Sweet/Heat: Peach and Jalapeño Salsa and a Bit of Prose Known as The Lonesome Peach Tree

The Lonesome Peach Tree

With their parched, woolen outer-skin it was no wonder Salvatore disliked handling them. I too have an aversion for the nails-on-chalkboard-inducing texture of freshly-plucked peaches, whereas my son does not – I suppose this particular idiosyncrasy skips a generation.

Fingertips are one thing, the tongue’s papillae are yet another (gags uncontrollably). Peel it for me, then we’ll talk.

In the days of my youth my relentless inquiries lead to an earlier-than-most-my-age education on reproduction. A sole peach tree had better chances of baring fruit if partnered with a tree with which it could cross-pollinate, my papa would lecture. We had two, so that usually did the trick – I was also given a book whose pages were full of hand-drawn privates and so that took care of that.

After many seasons of avoidance, he finally took good care to ensure this sensory dilemma would never have to be faced again. He uprooted the mate that had cropped up on the other side of the garden. This permanent pruning was good news for Papa and I, but was countered by Frances’ chagrin (spawned by her proclivity for all things dolce).

For years, the arbor would slouch in the far right corner of the garden, gloriously chloroplasting, blossoming, then withering away only to remain cyclically dormant through winter – anxiously awaiting, but perpetually barren.

Tuesday my mother announced that the peach tree had successfully yielded three firm, yet succulent orbs of white flesh.

A recipe to commemorate her enduring sweetness to follow.


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Quinoa Risotto with Vegan-Chicken Mentagi, Sweet Potatoes and Un-snapped Peas

Frances would make something that they called “pollo men-dah-jee”. I am unaware of the proper spelling, but know at the very least lots of mint was involved.

I can recall seeing the dark, quartered chicken pieces in a bowl, wrapped tightly in saran and tucked away on the second shelf of her fridge.

This high-protein veganization came out of my fondness for the fresh-tasting flavor made possible by this abundant leaf that grows rampantly around the garden. My take on the dish also has faux chicken in it, so I thought to start calling it “men-dah-jee” would only be fair – plus it is really fun to say.

Quinoa is used here instead of the short-grain rice found in traditional risottos. Things step even further away from autentico with the addition of sweet potatoes and snap peas – because, well, I like all of these things.

Total prep time, about 25 minutes. You can’t even come close to touching that with arborio.



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Ensconced in Terry or Gravy Shields

A memory from my cousin:

“All children under age of 18 must wear full bath towel around neck to protect from red gravy”.

Frances. Forever ultra-vigilant in her desire to keep us grandkids devoid of splatter. We didn’t have a say in the matter either. As soon as we sat at her kitchen table she would fasten these excessively over-sized, absorbent cloths around our hungry necklines with a safety pin – giant protective bibs.


Ciambotta: The Quintessential Summer Soup

Ciambotta, or in the bastardized tongue of South-Eastern New England, “chom-both” – truly the quintessential summer abbondanz’.

This tomato-based vegetable stew can be served either freshly made and piping hot or chilled overnight and shoveled down the day after preparation (my fav way to take it). It is hands down, without a doubt, the most effective garden-clearing dish Fran ever made.

After the many hours dedicated to making the previous meal, I wanted to go for something that I could just pick, cut and pot – while also using up a few leftovers: the cut-out remnants from my cheesy polenta rounds and roasted tomato gravy.

Normally, featured players include zucchini and yellow squash, but as I stated in yesterday’s post, all of my zuccha plants were wiped out weeks ago. I still don’t want to talk about it.

Recipe to ensue

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Then: Sausage and Polenta / Now: Seitan Sausage and Cheesy Polenta w/ Grilled Garden Veg Napoleon

Polenta and sausage. A classic, rustic dish that in the olden days on Sears Ave, could be made (and devoured) in no time flat.

Traditionally, it is prepared either with soft or firm polenta, homemade sausage and a rich tomato gravy (all topped with freshly grated parmesan). The incorporation of fresh, seasonal veggies is a great way to round out this otherwise super-heavy meal – while using up the abundance, that despite your best efforts, you still haven’t been able to fully give away to friends and co-workers.

For this particular batch I grilled what was available: giant brussel sprout leaves, yellow and purple eggplant, heirloom tomatoes and sweet green peppers.

No squash? Ok, if you must know, for some unknown reason ALL 15 of my yellow squash and zucchini plants perished after their first and only yield this season. And no, I don’t want to talk about it just about as much as I don’t want to think about this next bit of truth: the sausage Papa-boy just about exclusively ate, was hand-ground in his brother’s garage and encased by intestine.

Warning, this veganization takes about two hours, top-to-tail, if made from scratch – as was done below..


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Gravy #2 – Roasted Tomato Gravy

Like Francesca’s gravy, only mostly from the garden…


Papa pan
-Queez (aka food processor)
-Cucchia aka “coo-chah(d)” (serving spoon/scraper)

-6 large, seeded, skin-on tomatoes
-4 cloves of garlic
-1 pinch of sea salt (or a few twists of pink Himalayan)
-2 TBS cold-pressed, imported, extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 batch of Frances’ quick gravy (recipe can be found here)

Preheat oven to 310 degrees. Half-core tomatoes, creating a mini-cone at the top end and give them each a good squeeze over compost bin – this will get the seeds out, but be sure to keep the flesh intact. Place tomatoes bottom up in an un-oiled papa pan. Do not add salt or seasoning and allow to slowly roast for about 2.5 hours or until they start to turn a nice burgundy color. When done, scrape all of the roasted tomatoes into queez along with the above remaining ingredients. Whip in to a chunky-purée.


Quick Gravy From The REAL Francesca Rinaldi

It is still considered sacrilege, if not outright profane, for one to open up a store-bought jar, pour it over their pasta and claim, with any shred of dignity, that dinner is served – you just don’t do those types of things in my family.

To add even more complication to preparation, Papa was a fairly plain eater. This is not to say he was picky, rather, he was just extremely particular.

This quick and easy recipe was but one way that Fran was able to contend with his persnickety preferences, while still putting her individual seal on the meal. Posted per a request.


-medium saucepan
-wooden cucchia(d) aka wooden spoon

-2, 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
-2 tbs of olive oil
-2 pinches of salt
-8 pinches of sugar
-24-30 oz. of water (4 to 5 tomato paste cans, refilled with water)
-2 shakes of garlic powder


In medium sauce pan heat olive oil on medium-high heat (hot pan, cold oil). Scoop tomato paste into pan and begin to “fry” it in the oil. Attempt to smooth it out by stirring constantly.

Add one pinch of salt and continue to fry until it just begins to start loosing it’s bright red color. Lower heat to medium and slowly pour first can of tomato paste, stirring all the while.

Allow the mixture to re-thicken with the heat (still stirring) and add remaining salt, sugar and garlic powder. Add second can of water and allow to reduce, stirring constantly. Repeat this process with remaining water until it yields a semi-soupy, sweet gravy.

Add more sugar/salt to taste. Best served over angel hair, spaghettini, spaghetti, elbows, shells or wagon wheels. We are talking a meal for 3-4 for about $2.00, that takes just as long as it does to cook the macaroni (al dente).

Note: Be on the lookout for this author’s updated, more substantial, protein-heavy, veganized/faux-meat version, that is just about as quick, in an upcoming post.

Note II: This post was by no means inspired by Scorsese’s Italianamerican or it’s recipe at 8:25.

20130824-094428.jpgShown in original gravy boat from Frances