Lenten recipes offered in new cookbook (March 16, 2011)

Father Alphonse J. Stephenson and his cousin, Antoinette Scillieri like to say that all good ideas are born in the kitchen.

That’s where the idea for their new cook book – “Le Canzoni Della Cucina” – first took wing.

Father Stephenson and Scillieri, are sharing recipes from the book with a Lenten flavor with Monitor readers.

During a recent interview in her well appointed Toms River kitchen, they explained how the notion of a book surfaced just after Father Stephenson celebrated morning Mass for the family.

As the group relaxed over a menu – which judging from the spread Scillieri put out for this interview might have included – frittata, crusty home made Italian bread, fresh fruit and steaming mugs of coffee, Father Stephenson, founder, artistic director and conductor extraordinaire of the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea told his family he wanted to do a new recording featuring Italian music.

“Why not write a cook book to go with it,” said his cousin a wonderful cook who specializes in heirloom family recipes from Naples and Sicily.

“From there it just took on a life of its own,” Father Stephenson said. They quickly decided that the cookbook (and accompanying orchestral CD) could be used as a fundraiser for Stephenson’s non-profit Cecilia Foundation which buys quality instruments for young music students.

Scillieri called her daughter, Grace Tront, and son, Joe, who are said to be “fabulous cooks” themselves.

The siblings thought it was a terrific idea and in no time, Grace had come up with 40 recipes.

Before the group was through, they’d collected 170 family treasures redolent with the sweetness and spice of Naples from whence the Stephensons’ hail and Sicily, ancestral homeland of Antoinette’s husband, Joe, himself a fine cook.

Unlike many fund raising cookbooks, “Le Canzoni Della Cucina” is a totally home grown product reflecting many fine talents: the accompanying CD features the 47 orchestra members and the singers who regularly appear with the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea; All Points Printing and Graphics, Inc. Point Pleasant which produced the book and Janice Fairlie the graphic designer and editor.

The recipes run the gamut from appetizers to entrees to deserts. Special holiday foods, including Easter Breads and the wide range of wonderful treats for St. Joseph’s Day are included.

The musical menu features such staples as Mattinata, Torna Sorriento, the Grand March from Aida and Mascagni’s lilting Intermezzo.

For our visit, Scillieri and Father Stephenson composed a table of traditional dishes from the book that make good Lenten meals.

“They are plain and simple, easy to prepare,” said Scillieri.

Scillieri labored for months at recreating just the right proportions for the old recipes.

“They come from a time when everyone measured by the handful or by the pinch. It took a lot of time to get the proportions just right and you know, people tell me they are very happy to have these recipes because they remember them from their own family tables but no one ever wrote them down before.”

In offering Lenten fare for this story, the cousins picked dishes that reflect the season.

“During Lent, it’s not just no meat on Fridays,” said Father Stephenson. “It’s not giving anything up if you substitute lobster for beef…keep it simple and make twice as much as you need and take some up the block to a neighbor who, for one reason or another, could use a good meal. Make something really inexpensive and give the money you save to charity.”

To order the cookbook and accompanying CD which costs $30, call the symphony office at 732-920-4444 or e-mail seasymphonyinc@aol.com.

Eggs in purgatory Uova in purgatorio
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– ¼ cup finely chopped onion
– 3 cups of tomato sauce
– 1 tablespoon fresh basil, roughly chopped pinch of oregano
– pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
– salt to taste
– 8 large eggs

Directions: Pour oil into large skillet and place over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender and translucent, stirring constantly. Add tomato sauce, basil, oregano, red pepper and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes or until thickened. Break egg into a small cup and carefully slide egg into sauce. Continue with each egg. Cover the skillet and cook until eggs are set to your taste, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve hot with warm Italian bread.

Serves 4

Lady Fingers Savoiardi
– 8 large eggs
– 2 cups sugar
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 4 cups flour, sifted plus 1 to 2 heaping teaspoons of flour
– 3 heaping teaspoons baking powder sugar for sprinkling

Directions: Beat eggs, add sugar and vanilla. Beat until thick. Add flour and baking powder slowly folding into egg mixture until all the flour is incorporated. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon 1 tablespoon batter and spread into a 3 inch circle. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack for a few minutes, then carefully peel off the paper and cool completely.

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen.

Pasta and Peas
– Pasta con Piselli
– 8 ounces ditalini or elbow pasta
– ¼ cup olive oil
– ½ cup chopped onion
– ½ cup crushed tomatoes
– 2 tablespoons chopped basil
– 1 15 ounce can drained peas

Directions: Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil; add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Reserve 2 cups pasta water; drain pasta and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat ¼ cup olive oil, add onion and cook until translucent. Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer about 10 minutes. Add peas, pasta and reserved pasta water. Simmer about 10 minutes. Serve topped with Parmesan or Romano Cheese.

Serves 4 to 5

Vegetable Stew Giambotta
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 2 large potatoes, peeled, cubed into 1 inch pieces
– 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
– 1 large zucchini, cubed
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 1 cup crushed Italian tomatoes
– Salt and pepper
– 5 to 6 basil leaves, torn

Directions: Peel and chop all vegetables before starting to cook. Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic and onion; sauté until transparent. Add potatoes and carrots, cook for 5 minutes. Then add zucchini, stir thoroughly and cook for a few more minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Before serving add basil and stir.

Serves 6 to 8

One thought on “Lenten recipes offered in new cookbook (March 16, 2011)

  1. I would like to purchase 5 copies of the cookbook but was told that it was no longer in print. Is there anywhere that I could buy these books, possibly on line. I would be happy with one book if that is all that’s available. My paternal grandparents were Sicilian and I just love to cook and would like to make many of these recipes. Three years ago my husband and I went to Mussomeli, Italy in Sicily to the town where my grandparents grew up and were married before coming to this country. I would like to buy the cookbooks for me and the four granddaughters. I can be reached at vcahayla@gmail.com. Thank you – Virginia S. Cahayla, 21 Schirra Drive, Wanaque, N.J. 07465

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