Fennel, fresh dill, fresh rosemary, and fresh Italian parsley enhance the flavor of the vegetables. –

 By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

I must confess to my life long love affair with vegetables. My secret is now out in the open, and I may now breathe more easily. This affinity of mine for vegetables has its origins within my family.

It began long ago when I was a child running through the garden paths of my Italian father’s large vegetable garden. Fragrant red and green bell peppers, yellow banana peppers, small fierce red hot peppers, Big Boy tomatoes drooping like red weights on the vines, deep purple eggplants sprawled on the garden floor, green beans climbing up poles next to my favorite beans: the yellow Kentucky Wonders, orange and yellow zucchini flowers that my mother would stuff and fold and bake. Fennel with its elegant fronds, Brussel sprouts dotted their own green poles, carrots, and turnips all converged in a riotous medley. In August, tall stalks bearing corn with their soft corn silk beckoned. Near the garage, a large cold frame brimmed with fresh herbs to lace our salads, pasta sauces, and vegetables. Here is one of my favorite, go-to roasted vegetable recipes from Paula Wolfert:


I generally omit the celery, but I add eggplant, bell peppers, and Italian parsley to Paula Wolfert’s original recipe. The combination of vegetables may be adjusted to one’s own palate. –

Another portion of the garden yielded strawberries, black raspberries, red raspberries, and rhubarb. Much space is needed to grow rhubarb, for its leaves are huge. I liked harvesting rhubarb for my favorite summer dessert. My mother used to make a delicious rhubarb dish called Rhubarb Crisp. She shared her recipes with her sisters, and with friends. Her Rhubarb Crisp recipe was legend within our family. One summer in the 1960’s or early 1970’s, a friend of her sister’s came to town with my aunt. My mother served her eponymous dessert with coffee after dinner. The woman asked for the recipe, which my mother wrote down, and gave to the woman. Within a year, the recipe appeared in Better Homes and Gardens with the woman’s name attached to it! The woman gave no acknowledgement to my mother for appropriating her recipe. In fact, Better Homes and Gardens paid the woman for the recipe. Crass and rude the woman’s behavior certainly was, but my mother attempted to laugh off the insult. Ironically, now recipes for variations of my mother’s Rhubarb Crisp abound. Whenever I make it, I use her original recipe. I shun strawberries, or any other berry with the rhubarb. Rhubarb Crisp, unadulterated with add-on ingredients is not for me.

This spring, now that asparagus is plentiful, I prepare asparagus every which way: folded into omelets, gently steamed, cooked with pasta in the same pot, parboiled for salads, or simply roasted. Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that used to line the side of my father’s garden against the fence. Each spring day, my mother cut fresh asparagus from the garden to serve with our dinner. Like most of the vegetables we grew, she froze enough asparagus to see us through the winter. Most of the summer saw her freezing vegetables, like corn and beans, or canning peaches and apricots from our orchard trees.

I am not much of a carnivore, so a plethora of vegetables suits me fine in the spring, summer, and early fall. Whether a vegetable stands alone, or whether it is prepared in concert with others vegetables, I roast, steam, fry, or parboil them, then serve the vegetables over pasta, or rice, or lettuce, or by themselves. I welcome the color and the pageantry of fresh vegetables!

Vegetables toujours!

Ciao for now.


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