Greetings & Salutations to all our friends & family & fans!
We are embarking on our first crowd funding campaign to create the Third Season of Dish It Out!! Your support for the past two seasons has nurtured our incredible cooking series that’s –
“….one part talk, two parts cooking, three parts garlic.”
please share wide & far! No amounts too small, unless it’s garlic and every bit helps, unless it’s cayenne.
(click image to go see our Indiegogo )
Look and love Aunty Goosey and Momma Spats taking in our latest episode. Mind you, they did eat first. They’re not savages. They enjoyed the ham and lamb and company first. Only then did they sit down in front of the ‘computer thingy’ to watch our little skit.
Part Deux, how do you do? Welcome back to the ramblings of the self-proclaimed “Brutal Gourmet”, Tony Spatafora. Our little show, Dish It Out! (DIO!) is sponsored in part by Melissa’s Produce!!! DIO! is in it’s second season and bringing comedy into the kitchen by the bushel. Our latest episode is here for your joy. Today we speak of jamming aunts. That’s not a band from Boston, it’s about inspiration in the family. Speaking of inspiration, bliss and harmony- stone fruit season continues! We have a great recipe to maximize your bounty that is perfect for summer eating, Grilled Peach Relish!!!
Growing up my aunts were a wonderful influence on me. There were a bunch of them, in different shapes and sizes. Aunts full of life & color and every last one of them an amazing cook. Focus on my Aunt Eva.
Aunt Eva was a dietitian turned home economics instructor. She raised her family to understand that food was never thrown away. You always have ingredients in the fridge for stuffed mushrooms. She frequented rummage sales, traveled the world and made the finest PICKLES. I actually inherited The Pickle Recipe from Aunt Eva and was sworn to never ever ever give it out. Her personality was so formidable in this world, I am not going to risk her ire from the next world. I have shared another pickle recipe that she gave me. It’s been remarked how Aunt Eva fancied bright lipstick. Pink. Bright pink. Her purse heavy from little sample lipsticks she would collect in her travels. And that lipstick was going to be a brand if you will, of the love she felt for you. A bright pink neon on your cheek. In the instances when Aunt Eva hadn’t seen you in a while, you just knew there was going to be a lot of love coming your way in a big pink smear. I digress.
Aunt Eva was an amazing cook, gardener and fisherman. Our visits were at a little house on the Cape that allowed her all three sports. The pickles chilled in the fridge, right near a box of bait. Her lobster pots were checked daily. The garden was always heavy with tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, cucumbers and herbs. She grew rhubarb and made a beautiful strawberry rhubarb jelly so awesome in color and taste. Look at Aunt Eva, orchestrating farm to table mentality for the kids to learn from. There was plenty right around you to eat and create from. With a lot of effort and love, you could make plenty grow. Eva grew up with a large brood on a farm in Millis, MA. These ideals were instilled early. Thanks for sharing Aunt Eva!
I think of Aunt Eva whenever I pickle or make jam. I love pulling our her old recipe cards with the crazy side notes she’d leave. She would really jam on this recipe (you knew there’d be a pun soon) for it’s southwestern flavors. It’s from another aunt of mine, Martha Stewart. Though we are not blood related, or even properly introduced at this moment, Auntie Marty (she lets me call her this) has a simple, tasty seasonal relish recipe that’s super easy. From her Everyday Food magazine:
Grilled Peach Relish
4 peaches, quartered and pitted
1/2 medium white onion, halved
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo (seeds removed for less heat if desired)
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice (our addition)
1 teaspoon sugar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Drizzle peaches and onion with oil and rub to coat. Fire up grill or a grill pan over high heat
Oil grates of grill with paper towel and tongs.
Grill peaches and onion until peaches get a light char and skins begin to loosen, about 10 minutes, rotating occasionally. Let cool.
Remove and discard peach skins.
Chop peaches into medium chunks and onion into smaller chunks. Combine in a bowl with remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
Auntie Marty recommends this relish with grilled chicken, pork or duck. We broke it in on a lamb burger and licked the dish.
