Garden fresh, vine ripened, local tomatoes make me recall a vivid summer memory. My grandfather ("Nonno") on my mother's side used to tend a huge garden behind his house in Dorchester MA. He would take us back there to pick ripe tomatoes right off the vine and eat them like they were candy. They were warm from the mid-day sun and had a hearty aroma that only garden tomatoes have. My family made a tomato salad that everyone raved about - especially the rich juices that you sopped up with crusty Italian bread. (My Italian grandparents would say a dialect word that sounded like "woongie" to describe the sopping up ritual. I can't find the actual spelling anywhere!). I've done my best to resurrect those flavors in this recipe.
Blogging about our visits to the Southwest of the United States made me hungry for guacamole and tortilla chips. I reached for the best source of Mexican cuisine I could think of - Pati Jinich, host of Pati's Mexican Table on PBS. OK...I'll admit to having a crush on her too...her zest for life and love of food just sends me. This version has a special twist - roasted veggies to give it a smoky flavor. Pretty much all of the ingredients should have "or more to taste" after them - so I encourage you to experiment with the quantities.
After the great successes of our all-vegan Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve Feast of the 7 Fishes we debated what to do for New Year's Eve with Caroline, T, Patrick, and Angela while we played yet another round of the hilarious adult card game "Think You Can Text?". The verdict was unanimous - an all-vegan, all-Asian feast. We spent the better part of December 31 teaming up to make Pot Stickers (bought frozen from Trader Joe's), Scallion Pancakes, Fried Rice, Vegetable Lo Mein, Vegetable Masaman Curry, and Curry Triangles - usually made with a ground beef filling, but with "Beyond Meat" they were beyond delicious. Here's the recipe. Warning...these are best done when you have a team of helpers to wrap them up.
Richard knew he'd finally perfected his chicken soup recipe when Nancy and Bridget both remarked, "It tastes just like your Mother's!" Chicken soup was a regular Monday-evening meal at the Curzi household, and a more dressed-up version (usually with tiny meatballs - or "polpettini") was always the opening course of every major holiday meal. And anyone who had soup made by Richard's mother, Ida, would invariably say it was the best soup they'd ever tasted. While this recipe may not follow Ida's approach exactly, the result is as close to hers as we've ever achieved. Richard's approach makes good use of something that might otherwise get thrown away - the carcass of a roasted chicken makes for the richest chicken stock.
We enjoyed "tapas" frequently while visiting Spain. One of our favorite options was Patatas Bravas (or Papas Bravas in some dialects). It's incredibly basic - just crispy chunks of potato with a slightly spicy sauce and sometimes garlic aioli - but when done right is pure magic. Our favorite was at the roof-top café at the Reial Cercle Artístic de Barcelona (Royal Artistic Circle of Barcelona). We enjoyed them with a glass of sparkling cava - a great mid-afternoon snack. Since returning from Europe we've hosted a number of socially-distant tapas meals - a perfect option because everyone can have their own plate to help keep your distance. Patatas Bravas was always on the menu. After a bit of research, here's a recipe that Richard has pulled together taking the best ideas from various sources. Rather than deep fried, the potatoes are oven "fried".
One of our favorite meals while in Austin Texas was a take on lasagna that used "Farfalle" pasta ("Butterflies" or otherwise known as "Bowties") instead of lasagna noodles. It had Nancy's favorite vegetable - eggplant - and roasted portobello mushrooms for a nice umami flavor. Patrick was particularly fond of this one - he ate it cold right out of the Tupperware container during his long drive back to Richmond.
To accommodate our relatives' plant-based diet we used vegan "cheeses" including "ricotta" made from soaked raw cashews that was remarkably creamy and delicious. If you like, you can make it just as easily with dairy-based cheeses and oven-ready lasagna noodles.
For New Year's Eve we had a feast of home-cooked Asian dishes with Caroline & T, Caroline's brother Patrick (the one who visited us in Italy), and her good friend Angela who were visiting Austin from Richmond. We made Curry Triangles (using "Beyond" Beef), Pan Fried Vegetable Pot Stickers (from Trader Joe's), Scallion Pancakes, Vegetable Lo Mein, Fried Rice, and the hands-down favorite - Richard's Thai style Massaman Curry.
It's remarkably easy to make and uses a dutch oven rather than a wok. You can make it well ahead of time - it tastes even better reheated after sitting around in the refrigerator for a few hours.
Our time visiting family in Austin TX includes a lot of shared vegan meals and good times. Every couple of weeks, Richard has baked up a batch of oatmeal cookies that Caroline and T have come to squirrel away in the freezer - hidden from the children - for their mid-afternoon breaks from their work-from-home jobs. Here's how he makes these fully vegan delights.
We've settled in Austin Texas for a few months to be near our niece Caroline and her adorable family. Everywhere you go in Austin, you see "nopales" - prickly pear cactus plants - used as landscaping just as you might see azalea bushes in New England. We came upon a large grocery store called "Fiesta" that features beautiful Mexican produce and exotic spices. Next to the bakery was a station where a woman spent much of the day cleaning the thorns off of cactus paddles that were then sold either whole or cut into pieces - and they sold a lot of them! Determined to try them out, Richard adapted this recipe from one of his favorite TV Chefs - Pati Jinich. Caroline and her all-vegetarian family loved it!!
Traveling through the South, it's tempting to sample biscuits at every chance. But more often it's a lazy Sunday morning when Nancy has a craving for them while she reads the Sunday papers in bed.
Richard came across this surprisingly simple and quick recipe (from America's Test Kitchen) that yields a consistently good result. Can you guess what the "Secret Ingredient" might be? Click on "Read More" to find out.
Recipes from the Road
Click on recipe title or “Read More” to see the full recipe and demo video