“MONUMENTAL LOSS”

April 29, 2014

Column Post 22

This isn’t intended to be a funny story, so let me start out with a joke. A kid doesn’t say a single word from the day he’s born. His parents are disturbed by this. They take him to all kinds of specialists, but no one can figure out what’s wrong. Eventually they give up and just accept the boy’s silence, which goes on for 18 years. Then, one day at dinner, the boy suddenly blurts out, “These peas stink!”

“My God,” the dad says, “you spoke! Why haven’t you said anything for 18 years.” And the boy answers, “Well, up ‘til now everything was okay.”

This joke completely reflects my relationship with my dad. For 18 years of my life, he barely said two words. Then, on my 19th birthday he said three words, “These peas stink!” Only kidding. He still didn’t converse.

This was most noticeable at dinner time when we talked at him, not with him. We were encouraged to “try hard to communicate” with my father by my mom who tried her best to cover up the fact that the man was depressed and extremely withdrawn. How withdrawn was he? His table was in the other room.

Over the years, I’ve flip-flopped about his being the ultimate “clam man.” By the way, he did love clams on the half shelf and linguini with clams so the metaphor fits in more ways than one. My mom knew the sauce, I mean source of his clamminess, but she didn’t share that with me or my siblings until later on. Too bad. We might been more accepting if we had known how deeply affected he was by events of his youth.

As a kid, I used to wonder why we always had holidays with my mom’s family, but we never visited any of my dad’s relatives, with the exclusion of his brother Charlie, who was in the cemetery monument business. “How’s business, Uncle Charlie?” “Dead!” “How about a stiff drink, Uncle Charlie?” “Sure, make it a Zombie.” Okay, enough of that. We never visited my dad’s family because he had a huge falling out with his brothers and sister or maybe he had two sisters; the rift was so bad I don’t even know. We never visited with them once.

This feud lasted all their lives and through their deaths too. My father never attended any of their funerals, or got to see them laid to rest in graves marked by huge Uncle Charlie monuments. According to my mom, here’s what happened…

My father was the youngest son in the family. He loved school and was the only one in his family to graduate from high school. In many Italian families back then, you got a job when you turned 16 and brought money home. My dad didn’t buy that plan and not only finished high school; he went on to college. COLLEGE?? “Santa Maria!” His brothers, except for Charlie, had an interesting response. They burned my father’s college books—while they were in his hands—nah, only kidding—but they did burn his books, which was something my dad never forgot or forgave.

My father also remained in school through the “Great Depression”—a preview of his own not-so-great depression later on. Uncle Charlie helped (the business of death was booming), but the fact that my father didn’t quit and help out the family during these extra lean years fueled the family feud even more. BTW, my father studied accounting in college and did well. He told me once that he got 100% on his final accounting exam. Sense a little pride in me, here? Sure. My dad may have been mute, but I loved him plenty.

So my father graduated, got a job as an accountant and lived a life separate from the rest of his family—except, of course, for Charlie who tried to unite everyone, but the issue was really dead and grave, so to speak. And speaking of speaking, my father never spoke to his family again, which drove his life-long depression and silence.

I told my son, Sam this whole story at my mother’s funeral. We were at the

cemetery and the first thing Sam noticed at the family plot was the size of the Ardito stone. “Wow!” Sam said, “I didn’t know the Ardito’s were so rich, Dad.”

I explained that it was because Charlie Ardito, my dad’s brother, owned a monument business and donated the stone for free. No Ardito would ever pop for a memorial stone that size otherwise.

When we got back in the limo I relayed the story of my father and his feud and I think Sam found it interesting, but that didn’t matter. What did matter was the fact that I wasn’t being a clam. I was opening up, talking to my son without a sealed lip in sight.

My grandfather, Tomasino Ardito is buried in that plot along with his wife, Nina Vita. My dad and mom (Flora and Carl) lie next to them where the ARDITO stone rises proud and high into the Connecticut sky. Charlie Ardito and his wife, Nancy lie there, too. It’s a family reunion without the rest of the family present. What a monumental shame.

Frutti di Mare Con Linquini

(Luscious Linguini with Clams & Shellfish)

After that story, how about a recipe that’s full of life? This one is also full of clams, which, unlike my father, open up when steamed. Plus you’re adding mussels, shrimp and calamari all simmering together lusciously in a white wine sauce. What a yummy thing to serve to your friends and family—if they’re talking to one another.

Right Off the Bait, Youza Need

½ cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, diced nice

3/4th cup red onions diced

1 small bottle clam juice

½ fresh lemon

Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (to taste)

1 ½ cups chopped parsley

Clams (15(?) whole clams (hopefully dollar size, not Cherry Stone (huge) or Manillas (mini)

1 ½ lbs not skimpy shrimp (peeled, cleaned and deveined)

1/3 lb squid (calamari) (tubes only) cleaned and cut into thin rings

1 ½ cups dry white wine

1 ½ lbs linguini

Don’t Be a Schnook, Here’s How To Cook

Put salted pasta water on to boil. In a large saute’ pan, get the oil pretty darn hot. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic to onions and cook for 15 seconds only. Add the clam juice and clams, cover the pan and cook on fairly high heat for about 6 minutes (they shouldn’t be open yet). Now, add the wine, other shellfish, spices, parsley and squeeze lemon over all. Replace lid and cook about 5-6 minutes more until clams are open and shellfish are done.

Meanwhile, you’ve hopefully starting the pasta. Cook until firm to Al Dente’s tooth. Drain, then pour into a mega-serving platte; add the fruitti de mare and a lot of its juice. Garnish with more parsley and serve .

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My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 21

September 15, 2012

                  Ardito for President of the World

There was a time when I thought I was going to end up President of the World. I had my speech prepared…

“Ladies and jellybeans, thank you for electing me as the first President of the IFOW—International Federated Overrated World Let me begin by thanking the little people who got me here – my mother and father who are teeny tiny.  How short are they?  They are dwarfed by Munchkins. They come up to the knees of fleas.  Forget about angels, my mom and dad can dance on the head of a pin!  Mom and Dad, please stand up. Oops, they are standing!” 

If this sounds egomaniacal, thanks. My belief in myself was not without basis, however, since, up to that point, I had won every election in my life. You’re waiting for me to say I only entered one election, but that’s not true. In grammar school, I was elected to the student council and as a crossing guard. “Cross me and die,” was my motto. In high school, I served consecutively as President of the Freshman Class, Sophomore Class, Junior Class, and in my senior year, President of the Student Council and President of the Music Club.  Over the top, right?

I continued in college by running for President of the freshman class.  It was a different ballgame, though and I had major competition, primarily from another egomaniacal nutcase named I. Ladd Wineberg. The I” might have stood for anything: “idiot, “insensitive,” “insane.” They were all good candidates. I. Ladd might have been too. He was handsome, tall, and sported a macho five o’clock shadow even two minutes after he shaved. He was also incredibly rich.  The kind of rich I’ll never be. He was one of those guys I knew that were destined to do well no matter how poorly they did in school.  I. Ladd did poorly. So what? Last thing I heard he owned property in Connecticut. I think it’s called Westport.

He status in life might have contributed to his belief in himself and his bravado the day all the candidates needed to make a speech to the Freshman Class. It was going to be broadcast on radio, too via the local mega-watt station (what? what? what?) in Lancaster, PA.  

This had me squirming on my seat as I sat on stage waiting to speak. I. Ladd was there, of course, but cool as a cucumber salad with iceberg lettuce.

 “You ready for this?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” said I. Ladd.

“I don’t see a speech. You have it memorized?”

“Oh, no,” said I. Ladd, “I always wing it. It’s more spontaneous that way. I’m really good speaking off the cuff.”

When it was finally my turn, I let loose with my version of the Gettysburg Address adapted for Lancaster, PA. It was pretty schmaltzy, but good. And then it was I. Ladd’s turn and he got up and nailed it. Nailed it as in built himself a coffin and nailed it shut. The “winging it didn’t really work out and his speech went down, 6 ft. down, like this…“My fellow, um, Students. I um don’t have anything formally unprepared, but, um, um, um and blabble, blabble, blabble and worse, um, then that.”  

Usually, I. Ladd strutted. Now, he stuttered and stumbled and turned beet- red as he melted into a pile of sweat on stage – or so it seemed. It was so embarrassing that I felt sorry for him – for a nanosecond. What a jerk! And by the way, crumbling didn’t faze him at all. He kept campaigning then showed up in my dorm room the night before the election to say:

 “Ardito, looks like the race is between me and you so I came over to wish you the best tomorrow. Good luck, old man”

I won. I Ladd came in dead last. I served as President of the class for a year and did such a lousy job that I ended up getting soundly beaten (by one of my best friends, FYI) for President of the Sophomore Class.

Over the years, I’ve regretted that and I would like to make up for it now by being a dynamite President once I’m elected next November. (It is November, right?). It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I formally announce my candidacy for President of the United States. I figure I’m a size-8 shoe-in given my history of winning and the platform I offer that extends even beyond my platform shoes. In subsequent columns, I will let you know where I stand on issues like Gum Control and our policy in Afganistan (is that the way you spell it?). All you other candidates look out. Here I come…

                           Elect Linguini with Shrimp and Peas for Dinner  

Yum, yum, long may it lusciously run. The first time I elected to make this dish, the crowd (mostly my wife and kids) went wild. Don’t make indulgence in this recipe foreign policy; serve it often even  if it does smack of apeas-ment. Ooooo.  

What Youza Need

1lb shelled shrimp (don’t scrimp)

3-4 Tbsp olive oil

6 Tbsp butter

8 Oz frozen peas

2 egg yolks

2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp grated onion

½ cup heavy cream

½ cuppa dry white wine

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3-4 Tbsp parsley

1 lb linguini 

What Youza Do

Start some water boiling and add the pasta. (This sauce takes no time.) Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a heavy duty frying pan, add the grated onion and flour and cook on low for a couple of minutes. Add the frozen peas and the shrimp, cook for a minute, then add wine. Season with salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Bring to boil and stir for 3-4 minutes until shrimp look almost done. About 2 minutes before pasta is ready, remove shrimp from burner, stir in 2 yolks and cream. Save 1 full cup of pasta water, drain pasta and add to warm pasta bowl along with saved water. Cover with the sauce, add parsley and stir. Put on parmesan cheese if you insist, but I personally elect not to do so. Enjoy.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 20

September 15, 2012

              The Velociraptors’ Picnic-The Game Bites the Bullet

This is my last column about playing poker with the same group of insanely wonderful guys for 25 years. I hope you found them amusing (the columns and the guys), but I have to tell you playing every week wasn’t all fun and games—especially for the players who were losing their butts off. They never laughed and would urge the game on with comments like, “Shut the hell up and deal, will you?!” As my bud, Howard used to say, “Faster cry the losers”—except, of course, when Howard was losing and he would mostly pout and whine. He admits this.

We didn’t know it then, but we were all winners for having this wonderful long- term ritual in our lives. Too bad we lost it, but we did and I was, in part, to blame. One Thursday night, I brought a new guy by the name of T. Rex to the game, and he was a “serious” poker player. He read books, played online, hit the casinos in Vegas and was leagues ahead of the rest of us who were still asking, “Do a pair of aces beat a flush?”

T. Rex really wasn’t content with our bets of 1$ and $2 a card. He said it didn’t allow “poker as art” or betting big enough to bluff and force somebody out. I have to admit that was largely true, though the words “that’s six dollars to you” were frequently enough to get me heading for the hills. This was his “intellectual” argument, but I believe his real motivation for pushing the game to new level was more visceral– the need to feed on others.

To fill this hunger, he introduced a totally new “Pot Limit” game to the group. (No, it had nothing to do with inhaling strange substances.) “Pot limit” meant you could bet the total amount of  money that was in the pot at any time. There could be $50 to $100 in the pot, which lifted any single bet into the realm of “You’ve got to be xxpfffing  me!” It was a little different going from “that’s six dollars to you” to “that’s one hundred dollars to you, in or out?” Whatever happened to, “It’s two to you or toodleloo?” That was long gone. 

I protested like crazy, but I was outvoted. After 25 years of being married to the same game, this new game was kind of exciting, like a new love. So we began playing pot limit every other week, which went on for a while until the old game just couldn’t kindle the flame anymore and guys began wanting to play pot limit every week. So we did that, but it took its toll and in a few months, long-time lovers of our game like Kenny, Jarvis and Rich began dropping out. Eschewing the game was one thing, being chewed was another.  I hung in there until I began to take a bath frequently and it was Thursday, not Saturday night. So I dropped out too. Some of the guys and T. Rex continued playing and “new blood” was constantly brought in to keep things lively, or deadly, depending on your view. Was I ticked about losing a 25-year old cherished tradition? Do I still harbor a grudge that the game for me became extinct?  You judge as you read the following. Pass the handkerchiefs and napkins please…       

                      The Velociraptor’s Picnic

 It was the Velociraptor’s picnic and all of the dudes were there,
 older, wiser, and balding, seasoned well by the “tell” of years. 
 They came for the sport and laughter, camaraderie at its best, 
 to take part in “The Game,” earn fortune and fame and put their   
 poker skills to the test.