My first girlfriend was ravioli. Pasta and cheese all under the same blanket of sauce??? Oh, Mylanta, step back. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I fell in love with this special made pasta and treasure our courtship. On Sundays after church Papa Spats would drive a couple of us children over to Ravioli Kitchen in Hartford, CT. This was a big moment on it’s own, so many of us vying for Pop’s attention, #winning. Ravioli Kitchen was an amazing smelling place that made these little pillows of joy. The rectangular box was pale blue with white and red accents. It was sealed with plastic red tape. Inside egg and cheese would waft. The pastas were in uniform rows, layers divided by parchment paper. Going to Ravioli Kitchen was like a treasure quest in many ways.
We would only have ravioli on special occasions, there were so many mouths to feed in our house growing up that ravioli every Sunday was not in the realm of possibilities. And with the appetites of Pop’s, Brother John’s and mine waiting, forget it. I remember those Sundays with great love. It meant quality time. It meant family time. It mean all my best friends were getting together for a little party on my plate. It was Yalta to the taste. Happy National Ravioli Day to you and yours. We hope your memories warm you too.
And a little ps here…….
Happy Birthday Sista Trish!!!! We’d put an embarrassing photo up to mark your special day, but remember that you can still punch pretty hard at your age. Go eat some ravioli, it’s the first day of Spring y’know!
“Corned Beef & Cabbage, makes an Irishman savage” – Mama Spats
Every year it would be the same, Ma chopping potatoes and carrots and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day Dinner. The heady smell of the boiling beef would fill the house, spilling outside down the back stairs. Dishes of mustard on both ends of the kitchen table. Come Hell, high water or Lent, there was an amazing one pot-dinner in praise of the green. It was a tasty little oasis as winter in New England would grind to a close. Every year this dinner popped up near the Ides, near St. Pats. It also coincided close to our Uncle Jimmy’s Birthday on the 14th.
Uncle Jim was a Murphy and as Irish as they come. On a pilgrimage to Caherciveen, near County Cork Uncle Jim traced the Murphy roots back generations. In the old family homestead the genealogy was listed on a wall. To which he added the New England branch of Murphys including the Spatafora name. This makes me Irish-adjacent to speak Angeleno to you all. Not the annual eating of the brisket or wearing o’ the Green, but absolutely sharing the spirit of family and roots makes St. Patrick’s Day special for us.
This heralds the introduction of our holiday classic “The JBCBCB”. It’s inspiration, Jon, is a family to us. He’s part of the Network of Informants and Thieves that we mention every so often Jon tinkered with the recipe and passed the ball to us where we gave it our spin. Jon has a voice like thunder and a smile a mile wide. He’s a great man to know, especially in a bar fight. If you don’t like Jon B, you don’t like brisket. That sounds better than it reads. We love you Jon.
Enjoy your holiday, enjoy our recipe and the laughs that cross contaminate a good time. It’s what it’s all about right? Good times, family (chosen and biological) and good food. Come hungry!!
Who said you can never go home? Besides several lawyers with restraining orders and angry townspeople holding torches? We all make mistakes. Home is where the heart is. Home is where you don’t have to explain yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it. Home is, fill in cliché here, I’m tired. I spent a fair amount of time on the CT Shoreline, or as I call it, Yankee Key West. It’s a charming series of towns by the CT River and the Long Island Sound. The local people are an amazing clatch of colorful personalities. All tasty in their own right. I’d blow through the area between acting jobs, just long enough to piss off the lawyers and townspeople, meet some cool people and sally forth. (not her, but you get my meaning) I was taught at an early age the good people find each other. I’m a firm believer in this. Actually I’m not very firm from all I’ve eaten lately, but again I digress. Birds of a feather and all that.
It was on one of these Foxtrot through Yankee Key West that I found another good person. Slightly after Star Wars and just before cell phones I met Hedy. She was a senior bartender at a rooftop deck on the main drag. I was naught but a child in his early twenties. I was the day guy who cut her fruit and stocked her beer and cleaned what she missed. An apprentice to the magic I like to think. Pecking orders. The establishment’s owner conceived this money-maker renovation and built the enormous platform atop his prime rib seafood shanty. It was kind of like a ginormous deck chair for hundreds of tourons (tourists-morons) to come tumbleweed through and eat a basket of fried clam strips. It required a doubling of staff and a bitch of a stair case to the main kitchen. It required us learning how to shuck and jive. We had a raw bar. It still haunts me. Hedy and I worked well together; I’d run my young ass down to retrieve all our hot orders and she’d shuck the half shell orders standing still under an electric fan. I should mention the humidity on the CT Shoreline’s cruel. Did I mention the stair case was a bitch? Moving on. This deal seemed fair at the time.
