Monday, November 29, 2010

"God I hate cooking with you!" Casatelle

How do you spell sweet fried cheesy goodness? Casatelle. Pronunciation: (cah - suh- tel - leh) Making casatelle is a BIG deal. Casatelle are little fried pasta dumplings stuffed with sweetened ricotta and chocolate bits. Nonna makes them especially special and they are among the many things that I can easily engorge on twenty too many. Rice balls is in that category for sure.
        When Melissa and I visited Sicily this summer (she is trying to forget about that trip), there were many casatelle to be consumed voraciously everywhere we turned. To be honest, I never tried one as good as Nonna's. They were all too puffy and soft. Nonna's achieves a crispy and fried sogginess that I encountered not once on our 10 day journey across the most insane island in the universe. I know that description does not sound good, but neither do many nostalgic dishes from our childhoods. Here's my motto: if it don't taste like Nonna's then it ain't good. This goes for sauce, lasagna, ziti, and pizza.
        So Melissa invited me over (always a mistake) to "help" her make casatelle as she remembered it. But I had one agenda: to make it taste like Nonna's. And this is where the little old Sicilian lady war ensued.
       Melissa and I always start out on a good foot ... sort of. I am always super overcharged excited at the idea of eating, and generally want to rush the process to satisfy my belly, whereas Melissa like to take her time and experiment and figure things out. Just get that fried sweet fried inside of my body!
        First step is a sweet pasta dough. I think Melissa got it right, but the perfectionist she is never thinks she does anything perfectly. She thinks she should have kneaded the dough longer, instead of adding more water because it got very glutenous and basically had a life of its own on the rolling board. When I tasted it, it really tasted like Nonna's and I think I proposed to her over the dough.
Next, sweeten the ricotta. Recipes call for marsala wine or orange liquor. I think a little vanilla and some orange zest do the trick.
      Then take that sweet ricotta and stuff it into the dough with chocolate bits and make little dumplings. This was very tricky and I think the point when Melissa yelled, "God I hate cooking with you!" She just can't accept that I know everything. Its a hard thing to grasp for most people. Those little f'ers were annoying and didn't want to stick together and were moving wherever they damn pleased. I was trying to get my paws in there and "help" but I was more there to just watch, she didn't really want my help or knowhow. Okay, maybe I am not a pastry chef like her, but I do have 29 years of eating casatelle under my belt which should hold a little weight, aside from on my ass.
       A few were done and it was fry time. I am ALL OVER frying. It really is a specialty of mine that I am proud of. The deep fryer and I have a sweet love affair. Melissa wanted to do them one at a time! Boring. Get those little aholes in there. The faster they get fried the faster I inhale them. No. No. No. We had to test them and figure out which way was which the way we stuffed this or rolled that. God, all I wanted to do was eat them! And this is when Melissa yelled at me and called me a child. So I was stamping my feet over the deep fryer and trying to toss in as many as I could in one batch. Childish is rather a harsh term. Desperate is probably more accurate.
So I ended up with one darn casatelle for the whole evening. But it was oh so good. I wanted them well done, really brown and soggy with olive oil, but Melissa wanted them the way she had them in Sicily, which is not the way Nonna makes them. In my opinion, starch plus cheese and chocolate deep fried is heaven no matter how long you fry it. Until we casatelle again.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

GGG Thanksgiving Potluck

Joann, my new neighbor and stalker organizes the Greenpoint Girls Group (GGG) and she had the best GGG Thanksgiving Potluck at Lauren's amazing house. Joann rocked and made the best turkey I have ever tasted. See the photo a few posts below. I don't have much to say except YUM!!! and the GGG girls are really cool peeps, so read what Joann had to say about her successful event at her blog UpDownAcross.

Read this blog instead of mine...

     On top of trying to keep up with my ninety others blogs, I am also transcribing the words of friend Pablo Airaldi, who is in Hudson Country Correctional Facility awaiting deportation. His blog is aptly named Dearly Deported. Hopefully he will come home soon to Brooklyn, and I won't have to write this blog for too long. While I have not known Pablo for very long, I can honestly say he is an intelligent, caring, interesting, passionate and talented human being, and does not deserve the treatment he is receiving from the US Federal Government.
     I met Pablo while working on the Greenpoint Open Studios. I was walking up and down Manhattan Avenue approaching local businesses for advertising donations for our booklet and walked into Pablo's bike shop, which had only been open a month. I told him about the GOS and within five minutes he handed me $100 over the handle bars of one of his custom made bikes I was riding around on in the shop. He trusted me and supported what we were doing for the art community and then put together an awesome exhibit for GOS called Bikes & Art (and whiskey...) His positive energy and enthusiasm helped make GOS a huge success for Greenpoint. Until his arrest he was working on building out the bike shop to include an art annex where local artists could rent affordable studios and he was a actively supporting a homeless shelter that was proposed to be built in the neighborhood that all the local business were firmly opposing. There is a petition to support Pablo's freedom in all the shops in GP, and ironically it is posted next to a petition against the homeless shelter.
     I visited him recently in prison (behind the bullet proof glass over the telephone, just like in the movies) and it was extremely sad to see a person with so much life and promise being held against his will as if he is some danger to society. Over a few rows down a man was singing over the telephone to the family member he was visiting. Many of the others being held for deportation are hard working family people with businesses in this country, just trying to live good lives and support their loved ones. What is wrong with that? It was good to see him, even though it was under such unfortunate circumstances. Today is Thanksgiving and I got to sit with my family and eat and laugh, while my friend Pablo sat in prison.
     Everyone looks at me suspiciously when I say my friend is in jail, as if I am some sort of moron for taking the time to be kind to such a person. What did he do? Why is he in there? Are you stupid? I don't need to justify my friendship with him and I honestly don't care what stupid thing he did to get himself into this situation. He is a good human being in trouble and I am just trying to help. If I were in such dire circumstances I hope someone would do the same for me. Please take the time to read his blog. The worst part of being in prison is he cannot communicate with his friends and family.
    Monday 11/29 at 9am, Pablo is having a Deportation and Removal Hearing at Immigration Court (201 Varick St. Room 1140). The more people who come from the community to show support, the better chance Pablo has to stay in the US, his home since he was six years old.

