Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Sicilian Anchovy Pasta

Growing up as a first-generation Italian, I regarded food not only as nourishment but also as a link to the flavors and traditions of my forebears.  In fact, that strong ethnic bond has motivated much of my cooking over the last 50 years. And while the cuisines of other countries have always intrigued me, none has inspired me more than Italian. Whenever I’m in the kitchen, memories of my Sicilian mother or Neapolitan aunt at the stove or of my family around the dinner table come to mind.

Recently, I had one such recollection while I was preparing the pasta dish that is the subject of this post, Christmas Eve Sicilian Anchovy Pasta. As a child, I hated anchovies. The way they looked—dark, shriveled, when packed in salt or rusty and slimy when tinned in oil— totally turned me off even before tasting them. “Yuck,” I would say out of earshot.  But I was forced to eat or, at least, try them every time they appeared in one of the dishes on the table. When I would resist, my father would say: “They’re an acquired taste; you’ll eventually grow to like them.” It may have taken some time before the acquisition, but, as usual, my father was correct.

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Tuscan Meatloaf with Wild Mushrooms

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Tuscan Meatloaf with Wild Mushrooms

I first made Marcella Hazan’s Tuscan meat loaf almost 45 years ago. I was a graduate student on a research fellowship in Cambridge, Massachusetts and had kitchen privileges at the home where I was rooming.  As the owners were away for the summer, I felt free to invite a couple over for dinner who were as passionate about food and cooking as I was. At that time, pre-internet, I only had a few cookbooks in my room and Hazan’s The Italian Classic Cookbook was my most recent acquisition.  I combed through the book looking for something different, something that might surprise my guests as much by its novelty as by its flavor. About midway through, I found it: Polpettone alla Toscana, Meatloaf Braised in White Wine with Dried Wild Mushrooms. Read more

James Beard’s Farmer’s (?) Chicken

James Beard’s Farmer’s Chicken

For my second post of the year, my husband suggested a New York Times recipe that had caught his eye and was made more appealing since we had all of the ingredients on hand: James Beard’s Farmer’s Chicken. The recipe first appeared in a feature story on James Beard by Julia Moskin that was occasioned by the publication in 2020 of a Beard biography The Man Who Ate Too Much, by John Birdsall.

Moskin attributes the recipe to a son of a member of Beard’s circle, chef Andrew Zimmern, who told her about his childhood experiences in Beard’s kitchen and “encountering tastes there for the first time, like a braise of chicken with olives, almonds and raisins, a dish with roots in Spain and California that Beard made often.” Beard claimed to have “adapted the recipe from Spanish immigrants who worked on ranches in California.”

However, having gleaned from Birdsall’s book a better understanding of Beard’s showmanship, I have to question the chef’s attribution of his dish to migrant farmers. The recipe’s bend of ingredients, currants, almonds, olives, paprika, seem more Moroccan to me; and after preparing the dish, I found the flavors quite similar to those of a tajin.

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A New Year. . .and We’re Back

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New Year’s Eve

Well a new year is here and thankfully so are we. Looking back on the past few years, we consider ourselves pretty lucky. Since my last blog post, almost nineteen months ago, we’ve been through a lot: Andrew’s Keto diet for medical reasons, where we (I simply had to join him) cumulatively shed almost sixty pounds; a move back east from San Diego to be closer to friends and family; Andrew’s two surgeries, from which he’s recovered quite nicely; and the many challenges and repairs associated with settling into a new house. All this, while dodging the ever present threats of Covid with masking and boosting, might explain why I haven’t blogged for so long.

But the holidays, even with some celebrations being cancelled at the last minute, have put me in a better mood. In fact, the cancellations of some dinners and get-togethers inspired me to get back into the kitchen and celebrate at home with some old and new dishes, which I’ll summarize here. Read more