Emily M. DeArdo



Seven Quick Takes--Easing Into August

7 Quick Takes, books, food, recipes, Seven Quick Takes, the bookEmily DeArdo2 Comments
seven quick takes.jpg

Linking up with Kelly!


Hiya, August! Whew!

This summer has been sort of intense, at least June, and then July was sort of decompression, and now it’s August! In some places around here, the kids go back to school in two weeks!

So here’s what going on around Orchard House….


My city has a farmer’s market every week in the summer and then once a month the rest of the year (it’s indoor then, too). And now I live essentially three minutes away from it, so yesterday I decided to check it out. There’s a vendor that sells meat from his farm! That made me really happy, so I bought a brisket (which I’ve never cooked, but hey, why not), and a pound of ground beef. I also bought tomatoes and candy onions, and I should’ve gotten a LOT more tomatoes so I could make sauce, but…..next week!

Fortunately the market runs weekly through September, so I have two months to stock up on stuff. Looking forward to that.


I also made a few new recipes this week. I don’t really like to cook in the summer, but somehow in August my brain switches over and says, OK, we can cook now. No idea why. So I’ve made a few good things this week, all Barefoot Contessa recipes: chicken thighs in creamy mustard sauce (I subbed light sour cream for the creme fraiche), Israeli Couscous and Tuna Salad, and Raspberry Crumble Bars.

The topping is granola and some of the shortbread base.

The topping is granola and some of the shortbread base.


In book news: I have a copy edited manuscript, and now I have to go over it to see if I want to make any changes (or to catch any glaring errors). So that’s due next week. It’s so weird to re-read what I’ve written…..I hope I don’t think it’s all awful and want to chuck it out. :-p


We’re in a really busy section of the church year—there are so many feasts and saints’ days in August! And St. Dominic is next week!


Here’s a look at the state of the To Read Stack:




Also, if you’re looking for some daily spiritual reading, check out A Year With the Mystics. It’s not out until next month, but through an Amazon glitch, I got my pre-ordered copy early!


It’s so beautiful, and it’s making for wonderful spiritual reading!

Food Friday 6: Pork chops with apples and onions

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

Continuing my apple theme here on Food Friday, here is one of my favorite pork chop recipes (besides this one). Apples and onions are a classic combination and they work well with the pork chops. Pork is really easy to overcook, so be sure you don't--keep an eye on them! Dry pork is really terrible. The recipe also calls for apple cider, so we're really getting the full apple effect here. (If you don't have cider, you can substitute water or apple juice.)


Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions

from Dinner: A Love Story

Four pork chops, about 1 1/4 lbs., without bones, salted and peppered on both sides

olive oil, for the pan 

one apple, sliced

one large onion, sliced to the same width as the apple slices (You want these fairly thin)

two tbsp. mustard (dijon, whole grain, whole grain dijon....whatever)

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. apple cider, apple juice, or water

Heat a large skillet with a lid over medium-high heat and add olive oil to the pan. When it's hot, add the pork chops and cook for four minutes on each side (they don't have to cook through). Remove the pork chops to a plate. Add the apples and onions to the skillet (adding more oil if needed), reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. 

Add the mustard, cider, and vinegar to the pan, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom. Bring to a boil for one minute. Add the pork chops back in, nestling them in among the apples and onions, and reduce to a simmer. Put the lid on the pan, and let cook for five more minutes. When time's up, remove the lid, and serve. If the sauce is still too thin, remove the pork chops and boil, uncovered, for a minute. 


Note: the original recipe called for the apple to be peeled, but I didn't peel it. The apple skin has a good amount of fiber in it, so not only is it better to eat the whole thing, but it reduced prep work! 



Food Friday 5: A recipe for apple season

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdoComment

I actually have two recipes for apple season, but I want to share the second with you next week. 

This is a great time to see if there are any U-pick orchards or farm stands near you, because apples and so many other vegetables and fruits are peaking right now. Every year my parents make at least one trip to the fruit farm near us to buy cider (even peach cider!), apples, and other produce and locally-made products. So while you can always get apples at the grocery, when they're local and fresh, they're even better!

