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Cesarina XII

The year of 99 brought lots of changes for Cesarina. She now was in her house alone. She decided to sell many of her properties and enjoy life. She and one of her friends started traveling the world, and staying longer on her trips, and at the end of year, she had her first female grand baby.

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She wanted her brother to give the baby a piggy back ride…Oh, the joy of telling your mother in law not to do something that is just wrong. Honestly, it was never easy. She really loved her grand babies though, I do have to say…she may not have enjoyed having me as a daughter in law, but she did love the children.


Much of our time was always around the table. It was all about the Italian experience. Sharing special meals, and by the end of the evening on Sunday even if there was a fiery exchange of words…everyone hugged and laughed.

Rosemary Bread

What do you need?

Olive Oil,   3 cups of all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp of salt, 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary (cut the rosemary into very small pieces), 1 tsp of baking soda, 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk

Grease the cookie sheet and preheat your oven to 400

Add all your dry ingredients together. Mix the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. Roll the dough over the rosemary, and knead it into the dough. Shape the dough into a circle, and make a deep x in the middle. Brush the told of the loaf with milk and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  You’re going to love it!



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Cesarina XI

We left off at the death of my beloved father in law. We were all heartbroken, and things happen so fast when someone in your family dies. The day he died, we had to get with a mortician, grave yard for a plot, granite for headstone. I prefer the method that my husbands’ family utilize instead of my own family. His family bury the dead in three days. My own family uses the 10 day method, or at least it feels that way.

Anyway, the rush was crazy. None of us had ever been in the position to do all these things. We just did what had to be done. It was like an our of body experience on so many levels. No one talked for hours at a time. Cesarina was with us most of the time, and our time in the minivan was so quiet until…Cesarina farted. OMG! We all started busting out laughing. She said “Giuseppe would laugh at that too”. I mean really, it was so unexpected, and it was so loud. I can’t even think about that moment with a smile on my face.

When the headstone finally got put on the grave plot, we all went to see it. Roberto cleaned it, and we all released balloons on the hill. It was a beautiful day. My kids still remember it to this day.

We went to Cesariana’s house for dinner, and while polenta was on the stove, she had me read an article. One that was in Italian. She came into the family room with her wooded spoon, and asks me “Did you understand the article?” Yes, I answered. A mother in law in Italy purchased a daughter in law a grave plot. She said, Yes, you are right. I asked her why would she want me to read an article like that on such a somber day. Well, she said, I wanted to remind myself that I purchased a grave plot for you. Me? Bewildered, I asked the whole question…You purchased a plot for me? Yes, she said, and came back into the family room. Then told me “I purchased a grave plot for you, since you will be the next one in the family to die.” Wow! You believe I am going to die? Well, she said, I have great genes, and Roberto has my genes, so he isn’t going to die anytime soon either. Honestly, I just didn’t know how to react to this.

She told me, this is just the Italian way, that’s why I wanted you to read the article. This way you see that I am not the only Italian mother in law that has purchased a plot for their daughter in law.


I could barely eat that night, thinking…geez, maybe I should watch everything she puts around my food, just in case she wants to use the grave plot before hand. Just in case you want to try her polenta, here is her method for cooking it…

There are several ways to serve polenta, but Cesarina preferred to serve it soft. As she told me many, many, many times “Don’t be afraid to experiment.” People have been changing recipes since the beginning of time. Add what you like, and whatever you don’t like, don’t add. She also told me “You Americans like to make everything so complicated.” If you don’t have something…substitute it. Oh, believe me, then it would go into a whole crazy dramatic episode about Americans. I’ll save you from all that, and just give you the recipe she made most of the time 😉

What are you going to need…

Wire whisk (they work wonders from keeping it from getting clumped), I will tell you a long handled wooded spoon works great too.

1 cup of coarse cornmeal                2 tablespoons of butter

2 cups of fine cornmeal                  1/2 cup of freshly ground Parmigiana cheese

1 tablespoon of salt


Bring 9 cups of water to a boil in a very large pot. Add the salt as soon as it comes to a boil. Add the cornmeal one handful at a time, and stir constantly. Once all the cornmeal has been added reduce the heat to simmer, and the consistency should look like a volcano…bubbling. Make sure your stirring all around the pot…scrapping the sides, and going across the bottom of the pot. It usually takes about 40 to 45 minutes of cooking on the stove. Now, you’re going to add the butter and cheese, which will give it a smooth creamy finish. It makes a great side dish for fish or chicken.


Throwback Thursday

Cesarina and I Meet Each Other (Recipes from our 1st meal)

Roberto and I spent our first months getting to know each other on Yahoo, where we met in 1996. He knew I was going to be moving to San Francisco soon, so we emailed each other. We didn’t exchange phone numbers until after I lived in San Francisco. Once we started dating each other exclusively we would do 3D puzzles. The whole time we worked on the puzzles we would just talk to one another about our aspirations.

When we were working on the Notre Dame puzzle he ask me if I would like to meet his parents. I had no idea that they lived right across the street. Since I rode my bike from my house in San Francisco to the BART station, then rode BART to Oakland, then rode my bike to his house…I could not meet anyone that day.

He hated driving in San Francisco, but was willing to pick me up for a date to meet his parents. I was nervous about meeting his parents especially since he was an only child. Now, I knew they lived across the street, I was imagining what they saw out their huge picture window. What kind of bike clothes did I show up in at his house? How many times did I have horrid helmet hair just outside his house. Why did I often come to Oakland?

