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. When our traditional Christmas Eve fish dinner with friends was cancelled at the last minute, we used what we had on hand to make a seafood spread at home: appetizers included smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers, and onion on toast, along with fried clams and Japanese-style fried shrimp from an overstocked freezer. For our dinner, which traditionally comprised linguine with clam sauce and lobster fra diavolo, I turned to our pantry to prepare a Sicilian Christmas Eve pasta with anchovies, raisins, Kalamata olives, and toasted pine nuts, in a rich tomato sauce from a recipe that I had found online a few months ago and had always wanted to make. This has to be one of the best pasta dishes I have ever made. (I plan to recreate the dish for a blog post later this year.)
Sicilian Christmas Eve Pasta
Although we had planned what my husband calls a Jewish Christmas (a movie and take-out Chinese food) for later in the day, nostalgia drove me to make for the first time the Neapolitan Christmas treat, struffoli, deep-fried pastry balls coated with honey, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice, formed into a wreath and decorated with candied cherries and sprinkles. My aunt would always make at least six of these for the holidays to share with friends and family, and did so effortlessly. I made just one and was exhausted. But it was worth the effort.
Neapolitan Struffoli
For the day after Christmas, my husband asked me to make a savory broccoli rabe pie that he had seen prepared on the local news by the produce reporter. I attempted this dish last year with some success but wasn’t inspired to make it again. Nevertheless, especially since Andrew had purchased all the ingredients earlier in the week, I couldn’t say no. This time, to improve upon my last effort, I used the reporter’s recipe only as a guideline: I sautéed the broccoli and covered it to steam it a little, doubled the amount of sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, and eggs for the filling, and made a deep-dish version piling the filling high and covering it with a second pastry crust that stood tall and was pressed tightly on its edge to the bottom crust’s. We were both more than satisfied with the result.
Broccoli Rabe Pie
A Slice of the Pie
Finally, for New Year’s Eve, when dishes with lots of little things, like lentils or tortellini, are believed to bring good fortune, I made another Neapolitan dish, pasta fagioli, with dried cranberry beans from Rancho Gordo. I used their directions to cook the beans in a broth made from sautéed aromatics (onion, carrot, celery, garlic) that’s brought to a hard boil for 10 minutes and then reduced to a simmer for close to 3 hours. I then followed a more traditional method for cooking the pasta. After rendering some diced pancetta, I made a soffritto from minced onions and garlic in which I toasted some tomato paste. I then added the beans, some of which I had pureed, along with their broth, a small rind of Parmigiano Reggiano, a twig of fresh rosemary, several cups of water, and half a pound of ditali. I cooked the pasta along with the beans, stirring occasionally and adding additional water as necessary until it was done. The pasta was finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of cheese. If the rest of this year is as satisfying as this dish, I consider us quite fortunate.
Pasta Fagioli
It’s great to be back! I’ll be posting on a regular basis now with more detailed and illustrated recipes. Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.

10 thoughts on “A New Year. . .and We’re Back

  1. Very happy to have you back, Roland — and with such a bonanza of good things to eat! I’ll definitely be looking forward to your post about the Sicilian Christmas Eve pasta.

    With warmest wishes for the new year to you, Andrew, and Tessa,
    Diane (and the ever-implicit Tom)

  2. Hi Roland – I’m glad you told me about your blog. I’m truly enjoying it! I look forward to seeing more 💙

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