Food warms the heart, comforts the soul, brings people together from all ages, ethnicities and lifestyles.
How many times have you gone on vacation, based on the restaurants and food at the location?
When you celebrate a holiday, you often base it around a traditional meal using recipes from “Grandma” or family members.
Today’s culture is very much about food. The younger generation are often foodies, love trying new restaurants, unusual dishes and the posting of pictures on social media of food is constant. Culinary delights, new experiences at casual neighborhood places all the way to Michelin star restaurants is certainly an interest and often a passion for the XYZ Generation.
Think about making a chicken soup for a friend who is not feeling well. A family who has suffered from a loss will always appreciate the personal delivery of some comfort food with a thoughtful note. Just dropping off a homemade meal to an elderly neighbor just to say, “I’m thinking of you.” People remember the small acts of kindness which leave a nice feeling for the giver as well as the receiver. I always have a pot of soup going, particularly during the colder months. I find soup to be comforting, very healthy, and an easy meal to drop off to someone who I want to touch with kindness. This week it is chicken soup and a friend who had her last chemo treatment will receive a container at her door. She’s a warrior and her daughter has been by her side through it all. Prayers, hope and best wishes come along with the soup.
Tortelloni with truffle cream sauce Pasta Fagioli
Chicken Ceasar Salad Vastedda sandwich
Dropping off a few meals for a family who returned from being away from home after a rough week of
health and sadness. There was something for everyone, for the kids, for those who wanted to eat healthy and for those who just needed some comfort food. Very much appreciated by the family and a "feel good" for me.
Much of our recreation and fun has cocktails, food and desserts as the main event. Summer barbeques, Football Sundays, Beach parties, Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year and Passover Seder, to name a few, all have special foods and drink for your guests to enjoy. Food helps foster better relationships just by spending time with family and friends over a good meal.
Cinco de Mayo: is celebrated on May 5th to commemorate Mexico’s victory over the French Empire in 1862. The celebration every year promotes the Mexican culture, history, vibrant colors and pride in diversity. Margheritas, guacamole, salsa & chips, tacos, burritos and fajitas are just a few of the stable items served that day.
Chinese New Year: recognizes the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunar Chinese calendar. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 each year. Fireworks, red lanterns on display, red envelopes with a $1 bill and family gatherings for an eight course banquet are traditional. Meats such as pork or chicken or duck, seafood like lobster and shrimp, fish, noodles, dumplings, spring rolls and rice are all enjoyed. Each of the foods symbolizes something, whether it is good fortune, a long life of good health, success or family togetherness.
Passover Seder: is a ritual feast at the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The day falls in late March or in April. Prior to the feast, the seder involves a retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Special blessings, commentaries and songs involve all guests, including the children. The traditional food items served include, matzah, vegetables dipped in salt water, roasted meat, bitter herbs, hard boiled eggs and wine. Many other traditional foods are served, each representing a different part of the Jewish history, which varies depending on which sect of Judaism is present.
Christmas Eve: December 24th commemorates the birth of Jesus in the Catholic religion. In Italian/American households, Christmas Eve is a Feast of Seven Fishes. History says that Christmas Eve is a fasting day and the abundance of seafood reflects the observance of abstinence from meat until the Christmas Day feast. The meal’s components may include some combination of lobster, anchovies, baccala, calamari, squid, octopus, shrimp, clams and more. In my family, a version of our feast starts with baked clams, snow crab claws, then progresses to the dinner table where the first course is a cold fish salad consisting of calamari, squid and shrimp and maybe octopus. We then enjoy spaghetti with white clam sauce, followed by lobster, baked flounder or sole. I enjoy switching it up a bit and altering the traditional recipes to make it more interesting. Tradition with food is comforting and change is good, so you never know what will be at our Christmas Eve table.
Recipe for Baked Clams:
There is a distinction between baked clams and stuffed clams. In Italy, and in authentic Italian restaurants you will only see on menus, baked clams. Stuffed clams are usually large, the clams are chopped, put back in the shell with a mixture of many things. Baked clams are simple to make.
Little Neck clams
I buy little neck clams, the smallest I can find. Wash them well using a brush or cloth. On Christmas Eve, I make 10-12 dozen for the family. I have my favorite fish store open them for me and place on ice, keeping the juice in the pan and discarding the empty half of shell. If you are only making a dozen or two, you can open yourself. Wash them well, place them in a pan, and put in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes, when they will slightly open. Use a clam knife to then open and clean.
I either make my own breadcrumbs from leftover bread in a food processor or often buy fresh breadcrumbs from my favorite salumeria. Season with salt, pepper, chopped garlic and parsley. No grated cheese, never use cheese on seafood dishes, (an unwritten law in Italy.)
I do not recommend buying packaged breadcrumbs from the supermarket, as they are loaded with processed additives and the flavor is just not the same.
Mix seasoned breadcrumbs in a bowl, add extra virgin olive oil, until the breadcrumbs are moist. Add ½ lemon juice to the mixture and some of the clam juice from the clams. Mix well.
Stuff each clam with the breadcrumb mixture, keep it loose.
Bake the clams for about 15 minutes at 375. Broil for 1 minute till golden brown, as you like, (don’t forget them when you have them on broil).
Serve with lemon wedges and small seafood forks.