I have several favorite childhood memories that relate to food. Visiting relatives is definitely near the top of that list. Why? Because it was always great fun knowing you would be offered something interesting and delicious to eat within moments of your arrival – regardless of the time of day! Since all my relatives were Italian, everything served also was Italian – the breads, cheeses, sausages, cured meats, and of course, the wine.
The same was true when we had visitors – or as my mother would say, “Company!” We had “company” often. My maternal grandmother lived with us until her death when I was a young teenager. She bore 17 children, 12 of whom lived to adulthood, and most of them lived nearby and visited her (and us) frequently – oftentimes unannounced. It didn’t matter. As soon as everyone was inside, food and drink seemed to appear magically. Those were special times indeed.
As it happened, my wife had nearly identical experiences with her relatives and grandparents. No visit was ever complete without food and drink – in her case, German, but equally delicious and lovingly prepared.
So it was quite natural for the two of us to continue those traditions as we began our own household nearly a half-century ago. It might be only a slight exaggeration to say that only the mail lady and the UPS deliveryman have visited us without being offered something to eat! Needless to say we have enjoyed every second of every visit – regardless of the duration. Dining with friends and relatives is part of our heritage.
Over the last several years, however, since retirement actually, the nature and frequency of visits to our home has changed. As we reached retirement age, so did many of our close relatives and long term friends; and as they retired they moved to their “special” area of the country just as we did. Consequently, since few of them live nearby, their visits are always scheduled and almost always involve multi-day stays. Even our adult children and their families generally visit for multiple days. We still enjoy entertaining local friends, but (for hobby chefs like me) the real fun begins when entertaining involves all three meals for multiple days!
Over the years, every recipe posted on this web site has been prepared for guests at least once – and, of course, several of them many, many times. Four of the posted recipes, however, have only been prepared for guests! For a number of reasons, we have never prepared them just for ourselves. Even though this didn’t happen intentionally, I’ve still decided to call them “Recipes Reserved for Guests!”
The first two are breakfast dishes, or perhaps more correctly, brunch dishes. Frittata with Fresh Herbs has become a house specialty. Grandma Karen provides the fresh herbs from her exquisite herb garden, the local Farmers’ Market provides the fresh eggs, and my favorite Italian market (Cantoro Italian Market in Livonia and Plymouth) provides the Italian cheeses. I like to anoint each wedge with a drizzle of Aceto Balsamico Traditionale di Modena.
My son and I created Crab Cakes Benedict several years ago. We begin with the recipe for Maryland Crab Cakes, which has been in my collection for over 40 years – since we lived there. Add a slice of crusty Italian bread toast, fresh baby spinach leaves, a perfectly poached fresh egg, and a generous dollop of Hollandaise Sauce, and you have a perfect breakfast or brunch offering for overnight guests.
Crab Cakes Benedict.
Frittata with Fresh Herbs and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and fresh chives.
Pork Loin Roast with Fennel served with Roasted Vegetables.
Finally, my all-time favorite dessert! We’ve only served this to guests because it does require significant effort – although as I’ve mentioned before, extra effort usually produces exceptional results. Cassata is a classic Sicilian dessert, typically prepared as a sponge cake layered with cheese, fruits, and nuts, and covered with marzipan. We serve this version “deconstructed.” It all begins with a mixture of Ricotta cheese, pastry cream, whipped cream, and whipped egg whites. To this you add chopped toasted almonds, pistachios, and pine nuts. Oh, and some chopped fresh (preferably Michigan) tart cherries. The cream mixture is then served over Savoiardi (Italian ladyfingers) soaked in Marsala wine – and then finished with a shower of freshly shaved dark chocolate. What could be more Italian (oops, Sicilian) and more decadently delicious?
Yes, it does take some extra time and effort, but, after all, these are guests! As I explained at the outset, welcoming and feeding guests – whether family or friends, whether for hours or days – has been an important part of our lives since as far back as either of us can remember. In short, it’s a labor of love!
I hope you will find some excuse, and a little extra time, to try at least one of these “Recipes Reserved for Guests.”
P.S. There are two other new entries listed on the Recipes page of this site: Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza and Szechuan Pork in Garlic Sauce. The first appears courtesy of our son. I will have more to say about both in a future blog.