Remembering Peter

On a recent visit with Peter, I read this as well as other stories of our life in Los Banos (posted in my blog)  Peter was quite a guy. Peter gifted me a field of pumpkins so I could prepare squash flowers for my Father, Farmers and Friends who ate at the ‘Round’ Table at La Famiglia , my Los Banos deli and ristorante (1979-1986). Here’s the story posted in 2009:

In the early years, bankers, farmers, salesmen and businessmen met at the Cup N’ Saucer, a downtown coffee shop in my hometown of Los Banos. They joined each other mainly at Lunch at the ‘Round Table’, a large round table on the right as you entered. After the Cup and Saucer closed, they found other dining ‘conference’ tables, Tiny’s, Denny’s and at my ristorante and delicatessen, La Familglia. They sat in the back at the antique poker table. This was a farmer’s exchange, farmers, fertilizer salesmen, truckers, packers, they were all there: Joe Vajretti, Shawn Moosekian, Bugs Haumea, Peter LoBue, Tony Mogolio, Ralph Palazzo, and more.

My interest was to feed them. Favorite meals were perfectly cooked roast beef, served room temp with thick sliced vine-ripened tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and topped with chopped capers, onions and anchovies; on the side, good crusty bread.

All of us welcomed the season’s freshest pick. We could never get enough of one favorite,  squash flowers. One day my Dad commented to Peter LoBue, “Peter, why don’t you plant a row of pumpkins so Nancy has squash flowers to prepare?” Peter responded, “OK, Papa Joe, I’ll see what I can do.” I grew up with Peter; he’s always been a big thinker. Shortly thereafter, at lunch at the Round Table Peter announced that he had planted a field of pumpkins on 152 West of town! I would have squash blossoms and he would have a pumpkin patch to offer the pumpkins for sale in the Fall.

Mornings are the best time to pick because the flowers are wide open. Every day I traveled with my dog Lester to the pumpkin patch. While Lester romped in the field, I picked squash blossoms. To pick them doesn’t require much skill; just to know the ones with the stamen are the males. They will not produce fruit.  I would pick the flower at its stem including the green webbed bell shaped base. Once picked, I placed them upside down and side by side in a basket. For me, to come away from the field with forty blossoms is a victory for my farmer’s lunches. Off to the deli I would go.

The Recipe:  Fior d’ Italia  Squash Blossoms

To prepare, remove the stamen, peel away the base of the flower, gently rinse the inside and outside with water and place upside down in a large colander. At this point the flowers can be placed in the refrigerator covered with a damp cloth.

For the crepe batter, we use Mom’s sweet crepe batter eliminating the sugar for a savory rendition. For the filling, I tried several types of cheese; my favorite is the original Jack cheese.

To prepare the flowers, open the flower and fill with a piece of Jack cheese. Reserve them on a damp towel. We eliminated frying and opted griddling. Preheat the griddle and brush with vegetable oil. Dip the filled flowers in the batter, lay on the griddle. If the batter is too thick, thin with milk. The look of the stuffed squash blossom is to see the flowers lightly coated so the veins are visible. Cook until the color and consistency of a cooked pancake or crepe.  Flip over and cook on the other side.  Serve as a hors d’oeuvre, side dish, vegetable or for brunch.

 

 

 

 

From field to platter….

Beautiful, fresh from pumpkin fields now from above….SQUASH FLOWERS!!

Missing you forever Peter, Love Nancy

 

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My Favorite Spring Picnic

Of all the picnics I will attend and cater, the benchmark is my family’s Easter Picnic at Quinta Fay (a magical place).

At any good get together, a certain vibe ignites. The combustible ingredients are the holy trinity of perfect parties: the location, the guests and the food. This year, as well as last, a new vibe, babies! … a fresh Spring crop of babies from nephews and nieces, our babies had babies and the circle of life continues. Conversation, connections, music, magic tricks and even a survey and mini juried art show filled the air. Did I mention the food? The food is always amazing and as diverse as our group. This year even more so, I think babies had something to do with it.

I especially want to thank our honored hosts Peter and Lenore without whom Quinta Fay would not exist as our Easter picnic ‘grounds’. For catered Spring Picnics, Love and Garlic can create the food and decor,  but you must bring your own babies! 

 Love and Garlic,  Nancy Vajretti

Roasted Garlic Deviled Eggs w/ Tapanade

 

 

Roasted Eggplant-Bells-&-Herb Goat Cheese

Bob’s Armenian String Cheese & Yolanchi

 

Bob’s Hummus

 

Easter Pie & /vegetarian Version Ricotta Quiche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBQ Spring Lamb

 

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Of Easter Pie & Spring Picnics…it’s a TRADITION!

