Italian Thanksgiving

On October 21, 2007, I lost my dear friend, Lee. Her full name was Elizabeth Bassen, and she was a talented artist and a gifted miniaturist. She was a very bright lady, kind and generous to all who knew her. She never thought of herself, but always of everyone else.

She had so many health problems that life could be very difficult for her.

She was an Italian-American lady who loved to eat, but was barred from enjoying her favorite foods because she was diabetic.

She suffered from a severe hernia, which confined her to a wheelchair. She endured the complications of diabetic leg ulcers.

She developed kidney failure and congestive heart failure.

It was just too much, even for this courageous and wonderful lady, and she slipped away from us early last Sunday morning.

Still, I feel that she is close; maybe even closer than she was in life.

My mother and I walked through our woods on Sunday, thinking about Lee, and talking. The autumn colors were at their peak up here in central New York State, and I feel that she is somewhere near, reveling in the splendor of the brilliant foliage. Everywhere we look, there is beauty, and Lee loved beauty.

And we loved Lee. This article is in her honor.

We have written this tribute to her, a Thanksgiving menu of vegetarian dishes that we feel sure that she can enjoy now, to her heart's content, not a bit concerned about salt or sugar, or carbohydrates... or anything else.

Minestrone

  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 large potato, peeled, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup cut green beans
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup of small pasta (2 oz)

In a 3 quart saucepan, bring broth and tomato sauce to a boil. Add carrot, potato, onion, beans, garlic and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Bring to a boil again. Add peas and small pasta. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes longer.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes

Cheese-Cranberry Loaf

  • 2 cups-all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon soda
  • 1 cup cranberries, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan, 9x3x3 inches. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and peel into bowl. Cut in shortening. Add water to juice to measure 3/4 cup; mix in with cheese and egg. Stir in cranberries and nuts.

Pour into pan. Bake 60 to 70 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; let loaf stand at least 8 hours.

  • Yields: 12 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes

Potato Salad

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds potatoes (about 6 medium)
  • 1/4 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup salad dressing
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 hard-cooking eggs, cut up

Wash potatoes, heat 1 inch salted water (1/2 teaspoon salt to 1 cup water) to boiling. Add unpeeled potatoes. Cover tightly; heat to boiling and cook 30 to 35 minutes or until tender. Drains; cool and peel. Cut potatoes into cubes: combine in bowl with onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; mix with Italian salad dressing. Cover refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Just before servings, add mayonnaise; toss until potatoes are well coated. Stir in celery and eggs.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time

Penne with Fennel, Tomato and Cheese

  • 8 oz. penne or other dried pasta shapes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups strained tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 4 oz. cheese -- your choice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the fennel bulb in half. Cut away the hard core and root. Slice the fennel thinly, then cut the slice into strips.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook for 10-12 minutes until just tender.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the fennel and shallot, and cook for 2-3 minutes over a high heat, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomatoes, sugar and oregano. Cover the pan, and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta, and return it to the pan. Toss with the sauce. Serve with cheese crumbled over the top.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Orange Cake

  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons soda
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3 eggs (1/2 to 2/3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour baking pan, 13x9x2 inches, or two 9-inch or three 8-inch round layer pans. Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend 1/2 minute on low speed, scraping bowl constantly. Beat 3 minutes high speed, Scraping bowl occasionally. Pour into pans.

Bake oblong 45-50 minutes, layer 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Frost cake with the Butter Frosting listed below.

Butter Frosting

For oblong cake or two 9-inch layers

  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 3 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 3 to 4 tablespoon orange-flavored liqueur or, if desired orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
For three 8-inch layers
  • 1/2 cup soft butter
  • 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or, if desired orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Blend butter and sugar. Stir in liqueur and orange peel; beat until smooth.

International Coffee

  • 1/3 cup instant cocoa mix
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • Sweetened whipped cream

Mix cocoa mix and coffee in heatproof container. Pour in boiling water; stir. Top each serving with whipped cream.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes

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