A Remarkable Dinner & A Recipe

More than anything, this is a memory of a dinner. A memory of dinner with my Dad and my family. Memory helps to keep the past alive. Dad, though gone from this life, lives on in us–those at this dinner table.

It was the most unusual place.

A restaurant tucked away on a seldom-traveled street near the Massachusetts and New Hampshire borderline. Today, I am no longer sure of what state we were in!

Was there a sign? I do not recall. If there was a sign it was rather small; as was the restaurant.

There were no waiters or waitresses, nor busboys. There was the owner, The Chef.

“Is this your first time here?”

“Yes,” we answered. There were my sisters, Michelle and Darlene. Their husbands, Stuart and Paul. My niece, Nina. My ex, Betsy, and our children, Danielle and Daryl. My brother, Dennis and his wife, Debbie. And there was my beloved Dad, Alfred (aka Fred) Barone.

“Put yourselves in my hands,” said Chef. “I’ll cook some special things just for you and then I’ll bring them out, one-at-a-time. Appetizers. Little bites. Maybe some scallops to start. And Beet Tartare with Capers, Mustard and Shallots. Homemade breads and Extra Virgin Olive Oil  from Tuscany. Then some pasta. Ravioli. Tortellini. Anyone like Lobster Sauce? (We all nodded yes.) And then I’ll bring you your special entrees. You can share. Veal Scallopini. Eggplant Parmesan. Seared Baby Squid with Parsley and Garlic. Sauteed Quail with Mustard and Garlic. And deserts, of course.”

The kitchen was just a few steps away. And there were only a few tables in the restaurant. Maybe seven or eight; at the most ten small tables. All different in shape and size. The room I recall was dark; red brick–I have photographs, somewhere. There was a painting of Jesus on the Cross and across the room there were landscapes and maybe a portrait. It was eclectic but comforting, like instruments in an orchestra all working together to create a masterpiece.

The meal–the event–was a masterpiece. The little bites just kept coming out from the kitchen. And Chef would say, “Are you all enjoying your evening?”

Did I mention the hot bruschetta topped with garlic, basil and tomatoes? The olives and marinated eggplant?

I felt, we all felt, as if we were at home eating together in our kitchen–in Fred’s Kitchen; Dad’s Kitchen. It was that special. We drank wine, of course, all recommendations from Chef, and my children drank wine, too. Reds in large glasses. Bon Appetit!

The restaurant is no longer there but Chef has opened a new restaurant. If I ever open a restaurant it would be just like this most unusual place–or it will be a Food Truck–and I will call it Bruce’s Kitchen and I will serve with love healthy and inspired food for everyday celebrations.

Here, have some soup.

“I feel like having soup for dinner,” said Susan.
So I made Ribollita, which means ‘re-cooked’ in Italy, and slow cooking is the secret of this hearty winter vegetable soup designed for wood stoves or back burners. There are many different recipes, but most Tuscan recipes call for cavolo nero – black leaf kale – the closest substitute being savoy (red) cabbage – and cannellini – tuscan white beans – the closest substitute being Great Northern beans. There are many variations, try the one that seems the most appealing to you. A specialty of Tuscany, this hearty bean and vegetable soup is served all over Florence in the winter. I used store-bought kale but you could substitute Savoy.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium red onions, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme
14 oz canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 lb Tuscan kale, trimmed and sliced
1 small day-old or toasted ciabatta loaf, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper
Heat oil in large saucepan and cook onions, carrots, and celery for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook for an additional few minutes, until the vegetables are golden and caramelized.
Add the cannellini beans and tomatoes. Add stock to cover. Bring to a boil and add kale and cook for 20-30 minutes, until kale is cooked. Stir in bread (or serve as side to sop). The soup should be thick.
Ladle into warmed serving bowls and serve hot, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, and Parmesan cheese–if you desire. Serve with red wine. And LOVE!
Recipe from “Soup Bowl.” Love Food books, an imprint of Parragon Books Ltd. ’07

 Do you have a favorite and beautiful  memory about your family? I would love to hear about it!