Mother’s Day indulgences

by allegrainitalia

I’m so happy to be at home for a couple weeks (12 days!) before I go to Italy. My mom, who is also my best friend, is having a pretty hard time coming to terms with my trip. I’m the baby of the family, and neither my sister nor I have gone to Europe before. This past year was my first year away from her at college, and so Mother’s Day is a pretty big deal this year.

So I did what I usually do for people I love: I cooked.

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Food is a huge deal in my family. The kitchen is the heart of our home, and my mom is the first person who taught me how to cook before I began the culinary program at my high school. She’s the best cook I know because she cooks from the heart. It’s particularly adorable because every time I go home from college or she comes to visit me, she brings me enough food to fill my entire dorm mini-fridge.

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Food is especially important for my mother and me because before she and I began cooking together, our relationship was strained at best. Now, because of our mutual love for food, we never run out of things to talk about. Maybe this is why I feel such a connection with Italy. In Italy , food is a way of life, and when people think of Italian families, they generally think of the Italian mama or nonna stirring up marinara sauce with a wooden spoon while wearing an apron. The importance of food in my family is something that I have a hard time relating to Americans sometimes.

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Because my mom is a vegetarian, I grew up loving vegetables. The Mediterranean orzo salad was representative of all of her tastes. It was fresh, bright, citrusy and had a sour kick to it.

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Since there were so many ingredients, it was an indulgence because it was such an expensive compilation. Hearts of palm and artichokes are a particular luxury for my mom and I. We’ve also gravitated toward whole wheat pasta of late, but today (unintentionally) we used white flour pasta. This pasta salad has a dressing similar to what you’d find in a Levantine fattoush salad, but it has some Italian elements as well (such as the pasta).

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It’s not my style to give exact and precise measurements for ingredients. This is not how I learned how to cook, and I don’t believe that it’s an effective means of teaching one to become familiar and experimental in the kitchen.

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But here’s the rough breakdown! In the comments, tell me what you like to do to indulge for holidays. What’s your mom’s favorite thing to eat?

Mama’s Day Mediterranean Orzo Salad

  •  0.5 lb of orzo pasta
  • roughly 7 olives
  • a tablespoon of capers
  • half of a cucumber, seeded and diced
  • half of a red onion, diced
  • a tablespoon of oregano
  • two sundried tomatoes, diced
  • 2 hearts of palm, diced
  • half a cup of artichokes, diced
  • a quarter bunch of asparagus, diced
  • two tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • a quarter cup of crumbled feta cheese (I like to crumble it further in my hands to avoid large hunks)
  • parsley to taste

For the vinaigrette

  • olive oil
  • the zest and juice of a lemon
  • two tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • a teaspoon of cumin
  • a teaspoon of sumac
  • a teaspoon of paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. As it begins to boil, begin to prep your ingredients.

Dice half of a red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, hearts of palm, and the artichokes. Add them to a bowl. Mince the olives and sundried tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Chop up the parsley and oregano, then add them to the bowl. Add your capers and feta to the bowl and put it to the side.

At this point, the orzo should already have been added to the boiling water. Keep an eye on that.

On a separate burner, get a medium-sized saute pan with olive oil preheating. Prepare your asparagus by dicing into small half-inch pieces and saute it quickly, for 2 minutes, until it is firm but cooked. Add to the bowl of vegetables to cool.

For the dressing, add three parts olive oil to every part of acid to a jar. This is why I recommend zesting and juicing the lemon and adding the red wine vinegar to a jar first, then adding the proper amount of olive oil. Then add spices and salt and pepper and put to the side.

Drain the pasta and add olive oil so it doesn’t clump. Add pasta to the bowl of vegetables and mix thoroughly. Then shake the jar of dressing and mix into the pasta and vegetables. Serve with pita chips and hummus.