Q: With St. Joseph's Day coming up in March I wonder if you have some recipes for the St. Joseph's table?
—Edythe Keon, Chicago
A:St. Joseph's Day is March 19. The tradition of setting out a special feast, or table, dates back to the Middle Ages in Italy where families would invite the poor in to dine. The practice began in Sicily, where the saint is credited with ending a drought that had brought famine. A great feast was held in St. Joseph's honor to give thanks.
As the feast day falls during Lent, the menu is traditionally meatless. Choose your favorite seafood or vegetarian dish. Mix in some fava beans if you can. Favas are a traditional feastday food because the beans survived the drought.
Below are three recipes designed for St. Joseph's Day meals pulled from the Chicago Tribune archives.
Shrimp and olive pasta
Prep: 15 minutes. Cook: 25 minutes. Makes: 4 servings
I developed this quick, worknight dish in honor of St. Joseph back in 2008. Serve with baby greens, ciabatta bread and cannoli for dessert. For a wine, try a white garganega from Italy's Veneto region.
1 box (16 ounces) spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp, peeled, butterflied
1 jar (8 ounces) green pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced
1 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter, optional
1/4 cup chopped parsley plus 4 sprigs
1. Prepare spaghetti according to package directions; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid. Transfer to a large bowl or platter.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp; cook, stirring, until just pink, about 1 minute. Stir in olives and white wine; heat to a simmer, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Remove shrimp from skillet with tongs; place on hot pasta. Add the reserved pasta water to the skillet; heat until slightly thickened, about 6 minute. Whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Pour sauce over pasta and shrimp; add chopped parsley. Toss to combine; garnish with parsley sprigs.
Eggplant and olive salad (Capunatina)
Prep: 25 minutes. Soak: 30 minutes. Cook: 1 hour, five minutes. Yield: 7 cups
William Rice, the Chicago Tribune's former food and wine columnist, shared this recipe, adapted from one in the late Vincent Schiavelli's "Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table," with readers in a St. Joseph's Day story that ran in 2001.
3 cups whole, large green olives
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
2 large eggplants, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 can (28 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 leaves basil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Smash each olive with meat pounder or side of knife. Place in small bowl; cover with cold water. Let soak to remove excess salt, changing water twice, about 30 minutes. Drain; set aside.
2. Heat 1/3 cup of the oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add celery; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add eggplant; cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in olives, raisins and 1 /2 teaspoon of the salt. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat, about 40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in small saucepan. Add garlic cloves; cook until golden on all sides, about 1 minute. Discard garlic. Add tomatoes with juice, breaking into pieces with a spoon. Add sugar, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, black pepper and basil. Simmer 10 minutes.
4. Uncover eggplant; cook 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce to eggplant mixture; cook, uncovered, 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in almonds, vinegar, cocoa powder and red pepper flakes. Let cool or chill until 1 hour before serving time. Serve at room temperature as a dip with bread or as a salad.
St. Joseph's sesame cookies
Prep: 25 minutes Cook: 12 minutes. Makes: About 50 cookies
Adapted from a recipe in "Papa Andrea's Sicilian Table," these cookies were featured in a 2001 story on St. Joseph's Day by William Rice, the Chicago Tribune's former food and wine columnist.
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sesame seeds, spread on a large plate
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour and baking powder in small bowl; set aside. Beat butter and sugar in bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture; beat until well blended.
2. Beat egg whites in small dish with fork; set aside. Spread sesame seeds on plate; set aside. Pinch off walnut-size piece of dough; shape into ball using palm of hands. Dip in egg whites; roll in sesame seeds. Place on greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until firm, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.