Una Bella Famiglia


Yesterday evening, I felt honored to cook dinner for this wonderful family from the mountains of  Italy.  Lisa, the daughter, has been living with friends as an exchange student.  Lisa had been to my house several times with her host parents and ridden Rosie.  This week her parents, grandparents on her mother’s side, and her younger brother came to see her high school graduation Friday evening.  Last night they all came to my house.  Lisa speaks fluent English, her parents and grandfather some, but her grandmother very little.  They do understand Spanish so I spoke Spanish to her grandmother, some Spanish to everyone else, some English, and, of course, everyone spoke bits and pieces of Italian or all Italian.

Grandfather Corrado smiled and laughed and hugged.  When he was younger, he was ranked fifth in the world in cross country skiing.  He spent much of his life, more than thirty years, in Germany making and selling ice cream.  We did have ice cream for dessert–vanilla with Chambord on top.

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Corrado drinking sangiovese from a local winery, BarZ, with Jeannette, the host mom of Lisa. Later, we had another bottle of sangiovese from a different winery, DiVine Wine.

 

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They explained they drink wine every day so they felt right at home at my house.  Lisa, in the Abercrombe T-shirt with her dad, Benedetto, next to her.  And yes, that is Corrado smiling down there on the end.

 

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Benedetto in the white shirt claimed that the sangiovese here seemed stronger than at home.  Claudia, Lisa’s Mom appears to be explaining something, but I do not recall what.  Grandmother Angelina is on her right and younger brother Antonio at the far right edge.  Everyone seems enthralled.  Benedetto is an architect.

 

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From left to right, Lisa, Benedetto, me, and Claudia.  They felt right at home with my dog Isabella; she has an Italian name.

 

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Everyone agreed to eat dinner on the patio–and you were thinking all we planned to do is drink wine.  The menu:  brisket, roasted vegetables (red and purple potatoes, brussel sprouts, Anaheim peppers, carrots, onions roasted with lots of olive oil, basil, oregano, and herbes de Provence), green salad and bread with chunks of garlic in it.

 

 

There is nothing better than eating and relaxing with friends and family.  And what a beautiful family!!  Laughter, hugs.  How could one not enjoy all the hugs and kisses on both cheeks.

 

 

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They had ridden horses in Palo Duro Canyon and hiked there earlier in the day, attended several graduation parties, and played volleyball.  Antonio seemed very tired.  He is 13.

 

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Richard, the host dad, relaxes in the bar stool while his daughter takes photos with his camera.  A deer eventually showed up across the canyon.

This lovely Italian family lives way in the north of Italy in Cortina d’Ampezzo.  Claudia explained they work seven days a week during the seven month tourist season–it is skiing country, and then they like to travel.  This evening as I write this they have headed to New York City by minivan via St. Louis and Falling Waters–Corrado really wants to see this Frank Lloyd Wright house.  I feel so honored to have met them.  Una bella famiglia–a beautiful family.

Late at night


Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the morning–like all my friends in Southeast Asia.  Or even a totally different day.  This commitment to write and then blog daily means that sometimes I may be a little less than perfectly coherent, e.g. now.  Just came home from a dinner party for some of us who are connected in some way or another with the Amarillo Opera.  Tomorrow night Amarillo Opera presents the annual Musica Variada performance featuring local Hispanic opera singers, all of whom are studying music at West Texas A & M University and Trio Ellas from Los Angeles–three young women who play traditional Mexican music, e.g. Mariachi and boleros (though I think actually the original boleros are from Cuba) and lots of other things.  The food, catered by a local Mexican restaurant, was not the typical TexMex food.  We imbibed Spanish wine, ate beef to melt in your mouth–coming from someone who rarely cooks beef, imbibed salad with chorizo in the Spanish style–harder and smokier than what one usually gets here in the Panhandle of Texas (part of El Norte).  And more Spanish wine.

Perhaps out of choice or some other reason I do not know, I am always surrounded, except at work, by people from all over the world.  At dinner I sat with friends from Columbia and Peru and my friends from here.  Across the way were my friends with the exquisite garden.  He is from Jordan.  Another young man with whom I spoke chatted about this and that in Spanish and English.  I ascertained he was Cuban; he confirmed.  I also visited with my friend who spends so much time traveling all over this part of the United States with an energy company that I rarely see her.  Tomorrow night I will go to the opera and wish dancing in the aisles was acceptable behavior.  If you want to hear some wonderful music watch videos of Trio Ellas.  You will be dancing in your house.  I promise.

Dinner Parties and Commitments


When I committed to writing daily and then blogging, it never occurred to me that this might entail writing in the middle of the night after hosting a dinner party and then cleaning up.  Some people just go to bed and clean up in the morning.  Yuck!!!  Who wants to wake up to a big mess with bits of food solidified to plates and remnants of red wine looking like dried blood in the bottom of wine glasses.  No me.  So here I am fulfilling my commitment to write daily.

Usually, I invite a lot of people over and work like crazy or give up and do potluck. This time I decided on something simple for six friends (three couples).  One friend is a vegetarian so everyone ate vegetarian.  The menu included homemade refried black bean casserole–the favorite of two of these friends.  The recipe for this dish is on a previous blog post.  In honor of my former exchange student son, Gaston Luis Zulaica del Sueldo, I made one of my best salads ever.  When he lived with me, he made salad almost every night, spectacular, colorful salads.  I made a mixture of Jasmine and several other kinds of rice and the following casserole which has no name so guess I will need to invent one.

Vegetarian Casserole with Soyrizo

Pour enough olive oil into the bottom of a heavy casserole dish to cover it.  Thinly slice purple potatoes (I think they are called blue, but they look purple to me), and cover the bottom with a layer of these.  Cover the potatoes with a layer of chopped onions, then a layer of coarsely chopped poblano peppers–I added a few halved and seeded jalapeños.  The next layer is soyrizo crumbled to completely cover the previous layers.  If you are not vegetarian, use chorizo.  Repeat the previous layers.  Combine 3 T of flour and 1 cup milk.  Pour over the top of the casserole.  Bake until the potatoes are done.  You can make all this several hours in advance and pour the milk mixture over it just before it goes in the oven.  I actually used the grill outside on low to bake it this time–warm day and did not want to heat up the house.  We finished off dinner with chocolate chip mint ice cream with Chambord poured over the top.  We also enjoyed a while dessert wine called Electra.

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Salad a la Gaston

 

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Good friends.

 

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Pretty ladies