A Host Mom



It’s not often that a well-admired cook and dedicated vegetable-eater, such as myself, discovers a new recipe to incorporate into the home meal repertoire.

This past June I was at an artist residency in Otranto, Italy, which is an ancient town way down on the heel of Puglia. Puglia–Bari to be specific–is the hometown of Raffaella, my very first Homestay student. We keep in touch. In fact Raffaella arranged for a driver to take me from Bari airport to my apartment in Otranto.

On  to food!

We celebrated my birthday ( June 4)  in Otranto, at Primo Restaurant. I was served “Zucchini a Scapece.”  Oh my!  It was so good: thin lengthwise strips of zucchini gently grilled and then marinated in a mint-garlic-olive oil sauce.  The dish was presented on a thin oblong plate with a sprinkling of crushed taralli.

During the next month I went back 3 times to Primo just to eat Scapece.

Back home in Cambridge I have reproduced the Scapece. I use the marinade for not only zucchini but also carrots and eggplant.  Today I am doing a  vegetable “mista a Scapece”


  • A generous bunch of mint
  • Several cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 – 1 cup good olive oil
  • sea salt ( i use mineral rich  Si salt)
  • –sometimes add a bit of water or broth from steaming the vegetables
  • Pulverize ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Pour the marinade over vegetables and let sit–refrigerate if the weather is hot– for several hours, or longer.


  • I steam the zucchini and carrots rather than fry.
  • I stove top grill the eggplant.
  • Whatever vegetables you use, make a big batch and enjoy it over 3 days.
  • Sometimes, when there is a lot of marinade left in the bottom of the bowl,  I re-use the Scapece  a second time, pouring it over a fresh batch of vegetable.




Matt enjoying Saturday lunch: Incredibly delicious  mushroom-anchovy pasta; what was leftover from the Friday night's dinner

Matt enjoying Saturday lunch: Incredibly delicious mushroom-anchovy pasta; what was leftover from the Friday night’s dinner

When I first met the man who would end up being my husband, I told him I could prepare pasta 10,000 different ways.  His eyebrows lifted and his heart opened.

I was the woman he wanted to spend his life with.

Now, after 25 plus years of marriage, my pasta continues to tantalize and amaze my husband— as well as the international students who stay with us.

Friday is always past night.

Here is one preparation that no one forgets– it is lush in its depth ( the anchovy) wild  ( the mushrooms), fresh (the parsley and pepper) and totally satisfying. You’ll dream about it and wake up wanting more.


  • 1 box linguine
  • 1 can flat anchovies
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces dried wild & or porcini mushrooms
  • 1T shoyu or tamari
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
  • 6-7 cremini (or white) mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • Reggiano Parmigiano cheese
  1. Soften the dried mushrooms in 3/4  cup lukewarm water for 20 minutes, then add about 5 chopped fresh mushrooms, a T of the olive oil,  the shoyu, pinch of salt and a dash or pepper and simmer over low heat in small pot for 10 minutes.
  2. Puree mushroom & liquid in a vegetable mill or food processor with some of the and set aside.
  3. Heat the rest of the oil in a large sauté ( or paella) pan and lightly brown the thinly sliced garlic.
  4. As soon as the garlic has browned add the remainder of the mushrooms after having cut each of the mushrooms in half and thinly slicing the caps and stems.
  5. When mushrooms have released their juices, add the pureed mushroom liquid to the pan. Stir for one minute over high heat
  6. Remove from heat, add the finely chopped anchovies
  7.  Salt and pepper to taste and keep warm
  8. Meanwhile, cook the linguine in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water for the time indicated on the package
  9. Drain the pasta and dress with the sauce prepared as above, adding the chopped parsley  and freshly ground black pepper at the last minute and mixing well
  10. Serve immediately with or without freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiano cheese :)

Serves four

USEFUL INFORMATION for all cooks. When you do something like this…put a lid from one pan that is cooking on the stove onto another pan–that you need to cover only for a short time: BEWARE.  The lid and pan, depending on size and weight, may create a vacuum. Like a pressure cooker lid without the rubber, gauges and release valve.

I couldn’t get the lid off the pan! I waited an hour. NO success.

Here’s what worked for me.