 Our playing was never pro-level. In fact, we had losers a lot, 
 Who played every hand and still called it grand though 
 they rarely won a pot.  
 The losers were still highly valued, though mocked a lot
  by the bunch.
 But all of that changed when T. Rex joined the gang and
  spit- roasted the losers for lunch!

 This feast didn’t sate his craving. “Raise the stakes even higher!”
  he roared. 
 This ravishing beast was intent on a feast like no one had
  dined on before. 
 And his wishes prevailed at the picnic, not that many had
  much time to think.
 You see as you’re being ingested, it’s too late to start
  raising a stink. 

  Yup, the Velociraptor gobbled, though the poker pickings’
  got slim. 
  He mashed and he chewed all his friends as his food,
   until no one was left but him.

                   Give a Hand for Finger Food

What would a Velociraptor poker party picnic be without finger food: delicious,  easily-eaten dishes with fingers sticking out of them? Ooooo, no thanks.  In lieu of those, try these: snacky stuff that is hands-down delicious and that you don’t have to put your poker hand down to enjoy. Best of all, they require a minimal amount of cutting, slicing, dicing, and shredding . That’s best left to serious poker players.

 Poker Chips and Dips
1 package onion soup mix

1 16 oz container of light sour cream

 Fresh, chopped Herbs like Rosemary and Basil (unless they scream)

Method: Mix that stuff together. Serve with your favorite chips

 Crabby Loser Bites:

This dish is devoted to Howard Mullin, crabbiest loser, most obnoxious poker winner in the history of the game. I love you, man.
What Youza Need
6 split English muffins split in two
1 jar Old English cheese spread
 ½ stick butter
1 tbsp mayo
¼ cup chopped onion or 1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1tsp salt
7 oz can of crabby meat (or far better fresh)

What Youza Do

 This is not exactly diet-conscious, but blend all the ingredients together and spread 
 on six English muffin halves. Broil on high for three to five minutes until brown and bubbly, but watch closely. Slice into thirds or quarters. Feed to a ravenous crowd.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 19

September 15, 2012

                        The Slanguage of Poker  

Welcome to my second column about poker, which was and remains a fascinating side interest in my life.  There are all kinds of interesting things to learn and know about poker: like what beats what and who beats whom, if they think you’re cheating? Like any game, poker has its own language, call it slanguage if you will or even if you won’t.  At our regular Thursday night game—by regular I mean 25 years—we mostly followed the idiomatic and idiotic slanguage of all poker players, but added a few phrases just suited to our game, including, “We can’t eat so much junk food” and “Whose got the Oreos?” and “Howard, you ate all the Oreos!” Here are a few important terms to know so you won’t seem like a “fish” (sucker) at a game and will be perceived more like a “Whale” (big bettor of chips, like potato chips, which are close to as good as Oreos.)

“Oh, man you got burned” – this does not mean you were trying to figure out which burner on the stove was still hot by touching each one with your finger. This means you should have won, but did not.

“A bad beat” – is worse than getting burned and requires serious aloe vera.  A bad beat is having four jacks in your hand and being beaten by four queens. “Ouch,” doesn’t begin to describe this burn. It takes words like x!@x#@~`@|!xx-!  In Vegas, a bad beat can be a good thing. If you have four of a kind and are beaten by a higher four of a kind, you can win several thousand dollars. Unlike life, you can be a loser at poker and win anyway. Isn’t poker awesome?

“You got a pair of ducks” – No, you don’t have a couple of quackers who belong in the local lake. It’s just a pair of deuces”

“By me” – does not mean you are the author of something literal; you just choose to let the bet go by. 

“Too rich for my blood” – does not mean you can no longer play because you have gout  and can’t eat any more Oreos. It just means you can’t afford to see a bet.

 “Deuces, Jacks, the Man with The Axe” – this expression triggers “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” because it means you are playing a stupid wild card game where twos and jacks are wild and so is the king with an axe in his hand (there is one, by the way). Since virtually everything in the deck is wild, if you don’t have 5 aces in your hand, fold!

In Texas Hold ‘Em, probably the most popular poker game in the world, you ought to know terms including: The “Flop,” which includes the first three common cards dealt in the middle of the table for everyone to use. The “Turn” is the fourth card, also know as “Fourth Street.”  And the “river” – not the Mississippi, or Danube—is the last of the five common cards, which will either help your hand or send you up the creek without a paddle.

                                                Slanguage Quiz

Okay, so how about a Pop Quiz? Pick the correct letter to questions asked below.  Answers don’t appear. If you can’t figure the correct answer out, you’re an idiot—and we would like to invite you to play in our game.

Button

  1. Your belly is sticking out from under your shirt; it’s gross, so tuck it in
  2. This refers to the button used to mark the dealer position
  3. A round thing that helps keep your shift closed, which may be irrelevant if you lose your shirt

 Forced Bet

  1. A mandatory bet on the first round of play
  2. Making a woman named Betty do something she hates
  3. Add something funny here yourself

 The Big Blind

  1. Means you’re playing with a tall, non-sighted person, which provides an excellent chance to cheat. Flip over your two deuces and call them a straight. Now, you’re learning!  
  2. The larger of two forced bets that occur every hand
  3. The blind over the picture window in most houses

                           Clams Casino a la Ardito  

My buddy and poker-playing pal, Gene Kocian loves these stuffed clams so I’m dedicating this recipe to him in hopes that he’ll enjoy it and deliberately lose a hand to me the next time we play poker. Ha! Good luck with that. These clams are kind of a combination of Clams Casino and Clams Oreganata because they’re stuffed and your guests will be too cause it’s a winner dish to deal out, especially as an appetizer. It’s a lock that will go straight to your guests’ hearts and that’s a sure bet.

