“You can call me Cousin Zucchi”… or when culinary stars align, delicious things happen!

Let me explain…

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Cousin Angela was our houseguest a couple of weeks ago. At 90+ she is the second most senior member of our extended family. She is a wonderful cook and a talented baker. Cousin Angela is no longer responsible for cooking for the family, but she loves to bake  and still bakes up a storm!


The lone zucchini plant in my vegetable garden is very productive. I harvest Zucchini every few days and enjoy sharing the surplus. In the days before and during Angela’s visit, I neglected the garden. The day we took her back home, we found an ENORMOUS Zucchini. We gave it to Cousin Angela, thinking their family of 6 could use it or (if it was inedible) they could add to their compost.


We were invited to supper with her family a week later. When we walked in, she greeted us with “You can call me Cousin Zucchi”, reached into the cookbook bookshelf and pulled out her “Over 100 Zucchini Squash Uses” cookbook.  She had been baking with our zucchini all week!

On the kitchen counter was a display of all the goodies she baked:
Zucchini Bread (one loaf wrapped and labeled for us)
Zucchini Chocolate Cake
Zucchini Cookies…and they had fried some for sandwiches!

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So, the culinary stars aligned, Cousin Angela was the perfect recipient of our mutant Zucchini.  Everything was delicious!

We especially enjoyed the soft and moist Zucchini Cookies. With her permission, we share the recipe.

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Ovu Frittu a la Rosa!



My sister Rose lives in Sicily. We visited her this summer.

We usually spend our time in Sicily “In Famiglia.”   We do a little sight seeing, reconnect with our extended family and relish Talking—Laughing—Cooking—Eating—-Together.

Everybody in my family enjoys cooking. My father made hearty, traditional fare: wine, homemade sausage and garden vegetables on the grill. My mother bakes bread and makes delicious soups and frittatas. My sister Nina is the sucu (tomato sauce) specialist. I like to experiment with sweets and pastries and love making everything from scratch.

We are all good cooks, but my sister Rose…she is the best.

Rose’s food is familiar to us; we make the same general recipes but her version is, somehow, tastier.

She uses the best ingredients, fresh fish, local olive oil and seasonal vegetables bought daily.   But the quality of her cooking is not just about the raw materials. Her strength is her skill and touch with seasoning. Rose’s food is always perfectly seasoned. Not too much or too little salt, just the right amount. The herbs she uses are present but not overwhelming. The cheese is a perfect complement. She uses olive oil liberally but her food is not greasy.

When we visit Rose, we don’t cook. We set the table, grate the cheese, slice the bread and wash the fruit.   When Rose is cooking, we keep her company and share the time. My mother, my sister and I sit on the side of the table facing the stove and refrigerator and watch as she quickly and efficiently criss-crosses her kitchen for the right pan, bowl, ingredient and seasoning, happily and effortlessly turning out the most delicious food.

We look forward to our traditional “first breakfast” when we visit Rose in Sicily. We get up, bleary eyed and jet lagged, sit at the table and wait while Rose makes an Ovu Frittu. A sunny side up egg accompanied by toasted crusty bread.

She makes one at a time uses a small frying pan. We wait our turn as our egg is cooked in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and served in the skillet where it was cooked. The egg is perfection! It stays hot, the yolk thick but still liquid, the white firm but not rubbery. We dip our toast in the yolk, soak up olive oil and thoroughly enjoy our Ovu Frittu lovingly made by my sister Rose.

Marmellata! Jam!

It is blazingly hot today and doing something outside is not too appealing.  What to do that’s fun, productive and delicious?

Well…Strawberries and Blueberries are at their peak and I love preserving food…

The answer:

Strawberry Blueberry Freezer Jam!

It really was easy, I had Strawberries, Blueberries, Sugar and Water on hand.  The little jars were in the hall closet.  All I needed to do was run to the grocery store for Sure Jell and I was ready to go. I use the lower sugar Sure Jell in the pink box and follow the instructions in the box.  The hardest part of the task was standing at the stove stirring constantly for 10 minutes.  I also have to make room in the freezer.  It was worth it, I love my little jars of jam!

