Happy Birthday – Zia

ChgoJohn:

It’s our dear Zia’s birthday and Sheila, our good friend Celi’s star pig, had a party in Zia’s honor. Do take the link to read — and see — all about it.

Buon compleanno, Bella!
Cent’anni!

Originally posted on thekitchensgarden:

One of the Fellowship has a birthday today. We call her Zia. She is the Master Memory behind her nephew’s blog From The Bartolini Kitchens.  Their food is amazing. Her nephew Chicago John gave his Aunt a most unusual Birthday present.  Feeding Sheila for the day.  Zia’s birthday day. So all day today Sheila is having a birthday party for Zia.  And she is going to get as fat as a pig.  Sheila not Zia.  I made them both a carrot cake.  But only Sheila gets to eat it. Though I am sure she would share it with Zia is asked nicely.

Happy Birthday Zia. (Zia is 90 something,  but I  am not at liberty to tell you the ‘something’ as she looks ridiculously young for her age and no-one would believe it anyway.)
11aazia-077

11aazia-130

11aazia-121

11aazia-131

pig and cake6

11aazia-144

11aazia-153

11aazia-152

11aazia-158

And because your todays are my yesterdays. Sheila posed for Zia’s photo shoot yesterday for today’s blog…

View original 54 more words

Happy Halloween!

The Kitchens Wish You All

A

SAFE & HAPPY

HALLOWEEN!

*     *     *

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

*     *     *

(Comments have been closed to allow you more time for Tricks ‘n Treats.)

*     *     *

It’s Columbus Day!

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus, Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519. (Source: Wikipedia)

*     *     *

Here in the States, today is a holiday set aside to commemorate the “discovery” of America by that navigator from Genoa, Christopher Columbus, or as we call him, Cristoforo Colombo.

Two years ago, to celebrate, I shared a musical number with you, while last year we cooked octopus. Today I’ve chosen to highlight how the Italian language is passed from generation to generation … kinda-sorta. Watch how Great Grandma teaches her Little One the intricacies of the Italian language. The only problem is that the video is far too short. I could watch these two “talk” for hours.

Have a great Columbus Day and to our good friends and neighbors to the North, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

*     *     *

*     *     *

There was Something in the Air … And Fried Chicken was on the Stove Top

Fall's First Colors - Mid-August!!!
Yes, there was something in the air, all right, and I’m not talking about leaves changing color in mid-August. Mid-August!!! You see, I had Max groomed the afternoon before we left for Michigan. Lucy would never forgive me if she had to share a car for seven hours with a dog that smelt. Early that evening, I picked up Max at the groomer’s, drove home, and parked my newly repaired car in the garage. Walking through my yard, I stopped to set the timer for the garden sprinkler, meeting Max on the porch no more than three minutes later. It’s amazing how much can happen in three teeny, tiny minutes, especially when skunks are involved.

Those whose dogs have encountered skunks will tell you that their attacks come in three forms. The first — and most foul — is the “direct hit”, where the dog gets sprayed with everything the skunk can throw at it. I had a Cairn Terrier that chased a skunk into a culvert, taking a direct hit to the mouth. His head was soaking wet, as were my shirt and arms after carrying him to a tub for the first of many baths. He was terribly ill for three days and reeked both inside and out, if you catch my drift. The second strike is the “glancing blow”, where just a little of the skunk’s spray hits the dog. Though the dog still smells awful, at least its coat isn’t sopping wet with the stuff, contaminating everything the dog rubs up against. The third — and preferred — encounter is best described as “collateral damage”. It’s when a dog comes in contact with an area that was very recently sprayed. Lucky for Lucy, Max was a victim of collateral damage, apparently having stuck his nose where it didn’t belong. His muzzle carried only faint traces of skunk and, from past experience, only if his snout were to get wet would the full effect of the skunking become noticeable. What, me worry? Like Max was somehow going to get his muzzle wet …

*     *     *

(Click to enlarge any/all photos)

*     *     *

Max’s muzzle finally dried out while in the car during our return to Chicago. Lucy was — and is — so not happy.