Thanks for time!

On this blessed turkey day, aside from food and family and friends (blah! blah! blah!) I would like to give thanks to time. Good old time. We think of time as present, past and future. Bear with me, I know this isn't a kindergarten class. And a Buddhist would say that suffering focuses on the latter two, regret over the past and worry about the future. How did those Buddhists get so damn smart? Its all about the moment baby! But a bit of reflection either backwards or forwards can be a good thing, too.
What about that simple smell that really takes you back? My brother Mike was over and was, "all bugged out" because it smelled like Grandma's house. "Jen, what is that?" It was Grandma's dining room table, the one thing I really wanted after Grandma Isabel passed. Its just the smell of old wood, but for us, it smells like our childhood afternoon lunches eating Campbell's Chicken and Stars Soup with Weiss Original Potato Chips soaking up the sodium water. What Sicilian? That is a true American meal.
And trying to get that table into my new place was a near impossible feat. The movers gave up and explained in Chinese that it wasn't going to fit. Good thing I had no idea what they were saying. My fingers nearly froze as I relentlessly tried every possible way my minuscule brain could think of to disassemble the 100 year old table and make it fit through the door. "Boy you are so stubborn, Jen," my Mom said, "Look at that thing. At this point, you're keeping it just for the sentimental value." In defense of the table, the aging on it is so superb, but I have to admit, I did almost cry (suffering) at the thought of putting it in storage not because it looks so awesome, but I wanted to have that warm Grandma's house smell with me. My tears fueled me to figure it out, and I am sitting here right now, writing this post on that very table that we had so many awesome Thanksgiving dinners together as a family at my Grandma's house. And I think my brain is maybe a little bit bigger from all that curbside problem solving in the cold.
And looking forward doesn't always have to be anxiety ridden either. A very special friend is going through a very difficult breakup right now. Her present sucks! Buddhists, what do you have to say about that? This is where looking forward really rocks. Sitting on her couch, covered in snots, puffy eyed, drinking wine that has become tasteless because of her stuffed up sniffling nose and hating her life and feeling alone is not fun. We have all been there. As my Mom would put it, "its the pits!" But thats where time can be a better friend than me. There is nothing that I can say to maker her feel better except that each day is going to get a little bit better. Thinking of a bright future can really be better than a back rub. In reality, you only have so many tears and so many snots inside. The misery does subside if not because you feel better, but because your body just can't physically handle it after a while. It just has to get better! And a few months from now, she is going to be a totally new person, super happy and better than ever. Wow, time is really super awesomely transformative. Thank you time.
So kid's what did we learn in class today? Time is cool. Buddhists are dumb smart. You can get that table in if you try. Boys are definitely dumb, at least present ones. Future boys are better. And because of time, its all good.
Happy Thanksgiving family and friends!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday Supper at Veronica People's 11/21

Dear friends,

Sorry I have been majorly sucking on Morta Di Fame. My piggy ways will bring me back very soon. I put on a BEAR SHOW for Bushwick Beta Spaces and I moved to Greenpoint! Excuses, excuses, but now that the show is over I am going into hibernation mode. Get it? For the past few weeks the entire contents of my kitchen has been in bins, but I finally built my pantry last night. I stripped all the screws and majorly gashed my hand, but the doors actually open. Closing is another story. I am trying to cook at home as much as possible, although its hard with such delicious drinks and dinners a hop and skip away. A real pleasure is the quick Saturday morning walk to the McCarren Park Farmer's Market.
I would like to invite you to an amazing dinner this coming up Sunday, 11/21 @7pm until the food is finished!
My virtual husband, Jeremy Parker, with whom I record our fucked up and ridiculous married comedy routine Carol and Jason, is curating a Sunday Dinner at Veronica People's, with great friend and mixologist Maura McThrill taking care of your cocktail needs.

For $20 you get everything on this menu! Cannot beat it! See you there!

Always hungry and becoming agoraphobic and living off of frozen red sauce in Brooklyn,