Hedy was always sharing great stories and I loved hearing them. Her easy manner let her talk to anyone about anything. This impressed the hell out of me. I learned lots from people like her. We had a mutual love of good living, good eating and good stories. With her fresh from Key West and me thinking my next adventure was going to be Hollywood we bonded quickly in our tales of revelry. I don’t recall seeing her after this one summer in the early nineties.
One day she arrived to work beaming on the previous great night’s episode. She regaled me on how she had been in a chef’s kitchen (she was always meeting people and gaining invites) learning to make a veal stock. The chef, his wife and Heddy laughed, drank wine and nibbled while tending their cauldron. They created a tasty little liquid which she shared. It blew my mind one could do this outside of restaurant of a culinary institute. Her glow of having savored the experience was right pretty on her. It makes me smile to this day.
Which brings me two decades later and without my prized mullet to my story. Dish It Out was on the road recently eating our way around Yankee Key West whilst visiting family for the holidays. We had just left a very early appointment with our wedding caterer Andrea (much more on her and Cloud Nine Catering soon) feeling peckish. The sights and sounds of Deep River called me back to my youth. That and a reasonable hunch that I wouldn’t be easily recognized with out my Billy Ray Cyrus hair style and MC Hammer baggie pants. We explored the main drag, finding an old dive bar that had provided me a supposed good time or two. Aah, Calamari’s, the name says it all. It was cloudy. The memory, not the day. When the Whistle Stop caught my hungered eyes. Also if I don’t feed Mick on a regular basis he tends to claw at the interior of the car and chew on stuff. It’s not pretty. In we went.
The clutter on the counter charmed me. Jars of exotic teas and lemonades provided a defense line from surly early morning New Englanders. I figured it was psychology to put medium bright colors in front of their faces to lull them out of their mid winter doldrums.With enough bric a brac to occupy their wait. Overthinking it? I don’t believe so. Then again a multi ink pens activate my ADD. The smallness that was the cafe was Gulliver-esque. We got a warm “Good Morning. Anywhere you like..” from the waitress and the lady working the griddle. I saw a stack of plates to the chef’s right that were the same Corning plates we had growing up (aw, heart). They were inexpensive and plentiful. This broad was seriously prepared to cook. She had enough sauces and containers around her to make a Hogwart’s professor nervous. It was her smile that was familiar, and the sparkling eyes. Oh, wow. It’s Hedy. I tuned in on the voice and it all came back to me. Hadn’t thought of the upper deck summer in years, and I went right back there. I could feel the stiff uniform, the humidity and the cold little necks clams to shuck.
Hugs and exclamations scared the patrons for a moment but they aptly resumed their daily bread. We filled in the last two decades, her with raising children me with racing around. She’d been in the Cafe for 15 years now, I’d been in six states (not counting disarray) She was exactly the same, and told me I was too. These moments are pretty cool. Coming home and all that rot. She sat us back down, picked up an enormous cinnamon bun with thick with icing like I wish I had hair. She sliced it in half like a bagel, rolled it in vanilla french toast batter and griddles us a little nice nice. “Ooooooh, that’s really going to suck” Mick and I thought. She put it down with her compliments to start our bfast. Oy. Then came my Cannes Benedict; herbed chevre, fresh organic baby spinach, shallots, bacon and eggies. So good. I don’t want this holiday to end (loosens belt) I’m not sure what Mick was eating as he had his head down too, meaning he couldn’t be disturbed. You know how you never bother a bear or large dog when their eating? Same rules apply in our relationship. Hedy makes her own granola, sauces, soups, stocks (surprise!) and specialty spreads. She makes outstanding hash; clam, ham, corned beef and pastrami. You never heard of clam hash? Oh, well welcome to New England. She does breakfast and lunch. She’ll cater your wedding or even your family picnic. Need a romantic dinner on the beach? Yeah, she’s got that for you. And all the while raising two great kids. Hedy Watrous’ The Whistle Stop Cafe’ on N. Main Street in Deep River is a little slice of home. Thanks Hedy, I was glad to come home and find this little slice.
Note to wedding guests, this place is a must do.
And no lawyers or angry townspeople were hurt in our Eating Across CT Shoreline Odyssey.