Family Cooking Days
By Tracey Moro
Some families hand recipes down from generation to generation. Others take it a bit further, incorporating a special day in the year to get together and cook. These Cooking Days are relationship builders, connecting families and making more than just food, but happy memories cherished for years to come. Macomb Now Magazine reached out to two families in Macomb who have been hosting family Cooking Days for years. We introduce you to the Orlando family, an Italian bunch who makes more ravioli in one day than most eat in a year, and the Dziatczak family, a Polish bunch who have been cooking together for 15 years. The Orlando Family Ravioli Day Taking place before each of the big holidays, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Rose Adas and her family make ravioli with spinach and ricotta cheese filling. Rose’s mom, Elizabeth (Gagliardi), and her Mom’s brother Frank, were from Simbario (Calabria), Italy and came to America in 1948. They would make ravioli for the holidays to make it feel more like home. Soon after arriving, they were orphaned and only had each other. Frank later married (Vincenza) and had six children and Elizabeth married and had four. Both families would come together to make ravioli and share the holidays together.
“They didn’t have Kitchen Aids and preformed trays that can make a dozen ravioli at a time,” said Adas whose mom, uncle and aunt would roll the dough out very thin, as wide and as long as the table. “With a small glass, they would cut out round forms from the dough and we would fill them and then close them up by pressing a fork around the edges. My brother and cousins grew up doing them this way,” said Adas. In 2022, just before passing away, her mom was still preparing the dough at 87 years old.
“My parents and zio and zia (aunt/uncle) are all deceased but my cousin Sara (Gagliardi) Gouin continues the tradition for the Gagliardi side of the family in honor of her parents. My brother Tony and sister-in-law Lisa Orlando, along with my husband Al, and I take turns hosting for the Orlando side. Sometimes we have 18 to 23 of us, depending on who’s in town. Even once the kids went off to college, they would always ask ‘what day are we making the “Ravs” mom?’ Now my grandkids ask the same question.”
Rose says the hardest part is the preparation. They need to set up the three large tables for the assembly line, then prep the dough and make the filling. Once the dough and filling are ready, it’s an assembly line job, “From start to finish it’s another 2-3 hours. From the flattening of the dough in the Kitchen Aid into long strips to placing them on the preformed steel trays, to filling them. Then placing another strip on top, and then rolling the dough, to cutting the 12 squares. Then finally placing the finished ravioli on a floured tablecloth to dry.”
Rose said the best part is getting together, with the traditional Italian songs playing in the background, the conversations and laughter as they work, along with the smelling of the sauce.
“As we get to the last 12 made we start the water on the stove and we all go into clean up mode while we wait for the water to boil. We break down the tables, sweep the floor, set the table and prepare to gather at the table once again but this time to eat. The wine is flowing and we toast our mom and dad, Zio and Zia for giving us this yummy tradition and Mangia!! Very thankful,” said Adas.
4 cups of flour
4 tsp. of salt
1 cup of water
2 lb. bags of fresh spinach
1 lb. of fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
Make space on a long table to roll out your dough. By hand, mound the flour onto a board (or bowl). Make a well in the center to crack in the eggs. Beat the eggs together with a fork, and gradually add the flour. Finish by forming the rough dough. Cover, rest for 10 minutes. Knead dough for 5-7 minutes and shape into a ball, wrap tightly, and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Cut the dough into four pieces; flatten one at a time into a thin 6-8-inch oval disc (re-wrap the remaining pieces so they don’t dry out). Using your pasta maker, lead the disc through the roller on the lowest/widest setting. Continue to roll the dough through settings twice #2-5. For ravioli, the dough needs to be thin – go up to #5. It is ready when it’s slightly translucent so you can see your hand underneath.
You can prepare the filling as early as one or two days ahead of time. Combine the drained ricotta, and drained cooked spinach, Parmesan cheese and egg. Mix well. Cover and chill until ready to use.
Assembling the Ravioli
Flatten the dough in the Kitchen Aid into long strips. Using a preformed tray, place the strips across the tray. Push into the pockets and fill each opening with the ricotta filling. Place another strip of dough on top. Roll across the dough to cut the 12 squares. Place the ravioli squares on a floured tablecloth. Let dry.
The Dziatczak Polish Cooking Day
Cooking Day rotates houses each year, usually in early December, for the Dziatczak family, depending on whose house can accommodate the crowd. “Enough food is made on Cooking Day to feed everyone at Christmas with each family also taking home plenty of goodies to be enjoyed throughout the year,” said Sheila Brownlee, who is Scottish, not Polish, and isn’t really in the family blood line. Her family was adopted into the Dziatczak clan some 39 years ago. “This loving Polish family has taken in my family as their own when we had nowhere else to go for the holidays. We have spent every holiday, wedding, funeral, graduation, birthday and BBQ together, as if we have always belonged.”
The Dziatczaks use mainly old family recipes that have been handed down throughout the years, although they have made some tweaks along the way to make them each family favorites. They’ve been gathering together to do this Cooking Day for about the last 15 years averaging 30 between family, plus a handful of friends. “We include immediate family, extended family, older family members, tiny family members, anybody who wants to get their hands dirty and add to the Cooking Day festivities,” said Brownlee.
“We start early in the morning so we can rotate as much as possible through each family member, giving everyone a chance to get their hands dirty. Time is planned so the youngest family members get a chance to cook and learn how each recipe is put together. The kids just love getting in there and are thrilled to see hard work pay off when they see their lovely portion placed in the buffet line come Christmas Eve,” said Brownlee, who claimed watching the kids is her favorite part of the day.