   

To know Nancy is to know how much I love Easter Pie and the traditions ‘Of Easter Pie & Spring Picnics’. It’s a tradition! Each year my family and I ‘gather and cook’ Easter Pie and the vegetarian version, Ricotta Quiche. Thanks to Love & Garlic’s  commissary and our PRODUCTION COOKING methods, the ‘fruits of our labor’ yield 36 Easter Pies and 20 Ricotta Quiche (oh yes, Generation 3, are vegetarians). It’s a tradition! Each year we give the gift of food’ …adorable, precious, scrumptious handcrafted pies to our family and friends .  It’s a tradition! Each year we ‘gather’ friends and family at a historic ranch in Gustine for our annual ‘Rite of Spring’ Easter Picnic. This tradition and the foods we eat come from the cooking of the Great San Joaquin, Spring lamb, Portuguese beans, rosemary garlic chicken, Greek salad, Asparagus, polenta, and on and on. Peter brings the big bbq rig, the guys bbq and the day begins. Guests from all areas and walks of life enter into the Spanish inspired hacienda and gardens of our hosts. Everyone brings delectable foods, we visit, drink Sangria and fine wines, ’tis the Rite of our Spring Picnic. JOIN OUR EASTER TRADITIONS…

Gather 12 of your friends for our Production Cooking class. You receive 24 Easter Pies & 12 Ricotta Quiche  $60 per person

Give the Gift of Food, 2 lb half pies, $19.50 and 4 lb round pies, $29.50.

Gather family and friends for a ‘Easter Spring Picnic’. We will offer a true picnic and send you with baskets of foods and supplies for 12 and up or we will recreate, ‘basque’ style, a bbq on the open grill… lamb and chicken  along with the foods of the Great San Joaquin…24 minimum. The price, around $20.00- $35 per person. Prices will vary depending on menu and services. Read more…

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12 Foods of Christmas #3

This is my husband Rick singing: “On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a big fat pan of  Artichoke Lasagna w/cheeeese, yummm!”

A La Famiglia Myth: When I had my Deli, ‘La Famiglia’ in Los Banos, I learned that if a woman was with child and wanted to give birth, she ordered a big helping of our La Famiglia Lasagna, seemed it was a remedy for inducing labor. Still in wonder, my ladies would call to say that after eating a large quantity of this layered goodness, they had given birth! You don’t have to be carrying a belly full of baby to enjoy our artisan Artichoke meatless lasagna. For friends, relatives, partners and employees,  it is a great gift of food. Bring it to a Holiday ‘potluck’ or serve it to your family for dinner, it freezes well and also heats up quickly in the microwave.   

 

FUN FOOD FACT

Burt Wolf, noted food historian has said that Rome is like a lasagna: The foundation is the Ancient City, followed by the Renaissance in all its glory. Next, Rome, the City of La Dolce Vita, according to Burt, is the peppering of cheese and spice of life. I never thought of lasagna as Rome’s layers of history but as they say in Roma, ‘ma certo!’

SPECIAL!

If you order 6 pans Pumpkin Ravioli or Lasagna, they are $30 ea and for ten, $26.50 ea. Gift the Gift of Food!                Love & Garlic, Nancy V

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The 12 Foods of Christmas, #2

Cannelloni “a partner’s perk”

On the second day of Christmas my sister gave to me, an order for our handcrafted  cannelloni…

Every Holiday between Christmas and New Years, my sister orders gift cannelloni for Dr. John’s partners. They love this partner “perk,”  a wonderful gift of food to share with family and friends, it’s a tradition!

Cute story of family lore: During the many years of cooking w/my Mom, she would say, “Nancy, promise never to change my classic recipes.” I have diligently respected Mom’s recipes and especially her method, however, as eating habits changed, I realized the need to update Mom’s recipe, for example, to create a vegetarian version. Even in our family, we have vegetarian preferences. Family applaud the upated versions reflecting vegetarian tastes. As a result, our hand crafted cannelloni are available in three varieties: Artichoke sauced with an Artichoke Cream, Porcini Mushroom sauced with a Porcini Cream and Mom’s Classic Roasted Chicken or Veal w/ Spinach.  Our cannelloni are special order so please call early to give us time to prepare. Order your handcrafted traditional and updated versions today.  Give the gift of food from Love & Garlic California Artisan Foods & Catering.

