Artichokes 2021

Back in April 2009, I wrote about making my Nonna’s stuffed artichoke recipe. It is a wonderful dish, but I’ve been feeling too lazy to go through all that, and with artichokes being plentiful and delicious this spring, I’ve gone back to our other favorite recipe: steamed artichokes dipped in melted butter with lemon, garlic, and dash of salt. O, are they heavenly!

I just finished eating two (yes two) gorgeous chokes — done the truly lazy woman way. I merely rinsed them, cut off the stem even to the bottom, and steamed them thoroughly for nearly an hour.  My memory tells me that both Nonna and my mother insisted they be steamed in glass or stainless steel lest they discolor, so I used my big stainless pot that has a steamer basket/pasta lifter thingie.  I did them a little too long, so the smallest one fell apart a bit.  Here’s the lazy part: I didn’t trim the artichoke at all. They were so tender the thorns were nothing, and the purple leaves in the center were tasty. The remainder of the choke pulled out easily with a fork, leaving the sweet and delightful heart to dip in the last of the butter sauce. Heaven on a paper plate….

Artichokes, April 2009


I’m about to make stuffed artichokes like my grandmother did. Take a couple of large, heavy artichokes, trim them and then steam them in an inch of water for about 45 minutes. After they cool enough to touch, dig out the choke and remove any ugly bits on the outside. Make a stuffing of breadcrumbs (Nonna used Progresso Italian Flavored, so that’s what I use), grated cheese, parsley, enough good olive oil to make a crumbly mixture.  Then push small spoonfuls of the breading down amongst the leaves and into the center of the choke.  Sprinkle with a little paprika for color. Then bake covered in the oven (on about 350º) for about 1/2 an hour. Remove covering and continue to bake until the top is slightly browned.

They are awesome!

My Scottish Side – Comfort Cooking

While I had no idea as a child, I found out over the years that my mother brought two considerable influences to the kitchen: Her mother’s Scottish background and the Great Depression.  These forces collided in a few odd kitchen habits.  For instance, a much enjoyed treat was raw potato sliced thin and sprinkled with salt. Scottish/Irish poor people cuisine, that.  And a treat to Mary and me (and my mother).  A sweet treat, probably from the same depression era, was “bread, butter and sugar.” Merely a slice of bread, thinly spread with butter, and sprinkled with granulated or brown sugar.  My mother’s version of this was sparsely covered. Mary and I covered the bread thickly and then dumped–more than sprinkled–the sugar on. But you had to be quick or you’d get found out and have your slice slimmed back to meagerness again.

There were real recipes as well.  Chop Meat Stew and Lamb and Rice were two filling, keep you warm-and-satisfied meals.

Chopped Meat Stew

(served 4)

hearty-ground-beef-stew-21 pound ground beef (my mother preferred lean)
4 large Idaho potatoes (about 1 inch cubes)
4 Good sized carrots (1 inch slices, longer at shallow end)
Optional : a teaspoon of onion powder.  OR 1 onion, chopped.  This got omitted when I was there, as I had thing again cooked union.  I think my mom added an extra potato and carrot so the meal stretched as far.
2-3 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
about 3 cups of water

Instructions:  Break up the beef into the water, stirring so that it makes a thick soup. Bring to a boil, then reduce, and cook covered on low, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  Add the salt and bay leaves, onion/onion powder if used, and simmer about 30 more minutes.  This time is well used scraping the potatoes and carrots and cutting them up.  Add the vegetables and simmer again for about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   If the stew is too watery for your taste, a bit of flour or corn starch can be mixed with a bit of the liquid and stirred back in to thicken it up.

We usually had some sort of crusty rolls with butter, or just sliced bread and butter. In my childhood days, there was much more hamburger than carrots and potatoes, but in my young adult years, I reverted to the old fashion way of stretching the ground beef with lots of potatoes and carrots, and a slightly thickened sauce for body.

A friend came over one Saturday as I was making a large batch for dinner and freezing leftovers.  She thought it smelled amazing, and I was a little embarrassed at how basic and working class the meal was going to be.  She came into the kitchen and gasped, “Mince and Tatties!!”  Which is how I found out it was from my Scottish forebears.  A classic with dozens of versions. It echoed her childhood so strongly that her burr picked up intensity and for the first time in our acquaintance she talked freely of living in Scotland during the rather sparse post-WWII years.

Lamb and rice is another of my mother’s comfort food recipes. The rich aroma of lamb simmering in its broth had a soothing effect on me.  For years I never would try the dish, just enjoying the benign smells.  Eventually I helped my mother prepare it a couple of times and tried it. It’s now one of my go-to simple winter dishes.  My friend Carolyn, also with a Scottish background in her Western Appalachian family, always looks forward to it.  Again, a deceptively simple recipe.

