Back to the Kitchen: Old Country Recipes through the Generations

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My great grandmother came from Italy and settled in San Francisco where she had six daughters. They were the most amazing and inspiring women.   I long to be in a kitchen with them now as girlfriends to really understand them and know their dreams.  I have many culinary memories from learning to cook from these women — how they made the perfect gravy and how they would spend hours rolling out the thinnest ravioli dough, painstakingly filling each one.

When I served a scallop and pasta dish at my brother’s rehearsal dinner, they were mortified. I served it with pesto sauce and they thought it was peasant food. They always said pesto is only served when you don’t have money for anything else!

Most every family gathering had a little salami, olives, roasted garlic and these party favorites. My love for food and the reason I became a chef comes from love they had for each other and how they expressed it in the kitchen. How I miss these wonderful spirits, but they are alive every moment in my kitchen. Enjoy these “old style” recipes and share stories, love and recipes with the wise elders in your life!





Cooking with love.


Shrimp Pate’

1 pound cooked shrimp

1 chopped red onion

3 chopped celery stalks

1/2-cup butter

8 ounces cream cheese

1/2-cup mayonnaise

Juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons sherry

Salt and cayenne to taste

Place all ingredients, except mayonnaise

In a food processor. Pulse until well blended. Remove and fold in mayonnaise. Season to taste and serve with breads and crudite.

Auntie Alma’s Bruschetta

1 cup seeded ripe tomatoes, diced

1 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2-cup olive oil

Gently combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Let stand at room temp for 1 hour before serving.

Noni’s Olive Tapenade

4 large garlic cloves

2 cups pitted Kalamata olives or other brine-cured olives

4 anchovy fillets

2 tablespoons drained capers

1teaspoon each fresh chopped rosemary, thyme

3 tablespoons lemon juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

Rinse the olives in cold water (this makes the tapenade less salty. Finely chop garlic cloves in food processor. Add 1/2 the olives, anchovies, capers, thyme and rosemary. Process until almost smooth. Add the lemon juice. With machine running gradually add olive oil. Blend mixture until smooth. Then coarsely chop the remaining cup of olives and mix in. Season tapenade to taste with pepper. Transfer to small bowl.

Serve with toasted French bread.

North Beach Sourdough Loaf

1 cup starter

1 package dry yeast

2 cups warm water

2 teaspoons sugar

1-teaspoon salt

6-7 cups flour


Let starter come to room temp. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup of warm water. Add sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rest of the water and the starter. Add four cups of flour. Mix to blend then beat at medium speed until smooth and elastic about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in 2 cups more flour, then add up to 1 cup more to make a stiff dough. Turn dough out on to a board coated with remaining flour. Knead until dough is springy and small bubbles form just under the surface. (15-20 minutes). Or place in bowl of electric mixer fitted withy a dough hook and process for about 10 minutes.) Turn dough into a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk about one hour.

Punch dough down and let rest for a few minutes. Divide into 2 equal parts and shape each one into a ball and place on greased cookie sheets that have been lightly dusted with cornmeal. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour. With a very sharp knife cut a Chris cross in each loaf about 1/4 inch deep.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake until golden brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped about 1/2 hour.

Auntie Marie’s Rosemary Focaccia Bread

1 3/4 cups (or more) bread flour

1 package fast-rising dry yeast

1-teaspoon sugar

3/4-teaspoon salt

3/4-cup hot water

2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil

1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives

Olive oil

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried crumbled

Fresh rosemary sprigs

Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt in processor. Combine 3/4-cup hot water and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in cup. With machine running, pour water mixture into processor through feed tube. Process until dough forms, and then continue processing 40 seconds to knead. Add olives and process to combine. Knead dough on floured surface until no longer sticky, adding more flour if necessary. Grease medium bowl with olive oil. Add dough, turning to coat surface. Cover with towel and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease 13-inch pizza pan or baking sheet. Punch dough down. Let rest 5 minutes. Roll out to 12-inch round on flour surface. Transfer to prepared pan. Build up edges slightly. Let rise in warm draft-free area 15 minutes. Dimple surface of dough all over with fingertips and build up edge again. Let 15 minutes longer.

Brush bread dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Bake bread until brown on bottom and edges, about 30 minutes. Cut hot bread into wedges. Transfer wedges to platter. Garnish focaccia with fresh rosemary sprigs and serve.

Chicken and Green Olives

4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves


6 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup sliced pitted green olives

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/4-cup butter, cut into 4 pieces

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour to coat both sides; shake off excess. Heat 5 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Stir in olives and capers. Add stock and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet. Boil until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency, turning chicken over after 3 minutes, about 5 minutes. Add butter and 2 tablespoons parsley; simmer until butter melts and chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter. Sprinkle with remaining 2-tablespoon parsley.

Italian Cookies

Little Noni’s Biscotti

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

3 cups flour

3 teaspoon baking powder

1/2-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon vanilla

1/2 to 1 cup chopped nuts


1-teaspoon anise extract

1-tablespoon anise seeds

Cream butter and sugar add the eggs one at a time then the rest of the ingredients.

Form 2 “ by 1/2” loaves (makes 2 or 3 long loaves)

Bake 20 minutes at 350. Slice diagonally 1/2 inch. Bake 10 or 15 minutes more.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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