Where are you Mr. Golden Sun?

 

Picture this, a hot, summer day, black asphalt that burned the bottom of your feet, and a crocheted wool blanket covered with a sheet. Yes, this is typically where my sister and I spent time playing in the summer once the garden went up at my grandparents. To avoid any tragedies of balls flying at tomato plants or lettuce being trampled, my grandparents would set us up on the hot pavement with some Avon books to occupy our time while they tended to the garden. Sounds like fun!! (Sarcasm) Occasionally they would pity us and fill a bucket of water, a “swimming pool”, that we could barely dip our feet in never mind swim laps, but hey we loved it! If they didn’t do that I would not have these memories to share today.

Despite the fact that the garden trumped my sister and I, we understood that with the attention and care they put in, there would always be fresh picked, delicious, veggies. Once that garden started to grow it was cucumber and tomato salad for days. I didn’t mind, the best part was dipping a crunchy piece of Italian bread in the oil at the end. And that is what I share with you today. A very simple combination that leaves you wanting more……

My grandmother still to this day plants a very large garden and continues to share its bounty with our family. It is what keeps her young. Not quite sure what Mother Nature has in mind for us this year, but the rainy, cold, Spring has had me remembering those warmer weather days, fun times, and delicious cucumber salads. I hope this recipe brings a little warmth to your day. Also, if you happen to find the sun wherever you are please send him a little message to travel our way here in New England.

I’ll leave you with this quote which inspired this post, “The truth is we are our memories and every one of them, for better or worse, makes you the person you are…..the memories are always with you and the most important ones you will never forget.” – Cable Girls

 

Tomato Salad

Ingredients

note: if you prefer more tomatoes over cucumbers or vice versa adjust to your liking.

2 English seedless cucumber
1 container of grape tomatoes or 3 medium sized tomatoes
Olive oil
1/2 small red onion
1 tsp dry oregano
salt
pepper

In a large bowl, slice your cucumbers in half lengthwise then into half moon shapes about a quarter inch to half inch thick. You can keep or remove the skin on the cucumber. Cut your grape tomatoes in half. If using medium size tomatoes, cut into one inch pieces. Slice your onion into thin slices, drizzle all the ingredients with olive oil (enough to coat the veggies and have a little at the bottom for dipping). Add salt, pepper, and oregano. Grab a spoon, mix it up and enjoy!

Not So Cinco De Mayo Dinner

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life sometimes just gets busy and as mentioned a few times, Family First! Weather has gotten warmer and with that has come ALL of the things! i.e. T-ball, karate, scooters, and outdoor housework. i’ve been trying to create some recipes that are quicker, require less clean up, and that are also delicious and healthy. Bathing suite season is also right around the corner!

I am also working on adding cocktail, wine, or spirit pairings to the recipes. Sunny days = friends, family, and entertaining That will be my goal over the next few months.

Cinco de Mayo is tomorrow and most people will be posting burritos, tacos, enchiladas, mojitos, and margaritas. However I’m not Mexican and even though a nice Mojito sounds good these days I have created a one pan fish dish that is equally as delicious. If you’re feeling like you need a drink to go with this try a light white wine such as a Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc. Even better, kill two birds with one stone and buy a bottle to cook with and enjoy with the finished product!

One Pan Cod with White Wine Tomato Reduction

Serves 2 (just double if making more)

Ingredients

2 8 oz frozen Cod fillets

2 c of Cherry tomatoes

1/2 c white wine

2 tsp of minced garlic

4 tbsp of EVOO ( or enough to coat the bottom of the pan)

1 lemon juiced

2 tsp of dried oregano

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

pinch of salt

pinch of black pepper

Begin with a medium high heat on the stove top. In a skillet pan, or frying pan, add all of the ingredients except the Cod. Bring all to a simmer until the tomatoes begin to lose their shape. Once the sauce begins to form, add the frozen cod fillet. (I suggest a frozen fillet because it seems to hold its shape better. It can also be made with fresh cod but if you are to do that I suggest you use an additional pan and cook separately, it will take less time to cook and not hold its shape so well)

Once the cod fillets have been added, cover the pan and allow the fish to cook until it is cooked through, non translucent in the middle and you can flake it apart with a fork.  Remove the cod fillets and place in the dish you will be eating in. Lower the heat on the stove top, and with the cover removed allow the sauce to cook until most of the liquid is gone. This will become a creamy goodness that when finished you will poor right over your fish and enjoy!

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

 

Lamb Libro

Lamb Libro Style…..

My Grandfather who I miss very much, left me with the best memories a kid could ask for. Not toys, or cartoons, but laughter, love, and my appreciation for family. There was nothing more that he loved than grilling. Ok, I lied, but it was up there with a glass of wine, his garden, and Jerry Springer. This Sunday is Easter Sunday and every Easter, is and was the day that the sacrificial lamb was seasoned up ever so perfectly and made its way out to the grill. There was that one year my grandmother decided to cook rabbit but that was kiboshed once she saw the terror on the kids faces. Lamb is traditionally cooked on Easter representing the change from winter to spring and the celebration of renewal.

