Monday, 12 August 2013

Pasta a la Sara

My love affair with pasta is well-documented.  Everyone who knows me can attest that I will choose pasta over any other dish, and if I had my way I would serve a variation of pasta every night of the week.  Funny enough, my Italian husband  and kids tire of it...

One meal that Carlo first made for me in the early days of our marriage was pasta topped with a simple sauce made from sauteed onions, chopped fresh tomatoes and a little olive oil and garlic.  It is by far the most delicious pasta I have ever had...nothing can compare to the delicate, yet rich flavour of this dish.

Every summer Carlo grows a vegetable garden in our backyard, with tomatoes, (hot) peppers, cucumbers and herbs.  Unfortunately there is not a lot of room for more - he has worked his gardening magic and landscaped it into a mini oasis - but we still look forward to the dog days of summer so we can harvest our "crop" and indulge in the fruits of his labours.

One year when we first moved in to this house, and the girls were very young, he planted a lot of tomatoes.  I had no idea what to do with all of them - mind you, Sara and I both love eating fresh tomatoes, and as a little girl Sara would munch on them like they were apples until her little cheeks would be bright red like a doll's painted-on cheeks.

So, I decided to use up these tomatoes and make Carlo's sauteed tomato and onion pasta.  The girls devoured it!  Sara especially loved it, and would ask for it time and time again.  Soon enough this dish became known as Pasta a la Sara.  

As we approach the middle of August and fresh tomatoes are readily available and inexpensive, Pasta a la Sara has re-emerged as a staple dinner, appearing on our table at least once every other week, and always quickly devoured with appreciation.  

The best part about this dish?  There are so many - it is economical, healthy, delicious and can be prepared and on your table in less than 30 minutes! Oh, and it's pareve (neither dairy nor meat) too!

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.  

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Dice your onions
Add diced onions and garlic to olive oil in large skillet
Dice your tomatoes
Add diced tomatoes to onion and garlic mixture in large skillet, saute
Keep cooking those tomatoes!
Toss and voila - pasta a la Sara!

Pasta a la Sara

  • 6 to 8 large tomatoes,cored and diced (12 if you're making a 950g bag of past
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and whole (or 1 tsp minced will work fine)
  • 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 500g package of pasta (any shape you prefer, although the sauce clings better to smaller shapes)
Put a pot of water on the stove to boil.  Heat olive oil on low-medium heat.  Make sure to use a large skillet/saucepan, because your sauce will end up in this pan.  Add diced onions and garlic and saute until translucent.  Then add tomatoes and salt, stirring occasionally.  Allow sauce to simmer for at least 15 minutes (longer if you like), then add drained pasta, toss and serve.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Sweet and Sour Miami Ribs - An Anniversary Dinner

photo courtesy of
Today we are celebrating our Chai (חי) anniversary. © Where did 18 years go?!?   It seems like just yesterday we were dancing to Horas and Tarantellas (each to the wrong music!).  This was the first inkling I had that our cultures and lives could be blended, relatively seamlessly.  No-one from either the Italian or Jewish guests noticed that they were dancing to the music of a different culture...everyone got up to dance together, laughing and celebrating. 

Mom was especially happy...the wedding she planned - which, at times proved a struggle, incorporating the many important traditions of 2 merging worlds and cultures - went off without a hitch.  I cannot stand party or event planning, and our wedding was no exception.  Carlo and I would have been happy with a destination wedding but, as the only daughter, there was no way my mother was having any of this mishigas (craziness, nonsense).  From the food, to the venue, to the ceremony, the entertainment and the cakes...she planned it all, patiently putting up with everyone else's impatience, ever the diplomat my mother was!

And, as a Bat Cohen (daughter of a Cohen, descendants of Aaron), she blessed our marriage with Cohen's blessing, and wished us a lifetime of happiness together.   I wish she were well enough to share in celebrating this milestone with us.

So, in our family's tradition, I asked Carlo what he wanted for our anniversary dinner...we settled on one of my family favourites - which everyone likes (but we rarely eat) - Miami Ribs!  Mom always made these beef short ribs for dinner, baked in a tangy sticky honey garlic sauce.  Served with plain white rice, a Baba Dora salad and green peas, this was one dish that everyone loved.  

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!

