Tag Archives: Italian

Zucchini and Vegan One-Bowl

Zucchini

My son brought a huge zucchini from his garden to me this summer .He said, “You’ve never seen a zucchini this big!”, but yes, I had.
When I was younger, we had a friend in the family who kept a part of his small farm going. He would bring tomatoes, string beans, squashes, massive zucchini, all sorts of produce and eggs,farm-fresh and dozens of them. We’d be overwhelmed sometimes.
At one such time, we had recently moved and need to have telephones installed. For those of you who are young, (and/or not in the U.S.A.), phones then were only land-lines and all the work had to be done by The Telephone Company. It was actually illegal to run a wire or fix a phone. We were at their mercy, but my mother didn’t mind this time, because a young, bright, good-looking Italian fellow was there doing a great deal of wiring all day.
My mother had a good time with the fellow, who must have been about 30 years old. I was home, but in and out of the room. I was about 19 or 20 and shy… and had no designs on the man and neither did my mother, but that isn’t how it looked…and he could hear her other-wise old-fashioned ideas.
After some time she did her best to get him to take some of the produce, which he wasn’t sure he should take, but he finally did. Just before he left, she offered some of the eggs to him. That was too much, no, no, he couldn’t. But she pressed him and then asked, “Are you married?” You could see the worst fears fly across his face, “I-I-I’m actually living with someone”, he stammered. My mother, who had no clue what she had done to him, just looked at him. I plucked-up every ounce of courage I had and said, “Oh, she’s not trying to match-make; she just wants to know if you have someone to cook it for you”.
“YES! Oh, YES! I DO!”, he cried in such a relieved manner, I had to turn to laugh!
My mother was mortified that I would say such a thing! After all, what had she said, what had she done? Oh, boy! My mother never realized how things sounded to others.
But out of all that zucchini came the recipe below, which she only gave to one other person, but I will share with you now. I made a lot this Summer, but only one container-full remains in the freezer and I am going to try to keep my hands off of it until the cousins come.

Zola’s Zucchini

Because my mother never measured unless she was baking, (and not always then, either;,the measurements are approximate.

2 TBSP. olive oil (pref. Extra Virgin)
1/2 cup minced onion
3 cloves of garlic,(1 TBSP dried-minced or granules, not garlic salt)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. marjoram
1 TBSP. dried parsley
½ tsp. salt
1+ c. crushed tomatoes

Sauté’ all until onions are tender; then add:

3 c. diced zucchini
1 c. water

Cook on medium heat until zucchini is thoroughly tender. Slowly add more water or salt or herbs if needed. Remove the bay leaf before serving, as it is bitter to bite into and some people are truly shocked to find a leaf in their food. My mother jokingly once told a shocked young guest that a leaf must have blown in from an open window. The kid was unfamiliar with bay leaves and a horrified look came over his face. My mother had to quickly explain.

I like this served with Angel Hair pasta; it would also be good with small pasta such as tubetini, risi or orzo.

Zucchini One-Bowl (Vegan meal)

One recipe Zola’s Zucchini

Add:

½-1 cup Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans)

½ cup cooked rice, barley or small pasta ,slightly undercooked, (or ‘al dente’)

Simmer together for 20 minutes until the flavors blend. Serve.

{The beans and rice, barley or pasta make a complete protein)

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Italian Baked Tomatoes

I haven’t had a garden in a few years, but my son had one .I had banana peppers, grape tomatoes, zucchini and squash from his garden and my next-door neighbor has been supplying me with loads of homegrown tomatoes and bell peppers all season. Yesterday I received the last batch as she gleaned her plants, and they are the most darling small tomatoes I have seen. I am going to make my mother’s baked tomatoes

and freeze them for when my cousin and family are here for the Thanksgiving holiday. Even though my cousin is from my Italian side, neither of our mothers married Italians, and neither did we, but our husbands and families all enjoy real Italian food. Which leads me to this story:

