Tag Archive | "Mom"

An Ode to the Humble Lentil—Or, You’re Not Leaving This Table Until You Finish That

An Ode to the Humble Lentil—Or, You’re Not Leaving This Table Until You Finish That



There’s something about making lentils that always makes me feel I’m doing the right thing. They’re inexpesive, so I’m being resourceful. They’re healthy, so I’m eating smart. They’re a simple, whole food, so I’m making something from scratch. They’re boring and bland, so they call upon my kitchen creativity. And they remind me of my parents, grandparents, and every peasant before them who’s soaked a stale heel of bread in their soup. So much is accomplished through one little legume.

Oh, the irony. If my four-year-old self knew that I’d one day write an ode to lentils, she’d kick my ass. And she’d probably win. I despised lentils more than anything growing up. They’re the only food with which I managed to beat my mom in the “you’re not leaving this table until you finish that” game. I once spent an entire evening staring at a bowl of cold lentil soup, giving my mom the stink eye as she washed dishes. I remained at the table hours after everyone finished dinner, determined not to let the evil bean win. If I did, she’d make me eat them all the time! I considered myself a pretty flexible kid, but I drew the line with lentils. I just shut down and readied myself for a night at the kitchen table.

A hard film formed on the surface after the first hour. Orange bits of carrot squares peered at me through the greenish brown bog. I couldn’t imagine how my brothers could love this stuff so much. It reminded me of a toilet bowl after a long night with food poisoning. It was by far the most offensive thing I’d ever been asked to eat. Give me pigs’ feet, lamb brains, or calf livers any day. But the lentils had to go.

My mom did well, though. I see now how conflicted a mother must feel in that situation. If you give the kid her way, you’re teaching her she can get whatever she wants if she pouts long enough. You’re tired, it’s been a long day, and you really don’t want to spend your night in a staring contest with your four-year-old. But she’s not giving up. And really, at this point, are you going to force crusty, cold soup on her? It’s not about the lentils anymore, but still, this is getting old.

After a solid two-hour battle, she grabbed the plate and tossed its shriveled contents in the trash. We didn’t look at each other. She just said “go,” and I slithered out of my seat. I was relieved, but scared that I’d taken it too far. I’d picked my side and was dedicated to it, but I didn’t think it would be an all-out war. I left the table with a heavy heart, wondering if it was worth making my mom so mad. I never complained about lentils again. She never forced them on me again. I just ate them quietly when they’d come up in the dinner rotation, and I think she gave me a smaller portion each time.

Twenty-five years later, and I’m actually eating them voluntarily. Making up recipes, even! Who would have thought. Joe inspired this lentil egg salad this week, as we’re challenging ourselves to eat through whatever’s in the fridge, even if we think there’s nothing to eat. Thankfully, there’s always something to eat.

Lentil Egg Salad
1 pound dried lentils
½ bunch of parsley, chopped
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
dried oregano, to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Boil the lentils over medium heat until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t let them get mushy as you would for a soup. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Add the parsley, eggs, and onions. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes until you like it. The vinegar gives this salad a nice bite that you don’t normally get in lentil dishes.

Posted in Interviews, SoupsComments (1)

Let’s Raid the Fridge Like Real-Life Grown-Ups

Let’s Raid the Fridge Like Real-Life Grown-Ups


You may have guessed by now that my family uses a lot of jars. It’s true. There have been times, when groceries were low, when jars were the only thing you could find in our fridge. Sauce, pickles, green tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, olives—they were all staples, crowding the top shelf behind cloudy glass.

The first thing we’d do when our parents left my brother Joey and me home alone was head for those jars. Don’t ask why. It’s not like we weren’t allowed to eat from them when they were home. Maybe there was something about getting them all out at once, downing pickles without constraint, chasing them with shots of giardiniera, cramming forkfuls of pickled green tomatoes before the sound of the garage door ripped through our joy. It was all very exhilarating. This was our idea of misbehaving.

There was one jar I’d never touch during our refrigerator renegades: My parents’ Sicilian green olives. Despite a full-on obsession with olives, I ignored these mossy green orbs completely. They were the bitter, gross things adults ate. I wanted olives from a can. The black shiny pitted guys that I’d stick on my fingertips like puppets and make dance around the kitchen table. I couldn’t imagine wasting stomach space on those cracked green monstrosities when there were canned olives to be had.

