Everyone needs a little music in their week, so today I have a music video to share! Nothing is better for experiencing Italian culture in Canada than attending the various picnics, festivals and events that happen all summer. Recently, I attended the Ajax-Pickering Italian Social Club picnic which, besides being a gathering of the community, hosted Coro Italia – a local Italian folk singing group. The idle picnic chatter and raucous bocci games were punctuated by this large group of dedicated singers and musicians that sang familiar and traditional songs to om-pah beats and the whine of not one, but two accordions. I admire most the great passion Coro Italia has for keeping these songs alive.
For one special song, a few of the singers became dancers performing traditionally with water jugs on their heads. It’s not a sight that is seen often, and is a great reminder of Italian traditions and culture which followed so many Italians to North America. I talk a lot about food and culture here and song is a big part of Italian life too. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Coro Italia:
A few more pictures from the picnic after the jump…
All the rain in our area has been a curse on my garden. Don’t get me wrong – a little water goes a long way. But A LOT of water turns your tomato plants yellow and drowns your peppers. One thing a lot of water does, though, is make my lettuce, onions and garlic pop up in a big way. So the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to use my first garden harvest: garlic scapes. In honour of this #pastatuesday, I turned those garlic scapes into a pasta accompaniment: garlic scape pesto.
Most of the times on this blog, I stick to old recipes, tried and true from my family. Once and a while, I try something new. I made garlic scape pesto for the first time last year and loved it. It has a strong garlic flavour, but if you like it a little weaker, it’s easy to balance out with nuts and cheese. Garlic scapes, for those new to the ingredient, are the curling tops of the garlic plants that are edible and should be picked before the flowering part opens. To eat them raw, you should pick them when they begin to emerge from between the main garlic leaves, even before they start to curl, when they are still tender. Washed and chopped up, they are great in stir-frys or salads, offering a lighter garlic flavour than garlic bulbs. Mixed with classic Italian ingredients to make pesto, they are great on pastas but also on bread, brightening up crostini or sandwiches easily.
Here are my recipes for garlic pesto, two ways. The first is with pine nuts, a take off of the classic basil pesto. The second (my favourite) is with pistachios which makes a great emerald green pesto. You can reduce or add ingredients to your taste, as long as your end creation is easily spreadable. If you find it too thick, add a bit more olive oil. These recipes make enough for two small glass jars each – or about four meals of pasta for two.
Garlic Scape Pesto with Pine Nuts
10 garlic scapes
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt to taste
Simple is better. It’s a rule with fashion. It’s a rule with writing. Most of all, it’s a rule with food. This easy little salad recipe, bean & potato salad, is a good way to keep it simple.
When it came to side salads, it always felt like my family had infinite variations for what to serve on hot summer days. Tomatoes and cucumbers, tomatoes and potatoes, potatoes and beans, asparagus, zucchini, whatever – as long as it came out of the garden fresh and was tossed with olive oil and garlic, you pretty much couldn’t lose. I’ll admit that when I was younger, I did my best to avoid any salad (with leaf vegetables or without), but now I see that good ingredients, simply prepared are the best to serve.
This recipe was a staple, simply because there was always an overabundance of beans from the garden during the summer. Adjust the recipe as you see fit – more beans or more potatoes or more garlic –to your taste. Some people love keeping peels on potatoes, others need to remove them. Mine are peeled just because it reminds me of Nonno.
My grandfather hated potato peels, while the rest of the family would leave the peels from baked potatoes until last to load them up with butter and munch our way through, he would push his off his plate. Nonno said, and this was probably the only thing he was this particular about, that even when he was poor in Italy he didn’t eat potato peels, so why would he do it now. Fair enough, I’m wasn’t going to argue with that since it just meant an extra peel for me.
Potato & Bean Salad
2lbs of potatoes
1 lb of green romano pole beans
1-3 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin Olive Oil
salt to taste
Today we welcome a guest writer, Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza, who, in honour of Italian Heritage Month, brings us the great story of her family’s celebration of 50 years in Canada. Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza was born and raised in Montreal and is currently a film studies student at Concordia University. An aspiring writer, you can follow her on twitter @CassDM.
As I was perusing twitter late at night, as I often do when sleep evades me, I came across the fact that June is the start of Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. Being from Montreal and a proud hyphenated Canadian-Italian, I immediately grew nostalgic and then envious, as Montreal doesn’t have such a month but a week in August, Semaine Italienne de Montréal, instead. As great and as much fun as the week is, I can only imagine how much fun an entire month must be.
While I was reading up on different events taking place in Ontario (and becoming increasingly jealous!) I realized that I had my own special Italian heritage event that took place in June. This past Sunday, June 2nd, 2013, my father’s side of the family celebrated 50 years in Canada, while my mother’s side is close to celebrating 43 years in Canada. My mother and her immediate family immigrated to Montreal in 1970 from Silvi Marina in Pescara, Abruzzo, while my father, and subsequently his whole family and a good chunk of his village of Cattolica Eraclea in Agrigento Sicily, immigrated to Canada in 1963.
In the past fifty years my family has come to adopt Canada as our own home and native land while maintaining a strong connection to our heritage, roots, and culture. So, as per my Nonno’s wish, a celebration was in order for this milestone.
Happy Italian Heritage Month! (I just love that photo above from the Windsor Star from last year’s celebrations!)
In 2010, the Province of Ontario declared June Italian Heritage Month. Why? Well, Ontario is home to more than 1,350,000 Italian Canadians. Since the 1880s, the Italian Canadian community has made and continues to make significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of the province. Since that declaration, a festa (party) has ensued for all of June across Ontario, but also across the country.
You can visit italianheritagecanada.ca for a listing of events, though there may be even more going on. There are multiple heritage day celebrations and Italian flag raising in cities across Ontario and even out in Vancouver. My favourite month-long event is the “Books and Biscotti” literary reading series. After the jump, I’ve made a list of my top celebrations to head out to in June. If you’re not in Ontario, or not in Canada, celebrate with us here at An Italian-Canadian Life. Try a recipe, share a photo, comment on a blog posting and discuss the many things there is to love about Italians and being Italian.
In celebration of our fourth #pastatuesday and the winner of An Italian-Canadian Life’s first pasta contest, I’m offering up a recipe for the perfect side or pairing for pasta: a recipe for meatballs and veal rolls (or polpette and braciole).
Meatballs are a classic part of Sunday dinner and braciola are always a special surprise. For southern Italians, braciole are veal cutlet roll ups but what is inside can be debated. Each family has their own version. Some just put herbs and cheese inside, others, like my family, puts a meatball mixture inside. While “braciole” which refers to “slices of meat” in southern Italy, this recipe is common throughout Italy, but called “involtini”, meaning “little bunches.” Whatever you call them, they are a little labour-intensive but worth the work.
Polpette e braciole
1 pound pork meat, minced
1 pound veal meat, minced
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup parmigiana cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup parsley, chopped
8 veal cutlets
vegetable oil for frying