Ciao'd with a black Labrador retriever at my feet. 

Some mothers cook with love, others out of a sense of duty, and still others cook with a shot of both. My mother harbored on the latter shoal. I'm not sure if she simply did not like cooking or because she was busy with a full-time job and four kids, she couldn't or wouldn't prioritize the task. I get it. What mother who also works (and p.s. my mom was getting her masters degree, too) can do it all without the help of a large staff?  We didn't have a large staff. 

Before my mother married my dad, my Italian aunts summoned her to their kitchens. Her mission: hover over their shoulders and learn to cook the dishes my father favored. To what end? They wouldn't bestow their blessings upon the marriage?  She was a good soldier, though. The dishes she learned became bastions of my childhood. Among the highlights, ziti pasta with broccoli and garlic (before the dish claimed a regular spot on restaurant menus). Fritelle, Pugliese for frisbees of fried dough, slicked with pungent goat cheese and tomato sauce and flurried with Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Eggs with peppers and tomatoes served with crusty bread that ferried the mixture to our mouths. 

Today I had a text conversation with my three sisters wherein we cast our votes for our favorite foods from our childhoods. Suffice to say the eggs with peppers and tomatoes, a dish composed of fried green peppers, garlic, tomato sauce, and lightly scrambled eggs, was not a crowd favorite. Not so fast. It was a win for me.  I loved the flavor, the divergent textures, and even though it's not a pretty dish, the colors resonated with their brightness. Scrambled eggs with peppers and tomato is one dish I'm glad my mother taught me how to cook. It's a go-to when I'm tired or desire a comforting bite of nostalgia. 

My mother mastered the aunts' dishes and I learned how to cook them, too, but there are three foods she taught me not to cook. Let's start with pot roast. New Englanders (I am one of them) like to gussy up this dish by anointing it Yankee Pot Roast. My childhood pot roast was a calamity of sallow, stringy boiled beef that borrowed its flavor from soft vegetables, the carrots leading the pack with their cloying sweetness and baby food texture. Gag worthy. 'Nuf said.

Next up: pork chops with applesauce. I know, I know. Cue the Brady Bunch theme. Pork chops pose a challenge for many cooks because they can cook quickly into a scourge of dry chew. The applesauce was the bigger culprit, though. My mom spiked the Mott's with cinnamon and lemon. Kudos to her for (unconsciously) lifting the sweetness with the acid. Still, I was not, and I am not a fan of fruit with pork. 

And coming in third, the slime parading as tapioca. (My throat constricted as I wrote those words.) I've heard this horror of a food depicted as frogspawn. Wish I had coined that one because it is so spot on in so many ways. So, yeah, enjoy your frogspawn, oh I mean, Bubble Tea.  

It may be a coincidence that the foods my mom cooked with mastery were Italian but I don't think so. She learned how to cook them out of love for my dad. These were the dishes that reverberated with flavor, color, and, cheesy as it sounds, love. These are the dishes I cook to this day and every time I do, I think of my mom and dad. And I cook the dishes with love, too. 

My husband and son appreciate my cooking. My son has a particularly sharp palate that (he believes) gives him permission to comment on my cooking to the Nth degree. "Mom, maybe a bit more oregano and a tad less salt to highlight the herbal depth." "The pork chop is perfectly cooked in the center but then drops off to dryness too soon." "This needs more acid." "This needs more salt." On and on it goes in our personal episodes of Chopped. Food Network, you vex me, and at the same time, I am grateful that my son and I have this delicious bond. I am especially thankful that food connects us even during the dour teenage years.  p.s. he can cook, too. 

So here's to you, mom, for walking the kitchen line even when you were dreading it after a long day at work. Here's to you cooking eggs with peppers and tomatoes (and remembering to buy lots of bread) when you'd rather relax with a good book. And here's to the moms who get dinner on the table every night even when they order pizza or bring home Mexican.  I feel you. Let's take a collective mom breath. Food, regardless of its provenance, connects a family, especially when its enjoyed together. Believe me, our kids remember the table talk. 



This classic Pugliese dish serves deliciously as an appetizer, lunch, or breakfast. My mom made it for a light Sunday dinner after a robust Italian lunch. Use the very best extra virgin olive oil you can find as it adds a lovely dimension to this simple dish. And don't forget the crusty country bread! 

Serves 4

3 large green bell peppers
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups tomato sauce
5 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim and slice the peppers lengthwise into 1-inch strips. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. When hot, add the peppers and saute until soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the tomato sauce to the skillet, stir to combine and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

Add the eggs and gently stir to scramble them into the mixture. Add the parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, and add the grated Parmesan cheese. 

Serve with crusty bread. 


Ciao'd while sipping limoncello made by my British friend (British!), Susan. 

This frittata, bursting with spring flavors, is a super easy solution for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Add a green salad and crusty bread and the meal is complete. Omit the ham for a vegetarian version.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh mushrooms (any variety you like), thinly sliced
10 asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced ham
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the broiler. In a 12-inch ovenproof or cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Toss in the asparagus and ham and cook until the asparagus is bright green and barely tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

While the vegetables are cooking, in a medium bowl whisk the eggs and thyme. Stir in the goat cheese and salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet; do not stir. Cook, undisturbed, until the eggs have set and thickened and only the surface is runny,  about 5 minutes.

Put the skillet under the broiler (about 4 inches from the heat) and cook until the center is set and the top is golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the frittata from the oven and let it rest 5 minutes before serving. Loosen the frittata with a spatula and slide onto a plate. Cut in into wedges. Serve the frittata hot or at room temperature. 


Ciao'd while watching Lunes Noche Football. From Mexico City. Viva! 



Similar to a crustless quiche or a Spanish tortilla, the egg-based Italian frittata is a delicious canvas for vegetables, cheese, and meats. It’s the dish that keeps on giving. Enjoy a slice of warm frittata for breakfast. Slice a wedge and make a sandwich with crusty bread for lunch. Pair it with a simple green salad for a light supper.  The latter is just the ticket during the hectic holidays.

8 large eggs
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed
3 cups broccoli florets
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and red pepper flakes.

In a medium cast-iron or nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up into chunks, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the broccoli and red pepper to the skillet and cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg mixture and basil and cook over moderately low heat until set around the edge, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the frittata with the cheese.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the center is set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.