Sunday, November 13, 2016

I Will Feed You Pasta

I'm not going to lie. It's been a tough week. I have been writing Antigone in Munich about Sophie Scholl and The White Rose Society. Sophie practiced and preached passive resistance in Germany in the early 1940's. It's a play for young audiences and it is filled with heart and heartbreaking. I find it interesting that I started this play the day I got home from Germany. Maybe there are no coincidences.

I have spent a few years fighting carbs. This week, I caved in. These are dishes that feed everyone - everyone and bring comfort. It's right up there with warm blankets and purring cats. (From Bon Appetit, October 2016) Need some comfort? Here we go.

Ingredients (4 servings)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto (about six slices)
1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme leaves plus more for serving
Kosher salt, ground pepper
1 cup chicken broth
12 ounces pappardelle or fettuccine
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

Heat 1/4 olive oil in heavy pot (a Dutch Oven works) over medium heat.
Cook prosciutto in a single layer, turning till crisp.
Transfer to paper towels and drain.
Heat remaining two tablespoons of oil in same pot. Cook mushrooms 5-8 minutes until brown and tender. Turn heat to lmedium-low, add shallots and 1 teaspoon of thyme, a little salt and pepper and cook (constantly stirring) until shallots are translucent. Turn heat to low. Add chicken broth and simmer until there is only a thin layer left.
Cook pasta in another pot until very al dente - about three minutes less than recommended cooking time.  Using tongs, transfer pasta to to pot with mushrooms. Add 1 cup (I added less) of cooking liquid. Crumble half of prosciutto into pot. Increase heat to medium, cook stirring until pasta is finished (mine talk one minute, Bon Appetit says 2 minutes). Add cream, simmer and cook until pasta is coated. Remove from heat, add butter. Adjust seasonings. Put pasta in dishes (or one big dish dish), crumble the rest of the prosciutto on top and serve. Garnish with thyme. I always serve with Parmiggiano-Reggiano.

From start to finish, I was at the stove about twenty minutes. Fast, easy, fresh.

Food is nurture.  want to nurture. The body. And the soul.

This is first and foremost a food blog but I should let you know who I am.

I am the granddaughter of Italian immigrants. Grandma and Grandpa were from southern Italy so were marked "brown" at Ellis Island while northern Italians were marked "white."

All are welcome at my table. All. Every race, every religion, those with no religion, LGBT, immigrants. There are no walls. There never will be.

From Leonard Cohen, who has provided solace for me through the years.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Simple Season

You know this season - the season of no-cook. Sometimes the season of take-out. Hazy, hot days. Butterflies and bees. An abundance of zucchini - and if lucky - too many tomatoes. (Take my zucchini: please.)

It's a good time to picnic. Even when you picnic somewhere inside where there's air conditioning!

And at least once a year, we pack these babies up and go stare at a lake or a river.

The thing about the muffuletta sandwich is - anything goes. Italian bread, ciabatta bread, sourdough bread - pick your favorite. Slice almost in half - take out some of the bready dough (I know, people always say "and reserve for another use." But do you? We feed it to the birds.) And then add what you will. I like roasted red peppers and an olive salad slathered on the bottom and top. And a good dousing of oil and vinegar. And I'm partial to a mixture of salami, provolone, prosciutto - but really - any of your favorite meats and cheeses will do. I slam that sandwich together and put a weight on it and let it press together and we're good to go. Sometimes, I warm it in the oven to melt the cheese a bit and cement it that way.

It's always good. Always. We left the low-carb bandwagon for awhile. (And gained weight.) But you know when you saute some shrimp and zucchini (did I mention I have a lot of zucchini?) and toss it with pasta and tomatoes, life looks really good on that side of the pasta bowl.

My tomatoes are on steroids - all of them: the Plum tomatoes, the San Marzano, the Early Girl, the Beefsteak. They were diced and mixed with a large handful of basil, some Italian parsley and some warmed garlic in olive oil. I salt and pepper lightly - because at the table it's topped with fresh Parmesan and that's usually all the salt it needs. The bowl is covered and sits on the counter for the rest of the day. When we're ready to eat, we cook up some pasta and done.

I don't even warm the sauce.

My new favorite appetizer is a spreadable or softened cheese on toast. It's topped with a little radish and favorite herbs. It takes five minutes. And I get compliments. Which is sweet. (I should probably add some zucchini - because - did I mention - I have a lot of zucchini? From two plants. About sixty zucchini thus far and more coming.)

It's the season of "Fast, Easy Fresh" and it leaves you time. To gaze at whatever summer-scene strikes your fancy. For me - it's usually water. I am a Cancer and if there's anything to that astrology-thing, they have me pegged. I am a water-baby. I can look at this all day.

And then sometimes on a patio, overlooking a lake - there's beer.
 Happy August.

Friday, July 8, 2016


Love is ...

- the natural world.

Love is...

- daisy days.

Love is ...

- all creatures great and small.

Love is...

- work.

Love is ...

- color.

Love is ...

- breaking bread with others.

Love is ...

- cooking for loved ones.

Love is ...

- them.

- and them.

And you. And me. And us.

"We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall and light from dying embers.
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I say that as symphony. Eliza tells her story. Now fill the world with music, love, and pride."
- excerpt from Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony acceptance speech

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Artichokes - Roman Style

Roman Artichokes or Carfiofi alla Romana. I was going to post this one month ago - but then "life" happened as it often does.