The memory of him is so real to me I can see him standing there at the grill with his white shirt, and baseball cap floating on the top of his head listening to the Italian radio station as he waited for  the grill to reach temperature. Our lamb did not come with a side of mint jelly. In my opinion mint and jelly should never be in the same sentence. Our lamb was simple yet delicious. A marinade of lemon, olive oil, garlic, mint, parsley, white wine, salt and pepper.

Although my grandfather is no longer with us his grilling tradition lives on. My mother has taken on the title of “Charcoal Chef” and continues on with the grilling festivities. Serve it with some green beans or broccoli rabe and enjoy this healthy holiday tradition. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.

Happy Easter!

Ingredients

2 lbs of lamb preferably chops

2 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves of garlic minced

3-4 mint leaves sliced thin, more if you prefer

A handful of parsley leaves chopped

2/3 cup of white wine

1/2 lemon juiced

salt

pepper

Add all the ingredients together, pour over lamb and allow to marinate for at least an hour. The longer you marinate the better it will taste. Preheat your grill and cook.

“Il Dolce far Niente” and a Sweet Pie

This post was originally intended to tell a story about a mission impossible to sneak a chocolate bar from the fridge without my grandmother catching us. Instead, after a missed morning alarm, a week of schedule changes, and a sick kid I wanted to share the act of sweet nothings and a recipe to help you enjoy your own sweet nothings.

Here in the US my family came over to make a better life. In doing so, they also adapted to the American work ethic and way of life. “Work hard, worker harder?!” Wake up, get dressed, run here, pick up there. However, in Italy and other parts of Europe, life is a little different. For one thing, in many parts there is the siesta, where everyone goes home around lunch time and society shuts down to relax or take a nap. In Italy there is this saying “Il dolce far niente”, the literal translation is the sweetness of doing nothing. This is done by taking time from their day to disconnect and literally do nothing. No cell phones, no WIFI, no television. They are just present in the moment. Breathing and taking in their surroundings. Today, I need my watch to alert me when it’s time to breath. Perhaps what we all need is a little time to do nothing and enjoy the moment. Life is short.

So if you are inspired to do anything this weekend, please take a few minutes and have your own sweet time of doing nothing. Then make a cup of coffee and enjoy a piece of this sweet Italian pie.

Pizza Dolce or Sweet Pie is a traditional sweet treat that is served at Easter time. You can say it is like an Italian cheesecake. For a gluten free option make it crustless (just make sure to butter your dish), or I have also found that Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking flour is a great substitute.

Just a note, I am not a baker and probably will never be, so I had the assistance of both my mother and grandmother for this delicious treat. If you don’t know, at least for my family and that of the Italians I grew up with, they never wrote recipes. Everything is done “ad occhio” by eye and also for a large group of people. The way they look at it is if your doing to the work you may as well make it count, plus they also tend to share with others. With that said this recipe is for two smaller pies. Also be sure to have some cooked white rice ahead of time.

Ingredients

For the Crust:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 eggs

2 tsp oil

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of water

Egg Wash:

1 Egg Yolk beaten with a tablespoon of water

For the Filling:

6 medium eggs

3/4 cups cooked white rice

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 lemon juiced and grated

2 lbs Ricotta Cheese

1/4 cup of chocolate morsels

3-4 Maraschino cherries pitted and quartered

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the oil, water, and two eggs. With your hands mix until the dough can form a ball. Set the dough aside and begin to make the filling.

For the filling, in another bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar, then add the rice, vanilla extract, lemon juice, grated lemon, and Ricotta cheese. Mix well.

Split the dough ball in half and roll one half out to cover the sides and bottom of the pie dish and pinch the sides all around. Pour half of the filling mixture into the pie shell. With the egg wash, brush onto the crust.  Add your chocolate chips by spreading evenly over the top. (No worries, no need to stir, they will sink down once it starts to bake. and add the cherries the same way. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the center is set.

Foraging Fun…A Saint Patty’s Day Frittata

Thanks to a little storm named “Stella”, it may be a while before we head out to forage, but in honor of Saint Patricks Day I decided to make an asparagus frittata and share with you a story behind it.

