"If there was a cod swimming in the bathtub, it was Thursday night," said the Rev. Joseph Orsini, reminiscing about his childhood.
Naturally. fish was the traditional Friday feast in his Catholic home -- a rented second-floor apartment shared by Carmela (Mama) Orsini and her seven children in a shingled, two-family house in Bayonne, N.J.
Now, decades later, Father Orsini (retired from his teaching duties), has written "Father Orsini's Italian Kitchen" ($19.95. St. Martin's Press), a delightful celebration of ethnic cuisine, with 200 recipes.
In Italy, he sought out local restaurants and found the chefs willing to share culinary secrets. He jokes: "I don't know if they left anything out, but I tried all the recipes and they tasted pretty good."
Father Orsini became an expert cook thanks to his mother. He was the youngest of seven and his father, a longshoreman, was killed on the job in a freak accident when he was 6.
"When I announced that I was going into the seminary, my mother knew I was going to be a bachelor all of my life . . . no wife to take care of me. So she taught me how to cook."
Polpette di Carne Griglia
(Pine Nut Hamburgers)
Serves 4 to 6.
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup Romano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Heat broiler. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Shape mixture into thick 2 1/2 -inch rounds. Brush broiler pan with oil, arrange hamburgers on pan, and broil 3 inches from flame until burgers are well browned and crispy -- 5 minutes per side.