il ricettario di famiglia

Let’s skip over the blatant fact that I haven’t posted in a while. Fail. It’s been a crazy….many months.

Moving on…

A number of years ago my Italian family decided it was time to put the many, many family recipes in one place. We couldn’t make it easy by typing up the recipes in Word and giving each family member a CD of recipes. Nope, not us. No worries, we typed up each recipe but we didn’t stop there. We created our own cookbook, complete with typed recipes, handwritten recipes, pictures, games, and humor. And, of course, love.

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Over the years, oil stains have appeared on some pages and recipes have been marked up. There may also be some wine stains in there, too. And those recipes that have been marked up? Well, we’ve done some editing along the way. Apparently our editing team had some wine during the initial go through…who can blame them? Some recipes didn’t list some (obvious) ingredients, measurements were optional for some original recipes (that may not change), and some family recipes were flat-out not included. Needless to say, it’s due for a revision.

That’s where this next journey comes in. My cousin has enlisted me, and the rest of the family, to go through and make each recipe. As it is written in the cookbook. And taking notes along the way… Our goal: a second edition. Preferably with fewer typos and more recipes.

My cousin is tracking the cooking on her blog. I’ll be (hopefully) posting what I cook + bake on here. To stay true to the recipes, they won’t be as “healthy” as I would normally make them. I will be including what I would do differently though if I were making it for myself.

So dig out your apron, dust off the pots, pans, and baking sheets, and make sure you have a grocery store nearby. A glass bottle of wine might not hurt, either.

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Greek, anyone?

Vegetarian Moussaka

Being vegetarian is usually not an issue for me, especially since I’m technically only semi-vegetarian and will (happily) eat seafood. Inevitably though, one is bound to come across a situation where a vegetarian dish may not be so easy to come by. Enter a Christmas party while I was home over the holidays. Thankfully, my mom knew this and tried to fix the situation beforehand. I say tried because our initial conversation went something like this:

Mom: “I have to think of something to make that you’ll eat for dad’s family get-together.” (They usually just do ham sandwiches. Gourmet, I know).

Me: “I’ll figure something out. I’ll just throw together a big salad for myself or something.”

Mom: “I know! I have some chicken breasts in the freezer that I’ll take out.”

Me: (blank stare) “Uhhh…”

Mom: “Oh. Yah. I’ll make the vegetarian moussaka [my co-worker] talked about the other day.”

Thank you, mom, for redeeming yourself. It’s the thought that counts. And yes, I did feel like I was in the scene of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

I bring you vegetarian moussaka. Yes, it is in the picture above. No, that’s not ground beef you see. They are Boca’s ‘veggie ground crumbles.’ I usually try to avoid the fake meats but it wasn’t that bad and I’d use them again.

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What will you need?

  • Eggplant (1)
  • Ground veggie crumbles (or something similar. or ground beef if you’re not vegetarian)
  • Diced (or crushed) tomatoes (1 can)
  • Zucchini (1)
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Allspice
  • Coriander
  • Oregano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Egg yolk
  • Parsley
  • Milk
  • Flour
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt/pepper

What you do with all of those ingredients…

  1. Start off by peeling the eggplant and slicing it (quarter- to half-inch thick slices, or so).
  2. Layer the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and top with some olive oil, a little parsley, and salt. Put them in a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, so they soften a little.DSC_0795
  3. While the eggplant slices are in the oven, start by shredding/grating the zucchini.
  4. Add olive oil and garlic (chopped, minced, however you like it) to a sauté pan (med-hi heat), followed by veggie crumbles. I added my crumbles while they were still frozen, it may help if they are thawed a little or at least broken up (and not one solid chunk).
  5. Add grated zucchini and can of diced tomatoes to veggie crumbles mix, as well as spices (a pinch of each should be fine).
    • My mom’s directions (for spices) listed the ones in the ingredient list. I used what I had on hand – cinnamon, coriander, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano. Use whatever sounds good to you.
  6. Let it all simmer/cook together for a little. Add a handful or two of chopped parsley towards the end.
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  7. By now, the eggplant should be done. Layer the eggplant slices and cover the bottom of a 13×9 glass baking dish. Or a smaller glass dish (I used a smaller one).
  8. On top of the eggplant, spread the veggie crumble mix. Topping this will be a béchamel sauce…
  9. …which you will now make. (Note: if you want a thicker layer of béchamel, use more butter/flour/milk than I list). Melt about 2 Tablespoons butter in a pan. Once melted add about 2 T flour and mix together. Mixture should not be too liquidy but not completely solid.
  10. Add about a cup of milk and stir until it begins to thicken (you do not have to stir it constantly). Once it is creamy thickness/texture, remove from heat and about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. Mix.
  11. Pour the béchamel sauce over eggplant and veggie crumbs in pan.
  12. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until it’s a nice golden brown on top.
  13. Enjoy!

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Is it really almost over?

The summer that is. It feels like I just moved to the mitten. And now I’m moving back to Tampa very soon. Overall, it’s been a good summer and I’m bummed to see it end…

I finally did get a paddleboard home and in usable condition. Round 1 of paddleboard transportation did not turn out so well…I don’t think roof racks are supposed to fly off your car, with board still attached. Le sigh cry.

Thankfully the roof rack company made good on their name and reimbursed me. Transportation of paddleboard #2 went much smoother. Possibly because I used a larger car. Or maybe because I used almost one million straps, superglue, and sat on top of the paddleboard while driving. Ok, maybe I wasn’t that crazy, but it was a very long 2 1/2 hour drive from Grand Haven. We won’t discuss how high my blood pressure was.

Needless to say, I’ve been really enjoying it. And would highly recommend the Wet Mitten Surf Shop in Grand Haven (and Traverse City) if you’re looking for one.

I also completed my first sprint triathlon. I loved it…! And promptly signed up for another one. I also completed it on a mountain bike (please kill me) and my next big purchase will be a road bike. I may, or may not have, entertained the idea of opting for a road bike instead of housing once I move back to Tampa. I’m sure I could tow a pop-up camper behind me or something – providing room for sleeping and carrying some clothes. Right?

Don’t worry, I did find a proper apartment to live at (and close to the beach to boot). My brother came with me on the ‘apartment hunting trip,’ mostly to go off-shore fishing with my cousin, but he did look at some places with me. The fishing was successful and we were all able to eat dinner. We also had a fantastic time with family – fishing and riding on the boat.

*Note: I did not play any part in the catching of that grouper. It was tasty though!

And that’s where it is…I leave in less than 10 days. It’s bittersweet. I’ve had a great time up here with family and friends and I’m really sad to see it end…but I know there’s next summer. And I know the summer fun ends in a few weeks anyways…:(

Have you figured out yet that I love the water and being near (and on) it?!