Well, hello there! It's been quite a while, hasn't it? After a nice, long vacation I'm back and eager to start writing again. I've thought a lot about this blog and what I've tried to do with it in the past (too much, in my opinion), and I've decided that I need to take a tip from its title and focus on food. Because my life pretty much revolves around food: eating, of course, but also thinking about food I'd like to eat, clipping recipes, paging through cookbooks, growing a few fruits and vegetables at home, dining out, and so on.
Today I'm sharing one of Sean grandma's recipes. Grandma was born in Germany in 1917 (I think) and emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1950s. For many years she owned El Paseo Toys in Santa Barbara, CA, a beloved shop that sold all kinds of wonderful, old-fashioned toys from Europe. If you wanted a Steiff stuffed animal, you couldn't find a better place to browse than El Paseo Toys. She's retired now and living a quieter life, but she still enjoys cooking and baking now and then, and this recipe is one she used to make for big family get-togethers, especially in the summer. It's one of Sean's favorites, and I asked her to write it down for me years ago.
I've always had a hard time making this dish sound appealing. Calling it "a cross between a pasta salad and ambrosia" conjures up a queasy mix of antipasto and whipped cream, which is not at all what it is. The pasta you use are acini de pepe, a tiny, round pasta whose name means " peppercorns." They are smaller than peas when cooked and, in fact, look almost like tapioca when mixed in with these other ingredients, which include pineapple (in juice, chunk, and crushed form), mandarin oranges, Cool Whip, and marshmallows. The pasta cut the sweetness of what could be a really cloying salad and turn it into something light and refreshing. Once people taste it they seem to like it; it's getting them to take that first bite that can be the hard part.
ACINI DE PEPE SALAD
Serves 10 - 12
1 1-lb box of acini de pepe
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp flour
1 tsp salt
3 well-beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
4 small or 2 large cans mandarin oranges
1 16-oz can pineapple chunks
1 16-oz can crushed pineapple
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 cup Cool Whip
Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain in colander and rinse with cool water. Place in large bowl.
While the pasta is cooking, cook the sugar, flour, salt and beaten eggs in a small pot over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Slowly pour in the pineapple juice, stirring to mix thoroughly; cook until it becomes thick. (Grandma's charming instructions at this point read, "Give the pineapple juice slowling too. Have it cook nice like a thick soup.") Remove from heat and let it cool slightly. Stir it into the pasta, mixing well, and refrigerate (overnight, if possible).
Open all the fruit cans, drain the juice, and mix into the pasta along with the marshmallows and Cool Whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve.