Cuban Black Beans

December 1, 2017

Black beans are ubiquitous on tables in Cuba.

Getting beans to the right texture and the liquid to the right thickness is almost an art form.

Food is scarce in Cuba…at least if you’re a Cuban paying in Cuban Pesos. Not so much if you’re paying in CUCs (Cuban Convertible Pesos), which is what foreigners use. The CUC is pegged to the US Dollar but if you change Dollars for CUCs you pay a 10% penalty as opposed to exchanging another currency, say the Euro, for CUCs.


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Prices in Cuban Pesos at a locals’ only market

One view of a locals’ only market
Another view of a locals’ only market

I visited a butcher shop in Havana which pretty much now only sells chicken; when chicken is available, that is. If you notice the door to the cooler is open. That’s because the cooler isn’t on because there’s no inventory.

A butcher shop in Havana

The butcher is just waiting around for chicken to arrive.

When that chicken does arrive, it will likely be frozen Tyson chicken from the United States. Even though, when this picture was taken, the US embargo of Cuba was in full force.

Most of the chicken in Cuba is frozen Tyson chicken from the United States

The same is true of hot sauce. If one asks for hot sauce at a restaurant in Cuba one is likely to get a bottle of Tabasco shipped in from Avery Island, Louisiana. Clearly there are exceptions to the embargo for some American companies!

If you pay in CUCs, the food available increases dramatically.

One stall in a multi-vendor market where prices are denominated in CUCs
Another stall in the same market
Locally prepared beverages in the CUC-denominated market

The disparity in prices for food purchased with Pesos vs CUCs is so large that average Cubans cannot afford to buy food with CUCs, even if they can get them. It takes 25 Cuban Pesos to buy one CUC. Paying in Pesos limits one to shopping in pretty-much locals’ only stores, with limited inventory where the products, like rice and beans, are sold at subsidized prices.

Rum is widely available regardless of the currency.  You’ll pay more if you’re a foreigner, however.

Havana Club is a popular brand of rum in Cuba
A well-stocked bar ready for the day’s customers
Cuban cigars for sale at the bar

After returning from the trip to Cuba in 2014, I tried but couldn’t get the texture of my “Cuban” black beans right. But then, my mother-in-law got a recipe from Beatriz (Betty) Scannapieco. Betty is from Cuba. She was in the exercise group my in-laws attend. Betty’s recipe, using a pressure cooker as is common in Cuba, works like a dream. It’s really pretty effortless, too. The green pepper, onion, and garlic add tremendous flavor but are removed after cooking leaving just beans and the silky cooking liquid.

I made three changes to Betty’s recipe. She called for 1 teaspoon of white wine. I use 1 tablespoon. Betty didn’t use tomato paste or black pepper but both are common ingredients in many Cuban black bean recipes.


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Cuban Black Beans
This recipe came from Beatriz (Betty) Scannapieco in my in-law’s exercise group. Betty is from Cuba. I added the tomato paste and black pepper to Betty’s recipe. I also increased the wine from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon. It can be challenging to get the bell pepper, onion, and garlic out of the beans as they very soft after cooking. If you want to make it easier, you could tie them in cheesecloth.
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 1/4 hours
Servings
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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 1/4 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Wash the beans.
  2. Cover beans with water by a couple of inches and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. The next day, cut the bell pepper in half and remove ribs and seeds.
  4. Cut the onion into 4 or 6 wedges, but do not cut the whole way through the root end.
  5. Bruise the garlic by laying the blade of a chef's knife on top and gently pounding the knife blade.
  6. Drain the beans. Put the beans in a pressure cooker along with 3 ¼ cups of fresh water.
  7. Bring the beans to a boil, uncovered.
  8. Skim the foam from the beans then remove the pot from heat.
  9. Add the green pepper, onion, garlic and bay leaves to the beans.
  10. Put the lid on the pressure cooker and bring to 10 pounds pressure.
  11. Reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes.
  12. Remove the pressure cooker from heat and allow pressure to dissipate naturally.
  13. Uncover the pressure cooker.
  14. Add the olive oil, tomato paste (if using), wine, vinegar, salt and black pepper (if using).
  15. Bring to a boil uncovered and boil for 5 minutes.
  16. Remove from heat. Cool slightly and remove bell pepper, onion, bay leaves, and garlic.
  17. The beans can be served immediately but are better if refrigerated overnight.
  18. Serve the beans in a shallow bowl with pieces of finely diced raw onion in the center. Black beans are customarily accompanied by white rice.
Recipe Notes

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Cabbage and Noodles (Halushki)

November 27, 2017

One of the interesting consequences of working on this blog is that it is getting me to cook more Slovak food.

We ate way more Italian food than Slovak food when I was growing up but, nonetheless, Slovak food was a significant presence on our table.

Things that only lived in my memory, like the Chicken Paprikash that I posted a few weeks ago, and my Grandma Mihalik’s Butter Cookies that are coming up in a week or two, are now real. And it’s not only the Slovak food. The Chinese Five-Spice Roast Pork from last week hasn’t been on my table in more than 40 years!


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Part of the reason is that, as much as I enjoy cooking, I hadn’t devoted as much time to planning what I was going to cook as I did when I was younger.  That is, until I got deep into this blog (and the restaurant cookbook I’ve been asked to write).

In Junior and Senior years of college there was a plan for dinner for every day of every week. Sometimes there was a plan for lunch, too!

Good provisions weren’t conveniently located to the University of Pennsylvania campus except for some specialty items from the ethnic markets near campus or the occasional very basic item from one of two nearby (in-super) supermarkets. Grocery shopping was done weekly and involved a trip to Ninth Street (sometimes called the Italian Market), and to the Pathmark supermarket in Broomall, PA.

Every meal got planned and a shopping list was created.

The planning was usually done in the evenings when I needed a break from studying (which I know some of you think I never did!). I would sit down with a cookbook or two, or my box of recipes handwritten on 3” x 5” index cards, or the typewritten recipes from Mrs. Hugh, my roommate’s mother and, over the course of the week, generate a list of what my roommate and I were going to have for dinner each night. Some were favorites but many were new, like the whole poached fish I made from Marcella Hazan’s first cookbook or Mrs. Hugh’s Crispy Duck (see the photo embedded in this blog post).

One of my favorite books was a slim volume by Charmaine Solomon. Charmaine was from Sri Lanka and two of the resident advisors in my college house, Reggie and Nanacy Rajapakse, were also from Sri Lanka and knew Charmaine. Charmaine’s Far Eastern Cookbook was copyrighted in 1972 (the year I started college). The edition I have was printed in 1973 so it was quite new when I bought it in 1974 shortly after entering the International Residence Project. I read that book cover to cover, like a novel, many times. I could sit for hours and pore over Charmaine’s recipes.

My dog-eared and much beloved copy of Charmaine Solomon’s Far Eastern Cookbook

In 1976, when I graduated college, Reggie and Nanacy bought me another of Charmaine’s cookbooks as a present, The Complete Asian Cookbook.

Another favorite cookbook was the [Ceylon] Daily News Cookery Book which was in the collection of the Van Pelt library at the University of Pennsylvania. I would check it out, keep it as long as I could, return it, and then check it out again. It was a hardcover book with a red cloth cover. It was simply titled the Daily News Cookery Book.  Reference to Ceylon was nowhere to be found in the title.  Many years later, on a trip to Sri Lanka, I was able to get a reprint of the book (with the word Ceylon added to the title).

My point, though, is that my cooking repertoire expanded because I worked at it. Ray and I planned every meal, we went grocery shopping, we cooked, and we most certainly ate. I was still able to keep up a good cooking pace through medical school but after that, as I got busier and busier, it became harder and harder.

While I can put food on the table any given night without much thought, recreating past favorites or trying out new recipes requires more planning. I now have a calendar specifically devoted to cooking. Dishes get planned out weeks, if not months, in advance. It’s a lot of work, yes, but it’s tremendously rewarding to prepare my favorite foods, many of which I haven’t had in many years, and introduce them to others.

Cabbage and Noodles, sometimes called Halushki, was frequently on our table. I remember it particularly being served with Salmon Patties, one of my favorite Friday meals when we didn’t eat meat. We had it other times, too, but the association of Cabbage and Noodles with Salmon Patties is very strong.


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Cabbage and Noodles (Halushki)
Although three pounds of cabbage sounds like a lot, it cooks down a tremendous amount. If you wish, you can add a teaspoon or two of caraway seed to the cabbage during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Though my family did not do that, it is not unusual to do so.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings
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Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Quarter and core the cabbage.
  2. Slice each quarter crosswise into ½ inch wide ribbons.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pot large enough to hold the cabbage comfortably melt four tablespoons of the butter.
  4. Sauté the onion in the butter until golden.
  5. Add the cabbage. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Sauté on medium heat, stirring often, until the cabbage wilts.
  7. Reduce the heat if the cabbage starts to stick to the pot.
  8. Continue to cook on medium low, partially covered and stirring often, until the cabbage is silky, golden, and sweet. This will take 1 ½ to 2 hours total from start to finish.
  9. The cabbage can be cooked several hours in advance to this point. Warm the cabbage before proceeding.
  10. Bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 1/3 cup of salt.
  11. Cook the egg noodles in the salted water until just done. They should be slightly toothy and definitely not mushy.
  12. Drain the noodles.
  13. Add the noodles to the cooked cabbage along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Toss well.
  14. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
Recipe Notes

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Homemade Applesauce

November 3, 2017

I made applesauce for the first time the summer after my freshman year in college. Don’t ask me how or why I remember making applesauce that summer but the whole process is very clear in my mind. Cooking was still pretty new for me back then. Other than baking cakes, I doubt I cooked more than about four times before my freshman year.

I cooked about once a week throughout freshman year, usually on Sundays. As a freshman, I was required to use the dining service for 10 meals per week, which usually meant lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. Saturdays I went to restaurants and cooked. It was truly a year of experimenting, not only with cooking but with entirely new cuisines and flavor profiles.


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A hand-crank food mill is a pretty unusual piece of equipment for a college student to have. I don’t remember where or when I bought it, possibly I bought it specifically to test out an applesauce recipe that had caught my attention. You can actually see the very same food mill in the pictures below. I still use it

Much to my mother’s dismay I did not go home for the summer after my freshman year. I landed a great summer job in a research lab working for Dr. Mary Catherine Glick (aka Susy), a very well-known researcher. I worked in that lab for the remainder of my undergraduate years.

Students could not stay in undergraduate dorms at the University of Pennsylvania during the summer, so staying in Philadelphia meant I had to find a place to sublet. One of the most common choices was to sublet in Graduate Towers. The graduate students who lived in Grad Towers had to rent for a full calendar year, even if they were not going to be in Philadelphia for the summer.

I sublet one bedroom of a two-bedroom apartment in Grad Towers. Other than a bathroom the apartment had a very small Pullman kitchen and a kitchen table with two chairs. There was nothing that resembled living room furniture, nor would there have been any place to put it.

Graduate Towers still standing but renamed to Sansom Place

The other occupant of the apartment was a graduate student who used the kitchen to “cook” exactly three things for dinner. One was a can of tuna fish with pickle relish (ok, so no cooking involved). The second was a single chicken breast boiled in unsalted water and doused with pickle relish. The third was boiled hot dogs with, you guessed it, pickle relish. He ate the same three foods for dinner, in strict rotation, for the entire summer as he had done for months (years?) leading up to that summer.

I on the other hand, freed from the obligation to eat at the University food service and with an almost totally unused kitchen, was making my mother’s long-cooked pasta sauce, baking fish, and making applesauce among other things.

Over the next few years I experimented with the applesauce, changing up the sweetener (white sugar, brown sugar, honey) and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cloves). In the end, I decided that simple was best to let the apple flavor shine through: white sugar (not too much) and cinnamon.


Here’s a short video of me making applesauce.


Little did I know, when I left home at the age of 17 to go to college that I would never spend a significant amount of time in the home I grew up in again. I worked for Susy for four summers in a row as well as most of the academic years in between. During my first year in medical school, I received a full scholarship for medical school and graduate school in anthropology, which I attended simultaneously. (Actually, I was awarded two scholarships and was able to return the one that had less-generous terms so that it could be awarded to another student.) The scholarship, however, stipulated that I could not take summers off, so I was in school eleven months per year. (I insisted on taking time for myself each August.)

Knowing I would never have a chance to be at my parents’ house for more than a few days at a time for the indefinite future, I was able to arrange my last 4-week medical school clinical rotation at the hospital in the town where I grew up. It was an anesthesia rotation. As it turns out, the Friday before the Monday I started there, the Anesthesia Department at the hospital held a retirement party for the nurse anesthetist who taught “open drop ether insufflation” to Robert Dunning Dripps.  Dr. Dripps was, a physician who subsequently became the first chairman of Anesthesiology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I was a student. Anesthesiology was not a recognized specialty in the 1940s when Dr. Dripps became chair. He was in the vanguard; one of a very small group of physicians who established the medical specialty of Anesthesiology.

I honestly wonder how my life would have been different had I not landed that first summer job with Susy. It’s the reason I stayed in Philadelphia rather than returning to Johnstown for the summer. It started a whole cascade of events that got me integrated in Philadelphia society, a very different scenario from being a transient student.

Let’s make some applesauce as we ponder the unknowable.


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Homemade Applesauce
The amount of sugar and cinnamon is up to personal taste, and partially dependent on the sweetness of the apples chosen. I used Rome and Golden Delicious apples, both are great for applesauce as they break down with cooking and have a very good apple fragrance. Feel free to substitute what is available. Apples that are good for applesauce include McIntosh, Jonathan, Jonagold, and Gravenstein. Leaving the peels on is not only easier but, if some of the apples have red skin, gives the applesauce a beautiful rosy color. The stems and seeds will give the applesauce a bitter taste and must be removed.
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Course Fruit-based, Sides
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Course Fruit-based, Sides
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
cups
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Wash the apples.
  2. Quarter the apples.
  3. Remove core and stems but do not peel.
  4. Cut each quarter into four pieces. The pieces should roughly be about an inch on a side.
  5. Put apples and apple juice in a heavy-bottomed pot.
  6. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring periodically, until the apples are soft, 20-40 minutes. Do not overcook the apples or they will begin to lose their flavor.
  8. There should only be the barest amount of liquid in the pot when the apples are finished cooking.
  9. Pass apples through a food mill.
  10. Add sugar and cinnamon to taste while the applesauce is still hot.
  11. Cool completely and refrigerate or freeze.
Recipe Notes

If you’re not certain if the apples are cooked enough, try to run a spoonful through the food mill. If they don’t crush easily, return the “test” apples to the pot and continue to cook the batch a little longer.

In the United States, cassia, a spice different from cinnamon, can legally be labeled cinnamon.  While cassia is good in its own right, it is much more assertive than true cinnamon.  If you can find whole Ceylon cinnamon give it a try.

Ceylon cinnamon

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Roasted Sweet Peppers

October 2, 2017

Roasted peppers are a classic of Italian cuisine. They are a perfect example of ingredient-driven cooking. All that is required are good peppers, good olive oil, and a few minutes of scorching heat. There’s no way to hide bad ingredients, since there are only two (not counting salt).

A wonderful presentation is to prepare an array of roasted vegetables such as peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and scallions served artfully arranged on a platter and anointed with extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt.

It’s a “wonderful” presentation because it looks beautiful, it tastes great, it’s easy to prepare, and it can all be done in advance and served at room temperature. It makes an impressive antipasto platter in the winter and an inviting warm-weather side-dish in the summer.

But let’s not get carried away. Peppers are classic and work very well on their own. If you like how they turn out you can experiment with other vegetables.

The first time I got serious about making these was back in the late 1980s when we lived in Chicago. We had a four story townhouse. The top floor was the master suite with a very large deck. We had redwood planters made to encircle the perimeter of the deck. In addition, we added scores of pots and, when things got a little too crowded on our deck, we expanded to Billy and Carla’s deck next door!

We grew an amazing amount of produce on that deck. I can’t begin to remember all of it but it included tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, a fig tree, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, and an abundance of herbs including enough basil to feed a small country. We installed a grape arbor but the grapes didn’t do well.

We bought an upright freezer and put it in the garage so that we could put up food from the garden.

One year I roasted peppers and conserved them under a layer of olive oil in the refrigerator. They were good but I subsequently discovered that the USDA recommends against this technique as the covering of oil creates an environment where anaerobic bacteria, like the one that causes botulism, can grow.

After that first year, I didn’t preserve roasted peppers in olive oil again but I did make flavored olive oils and flavored vinegars every year right up until we moved full-time to Santa Fe. The USDA has the same recommendation regarding putting herbs in oil but, for some reason, I chose to ignore the advice.

These days, when I want roasted peppers, I just buy fresh peppers at the farmers market, farm stand, or supermarket and roast them. Luckily Bell peppers are available year-round.

In addition to good-quality ingredients, scorching heat is required. The idea is to blacken and blister the skin quickly. If you do that too slowly the flesh of the pepper cooks too much and becomes mushy. For all practical purposes, you cannot blacken the skin too quickly. The flesh will always cook enough to be good. My usual method, as described here, is to use my gas grill on very high heat. If I only want to roast one or two peppers, I put them directly on the gas flame of my stove. Like I said, you cannot blacken the skin too quickly.

As good as the peppers are on their own, they can be used as ingredients in other dishes. Remember the uncooked tomato sauce I posted a few weeks ago? I said that the dish could be made with roasted peppers when tomatoes aren’t in season. Now that tomato season is coming to an end, consider roasting a few extra peppers and using them to make pasta later in the week.


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Roasted Sweet Peppers
Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are sweeter than green ones because they are fully ripe. I usually use an array of different colored peppers. Many recipes suggest steaming the peppers in a paper bag after roasting. I don’t like using a bag as it absorbs the juice that comes out of the peppers. A heatproof bowl with a tight-fitting lid allows the peppers to steam and preserves the pepper juices.
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Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Passive Time 20 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
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Rating: 0
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Instructions
  1. Heat a gas grill on the highest setting for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Put the peppers on the grill. Cover the grill
  3. Keep the heat on high.
  4. Turn the peppers every few minutes until the skin is evenly blackened.
  5. You will probably have to stand the peppers on their bottom end to get that part blackened.
  6. When the skin is black, put the peppers in a heatproof dish with a tight-fitting cover.
  7. Cover and allow the peppers to cool and steam for 10-20 minutes. This will finish cooking the peppers and loosen the skin.
  8. Holding the peppers over the dish to catch any liquid, remove the blistered skin using your fingers. The skin should slip off easily.
  9. Split the peppers in half. Using the tip of a sharp knife, remove the fleshy ribs of the peppers. Remove the seeds.
  10. Slice the peppers lengthwise in ½ inch wide strips.
  11. Pour the collected juices over the peppers, straining out seeds and skin.
  12. Sprinkle the peppers with olive oil, approximately 1 tablespoon per pepper. Toss well.
  13. Cover tightly and allow the peppers to sit at room temperature for an hour or two.
  14. When ready to serve, toss again and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.
  15. The peppers can be made a day or two in advance and refrigerated after tossing with olive oil. Allow the peppers to come to room temperature for an hour or two before salting and serving.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Tiella (Southern Italian Vegetable and Pasta Casserole)

September 18, 2017

When I was growing up, we mostly socialized within the extended family plus a very few close family friends (that’s you, Joe and Betty Slivosky!).

It was a time (the 60’s) and place (small-town Western Pennsylvania) where it was rare to call in advance of a visit. One just showed up. This usually happened in the evening after dinner, though almost never on Monday or Thursday when the stores downtown were open until 9 PM and we dressed and went shopping after dinner.

Everyone would sit around (usually in the kitchen) drinking coffee (with caffeine), chatting…and smoking. Oh, the smoking! Occasionally the men would drink beer but unless it was a holiday or celebration of some sort, hard liquor was a rarity.

On Sundays, visiting frequently occurred (or at least started) in the afternoon and there might be two or three stops before heading home.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard the same stories. It’s one of the ways I developed a connection with family members, like my maternal grandparents, who died when I was very young.

To be sure, sometimes my cousin Donna and I would abandon the adults and pursue some childhood activity but we still hung out in the kitchen much of the time.

Often times the conversation would veer towards food; things my grandmother would make, the huge platters of cannoli one of my great aunts would make, what was eaten on holidays, and on and on.

There was the oft-repeated reminder of how my grandfather could come home late at night with a group of friends and how my grandmother would cook for them near midnight. There were stories of my grandmother cleaning and cooking chicken feet. My mother would talk about the time she killed a chicken in the basement and it got away from her and ran, headless, around the room. My father would remind everyone that the only food he didn’t like was gnocchi.

Food was a central feature of our lives.

So was conversation.

There were also times I would just sit in the kitchen and chat with my mother for hours. Relatives and food were common topics of conversation. There were dishes my grandmother made that I heard about over and over but never tasted because my mother never made them for some inexplicable reason. One of them was a quickly sautéed veal chop with a pan sauce made of the drippings in the pan, crushed canned tomatoes, peas, and seasonings. Back in the days when I cooked veal, I actually made it. Now I do it with pork chops.

The other dish that stands out in my memory from these conversations is Tiella. My mother talked of it frequently but never made it. The instructions were basic, a layer of pasta, a layer of potatoes, a layer of zucchini, and a can of tomatoes crushed by hand and poured on top. The whole thing was then baked. There wasn’t much of a discussion of which seasonings to use or proportions of ingredients. It was just assumed it would have garlic (of course it would have garlic) and the herbs that were commonly used in our family. Proportions…well…it just needed to look “right.”

For the number of times my mother rhapsodized about this dish, I can’t figure out why she never made it.

The first time I tried to make it was in the early 1990’s at our little house on Griffin Street in Santa Fe. That first time around, it didn’t live up to the hype, for sure, but it christened the house in an odd way.

In November 1992 my mother, my husband’s mother, and my husband’s grandmother traveled to Santa Fe with us for Thanksgiving week. We looked at property and fell for a little (1151 square foot) house on Griffin Street. My mother was terminally ill at the time. When we got back home, my mother insisted that we use her money for the down payment, which we did. She kept saying that she wanted to live long enough to return to that house in the spring. It didn’t happen. She died in early January.

All of the kitchen gear, china, and glassware for the house on Griffin came from my mother’s house. So, it was fitting that I should make this dish for the first time using my mother’s kitchenware in a house that we owned thanks to her.

It took me many years of working (off and on) on the seasonings and proportions to get it to taste great. (Well, I think it does.) The only real liberty I took with the dish is to use fresh tomatoes rather than canned when I make this in the summer.


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Tiella (Southern Italian Vegetable and Pasta Casserole)
This is a wonderful late summer dish when tomatoes are at their peak. If you make it at other times, use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes in place of the tomato puree and fresh tomatoes. Pour the liquid in the can over the potatoes instead of the puree. Crush the tomatoes by hand, add the seasonings described for fresh tomatoes, and arrange the crushed tomatoes on top.
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine the olive oil and crushed garlic in a small sauté pan. Sauté garlic until lightly browned. Remove the garlic and reserve the oil.
  3. Put the raw ditalini in the bottom of a deep, circular casserole, approximately 10 inches in diameter. The pasta should form a single layer with a fair amount of extra room for it to expand.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, and 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and mix well.
  5. In a bowl, toss the sliced potatoes with half the rosemary, ⅓ of the oregano, ¼ of the basil, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  6. Arrange the potatoes neatly in overlapping layers on top of the ditalini. Do not wash the bowl.
  7. Season the tomato puree with salt and pour over the potatoes.
  8. In the same bowl used for the potatoes, toss the zucchini with the remaining oregano, ¼ of the basil, the remaining rosemary, 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, ¼ of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  9. Arrange the zucchini on top of the potatoes. Do not wash the bowl.
  10. Neatly arrange half the tomatoes on top of the zucchini. Season with half the remaining minced garlic, half the remaining basil, and salt and pepper.
  11. Arrange the remaining tomatoes on top and season with salt and pepper as well as the remaining garlic, basil, and all the parsley.
  12. Put the tiella in the preheated oven.
  13. Remove the crusts from several slices of day-old Italian or French bread. Whiz the bread in a food processor to make coarse crumbs.
  14. While the tiella bakes, toss the breadcrumbs with the remaining garlic oil in the bowl used for the potatoes and zucchini.
  15. After the tiella has baked for 90 minutes, sprinkle the oiled crumbs on top and bake till golden, approximately 30 minutes more.
  16. Allow to rest at least 30 minutes before serving. The tiella can be served warm or at room temperature. It can also be reheated in the oven briefly before serving, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Here’s the link for my recipe for homemade tomato puree (passata di pomodoro).