What Youza Need

3 Tbsp olive oil

16 medium (2-inch) little neck clams

1 can whole baby clams with juice

2 ounces chopped bacon

2 green onions—whites and greens sliced nice

2 garlic cloves diced

2-3 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp red pepper flakes

3 Tbsp parsley

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

½ cup white wine

1 package Stove Top stuffing


What Youza Do
Heat the oil over medium heat in big (2 qt) saucepan. Add bacon and sauté until crisp. Remove. Add green onions and cook until soft, then toss in garlic for 15 seconds and remove. Add the clams, white wine, salt, pepper and parsley. Cover and steam on pretty high heat until clams open. Let cool. Remove each clam, break the shells in two and keep both halves.  Also reserve pan liquid. Chop up clams and reserve.  Meanwhile, make Stove Top Stuffing according to package directions. Pre-heat oven to 450°. Put stuffing in a bowl, add salt and red pepper flakes, cooked onions and garlic, dried oregano, your chopped clams, the liquid from the pan, plus a whole can of baby clams and canned clam juice if it’s not already too juicy . Stir it up and now stuff each clam with this amazing mixture. Pile high, drizzle olive oil on top of each clam and garnish with crumbled bacon. Top with parmesan cheese if you like. Bake about 10 to 15 minutes until clams are golden brown and cooked.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 18

September 15, 2012

                   25 Years of Thursday Night Poker  

One of the most enduring joys of my life is playing poker. I’ve been playing it most of my life, adult or otherwise. The bulk of my experience was playing with a regular group of  guys, (Howard, Stu, Rick, Michael), who remain close buds today. When I joined them, they had already been playing for 10 years, since their high school days. I became “the new guy,” which was my title for the next 25 years.  Even toward the end someone would ask, “Who’s the new guy with the wrinkled face and white mustache?” and somebody else would answer, “That’s either Jim or Mark’s ex-wife.”

25 years of Thursday night poker. That’s a long time to consistently do anything. With us, it was a tradition, an obsession, a religion. If guys were out town on business or their honeymoon, they flew in for the game. Over the years, we witnessed kids being born, growing up and going to college, marriages, divorces, deaths. Death was acceptable as an excuse for missing, though you were expected to send a substitute. That game is now defunct, which is a tragedy that bears some explaining and blaming, but I’ll get to that in a subsequent column.

I began playing in college when my fraternity brothers and I would pull all-nighter poker games regularly. This wreaked havoc on our ability to stay awake during classes, which was occasionally important. Back then, we played nickel, dime, quarter stakes, which meant the most you could lose or win in an evening was around $25 dollars. At the time, that was a fortune! I remember the first time I lost $25 in a single night; I was horrified. How could I do this to my folks?! How could I be so irresponsible?! Where could I dig up $25 more bucks to play in the next game?”

For the uninitiated, let me explain Poker’s lure, which may seem somewhat elusive:

Poker is like fishing:
Every hand dealt is a cast into fresh, new waters with renewed hope and a chance to land “the big one.” With both poker and fishing, you never know what you’re going to catch: it could be a four-pound bass or four of a kind. They’re really not much difference—though four of a kind doesn’t stink after three days on the table.

 Poker adds zest to life: 
 It gets your adrenalin going and blood flowing. Poker lets you live on the edge, though it can lead you to jump off a ledge, which also gets the blood flowing.

It lets you lose total track of time:
Einstein, a little known aficionado of poker, proved that time slows down as you approach the speed of light or your wife after you’ve lost a bundle at the table.  Einstein’s equation, Poker = MTWallet is a rule of the universe.

Poker is one of the fastest and easiest ways on earth to make money or lose it:
Most people have to work a long time to earn $100. I’ve been in poker hands where I’ve won $100 in 5 minutes. That’s the equivalent of $1200 an hour, which is what lawyer’s and plumber’s make. Of course, you can lose quickly too, especially if you’re a half-fast learner of the finer points of the game.

 And there’s this – poker provides what life rarely does – “The Lock!”
There are many poker hands where you know that you cannot lose no matter what. This can occur when you’re playing “low ball,” where the best hand is the worst hand possible—ace, two, three, four, five (straights down count against you). Or you can get a royal flush—which is the best possible high hand. That’s a lock and it’s a rare and wonderful feeling to experience. Of course, a lock is a little less rare if you live in Chicago, where sure things happen every year. We know that our four seasons will be June, July, August and Winter; that Empire Carpet will install the next day; that the Eisenhower Expressway will be a zoo at 5:00 PM, and that the Cubs will end their season at the bottom of the deck…but still fill the bleaches  next year. What’s the deal with that?

                    Italian Sausage and Peppers              

Was has sausage and peppers got to do with poker? Why am I anteing this up right now? Let me give it to you straight. I think it flushes out a real Italian winner of a dinner. You can also serve it as an awesome side dish or stuff half a loaf of Italian bread with the sausage, peppers and sauce. Happily devour for that full-house feeling.

  What Youza Need

9 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 cloves minced garlic

1 medium onion sliced or diced

10 leaves fresh basil

3-4 Tbsp oregano flakes

3-4 Tbsp basil flakes

 Dash½ thyme

1 bay leaf

1 cup red wine

Salt & pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

3 large green peppers (sliced in 1/2” strips)

2 -3 red peppers (same)

2 Tbsp hot jardinière

2 lbs Italian sausage (hot or mild)

1  ½ cups crushed tomatoes

 What Youza Do  

Use a cast iron skillet or equivalent and sauté onions in 3 tbsp oil until translucent. Add garlic and sauté 20 seconds. Remove garlic and onions. Add and heat 3 more tbsp oil, then toss in all sliced peppers. Salt & pepper and saute’ on medium heat, turning often until soft (10-15 minutes). Season whole or sliced sausages liberally with salt, pepper, oregano & basil flakes, garlic powder. Add 3 tbsp oil to pan and heat on high, turning sausage until brown. Remove sausages and paper towel them and wipe out bottom of pan to get rid of some oil. Add tomatoes and season with (yes, one more time) salt, pepper, fresh basil, basil & oregano flakes, bay leaf, garlic powder, thyme, wine, hot jardinière. Simmer for ½ hour before adding sausages and peppers. Simmer for ½ hour more. Serve as a magnificent side dish, or in a lusciously oozing, Italian-sub sandwich. I promise you this is the real deal.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 17

November 29, 2011

       A Turkey-Day Tale of Tom-Foolery and Cheating. (Yum!)  

For this story, we flash back to my freshman year at Franklin & Marshall College.  I was living in a dorm at the time. It was a week or so before Thanksgiving and when we showed up for lunch one afternoon we all got a big surprise: the food was actually edible. Only kidding, the food was never edible. In fact, we took student opinion polls on it in a survey I invented called, “Rate the Rot.”  The survey allowed students to classify such common dorm dishes as “Tuna Poodle Casserole,” “Pusstafazoole,” and “Grilled Sneeze Sandwiches.”

Soon after the survey, the cafeteria management announced a pre-Thanksgiving raffle giving all the guys in the dorm a chance to win one of three terrific prizes: a freshly baked apple pie, a 10-pound, ready-to down spiral ham and a 22 lb roasted Butterball turkey.  

Mr. Deeds, the cafeteria manager and personal friend of mine, despite the Rate the Rot Survey, held up a big ballot box and explained that students should write their name on the entry form, which he held up. I immediately noted that the entry forms were nothing more than blank sheets taken from an ordinary, 3” x 5” note pad. This set the devious wheels of my brain in motion and that evening, I explained my devious plan to the guys on my dorm floor.

I asked if everyone was lusting after the turkey Deeds had talked about?  Bob Brumberg explained that he not only lusting for it, he wanted to give it a ring and get married. I explained that I had a sure way to win if they were all willing to share the prize and sneak, lie, cheat and connive to win it.   “Of course!” agreed the guys. 

“Okay, I said, then tell me what this is?” I held up a small pad of note paper and one of the guys said, “Those are the ballots for the drawing.”

“Yes, indeed,” I said and so are these and these and these. I showed them 15 pads in all and explained that all we needed to do was write our names 25 times each on the note pads and I would stuff the 500 ballots in the ballot box. Winning would be a piece of cake, or like stealing turkey from a baby!

 After everyone filled out their ballots I went downstairs wondering how I was going to stuff the box and then, in a semi-miracle, Deeds saw me and said, “Oh, Jim, can I ask you to watch the ballot box for me for a minute, while I make an important phone call?” He had to be kidding. “Sure, I said. “Happy to do it” and the second he vanished I shoved the 500 ballots in the box.  Now, all we had to do was wait for the big drawing.

Two days later, Deeds appeared with the ballot box during lunch. “You guys ready for the drawing?” he asked.

“Yeaaaaa” the guys cheered as the kitchen staff marched into the room with the apple pie, luscious-looking ham and golden-brown turkey. Then, to my surprise, Deeds turned to me and said, “Jim Ardito, why don’t you pick our lucky winners?”

“Sure,” I said as I walked over to the box and, because I’m a ham even when it comes to drawing for turkeys, I yelled out, “Gentlemen,  may we have a drumstick, I mean, drum roll please?” The guys obliged by pounding on their tables. “This is for that fabulous apple pie,” I announced as I reached in, pulled out a ballot and said, “And the winner of the pie is…Dyke Hendrikson!” The second Dyke’s name was read, our floor started cheering. We had won, how awesome! “Now, for the second place prize,” I said. And the winner of the spiral ham is…Bill Breitman!”  Our floor won again and our guys went wild. “Okay, I shouted, now for the grand prize, of this mouth-watering turkey…. I reached in, pulled out a ballot and announced that the winner of the turkey was… “Dyke Henrickson!” …the same guy who won the pie!

I fell on the floor and started laughing.  The obvious fix was in the open and pandemonium broke loose. “Grab the prizes” I shouted and two guys from our floor grabbed the goods and ran off with a dozen angry guys in pursuit.  

Our guys made it as far as the staircase before getting caught and then a brawl broke out! Thighs and legs got ripped off and luckily they were just from the turkey. When it was over,  there wasn’t much of any prize left, just an ooey gooey mess on the floor.     

Question is, was it worth it? You bet it was! Plotting and pulling off the great turkey fix was heavenly fun. Getting caught and laughing until my sides split, well that was pure gravy.

                                     Turkey Tetra-ziti

This delicious dish is another one of my dear departed mom’s recipes. When I turned 21, she gave me a little book of her favorite recipes, taking the time to type them out and tab the whole little book.  It was a very sweet thing to do. I hope I thanked her enough at the time. That’s the thing about our parents. We take from them all our lives, but when it comes to giving back, we can be real turkeys!

 What Youza Need
4 cups chopped turkey
4 Tbsp melted butter
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 Tbsp flour  
2-3 cups chicken or turkey broth 
1 cup half and half
¼ cup sherry
Mess of sautéed mushrooms
1/4th cup slivered almonds
½ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
1 pound of ziti

 What Youza Do
Talk about easy and good — you’d have to be a turkey to mess this recipe up. Preheat oven to 350o. Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan, add the flour and make a roux. Keep stirring until it turns almond brown in color. In a separate pan, sauté the mushrooms until brown. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder.  Toss the mushrooms into the roux; add the stock, cream, sherry and stir until it thickens, then add the turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Boil water and cook the ziti, but take it out while it’s still very firm.  Pour the ziti into a buttered casserole dish. Add the sauce with turkey. Top with breadcrumbs and slivered almonds and bake at 350o degrees for 20 minutes. “And the winner is, Dyke Hendrickson!” Heck no, it’s anyone you share this with. Enjoy!

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 16

November 29, 2011

              Running Past Graveyards on a Scary Evening

 Whose cemetery this is I think I know.
 It’s about a half a mile from the picture show. 
 No one will see me running past, 
 With legs on fire, eyes aglow.
 
 My brother, Dave must think it queer,
 To see me running fast with fear; 
 He shouts, “Wait up!” but I am deaf, 
 Convinced the Wolfman’s drawing near.

Or Dracula might hear my breath,
 And beckon me to living death,
He calls my name, but never speaks;
My fear descends to chilling depths.

Oh, I know it’s just a fantasy I keep,
And Halloween is lending creeps,
But I won’t sleep a wink for weeks, 
But I won’t sleep a wink for weeks.  

Angel Hair Pasta with Mussels and Sausage

La Pasta Capelli con Salsicca e Cozze  

First, I know this a slight variation on my typical column, but I hope you still find it fun. I also hope the late Robert Frost doesn’t roll over in his grave at my rendition of his poem. Then again, maybe I shouldn’t worry about it ‘cause I heard the poem was ghostwritten. Ahoooo (and only kidding). This dish is a hauntingly good recipe to serve on All Hallows Eve or any other evening. It will certainly knock ‘em dead and get some serious goblin’ going.  Ahooooo! It’s heavenly too, which is why I picked it as a perfect counterpart to a scary column.  The Angel Hair pasta is so lusciously good, it could have a halo over it. The dish is complimented by the lightness of the mussels and broth and to keep things Italian, the recipe includes seasoned sausage, which may sound like a strange combo, but I promise your guests will wolf it down. (Yeah, ahooo). By the way, you could add shrimp to this dish and kick it up a frighteningly good nosh, ‘er notch.  Season the peel, deveined shrimp with salt, pepper and maybe a touch of cayenne and sauté the shrimp up front in the onions and garlic until the shrimp are done. Remove the shrimp and mix in with the mussels and pasta at the very end.

 What Youza Need:

4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup diced red onions

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 lb ground mild or hot Italian sausage seasoned with salt, pepper, 1 Tbsp each oregano & basil flakes,
and 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder

1 to 1 ½ lb fresh mussels

1 lb shrimp if you like (see comments above)

Seasonings for mussel broth: red pepper flakes to taste, regular pepper, ½ cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (I’m partial to flat leaf parsley versus that curly stuff)

¾ cup white wine

1 lb Angel Hair pasta  

What Youza Do
Put water on to boil for pasta. In a large sauce pan, sauté onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, then add garlic and cook for 20 seconds more. (Add shrimp and sauté until done, if you’re going to use shrimp at all. See copy up top). Remove onions, garlic (and shrimp?) and set aside. Add another tablespoon (or two) of olive oil to the pan; let it heat up, then add seasoned ground sausage and stir until sausage is cooked and kind of crumbly. Toss the onions and garlic back in, then add rinsed and de-bearded mussels (give those guys a close shave). Drink a glass of decent white wine, then add wine just for the mussels and toss in the seasonings for the broth listed above. Cover pan and steam on pretty high heat (8 – 10 minutes?) until mussels are all open and done, but not overdone and all shriveled up like a mummy (ahooo)! My mommy used to do that. A couple of minutes after you put the mussels in, put the pasta on, but Angel Hair is done pretty quickly so be careful it doesn’t end up like a blob. (Ahooo). Pour pasta in bowl, add your fabulous mussels with broth and serve. This dish is to die for.

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 15

September 11, 2011

 

                              Everyone’s A “Wanna’ Be”

In my last column, I fondly recalled the daze of my life when I took two years off from writing to be a waiter at The Magic Pan Creperie in Santa Anita, CA.  We were “waiters,” for sure: young people who served food while waiting for something better to happen in our lives. (Is a crepe a pancake wanna’ be? Does a pancake wanna’ be a crepe?)

Ron was going to be a film director. Tom was going to be an actor. Kurt was going to be a clothing designer. Darla was going to wear a brassiere sometime (the guys weren’t pushing it). Jan Udomwathanaufong , (yes that’s correct) was going to own a restaurant in Thailand. It was right out of the lyrics of that Jim Croce song: “You were gonna’ be an actor, I was gonna’ learn to fly. You set off for the footlights. I set off for the sky.”

 Ron Rumsey—one of the all-time great characters at the Pan—was going to be going to be a rock star.  There was no rhyme or reason to his dreamin’, except he looked so rockin’ good. He had the anorexic body of a rock star.  He had Big Hair—a cool thing in those days—that was frizzed, frantic and constantly jammin’ on his head. He had tight fitting pants and, of course, a thoroughly spaced out personality. The two things he didn’t have, unfortunately,  were a decent voice and any kind of work ethic. Ron was a waiter in his spare time; his profession was goof off and air head.  His instrument of choice?  Air Guitar, naturally, which he whipped out and played constantly while providing shrieking vocal accompaniment. 

Partying his brains out, showing up late or not at all, and being completely irresponsible were Ron’s fortes and if you expected anything more of him, well that was your mistake. Lend Ron 20 bucks and expect it back? Ha ha ha ha .

 As far as his rock star dreams went, I guess he figured it would happen automatically — some record label mogul would bop into the Magic Pan one day, order a spinach soufflé, look up at Ron and say…”Holly, Crepes, man, you’re the rock star I’ve been looking for. Here’s a contract, and a $100,000 thousand dollar advance!”

Yup, rock star status bequeathed from happenstance heaven. “Money for nothing, chicks for free.” Amazingly enough, Ron did get his shot at the big time and it happened in a surprising way.

 Halloween was in the wind and the wait-staff at the Pan decided to throw an awesome party. We rented a Knight’s of Columbus hall and even hired a Deejay to spin platters.  Everyone had to show up in a costume and when it came to the big event, people outdid themselves.  

 Kurt, the designer showed up in a LBD (Little Back Dress), he designed. Tom, the actor, played the part of Brando from A Streetcar Named Desire.  Darla?  Well, Darla wore what every good looking babe with long legs wears: a she-devil outfit or was it a pussycat or maybe a naughty nurse? Whatever it was, she looked great. I dressed up as the Invisible Man, which was a concept but not a costume.  And Ron? What else? Ron Rumsey showed up as a rock star, but this time he was dressed to the nines and tens for the part.  Two of the girls had helped him achieve rock-star costume perfection.

 He wore a skin-tight outfit right out of Mick Jagger, Elvis and Liberace attire—only more exaggerated. Instead of an air guitar, he had a real one—glitzed up outrageously  for the occasion with fake diamonds and rhinestones all over it. And his hair, god bless his hair – it was loaded with a pound and a half of glitter. You had to wonder how he kept his head erect.

 The evening was a huge success. We all got up stage, showed off our costumes and strutted our stuff. And then, at the very end, over a microphone we heard… “And now ladies and gentlemen, direct from Las Vegas, on our stage tonight, there are only two words that can describe this amazing instrumentalist and heart-throbbing talent… ladies and gentlemen…Ron Rumsey!”

 Ron dashed on stage . The spotlight zeroed in on him in all his tight-fitting glory. He  stopped for a second and posed,  frozen in light and time. Then he swung that rhinestone guitar around, aimed it directly at the audience and struck one piercing note that echoed off the walls of that Knights of Columbus hall. Ron swung his hips around ferociously and shook his leonine head. The glitter in his hair shot upward where the spotlight caught every spec of it, creating a spectacular and dazzling fireworks display! My God! The girls shrieked and screamed their pleasure and they weren’t faking it!

