Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lioni Latticini’s Bocconcini Wrapped with Proscuitto

Sometimes it seems disappointing that the hunt for most Italian products is over, now that most things are not only imported, but also made by American manufacturers.

On the other hand, how lovely!

My mother recently bought fresh mozzarella from Lioni Latticini’s and followed their online recipe for Bocconcini Wrapped with Proscuitto. It is a little risky to cook mozzarella, for both the final product and the person who has to clean the pan, but on a low enough heat, these little mozzarella balls warmed up nicely and the prosciutto did, too. With some fresh sage and olive oil, it is a quick and delicious appetizer. The salt in the prosciutto is a lovely addition to the unsalted mozzarella.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Guest Blog Post: The Turkey That Almost Lived

I am excited to share Alexandra Parsa’s story about her Italian nonna and her family. She wrote this piece in response to a blog writing assignment for a writing class that I taught at George Mason University last semester.  I hope you'll share your responses below in the Comments section.

Alexandra Parsa is a nineteen-year-old sophomore attending George Mason University.  She is planning to graduate with a major in Economics in 2013.  Born and raised in New York, she has always loved creative writing and was published in a book of poetry at the age of eleven.  Alexandra plans to continue her love of writing after her college experience. 

Thanks again, Alexandra, for sharing your story.  

The Turkey That Almost Lived
Before my grandmother passed away, she was the appointed chef of each and every holiday, surprisingly even for Thanksgiving. She was not exactly fresh-off-the boat but she sure as hell didn’t speak very many words of English. Her home was Italy. She grew up in an area where having a few chickens and bunnies in the back yard was the norm and fruit trees blossomed for your mouth only.
One year, my older sister and her friend got a hold of a turkey that they would decide to be their new pet – if you ask me how this happened I don’t know because I don’t want to know. I mean let’s think about it, my what- may- have- been eleven-year-old sister and her friend looking after a stinky, smelly, feathered friend could not have ended well. Sometimes, my parents even let the turkey flap around the house once in a while to please my sister. Since our extended family didn’t mind all that much, my sister felt no need to watch over this prized turkey, but my grandmother definitely did. She grew up knowing that a farm animal was meant to be eaten, not a pet. Thanksgiving has been – in a sense – redefined to suit my family.  While holding onto that old fashioned way of living in Italy and still following the traditions of American history, my stern grandmother would not only show my sister, but also the whole family exactly who was boss in the kitchen. 
I was too young to understand much of what was going on; however, I did pick up on the row of spices my grandmother began to lay out on the kitchen counter. There she goes - one after one - with an array of salt, pepper, oregano, and countless more. I questioned her in Italian, the only language that would suit her best and said, “Nonna, what is all that for?” She responded, “Carina, we are going to eat tonight.”
Oh, I knew that if she was around we were going to eat all right.  It was not even a question that every time we got together as a family there would be something resembling a mob scene behind her.  When she called that dinner was ready the closest person to her was automatically chosen to sit next to Nonna at the dinner table, thus the mob scene.  This also automatically meant that they were closer to her arm, which was constantly shoveling food into her neighbors’ plate.  You take one bite and she drops more food into your plate.  No one wanted to sit next to Nonna.
The one thing that I never minded her shoveling into my plate was the zeppole.  This is an Italian version of the American funnel cake, only better.  There were no loops or swirls with this dessert, but frying is a definite.  A particular dough would be balled up and dropped into a pot of boiling oil then thrown into a bowl filled with powdered sugar.  Having a sweet tooth, I would always keep the shaker filled with powdered sugar right next to my plate.  Warning: Get ‘em while they’re hot or I will eat them all. 
*BANG* I heard a metal tray slammed onto the kitchen counter. I saw my grandmother slowly placing fresh-peeled potatoes draped in olive oil along the inner boarders of the tray. It seemed as though my Nonna had finished preparing everything she needed to cook dinner for the night - that is until I saw her lugging something too large for her own good from the basement. I saw a round yet boney thing poking out from underneath her arms. Grandma’s at it again! I asked myself, “What is she up to now?”
The next thing I know I see little brown feathers blowing off of her apron and my sister running from outside to the kitchen screaming about something I could care less about. It turns out that my sister had a perfect view of the kitchen from the yard.  Nonna was good at a lot of things, but the least she could have done was close the curtains or block the window! I’m happy she didn’t. As naughty as it seems, I enjoyed seeing my sister panic over her prized feathered-friend.  If she didn’t want to play with me then she can suffer the extreme consequences. Well, maybe not extreme but it was amusing to see her get so worked up about a damn bird. 
            Here it goes.  I can tell this was barely the calm before the storm.  Sometimes, I’d like to think of my family almost resembling the Sopranos; that is everything except their whole Mafioso-type personalities.  My uncle, a six-foot brawny bald man, comes storming into the kitchen with a jug of homemade wine in hand and an angry look on his face.  His next comment is “Eh! What’s-a goin’ on in here?”  My sister is standing beside my grandmother who is still firmly gripping the turkey, as if it’s going to squirm out of her arms at any moment.  It doesn’t end there.
            *Thump, Thump, Thump*  Are the troops coming home or is that my family coming down the stairs to tend to the ruckus below their feet?  Seriously, you would never have been able to tell the difference.  Even so, the “troops” still had a line-up once they arrived to their destination.  In order there was: my mother with her wet hands dripping water onto the floor from getting the dishes ready for the ten course meal, my cousin holding a jar of Nutella and chocolate spread from ear to ear, my poor dad who suffered from marrying into the family, and my aunt who’s hair was always sticking upright looking as though her finger just unplugged from an electrical socket.  This is the baggage I ever so lovingly carry with me since the day I was born.  Nonetheless, my grandmother glanced at each one of them with an expressionless face.  She could do no harm, the woman came from Italy to put some food on the table and so she did!
             My grandmother took the tray toppling over with vegetables galore and a slimy turkey lying on its stomach and placed it into the hot oven.  No one said a thing.  My sister – as hopeless as she was – held her tears back while as her feathered friend met his deathly match too soon.  All the while, all I could think of was how my sister got taught a lesson, which was for not playing with me and eating what she was supposed to. 
            It is later on as I reached adulthood when I understood how this tale of tales exactly happened.  My grandmother – apparently the appointed chef and leader of all things – sets the rules for every standing occasion, Italian or not.  It may not be a traditional way of living, but I never said my family was traditional.  This hectic, “off-the-boat”, seriously concerned with food family has traumatized me with turkey for the rest of eternity.  Regardless, the famed turkey of the evening was seemingly cooked to perfection.  I say seemingly because no one actually ate the turkey out of guilt.  The poor turkey served an unwanted termination.  My sister of twenty-six years old can still recall how this event played out and her loss of appetite as well as everybody else’s.  My tiny grandmother has made a huge impression on my family and one day I hope to have the same guts to kill, de-claw, and pluck a turkey of my own.