As we approach a colder time of year, warm broths and creamy vegetable soups gain in popularity. Cold or hot all of these soups are easy to make any season. And they are made easier still by the use of a blender, robocoup, food processor or immersion wand. Personally I like a chunkier soup but smooth and velvety or chunky and hardy, soup is wonderful. I would add a simple salad on the side with oil and vinegar or chopped greens in the soup itself—like chard or spinach.. But with or without the greens, the soup can remain the centerpiece.
I love Thanksgiving. In our family it is a special time we can all count on eating a great meal together, relaxing for a day or two and having the time to catch up with each other. It always gives me so much pleasure. But the Thanksgiving feast can be less than satisfying when it includes, as it too often does, dry turkey, overcooked stuffing, or cranberry sauce that is saccharine sweet or too sour or straight out of the can. And then, of course, there is the problem of overeating. Every year I tell myself that I’m going to exercise some restraint and the next thing I know, I’m lying on the couch, stuffed and uncomfortable.
The best thing about Thanksgiving is that everyone celebrates it together, regardless of religious affiliation. It’s a time to give thanks for surviving Superstorm Sandy, for living in a nation where our leaders are chosen by the people and for the bounty of our nation. We work hard for hours to create special and memorable holiday meals. But sometimes you need a break from turkey. To break the monotony of our leftovers, a few years ago I decided to make a new dish called Chicken Mezra, that I had discovered on a recent trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The recipe met all of my post-Thanksgiving criteria—simple, delicious, different and easy to make. This dish can be prepared in advance and finished later by putting it under the broiler for a few minutes.
Recently I overheard a man on the street say, “Of course I can cook. I am Italian!” Was this overly confident? Not necessarily. One’s roots are significant and Italian heritage by definition brings with it a culinary sophistication and expertise. Further, the joy and love of Italy’s culinary traditions are wrapped in family life and the 21 regions of Italy itself — each of which are tied to distinct agricultural products. So while Italy is one nation, it has many distinct food traditions tied to the regional cuisine and wine of their ancestors.
Food evokes so many memories for me: Hot dogs at the ballgame, Paella and Risotto with my sons, and waffles and soft scrambled eggs my mom would make for me on Sunday morning. Smell is, of course, associated with food and stimulates our memories even further. I recall visiting Tel Aviv walking past an apartment where to my surprise the smells and aromas drifting past reminded me of my Lithuanian grandmother’s cooking over 25 years earlier. A friend had a similar experience when riding the underground tube to school in London. He knew when he was one stop from the university where he debarked because he could smell the curry that wafted through the windows and open doors.
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