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Calabacitas: A New Mexican Classic

August 21, 2017

Talk about a dish that simply wouldn’t exist in any recognizable form without new world crops, calabacitas is it! Squash, corn, and chile are all new world plants.

Calabacitas is Spanish for zucchini but is also the name given to a dish of zucchini, corn, and (usually) green chile.

Often served as a side dish, calabacitas makes an awesome burrito, too. Accompany it with some frijoles (and probably a tortilla or three) and you’ve got a great high-protein vegetarian dinner. Leave out the cheese and it’s vegan! Truth be told, I’m plus-minus on the cheese in any case. When serving this for company I usually sprinkle cheese on top as in this recipe, but if it’s just for “us,” cheese isn’t usually even a thought.

This is the time of year to serve the most sublime calabacitas possible as zucchini, corn, green chile, and tomatoes are all in the farmers’ market. But calabacitas is too good to be had only a few weeks a year and, honestly, versions made with frozen corn, canned tomatoes, and roasted green chile that you’ve squirreled away in your freezer along with the ever-present zucchini in the produce aisle are too good to pass up any time of year.

For me, calabacitas shares a serious failing with succotash. They are both great ideas in my estimation but the execution often falls flat.

When I set out to finally perfect a version of calabacitas that I felt comfortable serving, I thought back on all the less-than-perfect renditions I’d had since I first set foot in New Mexico in 1991.

The litany of offenses includes being too watery, being too rich, having huge chunks of zucchini that seem mismatched next to corn kernels, being under-seasoned and being aggressively seasoned.

That set out a plan of action for me. The zucchini should be cut approximately the same size as corn kernels. There needed to be a minimum amount of liquid in the finished dish. Loads of cream or butter or cheese were out of the question. The seasoning should complement the vegetables, not assume control of the dish.

Zucchini (the namesake vegetable) and corn were a given. Pretty much everything else was up for grabs. Tomatoes, which are sometimes included, seemed right for color and a bit of acidic brightness that the zucchini and corn lack. They have the added bonus of being another New World crop. Roasted green chile, also sometimes included, was right for several reasons. It screamed “New Mexico,” it would add a bit of complimentary smokiness to the blend, and, honestly, I’m a chile-head.

My preference was for hot or extra-hot chile. This is wrong for several reasons. First, calabacitas is not traditionally a spicy dish. Second, after one of the dinners where I tested out my evolving recipe, one of the guests said that it was unfortunate that the entire “calabacitas conversation” that evening centered on how hot it was and not on how good it was.

In cooking I prefer to bow to tradition but if there’s ever a place where I butt heads with tradition, it’s in making dishes spicy. But I decided there and then that I should follow tradition and use mild chile in my calabacitas.

Finally I was on to the aromatics and seasoning. Onion and garlic are my go-to combination unless there is some compelling reason for one or the other (usually based on tradition). The herbs eluded me for a while. I really wanted to use Mexican Oregano (which isn’t actually oregano) because of its New World origins but it just seemed to overpower the dish. In the end, I decided that a modest amount of Mediterranean Oregano played best in the sandbox with the other ingredients.

Let me know what you think of my rendition of a New Mexico classic.


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Calabacitas: A New Mexican Classic
Traditionally calabacitas is not a spicy dish so it is best to use mild roasted green chile unless you and all your eaters are chile heads. Bacon fat gives a great flavor but olive oil or other vegetable oil is fine, too. Frozen corn works well as there are so many other flavors in the dish but using fresh corn cut off the cob is a definite treat. I prefer to thaw frozen corn before cooking. Ice crystals can sometimes carry a "freezer" taste and rinsing them off can eliminate it. Also, it is easier to time the cooking of the corn in combination with other ingredients if it is not frozen when cooking starts. Rotel packs tomatoes in 10 ounce cans and they’re a bit of a Southwestern classic in and of themselves. In a pinch feta cheese can be used instead of Cotija
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Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
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Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
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Instructions
  1. Dice the zucchini.
  2. Thaw the corn under running water.
  3. Roasted New Mexico green chile.
  4. Peeled and seeded chile, ready to be chopped.
  5. Sauté the onion until translucent.
  6. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onion is golden but not brown.
  7. Add the zucchini and sauté until the zucchini is hot.
  8. Add the corn, green chile, tomatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper.
  9. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated and the zucchini and corn are cooked, about 10-15 minutes, depending on your preference.
  10. Adjust oregano, salt and pepper in the last few minutes of cooking.
  11. Serve sprinkled with crumbled Cotija cheese.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Fresh Corn Sautéed in Butter

August 16, 2017

I moved full-time from Chicago to Santa Fe in early 2012. I still get asked if I miss anything about Chicago. I think Chicago is a wonderful city but, honestly, the only things I miss are related to food. I miss really good Italian restaurants and I miss the abundance of specialty food shopping.

Go backwards to the late 80’s when I moved from Philadelphia to Chicago (with a one-year stint in Tucson in-between). It was pretty easy for me to find replacements for favorite restaurants and specialty food shopping. It was all but impossible to replace New Jersey farm stands and especially fresh corn, Silver Queen Corn, to be exact.