Just before World War Two one of my aunts and her husband left their hometown in Pennsylvania to seek their fortune in Washington, DC. Soon after the war began, my mother followed and found not only work but also a fiancé’. Just as the war came to a close, the married aunt and her husband, my mother and the youngest sisters, (one was the visiting cousin’s mother), took the man who was to be my father up for Thanksgiving to meet the family.
When he arrived, many people had gathered and,( according to him), there was food everywhere…breads, salads, molded salads, vegetables, pastries, cakes and the biggest bowl of spaghetti he had ever seen! It took him a moment, but, of course, they were Italian, so spaghetti for Thanksgiving made sense to him …and he ate…and he ate.
My mother’s spaghetti sauce was magical, (and you will be hearing more about it; recipes for sauce will be in future posts), but her mother’s was supposedly even better. My grandmother was so pleased that my mother brought home a tall, lean man with broad shoulders who could eat! He kept pace with my Italian uncles but after some time, the dishes cleared, and out came a huge turkey with all the trimmings! He couldn’t believe that anyone could eat any more, let alone his thin fiancée and her equally thin sisters.
As I once read: Italians don’t understand that other people don’t eat their body weight at every meal’.

As last year, the cousins will join not only us, but my sons, their children, wife and girlfriend, (only one for each, of course!), plus my brother, my sister, her daughters, her son-in-law and teenage grandson for Thanksgiving Day. Many of us will be spending time and meals together throughout the weekend. Because of the numbers of people with varying tastes, and food allergies, we will have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s and then buffet meals will be here and there at varying times, with me carting food there, serving food here, and generally having a ball!

I had made Chicken Parmesan for my cousins last year and they loved my sauce. I promised them stuffed shells this year, using the same homemade sauce. I will post the recipe within the next week or so , but today, I will leave you with the baked tomato
Recipe:

Baked Tomatoes

(The tomatoes can be any size, just make sure that they are all approximately equal in size so they cook evenly. The amount of mixture needed will vary.)

6 Medium tomatoes
1 Cup dried bread crumbs
2 Tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1Tbsp. garlic granules, or 1 heaping Tbsp. garlic powder,(not garlic salt)
1 Cup oil, (pref. regular olive oil)

Mix the breadcrumbs, salt and herbs… (Taste the mixture; it should be strong. If it is not, add more salt and herbs. If you find it strong, add a small amount more of the breadcrumbs).
Cut the tops off of the tomatoes and discard. Turn the tomatoes up-side-down and squeeze lightly to remove the juice and seeds. Place a little oil in the bottom of a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, (a pie plate will do.) Stand the tomatoes upright and fill with the breadcrumb mixture. If you spill any into the dish, it is fine ;( it is rather tasty.)
Drench the tomatoes with the oil. Start out slowly; you may want to make a slight depression in the filling, as the oil does not want to penetrate the breadcrumbs. Bake in a 375F oven, basting occasionally for approx. 40 minutes or until very done. Serve hot.

Quick version:
Use Italian seasoning in the breadcrumbs.
Quicker version:
Use Italian breadcrumbs.
But I warn you, neither of these will come out as good.

Because of the cost of out-of-season tomatoes and the fact that they just are not as good, my mother made these only in the summer. I have skipped making these many summers because it was too hot to put my wall oven on and fight the air conditioner. It took me until this past Spring to develop the idea of making this:

Baked Tomato Casserole

1 Large (28 oz) and 1 Medium (15 oz) cans of Italian plum tomatoes, drained
(or 3 Medium)

1 ½ cups dry bread crumbs
2 ½ Tbs. dried parsley
2 tsp. salt
1 ½ Tbsp.dried basil
1 heaping Tbsp. garlic granules or 1 ½ Tbsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt)
¾ -I cup of vegetable oil, preferably olive (regular.)

Oil the bottom of a casserole dish and layer the drained tomatoes in the bottom. Mix the dry ingredients and spread them evenly over the tomatoes. Make small depressions over the tomatoes and gently pour the oil over the breadcrumb mixture to saturate. Bake in a 375F oven for about 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Pitfalls and Parties/Savory Bread Rolls

These easy bread rolls can be made with meat and cheese or as vegan- vegetable.They eaten warm or cold.

