On the First Day of Summer

My sister Mary died on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2018.  I’m not ready to write about it yet, but I came across a phrase in some Facebook post this morning that lead me directly here, with a need to start sharing the wealth and sorrows leading up to this summer that began in death.

Until I find my own words, I’d like to share some of Mary Oliver’s.  This is one of the poems read at her memorial service:

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

On the Other Hand….

This is the heart of all that is wrong with America, and until we allow a full and complete reckoning of how we got here, we won’t all have the same full rights promised in the Declaration. It’s not too late, but it’s damn close.

Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech is (and should be) difficult to read as a white American. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/what-american-slave-your-4th-july-frederick-douglass-1852-speech-ncna888736

Traditions


Every summer I am again moved by the Declaration of Independence. As a flawed but brilliant statement of human rights, there is no other to compare to it. This fourth it is more pertinent than ever. The list of injustices and usurpations is astonishingly familiar right now.

NPR annually reads the declaration, deeply, clearly, and meaningfully. Here is the site for this year’s recitation:

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/04/623836154/a-july-4-tradition-npr-reads-the-declaration-of-independence?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180704

George’s Creek

I started this post 3 years ago. Lovely people have been living there, and in the house they built “downstream” from the first. The creek is practically gone. The clash of values in me and others remains. How to balance the need of people to have homes and gardens, backyards and driveways, versus the birds, fish, snails, and turtles who rely on the remaining bits of nature in the suburbs.

a pensive George

My beloved cat George, who passed away a year ago, regularly brought me fish from the creek across the street. He loved that creek, and often came home wet and muddy up to his belly.

For the first time, I’m glad George is gone, because they are killing his creek. Today they are clearing trees off the lot right opposite my drive–George’s spot for fishing. The man working there told me they would be putting in culvert–closing up the creek into concrete pipe. Does anyone think fish like living in a concrete pipe rather than an open creek with light and growing things and silt to burrow in?

I’m so sad. Development, progress, whatever you call it, shouldn’t have to harm the small beauties and little lives.

Stracciatella

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!

Stracchiatella

  • 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.

Voilà!

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!

Ingredients
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.

Das Fuhrer Trump?

Okay, I’m now ready to say it outright:

Donald J. Trump is a Fascist.

He’s closely following the Nazi’s playbook from 1930’s Germany. He is a danger to everyone. He is not stupid, he manipulates, lies, whips his followers into a fury, incites violence, has no respect for human life, denigrates women and minorities. In short, in all seriousness, I believe he is looking to become a dictator.

His constant repeating of simple catch phrases, embedded with words and phrases that skew people’s thinking: how we need a strongman as leader, we’re in an economic disaster; we have weak government; the need to do things we’ve never done before. This is familiar turf. So is the scapegoating of a religious/ethnic group. So is telling big lies, over and over, in hopes of making people believe it.

We need to call on the Republican Party (such as it is) to disown and denounce Trump. He cannot be allowed to turn this nation into one made in his image.

He terrifies me. I am far more frightened by Donald Trump than ISIS. ISIS can attack us, Trump can destroy us from the inside out. We have an example of a strong speaker who gathered obscene power to him through fear and atrocities. I believe he’s capable of the same. Donald Trump, Sieg Heil!

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.

tapenade

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.