St. Joseph’s Day

St. Joseph's Day (March 19) always enthralls me because of the elaborate "tables" that Italian women created in honor of Saint Joseph. In many ways, these "tables" remind me of Mexican Day of the Dead altars. Here's a link that takes you to a site with first-person accounts of the feast-day celebration and customs.

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Italy in Provence

Memories of Provençal food continuously whisper to me. And reflection forces me to draw the logical conclusion that the food of Piemonte, Liguria, and Provence share the same grandparents. Or even the same parents. Countless, interminable wars guaranteed both the emigration and immigration of people (and food) over the centuries. Walking cookbooks, I call those…

Carnevale Goeth: A Dip into Austerity and Cucina di Magro

"Thin" kitchen, that's what the "magro" part means here. No, not a galley kitchen. Not a New York loft kitchen. Not even a Paris apartment kitchen. Skinny food. That's cucina di magro. Vegetables. Legumes. Fish. Fruit. Shellfish. The bones of the Mediterranean diet. No meat, at least none that walks around on four legs. Or…

Carnevale Cometh: Ricotta and Fritters, Oh My!

Fritters and Carnevale, lumped together like ham and eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy, risi e bisi, rice and beans. Ricotta fritters, to be exact. True, most people associate ricotta fritters more with St. Joseph's Day, March 19 in Italy. But those fritters lean toward the filled variety, sweetened, creamy ricotta delivering a tantalizing surprise with…

Carnevale Cometh: Calzone

What of calzone? And its cousin panzerotti? As cousins will often do, both look alike, except for size. And both end up seated at the communal table for celebrations like Carnevale. Calzone comes from a Latin word, calceus, meaning shoe, and may have been in used in everyday speech beginning around 1170. Today, the accepted…

Carnevale Cometh: Cenci By Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet …

Hereupon, a whole host of absurd figures surrounded him, pretending to sympathize in his mishap. Clowns and party-colored harlequins; orang-outangs; bear-headed, bull-headed, and dog-headed individuals; faces that would have been human, but for their enormous noses; one terrific creature, with a visage right in the centre of his breast; and all other imaginable kinds of…

Carnivale Cometh: Lasagne di Carnevale

And now for the food of Carnival, as interpreted by cooks in what is now Italy. (See previous post on Carnival for more history.) Greasy, fatty, protein-rich, oozing with cheese or sugar, the dishes created for Martedi Grasso (Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday) served a higher purpose than merely feeding hungry stomachs: the severe Lenten proscriptions…

Carnevale Cometh

Soon the streets of Venice will overflow with a flood --- not of water, as usual --- but of tourists and food. For soon the rituals of Carnevale, or Mardi Gras (also called Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday ) will once more surge into popular culture. The official date of Mardi Gras in 2009 falls…

Cracking the Crock-Pot Code: One-Pot Meals

On a deeper level it [cucina povera] reflects a necessary philosophy that is common in all cultures: making do with what you've got to transform humble ingredients into dishes that are more than the sum of their parts. (Faith Hopler, "The Kitchen") No wonder I've been dreaming of Le Creuset Dutch Ovens lately. With the…

Puglia: A Culinary Memoir

Santa Claus flat out forgot me this year. I knew instantly that the jolly old elf  passed me by when I scrounged around in my Christmas stocking. No lump of coal. But no copy of Maria Pignatelli Ferrante's Puglia: A Culinary Memoir either. And this prize of a book  didn't even make it into the…

Prosecco Mi Amore

Like Rodney Dangerfield, makers of Prosecco want more respect. If you respect Prosecco, take a little journey over to "Italian Makers of Prosecco Seek Recognition," in the December 26, 2008 issue of The New York Times. So what seems to be the problem? Because prosecco is the name of a grape, like chardonnay or cabernet,…

Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Festa dei Sette Pesci)

If you like comic books, graphic novels, and cartoons, you'll love Feast of the Seven Fishes: The Collected Comic Strip & Italian Holiday Cookbook. Let the author himself tell you what the book's all about: "All I wanted to do was write a little romantic comedy about my family cooking fish on Christmas Eve. Little…

Cooking Italian Food — Rooted in the Past

Note: For further reading on cooking, spirituality, and religion, check out my work-in-progress "Food, Spirituality, and Religion Bibliography," which right now tends to lean a bit more toward Christianity, but will eventually reflect more in-depth aspects of other religious traditions. I find the first-hand experience of cooking delicious Italian food to be one of my…

THE FUNGUS AMONG US

Mushrooms are not really food, but are relished to bully the stomach into further eating. ~~Seneca, Stoic Roman Statesman Toadstools, devil's work, fairies' rings, mysterious, deadly, the deeply superstitious people of medieval Europe applied all these monikers to mushrooms. Fungi they are, botanically. Everyone's culinary favorite, they are not. Their names invite punsters to unite:…

Pizza

Bet you thought that "pizza" as we know it just magically appeared in the United States one day. Or maybe that Americans invented pizza, not the Neapolitans. Nope. (Though in a way, Americans DID invent pizza, but we'll leave that controversial subject for another conversation.) Now, for the $64,000 question, "How in the world did…

Making Pizza Dough FAQs: A Slice of Pizza and History

Frances: Have you ever made a pizza? Claire: ... I suppose if I put my mind to it, yes, I could make one. ... Frances: What would make you feel uncertain abut making one? After all, you say you've made bread before and and you've made things similar to tomato sauce. Claire: The toppings perhaps,…

White Beans with Cream, Prosciutto, and Parmesan

Autumn teases you, you know, with its chilly mid-September mornings, urging you to dream of sitting outside on cool evenings, wrapped lightly in woolen shawls, a bowl of hot bean soup nestled in your hands, a glass of Pinot Grigio resting on the small table next to you. Dreaming of a stone cottage in Italy's…

Olive Sauce

Add Olive Sauce to ragu or marinara for a different layer of flavor. Use on crostini or bruschetta. Roast beef, pork, and chicken taste extra special with a dollop of Olive Sauce on the side. Black Olive Tapenade Makes 2 cups ¾ cup oil-cured black olives 6 canned flat anchovy fillets 2 T. shredded fresh…