Sweet Little Jars of Jam

Sweet Little Jars of Jam

Strawberries, Blueberries, Sugar

Strawberries, Blueberries, Sugar

Pi Carmilinu U Nostru Patri


The first image is a picture of my father, Carmelo in his little hat. The little girl is his sister, Carmela but we called her Miluzza. On the lower left section of the picture is a foot and part of a leg.

It is my favorite picture of my father.

My grandmother sent the picture to my uncle Angelo in the US. And in turn it came to us after my uncle passed. At first I loved it because he was a very cute little boy, and it was hard to imagine my father as a small child. At some point we turned the picture over and noticed that my grandmother had written on the back.

Here is what it says-

Carissimo figlio oggi stesso appassatu quello che fa fotografie allampo mentri mangiamo
nella nostra strata si lanno fatto tutti
lupapa ebi lagurio di falli a carmilino e miluzza
lupapa si a messo di latu che carmilino sense lupapa non ci voleva stari

 Loosely translated, she wrote:

Dearest son

Just today while we were eating a photographer came by.

Everyone on our street had their picture taken.

Your father, had the pleasure of having a picture taken of Carmelino and Miluzza.

Your father had to stand to the side because without your father, Carmilino did not want to stay there.

The foot and leg in the picture belong to my father’s father….

The real reason we love this picture is because it is about our father, who was a loving and wonderful man, and about his father, who taught him well.

We are blessed to have been raised by a long line of great fathers.

Happy Father’s Day!

Cucuzza di Friiri! Zucchini!


We created a new garden bed and sowed some Cucuzza (Zucchini) seeds. They all germinated. The Zucchini plants are growing like crazy and today we picked the first of the crop!

I have already written about Sicilian Cucuzza and I admit that it can be confusing. The Cucuzza in my previous blog is Cucuzza Di Rascari, which generally translates to “Cucuzza that is Scraped” this describes how we peel the Cucuzza.

Cucuzza di Friiiri translates into “Cucuzza that is Fried,” which describes one of the preparations of the Zucchini. We never fry Cucuzza di Rascari we only stew or boil. Cucuzza di Friiri is a lot more versatile. At our house it is fried with or without breading, stewed as a side dish or pasta topping, roasted or baked as a vegetable and even made into a dessert.

Today we stuffed and baked our garden Zucchini and made Zucchini Alla Genovese which means “In the Style of the City of Genova” which is not Sicilian but nonetheless a favorite at our house. It is a simple recipe, we always have the ingredients on hand and it is tasty both hot and at room temperature.

Zucchini Alla Genovese


Six Small Zucchini, cut in half lengthwise (We like a little larger Zucchini so I used 3 larger Zucchini)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Clove Garlic, finely minced

Salt & Pepper

1/3 Cup Breadcrumbs

1 Teaspoon Dry Oregano

2 Tablespoons Grated Romano Cheese (can also use Parmigiano)



  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Scoop out Zucchini pulp. Put cored Zucchini in a baking dish. Chop pulp finely.
  3. Place oil in a sauté plan over medium heat. Add garlic, Zucchini pulp and salt and pepper. Sauté about 3 minutes until Zucchini is cooked. Remove from heat and cool. Add breadcrumbs, oregano and cheese.
  4. Fill cored Zucchini with the stuffing mixture.
  5. Pour ½ cup water mixed with 1teaspoon olive oil into the bottom of the baking sheet. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until breadcrumbs begin to brown.


Taganu 2014

In keeping with our Aragona tradition, we made our Taganu today. We are pleased with the result!

Un Mazzolin’ Di Fiori


Nina's Room

Nina’s Room

It’s the little things.

We usually have a bouquet of garden flowers in the house.   It is one of the little things we do that makes every day life a little nicer.

Our flowers are coming into full bloom and we are enjoying the show.