 My “fuming” dog and angry bird aside, I had a wonderful visit back home. Zia’s Eldest Son and my Nephew arrived on their Harleys and spent the weekend with us, making Max one very happy dog. He adores my Cousin and won’t leave his side whenever he comes to visit his Mom. He takes Max on “nature walks” that can last hours, covering terrain that I can no longer walk — at least that’s what I’ve always thought. Max is not one to talk but, this time, my Nephew, also, walked the walk and, when they returned, he talked about the walk. It’s safe to say that this is one walk unlike any I’ve experienced and if duty calls, Max is ready to serve in the Canine Corps of the Navy Seals.

With Max away for hours at a time, Zia and I had our own little vacation. I’d brought my chitarra and we made a few pounds of pasta together. In fact, I made sure that her pasta board was covered with pasta when I left for home. I, also, made gelato — over 2 gallons — for Zia and her friends. One night, I cooked us a Moroccan-inspired chicken dish and, on another, we conspired to roast a goat shoulder. That recipe will be featured in a future post, as well as on my own table. We really did enjoy it.

*     *     *

Rising Lake Levels

Adding another 6 inches of water since June, Lake Huron’s water level is about 14 inches higher than last year.

*     *     *

All facts considered, it was a great visit that ended too quickly. The weather was warm though not as warm as it should have been, a complaint heard throughout the Mid-West this year, I’m afraid. Heavy rains, too, caused flooding throughout much of South-Eastern Michigan and Lake Huron’s water level continued to rise. It hasn’t been this high in at least 15 years. For me, though, seeing leaves already turning color was a bit of a shock and I couldn’t help  but wonder what sort of Winter lies ahead. Best get the snowblower tuned up.

*     *     *

You might recall that I had scheduled our recipe for roast duck for today’s post. That was before I returned home to find that the WordPress gods were angry and once again had me in their cross-hairs. Just as was the case when I was in Italy, I no longer receive notifications of most of your posts and, again, they’re to be found in my SPAM folder — all 800+ of them. As a result, I’ve had no time to finish up the roast duck post but will have it done for next week. I guess the WP gods don’t like me being away which is most unfortunate, for I’ll be leaving again in a few weeks. The Honey Man will soon be open for business and Zia and I will be there to get our share.

As for today/s Fried Chicken recipe, I cannot think of a better recipe to post. This weekend, we in the States will be celebrating a three day weekend for the Labor Day Holiday and what picnic or yard party is complete without a platter of fried chicken? For me, the colder the chicken the better. Make it as much as a few days in advance and stick in the fridge until party time.

*     *     *

BACON!!!*     *     *

No, the above pic is correct. That’s a photo of bacon frying to start a post about fried chicken. There’s really nothing so shocking about that but my using lard with the bacon fat to fry chicken may raise a few eyebrows.

Mid-Winter, I learned of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that serves my area of Chicago. Granted, much of their Winter offerings were “imports” — there’s nothing growing in these parts — but all were organic and the quality was very good. It was nice, too, not having to hunt for Meyer lemons, kumquats, Mandarin oranges, and, later, ramps. Then, one day while browsing the website, I saw that they had fresh, organic lard. My search had ended.

You see, I’ve been looking for fresh lard for some time now. Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about the stuff you might see on your grocer’s shelf. That stuff is hydrogenated so that it will “keep” and should be avoided. Fresh lard, though not perfect, is a far healthier choice. Speaking of healthier choices, the bacon used is low-sodium and uncured, with no nitrites and nitrates used in its processing. As is the case with any fried foods, though, moderation is the key. In the past three years, I’ve fried chicken twice. Now, I’d like for you to believe that it’s because I’m so health conscious but the reality is that I hate having to deal with a pot of used grease. Shallow frying, as I did here, minimizes the amount of grease used but its disposal is still a problem. So, when I do fry chicken, I fry quite a bit, freezing future dinners in the process. And a couple pieces of fried chicken is a nice treat to enjoy during a seven hour drive. Place the frozen pieces in the car when you leave home and, by the time you’re hungry, it will be thawed but still cold — just how I like it.