Mom's Sweet & Sour Miami Ribs

  • Miami ribs (short ribs), rinsed and patted dry (at least 4 strips per person)
  • 1 bottle VH Honey Garlic Sauce (2 if you're having lots of ribs, the sauce should cover the ribs completely)

Preheat oven to 300˚.  Placed rinsed ribs in foil-lined Pyrex dish (you can layer them on top of one another (not too many layers, though, maybe 3) and cover with VH Honey Garlic sauce.  Cover Pyrex tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours.  Remove, and serve!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Mamela's Meat Moussaka

Occasionally I fall into these annoying culinary ruts...everything in my recipe box is boring, and nothing tickles my fancy.

Mom used to have the same problem.  Back in her day, her choices were limited.  She was not computer-savvy and Facebook foodie groups were not readily available (did they even exist yet?!).  She loved watching Auntie Martha (Martha Stewart) and was a devoted subscriber to her monthly magazine.  She would also rely on me to print off recipes from Martha Stewart Living's website, which she kept in a big binder in her kitchen for easy reference.  But sometimes she wanted a change.  That's when she turned to her girlfriends for dinner ideas...Nora and Ethel are fabulous cooks with their own large arsenals of recipes...

That's how we came to discover Nora's Meat Moussaka, which we think of as Mamela's (Mom in Yiddish) Moussaka.  

Greek food has long been a favourite in our family, and my parents would often take us to the Danforth (aka Greek Town) for dinner at the Palace.  We always started with Saganaki (cheese flambe), Taramosalata (salmon roe dip) and Greek Village Salad (no lettuce, to my dismay).  Then onto main courses...while the boys restricted their dining to dairy and fish, Mom and I were the cheaters - she loved her calamari or veal chop and me...funny, I cannot remember what I would order, but it was likely the sole (my favourite fish ever).  

Come to think of it, we never tried moussaka.  I had no idea what it was...they described it as a Greek version of lasagna...but I already loved Italian lasagna and had no desire to try any other versions of it, thus it was never something I ordered.

When Mom made Nora's moussaka we were all pleasantly surprised.  It was delicious!  Bursting with flavour, and chock-full of so many ingredients, it was a meal all unto itself.  It reminded me of Shepherd's Pie, only more flavourful.  

Mom made it quite regularly, and we always devoured it.  Years later, as I was flipping through My Golden Recipes, I came across a small square piece of paper from a large pad (3 inches thick) in Mom's kitchen.  Every inch was covered in Mom's handwriting - it was entitled "MOUSSAKA - MEAT - NORA".  

I made it for my family, holding my breath as I served it - you never know which new recipe is going to get the global thumbs down and a night of heckling about my bland culinary roots - but it was a hit.  Carlo and the girls also loved this savoury version of Shepherd's pie.

The biggest "pro" with this dish is that it is a one-dish-dinner, but I don't make it too often, because it is time-consuming to prepare.  But it is perfect if you make it ahead (it will keep in the fridge for a day or two before you actually cook it) and pop it in the oven on a cold winter night.

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do.  

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Mamela's Moussaka
  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 5 tbsp salt 
  • 2 medium onions
  • ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley (or  1 tsp dried parsley)
  • ½ bunch basil (or 1 tsp dried basil)
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1½ lbs lean ground lamb 
  • 1¼ lbs lean ground veal (I just use 3 lbs of ground veal and omit the ground lamb)
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 to 3 tbsp soya sauce
  • fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • ½C olive oil
  • 3½C thick tomato sauce
  • 6 potatoes, peeled , boiled and mashed 
Eggplant: Peel eggplant and cut in ½ inch thick slices.  Soak in combination of 5 tbsp salt ice water for 1 hour.  Drain and pat dry.  Set oven to broil, and place drained eggplant slices on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  Broil eggplant until browned.  

Potatoes: peel potatoes and cut into smaller pieces.  Boil potatoes, then mash (I use Osem chicken broth to mash mine).

Meat Filling: Peel onions and chop finely.  Saute onions in vegetable oil, then add ground meat and brown.  In a separate bowl, combine the tomato paste, soya sauce, parsley,basil, salt and pepper), then add mixture to ground meat and onions.  

Preheat oven 350˚.  Lightly grease a 9 x 13 Pyrex dish.  Starting with the tomato sauce, repeat layers in the following order: sauce, eggplant, meat mixture.  When all layers are finished, top with a layer a mashed potatoes.  Place Pyrex on a foil-lined cookie sheet (because it will likely bubble over) and bake for 25 to 40 minutes.  Then broil for 5 minutes or until top is golden brown.