I know that the thought of hosting puts fear into many people. I may have jumped into telling you what to serve instead of how to serve guests.
When I had dinner parties, showers or receptions, I found that some people were downright intimidated by my offerings. You may have seen a buffet and thought, “I could never do that!” You probably can, but you don’t have to. Hosting can be fun, rewarding and make everyone think you are something, or it can stress you out, make you swear ‘Never again!” and make everyone think you are a witch, (and it wasn’t even a Halloween party.) You can make offerings short and simple, or pull out all the stops. We will approach all of these, and let you decide which is appropriate and when.  It may take me several postings, but I will try to give you tips and hopefully, some confidence.

 

Plan as far ahead as possible and do whatever you can as far ahead as possible. When you find the confidence, it will come easier each time. You will not only know the pitfalls and learn from your mistakes,( you will make mistakes), but you will have things in mind and on hand that you need, whether it be figuring out what to serve to where overnight guest will sleep. We’ll talk about it all upcoming in this blog.

 

You can over-do a good thing.

The first shower I threw was for an expectant mother. I made homemade cake with homemade filling and decorated it with blue and pink flowers. I molded flavored candy in bootie, rattle, baby bottle, (etc.), shapes in pink and blue. I made Madeline cookies dipped in pink and blue icing. I made finger sandwiches, nut cups and tea; I made coffee with all the amenities .I put up pink and blue streamers, made pink and blue sock dollies. I had several games, one of which was a basket filled with small baby items which I had the guests look at for 30 seconds and whoever remembered the most, got a prize; the mom got the items. It was something, I can tell you. But I did several things wrong:

#1. For whatever reason, when I have asked schools or churches to use their facilities, my group has been bumped at the last minute for someone else. Something about me and my plans seem to scream “Expendable”! Try to have your affairs in your home or pay for a site. In the occasion of the baby shower, I was supposed to have use of a school cafeteria. I was bumped for an Irish step-dancing class. As big as a book-lover as I am, I hated  but was desperate enough, to ask to use the school’s library. The library was on the third floor; the stairs leading directly to it were closed so the dancers’ bored-and-waiting siblings would not wander the school. So I had to all the food, decorations, gifts, etc, across the school, up one flight, across again, up another flight, then across the school again. I had to carry the hot coffee and tea from the cafeteria in the same pattern, very carefully and very slowly.

#2.I just plain over-did it.

I did not hear, “Oh, how lovely” or “How nice”. What I heard was, “I can’t believe how much you did”, to the point that a week later at another function I heard, “I kept telling Jim, (Julie, Bob), that I couldn’t believe how much you did”. It looked like I worked hard. Hosting should never look like you worked hard, and I want to see that you work as little as possible when pulling off your parties. I was not a close friend of the mom-to-be; I had taken it upon myself for the group from the school, but it may not have been my place, which may have added to the discomfort level of the others.

Don’t be too eager to please; only host when appropriate.

#3. I presumed on help.

Now, you should have everything under control, I mean, things happen. But if you accept help, make sure it is something that you can do without, or have a back-up plan. A friend of the mom’s volunteered a special punch. I planned on it; she changed the type without telling me.  What she made did not go with the food I had and the guests drank it because it was too warm for the coffee and tea. I felt stressed; it was a problem as the taste combinations were really being off.

AND I failed to be sure that some of those who attended, (whom I had always stayed to help), would/could stay there to help me. So I ended up doing the hallway-stair set-up marathon in reverse, by myself.

 

On the other hand, for years afterward I hosted a Christmas piano recital in my home for several years running, which were always a huge success.

Always be ready with extra food:

My sons were homeschooling at the time and they were studying with the same piano teacher as some of their homeschooled friends. The piano teacher had stopped having Christmas concerts but I decided that the kids needed to gain confidence and show off their skills, so every December we had our own little recital with their friends, the parents and a few adult guests.

I made my batches of Christmas cookies, candies and bread early, and froze either some of the dough or some of the finished goods for Christmas; (I did this up to a week in advance; the candy, maybe earlier.)

