I sometimes get caught up in the exactness of recreating one of my Grandmother’s recipes. This is especially the case when I attempt to make any of her soups. They always seemed to magically appear from pot to bowl, and of all the cooking I did alongside Nana, I don’t ever remember making a soup together. For a while I was like an obsessed chemic trying to recreate the exact spices and herbs so that the end result would be a slurp of warm memories. Sometime later I realized that the simple preparation of these soups and of all of her dishes was enough, it was a continuation of the tradition she had started, or was perhaps just perpetuated by her. As long as I got it mostly right the rest could be my own to enjoy… and share of course.
3 carrots peeled and diced
1 leek diced
2 celery stalks diced
1 small or 1/2 large sweet onion
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
2 containers organic low sodium chicken broth
2 cans drained and rinsed cannellini beans
1 head of escarole, cleaned and torn into pieces
handful of chopped parsley
handful of chopped dill
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a large stock pot of cast iron dutch oven, heat the extra virgin olive oil on medium high. Add the chopped, onions, leeks, carrots, celery and bay leaf and saute for one minute. Adding a bit more oil if you need, make a well the pan to soften the garlic. Continue to cook all the vegetables for eight to ten minutes. Raising the temperature of the stove slightly, add the two containers of broth and bring to a simmer. You can now add your salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, parsley, and dill. Once a steady simmer develops add the torn escarole and cover the pot for five minutes more. You can now add the cannellini beans and continue to cook for about fifteen minutes. Serve the soup alongside some hearty toasted bread, enjoy!!!
Vinnie and Tuddy’s summer camp had only one clear cut rule, “Don’t touch Pop-op’s tomatoes.” Being small and prone to a bit of trouble, I neglected the “Don’t” in this singular law and became determined to get my grubby little hands on each piece of blazing red fruit.
On a slow mid day break from pizza making and breadcrumb crumbling, I carefully tiptoed over the border stones that outlined my Grandfather’s garden and snuck inside. Amidst the greenery, wooden stakes and cages I was almost completely camouflaged. I turned in circles on my heels, dizzy with joy. Peering over my shoulder, to ensure Drew was keeping a proper look out, I began to methodically touch each dangling tomato solely because I was not supposed to. I turned around once more and caught my brother with his head face upward, following a passing cloud in the clear blue summer’s sky and I knew I had lingered too long. I felt my heart drop to the pit of my belly when from nowhere my Grandfather appeared like a ghost. He lifted me up with one hand from the patch of tomato earth and placed me beside my clueless little brother. Not a whole lot was said but his disapproving look hung around until dinner.
The next morning as Drew and I sleepily shuffled into the backyard of my Grandparents house, I saw my Pop-op hunched over a small plot of dirt about a hundred yards from his own larger patch. He had re-planted a Roma tomato bush. He presented us with an old Chivas Regal container full of miniature garden tools and motioned toward our newly pruned section of the yard. I think our tomato plant lasted about two weeks, not bad for a gardener of 5 and 3 years of age.
*The recipe below is a classic-it’s simple and perfect alongside every summer meal. Tomatoes only taste like themselves for two or three months out of the year- so after September you are better off with a can or jar. The real thing is worth the wait.
4 garden fresh beefstake tomatoes (if using plum make it 6, if using cherry or grape make it 12-14)
1/2 cup freshly torn basil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Slice the tomatoes into quarter wedges. In a salad bowl combine the tomatoes salt, basil and black pepper, stir to combine. in a small bowl or cup combine the honey and olive oil, whisk gently and toss with tomatoes. Serve and enjoy!
The stock of non-perishables in my Grandparents basement pantry could have fed a small family for two years in the event of a nuclear disaster. Luckily, the reserves were only ever used to help round out a meal for the frequent unannounced guest.
Preparedness is the foundation for any good working kitchen. You must always have something on hand, even when there is “nothing to eat.” My always on hand items are mostly canned and boxed, but some are ingredients I simply can’t do without. So grab a pen and paper and start a list, these pantry staples are the perfect accompaniment to all the recipes on this blog, and they can make a meal out of themselves.
First on the always on hand list is Pignola, or Pine Nuts. If you’ve been reading you know that this ingredient has more tags than anything else. Toasted up these guys are the perfect additions to salads, pasta dishes, and a necessity for pesto. Here, I take my most beloved tree nut to the desert table for a delectable little cookie that just happens to be incredibly healthful.
Choco Coco Pine Nut Macaroons
2 cup of raw Pine Nuts
4 tablespoons agave syrup or Maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups of shredded unsweetened coconut
2 ½ tablespoons good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F
In a food processor or blender pulse the pine nuts into a paste. Scrape the pine nuts down the side of the processor add the remaining ingredients. Pulse all until extremely well blended!!!!
Using a measuring tablespoon scoop out the choco coco pine nut “batter” onto a baking sheet (nonstick or parchment lined) using your hands you can shape them into patties or balls whichever you prefer, just try and make sure that they are all roughly the same size. Bake off in the oven for 50 minutes at 200 degrees F.
Cool on a rack for a good twenty minutes. Enjoy …without feeling guilty!
In the Northeast May practically demands outdoor dining, and because we have all been locked away since late October developing vitamin D deficiencies, we are more than happy to oblige.
Arugula topped with navel orange segments, fresh mint leaves and slices of fennel, lightly dressed in lemony vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment to any meat or fish that might be grilling in your backyard. Sometimes I toss in toasted pignola nuts, sometimes not, totally up to you. The important thing to remember with this and any salad is to keep the dressing light, just enough to enhance the flavor of, but not hide the ingredients.
Arugula with Fennel, Mint & Navel Orange Segments
I almost feel it would be insulting to tell you to grab a bowl and fill it with arugula (about 4 cups), mint leaves (8-10 leaves torn by hand), sliced fennel bulb (1 large or 2 small), add segments of navel oranges (1 large or 2 small) and if you are feeling inclined to do so toasted pignola nuts (1/4 cup) so don’t worry I am definitely not going to tell you how to drop fresh ingredients into a bowl.
I am however going to offer you a rather informative link on how to slice citrus into perfect segments.
How to slice fennel for a salad
Zest from ½ lemon
1 lemon (the same one you just zested silly) rolled and juiced
1 teaspoon clover honey or agave
½ teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt (more or less to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-4 Tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil (you may need more or less but usually within this range to get a nice creamy consistency for your vinaigrette)
In a bowl combine the zest, lemon juice, vinegar honey, salt and pepper , using a whisk or a fork (though whisk does work better here) pour in the extra virgin olive oil in a steady but slow and SLIM stream while briskly whisky the ingredients together.