The time had arrived…Roberto opened the big black wrought iron gate for me, and I took a deep breath in before climbing the terra cotta steps that was flanked with lions presenting a family crest in front of them.
This beautiful happy lady with lucile ball red hair opens the door. She had a pretty dress on, but covering it was a festive red apron. She had just had her hair done, and it looked like every hair was frozen in perfect place. You must be the secret my son is keeping. Were the first words she said to me, I just had no words that would come out of my mouth. She grabbed me, and took me into the family room, our arms linked at the elbow. This is my husband, Giuseppe, Hello, I said, a little taken a back by her forcefulness.
She then led everyone to a set table. Blue and white dishes, with gleaming silver ware. I told her how lovely her house was, and she ask me if I thought she had a maid. I never had anyone ask me if I thought they had a maid. I felt like I better say the right thing. “Your house looks beautiful” She asked me again, Do you think I have a maid? I answered I don’t know, it looks very clean. She proudly told me that she cleaned every inch of the house by herself.

She asked me if I cleaned my own house, I said yes, I clean it on Saturday. She then proceeded to tell me that I needed to get on a real schedule for my house work. Mondays are for laundry, Tuesday is ironing day, Wednesday is for shopping and errands, Thursday is for cleaning the house, and Friday is for having your hair and nails done. It was a Friday, she had just had her hair and nails done. Saturday is the day that you need to spend with your family and so is Sunday.

I told her that I usually go to Mass on Sunday. She then proceeded to tell me how a nun told her that she had a special dispensation for attending Mass. I was starting to feel a little over whelmed. Giuseppe sat at the head of the table, and snickered. I felt as though he understood my non verbal cues.

It was cold all that week, and this evening was no exception. She poured me some water, and then brought in soup for all each of us. She then told me not to fill up on this course, since it was the first one. She said, “Since you are an American, you probably don’t understand that there are more than one course for a dinner.” I responded “Not all Americans believe there is one course to a dinner.” I would learn later that she did not like that response. I was suppose to just be quiet. Here is the recipe to the delicious first course that night.

Vegetable Soup

What are you going to need?

11/2 cups of chick peas (or beans you prefer)                                  6 cloves of garlic/chop 3

1 red onion chopped                                                                                into small pieces.

1 leek/ chop bottom part/                                                      One celery stalk/ cleaned and chopped

4 large carrots chopped                                                           Fresh shredded parmesan cheese

12 large potatoes

Like I said before, one of the most valuable lessons that Cesarina taught me was to make due with what you have, change your recipes, experiment with them.

If you are going to use fresh beans you will have to soak them overnight, if you are using can beans, you are going to rinse the beans clean. I use the can beans. If you are using dried beans that have soaked overnight, you will need to rinse them, and add enough fresh water to cover them. Add a couple of cloves of garlic, and cook them on low. It will take about an hour or until they are tender.

In a large stock pot, you are going to drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of the pot, and then add in the onions and leeks. Stir them around until they are golden brown, add the garlic, celery, and  carrots, and keep stirring. You will want to tumble them around to pick up the flavor of the onions and leeks. Add 7 cups of water, and then add the potatoes. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Cover the pot for about an hour. Check the potatoes to see if they are tender. Add another cup or two of water, it depends on how thick you like your soup. I like it thicker.

Now, you are going to add your beans. If you like some whole beans you are going to use the broth with about half of the beans in a blender to puree them. You could also use all the beans to puree. Sometimes, I even puree all the soup with a blender wand. The beauty is there is no wrong way. It really depends on your mood.

So, after you have taken half of the beans out, add them to the soup. The pureed half with the broth you are going to add too. Allow the flavors to mingle together in the pot. About 15 to 20 minutes.

Allow each of the guests to determine how much grated parmesan cheese they would like on the top of their soup.

Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Olive Oil and Basil

What will you need?

5 garilc cloves  1/3 cup of olive oil    dash of salt and pepper, and a dash of oregano   1/2 pound of plumb tomatoes about 5 large basil leaves Combine these into a broad bowl that you are going to serve your pasta.

Skin the tomatoes, and chop them fine, chop the garlic in small pieces. Clean the leaves of the basil and rip it into small pieces. Add the olive oil, and salt and pepper and oregano.

If you are using box pasta, you don’t want to “throw your pasta down” until everyone has arrived. Toss the pasta in the bowl, and serve to your guests while it is hot.

Baked Halibut with Green beans and Garlic

What will you need?

4 Halibut Steaks       Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper       oregano and sage

Preheat the oven to 400

Brush olive oil over your halibut steaks, while they are on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Add a pinch of oregano and sage to each of them. Place them in the oven until they are white. Which will take about 10 to 12 minutes.

Green Beans   2 or 3 cloves of garlic sliced thin.

You can even make these the day before. Cesarina usually served her green beans cold.

Cook your green beans…I steam mine.

Add the sliced garlic, cover them, and put them in the fridge.

Fruit Tart 

What will you need?

1/2 cup of sugar              1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder         2 large eggs

1 3/4 cup of all purpose flour    Grated zest of one lemon         1 and 1/2 sticks of butter (softened)

1 pound of strawberries, 1/4 lb of raspberries, and 1/4 lb of blackberries 2 tablespoons of honey

Add all the dry ingredients into a bowl, then add the butter and egg.

Preheat the oven to 375

butter and flour (or use olive oil then flour) a tart pan or pie pan.

Use a rolling pin to flatten out the dough, if is warm out, you may want to harden the dough by adding it to the fridge for 15 minutes.

Always sprinkle some flour before you start flattened your dough. It will stick to your surface. Once it is flattened and rolled to the desired thickness, place it in the pan.

While the tart shell is baking, it will take about 20 to 25 minutes, clean your berries.

Cut the strawberries into small pieces, and add the raspberries and blackberries. Add the honey, then stir the honey love the berries.

Once the tart has come out of the oven and cooled, add the berries in the shell.

It is so delicious, and any fruit added to the pastry is yummy!