomas’s life, work, and how his paintings have inspired me in my life. I am one of Kinkade’s biggest fans. I have collected over the years many of his prints of cottages, books, Christmas items, calendars, and so many other beautiful treasures too many to mention.

His artistry of idyllic landscapes, cottages and churches has been an inspiration to many people all across the USA. Thomas incorporated his work with faith as consciously as he did with light. His paintings often featured a church as well as a Bible reference and the Christian symbol of a fish with his signature. Kinkade placed emphasis on the value of simple pleasures and that his intent was to communicate inspirational, life affirming messages through his work. Thomas Kinkade credits the Lord, for both the ability and the inspirations to create his paintings. A self described “devout Christian” who gained his inspiration from his religious beliefs, said at one point his goal as an artist was to touch people of all faiths, to bring peace, and joy into their lives through the images he creates.

Kinkade grew up in Placerville, California. He attended college there and married his childhood sweetheart, Nanette in 1982. The couple has four daughters, Merritt-24, Chandler-21, Winsor-17, and Everett-15, all named after famous artists. Thomas creatively fills his paintings with “love notes” by hiding the letter “N’ in his paintings as a tribute to his wife. His daughters also find their own messages of love from their father as their name and images often appear in many of Kinkade’s paintings.
Thomas was selected to help celebrate many milestones such as, Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World Resort’s 35th Anniversary, and Yankee Stadium’s farewell 85th season in 2008. Kinkade also captured the historic mansion Biltmore House on canvas as well as the Commemorative Portrait of the 50th Running of the Daytona 500 in 2008. There were many awards that Kinkade received for his work, which included, “Artist of the Year”. In 2003, was chosen as National Spokesperson for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in 2004 he was also selected for a second time by the Christmas Pageant of Peace to paint the National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC. A self produced movie about Kinkade’s life was released on DVD in late November 2008 called, “Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage”. This story shows the motivation and inspiration in a semi-autobiographical story behind his most popular painting, “The Christmas Cottage”.
"Silent Night" by T. Kinkade
I was first introduced to Thomas Kinkade’s work when I received a calendar for Christmas one year. Those of you that are my readers know that I love Christmas, snow, and winter. I happen to see a picture of a Christmas cottage called, “Silent Night” on one of the months and I was hooked. This is my favorite among all of Kinkade’s paintings, even though I have many favorites, this one is by my desk all year long. When I gaze at this cottage, I imagine another time, peace, family, and love. It is warm and cozy, and I visualize a fireplace with all the Christmas trimmings inside. This painting just pulls me in and gives me inspiration that God is all around us and love is comforting me like a quilt on a cold winter’s night.

Thomas Kinkade said once that, “Of all the holidays rituals, the one that I prize the most is when we come together to share a meal with loved ones such as Thanksgiving. Giving to each other while appreciating what we have is universal and timeless.” He remembers, the baking of pumpkin bread by his wife and the sweetness of the bread filling the air for hours. His memories recalled other amazing scents that invaded the kitchen for example apple pie, green bean casserole, fresh warm biscuits, and the turkey. But it all ends with the family gathered together. You will be certainly missed, Thomas Kinkade, but I know that you are lighting up heaven with your paintings.

My recipe this week is to pay tribute to Thomas Kinkade with one of his favorites which was “Green Bean Casserole . Hope you enjoy this creamy and crunchy green bean dish which can be prepared for a holiday or any family dinner.

Green Bean Casserole

1 (10 3/4 oz) can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
3/4 cup of milk
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper
2 (9 oz each) packages frozen cut green beans, thawed
1 can of French’s Original French Fried Onions

Mix soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup of French Fried Onions. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until hot. Stir, and then top with remaining 2/3 cup of French Fried Onions. Bake another 5 minutes until onions are golden. Yields: 6 servings

Till Next Time…….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Easter & "Bunny Buns" For Your Holiday Table

It’s Spring time on Long Island. You can see the trees budding, the flowers are blooming, the sun is getting warmer, and the air has that hint of freshness that only Spring can bring. Easter falls in the Spring, which is when the earth renews itself after winter. With that being said, I want to wish a Happy Easter to all of my readers and a Happy Passover to my Jewish friends as well.

Christians all over the world celebrate Easter as a religious holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God. In Italy, the church bells stop ringing on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, to remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Then on Easter Sunday morning, the church bells ring out once again, telling people that Jesus has risen. Easter or “La Pasqua” is a day to dress in your Sunday best, go to church above all, celebrate life, enjoy with your family and of course eat way too much. Italian children wake up on Easter morning and find eggs scattered in their rooms.

In my family we always had an Easter egg hunt for the small children. I recall back, taking those plastic colored eggs and filling them with some change plus candy or chocolate eggs. Then we would go outside in my parent’s yard and hide them. My nieces, nephews and my son would all go out and see who could find the most. It was so funny to watch the really small children find the eggs; they would get so excited when they found one.

Easter celebrations have many customs and legends that have nothing to do with the religious Christian celebration of Christ’s rising. Did you ever think of where and how these traditional celebrations of colored eggs, cute little bunnies, leg of Lamb dinners and Easter Lilies come from? They are all symbols of rebirth, fertility, and the lamb was a traditional religious sacrifice in pagan ritual beliefs.

Molly--My niece Lauren's bunny 
Let’s start with the Easter Bunny, which was a symbol of Spring and fertility, due to the rapid reproduction habits of the rabbit. This custom originated in Germany and brought to America particularly to Pennsylvania. The German children would eagerly await the arrival of the Oschter Haws, a rabbit who delighted children on Easter morning by laying colored eggs in nests. The German’s baked cakes for Easter in the shape of bunnies they spread the tradition of chocolate bunnies and eggs across the country. The practice of making nests for the rabbits to lay its eggs in became decorated baskets and colorful eggs which were swapped for candy, treats and small other gifts. The white Easter Lily has come to symbolize the spiritual values of Easter; purity, life, and renewal. The flower’s trumpet shape is a reminder of the heralding of Jesus, returning to Jerusalem. Christians consider eggs to be “the seed of life” and so they are symbolic of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter eggs are colored and decorated to represent the sunlight of Spring. Different cultures have developed their own ways of decorating Easter eggs. The most celebrated workshops are Faberge. They create exquisite jeweled Easter eggs for the Russian Imperial Court.

My recipe this week is called “Bunny Buns” by Rhodes Bake and Serve Rolls. This is an easy recipe and the children can help make these little delicious warm rolls for your Easter table.

Bunny Buns

12 Rhodes Dinner Rolls, thawed but still cold

Cut a small piece off of one roll for a tail. Roll remaining piece into a 12-inch rope with pointed ends. Twist top of rope together. Place on a large sprayed baking sheet and pull pointed ends apart for ears. Roll small cut off piece into a ball for the tail. Make an indentation with your finger at the spot for the tail. Moisten the tail with water and place in the indentation. Repeat the above steps with remaining rolls. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and allow to rise 30-45 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350° F 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy with butter for your Easter Dinner. Serves: 6

Till Next Time……………….

Copyright © 2012 “Family Plus Food Equals Love” All Rights Reserved