 Yesterday, my sister and I came home from work to find Un Mazzolin’ di Fiori (a small bouquet of flowers) in every room.   They are simple but lovely. We share them with you.


E PRIMAVERA! FACEMU U IARDINU’ It’s Spring! Let’s Plant a Garden!



I write a lot about my mother. We are lucky that she is with us. My father Carmelo, passed 13 years ago. Even though he is no longer physically with us he still touches our lives. He was first and foremost a family man, he loved his family, he loved his friends and he loved life.

“Fari u iardinu” or planting a garden is a direct connection to our father, who approached growing food, like everything else in his life, with enthusiasm and joy. It’s Spring and we are ready to plant a garden!

Camelo' s Garden

Carmelo’s Garden

I love a garden too!  Here is my garden…

Picking something from the garden and using it in the house is a huge source of satisfaction. We enjoy a garden bouquet of flowers, herbs for our cooking, and fresh, seasonal vegetables.

I inherited my father’s gardening gene. He loved a garden and he loved to garden. When he came home from a long day at work, he stopped to look at the garden before he came into the house. My father’s garden always produced beautiful vegetables.

We used to laugh, because he did not believe in growing anything that was not edible. He replaced the hostas with onions and fennel and planted mint along the side of the house.

He even tried to graft different apple varieties on the flowering crabapple tree. The wind and rain blew down his grafts, so the crabapple went and a cherry tree took its place. We had plums, pears and cherries. I learned to make plum jelly, how to can pears and make a cherry pie in ten minutes.

My garden is not as big or elaborate as my Dad’s and I am not a great gardener. We live in Southern California so we can garden all year. Though, I admit that I am a springtime gardener and my enthusiasm wanes when it gets too hot. I plant everything, and my mother takes care of the garden. She waters, picks and does most of the weeding.

I love pretty flowers, but like my father, I must have edibles in my garden. My strategy is to plant annual vegetables in my raised bed garden where I can do succession plantings without disturbing my perennial vegetables and herbs.

In addition to my little vegetable patch, along the perimeter of my garden, where the perennial flowers live, I have planted Garlic, Parsley, Fennel, Mint, Onions and Tomatoes. So my garden design is Geranium alongside Garlic, Lily of the Nile next to Parsley, Mr. Lincoln Rose next to Wild Fennel.

I try to garden organically and attempt to put the right plant in the right spot. We have the perfect spot next to the house for tomatoes. In fact, one of our tomato plants will not die. It lives between a rose bush and a Canna Lily. I planted it last spring. The plant has produced buckets of tomatoes all summer and winter and is still going strong. This year I trimmed the rose bush back and have added an heirloom tomato in that bed.

I am working on adding color and variety to my garden while improving the soil. I have added several garden beds and I am in the process of creating a new raised bed for vegetables. We have the best weather for gardening but the tradeoff is that our soil is miserable. Digging a hole is a backbreaking task because our soil is compacted clay.

Rather than killing myself trying to dig a garden, I use a method I saw in Better Homes and Gardens to create a new planting area. It takes time and patience, but it works and I have used this process for years.

Here are the steps:

1. Cover the desired area with several layers of newspaper (cardboard can also be used)
2. Cover the newspaper with 2-3 inches of compost. I use a combination of composted manure and planter mix.
3. Allow time and weather to do their work. After several months the grass underneath the bed decomposes and 6 – 8 inches of topsoil are created. The process generally takes three months in my climate.

So, I have a new raised bed “cooking.” We have fresh tender lettuce from the garden for salads, the finocchio (fennel) is almost ready for our St. Joseph pasta and my arugula seeds have sprouted. Yes! Let’s celebrate spring and plant something!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Our mother Lucia,  by simply living her life, teaches us every day what it is to be devoted to family. She lavishes us with love and care. She teaches us to enjoy simple things and she shows us what it means to be industrious and hard-working. 

She makes sure that we nurture our bodies and our souls, so we have a garden, cook from scratch and enjoy fresh flower bouquets in every room of the house.

 Thank you for all you do for us!

A Mother’s Hands…