It is Secret Wednesday again.
No secret is safe with me.
I have 2 new secrets for you.
New Secret #1
I remember special times spent with my mom. This is one of them.
We baked a lot, but it did not matter what we were baking, my job was to sift the flour. Do you recall this item? Such great memories.
It looked something like this.
New Secret #2
At every meal, my uncle Louie would drink wine. He was no connoisseur, believe me. He would drink wine out of a water glass and his brand looked something like this.
This was filled with red wine, never white. The picture on the label was an old Italian guy. Uncle Louie had Sicilian taste in wine. I miss him so much.
As you probably know by now, my family was all about CHEESE, especially Parmigiano Reggiano. Back in the day, mom shopped at an Italian store on Common Street in Lawrence. There they sold huge wheels of cheese and the proprietor would cut the cheese in wedges according to customer direction.
Notice the rind surrounding the cheese. The secret is that mom would use little pieces of that rind as flavoring for her soups. Minestrone!
Speaking of Parmesan cheese, mom used it in its grated form for a couple of fun snacks for my sis and me.
- Sprinkled on freshly popped pop corn
- Sprinkled on corn on the cob (after the butter had been spread)
- Added to bread crumbs for additional flavor in meatloaf and meatballs
Now I want some popcorn…yummy.
An absolute fabulous treat I remember with nostalgia
There was a store in Lawrence, Massachusetts where they sold Italian ice. This stuff was genuine. I have never been able to find that amazing flavor in any other Italian ice. This recipe is as close as I can get. It will cost you 110 calories. If you add vodka, add 96 calories.
2 1/4 cups water, preferably spring water
1 cup lemon juice (6 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 shot vodka
- Whisk all ingredients together in bowl until sugar has dissolved. Pour mixture into 2 ice cube trays and freeze until solid, at least 3 hours and up to 5 days.
- Place a medium bowl in freezer. Pulse half of ice cutes in food processor until creamy and no large lumps remain about 18 pulses.
- Transfer mixture to chilled bowl and return to freezer. Repeat pulsing remaining ice cubes. Serve immediately.
When I was in Sicily, there were some olives freshly picked from a tree sitting in a bowl. I believe that my cousin was going to marinate and jar them.
I picked one up and popped it in my mouth….ugh big mistake. The taste was so bitter I had to extract it from my mouth. Now I know! There was a lesson learned.
By the way, I still love olives, only prepared properly.
As a child, I was very inquisitive and turned into somewhat of a kitchen detective. I really wanted to know unusual stuff.
One day, I was nosing around in our refrigerator, and I decided to check out the garlic. The cloves did not smell like garlic, and I wanted to know why.
“Ma, why does the garlic not smell?”
“Dear, you should never buy garlic that smells like garlic. It only produces the garlic aroma when it is damaged.”
Moral of the story: Smell the garlic before you buy it. If you get a garlicy aroma, put it back. Thanks Mom.
COURSE Main Course, Side Dish CUISINE Italian, Mediterranean
- 5 cups potatoes peeled and diced
- 3 peppers large
- 3 ripe tomatoes chopped
- oregano to taste
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Clean, wash, and slice all vegetables keeping them separate.
- Place them in alternate layers in an oiled baking dish, seasoning each layer with oil, salt, pepper, and oregano.
- Cook at 350 F. for about an hour.
- Remove from oven and leave to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
KEYWORDhealthy food, Italian food, Italian pie, Vegetable pie
When Dot, my mom, was cutting onions, she always did it under the stove fan. I really did not get it until I was an adult. I suppose I could have asked her, but I didn’t.
The reasoning is that the wind from the fan blows the noxious gases from the onion away, so you do not cry while cutting. Isn’t this a cool thing? No more tears, from onions anyway.🤣
When I was 10, my mom, sis, and I ventured to Sicily to visit my grandfather. (I think I told you this, but for those who did not know, I repeat.)
I DO NOT remember what we ate while visiting the relatives in Sicily. I only remember a rotting watermelon and lots of flies.
We left Sicily and proceeded to Rome where we had more cultured folks. I remembered the food so clearly. It was homemade pasta with sauce. I loved it and never have tasted such a good pasta meal since then. Authentic.
I think this speaks for itself. The food in Sicily apparently was unmemorable where the food in Rome HIT THE SPOT.
