This Saint Patrick’s Day was the first time I ever made corned beef and cabbage. Its debut at our table can only be attributed to our supermarket’s almost giving it away at a ridiculously low price and my better-half’s sneaking it into our grocery cart.
Being Italian and having attended a predominantly Irish parochial school in the 50s, I remember that Saint Patrick’s Day typically led to some kind of minor altercation between the Irish majority and the Italian minority, with the latter opting to celebrate their saint’s day, Saint Joseph, two days later on the 19th.
Once again, during this crisis, I tentatively prepared a New York Timesrecipe for a ragù that I had filed away but wasn’t quite sure would work out because of the quality of the main ingredient: sausage.
Under normal circumstances, I would have been using sausage from my local salumeria, but given our shelter-in-place restrictions, this was not a possibility. Thanks to the extraordinary kindness of some young neighbors, however, I was able to procure, among a load of other groceries, a log of bulk sausage from our local supermarket.
I don’t know how you are coping with this pandemic, but given our ages, we’re sheltering in place, trying to stay calm and carry on. To this end, preparing comfort food has helped a lot.
A case in point. Last night, after a hectic day trying to set up a work-from-home connection, we were both not at our best. So with what we had on hand, I decided to make something easy and comforting: an improvised Chicken Parmigiana.
Watching news coverage of my family’s homeland suffering from this viral nightmare has been difficult for me. Recently, however, I came upon a video depicting residents of an apartment complex in Naples one evening joining in song to express solidarity in the fight against this virus and longing for a hug. The song, Abbraciame (Hug Me), begins:
Finally tonight I’m here with you and no one can hear. I’m a bit shy and you know I’m not good at this. Who doesn’t have courage in life, They can only lose their dream. Therefore, if you’re here you got it that my dream is you. I’ve fallen in love with you I’m crazy for you, I’m crazy for you!
One voice, which eerily reminded me of my long deceased aunt’s, is heard above the others singing the subsequent lyrics in local dialect:
And then yes, hug me stronger because then who gives a f…k? If all the time that passed is wasted time, or if tomorrow nothing will exist, hug me tonight. . .
Even though our San Diego winters are nothing like those we experienced while living in New York City, they are nonetheless chillier and darker than our only other season “spring-summer-fall” and we find ourselves gravitating to hibernal fare like braises and stews. So with the arrival of daylight-saving time this weekend, I thought we’d have our last hurrah for winter cooking: a long braise of beef with loads of onions, anchovies, and green olives along with tomatoes and a full bottle of red wine.
As some of my readers here may know, I’m a fan of Alison Roman of the New York Times. Her unaffected, simple approach to food so often leads to some of the tastiest dishes I’ve made. In fact, one of my most popular posts was based on her recipe for Vinegar Chicken with Crushed Olive Dressing. A modicum of ingredients and minimal preparation yielded an extremely flavorful and vividly colorful weeknight supper.
Well recently I came upon another of Ms. Roman’s recipes on the New York Times “Cooking” website: “Wine Braised Chicken with Artichoke Hearts.” What intrigued me most about it was her use of canned artichoke hearts. Yes, canned.
Growing up, I always looked forward to my aunt’s Carnevale, or Fat Tuesday, dinner, which featured homemade fusilli pasta with a three-meat (beef, veal, and pork) tomato sauce. She made this dish only once a year to retain its special significance: a farewell to meat for the forty days of Lent.
I remember how I would salivate as the sauce slowly simmered and my aunt would use thin iron rods to roll the pasta dough into long tubes of pasta that roughly resembled the barrel of a rifle. As she made the pasta, she’d advise me to eat as much meat as I could since there wouldn’t be any more on the menu until Easter.
On Sunday, I attended a lecture sponsored by our local Italian cultural organization that was titled “Italy’s Third Golden Age.” After citing the Roman Empire and the Renaissance as the first two of these eras, the speaker turned to the post World-War-Two era as the beginning of the third. In support of her thesis, she cited Italy’s accomplishments in the cinema, automotive engineering, fashion, and food.
Although her talk was entertaining and illustrated with abundant slides of cinematic, fashion, automotive, and culinary icons, it seemed to focus more on the popular theme of la dolce vita than on any serious cultural achievements equal to those of the first two golden ages. I’m sure the Italian Trade Commission would have been quite content both with the turnout and the audience reaction.
I, on the other hand, was disappointed by some of her omissions from the roster of achievers, one of which led me to prepare the subject of today’s post. That oversight occurred in the speaker’s brief tribute to Italy’s culinary accomplishments, which began with Chef Boyardee and concluded with Lidia Bastianich.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I typically let what’s available in my supermarket influence what will be on my table for dinner. Such was the case this weekend when a 50%-off sale on pork shoulder led to the purchase of a five-pound roast and a subsequent search for a recipe with which to prepare it.
I’ve always been a fan of Mark Bittman and his minimalist approach to cooking. Not only are his dishes easy to prepare, but the typically limited number of ingredients in his recipes makes for clean, rich flavors Read more