Then, at some point around middle school, I changed my mind. It was right around the time I discovered the joys of salted sardines. My parents make a salad with these olives, onions, and sardines that stinks like a salty fishy vinegary mess—offensive and glorious. It was the nucleus of our Sunday night lunches, and the thing that finally got me to appreciate their olives. But I hadn’t had the olives, or thought about them, in a good ten years.

Not until my mom called last week with some news: “Your dad just brought home sixteen pounds of olives.”

“Uh, why?”

“He bought a whole case. Straight from the tree! He’s going to cure them, like we used to. Don’t worry—I’ll take pictures. You can put them on your blog!”

That’s right: my 63-year-old mother, who didn’t know what a blog was until I told her about mine, is now brainstorming content for me. Bless her. But her enthusiasm got me excited to cure my own, so I snagged a pound from their stash. Now I just need Joey to visit from Rhode Island so we can raid the fridge, eating from every jar, like real grown-ups.

Cracked Sicilian Olives


1 pound fresh green olives (in season around September, October, and November)
Approximately 2 gallons spring or mineral water
6 tablespoons salt

1. Crack each olive, but not too hard. Just give them a moderate thwack with a brick or meat tenderizer. Tuck each one into a dishtowel when cracking to keep the juices (olive oil?!) from splattering.

2. Submerge the cracked olives in spring or mineral water, cover, and set aside. The only real work required now is in changing the water twice a day until the bitterness is gone. Three days of water-changing should do it if you like them pretty bitter. I soaked mine for six days and they still have some bite. Taste a little piece each time you change the water. When you like it, they’re done.The secret to keeping them from turning brown, according to my mom, is soaking them in spring or mineral water. Whatever is in our tap water (too much chlorine?) just doesn’t sit well with these olives. They’ll still get dark around the edges where they cracked, but most of the olive will stay green in mineral or spring water.

3. At this point, you can find a zillion recipes online for seasoning the olives, but we keep it simple, even at this stage. When you’ve removed enough bitterness, put the olives in mason jars with more spring or mineral water and two tablespoons of salt. Done. You can even reuse the last batch of water they were soaking in to make the brine. Season the olives when you’re ready to eat. Mix them with olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and thinly sliced red onions. Then call me over. I’ll bring the bread and sardines.

Posted in Recipe IndexComments (5)

(Almost) 100 Things Recap (Things I’ve Done and Sort of Done)

(Almost) 100 Things Recap (Things I’ve Done and Sort of Done)

It’s been nearly three months since I posted my list of (almost) 100 things I want to do this year. I have to say, I nearly forgot about it for a few weeks (it’s been a distracting month) until it hit me that I was doing things on the list without even meaning to. I’d find myself pickling something, sitting by a lake, or hanging out in Georgia and realize that it all felt very familiar. My list! So I’ve come back to it and plan to take it more seriously from now on. Here’s a little recap on my progress. I’m off to a slow start (and I still need to add another 50 items to make this 100!) but some major milestones have been hit. And I have a few other things brewing…

# 5: Go to the Prospect Park lake: Done, but with room for improvement. Joe and I spent a Saturday morning at the lake with bagels and coffee, but it was freezing and even a little rainy. It was still fun, and at least we found the lake (something I hadn’t done in my four years living in Park Slope). We need a sunny replay, though.

# 6: Make something on my sewing machine: I sort of did this. Or, er, I’m on my way to really doing it. Until last week, I hadn’t touched my sewing machine in 2 years. I had the genius idea to sew a projector screen for Slice’s Literary Jeopardy on the 19th. It didn’t quite work out. But in the process, I found that I DO remember how to thread the machine. I even figured out how to fix it during a few snags. I realize this is nothing for most competent crafters, but for me, it’s a serious milestone. I’m still working on sewing straight lines. One thing at a time. #’s 32 and 41 will be dominated soon. I can feel it.

#9: Discover 5 new bands I love: Yes! I’m getting there. While in Athens (see # 16) last month I stumbled on Yo Soybean at the 40 Watt Club. I bought three of their albums on the spot and did not regret it. If you can appreciate jangly twangy bluegrassy rock, please check them out. And I met a fascinating gal earlier this year, whose band Family Band brings me to tears. And dammit, the rock snob in me was embarrassed to admit this for a long time, but I fell in love with Darius Rucker this year. Yes, the former lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish. See? You’re probably laughing. Joe went on a country kick last fall and I laughed at him the whole time. Then he bought home a Darius Rucker album and I shut right up. Yeah, it’s sad bastard country music, but damn, it’s good. And it rocks.

#10: Make my grandfather’s pickled peppers stuff with sardines: It’s funny. I made these, and I’m completely disgusted by them. They’re nothing like my grandfather’s even though I followed all of his instructions. I can’t even look at them. I’ll probably just throw them out. This is sad, considering I was more excited to make these than anything on my cooking to-do list. I realize that most people would be repulsed by just the thought of these, but believe me: when done right, they’re a salt-, hot pepper-, and sardine-lover’s dream.

#16: Go to Athens, Georgia: Check! You’ve already heard about my little REM pilgrimage. I won’t recount my craziness here, but I’ll leave you with this photo, which perfectly illustrates my madness.

# 21: Get any National album I don’t already own: I got Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. I still need Alligator. This must be done.

# 22: Get to know the Decemberists: It’s happening! I’m currently listening to Her Majesty the Decemberists and Picaresque on repeat. I. Cant. Stop.

#28: Make marzipan Easter lambs with Mom: Done and done. Only, I can’t share the recipe with you here because it’s being published in this month’s issue of BUST magazine! Hooray! But I’ll give you a step-by-step next year. I promise.

# 46: Make pickled garlic: I sort of did this. Only problem is, they turned blue. Yes, blue (see above). Does anyone know what happened?? I’m going to try again once I figure this out.

# 56: Finish my website: Done! I’d still like to make this design a little more fun, but it gets the job done for now. If you want an overview of everything I do when I’m not eating, sleeping, obsessing over bands, or watching Mad Men, check out www.mariagagliano.com. And hey, if you need a writer or editor, call me!


Posted in Featured, Recipe IndexComments (8)

Unleashing My Inner Peasant Girl, with the Help of Heavy Machinery

Unleashing My Inner Peasant Girl, with the Help of Heavy Machinery


My mom hates her KitchenAid Mixer. She’s been trying to pawn it off on me for the last decade. She’s more of a get-out-the-whisk kind of woman. A stop-complaining-and-knead-it-by-hand mom whose daughter won’t toughen up to dominate a simple bread dough. I’ve tried. Really. There’s something about throwing all your weight into the dough that I can’t get right. Maybe it’s my hands. She has hearty, peasant hands (a size 7 ring, if that means anything to you) that can tell a ball of dough where to go. It concedes under her sausage fingers, morphing into whatever she wants in fear and reverence.

My puny kid hands are far less helpful. It’s laughable, really, watching me try to knead dough. Or at least, it makes her laugh. When visiting family in Sicily a few years ago, we spent a day making pizzas and bread. I tried to join the master dough ladies, rolled up my sweater sleeves and threw my whole body into it. Turns out, I looked like I was having a seizure, aimlessly thrashing and bumping around. They promptly shooed me out of the way. I understand. You can’t let the dough get too cold or it will lose its elasticity (or something…). You need to get in there and pull, flip, push, and turn with nonstop, purposeful gusto. But dough won’t cooperate under my watch—it laughs at me, unyielding, sticky, and limp. I heard later that they called my mom in New Jersey and recounted my sad attempt, cackling and hooting and asking why she’d never taught me how to knead. She’s tried. Really. 

I’ve developed different goals for my kitchen. I do want to master every one of my mom’s techniques, but I can do it my way, right? Well, my way involves the Cadillac of all kitchen appliances. The KitchenAid Pro 600 (insert choir of angels). This shiny red beauty is the reason I’ve refused my mom’s 1990, lower-end model. It just didn’t have the oomph and gleam I’d dreamed of during my years of wimpy kneading. It makes up for so many of my kitchen inadequacies, puny hands be damned. She is my strength, the steroids my inner peasant girl always needed. Together, we kick ass.*


Bread was my first order of business when this lady joined my kitchen in March. Even with my kneading issues resolved, I’d been fumbling for the perfect recipe. My mistake has been aiming too high and too complicated, when I really should have started by mastering the basics. How could I forget? The most brilliant things are the simplest. Wine and peaches. Tomato sauce and eggs. Bert and Ernie.

So I finally dropped the fancy recipes and made the best baguettes in my short bread-baking life. If you knew how many failures I’ve had, you’d recognize this as a major accomplishment. This is a combination of a few staple recipes I’ve tried. You’ve made a version of this if you’ve baked bread before. Use it as a loose guide then follow your instincts. That’s the pleasure that comes with mixing recipes until they’re your own: you’re liberated to do whatever the hell you want.



Simple, Simple Whole Wheat Baguettes
.5 ounce active dry, dissolved in 2 cups of warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg white1 tablespoon water 

1. Combine the yeast, all-purpose flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix until well combined, regularly scraping the bowl to catch any flour hiding at the bottom.

2. When the dough is sticky, add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time. You’ll know it’s doing well when the dough looks like it’s getting the crap beaten out of it. The scene reminds me of a playground brawl, the dough boy not standing a chance as the mean hook throws it around. Keep beating until the dough is smooth and elastic, but still slightly sticky.

3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn it once so the surface is coated. Cover and let rise until at least doubled. All my big bowls were in use, so I plopped it in a Dutch Oven and put it in the oven (off, of course).



4. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves. Place onto a floured baking sheet (or cover the baking sheet with parchment). Let rise for another hour or so.



5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly beat the egg white with the water and brush onto each loaf. Cut a few diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the loaves make a hollow sound when you tap them. If, like me, you’re never sure when your bread is done, check out these great tips at the Kitchn.

*I swear KitchenAid did not pay me to write this. But they should have.

Posted in Breads & StuffComments (7)

Figs are here!

Figs are here!

It’s that glorious time of year….figs have arrived! My parents just picked these plump babies from their tree in New Jersey. We wait all year for them, then spend August and September eating figs full-time. I feel a subtle obligation to make something fancy and then share my prolific recipe. But honestly, we never let them last long enough to even think of doing anything but eat them straight-up. You can certainly find a slew of creative recipes involving ricotta, honey, balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, etc. I’m sure they’re all swell, but listen: if you should ever find yourself in the presence of figs, do yourself a favor. Pop one in your mouth. That’s all you need. They’ll sing their own song, without the help of anyone.

Posted in Recipe IndexComments (0)

An Ode to Brothers, Mothers, and Lunch: Tuna with Oranges and Lemon

We spent last weekend at a lake house in the Berkshires celebrating my sister-in-law Katherine’s birthday. Our days involved floating on the lake, beer and ribs on a pier, hiking, ice pops, fondu, a living room dance party, and pistachio cake. All in all, the perfect weekend away from the city. It was the first time I’d seen my brother Joe since I started Pomato Revival last month. He’s read it a few times, I’m told, but he has some catching up to do.

“You should read it,” I told him, “because, well, it’s about you. And us. And everything you grew up with. I think you might be interested.”

“Well, have you written about tuna, oranges, and lemons yet?” he asked, as he worked through his memory bank of traditions. This reminded me of one of the great things about my brothers: they’ve lived the same life as me, only from an entirely different perspective. Same memories, different filter. And thank God. How could I have forgotten tuna, oranges, and lemons??? It’s one of our favorite lunchtime secrets, invented by our mom on a summer afternoon. In fact, if you could take a summer afternoon and put it in a plate, you’d end up with this.

The recipe for tuna, oranges, and lemons emerged at lunch one day, when my mom tends to take whatever’s in the fridge and give it her Sicilian momma’s touch. I spent a good number of years thinking it was embarrassing and weird…the kind of thing I’d never want a friend coming over and seeing us eating. I just wasn’t sure what was considered normal sometimes, and even though this salad is delicious it always made me uneasy when thinking of how the outside world would respond. Tuna? With oranges and lemons? Who and what are you people??

But I’ve come a long way, thankfully. Now I’d wear sandwich boards to publicize this meal. I’ve been a fool, but I’m making up for lost time.