There are so many types of apples, it's enough to make your head spin.  I like Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious, Jonathans, Galas, Fijis, and Honeycrisps. You can taste test to see what you like best--I think it's fun to try the different varieties! Apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, and various antioxidants. So besides being delicious, there are plenty of health benefits in them. 

This year my bag of apples are BLANK HERE, and when I have the bag on my counter or in my fridge (and you can even freeze them for longer-term storage), I pull out my apple recipes. This first one is a very quick option for a filling breakfast the next morning and it takes less than five minutes to prep. Really. 

Overnight Apple Oatmeal

adapted from The Oh She Glows! Cookbook

2 apples

1 cup oats (I use steel-cut)

1 cup vanilla yogurt (you can use coconut or non-dairy yogurt if you want) 

Peel and core both apples. Grate one into a mixing bowl, and dice the other. Place the diced apple in the mixing bowl. Add the yogurt and oats and mix well. Place in the refrigerator over night (or for at least two hours). In the morning, you'll have a ready to eat breakfast, no cooking required! 

Food Friday 4: An Outer Banks recipe

Food Fridays, food, recipesEmily DeArdoComment
From  Our State  magazine 

From Our State magazine 

This is one of my favorite recipes from The Outer Banks Cookbook. Whenever I feel the urge to get the beach, but can't, I usually make this. Shrimp are one of my favorite foods, and they're a good nutritional deal too; they protein-packed (one shrimp contains about 3 grams of protein, and 3 ounces of shrimp is almost equal to a 3 oz chicken breast for protein, having about 20 grams), and provide important nutrients like selenium, Vitamin B12, and phosphate. 

This is a very, very easy recipe--it requires only one pot and, aside from the shrimp and Old Bay, these are probably things you keep around your house. (Unless it's my house, in which case, I always have shrimp and Old Bay!) Even if you don't like beer, try this. Trust me. 

Shrimp 'n' Beer

from The Outer Banks Cookbook by Elizabeth Wiegand

2 pounds shrimp, unpeeled

one 12-ounce beer (not lite)

1 cup water

1 medium onion, sliced

1 lemon or lime, sliced

4 garlic cloves, slivered

1 bunch parsley, coarsley chopped (or about 1/4 cup dried)

1 tbsp salt

2 tbsp Old Bay seasoning

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. whole black or mixed peppercorns

1 c. prepared cocktail sauce (your favorite brand)

Rinse shrimp and set aside to drain. 

In a large pot, add beer and all other ingredients. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and allow to bubble for two minutes, reduice heat if necessary to keep it from boiling over. 

Make sure the beer mixture is at a raucous boil, then add the shrimp. Stir often, and cook just until the mixture returns to a boil and the shrimp turn pin. Drain. 

Serve in a large bowl, with an extra bowl for discarded shrimp shells and a small bowl of cocktail sauce.


Sometimes Old Bay seasoning is labeled "Chesapeake Bay seasoning" or "Chesapeake Seafood Seasoning". You can usually find it in the seafood section of the grocery store, or at places like Williams-Sonoma in the spice section. 

(And congratulations to Abby, who won a copy of Reading People! Thanks to all who entered!) 

Food Friday 2: Open Faced Avocado Sandwich

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdoComment

Avocados are AWESOME. Really, they are! It's high in healthy fats (because we do need some fat in our diet, guys!) They contain more potassium than bananas, and are high in antioxidants. 

And did I mention it's delicious

One of the problems is that avocado flesh can become brown quickly once you've started to eat the avocado. So this recipe uses an entire avocado. All you need for this is a toaster (and you can probably do without the toaster, if you want). And it's really not even a recipe. It's so simple it's hardly even cooking!

One of the changes I made back in April was cutting out bread--but not entirely! I stopped eating pasta except on special occasions awhile back, and I honestly don't miss it. But I still loved cereal, bread, all that other carb goodness. And I've decided I can have it, but I have one piece in the bread basket. A soft pretzel is a treat, and usually when I'm having serious salt cravings in the summer (thanks to my CF genes, since my body doesn't regulate salt secretions appropriately. In the summer, I have to be sure I'm getting enough sodium, which means some not-so-healthy treats, like salty pretzels and popcorn, are important for that.) But sometimes you want a sandwich. Or toast. The key is to have one or two pieces--not four. 

I've started using Ezekiel bread (Trader Joe's carries it now! Yay!), which is good toasted. I don't really like it un-toasted. But you might. So try it. 

This is adapted from a Weight Watchers cookbook, and I've actually left out the prosciutto the recipe calls for, because I don't think it really worked here. But hey, if you want to try it, go for it. Just go easy on it. 

Open Faced Avocado Sandwich

Makes four slices 

1 ripe avocado

1 lemon, zest and juice (so zest it first!)

kosher salt


four slices regular bread or Ezekiel Bread

Toast the bread. While that's happening, split the avocado and put the flesh into a mixing bowl. Crush it with a fork to break the flesh into small pieces. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste, and combine with fork until well-mixed. Spread on toast. Place the rest of the mixture in a container such as Tupperware or Pyrex, and refrigerate. Can be used again the next day. 


Food Friday 1: Salmon with mustard dill sauce

food, Food Fridays, recipesEmily DeArdoComment

This is one of the easiest and most made recipes in my healthy food box. I hope it makes it to your house, too!

I love fish, almost all of it. And that's a good thing, because we can get a lot of great nutrition from fish, especially salmon. It's an excellent source of high quality protein (which keeps you feeling full longer), potassium, selenium, and vitamin b12. They're also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to healthy brain, heart, and joint function, as well as general well-being. It's a power-packed bit of fish!

I know fish can be pricey, so try to find the best and most affordable source in your area. Even adding it to your diet once a week can reap great benefits. 

(And for the Catholics among us, it's good to stockpile fish dishes in the recipe boxes to use on Fridays during Lent, or every Friday, if you want to do that, or your diocese requires it.) 

This dish takes maybe 20 minutes, and 10 of those are preheating the oven. 

Salmon with mustard dill sauce

(from the book Dinner: A Love Story)

4 6 oz. salmon fillets, skin removed

kosher salt


1/2 cup Greek yogurt (any fat content, but I usually go 0%)

one lemon

1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. dried dill weed


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. While that's happening, place the salmon on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. (If you have a stoneware baking stone, that's great for this too, and easy clean up!) Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fillets and roast for 10-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, add the yogurt, salt, pepper, dill weed, and mustard to a mixing bowl. Add half of the lemon, whisk together, and add the rest of the lemon if needed. Taste for seasoning and adjust as required. 

When the salmon's done, place it on a plate and top with the sauce. 


I use one fillet for me, and eat all the sauce. It's delicious and healthy and so filling. 

Roasted cherry tomatoes, or even raw ones, are good served along side this. You can also put them in a hot pan with some extra virgin olive oil and toss them around for a few minutes, until they start to blister/open, and serve. 

You can get fresh dill weed, but I prefer the dried, because it's more cost friendly (given how often I make this). 


New weekly series!

food, recipes, Food FridaysEmily DeArdoComment

So I've missed writing every week in Catholicism 101, but I haven't had any great ideas for a new weekly series, until recently. 

I'm going to be sharing healthy and easy recipes once a week. I know, there are five bazillion recipe sites out there. But I'm going to do this differently: one recipe a week, with some background about it, including why I love it. The recipe will be healthy and simple. It will not be overwhelming. It will cover dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even things you can take to parties that are healthy. 

Healthy in this context doesn't really subscribe to any particular bent. It's not paleo. It's not the Mediterranean diet. It's not vegetarian. It's just...simple, easy, yummy food that doesn't have a million ingredients. 

Since Easter, I've been implementing a new way of eating and I've lost 22 pounds so far. I'm really happy with this, but that doesn't mean that there haven't been hard parts. So I want to encourage people with these recipe suggestions, and show that just because you want to lose weight doesn't mean you have to abandon cooking, you don't have to use weird fraken-food substitutes, and it can still be yummy and delicious and simple

For a sample of what this will look like, this post is a good template. 

I'm excited to be sharing this with you--and maybe some food tips along the way? We'll see!


Friendship and Guinness Cake

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

I've always loved to bake, even when I was a little kid and I didn't quite grasp that if you bake, you must clean up. And I've made a lot of cakes in my life, including a three layer Peanut Butter monstrosity for a friend's Christmas party one year. 

But this cake....this is really the only cake I make anymore. 

This is a Guinness Cake. Do you see the resemblance to a pint of Guinness with the foamy head? (No?) And this cake is really the only cake recipe you ever need. 

I have made this cake for parties, birthdays, dessert after a dinner party--you name it, this cake has been there. It's a cake that men adore, probably because it's not too sweet. This is a damp, rich cake that is also good for breakfast. (No judgment, right?) 

I almost never make it unless it's for a friend get-together, so when I make it, it brings back a lot of good memories. Try it, and make some memories of your own. 

But once you start making it, you'll never be able to stop making it. People will ask for it forever. It's a hard-knock life. But this cake is worth it.

Guinness Cake

from Nigella Lawson's Feast 

Notes: Before you start, make sure the butter, eggs, and cream cheese (for the frosting) are room temperature. You will have a much better cake! * I set the pot over medium heat--the recipe doesn't specify a temperature, but medium's always worked for me. * I usually bake the cake the day before the party, and then frost it the day of. The cake is so damp that it will hold very well. 


1 c. Guinness (I use extra stout) 

1 stick + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 c. sugar

3/4 c. sour cream 

2 eggs

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp. baking soda

For the icing: (optional)

8 oz. cream cheese

1 1/4 c. confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)

1/2 c. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and line a 9" springform pan with parchment paper. 

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan (I use my Dutch oven, actually), add the butter in slices, and heat until butter's melted. Whisk in cocoa and sugar. In a separate bowl, beat the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla together and then add them to the beer mixture. Finally, whisk in flour and baking soda. Whisk until well-combined.

Pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. It's a very damp cake. 

When it's completely cool, make the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner's sugar, and then beat together. Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the cake. (This makes a lot of frosting. You want to frost this cake thickly, so try to use all of it, if possible.) 



Saturday bonus! Two fullproof recipes for the Fourth

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My family is sort of low-key when it comes to the Fourth of July. But recently I've discovered two easy recipes that I always make for Fourth of July celebrations. They're delicious, easy, and everyone loves them! 

So if you need ideas for your Fourth celebration, try these out. Both of these are Pioneer Woman recipes. 

Fourth of July Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

Raspberry Cream Pie (No baking!) 


Food Stories--Grilling in Houston

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo2 Comments


Two weeks ago, I briefly mentioned my cousin Diane and her take on Mexican food. Since she lives in Houston, she knows of what she speaks. But she's also a good cook in her own right, and I got to experience that when I visited her a few years back. 

She and her husband, Matt, now have three children (and two cats), but at the time, she only had one, her oldest daughter. I spent a week with them in mid-July (July in Houston? Was I crazy? Maybe.), and one night for dinner, Di and Matt served grilled chicken, butter beans, and brownies, which were delicious. It was simple, yes but sitting around the table with some of my favorite people made it more than just the food on the plates. 

Diane and I have always been close--we're only six months apart in age. While we're different personalities, and have different gifts (she can do higher-level math, for one), we always enjoy seeing each other and talking when we get the chance (which is hard to find, because you know, three kids, two cats--she's busy!). But we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like. 

Diane and I with her youngest, Frank. 

Diane and I with her youngest, Frank. 

That's one of the great things about food. It has a power to bring back memories and people when you can't physically be together. So while we had a lot of good food on my trip there (steak! Real Mexican! Seafood by the Gulf!), this is a meal I can easily recreate when I want to be back in Houston. 

Houston Dinner

These recipes are all from Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals 2--which I'd gotten Di as a shower gift before her wedding. 

Honey Mustard Barbecued Chicken


2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. brown sugar 

1 c. chicken stock

1/2 c. prepared honey mustard

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. curry powder


4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

vegetable oil

salt and pepper

Preheat grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat. 

Add vegetable oil to a small saucepan over moderate heat. Add red onion and saute, 3-5 minutes. Add vinegar and reduce by half, one minute or two. Add brown sugar and cook one minute. Whisk in stock and honey mustard, allspice, and curry powder. Bring sauce to bubble and reduce heat to lowest setting. 

Coat chicken with a drizzle of oil and salt and pepper, to taste. Place chicken on hot grill and cook 4-5 minutes, then turn. Baste chicken liberally with sauce and grill another 5 minutes. Turn once again and baste. Cook 2-3 minutes more, than transfer chicken to a platter and serve.

Butter Bean Salad

2 15 oz. cans butter beans, rinsed and drained 

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/4 red onion, chopped (use the rest of the red onion from the chicken!)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp. EVOO

the juice of one large lemon

coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Toss to coat beans and vegetables evenly in dressing. 


Corn on the Cob with Chili and Lime

4 ears sweet corn, shucked and cleaned

1 lime, cut into wedges

1/3 stick butter, cut into pats

chili powder, for sprikling

salt, to taste

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil and simmer corn, 3-5 minutes. Drain and arrange the ears on a shallow plat in a single row. Squeeze lime juice liberally over all the corn. Nest pats of butter into paper towels, and rub lime doused hot corn with butter. Season with sprinkle of chili powder and salt and serve immediately. 

Fluffernutter Brownies

1 package chocolate brownie mix, prepared to package directions

1 c. peanut butter chops

softened butter, to grease baking dish

2 oz. chopped nuts

1 c. mini-marshmallows

Preheat over to 425 degrees. 

To mixed brownie batter, stir in peanut butter chips. Grease an 8x8 baking dish with softened butter and spread the brownie mixture into an even layer in the dish. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and bake 20-22 minutes total, removing to scatter marshmallows on top for the last 3-5 minutes of baking time. Remove from oven and cut into pieces. 





Food Stories--South of the Border

food stories, recipesEmily DeArdo2 Comments

Living in Ohio, the closest foreign country is Canada--where I've never been. But my parents both like Mexican food (and no, I've never been to Mexico, either), even though in the beginning of our lives here in Ohio, Taco Bell was the only "Mexican" food around.

As my cousin, Diane, says, "There's Mexican food, and then there's Taco Bell." (She lives in Houston, so she should know about legit Mexican food. You'll spend more time with Diane in a future Food Stories installment.) 

For most of my childhood, Dad and I would share tacos and burritos from Taco Bell. When I was in college, I was introduced to the wonder that is Chipotle. I was one of the news editor for the student paper, The Chimes, and Wednesday night was Chimes night, when we edited and laid out the paper for printing that night, so it could be distributed on Thursday morning. Chimes nights were long, and required more sustenance than we'd get out of the Lohman Complex vending machines. So usually a few people would make a run to the Chipotle on Main Street, and bring back bags overflowing with burritos, bols, and chips and guac. Chipotle was editing fuel. 

My brother loves Mexican food. Many times when we get together for dinner, it's at a Mexican place by his apartment. WE solve problems and talk about sports over never-ending bowls of chips and salsa and our chosen entrees, which, for me, is usually a fajita or a cheese enchilada. 

Mexican food brings memories of family, long nights at the ancient Mac consoles, and my one trip to Texas. It's much more than the chain restaurants we know. 

 I've tried my hand at a few actual Mexican recipes, and they turn out really well--and they're simple. Here's one of my favorites, from Marcella Valladolid's book Mexican Made Easy

Garlicky Buttered Baja Shrimp

From Marcella Valladolid

Serves four

I lb. medium shrimp (15-20 count) in the shell, deveined (You can also make this with peeled shrimp--just omit the step regarding cooking with the shells)

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

salt and black pepper

1/4 c. minced white onion

8 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp. dry white wine

1 tbsp. fresh lime juice

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tbsp. dried. (You can also substitute cilantro, if you don't have parsley on hand.) 

 Peel the shrimp and reserve shells. 

 Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and paper. Saute the shrimp until almost fully cooked, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. 

Add the shrimp shells to the skillet and sauté until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Discard the shells. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and the garlic is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil, scrapping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil for one minute. 

Stir in the lime juice and parsley, return the shrimp to the pan, and toss to coat with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. 


