Pie

Southern Living’s photo of its Honey-Balsamic Blueberry Pie. http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

While I extol the virtues of cake anytime, I lust after fruit pie in the summertime. I am an aficionado of blueberry pie, strawberry pie, blackberry pie, rhubarb pie, and peach pie. When these fruits are at their peak during the summer months, I am ready, fork in hand, to slowly relish the taste of each and every one of them, though not all at once [moderation is important]. Cheeseburgers, hot dogs, or bratwursts, along with a French style potato salad, followed by a delicious piece of a berry or of a peach pie, make for a satisfying summer dessert.

I do not eat pie on a daily basis, though I often wish I could [there is that moderation factor again], thus I like actual sugar in my pie, not artificial sweeteners with their metallic aftertaste that alters the essence of the fruit. Until a physician counsels me not to eat a “natural” fruit pie, and may that day never come, I shall savor the sensation of fruit pies sweetened with sugar. This weekend I shall bake a blueberry pie made with balsamic vinegar and honey . It is my all-time favorite blueberry pie recipe. My go-to strawberry pie recipe contains cocktail juice. When it comes to rhubarb pie, I am a purist. No strawberries mixed in with the rhubarb for me. I prefer my rhubarb pies unadulterated without another fruit, with nothing to mask the tartness of the rhubarb.

Next week I am preparing to savor the incomparable fresh peach pie. This pie is a symphony for the palate, where the fragrant peaches meld to intoxicate the senses. Only a philistine of tainted sensibilities could resist such a confection made with sun-ripened peaches. It is apparent that I have adopted a firm stance on the subject of summer fruit pies. This has much to do with the fruit pies my mother used to make. Once I learned at the knee of a master pie baker, my palate was forever elevated to create, taste, and savor nothing but the finest of summer fruit pies.

Ciao for now.

Cake

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Underneath the pastel-colored sugars and the fluffy frosting is a delectable lemon cake! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli

I admit it: I love cake. The lightness, the seemingly infinite varieties, the textured frosting, I cannot resist. My affinity for cake began at an early age. My mother used to decorate the most irresistible cakes to commemorate births, christenings, birthdays, anniversaries, and on rare occasions, weddings. I would open the refrigerator and voila’: I could gaze at the pink roses, the white and yellow daffodils, the purple shades of pansies she concocted out of frosting. Each flower sat on its own small square of wax paper on the second shelf of the ‘fridge. I was admonished not to touch the frosting flowers as they chilled. The next day I watched in amazement as Mama decorated cakes with these floral confections. If a flower failed to meet her exacting standards, I could eat it, thereby eliminating any trace of the fallen flower.

Once, when I was around five or six, I recall Mama making a strawberry cake for the Church Bake Sale. She took the two round cake pans filled with pink cake out of the oven and set them to cool on a rack. I pointed out a crack running down the center of one of the layers. “Not to worry,” she said. “I will fill in the narrow crack with pink icing.” She left the room and I found the flaw drew me in. I stuck my finger into the crack and came up with a finger full of warm cake. The strawberry fragrance tantalized my senses. Upon Mama’s return to the kitchen, she caught me pink-handed digging deeper into the cake. There is no fury like that of a cake baker/decorator whose cake has been violated. Suffice to say I never dug into a warm cake with a crack in it again.

In the heat of the summer there is nothing like a lemon cake. The citrus aroma draws me in and, like Pavlov’s dog, makes me salivate, though not in a disgusting manner. Lemon cake with whipped white frosting begs to be laced with pastel colored sugars, which I happen to have on hand. Sometime after a light summer dinner and drinks on the patio, it is time to serve up squares of lemon cake. A scoop of Limonciello gelato makes me smile with delight.

Ciao for now.

Let There Be Cake!

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Costco calls its cake “The All-American Cake”. I think many would approve!-tangledpasta.net

 By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

Yesterday we celebrated a dear friend’s birthday. I made a Barefoot Contessa recipe from her new cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. Said Jeffrey is her husband, the Dean of the Yale School of Business, who relishes Ina’s cooking. Who wouldn’t? The “Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel” recipe intrigued me because a.) I love fennel, and b.) the recipe called for only two teaspoons of tomato paste and no other tomatoes. Also, it included a cup of white wine, which enhanced the flavor of the cream-based sauce. I felt confident about the rigatoni dish since The Barefoot Contessa states on the back of the book jacket that all of the recipes have been “Jeffrey tested”. I’ve watched her cooking show for a long time, and Jeffrey seems to enthusiastically consume her culinary offerings.

