Tuesday, February 9, 2016

“Easy Shrimp Creole Soup” For Soupy Tuesday & “Cenci Cookies” To Celebrate "Carnevale"

Welcome to “Soupy Tuesday” and Carnevale!!! Being an Italian American, Carnevale is celebrated much like Mardi Gras, but with an Italian flare to it. Carnevale which means in Italian “goodbye to meat” is celebrated before the beginning of Lent. It is the last chance to party-hardy before the days of abstinence. Traditionally during Lent, people refrained from eating, meat, dairy, fats, and sugars. So to dispose of these types of foods and drinks they involved the whole community to consume this food many years ago. You could say a giant party thus became Carnevale. 

The Lenten season officially starts on February 10, (this year) Ash Wednesday and continues till Easter Sunday. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the faithful, as they await the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. This is done by prayer, penance, and giving up certain types of luxuries for this season. A favorite food or drink for example; chocolate or soft drinks may be what someone would give up for Lent. I remember when I was a young girl my parents always made sure that we would give up something that was important and special to us. I remember the one thing that I would give up every year which was chocolate. As you, my readers know, I love chocolate and this was extremely hard for me. Then on Easter Sunday we would get a basket filled with goodies like a chocolate bunny and I was able to enjoy my chocolate fix once again. 

Carnevale is a festival traditionally held by Christians, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large events leading up to Ash Wednesday. In fact the last day of Carnival is called "Mardi Gras" in New Orleans and precedes Ash Wednesday. This day also is called by other names as “Shove Tuesday,” or “Fat Tuesday.” Most Christians celebrate Shrove Tuesday. For most Christians it is a time to reflect, confess, and ready one's spirit for the forty days of repentance that is Lent. That's where the term "shrove" comes from. "To shrive" is to hear confessions. Thus, Shrove Tuesday is a day of feasting as well as penance.

 There are many places that these festivals take place. To name a few famous ones which are held in the cities of Venice, Milan, and Verona in Italy. They have a variety of celebrations which include floats, parades, stilt walkers, throwing confetti, and masquerade balls. Masks are worn to allow people of the lower class to be mixed and undetected with the aristocrats. 

The traditional colors of the masks are purple, green, and gold. These colors capture the essence of the Holy Trinity. In the Christian faith it is related also to the Three Kings of the Orient. The colors represent purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. The Carnival is a colorful, joyful party during which tasty and rich dishes are traditionally prepared. Loved by young and old, it is celebrated with masks that create a humorous and playful atmosphere. Like any self-respecting party, Carnivale is also an excellent opportunity to share something special like the recipes.

Today I have a yummy recipe for “Soupy Tuesday” as well as a sweet dessert for “Carnevale!” The soup is called “Easy Shrimp Creole” and the dessert I am sharing is called “Cenci” in Italian which means “rags/ribbons.” When I was young I remember my grandmother “Nanni” used to make this type of Italian cookie. Instead of long strips she would take up the two ends and make a knot in the middle before frying them. They would look like bow ties or bows but how sweet and yummy they were especially with some powdered sugar or honey on them. Delizioso!

Enjoy this hearty shrimp that's served with rice – a wonderful dinner ready in an hour. It is a little thicker, not as soupy, but has all the flavors of Carnevale or Mardi Gras.


   “Easy Shrimp Creole

30-minutes for prep
60-minutes total time

2 lb uncooked medium shrimp in shells, thawed if frozen
1/4 cup butter
3 medium onions, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2 green bell peppers, finely chopped (2 cups)
2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup Chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
2 dried bay leaves
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
6 cups hot cooked rice

Peel shrimp. Make a shallow cut lengthwise down back of each shrimp; wash out vein. Cover and refrigerate. In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onions, bell peppers, celery, and garlic in butter about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except rice and shrimp. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp. Heat to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are pink and firm. Remove bay leaves. Serve shrimp mixture over rice.