I remember this dinner as a child:
1. Sauté 2 cloves of garlic and dried basil in Extra Virgin Olive Oil until the garlic begins to turn brown.
NOTE: I just shake the basil over the pan until it looks evenly distributed (1 tbsp.)
You can mince the garlic or keep it whole. Kimmy loves to eat the cooked garlic whole. (Remember NOT to burn the garlic. If you do, start all over. The dinner will be spoiled by bitter garlic.)
2. Drain a can of sweet peas, and add it to the garlic and basil mixture. Stir until nice and warm. 2 minutes
3. Add 1/2 can of diced tomatoes, drained very well. Keep stirring. 2 minutes
4. Place the garlic mixture into a large bowl.
5. Cook some pasta according to package directions. I like angel hair, but any pasta will do.
6. After draining the pasta, add it to the garlic mixture and stir.
7. Serve with Parmesan or Romano cheese.
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Did you know that chewing fresh parsley refreshes your breath? It tastes good too. This is a natural mouth wash.
Pecorino Romano has always been our family’s choice of grated cheese. Of course, you know it is a sin if you do not grate it yourself. I think you have to do time in Purgatory…pretty sure.
I always looked forward to the ritual of grating the cheese. Of course, back then, mom used a cheese grater. This was prior to a food processor which helps me grate my cheese today. Thank God. I cannot tell you how my knuckles suffered doing it the old fashioned way.
The best part of the ritual was that mom would cut off the very tip of the cheese wedge and hand it to me. I loved the flavor and still do.
Do I still perform the ritual? Oh yes, I cut the end of the wedge for myself. It’s my own personal tradition in honor of Dot.
By the way, it is against Sicilian law to buy jarred cheese…not really, but grating it yourself is much healthier.
As a young adult, one of my “friends” told me I was getting fat. Well, I was horrified. What could I do? Back then we really did not know a lot about diet and weight loss.
I’ll bet you cannot guess how I lost the weight. I gave up pasta completely. Boom I was delightfully thin again. By the way, that “friendship” did not last. I am a Sicilian. I never forget.
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Did you know that Sicilian breakfasts are not what Americans would call conventional? One such breakfast choice is deep-fried ciambella, a soft sugary doughnut-like pastry.
I would NOT recommend these on a daily basis, however, fresh and warm on a cheat day, it would be a great treat.
I always wondered how to make Italian bread so yummy. (You know how I love the crunch factor, and this packs quite a crunch.)
I found out that the easiest Italian bread is generally a combination of white wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and a little bit of olive oil.
I’ll bet it is not that difficult and imagine the result.
When I was 10 years old, my mom took me and my sister to Sicily to visit my grandfather, her father. I remember many things, but the most memorable food event was about a watermelon.
It was so hot in Sicily that apparently gramps bought a watermelon for us to eat on the next day. When they cut into it, the watermelon had gone bad. In one day, seriously this has to be a record. The month was August, and food did not keep very well. By the way, they did not have refrigeration.
They purchased their foods every day. This happened in the late 1950’s.
I want to tell you more about my trip to Sicily when I was 10. The two choices for beverages were goat’s milk (ugh) and champagne. The thought of drinking goat’s milk from a goat I knew made me nauseous. Also, the milk was warm, fresh from the goat.
Well, I must admit I chose the champagne. I was very sleepy. Maybe that was the adults’ plan. I assume I was a pain in the a**. I will bet that must answer a lot of your questions about me.
Good Ole Dot, my mom, was quite a lady. She always tried to keep a constant eye on good health. Her idea of “going on a diet” was eating Saltine crackers and American cheese for lunch. She made two of these unusual cheese sandwiches. My how “diet” standards have changed. I wonder if she ever lost weight on the crazy diet. She always looked the same to me.
Throughout my childhood, we had a standard poodle named Deedee. Her life spanned from my childhood through my college years. It think she lived 18 years. Wow, huh?
Anyway, this is pertinent because my mom would feed D
When I was a child, my parents would take me to the Feast of three Saints in Lawrence, MA. It was all about Italy: the food, the music, and the people. The saints were Alfio, Filadelfo, and Cirino.
I remember a (not so healthy) food that I loved which was made by authentic Italian chefs. It is called crispelli.
