After my first dinner at the house, I was not really convinced that I was her favorite person. I was ok with that fact. Soon after we met, it would be a while before I saw her again. Even though she lived right across the street from my husband, she was in Venice, Italy. She went to visit her friends that she had known for years. Roberto and I were still getting to know one another. We would talk and work on puzzles for days at a time. We would then take photos of the completed puzzle before we would take it apart piece by piece. Then, we would go shopping for our next 3D puzzle.
When Cesarina and Giuseppe returned from Italy, Roberto and I went to pick them up from the airport. They were happy to see us, and they never stopped talking as they put all the bags in the car. Caesarina had lots of gifts for us, and lots of photos that she wanted us to see that very night.
She wanted to know when was the earliest we could get together to have dinner again. Sunday was the next time we would have dinner. Roberto worked a regular work week, and I did too, at the museum. So, Sunday it was…
Cesarina had the house beautiful as usual. Her house was her own kingdom. She told me that after she and Giuseppe purchased their first house, they would walk to Rockridge and dream of having a house on the hill. The house she owned was her dream house. The house on the boulevard where palm trees lined the street was a dream come true. It was where she invited executives that she met at the banks while she was cleaning them. I mean…talk about the American Dream, and making it come true. Roberto and his parents worked to achieve the dream.
The dining room was ready for guests, with the plates all laid out, napkins ironed and folded. Glasses were spotless, and the silverware was shining in the sunlight piercing the nearby window.
Gnocchi with Pesto
When I met Cesarina, she was using the Emilia Brand Gnocchi. I have tried other, and they are not as good. When you cook gnocchi, there must be someone watching them. As soon as they start to float, they are done. As Cesarina use to say “they turn to bullets, if you walk away from them”. Which means they are going to hard and disgusting.
Cesarina taught me how to make pesto, and she told me she was the first person she knew that added pesto to gnocchi. When we would go to a restaurant that was serving gnocchi with pesto, she would remind us that she invented that dish.
Here is what you will need…
3 bunches of basil 3 cloves of garlic 1 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of pine nuts 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
You are going to want to pluck the leaves off the basil stems. Don’t include any flowers or the stems, just the leaves. I always had the kids help, as the room would fill with the perfume of the basil.
Boil some water in a large pot, add your leaves into the water, just for 30 seconds. This is going to keep your pesto looking green, if you skip this step your pesto is going to be black. In the meantime, add the garlic first to the food processor, and then add the pine nuts. Just as I have said before…my favorite thing about Cesarina was she wasn’t afraid of being adventurous. If you don’t have pine nuts, use walnuts. My children tell me that they can tell the difference between the walnuts and the pine nuts. It depends on what I have in the house. Add the olive oil, and finally drain the water really well from the leaves before you add the basil leaves. Add the cheese, and you may need a touch more oil. It should be a paste consistency. While the gnocchi are boiling, use some of the broth to add to the pesto in the bowl. If you have too much for your gnocchi, put it in ice cube tray and freeze it for another time. I usually use one ice cube serving per gnocchi box. We usually make three boxes.
Add your curves to the dish you are going to serve your gnocchi, and add some of the broth of the pasta to the cube, start stirring it so it is liquid, but not overly liquid. You want the pesto to stick to the gnocchi, and the taste of your pesto to enhance the gnocchi. A couple of ladles of broth to the pesto is usually enough.
Once at the table make sure you have plenty of fresh parmesan cheese to top the dish. Then allow conversation to flow at the table…
Ceasrina was funny, and she could tell some great stories. Some of them were embarrassing for some guests that were in attendance. I think everyone would hold their breath hoping that the story wasn’t about them each time she started a story. Honestly, everyone was fair game. The best thing about her was that she would also tell stories of her character too. When she was pissed, is when she did her best cleaning, but heaven forbid that she get a pair of sheers in her hands. The trees in the front yard didn’t have a chance. She told us about the various trees she had in her front yard, and how she trimmed them into nothing by the time she was done. We laughed and laughed, because we saw how one day there would be a beautiful tree in the yard… then suddenly it was hacked to just a stick. Then the stick would mysteriously disappear just as quickly as it was had appeared.
This little tree was one of the lucky trees that lasted a long time.
In every Italian kitchen there is rosemary growing just outside. It was one of the plants that Cesarina did not chop to the ground. Even her beautiful calla lilies did not survive her wrath.
Oven Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Chicken
What you will need…
A whole chicken 4 cloves of garlic, about 1/4 cup of olive oil
Salt, fresh ground pepper corns, and two teaspoons of Oregano
3 sprigs of rosemary
Preheat your oven to 375
Wash your chicken, and dry it with a paper towel.
Put two of the rosemary sprigs inside the cavity of the bird. Also add one teaspoon of oregano, salt and pepper, and 3 of the garlic cloves. Use half of your olive oil to massage on the bird, and the rest will go into your cooking pan. Take one of the garlic cloves and rub it on the skin of the chicken, then add salt pepper the oregano over the chicken. Cut your last sprig of rosemary and add it to each side of the pan.
It usually take about an hour, so check on it, and baste it with the juices of the chicken. Once the chicken is done, add it to your serving plate. You can use some of the residual pan juices of the bird.
From here on out we spent our Sunday over at the dream house of Cesarina. We had some great times, and some bad times like all families. She taught me how to manage property, and how to cook great Italian food. I will share some of our fun stories and some of her recipes that she taught me of the years. I hope you enjoy the stories I have to share with you about her life, and our lives together.
Here she is at the Mission in San Miguel, CA.