All dressed in matching red aprons, round two of cooking starts right after a prepared lunch break cleanup. The Dziatczak’s hardest part of Cooking Day is having enough space to accommodate all the different recipes. They need one for making sausage, another area for making pierogi, another area for making Chrusciki (angel wings) and another for boiling cabbage for Golabki.
“We’ve been known to make use of the grill outside and areas in the garage where we can deep fry the Chrusciki to try and keep the greasy smell in the garage and not all over the house,” said Brownlee, who claims “it is not easy in any way, shape or form to have the entire family involved”
But Brownlee and the rest of the Dziatczaks agree their family Cooking Day is one of the highlights of the year. “It is a great time to just all be together, share some food, some drinks and lots of love. And, it just further demonstrates the strength of our family motto ‘Power of the Family.’”
Golabki (Cabbage Rolls)
Serves 10-12; (20-25 rolls)
6 qts. boiling water
2 Tbsps. Vinegar
1 tsp. salt (plus salt to taste)
1 head cabbage, cored
4 qts cold water
2 Tbsps. raw long-grain white rice
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsps. butter
1 medium onion, peeled and fi nely chopped
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
1 egg, beaten
¼ tsp. poultry seasoning
Pepper to taste
2 cans (10 ½ oz. each) tomato soup (1 soup can
and 1 1/3 cup water)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Boil water, add vinegar and one teaspoon salt, then submerge the whole cabbage head in the boiling water. As each leaf starts to pull away from the cabbage head, use a spoon to ease it off. Remove each cooked leaf from the pot and submerge in the four quarts of cold water, changing the water once or twice during the cooking process to keep it cold. When all leaves are cooked, drain the cold water off them and pat dry. Cut out the heavy portions of the ribs and discard. Put rice and the 1/3 cup of water with salt to taste in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, covered, reduce heat to simmer and let cook for 12 minutes to partially cook it. Melt butter in a medium skillet and saute onion over medium heat until translucent, about five minutes. Remove from heat and add the ground beef and pork, egg, partially cooked rice, poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread each cabbage leaf flat, overlapping where the ribs were removed. Top each with about two tablespoons of the filling mixture at the end of the leaf where the ribs were removed. Fold the sides toward the center, so the leaf is folded in thirds. Fill a casserole dish with a thin later of tomato sauce then place cabbage rolls and add more sauce on top. Then cover with foil. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until cooked through completely.
Chrusciki (Angel Wings)
Makes 40 angel wings
6 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. sour cream
¼ tsp. salt
3 ¼ cups fl our
5 lbs. solid shortening for deep fryer (or
½ cup confectioners sugar
Beat egg yolks with wooden spoon in a large bowl. Mix sour cream and salt with eggs. Add fl our, a little at a time. Knead dough on fl oured board. Roll as thin as you can get it, 1/8-inch thick or less. Cut out little rectangles about 2-by-4 inches. Cut a half inch vertical slit in the center. Shape the pastry by putting one end through the slit, starting with one corner and easing the dough gently through the hole until completely twisted, pulling the end all the way through to make a shape resembling an angel’s wing. Melt shortening in deep fryer and heat to 350 degrees. Deep fry a few at a time, two minutes on one side, then turn and fry two minutes on the second side, until golden. Using a deep fryer basket or slotted spoon, remove to drain on paper towels. When pastry cools, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Makes 2 dozen
2 cups fl our
½ cup warm water
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
Mix dry ingredients (flour & salt) together lightly in bowl. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients (egg, water & oil). Beginning in the center, start mixing in the fl our a little at a time until you incorporate it all. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let rest, covered in a bowl for 30 minutes. Using half of the dough at a time, roll out to 1/8 inch thickness. Warning, the dough is springy and a little hard to roll! If using a KitchenAid pasta roller go to step three to get the right thickness. Cut circle with a biscuit cutter, floured glass or can. Fill with a heaping teaspoon of filling, moisten edges of dough and pinch to seal. Make sure they are well sealed or the filling leaks out during boiling! Set them on a large cutting board covered with a towel and sprinkle with flour to keep them from sticking. Boil 5-8 minutes in salted water, until floating. Drain. When making large batches, use tin foil to cover the pots to keep the water boiling. To keep them, lightly spray with oil after boiling and freeze them in layers with plastic wrap between them. When ready to use, thaw and fry in butter/oil combo.
Makes 35 pierogies
1 lb. Potatoes
Sour Cream – if wanted
Grated Cheddar Cheese – if wanted
Make like you would for mashed potatoes adding butter, milk, seasoning and a little sour cream and grated cheddar cheese if you wish. Just make them thicker than you would use for mashed potatoes. Make the day ahead and refrigerate so the potato mixture is easier to handle and doesn’t make the dough
Makes 40 pierogies
1 large (27 oz or lib, 11oz)
can sauerkraut, drained
1 large onion, chopped
½ cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
4 Tbsps. butter or margarine
Rinse half the sauerkraut under water in a sieve, then put in medium bowl. Add rest of un-rinsed, drained sauerkraut, onion and mushrooms. Heat butter or margarine in frying pan and saute the mixture until brown, about fi ve minutes.
Makes 40 pierogies
1 lb. farmer cheese
2 Tbsps. sugar
½ tsp. Cinnamon (if desired)
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
Break up cheese into small pieces. Mix cheese with sugar, cinnamon and egg yolks in medium bowl until well-blended.