It looked like a misshapen donut, deeply fried and coated with granulated sugar. I remember enjoying the ones with anchovy in the center. (Please don’t judge).
I guess this feast is in its 96th year. I wish someone had told me the stories of why we celebrated those three saints.
My Nana Santa, the woman after whom I was named, would ask for 3 items to be delivered to her 3rd floor apartment in Lawrence, MA. By the way, Santa means “saint” in Italian. They were:
- fresh Italian bread (from Pappy’s Bakery)
- 1 handle of Seagram’s 7
- a case of beer
The “saintly” lady lived to be 90. I guess that was her secret. To be honest, I am not sure how often these items made their way to her apartment. It could have been every week. (She was a tough old broad. Seriously.)
Some people despise the thought of oatmeal. I on the other hand love it. I use the steel-cut oats and that makes all of the difference. They have a chewy texture and a nutty flavor which is extremely different from rolled oats.
- Purchase steel-cut oats and cook them according to package directions. I do them in the microwave.
- Find yourself a significant bowl that makes you happy. I know some of you are rolling your eyes, but psychologically speaking eating out of bowls that mean something to you makes a difference. Personally, I have a golden retriever bowl that does it for me. Also, this season of year brings out my Christmas bowl.
- Dress your oatmeal with whatever you like. I use a tiny bit of light brown sugar and pecans. Sometimes a use a teaspoon of maple syrup on this too.
- Buon appetito. Sicilians do not eat oatmeal for breakfast.
Italian breakfasts are nothing like American breakfasts. Sicilians must have their STRONG black coffee with or without milk. Add a few biscuits, some fresh bread with jam (homemade of course) and you have yourself a typical Sicilian breakfast. By the way, Sicily IS part of Italy.
A few years ago, I got lost in Palermo. I declined to go on a wine tasting tour so I decided to go to a museum instead. I never found the museum, but I did see the same sights over and over. It dawned on me that I was going in a large circle.
I had no idea where I was but I kept passing an old man sitting with his dog many times. I began to cry from fear, so I stopped at a tiny outside café. Of course, the waitress spoke only Italian and I have been convicted for the murder of the Italian language. I had, however, the most wonderful piece of pastry and a cappuccino.
Suddenly, I saw a cab, and thought that it could take me back to my hotel. One minute later, I was at the hotel door. Apparently, I kept passing it on my circular journey but did not recognize it. I paid the cab driver and laughed my way to a gelato stand right across the street. Yikes.
I remember our yard had a huge tomato garden. One year, mom decided to make tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes. After many hours of drudgery, the sauce was ready.
Sorry Mom but it was awful… very acidic. Moral of the story, Cento sells marvelous San Marzano tomatoes. Purchase 3 cans of those tomatoes to make a sauce.
Have you ever tried TRIPE? Well, I have many times when I was a kid.
Tripe is the stomach lining of a cow, but back then who knew what I was eating. Mom said EAT and I said HOW MUCH.
She served it with a light sauce. It was a bit rubbery but if I remember correctly, it was tasty.
This is another weird food I ate as a young Sicilian girl. Most people eat calamari breaded and fried. Mom would serve it us with pasta and a light sauce. I really loved it until I realized there were little tentacles. I am not sure why I never noticed them before, but I haven’t eaten calamari prepared like mom did since that very day.
T bone steaks were always favorite dinner. I always got the bone because I whined until I got my way. To this day, I buy T-bone steaks amynd cut the bone away so I can grill it and eat it. I cook the rest of the steak for steak lovers. How is that for a true confession?
Beware of using regular dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher. It will bubble up and you will be in a bubbling mess. Be sure your soap is made specifically for dishwashers. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.
This is my secret or more of a confession. I detest milk. I was forced to drink it as a child because back then the rule was 3 glasses of milk each day.
Mom gave us milk in the morning to pour over our cereal. On those days, I would not pour it. I would eat the cereal dry
Some days she poured it in our cereal for us. The cereal got soggy, and I would gag.
When Mom was getting ready for work, I would either throw it away or give it to our dog DeeDee, a standard poodle. I am pretty sure Mom caught on. She started giving us eggs, toast, and orange juice.
Every New Year’s Eve Mom would serve crab meat sandwiches and champagne. She kept this tradition her whole life. Sometimes we got to join in. We drank ginger ale out of champagne glasses. I always got some sips of the champagne.