By Cheryl Radkiewicz
March has not only been considered the “pathway” to Spring in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but also celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, which in our area is hailed as probably the biggest “holiday” of the year.
Two days after St. Patrick’s Day is St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. St. Joseph has been honored as the patron saint of the family in the Catholic Church. In Italy, the feast of San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph) was once a national holiday.
We know the foods for St. Patrick’s Day include corned beef, ham, cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread, Irish coffee, alcoholic libations, etc., but are you aware of the special foods which celebrate St. Joseph’s Day?
This month we’re talking about St. Joseph’s Day and the special foods Italians prepare to celebrate the event. We move from “wearin’ of the green” on March 17 to wearing purple or red on March 19, and the foods change drastically. First, the St. Joseph meal does not include meat. Fish and pasta are staples of the feast. Because our area is so rich in Italian heritage, we’re looking at some of the traditional dishes served during the feast.
Vegetarian Tortellini Soup:
2 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped spinach
1-16 oz. can navy beans, drained and rinsed
2-14 oz. cans vegetable broth
1-15 oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained, and chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, cut into quarters
8 oz. cheese tortellini
Grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, pepper, seasoning and garlic. Saute’ 5 minutes. Add spinach, broth, tomatoes and artichokes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add tortellini and simmer until tortellini are tender, usually 8-10 minutes. Serve in bowls and sprinkle each with grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.
Spaghetti with Anchovies and Breadcrumbs:
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 lb. spaghetti
1/2 cup olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup toasted fresh breadcrumbs
Finely chop 6 anchovy fillets. Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and finely chopped anchovies. Cook, stirring until anchovies dissolve. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in parsley. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain pasta.
Add pasta to the skillet with the anchovy sauce. Toss until the spaghetti strands are well coated. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture seems too dry. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the toasted bread crumbs.
Add remaining crumbs to the skillet and toss the pasta again. Transfer pasta to individual serving bowls. Top each with a sprinkling of the reserved bread crumbs.
Toasted Fresh Breadcrumbs:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
In a skillet warm olive oil in 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add fresh breadcrumbs and stir to coat with oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until crumbs are golden brown and crunchy, about 5 minutes.
NOTE: You can also make these breadcrumbs in the oven by preheating oven to 350 degrees, combining crumbs with olive oil, spreading crumbs on a baking sheet and baking about 8 minutes, stirring a few times, until golden and crisp.
1 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 ribs fresh fennel, including leaves (finocchi)
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 cup celery
3 cans water
3 cans chick peas, drained and rinsed
Saute’ garlic in olive oil. Do not burn. Discard garlic. Saute’ chopped celery and fennel. Add ceci beans and 1 can of water per can of chick peas. Add paprika. Simmer for 20 minutes. Pour sauce over cooked pasta.
Artichokes Stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Olives, Parmesan, Capers and Herbs:
4 large artichokes
1 cup dried bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. finely chopped black olives
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. chopped capers
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
Extra Parmesan for topping
Trim artichokes, removing only tough bottom leaves and snipping the ends of the others. Leave artichokes in lemon water while preparing stuffing.
For stuffing: Process a few slices of leftover Italian bread in food processor. Place on microwave-safe plate the heat on high at 1 minute intervals. Stir crumbs occasionally. Remove when they are dry and crisp.
In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, olive, Parmesan, garlic, herbs, capers, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add 4-6 Tbsp. olive oil gradually, stirring until combined and moistened. Spoon stuffing into center of the artichokes until filled to the top. Place artichokes in a baking dish. Add enough water to dish to cover bottom halves of the artichokes. Cover dish with foil and bake at 375 degrees and bake 1 hour. Artichokes are fully cooked when you can easily pull out a leaf. Remove from oven and increase heat to broil. Remove foil and top each artichoke with a teaspoon of Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler until topping is browned, about 2 minutes. Spoon a little of the juice from the baking dish over each. Serve whole or cut in half vertically. Serves 4.
Joseph’s Day Cake:
2 lbs. flour
1 cup raisins
1 pkg. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Dash of salt
Soak raisins in warm water and set aside. Dissolve yeast and wait for foaming. Combine all ingredients in large bowl and stir. Put cooking oil in skillet and heat over medium heat to fry the batter…make as you would pancakes, dropping into pan and turning over when edges brown. Remove from pan when done and sprinkle with sugar. These can be eaten hot or cold.
I recently visited Termini’s Bakery in Philadelphia, one of my favorite stops in the city. I asked them for their “St. Joseph’s,” however, they informed me they only make them in March. This is one of my favorite pastries:
Zeppole Di San Giuseppe:
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In medium saucepan, combine water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. With wooden spoon, beat in flour all at once. Return to low heat. Continue beating until mixture forms a ball and leaves side of pan. Remove from heat.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating hard after each addition until smooth. Continue beating until dough is satiny and breaks in strands. Allow mixture to cool. Transfer dough to pastry bag with large star tip.
For each pastry, pipe a 2 1/2″ spiral with a raised outer wall on the baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before filling.
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 Tbsp. dark rum
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped
Maraschino cherries, for serving
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Combine sugar and cornstarch in saucepan. In bowl, whisk together milk and egg yolks. Whisk milk mixture into sugar mixture. Place saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly. Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat.
Stir in rum, orange zest and vanilla. Transfer pastry cream to a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface so it doesn’t form a skin. Allow to cool 30 minutes then refrigerate until cold. Fold in whipped cream.
To assemble: Cut pastries in half horizontally. Transfer filling mixture to a pastry bag with star tip. Pipe some of the filling onto the cut side of the bottom half of each pastry. Place top half of the pastry on the filling.
Pipe a small amount of the filling into the hold in the center of each pastry. Place a maraschino cherry in the middle. Dust pastries with confectioners’ sugar. Makes 12 zeppoles.