I decided to follow further Ina Garten’s advice and serve the main event with a green salad, and ciabatta bread. Generally, I make simple green salads consisting of Romaine lettuce with a dressing of balsamic vinegar, good quality olive oil, Italian parsley, and sea salt and pepper. While I rarely serve bread with a pasta entrée, ciabatta is like the un-bread due to its thinness and lightness of taste. The rigatoni entrée included mild Italian sausage, heavy cream, half and half, garlic, onion, fresh fennel, Italian parsley, Parmesan cheese, and a dash of dried Italian red pepper. I cooked the rigatoni and the sauce stove top in separate large pots, and then mixed the components together. Finally, I baked the mixture in the oven. The tantalizing smell wafting from the oven only whetted our appetites!

Suffice to say, the repast tasted delicious! Thank you Barefoot Contessa, and Jeffrey! After a while, we rolled out the birthday cake: a four-layer confection of chocolate with chocolate icing and shaved chocolate all around. The cake stood tall and impressive. I confess I did not make this cake, having run short on time. Instead, I purchased Costco’s “All American Chocolate Cake”. Our birthday friend was thrilled! She told us it was the biggest birthday cake she had ever had! We took photos; she posted them on Facebook. She opened her presents. We had such fun! The fact that we experienced a carb overload and a sugar high failed to dampen our spirits. We then brewed herbal tea to quiet our digestive tracts. I packaged up half of the cake for our birthday friend to share with her family, and kept a bit of the mountainous cake for us. Later that night, our friend thanked us again for a tremendous birthday celebration. Happy that all went well, the day after the food fest, I still can’t contemplate eating.

Ciao for now.

Happy Birthday to You!

With a raspberry filling, how can a Whole Foods birthday cake taste bad?-www.tangledpasta.net
With a raspberry filling, how can a Whole Foods birthday cake taste bad?-www.tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

This morning I awakened to a Facebook notification: Today is Anjelica Violi’s Birthday! As if I could forget, but thanks anyway FB!

My darling dark-haired, brown-eyed girl is now a young woman who graduated from Law School in May 2016. She now hits the lectures and books as she hunkers down prepping for the Bar Exam. Her structure, study focus, and organization amaze me. Maybe I should not be surprised. As a toddler she manifested powers of concentration. I attributed this to her Montessori schooling, but the reality was it’s how she’s built. She concentrated for great lengths of time studying birds in the backyard, and then drawing them. Insects such as grasshoppers also fascinated her; she drew them, too. When she majored in Journalism and Classical Studies, I was not surprised. Those fields also demand powers of concentration and attention to detail, her forte.

Yet where have these past 25 years gone? To paraphrase Maria Montessori, a child disappears into an adult. Indeed. Every phase of her evolution, from birth on, has been a joyful adventure. I reckon I haven’t missed much of it. The first day of Montessori school, I pulled up to the entrance where the smiling directress greeted us. Off walked my little girl hand in hand with the cheerful directress. I drove to the end of the parking lot and I wept, for I knew at that moment life would irrevocably change. Now others would also influence her, in positive ways I hoped, but the world had now invaded our tight-knit family sphere. However, I knew full well she had to learn to live in the world, that I wanted her to breathe freely and develop her own ideas. What I did not want to see altered was the essence of her: Funny, kind-hearted, insightful, and a whole strings of other attributes.

What she has developed is a generally right calling a spade a spade detector. She doesn’t suffer fools well. While her radar is still in its evolutionary stage, it hums along quite well. Four years at IU Bloomington afforded her an education both inside and outside of the classroom. Pledging a sorority and living with 150+ females enlightened her no end. She gained knowledge of people and of the world, and made steadfast friends.

