Ann Franjoine remembers attending St. Joseph’s Day tables when she was a girl, growing up on Ashland Avenue in Niagara Falls.
“My mother used to take me by the hand we’d walk down the street to the houses that had a St. Joseph’s table,” she said. “I remember going to as many as five on the same day.”
The memories are all the sweeter thanks to her favorite part of the tradition. “You wouldn’t believe the beautiful Italian pastries,” she recalled of those childhood visits, where guest would often greet each other saying “Viva San Giuseppe!” as a salute to the saint.
Mary Bucciarelli also had vivid memories of St. Joseph’s Day. “My father used to go down to the river and catch smelt. He would wash it and my mother would cook it.”
It’s those kind of memories that inspired three ladies from Elderwood in Wheatfield, including Franjoine, Bucciarelli and Joan Giuseppetti, to ask the Elderwood chef to make a St. Joseph’s Day table for residents in the apartments and patio homes and other residences in the senior community.
Chef Lisa Scott was happy to accommodate the ladies, but she knew she would need help.
“I’m actually German and Polish,” said Scott, director of dining services at Elderwood. She enlisted the support of her assistant dietary manager, Joseph Polaster, who grew up in Niagara Falls in the city’s “Little Italy,” and was very familiar with all of the traditional dishes. He helped her create the menu for the St. Joseph’s Day Table, with recipes that would be palatable to all the diners.
“We have such varied tastes here. I try very hard to make things the whole community can enjoy,” Scott noted.
Ron Zito, director of Elderwood, did some research on the tradition, and found that St. Joseph’s Day is Father’s Day in Italy. He said the tradition of creating a table full of food, began in the Middle Ages in Italy when people prayed to St. Joseph for rain during a drought and promised a feast to honor him. St. Joseph’s Tables are traditionally meat free, because they are typically held during Lent, with fish dishes, vegetable omelettes, fresh baked bread and, of course, plenty of desserts. The tables often have a statue of St. Joseph in a place of honor.
Elderwood is a senior care community with locations throughout Western New York. Its Wheatfield residences, located at 2400 Niagara Falls Blvd., provide elderly community members with all levels of care needed by the aging, from 98 independent living spaces in apartments and patio homes, to rehabilitation and nursing home care. There are housekeeping services available to all, and for the independent residents, there is fine dining in the restaurant-style cafeteria.
With the help of her assistant dietary manager, Chef Scott created simple versions of some traditional St. Joseph Day recipes which she will create for Elderwood residents for St. Joseph’s Day on Thursday. Some of those recipes are below:
SIMPLE BEANS AND GREENS
1 can great northern beans (drained and rinsed)
1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cans mixed greens
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt/pepper/red pepper flakes to taste
Saute diced onion until tender. Add mixed greens with liquid and both types of drained beans. Add garlic, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Heat all ingredients gently until at a simmer. Add Parmesan cheese and gently blend together.
This dish will be moist but not soupy. Serve with polenta or crusty bread for dunking.
This can be served as a main or side dish or as a soup by adding chicken broth to it.
2 - 8 ounce packages of spinach (thawed and drained) placed in a bowl
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Mix all ingredients together. Let sit for 5-10 minutes in the refrigerator to firm up. Shape into 2 balls and flatten gently to make thick patties. Saute in heated oil until crusty on one side then turn and saute until other side is crusty. Patties will be crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. Place on paper towel or rack to drain excess oil. Can be eaten warm, at room temperature or cold. Heats up well in the microwave and excellent as a veggie burger with melted provolone cheese on top.
EASY TOMATO COD LOINS
8-12 oz. cod loins
8 oz. jar of salsa
1/2 cup sliced black olives
salt and pepper to taste
Place cod loins in Pyrex pan treated with non-stick spray. Top with salsa.
Loosely cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes until fish flakes easily.
Remove foil and top with olives. Let stand 5 minutes then serve.
BATTERED CAULIFLOWER AND BROCCOLI
2 boxes (1 each) of cauliflower and broccoli
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 T. granulated garlic salt and pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons flour
Steam or boil vegetables until tender. Let cool and dry. Place cooled vegetables in a bowl and toss with flour, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, blend eggs, milk, Parmesan cheese and garlic to make the batter. Place vegetables in the batter and gently coat. Put one to two Tablespoons of oil in a pan to coat bottom. Place battered vegetables in hot oil and brown one side until golden then flip with spatula and brown other side. Gently flatten vegetables while cooking to allow vegetables to heat through. Drain cooked vegetables on a plate covered with a paper towel.
Serve topped with mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce.