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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recipe #3 Aunt Amelia's Lentil Soup

I know it's been awhile. But, my mom has been busy taking her older sister (my aunt anna is 90) from a nursing and rehabilitation center to her home. I could go on and on about our health care system, how it does not work for anyone--especially the elderly--but our goal -- my mom's and my goal--is to share recipes with you.

Suffice it is to say this entire experience (my aunt had been hospitalized since June with an infection that resulted in near complete organ shut down and she almost died) has taken a toll on my mom. When we spoke last night--my mom had a quiet moment--she suggested I share her lentil soup recipe. It's good -- but then nearly all of my mom's recipes are and it's quick -- although my strong suggestion is to make it the night before, let it cool down completely before you put it in the refrigerator and serve the next day. (Never cover hot soup or even warm soup in the refrigerator)

Ingredients:

1 cup of lentils (brown)
6 tbsp of olive oil (btw my mother does not use virgin or extra virgin olive oil)
1 stalk celery including celery tops (finely chopped)
2 carrots (medium) finely chopped
8 cups of low sodium vegetable stock or 4 cups stock and 4 cups water
1 glove garlic minced
1/2 cup plum tomates (canned plum tomatoes work well)

In a large saucepan heat the oil. Add the onion to the heated oil and cook gently until it softens. Add the celery, celery tops, carrots and garlic and cook for 5 or more minutes until slightly soft. Add the lentils and stir to coat the lentils in the oil and vegetables.

Add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock (or vegetable stock and water) and bring to a boil. Once boiling lower the heat, cover and simmer for about one hour --until the lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the non-vegetarians and for extra luck according to Italian superstition add bits of chopped dried sausage (pepperoni). I've been a vegetarian for over 35 years so I cannot offer an opinion about this option--sorry. My mom's been making it without sausage for at least 35 years --but she said she remembers that the sausage option is worth a try. So experiment away.

Again -- make this soup a day ahead and the flavors will mix nicely and the soup will thicken. For those of you that are not "No Carb" obsessed serve the soup with crusty Italian bread.

Two last thoughts -- Italians eat lentil soup on New Year's Day. Like a number of cultures New Year's Day meals -- generally consisting of beans, black eyed peas, chick peas etc. will bring luck and prosperity in the new year.

And my mom learned this recipe from her oldest sister -- my Aunt Amelia. Aunt Amelia was perhaps the greatest cook any of us--including my mom--have ever experienced. When my mother is asked about her sister who died many years ago all she says is that she misses her ever day. Aunt Amelia made lentils often but always on New Year's Day -- we traveled from where ever we were to join her on that day. Thus, the name: Aunt Amelia's Lentil Soup.

Enjoy!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Day Two: Making a Zucchini and Potato Frittata

So getting my mother to tell you "how much" of any of these ingredients was a challenge -- but after a couple of rather long telephone conversations I think we have it. But you'll have to be the judge and please give us your comments. With the extraction I can only eat "soft foods" so mom suggested making a Frittata -- otherwise known as an omelet. Non-Italians seem to eat omelets in the morning -- Italians -- never do. The mornings are left for espresso and a pepper biscuit while walking out the door to school or work. Frittatas were left for Friday evenings when mom walked in the door rather late from work or running errands and we, including my father were about to come home. So in 30 minutes she would have a warm filling Frittata on the table with fresh Italian bread and a tomato and basil salad.
I'll assume you can do the tomato and basil salad without us -- so below is the Frittata recipe.

Ingredients:
2 large potatoes (cooking not baking)
2 zucchini (small-medium)
Either 8 extra large eggs or 10 large eggs (this was about 20 minutes of our discussion this evening)
1 very small onion
1/8 cup of chopped parsley
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons grated cheese (Romano or Reggiano)(another 15 minutes of our discussion)
2 tablespoons of olive oil (not virgin or extra virgin unless you have a passion for either) we use Italian olive oil.

Preheat Over to 350

Step One (more or less)
Wash and dry and peel the potatoes
Dice them (my mom has a need to cut everything the same size, it's impossible)
Then put the potatoes in a bowl with cold water, rinse and drain them to get the starch out
Put the potatoes in a saute pan (frying pan) and saute with a little oil and onion - use about 1/2 of a small onion -- chopped. Add salt and pepper to taste. (sorry I couldn't get an amount out of her) The potatoes should be cooked through but not soft. According to mom--medium. Once the potatoes are cook put them in a bowl.

Step Two
Wash and dry the zucchini and slice it in half. Then cut each half in slices less than 1/4 in wide. Saute the zucchini with the remaining onion and a little oil no more than 1 tablespoon. Add salt and pepper to taste. The zucchini should be firm to medium but not soft. Once the zucchini is cooked put it in a bowl with the potatoes.

Step Three
Beat the eggs -- either 8 or 10 depending on the size in a separate bowl. Add salt and pepper and the grated cheese (about 2 tablespoons) Then add the parsley. Beat well and then add the potatoes and zucchini. Mix all the ingredients together.

Step Four
Pour everything in a greased 10" glass/Pyrex pie plate (mom uses Pam to coat the pan). Put it in the oven for 30 minutes (25 minutes if your oven cooks fast--advises mom).

How can you tell when it's done. When the middle is solid but not hard. Also, you can use a cake tester if it comes out clean its done.

In the old days -- actually not so long ago, my mom cooked this 10 egg Frittata on the stove in a frying pan and flipped it without dropping a piece of egg, zucchini or potato. For those of us who have weak hearts and wrists mom started cooking Frittatas in the oven.

Please let us know what you think. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day One: Could I ever cook like mom

My Mom is a fantastic cook -- not fancy but good food. I grew up never having soup from a can or food from a frozen dinner. And I grew up with a mom that worked - albeit it part time- had a number of outside interests -- including working with my Dad. We were not -- still is true -- wealthy but working class and now solidly middle class. She has a number of special dishes -- but her most impressive creations were the ones we ate every evening for dinner. For years -- I'm now 52 and my mom -- well if I told you her age she'd kill me -- so let's just say she was in her twenties when she gave birth to me--we've been talking about writing a cook book. One where everyone day moms and dads, husbands and wives, partners -- of whatever sexual orientation --or individuals living alone could enjoy good Italian food. That's pretty much all mom ever cooks. And since she raised me -- that's about the extent of my repertoire as well -- although as I the title of this blog clearly states -- my goal is to cook like her - or at least as close as I can get. So if you like Italian food stay with us. Our intent is to walk through with you some recipes and if interest continues as many recipes as I can get my mom to disclose. And, by the way, her real talent is to walk in the house about 5 minutes from dinner with only two ingredients that happen to be in the refrigerator or grocery closet and put together a fantastic meal. We're excited to begin and to share. And since I'm recovering from oral surgery today, it seems like a good day to begin. Signing off for now: Mom and Karen