*     *     *

Fried Chicken 1

*     *     *

Fried Chicken Recipe

 Ingredients

  • chicken pieces with skin and bones — I used legs and thighs
  • 1 quart (950 ml) buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce – optional
  • 4 rashes/slices bacon
  • 1 lb (2 cups or 455 g) lard 
  • 1 cup all-purpose (AP) flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl, non-reactive pot, or plastic bag. Combine buttermilk with Sriracha, if using, and pour over the chicken pieces. Cover/seal the chicken and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  2. In a large, seal-able plastic bag, combine flour, salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, marjoram, and cinnamon. Mix until well blended.
  3. In a large (cast iron) frying pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon and reserve for another use.Fresh Lard
  4. Place the lard into the pan with bacon grease, raise the heat to medium, and melt the lard. Do not allow the pan to be filled more than halfway with grease. (See Notes)
  5. Meanwhile, drain the chicken, raise the heat to med-high, and when the grease reaches a temperature of 350˚ F (177˚ C) (see Notes), place 5 or 6 pieces into the bag with the flour. Seal the bag and shake to evenly coat the chicken pieces.
  6. Shake off the excess flour and place each piece individually into the hot grease, skin-side up. Watch out for splatters and do not over-crowd. Fry for 7 minutes.
  7. Turn each piece over, lower the heat to low, cover the pan, and fry for 12 minutes.
  8. Uncover, turn each piece over, raise heat to med, and fry for another 5 to 7 minutes. Chicken is fully cooked when it reaches a temperature of 165 F (75 C). (See Notes)
  9. Place cooked chicken on a rack over a baking sheet, season with salt, and place in a pre-heated, 200˚ F (95˚ C) to keep warm while the remaining chicken is fried.
  10. Serve immediately.

*     *     *

Fried Chicken 2*     *     *

Notes

No matter what type pan you use to fry, never fill it more than halfway with grease. Higher than halfway and you’ll run the risk of the grease bubbling over once the food has been added. Serious burns and/or fire may result.

I like to fry chicken in oil at a temperature between 350˚˚ to 355˚ F (177˚ to 180˚ C). If the oil’s temperature is a little higher at the start, that’s fine. Adding the chicken to the pan will drop the temperature down to what I consider to be acceptable levels.

A chicken’s dark meat takes more time to fry than does the white meat. Here I cooked only dark meat. When frying both white and dark meat, start the dark meat pieces a couple minutes before adding the white meat pieces. When frying a large amount of chicken, I’ll fry a batch of only dark meat and another of white.

*     *     *

Now, about that reserved bacon …

BLTA bacon, lettuce, & tomato sandwich for lunch the next day.

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

Zia's Corn RelishIn this part of the country, it’s corn season and our groceries and farmers markets have bins of sweet corn for sale. Fresh corn is one of Summer’s great gifts and I take full advantage. Unfortunately, like all of Summer’s bounty, its season is far too short, leaving us corn lovers seeking the prized kernels in our grocer’s frozen foods aisle. Today’s look back is one way to enjoy Summer corn in mid-Winter without having to defrost it first. Zia has made this corn relish for years and it’s a family favorite. You can learn her recipe by clicking HERE.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Roast Duck Preview

The Once-Postponed Roast Duck

*     *     *

Homemade Garganelli Pasta

Garganelli Fatti in Casa

The draft of today’s post has been waiting a couple of years to be posted. This is, in fact, the 4th intro that I’ve written for it. Something has come up to prevent its publication every time I’ve penciled it into my schedule. This, though, is definitely its time. You see, I was “introduced” to garganelli while in Rome — twelve years ago with Zia.

