Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stephen Saiz, this one's for you.

Stephen is a most wonderful hairdresser, artist, color genius. When first I sat in his chair, he fingered my hair with a frown.

"Well, what do you think?" I asked brightly.

"Oh, honey, your hair is very middle."


"Middle age, middle class..."

He was right. It's not anymore. Even my mom loves what Stephen does, and she has very high standards. And she hates hair color...but not mine. A few years ago Stephen cut my hair short, and all my friends said I looked ten years younger. SO I went back to Stephen and Said "If you shave it will I look 20 years younger?" He patiently explained that's not how it works. Can't blame me for trying.

Stephen is also one of the most gifted cooks I know. Some of my best recipes came from him. So Stephen, this one's for you.

When I walked into Lisa's house the smells made my knees weak. I wanted to sit down and weep, then head for the kitchen. Her mother was visiting from Chicago, her mother who grew up in Lucca and can cook up a storm...without a recipe in sight. This day it was zucchini soup. I am not a huge zucchini fan, I'm not a huge soup fan, but she handed me a bowl, steaming hot, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parmigiano....heaven. Maybe the best thing I've ever put in my mouth. And of course Maria Franceschini being the fabulous cook she is there was no recipe. Until now.

Maria Franceschini's Zucchini Soup - it will Change Your Life.

2 onions, finely diced
about 6 cloves of garlic, finely diced (okay I cheat and use a garlic press. Get over it.)
Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan - I'm guessing 3 to 4 tablespoons or so...
7 small to medium zucchini, diced
about 2 cups chicken stock. Maria uses Knorr bullion cubes; I use Better Than Bullion. Reconstituted and hot please.
a big handful of fresh basil

Extra virgin olive oil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot, add the onions and garlic and gently saute  until soft but not brown, then add the zucchini and cook gently until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add enough chicken stock to just cover, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Put a big handful of fresh basil in the blender, blend with the soup. Return to the stock pot and heat through.

Serve piping hot and topped with a drizzle of really good extra virgin olive oil and a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. No substitutions.

Every time I make this soup I will hear Maria's voice and see her beautiful face. Thank you Maria Franceschini. I love you. And thank you Lisa for sharing your mom.

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