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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Family History and Stories

I love today's prompt for Blog City (on, so I'd like to share it on this blog today:

Family History - Rip out a page from yours and share some a story or two.

Hmmm... I have a lot of family history stories. The other night mom was showing me how to make nan's spaghetti sauce. I'm spoiled because I'll only eat homemade spaghetti and sauce (yes, I'm mostly Italian, but I'm also Irish and very picky about Irish food too as my great grandma used to make Irish food). I remember before nan died, she was showing me how to make her sauce, spaghetti and escarole soup (or Italian Wedding Soup). This was just a refresher for me. I miss nan and I miss cooking with nan. I remember when I was a small child and nan's siblings still lived locally (the lone survivor has been in Arizona since 1996...another was in Florida and then she has nieces and nephews in California, Colorado, and New York), we would all get together and make homemade gnocchi and spaghetti sauce. I always loved watching. I also loved watching nan make her pizzelles, especially the chocolate ones. Ah man, I haven't had a pizzelle since she died - it just dawned on me and I miss that. I used to love watching nan cook and the social aspects of cooking with an Italian family. Yes, when I move, I would definitely make the foods. Here is the recipe for her baccalà:

Nan’s Baccalà
In Memory of Evelyn Cavaliere (May 4, 1923- January 25, 2013)

I remember every Christmas Eve when nan would make this dish. It’s salted cod that would be served as a part of Feast of the Seven Fishes. According to Wikipedia, the "Feast of the Seven Fishes", a celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and seafood, but there may be seven, eight, or even nine specific fishes that are considered traditional. The most famous dish Southern Italians are known for is baccalà (salted cod fish). Reasons for celebrating with such a simple fish as baccalà is attributed to the greatly impoverished regions of Southern Italy. Fried smelts, calamari and other types of seafood have been incorporated into the Christmas Eve dinner over the years.

Most baccalà dishes require that the fish be soaked numerous times to remove excess saltiness. The word stems from the same root as Portuguese bacalhau, Spanish bacalao and Greek "βακαλάος", which are used in similar dishes. Despite its name, the baccalà alla vicentina, a dish native to Vicenza, is not made from salted cod, but from dried unsalted cod (stockfish) served on or next to polenta. In Rome, baccalà alla romana is a dish of deep-fried, battered salt-cod.

1. When you pick out a piece of baccalà remember that the color of the meat should be close to white and the skin light colored. Stay away from meat with a yellow hue.
2. If sold whole, try to buy a long, thick fish; if possible it should be a bit more than one-inch thick in the middle of the filet.
3. Prior to soaking, cut your baccalà into large pieces. Cutting the fish before soaking helps speed up the re-hydration process.
4. At least two days prior to cooking (but we recommend 3 days, if you have the time), begin soaking your salted baccalà in fresh water (for at least 36-48 hours). First wash the pieces thoroughly, eliminating all the salt on the surface, and then completely submerge in any container that will hold a lot of water; change the water at least three times a day (every eight hours or even more frequently). While soaking, keep the baccalà in a cool place. Refrigeration is not necessary.
5. Just before cooking, peel off the skin and eliminate any bones—a pair of small pliers will be very helpful for this.

1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
4 jumbo eggs
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 pounds prepared baccalà
Vegetable oil for frying

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs together with yeast and water. Add the flour and mix the batter with a fork by hand until it looks like the consistency of a thick pancake batter. If needed, add a couple more tablespoons of flour, one at a time. The batter should be thick enough to coat the fish.
Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 to 2 hours, or until small air bubbles form on the top of the batter.  This batter takes longer to rise than most recipes that use dry active yeast because of the addition of the eggs, which weighs the batter down.
Rinse the cod for a last time; dry it well and cut into small pieces. The batter will expand and puff up when fried, so keep the baccalà pieces small, about 3/4-inch.
In a deep frying pan filled with vegetable oil, heat oil to 375˚F.
Drop a handful at a time of baccalà pieces into the batter, allowing the excess to drip off just slightly remove them from the batter and gently drop the pieces in the oil and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Remove the fish from the oil, briefly drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with warmed marinara sauce, lemon wedges, or cocktail sauce.

I also remember Daniel. Daniel was one of the exchange students from Slovakia. I remember watching hockey (GO RANGERS... sorry Norb... I used to be a Rangers fan as a kid), cartoons and eating liver and onions. But, I remember vividly of going to Starbucks and a local donut shop every Saturday from when I was 6 until he moved to California when I was 10. As soon as we got back to nan's house, nan would add a lot of sugar to the coffee and then we'd scarf down the coffee and donuts, then watch cartoons. Yeah, those memories are the best because we'd ride around in nan's old Buick Somerset and get the things. I also remember when he had a Volkswagen Jetta and I loved it (Beetles were always my favorite cars).


  1. You look good in a jersey. I sometimes make homemade spaghetti sauce. I like it. Don't like jar sauce. Blech...

    1. Thank you! I should post ones of me in my Packers jerseys (I need to buy a Clay Matthews one again). :D Yeah, I don't like jar sauce either.

  2. Thanks for sharing these memories.

    1. I love writing about them. :) I wrote an ABC autobiography in 2004 for a class project... I was thinking of updating it!

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