FUN FOOD FACT

St. Stephen’s Day, December 26, is a traditional holiday in Catalonia. It is celebrated right after Christmas, with a feast including canelons. They are small pasta ‘pipes’stuffed with ground meat from the escudella i carn d’olla, turkey or capon of the previous day (Christmas dinner).

TO SEE MORE OF LOVE & GARLIC  www.loveandgarlic.com our site is filled w/ event photos and much more!

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Precious Memories of Thanksgiving Traditions…

Past traditions loom large in my mind each and every Holiday. Our family legacies are riveted with lots of laughter and lore. I must share a blog from Thanksgiving 2009, the year we would celebrate our first Thanksgiving without Mom & Dad.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Seems odd that I would post our Thanksgiving recipes on Sunday after the four day holiday, but I have a reason. This Thanksgiving would be a first for our family; we would celebrate the traditions our parents established, however, this year our parents were not at our family table. They were present spiritually and we celebrated them, our heritage, our family recipes and the great stories of the Vajretti Family legacy. Our greatest legacy, of course, is our Mom’s cooking. This Thanksgiving was our maiden voyage, no Mom to instruct us. After all, Mom always made the turkey, stuffing and gravy. Not to say that we cannot cook but like my sis said, “You don’t know how it is to look around to get Mom’s reinforcement and realize, she’s not there.” Her lessons resonate, however, and the stories we tell. 

This is the reason I started this blog. I want to share the stories, the ‘lessons, legacy and lore’ from my heritage and the history of growing up in the great Central San Joaquin Valley. The ‘Cooking Secrets of the Lazy V’ are my Mom’s teachings and recipes. I hope to tell these stories as well as all the great ‘stories’! of growing up in the great San Joaquin Valley.   

Here are our essential Thanksgiving recipes and one Mom Thanksgiving story:

“From here to Fresno”

Several years ago, I was writing the recipe for roasting a turkey. I recalled that Mom would ‘hold’ her turkey for a set time, one of her ‘cooking secrets’. At a point, we moved our family dinners to Fresno since John our brother-in-law would be ‘on call’. With Dad as Mom’s prep chef and helper, Mom would dress her turkey Thursday mornings, roast the turkey and come to Fresno with the turkey, dressing and gravy. Typical of the cooking relationship we had and curious as to how long Mom would hold the turkey, I called my Mother, “Ma!”  She would answer, “What!?” “I have a cooking question.” “What is it?” she would say. I explained to her my question, how long would you hold the turkey? She simply answered, “Well, Nancy, I hold the turkey ‘from here to Fresno’!” Yes, I thought. This is true according to the tradition and ‘story’. Mom would take the turkey out of the oven, wrap the roasting pan in a blanket, place it in the trunk of the car and allow it to rest ‘from here to Fresno!’ We tested the recipes with our Mother’s blessings. They worked! We applied  Mom’s techniques and lessons. Perhaps you will honor Mom and her ‘tried and true’ ‘Cooking Secrets of the Lazy V’  

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 ‘FARM TABLE FRESH    LESSONS LEGACY & LORE  

THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS                             

ROASTING A TURKEY  (#96)

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 DEGREES

THE INGREDIENTS

JUICE FROM 1 LEMON
1 CUBE BUTTER

SALT AND FRESH GROUND PEPPER

1 TURKEY 18-22 POUNDS

 

