Saturday, December 25, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the way that different cultures celebrate the event. I am of Irish/French/German/Ukrainian descent, and somehow through the mingling a lot of customs got glossed over. We left out Bourbon and Cookies for Santa, opened presents and then Mom and Dad settled in for a long winter's nap. ( They had a strange custom of doing NO shopping until Christmas Eve, nor put up the tree. They dropped me and my siblings off at Grandma's for the day, spent the day shopping, picked us up , drove out to my Uncles to exchange gifts, came home about 10 pm , put us to bed, put up the tree when we fell asleep AND wrapped all the gifts and had a room full of gifts and a decorated tree completed about 5 minutes before we woke up). Meanwhile , I was surrounded by friends in homes with rich,"exotic" traditions, and I envied them. It seems that they had a bit more to stand on in this world or something. This year when we learned that we would not be able to be with my family for Christmas , we were free to totally create our own, and I was reminded of the Sicilian custom of The Feast of the 7 Fishes, and decided to try this out.
Soaked rice Arrancini  

 * 1 cup brown rice, soaked overnight in 2 cups water and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar , then drain before cooking
2 T butter
1 small onion finely chopped
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
2 quarts of water
2 eggs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt  
Pepper to taste
2 tsp chopped parsley

Over a medium flame, heat butter in a pan.
Add the chopped onions and sauté until light golden, about 7 minutes.  Add tomato paste, and a little at a time add half of the water. After a few minutes, add the remaining water, salt, pepper and parsley.
Boil for about ½ hour, covered. Remove and reserve half of the cooking liquid. Stir the rice into the remaining boiling liquid and cook over a medium heat till done. Let cool for about 30 minutes 
Beat the eggs with the cheese and mix into the rice.Let cool on the stove, stirring occasionally. 

Forming the rice balls
Work and compact cooled rice with your hands into a mass, and if is too dry add  plain water until it is smooth and moist, but not too watery.
Wet hands with oil and shape some rice into a ball, the size of a small orange (hence the name arancine).
Make a hole with your finger and fill it with a teaspoon of the stuffing or small cube of cheese. Use half of a teaspoon if making miniatures rice balls.Add a small amount of rice to cover the hole and smooth the rice ball until round. If it is too small, add some rice.  If it is too large, remove a pinch of rice and reshape.  Repeat until it is a smooth sphere of the desired size

Frying the rice balls
3-4 lb. of sifted fine Italian breadcrumbs
3 eggs
½ glass milk
Deep fryer @ 375 degree (preferably Peanut Oil)

Place milk and eggs in a wide bowl and beat until smooth.
Place the rice balls into the egg mixture, a few at a time.
Taking one rice ball at a time, remove from egg mixture and reshape slightly, if necessary.  Then place it in the  breadcrumbs.
Squeeze the breadcrumbs into the rice ball and continue rolling it in your hands, continuously compacting the breadcrumbs and shaping the ball.
Set the breaded rice ball into a pan or dish.  Once all rice balls have been battered and breaded, move them on to the fryer.
Deep-fry until golden, and let rest on paper towels.
It is advisable to warm the rice balls in a 325 degree oven for a few minutes before serving, to allow the stuffing to get warm.

Calimari Salad

    * 1 1/2 lb cleaned squid
    * 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    * 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
    * 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    * 1 large garlic clove, minced
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    * 1 small red onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise (1 cup)
    * 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
    * 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (3/4 lb), halved or quartered if large
    * 2 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
    * 1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Rinse squid under cold running water, then lightly pat dry between paper towels. Halve tentacles lengthwise and cut bodies (including flaps, if attached) crosswise into 1/3-inch-wide rings.
Cook squid in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water , uncovered, until just opaque, 40 to 60 seconds. Drain in a colander and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. When squid is cool, drain and pat dry.
Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then stir in onion and let stand 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine squid, olives, tomatoes, celery, and parsley in a large bowl. Toss with dressing and season with salt and pepper. Let stand at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Tuna Meatballs
(Serves 4)

2 cans tuna
Olive oil
2 ounces pine nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1-3/4 cups plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Grind, mix all
Shape into meatballs about 1 -1/2 inch in diameter.
If you keep you hands moist the meatballs will be easier to form.
If the mixture is too sticky, add a little more bread crumbs.
Place the meatballs on a greased baking sheet, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet.
Add the meatballs and sauté until golden brown on all sides.
Heat the tomato sauce in a saucepan.
As the meatballs are done browning, add them to the sauce if desired or finish in 325 oven for 10 minutes

Crab Spaghetti - simply cook a pack of moc crab in marinara sauce , mix with linguini or spaghetti and top with Parmesan cheese
Okay, one family classic and three fishy fellows perhaps ?? These other two were added  because we really needed a veggie and the other just has to be at Christmas

Saut'ed Kale with bacon and dried cherries- just makes it taste good

Pannetoni - because it is simply served at holidays in Italian homes.

Results- delicious, lots of leftovers , and I am wishing that Santa will install elastic walls on my fridge !
And tomorrow we make a meal for Christmas. Who needs cookies and candy ?????