Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Buon Appetito!

My love affair with all things Italian began early in life, with a certain Polish-Italian family who lived in our neighborhood. The Guarinos were a "typical" big Italian bunch - rowdy, boisterous, and a lot of fun.  I was friends with their middle daughter, Vicki; she enjoyed the quiet & orderly peace of my only-child home as much as I did the loud, messy energy of hers.  Something was always cooking in their kitchen, especially on Christmas Eve when the whole 'hood was invited over for a big feast.  Huge pots of soup, pasta and sauce simmered on the stove, wine and cocktails were passed around to the adults, and even the older kids were allowed a sip of or two.  After one such holiday dinner, I walked home, tipsy from my first ever Pina Colada, and made a phone call that would change my life forever.  You see, I had a little romance brewing with a cute Italian of my own, and that evening found us sharing a kiss under the mistletoe.  Little did I know, he'd eventually become my husband and the father of my first beautiful daughter.  I blame the Guarinos. *wink*

Prom, 1982

a baby Italian on the way!
Thus began my education and fascination with Italy - the food, the wine, the art, the men, the culture, the language, and oh, did I mention, the men? Yes, there have been other Italian romances in my life, perhaps some day over a glass of vino I'll be tempted to tell you about them.  For now, let's just stick to the food, family & friendship, ok? 
Two of my oldest, dearest friends. Both, you guessed it, Italian!
My "Sicilian Sister," Stephanie

Even after Glenn and I divorced and I remarried (to an Irishman, no less!), I cooked pasta, marinara sauce, etc. for my new family.  I began hosting Christmas Eve dinner like I'd learned from the Guarinos, inviting friends and family to dine on antipasta, stuffed shells, crispy fresh bread, canoli, and, of course, wine.  It's a tradition we still honor today.  The location and the guest list has sometimes changed over the years, but the menu and the atmosphere stay the same. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is expected to stay until their tummies are full and their hearts happy.

So, you'll see quite a few Italian dishes on this blog. Some authentically vegan, some "veganized," like the Spinach and Basil Conchiglioni I posted previously. Tonight, Chip asked me to repeat a recipe I made last week, a vegan "Chick'n Parmesan" using Gardein Crispy Fillets served over pasta, topped with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan.  I served it alongside a tossed green salad and last night's leftover dinner rolls, Italian-ized with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh garlic & herbs.


 The verdict: Delizioso! 

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