 Ron Rumsey thestar had arrived to rock the place to its very foundation. 10. 0 on the Richter scale! Off the charts!

                          Magic Panini

To me, this Panini is as magical as my days at the Magic Pan. It’s filled to brim with the spice of life, tasty memories and Italian stars that rock my world, like pepperoni, prosciutto and provolone cheese.  What are you waiting for, an invitation from a waiter? Build that sandwich. Mangia! Dig in!

What youza Need (for crepe’s sake)

4 nicea slicea Italian bread (big round loaf enough for 2 hungry paisanos)

4 Tbls mayonnaise or extra virgin olive oil

6 slices genoa salami

6 slices provolone cheese

6 slices capicola (Italian ham)

4 slices ripe tomatoes (little bitta salt,  pepper & orgegano)

2 Tbls hot jardinière

 

How Youza Rock this Roll

Uno: Lay out 4 slices of bread

Due: Spread mayonnaise lovingly on all slices

Tre:  Pile two slices high with equal luscious amounts of salami, capicola and provolone cheese

Quattro: Top with tomatoes and jardinière  

Cinque: Close ‘em up, cut each sandwich in half if you want

Sei: Put in Panini machine or put a little olive oil in an iron skillet, heat it up, put Panini in and put a plate on top to press. Flip over and grill until all is golden brown.
Otto: Get that thing out of the pan and into your mouth!

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 14

September 11, 2011

              Days of Magic (Part 1) – a 6.0 on the Richter Scale

 I have lived on three coasts: the East Coast, where I was raised, the Midwest Coast – so named because Chicago sits on what is truly the Michigan Ocean, and the West Coast, specifically, Los Angles, where I lived for two glorious, non-productive, and incredibly fun-filled years when I was in my late twenties.

I ostensibly went out there to continue my career as a TV show/freelance writer, but I really went to L.A.in pursuit of lost love and a girl named Jeanne who had dumped me back in Chicago. I pursued her in L.A., but could never rekindle the flame. She may have worn flip flops, but  never flip flopped on bagging me. I remained in the dumpster.

I took it seriously and ended up doing what other folks on The Coast do: I coasted. I joined the stream of L.A. driftwood who parked cars, pumped gas and waited on tables while waiting for real life to kick in. That was the L.A. mode and though I slipped into it, I never regretted it for one second because I had the privilege, nay the esteemed honor of working for almost two full years as a waiter at the Magic Pan Restaurant in Santa Anita, CA.

Remember the Magic Pan? I know I’m dating myself, but it’s better than dating Jeanne.  They served fabulous crêpes, which rhymes with Schweppes if you want to get French about it. But who are they to talk about speech? The French\ have no word for “rendezvous.” The Magic Pan’s food was delicious. They had an incredible seafood crêpe filled with shrimp and lobster that I still dream about, but forgive me, I digest, er digress. I was noting how much I loved working at “The Pan,” which had advantages galore. One day, for example, I got to wait on Mr. Richter, the guy who invented the Richter Scale. The menu shook when he ordered. Just joshing.

Everyone should be a waitperson at some time. It teaches you humility, the art of service, how to plan ahead and organize. You’re on stage, so you have to be an entertainer. Plus, you’ve got to be neat, clean, courteous, good at food promotion and you have to move fast. You can’t be half-fast and be a successful waiter. 

Waiting tables is a great learning experience, but not much of an earning experience. Most waiters don’t make much, plus it costs money since you’re forced to tip exorbitantly for the rest of your life. And don’t even get me started about iced tea. (Huh?) When someone orders iced tea, forgetabouit. You need an extra tall glass, ice filled to the brim, a special spoon, regular sugar, Sweet and Lo, plus a lemon wedge as a garnish. Whew, that worked up a sweat. I need an iced tea!

I had my first panic attack the night I started, but I got through it and soon learned the ropes. In fact, I got so good at waiting that I turned it  into a sport one night, as ye shall see in a subsequent story about a duel I had with a Thai waiter who worked with me named, Jan Udomwathanafong. Would I kid about a name like that? I have three stories to tell about some fascinating characters I worked with and hopefully you’ll read them and not toss the paper into the dumpster.

 I loved the crew at the Magic Pan and the lifestyle. We worked during the day and early evening and partied long into the night. I didn’t have to worry where my next freelance writing job was coming from, or think thoughty thoughts all the time, or hustle for new freelance business. I could waste away with the rest of the gang in Margaritaville and I loved it. 

I knew it was just time off, however, and that I would eventually return to writing for a living. Something was missing; call it a future, call it a calling, call it the ability to go to my grave having written my own epitaph:

“Here lies a writer who skirted the plan        

and leapt from the fire into The Pan.

He loved and he laughed and never felt lost;

he was fulfilled like a crepe and frequently sauced.

                                    Chicken Rustica

                                 Chicken No Fustica

                              Chicken Other Coastica

                                               a.k.a.

                          (Chicken & Potatoes in the Oven)

This dish is magical, done in one pan and reminiscent of L.A. in its laid back nature. You really don’t have to fustica with Chicken Rustica. It’s Tuscan originally (not French), but this is an  adaptation. For crêpes sake, I mean cripes sake, don’t under- spice it. Don’t under-spice life either. Keep it tasty, toasty and coasty. Sometimes instead of running, you’ve got to glide.

 What Youza Need

6 (yup 6), whole cloves garlic

3-4 large peeled potatoes, drawn and quartered

2 medium onions, quartered

2 medium-size ripe tomatoes

1 whole frying chicken drawn and quartered

Spices (salt, pepper, dried oregano and basil, garlic powder)

1 oven with temp at 400º

What Youza Do

Wash chicken and pat dry. Put chicken, potatoes, onions and garlic in medium-deep roasting pan and coat it all with olive oil. Now, spice the beejeebies out of all of it. Season everything (front and back, top and bottom, up and down) with spices. Next, squeeeeze the tomatoes by hand over it all and cook at 400º (pretty dang high, just like the folks in L.A.) for about 45 minutes. Check pan in about 20 minutes to make sure you’re not making chicken soup. If there’s too much juice, remove all but a third of a cup or so. You may also have to remove the potatoes if they get done before the chicken. That’s it. Mangi, balli, si diverta (Eat, dance and enjoy)!

My Funny/Yummy Food 4 Thought Column 13

June 1, 2011

             The Kilrooney Kid Shootout and the Jolt of My Life!   

