Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From Italy to Arizona by way of Chicago

We just returned from a trip to AZ to visit my husband's family. This bunch, the Italian side, was born and raised in Chicago but have all migrated west to the sunshine of Arizona. A quick trip for us, not having seen them in years, so we spent a three day weekend visiting and, of course, eating.

This is no timid bunch when it comes to food. They love to cook and eat as a family and their cuisine is Italian-American. They don't cook like me-a simple entree, salad, side and dessert. This is food for a famiglia...of 30! I think they pulled out of lot of stops for us. They cooked like crazy and made all of Nana's old recipes so my husband was in heaven.

Night number one was at Cousin Ray's. He made Italian beef sandwiches-slow roasted and simply seasoned eye of the round sliced paper thin (on their grandpa's meat slicer) and kept in its own juices. We piled it on Italian bread with giardiniera, spicy pickled vegetables, and grated cheese. Next was sausage and peppers. This was sweet Italian sausage sauteed with red and yellow peppers and cooked together so their flavors all blended. On the side was a fresh tomato salad with jalapeno and gorgonzola (a Ray twist on a classic, and a very good one) and homemade potato salad. Lots of wine, food, and family plus a dozen kids running all over the place. It was a great night.

The next night was dinner at Auntie Ro's. The guys spent the day seeing the Cub's play a spring training game but, I was in the kitchen trying to learn the secrets to Nana's recipes. Ro cooks like a professional (she did, in fact). She isn't shy about seasoning her food, she uses salt in all the right places and tastes as she goes. She cooks a lot from memory, which I love. She'd already made two giant pans of eggplant parm and 3 pounds of meatballs when I arrived. I helped maked the breasole, pounded thin beef scattered with Italian parsley, shaved parm, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and rolled. We browned it well and added it to the famous family tomato sauce. The meatballs went in too and we cooked it all day long. Meanwhile, we made cavadelle (which I am sure I'm spelling wrong). They are a simple dumpling with flour and hot water, rolled with two fingers to look a bit like penne, and boiled and sauced like pasta. There was homemade frizelle, fresh homemade bread that was cut, toasted and topped with garlic, oregano, oil, and balsamic plus a salad, homemade roasted red peppers, and of course pasta. It was food for an army but, we loved it!

There is something about this food, and it's not just that it tastes delicious. It is food made with love and you can taste that when you eat it. There is tradition here and when the family eats these dishes, memories are evoked, conversations are started and people are happy. The same thing happened when my grandma cooked. The food brought us together and when we eat those dishes today we can't help but think of her with a smile on our faces.

Paisano is a pal or a friend, even a countryman. I saw this jug of wine (above) on Auntie Ro's counter and thought "this says it all".


Anonymous said...

Well put!
Thanks for sharing Jodi. Most of all, thanks for coming to see the familia. Love you guys!!!

mindy said...

next time you go to arizona, you MUST try la grande orange in arcadia. You will LOVE IT!

Christina & Rosemarie DeLuca said...

Dear Jodi,
It was a pleasure visiting, cooking, and eating with you and the rest of the family last weekend. It seems like so long ago. That just tells us your visit was too short, and we'll have to all get together again real soon. Ro was in la cucina again tonight making homemade plenta, roasted red peppers, sweet Italian Sausage, and homemade strawberry pie. MMM good!!! We figured it was definitely appropriate to share on your blog. Thanks again for your signed cookbook. It will be cherish in our family forever. I hope T.J. is feeling better. Send our Love to Tony,T.J., and Auntie Shirley too!
Love Always and Forever, oxox
Auntie Ro & Cousin Christina

Kerry said...

YUM YUM!! Can I got to Auntie Ro's house with you next time??

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