Apparently in this photo are most of my mother's 15, yes, fifteen aunts and uncles. And I thought she came from a big family with 3 sisters and 4 brothers. This photo came to my sister recently from a cousin of ours who lives in California. My mother, who is almost 92, had a hard time remembering all the names, but my sister is going to dig a little further to get some more info. So, I was thinking about family today, and that got me thinking about family recipes.
Although my mother was a great cook, and I learned a lot from her regarding how to shop for the best produce, how to pick ripe berries, and peas and beans from our garden, and how to pickle and preserve, she never really did teach me that many specific recipes. But there is one recipe that she still helps my sister with these days when she goes over for her Sunday visits: Miscotti. I don't even know if I'm spelling that right, I couldn't find anything like it on Google…except for an Italian dessert wine and a sweet biscuit from Abruzzo. Her miscotti are rolls made from a yeasted dough, with oil-cured black olives and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. They look like this:
I don't have a recipe but I have seen her make them enough times to figure it out. I made a pizza dough in my bread machine…had to use part whole-wheat flour because I ran out of all-purpose. Rolled out the dough into a large rectangle. Brushed it with olive oil. Dotted it with cut-up olives, sprinkled on the grated cheese. Rolled it up like a jelly roll, then cut them into individual rolls. Put them in a greased pan, let them rise for 1/2 an hour, brushed the tops with olive oil, sprinkled on a little coarse salt, then baked them at 400F for a half hour. Perfect!
I talked to my mom briefly on the phone today but she had problems hearing me, so I couldn't tell her about my efforts. She had a stroke almost 12 years ago now…it robbed her of the use of her left hand and leg, so when my sister brings her over from the nursing home, she sits in the kitchen with a cup of tea, maybe a shot of whisky(!) and cuts up the olives and puts them on the dough…and that's the picture I had in my mind when I was talking to her today…made me happy to carry on one of her traditional foods.
With the miscotti I barbecued a Cowichan Bay Farm chicken I had cut up and marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and smoked sweet paprika. I find it hard to eat any other kind of chicken these days, as these really have superior flavour. I paid $14 for this chicken, and I will make at least six meals out of it, plus stock for soups, sauces, etc.
Better than the $35 chicken I read about in the New York Times Magazine today.
To round out the meal, a big fat Greek salad. Cucumbers, tomatoes and fresh basil from the hothouse down the road.
This is where the 5-mile diet broke down….the feta was Canadian, but not local. (there is some available at times) And I used Greek Calamata olives and lemons from California, but hey, I definitely reduced my carbon footprint with the majority of my ingredients.
As I head off to bed tonight I am reading a history of Italian food…and thinking about all those people in the picture that were born in Sicily, left for 'a better world' in Canada, and left many of their recipes behind. One day I'm going to go back there and find those recipes. Stay tuned.