There I was in the heartland, awash in corn and soybeans, and there was no really good corn-on-the-cob to be had. It was a sad, sad day when I realized something as simple as good corn-on-the cob was basically gone from my table.

To be sure, I bought and cooked corn-on-the-cob but it was never the same.

Not only is Silver Queen an amazing variety of corn but farm stands in New Jersey (at least way back then) were set up on the road alongside the farm. The corn was on the stalk mere hours before it was sold. It was ultra-fresh.

I was actually so enamored of Silver Queen Corn when I lived in Philadelphia that I bought an amateur piece of art simply because of the subject matter. See below.

Then, one day, Jim Nutter prepared corn in a Southern style that compensated for the absence of Silver Queen Corn in my life: Corn Fried in Butter.  I always refer to this as Corn Sautéed in Butter but a Southern cook would most likely refer to it as “fried.”

The method came from his husband’s mother, Mildred Burgess Hamill. Mrs. Burgess, as she was known, ruled her kitchen. One of the very few times Phil Burgess was allowed to help his mother in the kitchen, it was shucking corn for this dish.

The dish is pure simplicity: corn and butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. Sure, you can gussie it up with cream or spice it up with jalapeno peppers but I like it best in its pure state. This two-ingredient recipe (salt and pepper don’t count, really, as ingredients) goes beyond the sum of its parts. I can’t explain why. It just does.

Traditionally, Italians did not eat much fresh corn. Polenta, yes (in the north) but fresh corn, rarely. I made this dish 20-some years ago when my husband’s Great Aunt Fidalma and Great Uncle Faliero were visiting Chicago from Tuscany. Not only did they like it, but Zia Fidalma was fascinated by the tool I used to remove the corn kernels. After seeing me do one ear of corn, she decided to take over and do all the remaining ones!

A nifty tool for cutting kernels off the cob

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Fresh Corn Sautéed in Butter
This is an elegant way to serve fresh corn that preserves all of its peak-of-season goodness. You can make it extra-rich by adding a few tablespoons of heavy cream and stirring to incorporate just before removing the corn from the heat, if you would like. You can also change up the flavor profile by adding a finely diced jalapeno pepper at the beginning, as Jim Nutter often does. A pinch of sugar sometimes helps to improve the flavor if the corn is not farm-stand fresh. Some Southern cooks might cook this longer but since really fresh corn tastes good raw, long cooking is not necessary.
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Course Sides, Vegetables
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Sides, Vegetables
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs.
  2. Scrape the cobs with a knife to release any juice.
  3. Put the corn and butter in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Heat gently to warm the corn and butter.
  6. Cook on medium for approximately 3-5 minutes after the butter melts and the corn “starts dancing” in the butter, stirring frequently. Do not brown the corn or butter.
  7. The finished dish: Corn Fried in Butter.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese

August 7, 2017

It’s Saturday morning, August 5th and I’m sitting on an airplane writing this post.  I’m bound for Baltimore to visit the younger of my two nephews and his wife and their son.  I have meetings in Washington, DC on Monday and Tuesday so I’m taking this opportunity to visit.

The family members and relatives with whom I am closest are scattered around and I don’t see enough of any of them.

What does all of this have to do with green beans, you might ask?

Everything.

And nothing.

Food is my connector. It connects me to people and places. It evokes memories. It helps to create new ones. It’s a set of shared experiences.

I can’t make my mother’s long-simmered tomato sauce without evoking a slew of memories. My strongest olfactory memory from childhood is being gently awakened by the smell of garlic sizzling in olive oil on Sunday morning as my mother began to make tomato sauce for that day’s dinner. This is the sauce I am making on Sunday at my nephew’s house.

Most recipes that enter my repertory do so because of their connection with people and places. They document my personal history in edible form and cement memories of good times shared with family and friends. Many are family recipes, mine or those of people I know. Some are not, like the Italian Walnut Crostata I created to replicate one I had sitting at a little bar in Venice drinking grappa with my father-in-law in 1996.

That crostata has family connections of a sort. One of the favorite non-Italian desserts in our family is nut roll, brimming with ground sweetened walnuts and encased in just enough lightly sweet yeasted dough to hold it together as it is rolled and baked. While nut roll is more of a Central and Eastern European dessert, it was common in Johnstown, Pennsylvania where I grew up with people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.

My Aunt Margie’s nut roll filling is flavored with citrus, hewing toward the Italian, while my mother’s has milk and honey, pointing more towards Eastern Europe. I suspect, though cannot prove, that my Aunt Margie’s filling is more like her mother’s (my Italian grandmother) and my mother’s is more like my father’s mother’s (my Slovak grandmother).

Nut roll is a pastry that I truly miss but it is challenging to make and I have never tackled it despite having my mother’s and my Aunt Margie’s recipes. Except for the one time my cousin, Donna, made it and sent me some and the two times that Michael Alcenius sent me some he made using my Aunt Margie’s recipe, I have been in a nut roll blackout since Aunt Margie died.

The walnut crostata was a revelation. There, in an easy-to-make Italian sweet pastry crust (pasta frolla), was a filling of sweetened, ground walnuts. It wasn’t nut roll but it certainly evoked all the right taste sensations.

I used my husband’s Great Aunt Fidalma’s recipe for pasta frolla and Aunt Margie’s recipe for nut roll filling, to create a dessert that is both reminiscent of that night shooting grappa with my father-in-law in Venice and that preserves recipes from my family and my husband’s family.

Now that I’ve gotten my mouth (and maybe yours) watering for walnut crostata, we’re going to make green beans! I hope, though, that you have a better understanding for the reason this blog exists: to document and preserve traditional recipes along with some sort of a personal story or vignette.

Having just said that, I can’t tell you precisely where this recipe came from but it’s been in my repertory for decades. It is the essence of simplicity, a hallmark of much of Italian home cooking. It also lends itself to being made almost exclusively in advance, making it a perfect dish for a last-minute put-together when entertaining or making a more complicated main course.


