After preparing this dish, from Carol Fields’ In Nonna’s Kitchen, I am forced to question its attribution to a contadina, the Italian word for a farmer’s wife. Indeed, given some of the recipe’s ingredients like nutmeg and lemon zest as well as some of its directions like using a separate skillet to sweat the aromatics and a fine-mesh sieve or a food processor to puree the sauce, the only farmer’s wife I could imagine making the dish is Lisa Douglas, played by Eva Gabor in the ‘60s television show, “Green Acres.”Read more
Lentil and Sausage Casseroles
More often than not, our weekday dinners are determined by an item in the fridge that’s near its “use-by” date. Such was the case on Monday, when my husband announced that we had a pound of Italian sausage that needed to be used or tossed. When I suggested making my go-to sausage and roasted peppers, he said: “Again? Why not try something new and use it for the blog.”
While making something new might not pose a problem for those of you who have a nearby market or a car, for those of us who don’t, it often involves seeing what’s on hand and then searching for a suitable recipe. After discovering a package of green lentils in the pantry, I turned to my cookbook collection, where I found the perfect match, “Lentil and Sausage Casseroles,” in a volume from the Good Cook series by Time-Warner: Dried Beans and Grains.Read more
Royal Corona Bean and Wild Mushroom Stew
Because I’ve always been intimidated by dried beans, I thought it might be a good idea to join the Rancho Gordo Bean Club. The company has a well-deserved reputation for high-quality products and offers a wide variety of heirloom beans, many of which cannot be found on supermarket shelves. So, when, after two years on their waiting list, they notified me a club membership was available, I quickly signed up for quarterly shipments of six packs of beans. To date, I’ve received three deliveries and have only cooked four packs of beans, the last of which inspired today’s post: Royal Corona Bean and Wild Mushroom Stew.
Having had some success with my three previous segues into bean cooking, I decided to attempt something more daring. Rather than following the package direction for cooking the beans, I used a recipe from Alison Roman that called for cooking the beans without soaking them, uncovered, at a bare simmer for one to two hours in a rather unorthodox broth. In addition, the bean-stew recipe from the Rancho Gordo newsletter called for a couple of brand-name ingredients as well as for Swiss chard that I didn’t have on hand. But being in a daring mood, I decided to make some substitutions.
Well, my intrepid foray into bean cooking hit a few snags along the way. My beans took close to five and a half hours to cook and still were a little more al dente than I would have preferred. Likewise, the supermarket’s replacement of baby kale for the fresh kale I ordered didn’t deliver the flavor or texture I had expected. On the brighter side of things, however, the cooking method of the beans yielded a mighty flavorful broth owing largely to its use of caramelized onions, garlic, and lemon along with dried chiles. Similarly, my substituting more dried porcini for the recipe’s brand-name seasoning blend as well as replacing the called for miso with tahini spiked with soy sauce gave the stew the woodsy and umami flavors I was looking for.Read more
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.Read more
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
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.
A New Year. . .and We’re Back
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
Keto Beef & Sausage Chili
Upon his physician’s advice, my husband recently decided to go on the Keto diet for the next two months. Given the intrinsic role food plays in our lifestyle, I couldn’t let him do it alone. So I’ve joined him on this a high-fat, moderate-protein, no carb or sugar venture.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
After last week’s disappointment with my venture into “retro American,” a plethora of chicken drumsticks found in the freezer along with another retro recipe, this one from the New York Times “Cooking” website, led me to attempt another American dish from 30 years ago: “Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic.” It’s an adaptation by Marion Burros from Jane and Michael Stern’s 1991 cookbook American Gourmet.
Skillet-Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
At the end of yet another stressful pandemic week, I was once again seeking comfort food. Something homey, simple, and familiar. My search led me to the top shelf of my bookcase and Ina Garten’s Modern Comfort Food, where I found a recipe for skillet-roasted chicken and potatoes.