As a child living in the idyllic village of Caldogno, I had no idea how much work it was to fill the cupboard with jars of peperonata.. In the last part of September my mother would take a trip to the local market to buy the best sweet peppers the late summer had to offer. Coming home from school, I would enter the kitchen, only to find it absolutely filled with wooden crates of yellow and red peppers The countertops were covered with glass jars, while cast-iron skillets of sliced yellow and red peppers simmered in olive oil and garlic. A day or so later the crates were emptied and the glass jars were filled with colorful stewed peppers. My mother intended the efforts of her labor to keep for a while. But her jars of peperonata simply didn’t last that long. Everyone in my family loved them.
A simple supper can be created with two uncomplicated winter roots, the potato and rutabaga. As a child I found the aroma of rutabaga quite intense. All of my mother’s friends agreed however that her mash of the two vegetables was truly wonderful. Everyone took second helpings at dinner parties. This recipe is a family classic and has always been a part of our holiday and wintery meals. I suggest adding it to your collection of comfort foods.
Cranberries, apples, sage and thyme are the symbolic elements of winter holidays at home. Christmas brings back visions of favorite family moments, of avid conversation against a backdrop of lively kitchen noise made by a stove filled with pots and pans. My absolute favorite at the Thanksgiving table was my Mom’s stuffing made with mushrooms and apples. As a child I ate spoons of it at dinner, covered with ladles of warm gravy. Next to stuffing, I loved the bright tanginess of cranberry relish made with oranges. The following recipe works perfectly for filling poultry. It also stands beautifully on its own as a deep dish casserole or as the filling for a squash or pumpkin. It is yet another of countless examples of my mother’s intuitive talent in cooking that I proudly carry on in my everyday tasks in life. Continue reading
Cranberry relish did not come out of a jar at my Mom’s house. My mother made everything from scratch, giving her homemade specialties to her friends and neighbors. I cannot find all of my mother’s recipes in the recipe card box she made for me. When in doubt, I use my memory as a backdrop and my experience as a cook to reconstruct my absolute favorites. As I stand and stir in the pan with a wooden spoon, I can just hear my Mom’s voice explaining how she makes her homemade relish.
At the age of three I moved with my parents and my brother to Italy. I remember the trip vividly, though in bits and pieces from a child’s point of view. Our family stayed in a hotel in the middle of the city of Vicenza while my parents looked for a place to live. This in itself was a great adventure. Ultimately my parents found a place to live to the town of Caldogno, to the north of Vicenza, along the provincial road to Dueville, in the direction of the mountainous region of Asiago.
We moved into the ground floor of a two-story , white house paved with marble. Angela, our neighbor from upstairs, had a balcony and hung over it often to talk at length with my Mom. Luigi lived nextdoor. He was our “landlord” my mother explained. This sounded quite mysterious to me at the age of three. Luigi had thick dark glasses, wore a navy blue beret and had a leather satchel across his shoulder. He drove about on a scooter. He took care of our garden.
I’ve written notebooks full of ideas and recipes all mixed together with thoughts concerning food and color combinations, plate arrangements, table settings, styling and food presentation. My notebooks form a history in themselves, tracing my work as a cook.
After procrastinating for a number of months, the perfect hazy Sunday morning has arrived to sit down at the kitchen table and write the introduction to my own kitchen diaries.
Cooking brings the senses alive. Substance, taste and smell come to the foreground. A chemistry of ingredients mingle as the kitchen becomes perfumed. All other activities fall into a backdrop as the elements of a meal come together.
This is my cooking journal. Ultimately it will form a book of notes on simple dishes and meals made from a cupboard of favorite ingredients. My collection of recipes are primarily from the authentic Italian kitchen. Although not strictly vegetarian, I will highlight vegetables and herbs, and other beautiful elements to be found on the kitchen tables of my friends in Italy.
I prefer naturally grown produce as well as fresh and seasonal ingredients obtained from people who care about their products. My passion is for healthy food, free of artificial colors and preservatives. My quest is to document wonderful dishes that are as easy as pleasurable to make.
As my journal develops I will construct a library of special sources. My favorite place to buy food is at farmer’s markets, thus I will write about the special markets I know and my relationship to them. In addition I will make a scrapbook of personal photographs.
Cooking inspires. The content of this journal of recipe writings are inspired by mothers and daughters. First and foremost, I dedicate my work to my mother who taught me the love of cooking.
Saluti – Terri Salminen