THE METHOD OF COOKING

  1. SELECT A TURKEY OF YOUR CHOOSING. FRESH IS ALWAYS BEST. TOMS ARE PREFERRED. REMOVE THE PLASTIC WRAPPING AND THE NECK AND INNARDS FROM THE CAVITY. REMOVE ANY FAT AND THE WING TIPS. RESERVE FOR BROTH.
  2. SPRINKLE THE TURKEY WITH SALT AND MASSAGE INTO THE TURKEY. LET THE
    TURKEY SET FOR THIRTY MINUTES. RINSE THE TURKEY WITH COLD WATER.
    DRAIN BY SETTING THE TURKEY UP ON ITS HIND QUARTERS.
  3. RUB LEMON JUICE ON THE INSIDE AND OUTSIDE OF THE TURKEY INCLUDING THE CAVITY AND THE NECK CAVITY. AT THIS POINT YOU CAN COVER AND REFRIGERATE.
  4. TO STUFF THE TURKEY, LIGHTLY SALT AND PEPPER THE TURKEY INCLUDING THE CAVITY. STUFF THE CAVITY AND THE NECK WITH DRESSING. 
  5. TRUSS THE TURKEY USING STAINLESS PINS. INSERT THE PINS ACROSS THE OPENINGS HORIZONTALLY, ONE INCH APART. WITH KITCHEN STRING, LACE UP THE OPENING WEAVING THE STRING THROUGH THE PINS.
  6. TUCK THE TURKEY TAIL INTO THE END OPENING. INSERT TWO NEEDLES VERTICALLY ON EITHER SIDE OF THE OPENING. THIS SHOULD HOLD THE TAIL IN PLACE AND THE STUFFING INSIDE.
  7. MELT 1 CUBE OF BUTTER. COVER THE TURKEY WITH THE MELTED BUTTER. GENEROUSLY PEPPER THE TURKEY
  8. PLACE A TURKEY ROASTING RACK IN THE BOTTOM OF A ROASTING PAN. PLACE THE TURKEY BREAST SIDE DOWN INTO THE RACK. ADD 2 CUPS WATER OR BROTH IN THE ROASTING PAN. 
  9. TENT WITH FOIL SEALING THE EDGES AROUND THE ROASTING PAN.
  10.  PLACE THE TURKEY IN THE PRE-HEATED 400 DEGREE OVEN AND ROAST FOR ONE HOUR.
  11. AFTER ONE HOUR, CHECK THE LIQUID IN THE ROASTING PAN. ADD ½ CUP BROTH OR WATER IF LESS THAN ONE CUP.
  12.  LOWER THE HEAT TO 325 DEGREES. ROAST FOR UP TO 4 HOURS FOR A 22 LB TURKEY. BASTE WITH THE JUICES FROM THE ROASTING PAN EVERY HALF HOUR. ADD BROTH OR WATER AS THE LIQUID REDUCES.
  13. REMOVE THE FOIL TENT THE LAST HALF HOUR OF COOKING AND BASTE.
  14. AFTER 3 ½ TO 4 HOURS DEPENDING ON THE WEIGHT OF THE TURKEY (18-22 LBS) REGISTERING 165 DEGREES FOR THE BREAST AND STUFFING AND 175 FOR THE DARK MEAT, REMOVE THE TURKEY FROM THE OVEN.
  15. COVER WITH FOIL.  ALLOW TO REST FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES (OR FROM LOS BANOS TO FRESNO). THE TURKEY WILL CONTINUE TO COOK AND AS A RESULT, REMAIN MOIST!

Love and Garlic, Nancy Vajretti celebrating Mom & The Cooking Secrets of the Lazy V!

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Easter Pie 2011 ‘Tradition, Tradition!’

 

IMG_2938convertedSee Nancy on KSEE 24

  http://www.ksee24.com/features/central-valley-today/Love-120287689.html

ksee 24 Read more…

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Another Rite of Passage Connor & Kris’ Easter Pie session

Conner & Kris a right of passage begins

Conner & Kris a right of passage begins


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Rite of Passage, Easter Pie

 

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My youngest niece

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LESSONS LEGACY AND LORE ROAD TRIPS & ROADSIDE PICNICS

As a child when we traveled, the freeways were not developed. ‘Road trips’ were the norm. Vividly, I recall that Dad would hang the burlap insulated water carrier over the hood ornament. The air cooled the water for our roadside picnics and five thirsty travelers. Mom was famous for her roadside picnics. She would fill the galvanized bright red ice chest with Coca Cola written in white on the side. My favorite roadside picnic food was simply Mom’s hard boiled eggs. She didn’t peel the eggs, we did. She handed us the salt shaker and after a sprinkle, I ate the best chilled hard boiled egg every time. No table, no chairs, no picnic grounds…this was our minimalist roadside picnic.

Now when Rick and I travel, our memories seep into present day. Warmly, Rick’s family enjoyed roadside picnics, too. For Rick, his ultimate picnic food was his Mom’s baloney and cheese sandwich. Rick describes this sandwich as baloney sliced from the loaf by our local butcher. Then, this could have been my Uncle Richard or Ray, Uncle’s partner. Rick says his Mom was very particular about the cheese, being Dairymen and came from our local Dairyman’s Store. The rest of the ingredients were Rainbow white bread, sliced tomatoes from Mary’s garden, iceberg lettuce, Best Food’s Mayonnaise and French’s Mustard. Yep, that’s the way it had to be. I can count on it. About twenty minutes into our road travel, Rick will say, “You know what I’m in the mood for? A baloney and cheese sandwich!”

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