ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sicily, Leftovers, and Chicken Cakes

After my last post where I talked about my childhood memories (which my children were AMAZED I could even remember- they've all been grounded!), my youngest son commented that he was growing up a "Southerner".  I had to laugh as ANYONE I meet even after 4 years here in NC asks me what part of New York I'm from. 

I don't think I have an accent

I do NOT sound like Fran Drescher

Not much anyway

Anyway, it occured to me that I am part Southern- my father's family is as Sicilian as they come. I always felt I grew up with the best of both Italian worlds having a Sicilian and a Northern Italian set of grandparents.

This is Sicily. The little dot that says Vizzini is where my grandparents emigrated from.

These are my grandparents. Aren't they CUTE!! My grandma was all of 4'9" tall, so that bouquet was probably half her size

   My grandparents were married at a time when it was unheard of to live together before marriage- or to divorce after marriage. As the story goes, my grandma was so innocent when she got married that she refused to allow my grandfather to take her on a honeymoon to Atlantic City. She was afraid he would see someone he liked better and leave her there with no way to get home. 
    I always thought this story was hysterical. All my life I was fully aware that Grandma was a true matriarch- she not only ruled our roost but took responsibility for anyone that could vaguely be considered family or a "cumare". I could never imagine her being afraid of anything!! She worked her whole life as a seamstress-Grandpa was a tailor. In her house, you could eat off the floor. I don't ever remember seeing a water spot on a faucet. She cooked all meals and raised 3 boys of which my Dad was the youngest. He was also, apparently, quite a handful. My grandma was determined that he was going to grow up to be an upstanding, hard-working man. So when he was 12 she sent him off to a military boarding school. She worked many extra hours to pay for it, but in her mind it was worth every penny. Her boys were NOT going to be ruffians running the streets of Brooklyn

         My last memory of her was at age 84 the day before she had a massive heart attack and was hospitalized. Her 3 boys had gotten together and decided to hire her a housekeeper to help her as she refused to leave her large home. Olive was a Jamaican wonder- about 6'2" tall, built like a linebacker and with a smile 2 feet wide. She and Grandma made quite a pair. Grandma would try to teach her the secrets to soft, perfectly seasoned meatballs and Olive would make her killer key lime pie. Then they would sit together for afternoon coffee and share some of the Vienna Fingers that Gran ALWAYS kept in her oven as treats for us kids
    That day I walked into her house to find that Grandma had decided it was time to take down the heavy winter draperies and put up the summer silks. There stood Olive with her arms extended as my 84 year old grandma stood on the top step of the ladder removing the HEAVY draperies. NOBODY could do it as well as she could. 

And she was probably right

This is Sicily as seen from Taormina

The area where my family originated was Catania. Another google search: 
On Sicily’s east coast, Catania has been the prize of a stream of empires over the centuries, from Greeks to Romans to Arabs to Normans to Spaniards, to name just a few. But more devastating than invaders has been the city’s geography: It lies at the foot of Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano, which completely destroyed the town with earthquakes and lava flows in 1693. Afterward, it was rebuilt in the baroque style (with creative use of lava) for which it’s today famous.
I REALLY love the internet

Now, I know that when most people think of Sicily, the first thing that comes to mind is "the Mafia". I know for a fact that no one in my family was involved with the Mafia because I never saw a house like Carmela and Tony Soprano's till I saw it on TV

Though Uncle Tony always did send chills down my spine

I think it was his habit of pinching both cheeks till you were gasping for air.

This is the town of Vizzini 
As per a Google search: Vizzini is a Roman city mentioned by Pliny and Cicero. The modern town developed in the Middle Ages around a castle (not existing at this time). Numerous buildings are historically and artistically interesting.
I love the internet

This picture hangs in a grouping of old family pictures in our guest room
My grandparents are on the far right with the 3 boys. The adorable little blond is my father. I'm quite sure that's the last time he ever wore a sailor suit
My Uncle Frank is the one wearing knickers-could you die?!

The streets of Vizzini

This is my husband's favorite picture of my family. Anyone seeing this would have a hard time believing we weren't related to the Sopranos. 
This picture was taken at Kennedy Airport in New York. My Aunt Tessie (she's in front with the fur over her arm) and Uncle John were going to visit Italy. The entourage was the family that HAD to go to the airport to see them off. We always did things in a big way. 
On the far right is my father carrying my little brother- the little lady in the center with the big smile was my Grandma. I wasn't in the picture

I was probably shopping the duty-free shop

My mother trained me well

I'd love to build a cottage right here

My Grandma Josie was a hard working, loving, strong woman. She emigrated to the United States as a young girl and survived the Great Depression while raising her family. She NEVER forgot her country, her heritage, her traditions or her family.

She never wasted even a crumb. 

Any and all leftovers were put to use and always in a new and delicious way. 
This recipe is my take on Grandma's use of leftover meat. I've lightened it a bit, tried to make it a bit healthier and kept the original ideas and flavors intact

Grandma would have served these over pasta with a hearty sauce. They might have been made with diced beef, pork or chicken. I'm serving them here over mixed greens with a tomato relish-you could also use a roasted pepper coulis


Grandma Josie's Chicken (or meat) Cakes

1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pesto
2 teaspoon coarse mustard 
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs (seasoned with parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning)
3 cups finely chopped or shredded cooked chicken
1/3 cup chopped, roasted red peppers
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1/2 cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs (seasoned)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pkg. torn mixed greens
your favorite Italian dressing
Tomato Relish;
1 cup seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
3 Tablespoons drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons salad dressing
1 1/2 teaspoon basil pesto
Combine first 8 ingredients and shape into 8 3/4 inch patties. Lightly coat patties in bread crumbs. Fry in hot oil till golden. Serve on mixed greens tossed with dressing. Top with tomato relish.

We've "met" so many wonderful new friends in Blogland. I'd like to introduce you to a lovely group of ladies who started blogging as a family. They are doing their very first giveaway for Valentine's Day and would love to have you visit. Their blog is Peanut Butter Etoufee and they are so sweet! Have fun and good luck!

And probably the giveaway of all giveaways will be at Designs by Gollum
Michael is celebrating so many special events and, as she always does, is going over the top! Head on over and prepare to drool! The link is on my sidebar. 

As Always,

Buon Alimento, Buon Amici

Pattie and Allie


  1. Hi and what a wonderful post! I loved seeing your grandparents and your family pictures! Wasn't your Daddy a little darling? Your little grandma sounds like a wonderful little lady and what a beautiful part of Italy! I've been to Rome, Florence and Pompey and surroundings but never to Sicily. We have some friends from Sicily and their name is Gambino! :)
    Thank you for popping in to see me and that dish looks so good!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  2. Sounds good P!
    How wonderful to have all those old pics!
    Once a NYer always one..:)

  3. Very interesting post..My friend is going to Sicily in October..It's fun to have gotten this personal preview.
    The chicken looks great I like COOKED chicken in recipes like this~

  4. PS - your grandmother sounds like a real firecracker! I love it.

  5. Oops, somehow my first comment didn't go through.

    So many similarities - I'm Italian/Irish, born in NY, Grandfather emigrated frim Italy, etc, etc, etc.

    I'm sorry to say I'm fresh out of pesto or I'd head into the kitchen to make these chicken cakes right away. I'll save the recipe for next time though!


  6. It is so nice to get to know you and your wonderful family. Your posts are always filled with history and pictures and great food. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  7. ciao!!! che bel piatto invitante!!bellissime le foto della tua famiglia!! ciao!

  8. Hi Pattie!

    As usual, this recipe sound awesome! I have never even thought to make a chicken patty like this. I can't wait to try it!

  9. What a treasure of old photographs you have. Keep them safe! I do genealogy and I have all our family photos and guard them with my life!

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