You can serve these in a tortilla, or just on their own, but they are delicious in a tortilla. Marcella says you can also make a burrito out of them by adding refried beans to a warm flour tortilla and filling with shrimp. You can also use them in a pasta dish--cook some thin pasta and add the shrimp once the pasta is cooked and drained. Top with fresh cilantro and some olive oil. 







My Italian Kitchens

family, food, recipesEmily DeArdo2 Comments

My dad is 100% Calabrese (Calabria is seen above--it's the tip of the boot). His grandmother grew up on Mulberry Street, in NYC's Little Italy, at the turn of the 20th century.  Thus, when my grandparents got married, food was an important part of their household. 


My First Communion, April 1990, with my grandmothers: Grandma D is on the left, and Grandma H is on the right. 

My First Communion, April 1990, with my grandmothers: Grandma D is on the left, and Grandma H is on the right. 

One of the things I regret about my life is that I never got to know my Italian grandmother as an adult. She died when I was 20, and she had dementia for the last few years of her life, so I really only got to talk to her to my early teenage years. She scared me a bit a a child, because she was very particular about things. If I got an A on a math test, she'd ask me why I didn't get an A all the time. She didn't have  much of a filter when it came to talking to her family. But as I've grown up, I've realized how much we are actually alike. We both love food and cooking, and entertaining people. She received a college scholarship to study voice, but she couldn't take it. She did beautiful embroidery work. I would've loved for her to teach me how to cook. In a way, I guess, she did. 

Grandma D. certainly instilled a love of food and cooking in me. When I was a small child, we spent the Christmas holiday in Pittsburgh, and Christmas Eve was spent with my Dad's family. Grandma D's house was a great place for kids, because the basement was essentially another house. There was a kitchen down there, a TV, a bathroom, the parlor organ, a player piano, and furniture. A huge storage room held the tins full of Christmas cookies, wrapped in wax paper, that Grandma made all year. In the basement kitchen, my aunts would be peeling, chopping, slicing, and baking, their voices echoing off the concrete floor, which was covered in some sort of rough, fuzzy "carpet" material. The women always looked so happy, surrounded by cutting boards and knives, laughter ringing through the room. I wished I was old enough to help. I missed the Feast of the Seven Fishes, because I was too young. I ate at the kids' table, and we ate pasta. It was good, but it wasn't the magical meal of seafood that I would've loved (even the crazy parts). Her Christmas cookie plates and special desserts are still mentioned with longing by my dad. Mom got a pizelle maker a few years ago, and she'll make them at Christmas. They're a lovely throwback to Christmas at Grandma D's. 

Reggio Calabria 

Reggio Calabria 

When I was about eight or nine, Dad taught me how to cook pasta correctly. Our family al dente is a bit past "regular" al dente. In the Betty Crocker cookbook my mom had received as a wedding gift, Dad had scribbled a gnocchi recipe. He could make it from scratch, and his mom or grandma had probably taught him. We preferred red sauce to just about anything else; being Southern Italian, we didn't use the creamy white sauces of the north. The south is a poorer region not blessed with the dairy goodness of some other parts of Italy. Dad is a red sauce man all the way. I am too, actually. (Well, red sauce woman.) Not only is it easier to make, but it's so versatile. (You'll see what I mean in a second.) 

It's a cliche that food is love, but in this case--it really was. Grandma's affection for us might not have been in typical grandmotherly hugs and kisses and heaped up praise. It was hard, as a kid, to believe she really liked us. :) But now I think I would've understood her a lot better, and I hope we would've cooked together in the upstairs kitchen, overlooking the hills of her property that stretched farther than we could see. 


Basic Red Sauce 

yield: 4 cups

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

4 large basil leaves, or a palmful of dried basil. (If fresh, chopped) 

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, and 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes--both with their juices

Coarse salt (I use kosher salt)

freshly ground black pepper


Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or Dutch over over low heat. Add garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add half the basil and stir for one minute. Add tomatoes, their juice, and the rest of the basil. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, season with salt and pepper, and let cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and crushing tomatoes with the back of the wooden spoon. Cool and refrigerate. Use within 3-5 days. 

This basic sauce can be turned into a puttanesca sauce with the addition of red pepper flakes and anchovies. It's great for any shape pasta and reheats beautifully. You can use this for lasagne, too.