Lamb and Rice

(Serves 4-6)


2 Lamb Shanks approx 2 lbs each

cover in cold water with a sprinkle of salt

1 bay leaf (optional)

Bring to a boil, turn down, cover, and simmer until the meat pulls easily away from the bone (about 2-3 hours).

Strain the liquid into another pot, adding enough water to cook 2 cups of rice in the broth, leaving a soupy liquid for the cooked rice.

While the rice is cooking, clean the lamb shanks completely, getting every bit of clean meat from the shanks. Trim the meat so there are no unpleasant bits — this one should be able to be eaten blind-folded.lamb and rice

Add the meat back in, simmer a little to meld the flavors, adjust salt and pepper. Serve in bowls, with the requisite bread or rolls.

5-Lentil Soup

I got chatting with a lovely woman in the therapy pool at physical therapy today, and wound up talking nonstop about food and recipes.  I talked about this soup, and only realized when I got home that I’ve never posted the recipe for my absolute favorite soup!

So here it is, in its current iteration:

5-Lentil Soup

List of Ingredients:  Brown, French, Beluga, White & Orange Lentils, Smoked Pork Necks, Ham Chunks, Diced Tomatoes (canned or fresh), Turnip, Parsnip, Celery, Carrots, Onion, Garlic, Bay Leaves, Zucchini, Chopped Spinach (fresh or frozen), Herbs & Spices.

Start by filling a soup kettle (I use a 12-quart one) halfway with cold water.  Add a package of smoked pork necks (I used about 4 pounds) and some chunks of ham, a large peeled onion, 3-4 cloves of peeled garlic, 4-5 ribs of celery with leaves if you have that, 2-3 carrots, and 2-5 bay leaves. Add a parsnip and turnip if available. This should pretty much fill the soup pot.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat, stirring occasionally.  Simmer this for a minimum of 3 hours. You want the veggies to be mush, and the meat bits falling off the bone.  Longer is better.

Let the stock cool enough to allow safe handling, and strain into another container (I usually use my 8-qt pot for this).  Remove the bones and bits of meat and save.  For a lower fat soup, chill overnight so the fat can be removed easily.  Reheat the stock to a boil and add the first round of lentils, and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

I start with about a cup each of the five kinds of lentil. While they start simmering, chop 4-5 carrots, 2 inner stalks of celery, and 2 zucchini.  Adjust the amounts to your preferences and the size of your soup pot. When the lentils are tender, start adding additional lentils, so you’ll have them cooked to varying degrees of tenderness.  When these are back up to a simmer, add the carrots first, as they take longest to become tender. Let them simmer about 15 minutes and add the celery and zucchini. At this point, add a can of diced tomatoes (I use DelMonte Petite Diced with no added salt), and the chopped spinach (usually a block of frozen store brand). While all these ingredients are getting tender, clean the reserved meat off the bones, break up the ham chunks to bite size and add these to the soup.

At this point the soup broth will have started thicken a bit, so be sure to stir often so it doesn’t stick or scorch.  Next season the soup:  I add about a teaspoon of cumin, thyme, Italian seasoning, paprika about 3 Tablespoons of dried parsley or about half a bunch chopped of fresh. Add whatever other herbs and spices suit your tastes. Occasionally I’ll add a little smoked paprika or a shake of cayenne pepper.

I like to serve the lentil soup over any small-sized pasta (I use Barilla gluten-free elbow macaroni), and add a goodly amount of grated cheese at the table.  It’s also gorgeous with a good french bread for dipping.

This soup freezes very well too.  It will get thicker on sitting, so sometimes adding a bit of extra broth (any type) is needed for the leftovers.



stracciatella-6While homemade broth was simmering yesterday, I suddenly remembered a favorite quick lunch my Nonna made when I visited. Her homemade chicken broth, tiny noodles (pastina, flakes, or tiny circles) with an egg-grated cheese mixture drizzled in as it boiled. Quick, easy, nutritious, and easy to digest.

Some recent and persistent stomach issues are making me dig deep for comfort foods! By the way, it was delicious!


  • About 2 cups chicken broth (of course homemade is best) per person
  • small pasta shapes cooked right in the broth
  • Beat 1 egg per person with about 1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano (I use a combo)
  • When pasta is al dente, pour the egg mixture slowly into the simmering soup, stirring quickly with a fork.
  • Some variations: add fresh chopped parsley, grated carrots, or chopped spinach.


Our Three AM Al Fredo “Snack”

(updated May 2022)

Some friends suggested I write up this story and recipe, so here it is.  There are a million variations to this sauce, but to me, this is the authentic one.

My father, restauranteur Guido Fusco, taught me to make alfredo late one night in my teens. We crossed paths in the kitchen at 3 am, I had pasta on and he asked if there was enough for him to have a bite. I said sure, but I was just planning to add butter and grated cheese. He asked me if I wanted to learn to make a great, really quick sauce he’d had in Rome a few years earlier.