And then there was Law School. She came into her own in these past three years, fiercely forward in her thinking, committed to making a difference in the world for the better. I see the spirit of her grandparents and their “can do” attitude in her. I see how she chafes under the yoke of the “let’s play it safe” notion of conservative thinking. Instead, she asks “Why not?” She brims with youthful zeal and vigor. No, I would not have missed her Becoming Anjelica for a moment.

Happy, Happy 4th of July Birthday, My Beloved Daughter! Cent’ anni [100 years] with Love!

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

May 14, 2016

Anjelica Violi, J.D., May 14, 2016 - www.tangledpasta.net
Anjelica Violi, J.D., May 14, 2016 – http://www.tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli

She did it! She graduated from Valparaiso School of Law, Class of 2016. She smiled the entire day, throughout the ceremony, reception, photos, luncheon, cake, and gifts. She deserved all of the happiness and joy. She had earned it every step of the way throughout the past three intensive years and internship summers.

Last night in the quiet of her abode as we talked, I shared with her my admiration of her accomplishments. My stance has long been to be the support, her cheerleader, but not her career path dictator. She has to decide the course of her life, not I. I told my darling daughter how courageous she has always has been, how she has always stood firm, and followed the path she decided would be hers. It has not always been a smooth journey, she has experienced doubts, anxieties, and confusion along the way, but her grit and determination have paid off time and time again.

Her choosing the local public over private high school, selecting IU Bloomington over the smaller private universities, pursuing degrees in Journalism and Classical Studies, and a minor in Art History, and then recruitment in a campus based sorority, were enormous decisions for this once shy child of mine.

And then, in her third year at IU, she announced to me she was going to take the LSAT and go to Law School.

Having taken a battery of career placement test in the spring of her junior year of high school, the renowned, Indianapolis based career counselor met with us to discuss in depth the results. After analyzing and interpreting the data, he announced what she would pursue at the graduate level.

“Graduate level?” asked an incredulous Anjelica. “I haven’t even graduated from high school!”

“No matter,” he replied. “You will get an undergraduate degree, and then,” he paused dramatically, “you will get a Law Degree.”

“What? You’re joking!” She was stunned.

“No joke,” he said. “It will happen. You. Law School.”

I reminded her of this conversation she had forgotten. Last night I brought up what he had said eight years ago. She smiled.

She smiled throughout the day.-www.tangledpasta.net
The new  J.D. graduate smiled throughout the day.-www.tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After eight years of stifling traditional elementary school, she breathed more freely in high school. At IU Bloomington, she truly came into her own through journalism, leadership in the sorority, via volunteerism at the campus Museum of Art, the Union Board, serving on the Student Judicial Board, and her decision of Law School.

The Law student organizations opened doors for her through the Women’s Law Student Association; Amnesty International; Phi Alpha Delta; and writing for the Law Blog. Holding offices in several of these organizations further honed her leadership skills. She has always been passionate about victims’ rights, animal rights, and human rights overall. On the Trial Advocacy Team she competed nationally. Her moral courage, compassion, leadership, strength of conviction, intelligence, humor, and heart have flourished, and will, I know, stand her in good stead as she continues to evolve.

The white cake with raspberry filling was delicious! - www.tangledpasta.net
The white cake with raspberry filling was delicious! – http://www.tangledpasta.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, as she sets her sites on the Bar Exam at the end of July, and turns her attention to the intensive kick-ass Bar Prep course, her command of what it takes to get her where she wants to be in Law will steer her onwards. She comes from a long line of self-starters and visionaries imbued with ideals.

I cannot help but smile over my daughter, my shining star.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs My Mother Taught Me

Here's to my mother, a protean woman of  strength!-www.tangledpasta.net
Here’s to my mother, a protean woman of strength!-www.tangledpasta.net

 

By Mary Anna Violi | @MaryAnnaVioli 

On this sunny Mother’s Day, I think of how much I miss my mother. She died in June 2002, yet not a day goes by that she is not somehow present in my thoughts. Had she had been one of those scary mothers one reads about in unnerving headlines, my memories would be troubling ones. However, she was a larger than life persona who imbued my character in valiant and courageous ways.

Her baptized name was Anna Catherine, but all who knew her called her by the childhood name her father bestowed upon her: Kitty. My parents had longed for children, but I did not arrive until they had been married for 13 years. Prior to my blessed birth, they delighted in their nieces and nephews, of which there were many since my mother had come from a family of nine children, and my father from a family of six. I remember relatives around me, lively and full of chatter. Dinners, though, were sacrosanct times with my parents, later with brother, and my maternal grandparents [my fraternal grandparents resided still in Italy].

What remains vivid in my mind is love, for my parents loved me dearly. They had waited so long for children, and when I was born, they were overjoyed, so the relatives and my parents told me. More than the homemade snacks that met me on the kitchen table as I came through the back door after school, more than her listening to the stories I penned, more than the travels we took together, more than the delicious home cooked meals, more than the Barbie doll clothes she stitched, more than the exquisite dolls cakes she made and decorated, more than the piano lessons from which she transported me to and fro, more than the pretty clothes she sewed for me, and more than the elegant formal gowns she created for me, my mother taught me the art of invention, the trajectory of reading for its own sake parlayed into writing. With wit and verve and boundless humor, my mother showed me a better way to cope with the travails and joys of life. Until I had my child, I do not think I fully realized the sheer magnitude of her greatness. She used to tell me, “I call them as I see them” and she was nobody’s fool, nor did she suffer them well. An intellectual, a kind and compassionate soul, a magnificent role model, a stylish woman, she was all of those, but most of all she was my Mama, my best friend, my confident, my role model my guide, and my mentor throughout this labyrinth of life.

The songs of life she taught me transcend even death. With love, I say, Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, in the celestial heaven, from your earthling dream-weaving daughter below!

Ciao for now.

Thwarted Valentine

Like the kitten, I watched Valentine's Day float away from me. - tangledpasta.net

By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi

After battling two vile flues, one in January and one in February, and extensive dental surgery, I was looking forward to a celebratory Valentine’s Day with my daughter. Yes, the weather had been getting gradually colder. Yes, the forecast predicted more snow, but how much do we believe the meteorologists say since they are often wrong, at least the local ones are. My mantra to Anjelica was, “Stick to the plan!” The plan entailed dining at our favorite Mediterranean bistro in her college town, shopping at our preferred downtown boutiques, and having a decadent champagne cupcake and macaroon while we opened each other’s Valentines.

Well, Winter Storm Neptune 2015 knocked the wind of our sails. The nautical metaphor seems appropriate to refer to a snowstorm named after Neptune, the God of the Sea, according to the Romans. I would like to fling a fake flounder at this snowstorm [This an alliteration kind of day]. Yet I feel certain those blizzard weary-New Englanders might share my sentiments. Now the county police have told us to stay off the roads unless of an emergency. Road crews have ceased trying to plow the snow due to white out conditions. I keep telling myself it could be worse right now: I could live in Boston this winter.

To assuage my thwarted Valentine’s Day, I decided to bake a box mix strawberry cake. At least the cake would be pink and satisfy my sudden sweet urge. While talking on the phone, I assembled and mixed the cake. Thirty minutes later, I removed the cake from the oven. “Hmm,” I said to Fellini and Coco Chanel, our indoor cats, “something is amiss with this cake.” Glancing at the counter, I saw three eggs. “Egad!” I cried. “I forgot to mix in the eggs!” This error offered me several lessons: First, do not attempt to multitask by conversing on the phone while baking; next, review the list of ingredients to circumvent the omission of critical ones, like eggs; and finally, I contrived to convince myself without the eggs it was a sort of pseudo-strawberry vegan cake that did not taste too terrible.

At least the flowers I sent Anjelica arrived yesterday, and she is with pleased with them. Her cat, Shelton Rae, is content as only a cat can be: He has been using the flowerbox as a bed. The pretty Valentine card with the heartfelt note Anjelica sent me made me glow with happiness. She is able to dine on the pink champagne cupcake and macaroons today, while I eat my not fully developed strawberry cake. Although I miss her delightful company on this frosty, wind-howling, subzero Valentine’s Day, I take heart in the fact that we have agreed to celebrate next weekend. Celebrate we will, assuming another blasted snowstorm leaves us in peace.

I have begun exploring real estate in warmer regions of the country.

Ciao for now.