Today is National Ellis Island Family History Day. Families are encouraged to trace their ancestry and get acquainted with relatives who may have immigrated by way of Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1924, Ellis Island served as an inspection station for millions seeking to migrate to America. It was the first Federal Inspection Station to uniform entry requirement. Before Ellis Island, states had their own rules and facilities to handle newcomers to America.
When the Dutch settled in the area, the three islands in the Upper New York Bay – Liberty, Black Tom, and Ellis Island, were given the name Oyster Islands, alluding to the large oyster population nearby. The present-day Ellis Island was the smallest of the three, commonly called Little Oyster Island through the early 1700s. Sold several times, Little Oyster Island became a popular spot for hosting oyster roasts, picnics and clambakes. Pirates became a problem, and by the 1760s Little Oyster Island became the site of public executions. Finally in 1774 Little Oyster Island was acquired by Samuel Ellis, a colonial New Yorker believed to be from Wales. It was then that the island’s name was changed.
By the mid-1790s, with tensions between the newly established United States, Britain and France, a U.S. congressional committee drew a map of possible locations for fortifications to protect urban centers such as New York Harbor. A small part of Ellis Island was deeded to New York for the purpose of public defense.
In 1806 the Ellis family deeded a portion of the island to John Berry. The remaining portion of the island was acquired by condemnation the following year, and the land sold to the United Stage in 1808 for $10,000. Eventually, the fort was replaced by the immigration facilities we see today. Prior to 1892, immigrants passing through New York Harbor were processed through Castle Garden, also known as Castle Clinton. Castle Clinton had a reputation of mistreatment of immigrants, and when the Federal Government decided to handle immigration on a national level, Castle Clinton’s reputation needed to be distanced. In a twist of irony, today Castle Clinton serves as a ticket center for tours of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
To all those who came before us seeking a better life in America, welcome. Despite the media claim that Americans today are against immigrations, nothing could be further from the truth. Most Americans support immigration. It’s the basis of our country and we embrace that. However; there is a right way and a wrong way to come here. There is no doubt that our immigration systems needs a complete overhaul. We need to change immigration laws so that it’s not as difficult to enter legally, while swiftly dealing with those who do not respect our laws. I’m not talking about the desperate people fleeing to America, I’m talking about those who are profiting from the business of human trafficking.
In honor of National Ellis Island Family History Day, please enjoy my very American spin on an Italian Supper sure to feed a crowd. Enjoy!
Beefy Lasagna with Cottage Cheese
1/2 White Onion
1 lb Ground Beef
1 tablespoons Butter
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1 (15 oz) can Diced Tomatoes
1 jar Pasta Sauce
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Cut onion in half from root to tip. Reserve half the onion for another purpose. Peel remaining half, chop and set aside.
Brown ground meat in butter until almost done. Add chopped onions and garlic to the meat. Continue to cook until meat is cooked through and onions are tender. Drain meat mixture of excess grease.
Add diced tomatoes, pasta sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer while the noodles are cooked.
6 Lasagna Pasta Sheets
Kosher Salt for water
Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. Cook pasta al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water.
Seasoned Cheese Blend
1 (16 oz) container Cottage Cheese
1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 cup Italian Blend
Italian Seasoning to taste
In a large bowl, mix cheeses together, season with Italian Seasoning. Set aside.
Note: I don’t receive any compensation or consideration when I share a particular brand of ingredient. However; this Italian Blend comes from my friend at Kitchen Witch Gourmet. It’s a cottage industry, usually sold at fairs and festivals. When life changed a year ago, so did her ability to promote her business. This Italian Spice blend is made with all the usual ingredients, plus a few extras. According to the jar, it’s infused with confidence and a get up and go take charge attitude. Must be why my Italian dishes are always a hit.
1/2 cup Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup Italian Blend
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
In a small bowl, mix cheeses together, set aside.
To Assemble Lasagna: Heat oven to 400-degrees.
Line casserole dish with a layer of lasagna noodle. Spoon a third of the meat sauce top of noodles, spread evenly. Spoon about a third of the seasoned cheese mix over meat sauce.
Place second layer of noodles, press down to smooth out seasoned cheese layer. Spread a third of meat sauce over the pasta, followed by the about a third of the cheese mixture.
Place a third layer of noodles, spread with remaining meat sauce. Top the final layer of meat sauce with remaining blended cheese and sprinkle with the top layer of Parmesan, Romano, Mozzarella cheeses.
Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly, with a nice golden layer of the top cheese blend.