Even though I was cooking humble Ronzoni shells, he made the following masterpiece. In a large skillet, he melted some butter (several tablespoons) and poured a whole 1/2 pint of heavy cream in to the skillet. He whisked that together and deftly separated an egg. Until this moment I didn’t know my father could cook anything but toast. He added the yoke to the skillet, breaking it up quickly with the whisk and then incorporating it to the cream mixture. He added an ample amount of parmesan/romano mix (what I had out) until it melted and the whole pan simmered very gently. Under his instruction I drained the pasta, reserving a cup of the liquid. He stirred some of that in, to his satisfaction. Sprinkled some salt (no pepper at my behest), and then unceremoniously dumped in the drained shells. He stirred until the shells were well coated, divided them in two shallow pasta dishes (yes, we had those way back then), then poured the remaining sauce over the top.We ate together in relative silence. Too immersed in the taste and texture of this simple but rich late night treat to chat. I never looked at my father quite the same again. Or pasta, for that matter. vegan-alfredo-sauce-pasta7 It wasn’t until years later when Alfredo sauce was all the rage that I realized what he’d taught me to make.

Viva alfredo!

1 lb. pasta cooked al dente & drained
reserve 1 cup of the cooking water
4 oz butter
1-2 cups cream (any kind – the richer the cream, the richer the sauce)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
¼ cup grated “Italian” cheese
sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste (optional)

Melt butter in a saucepan or skillet. Add cream and egg, stirring constantly. Add the grated cheese. Simmer gently for a minute or so, adding reserved pasta water to adjust thickness of sauce, then toss with pasta, topping with a sprinkle of fresh black pepper and more cheese at the table to taste.

Update: Fusco’s Kitchen Re-Opens or Learning to Love Low-sodium

I’m simply adding this preface to an old post to replace the original introduction. This past blogless year I was diagnosed with early heart disease. Things are okay, but I need to take some steps to stay okay. One of these, much dreaded, was reduce the salt in my diet.  I’m slowly learning to adapt favorite recipes, and have been blessed by the recent introduction of get this — LOW-SODIUM OLIVES!!!!!!manzanilla olives

For me this is the equivalent of winning the Publishers’ Clearinghouse contest. Life is sweet again.  So, I’ve been encouraged to work on a few of my favorites. Simple fixes like tons of dill in tuna salad or green beans, lemon on nearly everything, and more cumin in lentil soup have become the norm, but a few items have eluded me. One is the red beans and yellow rice dishes I developed a few years ago. Tonight I’m using a stray can of red beans that’s moderate in sodium (320mg per serving), but I’ll be making a batch salt-free next time. I’m also stretching the premixed rice by adding a cup of uncooked plain rice in with a cup of the rice mix. More garlic and some sodium-free diced tomatoes with the juice should cover the needed changes.

The savory update will have to wait til this weekend, when I’ll shop and get more olives!


The Original Recipes

The emphasis this week has been on convenient, healthy, frugal foods. I’ve been eating variations on yellow rice and beans all week.

simple and good

I cooked a pound of red beans in the slow cooker overnight.  Then cooked a family-sized package of yellow rice (makes about 8 cups).  I took about 4 cups of the beans and packaged them in Ziplock baggies in the freezer, and refrigerated the balance in a covered bowl. The rice was also refrigerated.

Meal 1:  heat medium skillet, add splash of olive oil. While oil heats, quickly dice zucchini and mushrooms. Pulverize 1 clove garlic in press or under knife, add to veggies sauteing along with parsley and a little oregano and thyme.  Stir in 1 cup yellow rice and 1/2-2/3 cup beans. Mix until ingredients are hot. If they are too dry, drizzle broth, tomato or V-8 juice in while stirring to proper texture. Season with grated cheese or a splash of lemon juice.

Meal 2:  Microwave lunch:  Put 1 cup rice and 1/2 cup beans in a microwaveable container. Grate directly into container: 1 small zucchini, 1 small carrot (or half each larger ones).  Again, splash generously with V-8 or other tomato based juice  or soup. Refrigerate until lunch. Heat, add grated cheese and enjoy.


Meal 3: Savory version.  Dice Zucchini, saute with minced garlic in olive oil.  Saute yellow rice and beans (same 2:1 proportion as other recipes). with the squash. In food processor, roughly chop a large handful of green stuffed olives, a can of drained artichoke hearts, some capers, a few black olives, a clove of garlic and fresh herbs (basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, or rosemary might work well).  Lightly pulse these ingredients along with a handful of red beans. top sautéed beans and rice with a dollop of this tapenade and enjoy.

Whatever combination of savory ingredients (add almonds, diced tomatoes, or the classic anchovies, for example) can be handled this same way for a wide array of flavors, all based on simple red beans and yellow rice.