LId is so stuck in the pan. Tried to tap it, knock it, pry it and turned it upside down under running water. NADA

LId is so stuck in the pan. Tried to tap it, knock it, pry it and turned it upside down under running water. NADA


Now…I thought..Shrink the lid ( which was warm, even after an hour ). Put ice cubes around edge of lid.


Hmmm. Now heat the pan. But how quickly? I decided medium flame. While it was heating I continued to pull and pry the lid. NADA. However, at a certain point the lid released. Easily.


Lid no longer stuck.

Big suitcase for a petite girl.



I know how the Japanese girls stay so slim. First of all they don’t eat too much.  When Atsumi was living with us she NEVER filled her plate with second helpings.  What she put on her plate she ate; not more.  She liked this salad and said it tasted very Japanese.

Its main ingredient is daikon.  Daikon absorbs fat, clears mucus and aids digestion. Among all the vegetable crops, only radish, daikon and horse radish are capable of cleansing liver and kidneys.

You will notice that when you order tempura in a Japanese restaurant it is always accompanied by a small pile of grated daikon.


  • 2 medium or 1 large daikon, trimmed of greens, peeled
  • 2 medium carrots peeled
  • One lemon, peeled with a zester to get long thin strips of the yellow skin
  • 1 t. sugar
  • 1/2 plus 1/4 t. sea salt
  • Juice of the lemon
  • 1 T rice vinegar

Slice diakon diagonally into long thin, coins.  Do the same with the carrots. Then stack a few “coins” ( as many as you can efficiently handle) and slice crosswise into thin sticks, resulting in a stack of veggies the size of matchsticks.

Put daikon and carrot “matchsticks” into a bowl.  Sprinkle with 1/2 t. salt. Add the zested lemon peel strips. Massage the matchsticks for about a minute.  This step begins the release of the enzymes in the daikon.  Let the vegetables sit for a least 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, rice vinegar, sugar, and 1/4 t salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Pour over vegetables.  Let sit for one hour.

Serves four.

The daikon radish is also known as a Chinese radish. It is a long cylindrical white root, shaped much like a carrot. You can find it in Oriental food marts, Whole Foods, and maybe even your local grocery store.


We have a Japanese student coming to live with us for a month. ( Usually the students stay longer. ) Consequently, I am brushing up on my hot weather Japanese foods, first, so she that will be tasting something familiar; secondly, because the Japanese do vegetables with little or no fat and oil, a welcome taste on hot day; and, third, there’s a lot of farm-fresh, local eggplants right now.

Use long thin Japanese eggplant, Italian eggplant, or round Asian eggplant to make this summer dish.

I have used this marinade on a plate sliced eggplant and tomato; on  whole boiled carrots; sliced beets; and on lightly steamed onions and green peppers.  We haven’t used it on zucchini yet, but surely it will work.

A little marinade goes a long way. Light, refreshing and a bit of zing makes it very satisfying. Leftovers are terrific.  Serve marinated veggies cool, or room temp, with rice, edamame, and cucumbers for simple summer lunch/dinner.

Store jar of marinade in fridge to be used as needed (during one week). Use as much or as little marinade as pleases you on any particular day.


  •  2 T peeled and minced ginger
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup shoyu
  • 1/4 cup mirin ( if you can’t find mirin then use sugar)
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  1.  Mince the ginger and onion with a knife.  You can also  choose to put the onion and ginger in small food processor but do not shred them, chop them.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil.
  3. Transfer marinade to a jar and let cool.
  4. Cover and refrigerate.

Before serving pour marinade over vegetable, toss, and let sit for several hours.

ON EGGPLANT AND TOMATO  Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Either sprinkle with coarse salt and put in colander or soak the eggplant in salted water. ( this step pulls out bitterness). Wash off extra salt.Pat eggplant dry. Grill eggplant halves over charcoal or on stove top in a grill pan put over a heat diffuser; use a lid. No need for oil.  When cooked, cut eggplant into strips.  Remove skin.Cut tomatoes into cubes. Arrange eggplant strips on tray.  Sprinkle with tomato.  Toss with marinade. (Or put everything in a container, toss with marinade and serve later.) Garnish with simple basil leaf.

ON BOILED CARROTS.  Choose good-looking, organic  carrots that are the same size. Scrub them. No need to peel.  Boil in a flat pot– I use a stainless steel frying pan– for about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness. Place in a flat serving dish with short sides.  Spoon some marinade on the carrots when they are room temp. Garnish with delicate fennel fonds or parsley.