The day before the recital, (or the day of, if I held it on a weekday evening instead of a weekend afternoon),

I took the coffee table out, gathered every chair I could find and even a bench, (on which I put a folded quilt), and made several layers of seating in the living room behind the piano. We do not have a large living room; everyone understood when they sat knee-to knee at times.

While people gathered, I had Christmas music playing softly in the background on a CD. And I had small gifts for the performers.

Just before everyone arrived I made tea and coffee and spread them out on my dining table with the goodies for after the recitals. The children did whatever made them comfortable besides playing the piano; some sang, one played the guitar, one read a poem as well.

After one of the afternoon recitals a few of the guests lingered. I could see that the cheese ball and few other non-sweets were gone and the folk looked hungry. Fortunately, I was ready. I knew that I had savory bread roll-ups in my freezer. I pulled them out, warmed them in the microwave them and they were a hit, as expected. These are so handy and good. Make more than one type at a time. Slice, wrap well and freeze. These are great for snacks, late company, late-night movie watching, brunches and are our family’s traditional holiday morning breakfast. They are easy to get ready, are not messy, are a little special and will hold you over while you are waiting to eat a big mid-day meal. Guests will be impressed with the taste, the heartiness and the fact that you have them ready with next to no effort when you need them.

 

Savory Bread Roll-ups

 

If bread making is your thing, make basic dough. If you have a bread machine, pull it out. If not, use frozen bread dough, (thawed, of course).

Roll into a rectangle about ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter or margarine. Spread fillings (recipes to follow), to within two inches from all sides. Fold in the short sides; roll up from one long side to another, Pinch ends and press to close. Place on a cookie or baking sheet, which has been brushed with butter or margarine,(or lined with parchment paper); curve bread roll  if necessary. Slice or snip slits through top layer about 3-4 inches apart. Cover with clean kitchen towel , waxed paper or foil; let rise to double in size in a warm spot. Uncover and brush with melted butter or margarine. Bake at 325F for about 45 minutes- 1 hour, or until the bread is thoroughly browned.(Do not cook at a higher temperature; the middle will not bake).

Meat Filling Suggestions:

Chopped roast beef, or shredded roast beef lunch meat with shredded medium–to sharp cheddar cheese; (a little prepared horseradish sauce optional).

Shredded ham with mild cheddar cheese

Shredded turkey (or turkey lunch meat) with pepper jack cheese

Pepperoni or salami with mozzarella or provolone cheese

Cheese Filling Suggestions:

Any cheese, preferably with sautéed onions

Soft cheeses, (cream cheese, Neufchatel, mascarpone) with herbs and or dried vegetables:

[ Italian blend, or basil, parsley and marjoram;

Southwest blend or any favorite chili powder, (chipotle, mesquite, etc), cumin,for example]

Mixed with red or green salsa

Seeded,(poppy, pumpkin, caraway, sesame)

Mixed with red hot sauce

Mixed with sautéed vegetables; onions

Any favorite cheese spread, (pimento cheese, onion dip, avocado)

 

Vegetable Filling Suggestions:

Sautéed or caramelized onions

Hummus,( regular or vegetable, or mixed with seeds)

Sautéed vegetable combinations, (mix & match): onions, tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, asparagus

Dehydrated vegetable flakes, (available often mixed in supermarkets or separate, (tomatoes, peppers), usually in specialty markets

Drained, mashed white beans (canned or homemade) with onions or garlic; chives, parsley, white pepper; dehydrated vegetables

Experiment and enjoy!

Note: Sometime after I posted this Fae, of “Fae’s Twist and Tango” posted a lovely alternative: use puff pastry instead of bread dough.Fae ‘s post with her version of fillings can be seen  here: Fae’s Savory Braided Puff Pastry.

If you have not visited Fae’s blog, please do!She not only has lovely recipes, but  photos and fascinating  stories from her many travels.

Thank you for letting me share this, Fae!

And please join me and fellow writers on a shared blog: “Four Foxes, One Hound” here, on WordPress.Four Foxes, One Hound