Rome was the last stop of our vacanza and I found a restaurant with the same name as that of my family’s surname. Mind you, it’s not like we have the Italian version of “Smith” or “Chang” as a surname —  quite the contrary. Yet, there is a restaurant or trattoria with our name above the door in just about every city in Italy and in many major cities here, across The Pond, as well. Be that as it may, I noticed a dish of penne being delivered to a nearby table and, when the time came, mentioned to our waiter that I would like the same as my primo piatto. He politely pointed out that it was garganelli and not penne. I decided right then and there to learn how to make garganelli once I got home — and get my eyes checked. Not long after, I was back home making garganelli — but the story doesn’t end here.

Last May, upon arrival to our flat in Rome, the owner went out of her way to make us feel at home, describing in detail each of the flat’s amenities. She was especially anxious to show us the terrace. With a view of the Colosseum, the dome of St. Peter’s, and the Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument, it was easy to see why she couldn’t wait to show it to us.

*     *     *

A Flat with a VIew*     *     *

When we returned from the terrace, she presented us with her own guide-book to Rome, paying particular attention to the flat’s locale. When we got to the page with her restaurant recommendations, the first on the list was a restaurant bearing my family’s surname. I thought it a coincidence — until we arrived there later that evening. The route looked so familiar, especially a long flight of stairs along the was very much like the one that had troubled Zia a dozen years before. Any lingering doubts I may have had vanished upon entering the establishment. This was, indeed, the same restaurant in which Zia and I dined and where I “discovered” garganelli. Surely, this was a sign that I should finally publish my garganelli post as soon as I returned to WordPress.

*     *     *

Similar in shape to penne, garganelli are a tubular pasta that come from the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy. With Bologna as its capital, Emilia-Romagna is known for its hearty meat sauces. (Pasta Bolognese, anyone?) Garganelli, like penne, is particularly well-suited for such sauces and its use has spread to other areas of Italy because of that. In fact, Abruzzo, a mountainous province just south of Marche, is known for its lamb ragu and very often garganelli is the pasta of choice. Lamb not your thing? Well, go north a bit and into Tuscany. There you’ll find they make a rich veal ragu and it, too, is used to dress garganelli. Before you start googling, I can save you the keystrokes and send you to  Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide, for a veal ragu recipe that’s about as authentic as you’ll find anywhere on the web. (Greg, by the way, introduced me the movie, “Big Night“, in which garganelli is handmade in preparation for the film’s climactic feast.)

Whereas it’s quite difficult to create perfect penne by hand, garganelli is very often handmade and has a “flap” where the pasta is joined to create the tube. Just like penne rigate, garganelli traditionally have ridges on each tube’s outer surface; the better to hold on to that rich tomato sauce. Now, you can search the web and you’ll find gadgets made just for putting ridges on your garganelli, but not me. Years ago, much to the amusement of Mom & Zia, I bought a gnocchi board that is used to put ridges on gnocchi. (In my defense, I needed a few more dollars in my order to qualify for free shipping and a gnocchi board was just the ticket.) As you’ll soon see below, and I was quick to point out to Zia, putting ridges on garganelli is yet another (of two) uses for this wonderful kitchen gadget. Now, don’t fret if you haven’t this nifty little gadget taking up space in a junk drawer. You can just as easily use the back of a fork, like you would when making gnocchi, or leave them smooth, like normal penne. No matter. Don’t let the absence of a few ridges cause you to miss out on this great tasting pasta!

*     *     *

How To Make Garganelli

Begin by making a batch of Mom’s Pasta dough. That will give you 1.5 pounds (680 g) of dough. Roll the dough to a thickness of 6 or 7 on a pasta machine, where 1 is the widest setting. Pictures will tell the rest of the tale.

Note: I use a straight edge here because I could neither cut nor draw a straight line if my life depended upon doing so.

