Archive | March, 2012

The Fazool Trilogy: Part Two

30 Mar

Part Two of the Fazool Trilogy features a dish that I have never seen on a restaurant menu anywhere. And I wonder why? Thankfully, my grandmother, known in the family as “Nanny,”  introduced me to the tiny legume and the hearty, almost meat-like broth it made when cooked and then combined with broken bits of spaghetti.

When I would call to say I was coming over for lunch, she would say, “I’ll make lentichhie. Or ceci.” (Pasta e Ceci). The pasta part was a given.  She would serve a big bowl  with her homemade loaf bread and a salad; the lunch would fortify me easily until dinner.

As I have said, there were never any written recipes.  And back when I was younger, I didn’t really pay attention to what went into Nanny’s meals. It was the end result that was my only concern.

So now  I’ve tried my best to recreate her simple, Calabrese dishes. There always, however, seems to be something missing. I can never exactly duplicate what I remember. Still, I get close enough to continue trying.

Pasta e Lenticchie

1lb bag of dried lentils (Some use the fancy French lentils, but fancy was not in Nanny’s vocabulary;. She used, and so do I, the basic green, most inexpensive lentils).

1 onion-diced

2 garlic cloves-minced

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

6-8 cups chicken broth or water, or a combination of both. (The more liquid, the soupier the dish, which, in this case, is not a bad thing. It just depends on your mood and taste).

1 cup plum tomatoes, chopped, juice retained.

½ lb of spaghetti, broken into 1 inch pieces (you can also use tubetti, ditalini, or small elbows)

4 tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper

Grated pecorino Romano or Parmesean  Reggiano.

1 secret ingredient (the picture of which, you will find below).*

Name that ingredient.

Rinse the lentils in cold water a few times to remove any dirt or grit.

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.

Sauté the onions until soft; about five minutes over medium heat.

Add the garlic and thyme for another one to two minutes.

Toss in the lentils and sauté for about a minute.

Pour in the chicken broth/water and the tomatoes.

Add the bay leaf.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Cook for about 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft, but not mushy.

You can add the spaghetti and cook it with the lentils, but I prefer to cook them separately.

So, in another pot, boil water and add the spaghetti pieces. Cook until al dente, drain, but reserve a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid.

Add the spaghetti pieces and the remains of the pasta cooking liquid to the lentils.

Stir, and cook for another minute or two.

Scoop into bowls.

Top with grated cheese and a little chopped parsely.

Enjoy with crusty bread and a salad

Pasta e lenticchie

*You correctly guessed the secret ingredient as a parmesean Reggiano rind. I  really don’t know what the rind adds to the dish; many include one when they make Sunday sauce and pasta e fagioli (Part Three of the Trilogy  to come).  If nothing else, the rind imparts a salty, aged flavor to the creation that maybe is just in our heads. Or maybe not. If you have one lying around, toss it in. It won’t hurt the dish.

Adventures in Chow City: The First Decade

27 Mar

This past January, our group celebrated ten years of traveling New York City’s environs searching for mostly unheralded, inexpensive, usually ethnic eating establishments. To honor this very important anniversary, we hoped to gather at a place somewhat representative of the restaurants we had been visiting the past decade. We were looking for something maybe slightly more broadly appealing than a place where cow foot soup and goat belly were the signature dishes. And since this was supposed to be a special occasion, we also decided to invite spouses, partners, significant others; anyone our members wanted to bring along.

Gerry recommended an old time Italian place in Mount Vernon, just over the Bronx border, called the Lincoln Lounge. From his description; “good pizza—old school, family-style Italian in a run down neighborhood with a full bar,” the Lincoln Lounge sounded exactly what we were looking for.

It took numerous group emails to nail down a date when all could attend. And then things happened. A wife dropped out due to family obligations; a girlfriend couldn’t come because of a conflict until we got an email from Rick saying “Sounds like its turning stag. Should we just commit to no wimmin?”

We never did commit to it, but as it turned out, no “wimmin” were in attendance.

And on the appointed day, neither was Rick; a family emergency denying him our celebration.

To make up for the loss of Rick, we were graced with the presence of original member, Charlie, who left us in 2005 for the greener pastures of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.

It was a Friday night and the Lincoln Lounge was mobbed with large groups; the small bar two deep with “regulars,” including one uniformed policeman who ate at the bar with his bullet-proof vest on and gun holstered around his waist.

No room at the Lincoln Lounge bar.

After we were seated; cramped in a corner, we quickly ordered a sausage pizza and here the Lincoln Lounge did not disappoint. With its thin crust, sauce bursting with flavor, nicely charred crust topped with fresh sausage; the pie, as it turned out was the highlight of the meal.

Lincoln Lounge’s excellent pie.

The antipasto salad, a bowl of greens topped with provolone, sopressata, and olives and doused in a vinegary dressing was passable while the steamed clams in white wine and garlic, standard and more than acceptable.

The calamari pasta, however, along with the shrimp scampi were disappointments. Apparently, when the dishes at the Lincoln Lounge are advertised as family style, they don’t mean our gluttonous family.

The shrimp, of which here they most definitely count, were barely enough for each of us to get a taste. As it turned out, a taste was more than enough.

The modest amount of spaghetti adorned with a light tomato broth and tiny pieces of calamari was devoid of flavor.

Calamari compromised

Zio shook his head as he gazed at the miniature calamari.  “I like big fat calamari rings,” he said. “Not these little ones.”

“Was it really worth slaughtering baby squid for this?” I questioned indicating the “family-sized” platter.

“Yeah, it’s inhumane,” Gerry said as he speared one with his fork.

Thankfully, the pork chops with peppers and onions were good enough to almost redeem the travesty that was the squid and shrimp.

Pork chops with vinegar peppers and onions

While we cleaned our plates, Eugene began to, once again, muse on a trip to a Caribbean all-inclusive he was soon to embark on. “You know what I like to do,” he swooned. “Eat a big breakfast, stay at the beach until two, take a nap, and then eat dinner. You never have to leave the hotel.”

Trying desperately to divert the conversation back to why we were at the Lincoln Lounge, I was curious about our group’s memories of the past ten years.

“Remember the bean dessert,” Eugene barked out. “At the Filipino place in Queens. The worst!”

“Yeah and the cheap Polish place in Greenpoint,” Zio added. “I went back once.”

“What about that one in Chinatown. The place with fish stomach and goose feet,” Mike from Yonkers reminisced.

“Sheesh, that was inedible,” Eugene spat. “Even Gerry had a hard time eating it.”

And from there they all came back. The highlights and a few lowlights of our ten years.

Chow City’s Top Ten Moments (Good and Bad)

Presented in chronological order:

  1. Eugene’s bean drink revulsion The Beans of Halo Halo
  2. Cherriolies and Kvass Kvass and Vodka  
  3. Pan fried chicken and old school soul   Across 125th Street
  4. Eating ribs in a South Bronx backyard junkyard Southern (Bronx) BBQ
  5. Traversing mountains of snow to get to the great Tandoori Hut. Dining With Sikhs

    Tandoori Hut

  6. The rending padang at Upi Jaya  Spice Tsunami
  7. An after dinner espresso served on my lap. The Un American African Place
  8. Broccoli rabe pizza, the choice meal of strippers. Bronx Broccoli Rabe From a Brother From Corona

    Bronx broccoli rabe

  9. Fuzhou fish stomach and goose feet. F(e)asting on Fuzhou Style Fish Stomach
  10. Zio’s upper body massage apres fufu and four fingers. The Bistro that Serves Fufu and Four Fingers

And let us not forget those who are no longer with us.


La Fonda Boricua

LeWoro Dou Gou

La Pollada de Laura

Southbound Bar-B-Que

M&G Diner

Bay Shish Kebab

Uncle Sal’s Ribs and Brew

Malaysian Rasa Sayang

Zabb Queens

Florence’s Restaurant


Spicy Mina

World of Taste Seafood and Deli


M&G Diner circa 2010

And the Answer is…

26 Mar

On Friday I posted the image below and challenged all of you to Name That Place.

I’m happy to report that I received a number of correct answers.

They knew that at this place, you would also see this magnificent vaulted tiled ceiling.

And that the place is known for these:

Where if you, god forbid, missed your train.

You could happily pass the time, slurping on this.

Oyster pan roast

At the 99-year old, Grand Central Oyster Bar.

Congratulations to all those who guessed correctly.  Stay tuned for another installment of Name That Place next month right here on Fried Neck Bones…and Some Home Fries.

Name That Place

23 Mar

It’s just an old fashioned, bland, Formica covered restaurant counter. Old, in this case is the operative word and the only clue you’ll get. Those in the New York know will have absolutely no difficulty nailing this place. Others might be sidetracked, confused, led astray by the very basic, almost nondescript diner-like image. Any other images of the place besides the one above would immediately blow its cover and I don’t want to insult anyone’s New York City restaurant intelligence by doing that.

Good luck and leave your answers in the comments section below or email them to me at

The place will be revealed on Monday.

A Double(s) Dose of Roti on Liberty Avenue

20 Mar

Singh’s Roti Shop
131-18 Liberty Ave
Richmond Hill

“Is it Jamaica, or Richmond Hill,” Zio asked frantically over the phone while cruising up and down Liberty Avenue looking for Gerry’s pick, Singh’s Roti Shop.

“Richmond Hill,” I said.

“Jamaica or Richmond Hill?” Zio asked again, his hearing aid obviously not functioning up to speed.

“Richmond Hill,” I repeated.

“Okay, I’ll be there soon,” he said.

I was in front of Singh’s when Zio called, after haven taken a brief walk around, peering in at the nearby Guyanese and Caribbean restaurants, the Brown Betty,” and Sybil’s Bakery, where there was a line waiting for Sybil’s offerings. Whatever it was they were waiting for smelled delicious.

There are rotis (Guyanese style) to be had at the Brown Betty.

There was a small line at the brightly lit Singh’s as well, and Gerry and Mike from Yonkers were already in the bar area to the left. Gerry with a plastic cup filled with vodka and Mike from Yonkers with a bottle of Carib beer. Eugene was once again a scratch; his expertise as a timekeeper for a high school basketball game the priority on this particular night.

While I sipped my own Carib, I wandered over to the steam table and tried to get a look at the many dishes that were available. I had my camera and began to take a few pictures. This brought the attention of a man behind the counter who seemed to be in charge of Singh’s intricate operations.

“Take a picture of him,” the man said, pointing to an Asian man who was carrying what looked like a stir fry lo mein-like dish. “He’s the chef.”

I obliged and snapped the chef’s picture who posed without affectation.

The “chef.”

Mr. Singh, the man in charge, then asked what we wanted. Despite the long line to order, he had one of the female servers “take care of us.” Maybe it was the camera. Maybe it was because we were obviously not from the neighborhood. Whatever the reason, Mr. Singh was giving us V.I.P treatment including a sampling of some of the offerings.

The sampling included pepper chicken; a fried, breaded chicken reminiscent of sweet and sour chicken, but with a spice kick that took that Chinese/American classic to a higher level. There was also stewed pork with vegetables, and something else, Chinese-like, with green peppers and onions, we could not identify.

Sweet, sour and spicy.

Singh’s served Caribbean Chinese food along with, what I thought was Guyanese, but after being chastised by Singh, told were Trinidadian specialties.

The Roti, an Indian bread stuffed with whatever you wanted; goat, beef, chicken, potato, was, of course, Singh’s specialty as was something called doubles; kind of a roti sandwich, a layer of roti bread lathered with chick peas and various condiments, and then topped with another flat roti, making a “double.”

Singh’s Doubles.

While we were devouring the sample platter, Rick called to say he was at Sandy’s Roti Shop, also on Liberty Avenue, but in South Richmond Hill.

“It’s Singh’s, Roti Shop,” I said to him.

“Not Sandy’s?”

“Not Sandy’s,” I replied.

“I’ll be right there,” he said. And then I realized I heard those same words from Zio quite awhile ago. And he still wasn’t here.

“Where are you?” I asked over the phone.

“I’m embarrassed to say I got lost,” he murmured sheepishly.

I gave him the address again and told him what Singh’s looked like.

“I’ll be right there,” he sighed.

And within minutes both Zio and Rick arrived. The line had grown while we were waiting for them, and Mike from Yonkers was anxious to get going—fearing Singh’s food supply might run out. Though from what I could see, that was a very slight possibility.

My new friend Singh again summoned one of his workers to put together our platters. I had no idea what was in most of the trays and when I asked, the female server impatiently blurted out what they were as if, in the bustle of the place, I could hear and register what she was telling me from the other side of the counter. So I ended up just pointing to things, more of that Chinese pepper chicken, a few orders of “doubles,” some of the mixed fried rice and the rice and peas, a container of dark green mashed callaloo, and stewed pork.

The “Chinese” side of the steam table.

We plowed through the food effortlessly. All of it, despite the cafeteria-style, seemed fresh and flavorful, in particular, the unique “doubles,” which, at $1 each, a hefty bargain and enough to fortify even our gluttonous appetites. This Trinidadian street snack was no light appetizer and one remained on our table throughout the rest of our dinner; untouched and tightly wrapped in wax paper.

Despite the mounds of food, Rick was not quite fully satisfied. “I think we should try a few more things,” he said.

No one disagreed.

I went with  him to the West Indian/Indian side of the counter where there were curries displayed along with more exotic dishes like conch (spelled “counch” on the menu) goat, and, something we couldn’t identify our server said was “goat belly.”

If goat belly was anything like pork belly, we had to try it.

The “West Indian” side. Note the doubles being prepared in the background.

Rick brought the second round of platters to the table. The stewed goat curry was tender, the meat easily coming off the bone. The conch could have used a couple more hours boiling, but maybe “al dente” is the preferred Trinidadian way. The goat belly, however, upon closer inspection, was a challenge, even for us.

Zio got close to it and sniffed.

“It’s smells like an old bicycle seat,” he said, and then bravely took a forkful.

“It’s trippa!,” he exclaimed.

The goat belly was indeed, tripe. Gerry sampled some. He shook his head. Mike from Yonkers, tried to chew a piece. “Un uh,” he muttered as he forced it down.

Goat belly and “counch.”

Thankfully, Rick had ordered a few pieces of roti bread to help us quash the foul taste of the goat belly.

We were done…almost.

There were a few brightly-colored sweets I was interested in including one that was purple. “Sugar cake,” was what our server barked out when I asked her what it was.

Singh’s sweets’ sampler.

I brought a small sweets’  sampler back to our table; one of the sugar cakes and a bun. Gerry peered at the bun that was speckled with raisins and other candied fruits. “It looks dry,” he said.

He broke off a piece and chewed.  He nodded. “It is dry.”

The desserts pretty much went untouched. We were done. The line at Singh’s was much shorter now. The damage to our wallets was light and our own belly’s full. We couldn’t ask for anything more than that.  Except for Zio, who, before we walked out the door, grabbed the one untouched, still wrapped, “double,” and shoved it into his pocket.

I looked at him.

“What?” He said. “It’ll taste even better tomorrow.”

The End

Today’s Special: Corned Beef and College Hoops

16 Mar

The problem with the Blarney Stone is that there are too many specials.

At first glance, a double stack burger is a temptation, but then I go inside and I find myself staring wide-eyed at the treasures of the sacred steam table.

These days, the Blarney Stone has incorporated an international flair.

Jerk chicken at the Blarney Stone? Who knew?

The choices are dizzying, yet I always return to what I know is reliable.

Corned beef on rye.

And I have no regrets.

Let the madness begin.

The Cannoli Dream

13 Mar

I had that dream again. The one where I’m on a lumpy mattress and I smell tomato sauce cooking. It’s almost always the same. There’s this fat guy making the sauce and laughing; singing really, to who, I don’t know. “Why don’t you tell that nice girl you love her? I love you with all a my heart, if I don’t see a you again soon, I’m a gonna die.”

It’s murky, like dreams usually are, but the smell of the sauce is distinctive. There are men in the room with me. I’m young, though; a teenager and these men are serious.

“Come over here, kid. Learn something,” The fat man says, I think to me. “You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday.”

And then he gives out the recipe. “You start out with a little oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes. Then some tomato paste. You fry it, make sure it doesn’t stick. You bring it to a boil and then you shove in your sausage and your meatballs. Add a little bit of wine. A little bit of sugar. And that’s my trick…”

Then one of the serious guys comes over and tells the fat guy to cut the crap; that he has more important things for him to do, which I can’t understand. What could be more important than cooking sauce for 20 guys?

In my dream I am now in different place. It’s quiet, dark, and seems deserted. A man is with me. He carries flowers and smiles nervously. I ask who he is. He says he is a baker and that his bread is the best on Pleasant Avenue. I see that his hands are shaking.

A baker bearing flowers.

The next thing I remember from the dream is that I’m driving around with another group of serious men. We end up in front of some Italian restaurant in the Bronx. I’ve been told it’s supposed to be a “family” place with good food and, for some reason, I should check out the bathroom. I’m eating with strangers and someone asks how the veal is? “It’s the best in the city,” is the muffled response I can barely hear because of the rumbling of the nearby elevated train.

A family place.

Finally, I’m in a sunny garden, but I’m now a little boy. There’s an old man with me. He’s got beautiful tomato plants but he’s spraying them with pesticide. He obviously isn’t organically informed. The old man likes oranges; there are always oranges around him. But he scares me when he puts the peel in his mouth and makes a face like a monster.

I run away and the fat guy who was teaching me how to make tomato sauce is telling me something. I hear him, but I’m not sure I understand.

And then I wake up sweaty and confused. Was I supposed to leave the cannolis and take the gun? Or was I supposed to take the cannolis and leave the gun? I can never get it straight.

March 15, 1972: Happy 40th Godfather.

A Tale of Two Food Lines

9 Mar

It was the best of times.


It was the worst of times.

A C for a Chili Place in Chinatown

6 Mar

Old Sichuan
65 Bayard St

The C grade was prominently displayed on Old Sichuan’s window. There were no apologies and no disclaimers that the C was only “temporary.” When Zio, who chose the restaurant for our group, noticed the grade, he shook his head. “Uh oh, they’re gonna have roaches,” he said with a resigned shrug.

But he really knew better. The C was, for our group, in some ways a badge of honor, rather than a scarlet letter. And the hostess, a very pleasant woman who’s gap-toothed smiled never wavered, showed no remorse, urging Zio and I inside despite our telling her we would wait a few moments for the others to arrive. She stuck with us—proudly pointing out the pictures of some of the dishes on the side of the window, totally oblivious that there was C grade next to them.

Some of Old Sichuan’s choices in pictures…and a C grade.

Zio’s eyes went directly to the picture of the ox tongue and tripe.

“You like spicy?” Our hostess inquired.

“That’s why we are here,” I replied.

“That a cold dish,” she said, referring to the ox tongue and tripe Zio was salivating over. “But spicy. Come in. We have table.”

There was no point in hanging around outside especially since the bags of garbage on the sidewalks of Bayard Street were piled high and more than a little ripe. We went in and were given a round table in the back room.

Before Zio could order his obligatory diet Coke (with lemon), the waiter brought us a plate of seaweed along with tea and ice water. Gerry and Rick arrived soon after. Gerry announced that Eugene would be a no-show due to a rare work commitment and that he just got a text from Mike from Yonkers that he would be a half hour late.

Seaweed, compliments of the chef.

While we waited, we put in two orders of Dan Dan Noodles and one of the picturesque, ox tongue and tripe.

The noodles came out first and if Dan Dan Noodles were a barometer for the quality of the food at a Szechuan restaurant, Old Sichuan was clearly a serious contender for top honors. The noodles were fresh; the chili and minced pork perfectly balanced along with the addition of sautéed greens. The dish was sublime.

Dan Dan noodles

We approached the ox tongue and tripe hesitatingly. Rick was even more apprehensive thinking there might be chopped nuts; cashews, almonds, or walnuts, in the dish. We didn’t want to have to insert Zio’s soda straw as a breathing tube if Rick’s throat constricted due to an allergic reaction to the nuts. Peanuts were apparently okay, and that’s what we believed was in the dish along with chilies and tender slices of ox tongue and tripe. So Rick threw caution to the wind and speared a few slices with his chopstick.

Ox tongue and tripe

Needless to say, he survived which was a good and bad thing. We were happy we didn’t have to resort to a tableside tracheotomy, but that also meant there would be less of the delicious ox tongue and tripe for the rest of us, especially since we thought it would be the right thing to save some for Mike from Yonkers if and when he ever showed up.

Some of Old Sichuan’s specials that day.

And he did, just as we were about to order double cooked pork for him. He had no issue with our choice for him, but I was a little concerned about the baby lamb with green pepper I was considering.

“Is it cruel to eat baby lamb?” I asked our table of self proclaimed food geniuses. No one had an answer either way, so I went ahead and ordered it.

Fish in a little “hot pot.”

Zio wanted fish; he just wasn’t sure which one; the options were plentiful. He finally decided on fish and sour cabbage in a “little hot pot.” Rick splurged and ordered the tea smoked duck, while Gerry deliberated between mushroom with “grandma’s” sauce which would have been worth it for the name alone and our waiter’s recommendation; something called “sautéed sponge gourd.”

“What is that?” Rick asked when the platter of pale green vegetables arrived.

“Sponge Gourd, Square Pants,” Gerry replied, straight faced.

And, I must confess, they were the best sponge gourd square pants I’ve ever had….and I’ve had them all over town.

Sponge gourd, square pants.

We made quick work of our food; there were no losers among any of our entrees proving that Old Sichuan might be an oldie, but it was certainly a goodie. The only misstep was when we asked for our check.

The final tally was not unexpectedly, considered we all had two beers and that tea smoked duck and Zio’s little hot pot were extravagances for our group, over budget. But what was more disconcerting was when our gap-toothed hostess took our bill before Gerry had contributed his share. He had to make a run to an ATM: cash only at Old Sichuan.

I wondered where she was taking our money and followed her to a table up front where she gave it to a man who had been eating at a table near us. “He pay for you,” she said.

I watched as she gave him our money.

Bewildered now, I stared at the stranger. “You’re paying for us?”

“No,” he said. “Not for you.”

Apparently he wanted to pay for one of his companions before said companion was given the check and insisted on paying. The hostess realized her mistake and laughed.

“But we haven’t got all the money there yet,” I tried to tell her. She just continued to laugh and smile and took our money into the kitchen.

I peered into the kitchen and saw that she, along with our waiter, were counting our money.

I shrugged and went back to our table.

A few moments later, she returned and began counting out our money for us, indicating that there was not enough there.

“Yes, we know,” we said.

Still not sure if she understood, she left the unfulfilled check on the table, smiled, laughed a little, and walked away.

Gerry returned and we finally totaled out the check. We were about to leave when our waiter said not to go just yet. He had something for us. A pancake filled with melted chocolate. They were tiny squares with toothpicks speared in them. I picked one up. The hot chocolate oozed out and blistered my finger. I put it back on its tray. I didn’t really want it. I was saving what room for dessert next door at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.

Black sesame ice cream for dessert next door.

Old Sichuan was very good, but its location right next to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory made it a standout and Gerry, Mike from Yonkers and I took our cones and happily ate them on the sidewalk amongst the piles of garbage bags and the putrid stench wafting from them.

The Fazool Trilogy: Part One

1 Mar

I had an Italian teacher in high school who was about four and a half feet tall. She had gray-hair she wore in a strict conservative bun and dressed like a Sicilian widow. She was no-nonsense in class and compensated for her diminutive size by never hesitating to come down hard and loud on a slacker. Her pet word for me was “pigrone,” or lazybones. She was also a stickler for classic, traditional Italian; no dialect, and definitely no Italian-American slang was tolerated. Whenever she heard the hated, vulgar misuse of her native Italian, she would spew venomously: “It’s fagioli. Not ‘fazooool.’ It’s capicola, not ‘gabagool!’ And this was way before Soprano’s speak made the slang even more popular.

Just getting some sun while waiting for an order of gabagool.

I don’t know where my teacher is now, but I hope she doesn’t mind too much that I’ve titled this series, The Fazool Trilogy. I promise I’ll never utter such an abomination in public.  What follows is part one of the trilogy.

Pasta e Ceci a la Nanny

After my grandfather died, I would try, whenever my schedule permitted, to visit my grandmother for lunch. If it wasn’t a Sunday, when lunch was red sauce, polpette and other meats, the lunch would usually include some sort of pasta and bean combination. My grandmother, we called Nanny, knew that I loved her pasta e ceci (pasta with chick peas); one of the few in the family, besides my grandfather, who did.

So a big hearty bowl would be waiting for me which I would devour much to my Nanny’s pleasure. Nothing made her happier than having the food she prepared devoured.

Now Nanny is also gone and with it the recipes that were in her head alone…she never wrote any down.

Over the years I’ve done my best to re-create her dishes, including pasta e ceci.

The recipe that follows is my version and incorporates the lazybones label I earned in my high school Italian class. I cut a few little corners, but the result, I found, really hasn’t suffered.

This is what you’ll need.

1 15 ounce can of chick peas, preferably Italian*

1 garlic clove, sliced thin

½ cup of chopped onion

½ tsp of dried oregano

¼ teaspoon of dried hot red pepper flakes

¼ cup of olive oil

¾ pound of dried pasta (medium shells, pipette, or any other medium-sized cut)

½ cup of grated parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino Romano.

Salt to taste.

Chopped parsley for garnish

*Where I’ve cut a huge corner is using canned chick peas instead of dried. I’ve done the bean soaking thing and though it is slightly more economical, I find it not only time consuming, but sometimes, for whatever reason, you end up with beans that never soften. And maybe it’s my unsophisticated palate, but I really don’t notice a major difference in bean quality or taste; certainly not enough to justify the effort. Though some canned beans are better than others, but I’m not naming names.

Drain the beans and rinse with cold water.

Heat the olive oil on a medium flame and then add the onion. Sauté for about three minutes or until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook for about two more minutes. Toss in the oregano and red pepper flakes and toast for one minute. Add the beans and a quarter cup of water.

Simmer all on low.

Pipette: the preferred pasta cut for ceci.

Meanwhile, boil a big pasta pot full of water. When it boils add salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente or a minute less and then add the pasta to the saucepan with the chick peas. Scoop in about three tablespoons of the pasta water to the chick peas and cook together for about another minute or so. Toss in a quarter cup of the grated cheese, mix, pour into a big bowl and garnish with the parsley.

There should be enough to feed four adults. Sprinkle more cheese into your individual bowl if desired. Serve with a salad and a hard crusty bread. Devour heartily

Pasta e ceci a la Nanny

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