Old-Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soup

soup 3My mother used to make this amazing vegetable soup. I learned to like barley from that soup. Oddly enough, the only food I really miss in eating gluten-free (I mean, besides good french bread), is barley.

There’s something about the sweet nuttiness, and slightly chewy texture that makes vegetable soup just perfect. I started adding it to other soups too, especially turkey noodle soup after the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

For the past two years I’ve been trying to re-conjure the taste and feel of my mother’s soup, sans barley. I think I’ve finally done it.

The soup was made in the slow cooker, but doesn’t require much adaptation for the soup kettle — it would just take two days, instead of three.

Laurie’s Old-Fashioned Beef Vegetable Soupsoup ingredients raw

Two marrow bones and about a pound of boneless beef stew meat

Or two beef shins with plenty of meat

Enough cold water to fill the cooker or kettle about two-thirds full

A sprinkle of salt

One large onion, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled

3-5 large stalks of celery, with leafy tops

2 big carrots,

Whatever other limp but usable vegetables (I had a half of zucchini, but I’ve also added green beans, pea, parsnips, or turnip — nothing too dominating in flavor, though)

Simmer overnight

While the stock is cooking, soak a cup or two of red beans, or a combination other beans of your choice (cannelloni, navy beans, october beans, red kidney beans are others I like to use)

When the stock has deepened in color and the veggies are nearly mush, strain the broth, reserving the “stuff” to pick out the clean bits of meat.  Press the cooked vegetables through a sieve to get all the moisture and flavor out

Add the drained beans, 1 can of diced tomatoes, and the cleaned bits of meat (no gristle allowed) and simmer again overnight

soup 2Add:

4-5 medium-sized carrots, peeled and diced

6-8 small potatoes, peeled and diced (I used Klondike Rose this time)

3 stalks of celery, diced very fine

1 large zucchini, diced

A handful of chopped fresh parsley, or dried if necessary

Other herbs I usually add are powdered onion and garlic, paprika, thyme, sage, rosemary, and oregano.

Simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Add 1 can of corn, another can of diced tomatoes,

Perhaps a couple of cans of cooked beans if you need to stretch the soup for more people. Salt to taste, add more herbs if needed.

That’s it.

taco-soup-in-the-crock-pot (1)I think the corn and several types of beans add the sweetness the barley used to provide, and if you want a little thicker soup, go heavier on the potatoes and don’t drain all the liquid from the canned beans.  Another possible addition is a little chopped cabbage — people don’t think it of it as sweet, but it really is in soups.

I’m ready to go have seconds now.

Dutch Oven Soup

It’s one of the first chilly evenings (at least, the first one I feel chilled), so I made soup.

I was in the midst of nasty financial management homework, so I didn’t have much time, thus a quick made-up soup in my new favorite cookware:

I took a smoked beef sausage, cut in half slices, sauteed in grapeseed oil so I could use a pretty hot burner, added two sliced carrots, a diced up celery stalk, and a pressed clove of garlic. When nicely browned I added a can of pink beans (drained) and a 32-ounce carton of chicken broth. Let it come to a good simmer, then threw in four large-diced klondike-rose potatoes, a pinch of dill, some sage, thyme and rosemary and a chopped up zucchini. Also a dash of my new “secret ingredient” — onion juice in bottle. Simmered till the vegetables were tender.

It was awesome. Just right for a chilly early autumn evening, and, apparently good brain food, since I finished all my homework on time.

Accidental Chicken a la Laurie

So, I made this great chicken dish accidentally.

Accidental Chicken

  • 6 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes, including liquid
  • a tablespoon of basil pesto
  • a cup of dry white wine
  • 1/2 jar of roasted sweet red peppers (fire roasted is best), roughly chopped
  • about a dozen large green stuffed olives, sliced
  • a heaping tablespoon of capers
  • a sprinkle of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350. Serves 6.

In a large baking dish (mine is about 10×17 Pyrex) spread the olive oil by dragging the chicken pieces through it. Add all the other ingredients, breaking the pesto up. Put the pan in the oven …. and forget about it for about 2-1/2 hours, until the faint scent of tomatoes and browning penetrates your consciousness.  Pull pan out of oven moments before ingredients begin to burn. Loosen juices from pan with a little more white wine.  Serve with quinoa or rice and fresh steamed broccoli.

Voila, Accidental Chicken a la Laurie

Crafty, Cookin’ Sunday

I’m taking a short catch-my-breath break.

I’ve been busy making space for my beading supplies, which have been stored away for several years. I’ve got everything arranged, but not yet neatened up — maybe I’ll post a photo when it’s all pretty.

I’m also finishing up a short grocery list so I can get cooking, too. A nice meat sauce is on the menu, as well as starting slow-cooker 3-bean chili (recipe to be posted once I create it☺).

Hope everyone is having the Sunday they wanted, too!