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Green Beans with Parmesan Cheese
The beans can be cooked in advance and shocked in ice water to stop cooking. The garlic can be sautéed in olive oil in advance, too. Just before serving, heat the oil and toss the beans briefly to warm them. In a serving bowl toss the beans with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. This dish can easily be doubled or tripled. Adjust the amount of Parmesan cheese and garlic to your taste. The olive oil is an integral part of the “sauce” so be generous.
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Course Sides, Vegetables
Cuisine Italian
Servings
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Course Sides, Vegetables
Cuisine Italian
Servings
Ingredients
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Instructions
  1. Wash the beans and cut off the ends. I like to cut the ends at an angle for a better appearance.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Meanwhile, bruise the garlic with the side of a chef’s knife.
  4. Add the olive oil and garlic to a skillet, large enough to hold the beans, and heat on medium-low heat until the garlic begins to sizzle.
  5. Sauté, over low to medium-low heat until the garlic is golden.
  6. Remove and discard the garlic.
  7. Remove the oil from the heat.
  8. When the water comes to a boil, add the beans and boil until crisp-tender. This will take just a few minutes depending on the beans and your elevation. The beans should not be crunchy but they should have a distinct “toothiness” and almost squeak as you bite into them.
  9. Drain the beans.
  10. If preparing the beans in advance, shock in ice water.
  11. Add the drained beans to the garlic-flavored olive oil. Heat gently if the beans are cold.
  12. Off the heat, mix in the parmesan cheese, salt to taste, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  13. Toss well and serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Mom’s Potatoes with Tomato Sauce

July 19, 2017

Pasta.  Potatoes.  Bread.

I crave carbohydrates.  I can go about three to four days without eating pasta before I start to really crave it.

Funny, because we only had pasta about once or twice a week while I was growing up.

We did, however, have potatoes on many of the intervening days.

Sometimes we’d have gnocchi (little pasta dumplings made with potatoes and flour) or pierogi (pasta stuffed with potatoes)!  Though there are many other pierogi fillings, potato and cheese was the preferred variation in our house.

Once, when I hadn’t been home from college for a while, I asked my mom to make either pierogi or baba (sometimes Anglicized to bubba) for me for dinner.  She made both.  There wasn’t a piece of meat in sight.  She knew me all too well.  Meanwhile, the two college friends who came home with me were aghast at the absence of meat…and vegetables for that matter!

Americans, by and large, are not protein deficient so the occasional meal without meat or another major protein source isn’t an issue.

My mom’s potatoes with tomato sauce were usually served alongside sausage.  Typically, it would be hot Italian fennel sausage that was browned in a skillet then braised slowly with some water to tenderize it.

If we were having kielbasa, the second most common sausage in our house, my mom would make a version of these potatoes without the tomato sauce.  She’d get the potatoes good and brown and then cover the pan for a bit to trap the moisture and tenderize the potatoes without making them mushy.

Since my mom made a big pot of slow-cooked Southern Italian sugo most every Sunday, there was a ready supply of homemade tomato sauce for these potatoes.  In my house, unfortunately, I don’t make that kind of sauce often enough (though I plan on changing that) and it always seems like a luxury to use some of it for these potatoes as opposed to putting the sauce on pasta.

I have found, however, that my uncooked pizza sauce works well.  In a pinch canned or bottled tomato puree is good too (or even one of those 8 ounce cans of tomato “sauce”).  If using canned puree, add a pinch or two of oregano for flavor.

While Italian versions of potatoes cooked in tomato sauce usually end up being more “saucy,” this Italian-American version turns the tomato sauce into little more than a coating on the potatoes.


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Mom's Potatoes with Tomato Sauce
This variation on home-fried potatoes was common in our house. Cooking potatoes in tomato sauce is very Italian but this variation, which includes bell pepper and onion, and where the tomato sauce is basically cooked away, is more Italian-American. The tomato sauce could be leftover homemade pasta sauce (without meat) or pizza sauce. It can also be canned tomato puree. If using puree, I suggest adding a few pinches of dried oregano for flavor.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 75 minutes
Servings
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 75 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Votes: 0
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Instructions
  1. Peel the potatoes. Cut them crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices.
  2. Cut the bell pepper into 1/3 inch dice.
  3. Dice the onion.
  4. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a 12 inch skillet.
  5. When the oil is hot, add the potatoes. The potatoes should start sizzling immediately. Season the potatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Do not stir the potatoes just yet.
  6. Allow the potatoes to brown on the bottom.
  7. These are getting browner on the bottom but not ready to turn yet.
  8. When the potatoes on the bottom have turned golden brown, use a spatula to flip and separate them.
  9. When approximately 1/3 of the potatoes are browned, add the bell pepper.
  10. Continue cooking, allowing the potatoes on the bottom to brown more before flipping and separating, until about ½ of the potatoes are browned and the bell pepper is just beginning to char.
  11. Add the onion.
  12. Continue cooking until the potatoes are nicely browned and the onion is golden. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent the potatoes and onions from burning, though a few dark spots won’t be a problem.
  13. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
  14. Add the tomato sauce to the potatoes. Mix well.
  15. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, but not mushy, stirring occasionally. Approximately 45-60 minutes more. The tomato sauce should have pretty much completely evaporated, leaving the potatoes coated in red.
  16. The potatoes ready to serve.
Recipe Notes

Copyright © 2017 by VillaSentieri.com. All rights reserved.

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Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese

June 12, 2017

I am writing this sitting on a beach in Akumal, Mexico about an hour south of Cancun by car.

On the beach in Akumal
Iguanas enjoying the beach in Akumal

Just a few days ago, I was at home in Santa Fe where the weather was just beginning to turn spring-like.  The week before that I was in Hawaii.

The view from our lanai in Kauai

By the time you’ll be reading this, I’ll be in Palm Springs, where, even today, the temperature is hitting 100°F!

On the patio in Palm Springs before the heat of the day

Needless to say, my sense of seasonality is out of whack at this point.

No matter the temperature or the weather, asparagus says spring!

Just a few days ago, I was eating grilled asparagus in Santa Fe.  Days before that I made an asparagus frittata, before that I cooked the asparagus that is featured in this post.

Asparagus isn’t something I remember much of before college and usually it was the mushy white stuff out of a can.  White asparagus can certainly be a delicacy but when it comes out of a can that’s an impossibility as far as I’m concerned.

College was a time of incredible culinary growth for me.  Growing up I ate wonderful food as my mother was a great cook.  Mostly, though, it was Italian, Slovak, and the American dishes that every kid in the United States grows up eating.

I didn’t learn to cook until freshman year in college.  I was lucky enough to live in a college house at the University of Pennsylvania that was housed on two floors of an otherwise upper class dormitory made up of apartments with kitchens.  The typical freshman dorms either had no kitchens whatsoever or had the most rudimentary cooking facilities shared by large numbers of students.  Since I had a kitchen, I only took out the minimum required meal contract: 10 meals per week.  Usually this meant I ate lunch and dinner in one of the dining halls Monday through Friday.  On weekends I cooked…and baked!

I called home every Sunday from the day I went away to college.  Occasionally there was a lapse, like the time when I was 31 and hadn’t called home in a couple weeks.  The first words out of my mother’s mouth when she heard me on the other end of the line were, “I was just about to put your picture on a milk carton.”  Point made!  [You may or may not know that “back then” the pictures of missing children were put on milk cartons in the hope that someone would recognize them and call the authorities.]

Besides just catching up on our lives, I got advice.  My father gave me advice on how to handle alcohol, what to do if I had too much (don’t lie down and don’t close your eyes, for example), sex, and other topics.

My mother walked me through the steps of how to cook whatever it was I planned on making for dinner that evening.  By the end of freshman year, I was a credible cook.

My gastronomic circle was not very big, however.  Early my freshman year the resident advisors, Dennis and Martha Law from Hong Kong, took a group of us to dinner in Chinatown.  It was exciting, having grown up in a town without a Chinese restaurant.  The tastes, however, were so…well…foreign that I didn’t like much of what was served.  I tasted everything but rarely had more than one bite till something landed on my plate that struck me the right way.  The serving platter made it down the table past two or three other people till Dennis saw me eating.  He commandeered the plate and put it in front of me to be sure I had enough to eat.

By the end of the year I was not only eating, and loving, Chinese food, I had developed a rudimentary understanding of the regional differences and learned the basics of Chinese cooking from Martha.

After my taste buds got over the shock of Chinese food, I started exploring other cuisines.  A favorite became Indian food at Maharaja just a few blocks from my dorm.  It turns out the restaurant was owned by the aunt of someone I now work with!  I believe it was the first Indian restaurant in Philadelphia.

Sophomore year I was not in the college house but had one roommate in a similar upper class dorm with a kitchen.  Meal contracts were only required of freshmen and I saw no point in eating in the dining hall.  The arrangement I struck with my roommate was that I would cook and he would clean up.  It turns out he would eat, and like, most anything so I was free to explore and experiment.

That set the stage for my junior year when I was admitted to another college house, the International Residence Project.  Half of the students were from the USA and half from anywhere else in the world.

My roommate, and best friend for many years, Ray Hugh, hailed from Guyana.  Valrie Tracey from Jamaica became the third member of a triumvirate that was pretty much inseparable for the rest of college.

Two married couples were our resident advisors, Ambrose and Najma Davis, and Reginald and Nanacy Rajapakese.  Ambrose was from Jamaica, Najma from Bangladesh, and Reggie and Nanacy from Sri Lanka.

Nanacy taught me how to make Sri Lankan food and I’m almost as comfortable making that as I am Italian.  I remained close friends with Nanacy and Reggie, even making several trips to Sri Lanka with Nanacy in the last few years, after Reggie’s death.

Ray and I have reconnected on Facebook which is rekindling many memories of the trips I made to Guyana and my experiences in learning to make Guyanese and Chinese food from Ray and his mother.  Ray’s grandparents on both sides emigrated from China to Guyana in the 1800’s.

Ray and I packed an incredible amount of cooking power into a tiny dormitory kitchen.  Without enough cabinet space to store ingredients, we had stacks and stacks of plastic milk delivery crates packed with an unimaginable assortment of ingredients from international food markets.

Our apartment became known as the place for midnight snacks and folks always came knocking on the door around then to see what we’d whipped up to nibble on.

That was the year I discovered that my stovetop Corning percolator made a serviceable stand-in for an asparagus steamer.

 

Asparagus steamer in a pinch!

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Asparagus with Parmesan Cheese
Asparagus is best cooked in an asparagus steamer. This small-diameter, tall pot allows the bottom of the asparagus spears to boil in the water while the tender tips cook by steaming. When I was a college student and didn’t have an asparagus steamer I used my stovetop Corning Ware percolator. If you don’t have a steamer, or a reasonable substitute, I find it preferable to cook the asparagus in a microwave oven rather than to boil them. After rinsing off the asparagus, put the spears and whatever water clings to them in a microwave-safe dish with a cover. Cook in 1-2 minute increments, moving the spears around after each bout of zapping, until cooked but still a little “toothy” (and certainly not mushy).
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Course Sides, Vegetables
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Sides, Vegetables
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Votes: 0
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Instructions
  1. Trim the tough ends off the asparagus. The “Notes” section below contains a link to a blog post describing how to do this.
  2. Crush the garlic with the side of a chef’s knife.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic and sauté slowly until brown, pressing down on the garlic occasionally.
  4. Discard the garlic. Reserve the oil.
  5. Cook the asparagus until toothy, neither crunchy nor mushy. If you do this in an asparagus steamer, put about two inches of water in the bottom and bring to a boil. Lower in the basket with the asparagus. It will take 5-10 minutes, depending on the asparagus and your elevation, to cook the asparagus properly.
  6. Put the cooked asparagus in a warmed serving bowl.
  7. Add the garlic-infused olive oil and mix.
  8. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix well.
  9. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.
Recipe Notes

You can find videos of prepping asparagus here.

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