Use a straight edge to divide a dough sheet into 2 strips about 2 inches wide

*     *     *

Use the straight edge to cut the strips into 2 inch squares

*     *     *

Place a square on the gnocchi board and moisten the lower corner

*     *     *

Use the dowel, begin with top corner, and roll the square to form a tube

*     *     *

Create ridges by applying pressure while square is rolled to bottom of board

*     *     *

My garganelli have ridges, thanks to my gnocchi board!

*     *     *

A Gaggle of Garganelli

*     *     *

Just One Thing More

Some of you have requested that I post photos from my trip and I’m in the process of getting them all identified and organized. As you may well imagine, I’ve literally dozens of photos shot during my recent holiday and I intend to share some of the more memorable ones. Unfortunately, several dozen were “lost” when I tried to upload them to my iPad and the Cloud. (Ironically, I was uploading the photos to insure I wouldn’t lose them should I encounter a problem with one of my flash memory cards.) As a result, I have only a few pictures of Bologna and San Marino. Luckily, the photos of my family were spared, as they were on another flash card and I discovered the problem before I attempted to “save” them. I guess I’ll just have to go back to Italy so that I can re-shoot those pics.

*     *     *

Bologna proved to be a wonderful start for my holiday. It’s an old city and there are plenty of medieval structures still remaining. At one time, some 180 towers reached for the skies, though only about 20 remain today. Of those, the Two Towers, Due Torri, are the most famous and dominate the city’s skyline. Walking about the city, you can’t help but notice that many of its walkways are covered, with columns forming the street-side “wall”. They’re a photographer’s dream, so long as you don’t botch the memory card upload. (Sigh.)  As capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna offers the best foods of the district and, some would say, all of Italy. I certainly found no evidence to the contrary. I really enjoyed my time there and hope to return one day. I’ll be sure to stay longer, though, so that I can more fully explore the city.

*     *     *

(Click to enlarge)

*     *     *

It’s déjà vu all over again …

michigans bountyIt’s tart cherry season once again in my former home state of Michigan. Having a season of barely 3 weeks, now’s the time to head to the orchards and get your share. If you miss out, the best you’ll probably be able to do is to buy them canned or in jars. In the past, I’ve used them to bake pies and muffins, as well as to make jam. Click on each item to see its recipe.

*     *     *

Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Fried Sage PreviewFried Sage

*     *     *

 

Be It Ever So Humble …

IMG_1018As bad as that photo might be — I should know better than to try to snap a shot through my windshield while driving 70 mph — its meaning is clear. I’m back home again after a wonderful visit with my Zia in Michigan. She loved hearing about my trip and many of my photos reminded her of our Italian holiday a dozen years ago. We both laughed — as did my siblings earlier — whenever I mentioned my Zia in San Marino. She really did keep me entertained and I cannot help but smile when I think of my stay with her and my cousins. I cannot wait to get back to San Marino but, next time, I’ll stay longer.

While in Michigan, Zia and I cooked up a storm, as we always do. As luck would have it, though, only one dish, roast duck, will make it to the blog. The recipes for the rest of what we ate — from homemade sausage to pasta e fagioli to risotto — have already been posted. I really have shared quite a bit of the Bartolini cookbook.

*     *     *

Fetch!*     *     *

Though the weather was a bit cool, even for that part of Michigan, we did have one nice warm day and Max and I headed for the beach. That dog loves the water and playing fetch is a great way to burn off some of his excess energy.

Due to the severity of last Winter and the fact that all 5 of the Great Lakes were completely ice-covered, the water levels are the highest they’ve been in years. One report predicted that Lake Huron’s water level will rise at least 8 inches this year. This part of Lake Huron’s shore has a very gradual slope going into the water. You can walk 50 yards and the water isn’t even waist deep. With a slope so slight, a rise of only a few inches can really eat up the beach. The photo on the left (click to enlarge) is of the cement pier in Fall, 2012. The shoreline is about 25 feet beyond the pier’s end. (It’s interesting to note that, at one time, the water level was high enough to keep the pier top wet. At some point, each of us fell on it, slipping on its algae-covered surface.) The photo on the right is the pier’s end today, with the water’s edge just several feet beyond. Looking at the left photo again, the water now reaches up to the point where the reeds first started to grow. Inch by inch, the lake is reclaiming the beach.

