Summer harvest minestrone

minestrone-veg-on-black-check

Soup does wonderful things. Just the smell of a pot of vegetables mingling on the stove brings back memories of so many places I have called home. Soup is comfort in a bowl. This particular recipe brings together some of my favorite ingredients from American soil – namely – butternut squash and sweet corn. My mother loved both and I learned more than I could have imagined as a child through her cooking. When I cross the ocean between Europe and the USA during the summer, one of the many things I do to soak up half of my heritage is to go on the look out for bushels of both.

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Sweet polenta blueberry cake

Fresh blueberries bring back memories of making Finnish style pancakes with my Mom and picking wild berries in the woods in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Whenever I happen upon carton boxes overflowing with my favorite berries I take them home and bake a cake. Blueberries symbolize American summers and the following recipe is my down-home version of  traditional shortcake. Cornmeal is beautifully yellow in contrast to the midnight blue fruit. A touch of rosemary and lemon give this cake an Italian attitude.

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Watermelon infused water

Watermelon water III feel the end of summer vacation coming on. It feels like curled toes at the edge of a cold swimming pool I am not quite ready to jump into. The month of August is the Sunday of summer and I have promised myself to prolong the sense of freedom that goes with loose-fitting timetables indefinitely. My plan is to outrun the seasons by intermingling spontaneity with life’s daily necessities.

Throughout the warm summer I have assembled  foods rather than cooking. Weekends have been luxuriously filled with visits to farmers markets and taking home baskets full of new harvest fruits and vegetables.

In the midst of making watermelon granita one lazy afternoon, I marveled at the amount of rind left on the countertop. Rather than discarding them I decided to conduct a kitchen experiment by putting the rinds in a big pan of water to chill in the refrigerator. Continue reading

Green goddess avocado dressing

avocado on a blue platterAt the age of seven I moved from the Italian countryside to the United States with my family for a few years. Up until then I had passed my days taking bike rides through the village of Caldogno. Daydreaming in the fields bordered by grape vineyards situated picturesquely across from our house was never boring. I had not yet watched television as a pastime, or at least I don’t recall doing so. While my mother and her best friend Melia drank their daily afternoon espresso, I chased butterflies in the vegetable garden. With the carelessness of youth I set out on a new adventure to my origins, unaware that every place and time is irreplaceable.

I did not realize at the age of seven, that leaving Italy would mean saying goodbye to zinnia filled flower gardens and copper pots full of polenta. Traveling to the U.S. I had no idea what was awaiting me. From one moment to the next, I was surrounded by the English language. I no longer smelled freshly baked panini from the corner bakery in the morning. The espresso pot didn’t percolate on the stove every afternoon. I was intent upon observing — taking in my new surroundings. It was an unforgettable experience, filled with change and confusion, excitement and happiness. For an indefinite period I felt lost, unaware  that what I was feeling could be described as culture shock. Continue reading

Coleslaw and spicy avocado dressing

Jalapenos and cilantroBarbecue is serious business down home in Texas and bringing meat to the fire is a task trusted only to masters of the pit.  The story behind a classic Texan barbecue involves a number of essential and in many ways, secret cooking methods. The first step in the process involves marinating the meat with the right mixture of dry herbs and spices. The second step requires choosing the perfect blend of local firewood from Mesquite, Oak, Pecan or Peach trees. The pit, a customized pot-bellied drum with a built-on chimney is then filled and set on fire. Once the wood has burnt to embering coals, the meat cooks low and slow in a perfumed smoke bath.

The smell of  roasting meat and smoking wood is irresistible even for a vegetarian. Just how pit masters make the sacred Texan brisket, German style sausage or glazed baby back ribs, remained a mystery this summer. But thanks to my brother’s excellent suggestions I visited some of the best locations for barbecue in San Antonio and the surrounding hill country.

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