When the weather started to warm up and the plants started to sprout, my grandparents would get out of work, change into their “house clothes”, and pick my sister and I up from school to take us on a car ride. Now keep in mind this was the 1980’s and people were a little more trusting of their surroundings.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, my ancestors lived off the land. If something was growing, and it was eatable, they found a way to use it. That’s where the asparagus comes in. Today, especially this time of year if you head into the grocery store asparagus is at its peak. My grandparents, on the other hand had a different way of finding it. Why spend money if you don’t have to?  Now, lets get back to that car ride……

So there we went in the eggplant colored, Oldsmobile complete with matching towels on the seats so they didn’t get “sporco” (ie. dirty). We headed out driving until my grandparents found some forested area decorated with “No Trespassing Signs”. My sister and I would ask where we were going? They simply would reply, once parked, to stay in the car, open the windows a little, and that they would be right back. I know what your thinking, were they CRAZY?! Remember, it was the 80’s and people used to leave the kids in the car to run into the grocery store. Different times folks! We didn’t mind we used our imagination and had a good time! About twenty minutes later they came back to the car with a paper bag full of wild asparagus. True they probably shouldn’t have trespassed but ultimately they were foraging in prime real estate for asparagus picking. Wild asparagus is a lot thinner and more tender than the ones that we buy at the store, but still just as delicious! When we got back home we knew they were going to make a delicious, frittata. A few eggs, some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, is all it took.

There are no more car rides for my sister and I, but my grandmother still does take her daily walks and keeps a lookout for asparagus. She has even seeded some so she can pick it in her yard. Sometimes, my aunt will take her for a ride, and she will ask her to pull over. With her 80 something year old, eagle eyes she will spot some asparagus on the side of the road. She will still go home to make a frittata, except now she saves it for Sunday dinner, when everyone is together.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! Its a great Lenten option, it’s meatless as well as vegetarian and gluten free. A frittata is simply an open faced omelet. Like anything in Italian cooking, you make it yours. If you don’t like asparagus change it up and add your favorite veggie or don’t add veggies at all. Don’t like cheese, omit it. Whatever you choose, just have fun!

Asparagus Frittata

Ingredients/ Tools

6 eggs
1 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 lb of asparagus
1/4 tsp of salt (the cheese can be salty so add more later if needed)
A pinch Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons of Butter
1/2 large onion sliced very thin
Oven safe nonstick skillet

Trim the tender part of the spears. A good trick is to bend the spear, it will break where the tender part meats the tough part. Cut the tender stalks on a bias in 1 -1 1/2 pieces.

In a bowl beat the eggs, add the cheese, salt and pepper.

Set your stove top to medium high heat. In your oven safe skillet, add butter, once melted, add your onion and asparagus and sauté until slightly tender or the onions start to become translucent. Once this is complete pour your egg and cheese mixture over the asparagus and onions making sure its evenly covered, and turn the heat down to low.

While that is cooking on the stovetop, turn on your broiler.

Once the egg mixture sets and thickens, (think almost scrambled egg texture) on the stovetop, place the skillet under the broiler until the top of the frittata cooks turning a golden brown. This will ensure that the frittata is cooked on both sides. Be careful this will happen very quickly. Defiantly not the time to put in a load of laundry!

Remove from the oven, and Buon Appetitto!

Labor of Love

I wanted my first post to be an introduction of things to come. A little peak into what I love to do and what I intend to to.

It’s March, and there is a certain feeling that comes with this time of year. The days are getting a little longer. Some are cold, but most are getting a little warmer each day. When it rains there is that smell of spring.  When spring is on its way that means so is the Lenten season. This is a time of reflection and fasting. For my family, on the Fridays leading up to Easter, it means getting a little creative in the kitchen. Finding meals without meat is fun and challenging, yet sometimes it can be the simplest of meals. I decided to make fresh homemade pasta. Not pasta with the thousands of ingredients listed on a box you buy at the store, but using two very simple ingredients: eggs, and flour; the way they did it back in the old country. There were no grocery stores. Everything had to be made from scratch. They lived off the land they worked. They even ground their own grains (so my Grandmother says).

Today, we do visit the store to buy our ingredients and yes we do buy the boxed pasta as well. Who wants to grind wheat anyway? On occasion, we find ourselves indulging in the freshest of pasta made with lots of love. It truly is a labor of love. Its hard work, as I learned while making it myself!

I have many fond memories of making pasta. My sister and I gathered around the table, cartoons in the background (cartoons intended to distract us and leave my grandparents to work). We had a different agenda. We were there to get a piece of dough to practice our own creation. Mine always ended up in my mouth; anyway….

A handmade cutting board, a long wooden rolling pin, flour, eggs, and the gaudiest tablecloth one can find, more than likely a gift from a Canadian relative. My grandparents would be rhyming, conversing, or singing songs. One kneading the dough the other critiquing the technique (my Grandfather). I have to say it’s no wonder people were thinner and stronger back in the day. Today pasta has a reputation for making you a little chubby, but after kneading, and rolling that dough there was no doubt I had earned that pasta!

With the dough rested, it was time to cut and dry the pasta. Teamwork! One of my grandparents would cut the other would lay the pasta on the tablecloth to dry. That labor of love, that time spent with my grandparents is what has inspired me to start this blog. It was around that very table, whether i knew it then or not that my love of cooking began. As I began my own pasta creation (yup I made that pasta in the picture) I was reminded how much I want to share with my friends and family the traditions and my love of cooking. My intentions are as simple as the food I want to create. Simple clean healthy food that is ancestral in nature with a story that connects my family our roots!

Until my next post…..

Ciao!