We have two dial phones and Paul's record player. We use the same knockoff Weber charcoal grill Paul bought 28 years ago. At first we were behind the times. Now, we are suddenly vintage. Like fine wine I like to think. (As opposed to being cheap - it's not broke, why replace it?)
We also have the first Caller ID ever made. But that's just out-of-date. It's not yet vintage - but given our history of hanging on to things (Paul's 30-year old Schwinn bicycle and my swiping my mother's first mixer - with a grinder - because I couldn't bear to see it get tossed) someday the Caller ID, too will be vintage.
As a teen who loved to play in Vintage Greenwich Village - I haunted second-hand shops for clothes from the 1940's. My excuse to "go to the Village." Greenwich Village was filled with scents of incense, shops with posters stating, "War is not healthy for children and other living things." And everywhere you turned there were vintage shops - selling secrets of the past.
I'd walk Washington Square seeing Henry James at every turn. Clement Moore was across from the old (vintage?) Balducci's. I memorized Jack Finney's Time and Again wondering how I could find someone to send be back into New York's history.
The peek into NYC's past has been replaced by Ralph Lauren and designer cupcakes. I still seek the answers to the future from the whispers of the past. Times were precarious then. Times are precarious now. My safety net was the dinner table. If we could almost always come together at the dinner table, this was something stable in my world. This was bridging the past with today and setting the stage for a future.
Using a recipe from the past brings solace. A lamb chop prepared the way my grandmother prepared it in the 1890's in Stigliano evokes her grittiness and my lack. As we eat the lamb chops amid a snowy, frigid Minnesota winter, I am at so many dinner tables. I'm at my home in Queens as an anxiety-ridden teen, at Aunt Fay's meldodramatic dinner table (I'll cut your heart out if you don't eat!") and sometimes I'm in the poverty-stricken mountains of Basilicata with Grandma and her siblings. They're speaking in dialect and they're arguing. And using their arms descriptively.
Marinate the lamb chops (two-eight hours before cooking). The vinegar adds just a tad of sweetness as the rosemary, garlic and oil permeate the chops.
Vintage Lamb Chops - serves 1
For each lamb chop: (serves 1 - just increase with each additional lamb chop)
- 1 lamb chop - (shoulder chop works well)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1-2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary - coarsely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- *small amount of olive oil for sauteeing
Vintage Lamb Chop Preparation
- Put lamb chop/chops in bowl just large enough to hold it/them.
- Whisk oil, vinegar, garlic and rosemary in a small bowl.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour over lamb chop/chops.
- Cover and put in fridge for 2-8 hours. When ready to use, bring to room temperature.
- Heat small amount of oil in skillet large enough to hold the lamb chops.
- Sautee about 5 minutes on each side (until medium-rare).
I served them with some warm white beans (with a little vinegar, lemon and oil in them) and sauteed grape tomatoes over a bed of arugula.
My mother is a crushed red pepper fiend. Crushed red pepper is a very popular condiment in Basilicata. Used simply with pasta, garlic, oil, parsley and cheese - the pepper makes the a simple dish come alive and wards off the chill. Grandma made her simple pasta with pork or possibly wild boar or goat back "in the old country." My mother would add it into seafood. And so I did. This simple pasta with shrimp, tomatoes and red pepper flakes is easy, warming for the winter and lets you savor each ingredient. Grandma appreciated tomatoes. They had to brought up to the mountains every sumnmer, where they would dutifully can them. Life in New York City was actually easier.
Vintage Pasta with Shrimp and Tomato Ingredients - serves 4
(amounts vary according to taste - like lots of pasta - make a pound - lots of shrimp - yes - make a pound)
- 3/4-1 pound linguine
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3-4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 3/4-1 pound shrimp - deveined
- 1-14 ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes
- 6 tablespoons fresh, sliced Italian parsley for serving
Vintage Pasta with Shrimp and Tomato Preparation
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- In a large skillet (at least 12 inches) warm your olive oil on low. (If you happent to have red pepper oil, cheat and throw it in - most delicious).
- Add your red pepper flakes and garlic (a trick I adapted from Michael Symon). Gently heat the red pepper and garlic in the oil for as long as it takes for the water for the pasta to boil.
- When you add the pasta, add the shrimp to the skillet. Raise the heat to medium.
- Let the shrimp gently simer in the oil. When it start to turn pink, turn the shrimp over and add your can of tomatoes.
- Bring to a simmer.
- Drain your pasta and it to the skillet (or if there's not enough room, gently mix in a serving bowl).
- Scatter fresh parsley. Serve. Be warm. Savor.
Use small, fresh tomatoes if you have. Add or subtract amounts. Use scallops. Swipe linguine for spaghetti or even angel hair or a wider fettucine. When our ancestors came here, they "made do." Please do the same.
The theme for Eat. Live Be. For a better 2011 this week is "Baby it's cold outside." And in Minnesota it is. This is when I turn to soups for sustenance, for guilty pleasures and comfort.
Nothing brings you closer to the hearth than stracciatella. Known as the Italian egg-drop soup, a little semolina, Parmesan and eggs are swirled into clear broth creating cooked little rags that curl up in the same way I want to curl up in the winter. This is ripe for additions/changes. I (boring alert) watch cholesterol so sometimes use 1/4-1/3 cup of egg whites. Sometimes I add the semolina. In my old, wicked ways - I was in danger of having a little broth with my melted Parmesan - so take the amounts as gentle suggestions. And in my two-year journey to be more vegetable-centric, I always add spinach or chard at the end.
- 12 ounces chicken broth (can use 8 ounces, can use 14 ounces, can use beef broth - play!)
- 1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg whites - play!)
- 1 tablespoon semolina (if you have it)
- 2 tablespoon freshly-shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano (I am here to say I have used much more!)
- 4 ounces fresh spinach or Swiss chard
Vintage Stracciatella Preparation
I have seen recipes where they want you to mix the eggs, cheese and semonlina in a little of the cold broth first - I never do that. But you certainly may.)
- In a small bowl, whisk eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano and semolina.
- Bring broth to a simmer.
- Add egg mixture to broth and whisk constantly until the eggs turn to flecks of little white rags and the Parmesan is melted.
- Add your green and stir until they are just wilted. Serve.
Two weeks into the challenge, life is - well - challenging. I have yet to sacrifice flavor or huge desires because of a "diet." I am not on a diet. I am midfully eating. (Right now I am mindfully eating the smallest chocolate chip cookie known to man.) Next week's challenge is (gulp) "What is your biggest challenge?"
I may have to address that I am not doing well in the "being succinct" category. Or maybe I need to post more than once a week. All food for thought. And my thoughts turn to food. If you want to join the challenge. click on Eat. Live Be. For a better 2011. Or find them on Facebook.
I will be sending the pasta with shrimp recipe to Girlichef for Pasta Presto Nights (my favorite nights). And if you think you cannot lose weight eating pasta - think again. I am doing it!