*     *     *

Pier 2*     *     *

Now for some unfinished business …

In my last post, I wrote that I’d sent an email to WordPress Support because I was no longer receiving a blogging friend’s posts. While I was in Europe, they “fixed” it and I no longer received notifications for all but a few posts. Sometime while I was in Michigan, the missing notifications started appearing in my Google mail spam mailbox. I’ve no idea what WordPress could have done to get all of them treated as spam within Google Mail. Some days later, the notifications started showing up in my inbox, just as they should. In the end, I’ve got almost 1800 messages in my Google spam mailbox and some 500 in my inbox. I know I’m still missing some of you and will have to seek you out. Oh! And the blog that I first wrote to WordPress about? It’s still missing. Go figure.

See you in a few weeks.

*     *     *

 

 

 

Briefly …

Fontana 2

Bernini’s “Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi” (Fountain of the Four Rivers), with the “Obelisk of Domitian”, Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy.

Yes, I’m back! Although it was wonderful revisiting Florence and Rome with my two good friends, the highpoint of my holiday was reconnecting with my family in the Republic of San Marino. They treated me royally, making sure that I saw all the sights, including a tour of the tiny country; the medieval castle that now serves as its government’s seat; a day on the beach at Riccione on the Adriatic; and a visit to the property that was once my family’s farm. I must say that it was quite an experience walking about places that I only knew from stories told to us by Dad. It was truly remarkable.

Thank you all that followed my trip’s progress on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. Your “likes” and comments were all greatly appreciated. I’m not “back” yet, though, as I’m preparing to leave for a much-anticipated trip to visit Zia in Michigan. I hope to return to WordPress in July — if some problems can be resolved.

Prior to leaving for Italy, I notified Support that I was not receiving notifications of a blogging friend’s posts. I know this is a fairly common problem and had hoped I could pass along their resolution to any who needed it. Well, we traded a few emails, each of theirs requesting further clarification. Their final request was for a screen print, which I supplied. Aside from a “form” email asking me to rate their response, that was the last I’ve heard from them about the matter.

While I was away, the problem grew worse and now I am only receiving notifications of no more than 5 blogs that I follow. I have sent another email to Support and await their response. Since I’ll soon be in the Land that the Internet Forgot, there’s little I can do about the situation, no matter their response. I do hope this will be resolved before my planned return in July and will let you know of any progress, or lack thereof.

Thank you all for your understanding and I look forward to “seeing” you in July.

 

On the Road Again …

On the road again… Virtually speaking, at least for now.

My good friend, Judy, Savoring Today, recently underwent surgery and asked a few of us to write guest posts for her while she convalesces. How could anyone refuse? Not only is her fantastic blog filled with plenty of mouth-watering recipes, Judy is about as nice a person you’ll meet in the blogosphere. Of course I agreed to help out and scheduled a post about making garganelli at home. Well, events got in the way and, with an unexpected bounty of fresh ramps in my possession, I was suddenly creating ramps pesto and a post detailing the recipe. Being ramp season is so short, I substituted the pesto post for the garganelli. You can learn how to make this earthy pesto for yourself by heading over to Judy’s blog to read my recipe for Ramps Pesto.

 *     *     *

Ramps Pesto Preview *     *     *

One more thing. The Kitchens will remain closed for several weeks while I do a little touring. Consider this a belated 60th birthday gift to myself. You can learn a bit more of my upcoming travels over at Judy’s place.

Take care and I’ll see you soon.

*     *     *