Retro Recipes and Traditional Fare

ImageI could eat spaghetti and meatballs every night of the week. Of course my laundry bill would be astronomical. There are cleaning products for removing every possible stain including wine, coffee, ink and blood, but no one has invented a product to remove spaghetti sauce stains. Not yet anyway.

This recipe came about as part of my effort to "eat down the freezer." I had a package of two Italian sausages and some ground beef on hand, but neither were really enough to make a meal. The secret to these meatballs is a combination of pork and beef and also what you use to stretch the meat, plenty of bread and milk. The bread and milk create a very tender texture. Italian sausages have lots of seasoning and fat so you really don't need to add much more in that department though some fresh herbs are nice. I do like using dehydrated toasted onion flakes. I get them from Penzey's and they are great in dishes like this where normally I would want to saute fresh onions. They have good flavor and are a real time saver.

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chocolate_cinnamon_rolls_008.jpgI'm still rolling through my office, trying to organize every inch of it, with the help of my friend, the professional organizer. We're making great progress. Tops of my desks have stayed mostly clear. My files are filling up. I'm finally seeing blank space on the shelves in my storage closet, the result of some purging.

There is much more to do before the job is done. My organizer strongly suggests I get my cookbook collection all in one place and that place should be my office. Cookbooks live on shelves in the storage closet in my office, on shelves and in a bookcase in an extra bedroom, in a pile next to my bed and a few on the ottoman in the living room. I shudder when I think of consolidating this enormous number of books into one space in my office. I fear the "organizer" will tell me to start choosing cookbooks to put in a "give-away box."

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ricottapie.jpgThe days before Easter Sunday are hellish for supermarket workers in Italian-American cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Providence. That's because every Italian woman, whether practicing Catholic or not, will be storming her local supermarket to purchase an obscene amount of eggs. (My mom used to buy between 12-15 dozen every year.) Lord help the poor dairy manager who runs out of eggs.

It's a sight to see. A gaggle of women trying to box one another one, in an effort to select the best eggs. It's the older Italian ladies who are most successful; they have honed their skills over the years. After all, they need to stockpile eggs. How else will they make  deviled eggs, braided sweet bread, sausage bread, and a host of pies?

Every Italian Easter table will have one or two savory pies, such as pizza chena (meaning "full pie"), a massive two-crusted pie filled with eggs and various Italian meats and cheeses and pastiera Neopoletana, a time-intensive pie made from ricotta cheese and soaked wheat kernels. The jewels of the Italian Easter table, however, are the sweet pies, namely custard, ricotta, and rice. Custard pie should be dense, creamy, and mile-high. Italian ricotta pie (torta di ricotta), an Italian cheesecake closely associated with Easter, is typically laced with citrus flavors but can also be made with nuts and/or chocolate.

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Casseroles make some of the most practical and delicious all-in-one meals. When you have a dish like lasagna, you really don't need sides, the lasagna takes all the attention. The thing that makes lasagna so popular is its ability to bring joy to everyone who eats it. I've never met a person who didn't like lasagna. It has to be all that cheese and sauce melted together between layers and layers of pasta. Most people would agree that lasagna is Italy's answer to comfort food. Not to mention it's practically a sanctified Italian-American specialty.

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buerreblanc1.jpgButter and white wine…already you know this is good! Literally the French term for “white butter,” a buerre blanc is a traditional sauce with simple ingredients. Quite elegant and versatile for many dishes and full of garden flavors, this beurre blanc can become a backbone for your garden living lifestyle.

Brown an onion in some olive oil. Salt and pepper for flavor and then add garlic once the onion begins to caramelize. This is the background and foundation of your sauce, for the caramelized bits of onion and garlic are the keepers of amazing flavor. The wine will deglaze the pan, releasing the browned goodness of the onion cousins. Allow the wine to come to a simmer and reduce by a third. This step, reducing the wine, intensifies the flavor of the wine, concentrating the bouquet and natural essence of the wine. Tossing in a couple bay leaves awakens the sauce and steeps their flavor in the wine reduction.

Now for the namesake - butter. Add the cubed butter in shifts, whisking the butter into the sauce and allowing it to thoroughly melt it. Once the butter has thoroughly melted into the wine, the smooth sauce can now be livened up even more with some fresh lemon juice and zest. 

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