******* Notes: you can add as much heat as you like! You can also add some scallops, or even cut up in rounds some Andouille Sausage.********** 

One of the most familiar treats at this time of year are mounds of crispy sugared strips called “cenci,” which are also called rags, but cenci sounds more elegant. These randomly cut pieces of dough are fried and then coated in confectioner's sugar. In Tuscany at Carnivale time this sweet treat is made everywhere and everyone has their fill before the austere Lenten season of denial begins.                                                                                                      

3 eggs
3 Tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt   
Grated zest of 2 oranges or lemons
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour   
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of unsalted softened butter
About 6 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying
A pasta machine is perfect for thinning the dough
Confectioner’s sugar or honey

In a bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and salt until frothy. Stir in vanilla or almond extract, and the orange or lemon zest. Sift flour with baking powder and gradually add to batter. Add butter and mix well. Turn out on a floured surface: knead for at least 10 minutes. Divide dough into half; then roll each as thin as possible (noodle thickness) Cut into 5” x 1” strips with a knife or scalloped pastry wheel. Preheat oil to about 375°F; then fry strips until golden brown about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or drizzle honey on top. Cookies are best served the same day.

Till Next Time………..

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  1. Viva il carnevale! Oh I so much miss it. In the UK they don't celebrate it. I love the masks, the atmosphere and all the lovely fried cakes!
    I always make cenci or frittelle for the children every year and I often end up eating so many of them, they are just so good.
    A very nice recipe with prawns, love your soup Dottie :-)
    Hope you are well xxx

    1. Dear Alida,
      Thanks for visiting and your lovely comment. I know Carnevale is so much fun! I can imagine how awesome it must be in Italy. Even at the rehab center where my mom is they had a Mardi Gras party yesterday for the patients...Yes, dear friend it is not Carnevale until those Cenci are made with the honey or sugar icing sprinkled on them. Could eat the whole dish...Glad that you enjoyed the soup recipe as well. Have a bad cold on top of everything...but this will pass..Hope that all is well with you and your beautiful family...Ciao
      Hugs Dottie :)

  2. Hi Dottie:)
    As lovely as that soup looks and sounds, I just can't help gravitating to those Cenci! Haven't had them in eons!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Dottie...

    1. Hi dear Louise,
      Thanks for your comment and visiting. As much as I love soups, especially ones that are very good. I love the Cenci too. Love them with powdered sugar but also with a drizzle of warm gooey honey...So yummy! Have a great rest of the week...Thanks for your note about my mom, prayers and thoughts...if it is not one thing it is another...Now I have a really bad cold on top of all of this...All I keep saying is that this shall pass...
      Hugs and love Dottie :)

  3. Love shrimp. Love creole. Love soup. You've got my number! :-) This is really good -- thanks.

    1. Dear John,
      Thanks for your comment..I think many people love soup. It is so comforting and good for you..With my cold, I have been have a lot of soup...It really hits the spot and with this one, you can add as much heat as you would like..I know that you like it spicy. Have a good rest of the week...
      Dottie :)

  4. Hi Dottie ,
    Great post as usual . I make a pot of shrimp creole for dinner Monday ... they say great minds think alike .As you know I sliced jalapenos peppers on the side ... sometime I put a little cut okra in the mix .
    Now I will try the Cenci , it looks delicious . Thanks for sharing .
    happy Valentine's day to you and your family .
    :) Nee

    1. Dear Nee,
      Thank you for taking time out and visiting..I know that you are busy. When I saw this recipe in my files the first one I thought of was you dear friend. Mardi Gras and the food there I can imagine what that was like. Have never been to New Orleans but I would think that Shrimp Creole is on the menu for sure. I know that you enjoy the heat in a meal, so this is a good one that you can add as much heat as you choose to! Yes, the Cenci is a total tradition and one that gets eaten as soon as you make them! Hope that you had a lovely Valentines Day with your family. Thanks for your prayers and thoughts for my mom! She is finally getting better, a little set-backs...but that doesn't stop her..God Bless...Hope that Aunty is doing Ok as well! Enjoy Nee...thanks for commenting..
      Hugs :) Dottie <3

  5. Dear Dottie, The shrimp creole looks wonderful.
    The cenci was something I enjoyed as a girl. My mother used to fry them and either put the powdered sugar or honey over them.
    They certainly bring back good memories and are delicious.
    I hope you are well and warm. Take good care my friend. xoxo Catherine

    1. Dear Catherine,
      Thank you so much for your comment and for visiting..I know we both are so busy. So glad that I was able to bring such a loving memeory back to you with your mom. Yes, the honey or powdered sugar on top of them are awesome..(my fav is the honey)
      I agree dear friend, this weather is crazy, one minute you are in a snowstorm and are freezing and now today it is warm but windy out. I guess you have to be ready for anything when you go outside. Have a great rest of the week...thanks..
      Hugs Dottie :)