Grief Inspired Sandwich That’s Italian

fresh mozzarella, proscuitto and roasted red peppers

fresh mozzarella, proscuitto and roasted red peppers

It’s been 4 years, 4 months and 14 days since William died. I have grown leaps and bounds through this grief experience, but surprisingly still learning how to deal. I must be a slow study or maybe, just maybe, this is typical of the grief process when one loses a bright light in their life.

goodness knows what he was about to do to his sister

goodness knows what he was about to do to his sister

At this stage, most days are typically filled with happy thoughts of William. The boy was a crack-up in most situations and filled with fun surprises. He was a double-dog dare me kind of guy who constantly kept us entertained with his antics. Swallow a live fish? Sure, no problem. Jump into an ice covered lake? He wouldn’t think twice. Dress in camo, soldier crawl the lawn and crash a neighbor’s party hiding under their deck? All in a day of the life of William. These memories just make me smile or sometimes laugh out loud. I am so grateful to have them.

the annual plunge into a frozen Lake Quassapaug

the annual plunge into a frozen Lake Quassapaug

On the other hand, this summer brought some surprisingly dark days that I did not quite understand. After watching a wedding video of a mother-son dance I was a complete mess. What the hell? I did not even know these people, yet watching that groom smile into his mother’s eyes I knew I wanted some of that and could not have it. And then there are those college graduations. Those are the memories with William that I want so bad, but never will have. I only, this week, recognized that those are my triggers. It’s what I did not get to have with William rather than what I did have that causes me grief.

don't even want to know what he lit on fire

don’t even want to know what he lit on fire

It’s just sad until I remember that I did have a dance with him the night before he graduated high school. I am holding on tight to the night he agreed to hold my hand while I twirled around him. The poor guy was on crutches at the time, but that didn’t stop him from smiling into my eyes and giving his mama this beautiful memory.

Oh, happy day his high school diploma in hand

Oh, happy day his high school diploma in hand

It’s 64 days, 16 hours and 6 minutes until I compete in the sandwich category at the World Food Championships. Trying to reign in on just a few ideas has been difficult until William popped into my head. William had a favorite deli-cious sandwich. Whenever he was home we would jump into the car and make our way over to Waterbury’s Avventura Market and Deli. He adored their “Avventura Special” which was a grilled ciabatta of mozzarella, prosciutto and roasted red peppers. Thanks for the help, William. I know you are still here cheering me on.sandwich

The way one layers a sandwich is a personal matter. I leave it up to you to play with these ingredients and add or subtract as much meat, cheese, pesto and peppers as you like. Make your own perfect and inspired sandwich creation. When it comes from your heart it is guaranteed delicious.

Memory of the Avventura Special Sandwich

1 small clove garlic

3/4 cup packed basil leaves

¼ cup fresh celery leaves

2 tablespoons walnut oil

1-teaspoon fresh lemon juice

¼ cup toasted walnuts

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

2 ciabatta rolls, split

1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced

6 slices prosciutto

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, sliced

2 teaspoons hickory smoked balsamic vinegar or plain balsamic syrup

shredded fresh basil

With food processor running drop garlic through feed tube and process until finely minced. Add basil, celery leaves and oil; pulse until combined. Add lemon juice, walnuts, parmesan, sugar and salt; blend until smooth scraping down sides of bowl, if needed. Spread generous amount of pesto evenly on bottom half of each roll. On top of the pesto evenly layer desired amount of the mozzarella, prosciutto and peppers. Drizzle peppers with balsamic, sprinkle with some shredded basil and cover sandwich with roll top. Gently press sandwich together. Grill sandwich in a lightly greased Panini maker or on a griddle, pressing with a weight, for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown.

Genovese Basil: gotta love my garden

Genovese Basil: gotta love my garden

Happiness, Let It Go & Frozen Peas

spring peas & pasta

spring peas & pasta

Inspired by the Oscar nominated songs I have decided to seek Happiness today and let the grief go…..at least for now. We all deserve a break from our grief and why not do some happy things in the process? Plus it has been one long snow storm in my neck of the woods and anything to break this cabin fever and help me ease into spring will be a welcomed delight. What makes you happy?

The Deamon Deacon Dog makes me happy

The Deamon Deacon Dog makes me happy

For me, it starts with planning a garden. I am currently taking a class, “The Hungry Gardener” at the famous Longwood Gardens which is just a mile from my house. The class is filled with a variety of interesting people including a private chef, a health coach and a young couple living on a 60 acre farm. We all have one thing in common and that is the desire to grow our own food. I also signed on with a web based program offered by the Territorial seed company. I can plan my entire garden on the computer complete with alerts and reminders about crop rotation, frost dates, when to start and plant seeds, etc. It’s fun and makes me happy. I can’t wait to harvest what I sow.

Happiness is a day with my daughter at Longwood Gardens

Happiness is a day with my daughter at Longwood Gardens

In the meantime, I am eating frozen peas. It’s OK as they are the one vegetable that tastes quite good directly from the freezer to the pot. Nothing could be easier or tastier than this old-fashioned Italian specialty: Pasta with Peas. I bet you have all the ingredients right in your pantry and freezer. Happy Spring!

Happiness in a hot air balloon and seeing Cait and Sam so happy makes me happy

Happiness in a hot air balloon and seeing Cait and Sam so happy makes me happy

mise en place

mise en place

Spring Peas & Pasta

1 ½ cups ditalini pasta or small shells

1 cup frozen petite peas

1-tablespoon olive oil (Olio Carli brand is my favorite)

1-tablespoon butter

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 (14 oz) can chicken broth

¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions. During last 5 minutes of cooking time add frozen peas. Meanwhile, in large skillet, over medium heat, combine olive oil and butter. Add onions; cook 5 to 8 minutes or until softened. The onions should not get brown. Add garlic and prosciutto; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add broth. Drain water from pasta and peas; add to skillet. Cook until just heated through. Add cheese and parsley. Spoon into serving bowls and top with additional cheese and parsley and some freshly ground pepper, if desired.

Note: season as you go with salt and fresh pepper. You can also add a pinch of crushed red pepper when you’re heating the olive oil and butter