Mothers Day

asparagusgremolataA spring brunch just wouldn’t be complete without asparagus. Along with our grilled strawberry-brie sandwiches and brown sugar and pepper glazed bacon, we enjoyed a side of blanched asparagus spears with a garnish of gremolata at our Bass Lake Brunch.

Served at room temperature, the blanched asparagus was cooked just enough to retain some crunch. Plunging the cooked asparagus into a bowl of ice water gives it a shock that stops the cooking and helps retain the bright green color.

Traditionally, gremolata is a mixture of chopped parsley, lemon zest and garlic, sometimes held together with a bit of olive oil. In Mediterranean cooking, it is often served with veal or lamb. My Bass Lake cooking friend mixed it up with some chopped olives. It would also be wonderful as a garnish for asparagus with chopped, toasted hazelnuts or toasted pine nuts added to the base of lemon, parsley and garlic. Leftover gremolata can be tossed into pasta, spooned over a bowl of soup, whisked into an omelet or stirred into rice.

Our hostess, who always has the perfect serving plate for any kind of food, had an asparagus plate and even asparagus tongs for serving.

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gigi2.jpg My mother’s name is Gladys, and the name just doesn’t fit her.

She’s felt that way all her life. So, years ago, she started coming up with new names and identities, as her inner spirit looked to break free from her outer Gladys.

The first time Gladys became someone else was at the start of her freshman year at the University of Illinois. She was among the ninety percent of the girls at school who were from Chicago, and Gladys wanted to establish herself as different and exotic. So she made up a story that her father worked for the diplomatic corps in India.

The response was phenomenal.

After passing herself off as an American living in Bombay, her phone was ringing off the hook. All the guys wanted to go out with her. Everyone wanted to get to know the girl from Bombay.

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My Mother Vina
My Mother Vina circa 1957

Instead of turkey, mashed potatoes, etc., stuffed grape leaves (along with shish-kabob and pilaf) is the traditional centerpiece of our Christmas dinner.

Disclaimer:  Every script I’ve ever written is overly descriptive and too long, so no doubt this recipe will be, too.  Apologies in advance. 

 

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hotel-bel-airholly palanceTwice a year, (on Mothers Day and on her birthday July 7th), my mother used to pull out her favorite phrase and say, “Attention must be paid.”

Translation? She wanted to be celebrated, and that meant The Hotel Bel Air, Sunday best, family only, no friends or ‘strangers’ pulling focus on her closeup.

Her use of the phrase drove me crazy, because of course Linda Loman’s lament was about aging and the lack of human kindness shown her salesman husband Willie, not my glamorous complicated mother on the palm-­laden patio holding court.

But champagne in hand surrounded by at least two of her children with at least two of her grandchildren in tow, she got what she needed....a toast, “ To the Queen of the Day.”

Attention had been paid. Deep down I knew what Mom meant. And she knew I knew.

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chickensaladwrap001My mom taught me how to cook. I was lucky she was the kind of mom who encouraged me to be in the kitchen. She would often turn her favorite room over to me, making me feel as though I was a scientist working in my own private laboratory. I would pretend I was testing recipes in the Pillsbury kitchens.

My mom did have one rule, though, that she insisted I learn and practice. When dirty bowls and pots and spoons and measuring cups started to pile up on the kitchen counter, she’d quickly remind me of the rule: "Susie, clean up as you go."

Mom believed that as long as you stayed on top of the mess, you’d have a pleasant experience in the kitchen. And everything would turn out much better. I’m pretty sure she was right about that. I was thinking about my mom as I prepared her favorite chicken salad. And I could almost hear her reminding me to clean up after each step.

It’s a recipe that has evolved over the years. I often add new ingredients and sometimes take out the old standby ingredients. Mom thought it was a real treat when I would sandwich the chicken salad in a split luncheon-size croissant. That serving style came to an end, though, sometime in the 1980′s when I attended a lecture by New York Times health columnist, Jane Brody. She said that eating a croissant was like eating one stick of butter. I haven’t enjoyed a croissant since. I’ve eaten a few — but I haven’t enjoyed them. Thanks a lot, Jane Brody.

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