Tuna with Oranges and Lemons


1 can of tuna in water

1 orange, peeled and cut into half-inch wedges

1 lemon, peeled and cut into half-inch wedges

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Mix the tuna with orange and lemon wedges. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. The more olive oil, the better. Toss. Eat with toast, or on its own as a salad. Dream of Sicily.


Posted in Recipe IndexComments (0)

A Necklace for You, A Necklace for Me

I’m not one to obsess over the day I have kids. I’m excited about it eventually, yes, but I’ve tried not to latch on to ideals of how I plan to raise them, or what I swear I will or will not do as the perfect parent. Lord knows I’ll probably start messing up my kids the first day we meet, in those subtle ways we never realize. I’m okay with that.

But I have thought a lot about the things I’d like for my kids to associate with me. I don’t mean when I’m dead or anything. Just little things that will make them think of me. For example, the smell of sautéing garlic and parsley brings me straight to my parents’ kitchen. Oil of Olay on a freshly washed face is my mom completely.

I know it’s strange—I’m planning ahead for nostalgia. But the smell of bread baking last winter made the whole thing so clear: I want my future kids to smell fresh bread and think of me. That’s not too much to ask. Warmth, comfort, coziness, and good food, all wrapped up into one person.

Then there are the pasta necklaces, and the sick days. These are at the top of my nostalgia-planning list, a combo that I hope to carry down from my mom. Because I can’t look at a piece of dry tubular pasta, or stay home sick, without thinking of our pasta necklace-making days. I don’t think we even made them more than a couple of times, but the memory is too good not to pass down.

It starts with a kid, stuck home on a couch, missing a fun event because she’s sick. That girl’s mom (or dad) will also be stuck on said couch, missing said fun event. In my case, I was five years old, home for weeks with pneumonia, missing a cousin’s wedding. We thought I’d be okay, but realized at the last minute that I really couldn’t go out. So we changed plans: Dad went with the brothers, and Mom and I stayed home watching the Wonderful World of Disney.

Man, was I bummed. All I could think of was my brothers and dad pigging out at the oyster bar (even then, I had my priorities straight), feeling sorry for myself quarantined at home. Through my moping I could hear my mom shuffling through drawers in her sewing table, then the clatter of what sounded like pebbles being poured into a glass bowl. It was all very curious. I sat up as she approached the couch with her supplies—what turned out to be a bowl of ditalini pasta and thread.

“What are you doing,” I asked. Back then, I could eat a bowl of raw pasta like it was popcorn. It was a special weakness of mine. I doubted that my mom pitied me so much that she’d actually let me do it, though.

“I used to do this when I was little. Look—if you tie the string around one piece of pasta at the end, then use it as a chain for a necklace, you can make jewelry.” She demonstrated the technique as I crunched on a few pieces from the bowl. This was quite the revelation. I’d never seen pasta used for anything other than its intended purpose. Then the light bulb went off. Pneumonia be damned, I had found my calling right there on that vinyl-covered couch.

“Wow, I can wear this everywhere!” I was overwhelmed with joy and possibility. Just thinking of the endless accessories I could make, the potential for pasta combinations, the special orders from Manhattan. (Ditalini and rigatoni on a bracelet? Why, yes, I can make a custom order for you, m’am. Oh, you want little star shapes for those earrings? Let me see if I can get those with a hole in the middle, sir.) My design options were boundless. I’d be the most famous pasta jewelry designer the 1980’s had ever seen. I couldn’t believe how much time I’d already wasted watching My Little Pony when I could have been creating. Too bad Etsy was still decades away.

I’ve spent the last twenty-odd years with that night fondly tucked in my back pocket. We watched whatever Disney movie was on (who could remember?) and made jewelry for my grandmas and for each other. When we were done, we even made them for my dad and brothers. I wore them like candy necklaces every day, stealing a bite when no one was looking, until my collection was entirely consumed and it was back to designing the new season’s styles.

I grew out of the pastime, but I still can’t see pasta as just a meal anymore. It’s fashion, it’s a creative medium, it’s my mom and me owning the night when we could have just watched TV. It’s part of a memory I hope to recreate for someone someday.

Posted in Recipe IndexComments (0)

Say Hello