In my last column, I introduced you to Timmy and Jackie Kilrooney, two reckless kids my brother and I grew up with in Connecticut around the time they were building Stonehenge. (Not the Kilrooney kids. They didn’t build Stonehenge. They were strictly a wrecking crew.)

I mentioned their infamous use of BB guns—shooting everything and everyone in sight, including my brother and me, no ifs, ands and definitely in the butts. One of Timmy’s greatest thrills was to shoot out the streetlight in front of our house, which he did three or four times. My mother didn’t know Timmy was causing the light to go out constantly. She liked that light in front of our little house so whenever it went out, she called Southern Connecticut Power and Gas to come and fix it.  

 “Why can’t you people make a light bulb that lasts for more than a few days?” my mom scolded. Someone from the power company would listen, apologize dimly, then send some guy – sometimes the same guy – out to put in a new bulb. 

A couple of weeks later, Timmy would shoot it out again. My mom would call and the guy would show up to fix it. It was kind of a dance they did, my mom following Timmy’s insistent lead. It was all relatively harmless so it’s surprising that the “Light bulb shoot at the Ardito corral” should have sent 10,000 thousand jolts of permanent truth rippling though my body when I was ten years old, but it did. And it happened on a hot summer day when not much else was buzzing.

Timmy had put the light out once again and the repairman had arrived to fix it. We all gathered around the telephone pole to watch and wink at each other because we knew the secret shootout truth. Our whole gang was there—me, my brother Dave, Timmy and Jackie and Howie Larson. We were all gathered together on this hot morning in early June when our summer vacation still lay in front of us like a large, unopened gift. .         

It wasn’t even in August, which I loved and hated simultaneously—loved because it was the month of my birthday – hated because my birthday was August 27th,  just a heartbeat away from the end of summer and the start of school.  In those days, I wanted to get older. Age  seemed to have its privileges like staying up as late as you want and walking into a bar and ordering a beer.  

 “You fixin’ to change that light bulb again?” asked Timmy Kilrooney with a knowing smirk.

“Yeah,” said the repair guy unenthusiastically, as he started climbing the pole from one spike to the next. There were no cherry-pickers in those days; his ascent was strictly 50’s American-style, pulling yourself up rung by rung.

Suddenly, the repair guy stopped.  “Amazing how much this light goes out,” he said looking down at Timmy, “almost as if somebody’s knocking it out on purpose, eh kid?”

“What are you talking about?” said Timmy with the obnoxious innocence of Eddie Haskel from Leave it to Beaver.  “We can’t help it if your lights don’t last very long,” he tossed in for yuks.

I changed the subject. “Can you get electrocuted if you touch those wires?” I asked.

The repairman must have decided to have fun with us because he said, “Kid, these wires have as much electricity flowing through them as the electric chair. If I touch the wrong wire, ZAP!, I’ll start shaking and get fried like a burnt piece of toast!”

“Wow!” said Jackie Kilrooney, inferring that it would be amazingly cool if this really happened.

 The repair guy pondered our whole group. “So what are you kids going to do all day?” he asked from his perch.

 “Not much,” I answered. “We’re just kind of hanging around and goofing off.”

 “Yeah,” sighed the repairman, “hanging around and goofin’ off. There’s the perfect ‘to do’ list, absolutely nothing!” Then he added, “Do any of you kids realize how you’ve got it made? Lemme’ tell you right now, once you’re grown up, you’re not going to be able to do ‘nothing’ ever again.”

This did not sound good at all. He pressed on. “I’m doing you a favor and telling you the truth so you’ll enjoy what you’ve got right now. Check it out for yourself.  Look round. Tell me the next time you see any grownups yuking it up on a regular basis!”

 That was all. He ended his diatribe, finished climbing, changed the bulb and never came close to getting fried either.

I just stood there thinking about what he had said. He wasn’t giving us a lecture, or spouting off to complain and I believed this man, this pole climber, this guru sitting on top of the great Mount Neverest that loomed before him… and me. And I knew in my heart that there was a good chance that I was going to be trudging up that mountain everyday when I grew older too, along with the rest of the schlepping Sherpas of Adultville.  I wasn’t completely bummed out by that, or devastated, but it did pretty much change me for good. From that June day in the 10th year of my life, I never wanted to be older by a single second and I didn’t want my birthday to come, not on that August 27th or ever again.

I was perfectly happy being 10-year-old Jimmy Ardito surrounded by his gang on a warm day with summer’s glass in front of us filled to the brim with ice cold lemonade and nothing for us to do but chug that sweetness down. 

I looked up at the repair guy.  “Goodbye,” I said. “Thanks.”

“So long, kid,” he answered back.

“Hey,” I said to the gang, “let’s go play guns over on Red Rock Terrace!” “Yeah,” everybody shouted and we ran for the hills. And I’m sure, if he could have, that repairman would have charged off to Red Rock Terrace with us —  into that summer day that was so bright and fresh and young.

                   The Betta’ Bruchetta Recipe

              (Damn Delicous Tomato Saucy Bread)

This fabulous bruchetta recipe is a cool accompaniment to any meal on a hot summer day. Two things are a must—baking the seasoned bread first and, of course, using summer’s freshest ingredients.  

My delicious cousin, Donna introduced this bread to me on their cozy farm in New Jersey on a summer evening eons ago. The bread, along with the company and food, was unforgettable. I thoroughly pigged out thanks to the incredible festa her husband, Amos served. Holy Ronzoni, did we eat macaroni and shrimp and other famous Amos delights long into the warm, inviting night. Thanks, Donna dear, we miss you.

 

What  Youza Need

3 medium vine ripe, chopped tomatoes c

1 loaf crusty Italian bread sliced nice

4-5 Tbls olive oil

4  cloves garlic minced

2-3 Tbls each chopped, fresh oregano, basil

4 Tbls Parmesan cheese

Salt, black pepper, hot pepper flakes to taste

What Youza Do:

Pre-heat oven to 350º. Brush bread slices with olive oil. Salt and pepper each slice, plus add  oregano, basil, a little minced garlic.. Bake for 15 minutes and remove; otherwise they’ll burn to a crisp like the guy on the telephone pole.   

Put chopped tomatoes in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, 2 Tbls oregano, 2 Tbls basil, 2 cloves minced garlic. Stir and when bread is done, spoon mixture on each slice and top with parmesan cheese. It’s amazing how this bread stays crunchy and delights everyone with a slice of summer.