Beautiful girls: dark-haired Gabriella and my striking red-haired daughter.

When I make this dish I think of Gabriella, the lovely Mexican girl who lived with us during the summer, who taught me to make guacamole with a secret ingredient ( milk!).

This dish is traditionally made with pork–or chicken.  I make a vegan version that sings. The “cool” toppings, placed on the “hot & spicy” soup make this a thrill to eat and fun dish to make for a large gathering.

Some Mexican families prepare this for Christmas Eve.  For me, it’s a perfect food for a damp, cool New England spring day, or any time there’s a party. NOT MANY CALORIES in this very satisfying stew ( all veggies), especially if you pile on the garnishes.

  • 2 cups dried posole soaked overnight or for 2 nights  ( I use blue posole**)
  • 6 qt. water
  • 3 Tbs. grapeseed or corn oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and into thin slices crosswise
  • 1  butternut squash, cut in half length-wise and into thin slices crosswise
  • 1 can diced tomatos
  • 1 red chile, 1 green chile ( mild to spicy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. saffron
  • 1-2 t salt
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

FOR GARNISHES ( present on the table  on a big tray, so guests and family can garnish their posole as they please)

  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • 1 avocado cubed
  • 1 lime cut into wedges
  • extra chopped fresh oregano and thyme
  • extra hot peppers ( if you dare!)

1. Soak dried posole overnight or for two nights in 1 quart water Drain posole, and discard soaking water.

2. Place posole in large pot of water to cover by 3 inches. Bring posole to a boil. Reduce heat, cook uncovered for 11/2  to 2 hours, or until kernels burst and are puffy and tender. Add water during cooking, if needed. Drain posole.

3. Heat oil in 6-quart pot over medium-high heat, and sauté onion until transparent about 7 minutes. Add garlic, zucchini, butternut and canned tomatoes, and sauté 3 minutes more.

  1. Add posole, red & green chiles,  bay leaves, vegetable broth and saffrom. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low, cooking 30 minutes. Add oregano, thyme and salt, and continue cooking 30 minutes more, adding more water if needed. Serve hot in large soup bowls.
  2. Everyone adds their garnish.

    Getting ready to party with posole. Gabriella in green.

Serves about 10

About 120 calories per cup ( garnishes are all low-cal except avocado)

You can freeze extra



kale satisfies bitter taste buds

My Indonesian-daughter, Nuke, likes to put hot sauce on just about everything.  I keep a big bottle of  Fong Food Sriracha (rooster on  label) in my fridge for her. Bitter is her favorite taste. And anything with coconut sends her memories back to her island and birth town of Surabaya.

This kale dish makes her very happy. It combines the slightly bitter taste of kale, the cool creamy tropical feel of coconut and the hot fire of cayenne. Lemon adds both sourness and helps the sauce penetrate the kale during marinade. Paprika gives the sauce redness and an interesting, mild piquantness.

BTW: This dish is always a hit at potlucks; I prepared it once year for Thanksgiving and the 20-somethings kept going back for more.

What did you put in that kale? they asked.


  •  1 bunch of kale
  • 1  13.5-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 T kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 to 1/4 t ground cayenne, depending upon your taste for “hot”
  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Wash the kale and cut out the stalks. ( I fold them in half and carve out the stalk.) Rip the wide kale leaves into leaf-sized pieces

2. Heat the coconut milk i a medium saucepan until it is thoroughly mixed and just lukewarm. Transfer to a large, nonreactive bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Stir in the kale, cover with plastic wrap or downturned plate and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. In the winter, if your kitchen counter is cool, it’s fine to let the bowl remain on the counter. Stir every now and then to keep leaves coated with coconut mixture.

Preheat oven to 400. a grill or a cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Stir kale to make sure the leaves are well covered in marinade. Place  an uncrowded layer of kale–a single layer–on a cookie sheet. Bake  for 8 minutes, or until the leaves have turned a bright green and have softened.  Best if served immediately.  Also fine served at room temperature.

4 generous servings, about 175 calories

The world is in good hands.


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Add to Technorati Favorites
MyFreeCopyright.com Registered & Protected
American Host Mother

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers