I love to cook. I love the planning, the chopping, the seasoning, cooking, eating, and don’t mind the cleaning either. It is a stress reliever, a creative outlet, and a constant new challenge for me. I grew up with a big northern Italian family on my fathers side and southern charm my mothers side complete with farm breakfasts of cheesy grits and grandmothers bread. As I got older my passion took on a life of its own through cooking classes, experimenting with flavors, and learning flavor combinations.
Because of my upbringing I am well rounded when it comes to what has influenced this passion but that’s what gives me so much flavor!
Breadsticks, Homemade Wine, Pasta and more Pasta
For as long as I can remember, major holidays and birthdays in early childhood were spent at Aunt Mar and Uncle Nick DiMaggio’s house. From homemade breadsticks to pasta at every meal, I grew up around garlic, parmesan, and a basement full of dry storage that could feed a village. Homemade wine and dried sausage were the cornerstones of my days in their house, distinct tastes that I can pull from memory even today. Men like Joe Mama, David, Big John, and Little Nick could be found holding down the bar while the women gabbed away in the kitchen, their hands busy preparing dinner. Pasta always came as a first course followed by main dishes with names that I can’t pronounce but with flavors that would blow your taste buds away. Wine, laughter, and sparing in Italian were always present.
My time spent with these amazing people made me fall in love with the warmth and come-one/ come-all mentality to sharing meals and memories. The Italian and Spanish way of using the kitchen as a gateway to making any occasion a special one started me off on the right foot to building a life around food.
Farm breakfast, Kitchen staples, and Sunday night dinner
Mama on the other hand grew up on a farm in Charlotte NC. She brought me and my 3 siblings up with her Grandmother Lilly’s bread with bakes in southern charm. The bread was paired with our “Rushing farm breakfast”- eggs, grits, kings syrup mashed into butter, and “Yalls” for days (mind you we lived in Pittsburgh at the time). For my mother, warmth and charm is in her very essence when it comes to her babies. Mama created a home that was inviting, constantly moving, and full of love… and life lessons. Remember that farm breakfast I mentioned, it was rare and delicious so we always jumped out of bed when we smelled the bread. However, most often we knew this meal meant a full day of work ahead of us: 4 kids, many hands for work. Well played mama. Well played.
As we grew up and the revolving door got busier and more hectic mama would cook “staples” as we call them. To this day they are some of my go-to meals. Chicken pesto with tomatoes and pine nuts, artichoke chicken, chicken soup that is anything but dull, and meatballs with sauce can always be found in the freezer and are only a dinner request away. Sunday night dinners where a constant in my life until I moved to Baltimore in 2014. I have continued that tradition 800 miles away with my new Baltimore Family. I will always be my mothers sous-chef in her kitchen and maybe one day that role will change… but I doubt it!
Food Wars and Mayport Shrimp that were “swimming this morning”
When I left college, I moved in with my dad to try and figure out my next steps. This was such a special time because as a middle child of 4, getting your parent alone was not always easy. For this short time, he was all mine! Dad and I love to cook together but he and Besty (his wife) have taken experimenting in the kitchen to a new level. We were known to have “food wars” like making different burger sliders only to then be judged against one another, or grill chicken and have 4 different dipping sauces on the side. Best sauce wins of course. Frequent trips were made to Mayport seafood in Atlantic Beach FL to get pounds of fresh shrimp that dad loved to point out “were swimming this morning”!
I learned so much about experimenting with flavors and not being afraid to get silly in the kitchen through my father and our time together. Now that I am not local, we share pictures and recipes as we play in the kitchen in our respective cities.
This is what shaped me as a child and has since created a foundational trend in my life that I cannot seem to shake. Sunday night dinners, farmers markets, new cookbooks… these are my happy thoughts and I want to share them with you!
This is my COOKNOOK blog to fill with recipes, techniques, and anything related to cooking that peeks my interest! Enjoy