Straight forward and easy (yes, cleaning the artichokes takes a little time. Put on music and go to your zen place) but once that is done, it's smooth sailing.

Traditionally, the recipe calls for about one tablespoon of fresh Italian parsley and three tablespoons of fresh mint. My early spring garden had Italian parsley, oregano and a touch of mint so that's what I used.

Ingredients - serves 3-6
3 artichokes - halved, trimmed
4 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (Italian parsley, mint, oregano, basil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup boiling water

Trim artichokes and remove choke. "How to instructions" can be found here and here. Plunge each one into lemon water as you continue trimming.
Combine minced herbs, garlic and olive oil. Put herb mixture into the cavity of the halved artichoke.
Fit them all snuggly into a deep pan so that they don't fall over. Pour the white wine and boiling water over them and simmer for about an hour until tender.

Hunger is a great motivator. I often wonder when someone pulled up their first artichoke and declared, "A thistle! Let's eat it!" I think that's what I love about the "cucina povera." The frugal, peasant recipes of Italy will always call to me. It's a bond with past generations.

And that's about the amount of cooking I have managed in the last two months because...

... in April I was at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah working on my play Almost, Mary (about Mary Anning, the first female paleontologist).

And then I was in Evanston, IL with the Purple Crayon Players for my play Bound by Stardust - my quirky Otto Schmidt/North Pole/physics play.

And then I was fortunate enough to be in Independence, Kansas at the William Inge Festival of New Plays with my one-act A Paper Forest (about climate change).That's William Inge's home above - I am a great fan of that playwright - he wrote so eloquently about small town America.

And because we needed more excitement - Matthew successfully defended his PhD in plant pathology in May. Ironically, his degree will confer on May 31 - the same day that Kirsten's AuD will confer. (They're a little competitive.) So ladies and gentleman - may I introduce Dr. Haas and Dr. Haas!

AND...thirty years ago today, I began an adventure ...

The adventure continues today. The "kids" took us out for a celebratory dinner (Italian) and tonight - we will do Chinese take-out. How's that for a journey of an Italian cook? And because we weren't busy enough this spring, we will be hosting a farewell barbecue for my eldest who moves to Germany on May 30th. (It's getting real.) Happy Spring, all.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Chicken Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

One year ago, I posted a lasagna roll up recipe with spinach, ricotta and tomato sauce. They were a hit - mainly because it is super-easy to exercise portion control and very easy to serve. Last December, I saw a similar recipe with alfredo sauce and loved the looks of it. But of course, when I went back to find it - all I could find were fillings that contained cream cheese, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan. And I thought: "Mama-Mia! - that's a lot of cheese!" If you weren't lactose intolerant before the meal, you might be afterwards.

This is rich - but it won't send you into a coma. It's filled with chicken, spinach, mozzarella and parmesan. Plus - you can devise the amount in the filling to suit you. I've seen some with broccoli, others with just cheese. You just can't mess this up. I made this early in the day, refrigerated it and popped it in the oven when the guests arrived. It's a nifty, 30-minute coking time.

Ingredients - serves 6-8 depending on appetites (the three females at the table had a serving size of one; the three males took 2-3)

2 cups your favorite alfredo sauce
15 lasagna noodles
2 cups cooked chicken
1 10 oz package frozen spinach - well drained (of course, you can use fresh spinach)
1-1/2 - 2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmesan
Italian seasoning (or fresh Italian parsley)
A little garlic is nice

I didn't over stuff-them. Just adjust the filling amount to what works for you.

Get out all the moisture in the frozen spinach. (I drained over night.)
Cook lasagna noodles. Drain on paper towels.
Mix cooked chicken, spinach and cheeses in a bowl. Season to taste. I just used some Italian seasoning and pepper.
Thinly spread some alfredo sauce in the bottom of your lasagna pan.
Thinly spread about 1 tablespoon of the alfredo sauce on the drained noodles. Add about 3 tablespoons of the filling and spread thinly. Roll up the lasagna noodles and place seam-side down in the pan. Repeat. And repeat. Dollup each roll-up with 1 tablespoon of the alfredo sauce.

When you are ready to cook them, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for thirty minutes. Serve. Tada!

I needed two pans.

I has leftovers. Everyone rejoiced and took some home.

We've had a mild winter. I walked most of the winter. I also gained weight. (I think the two cookbooks: French Comfort Food and Winter Cabin Cooking had something to do with it. I meant to post the recipes all winter (very good). Winter Cabin Cooking is also too pretty - makes you fall in love with winter. So as I look at my jeans that I do not fit into, I am reminded how comforted I was this winter!

We barely need the fireplace. March has been warmer than usual. But Matthew's cat is here now and Puck loves it so it goes on for a bit.

And the three cats are mostly getting along.

The theatre work (the stuff I am supposed to be doing when I am not cooking) has gone well. I am flying to Salt Lake City in April to develop a youth play about the first female paleontologist, Mary Anning. Then, I go to Chicago to develop my arctic-physics play Bound by Stardust. Then I come home for a day and do laundry and then go to Independence, Kansas for my one act play about climate change. I had to laugh - I finally get into some places that I have targeted for years - and all happens in April. So, April won't be the cruelest month. Just a busy one.