Cooking With My Sisters by Adriana and Mary Yolanda Trigiani, Part Two

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

On Monday, I posted Part One of this review. Here in Part Two are some additional tips, quotes and recipes to show you how the memories learned from preparing meals shaped the lives of the Trigiani family.  Here is the link to Part one:…rigiani-part-one/.


NOTE: There was no photo of  just the polenta in the book, so I lifted one from the Internet. This recipe is actually part of another recipe. I wanted to post just the polenta, since I don’t eat chicken, which is the first part of the recipe. (ellensue)

The Polenta
(You can generally follow the instructions on any polenta package and you’ll do just fine.)

6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 cups cornmeal or polenta meal

Bring the water to a boil, then add the salt and olive oil or butter. Pour the cornmeal into the water slowly, stirring constantly — you don;t want lumps. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens.  To serve,prepare individual servings in the kitchen. Spoon the polenta on a dish and add a couple of pieces of chicken with sauce.  Put extra sauce on the table in case a guest likes a little extra.

A Tip from Mom: Buy coarse-ground cornmeal and make the polenta the old-fashioned way, stirred slowly; it’s better. A lot of restaurants serve a watery,pale concoction they call polenta, and it just doesn’t hold up to many sauces. For example, this dish (recipe below es) requires a hearty consistency in order to support the flavor of the special sauce.


Sautéed Mushrooms

Serves 4 to 6

Again, this photo is also from the Internet


1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 pound whole white mushrooms *
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white wine

In a large sauté pan, heat the butter. Add the onion and sauté until golden. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer slowly for 45 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender.
Place in a serving bowl and serve with your favorite dish. The sauce makes an excellent accompaniment for any many meat dish.
(Note: I would use the mushrooms over a medley of vegetables. ellensue)

A Tip from Pia (another sister): Really make this dish pop by adding a dash of hot sauce just before removing it from the heat.

Here are some additional quotes (See Part One for more). These show the strong link between memories of childhood and memories of meals around the kitchen table.

p. 36  Cooking with Grandmom was one way to get close to the roots we pulled up when we moved to Virginia. (They moved to Big Stone Gap, VA, which became a movie. es)

p. 80 But the best thing about the stuffed peppers is telling you about them, and all these other delightful dishes, brings me back to my mom’s kitchen.
I remember fall days in Big Stone Gap, when we would run home to be on time for dinner, and there was enough of a nip in the air that the kitchen window was fogged up from whatever Mom was cooking. Over dinner we would tell stories and strengthen our ties to one another. And this was possible because Mom’s kitchen was warm, inviting, creative, and reminiscent of all the kitchens in the family that came before ours.

p. 110 At home in Big Stone Gap, Mom always served a vegetable and a salad because she liked to make sure we got plenty of greens……Mom taught us how to make and toss the salad with oil and vinegar. (Remember, more oil than vinegar.) We never saw a bottled dressing in Ida’s kitchen. And, we ate the salad right on the big dinner plate.

Cooking With My Sisters: One Hundred Years of Family Recipes, from Italy to Big Stone Gap (200 pages) is published by Harper Publishing, New York, etc. (Originally published by Random House in 2004. First Harper Paperback published in 2017.) ($19.99)

P.S. I love this cookbook, not only because the recipes I want to try are not complicated, but also because it demonstrates the link between cooking together and family ties. Thank you Adriana and Mary Yolanda Trigiani! es


ITALIAN MOMS: Spreading Their Art to Every Table by Elisa Costantini & Frank Costantini

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

Elisa Costantini at Fante’s Kitchen Shop in the Philadelphia Italian Market


At the end of May I went to the “famous” Italian Market Street Fair. Sly Stallone ran through the market when he was in training as the Italian Stallion in the movie Rocky, which has made the street famous. My goal was to obtain a review copy of the book Italian Moms, Spreading Their Art to Every Table by Elisa Costantini with re4cipes compiled by her son, Frank Costantini. I met both of them at Fante’s Kicthen Shop where Elisa was signing her book that was made possible by Kickstarter.

Wikipedia tells us that Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation founded in 2009 and based in Brooklyn, New York, which has built a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life.

In the May 19th article in The Philadelphia Inquirer, which brought me to the Italian Market Street Fair, I learned that the campaign raised $27,000 and presold 1,200 copies of the book. I also learned from this article that the book came about because the author was grieving the death of her loving husband Francesco, and this was her son’s way of helping her climb out of her grief. And it worked!


Italian Moms is much more than a cookbook. While rich in recipes, especially those from Elisa’s Constantini’s home in the region of Abruzzo in Southern Italy, it is also an autobiography of the author’s rich family life, both before she came to America with her husband and after she raised her children in Philadelphia.  We learn about how Elisa as a small child helped her aunt cook special meals. Elisa notes that she could not even reach the countertop. But she learned well, as the more than 200 recipes demonstrate.

We also learn about the death of her second child, Agnes, who suffered from spina bifada. Elisa wanted to return to Italy, but her child was receiving excellent medical care in America, so the author decided America would be her home, even after the death of Agnes. These vignettes about her life are spaced throughout the book, such as the one called Finding Salvation, in which the author explains how she came to work at a special place for developmentally disabled children. At the end of this vignette is this sentence: “The smiles of these children saved me when I lost my daughter, and again after I lost my children.” Even though Elisa is in her seventies, she goes to work every day to be with the children, her “salvation.”

In between these vignettes of her life, we can enjoy beautiful colored photos of many of the recipes (See photo of Eggplant Parmigiano below), which far outnumber the vignettes. (Elisa thanks her friends Gabriella and Gina who shared their recipes with her for the book.) Yet, for me, the stories of Elisa’s life are equally important as the food she cooks, because she notes and I understand that, for her, cooking is love and she cooks lovingly for her family and friends.

The article in the Philadelphia Inquirer focuses on scripelles, an Abruzzese dish, so I will not feature these, because you can click on the link to read about scripelles. (“Genuinely Abuzzese Crepes by Samantha Melamed,” May 19, 2016 in Food & Dining section: One of the featured recipes in the article is the Timballo recipe, a lasagna-type dish made with these crepes instead of noodles. Very interesting!

There are many recipe categories: antipasti, breads, pastas, salads & vegetables, soups, sauces, meats, seafood, desserts as well as some traditional menus. I chose the eggplant recipe because it is one that is easily recognizable, and as her son Frank noted in an email to me, the picture is gorgeous! So here is Eggplant Parmigiano. In the book all the recipes have the English spelling and the Italian spelling, so under the English is Melanzane Alla Parmigiana. It looks delicious in either language!

Italian Moms is self-published by the author Elisa and her son Frank. It is available through You can also buy an autographed copy from Elisa’s website: It costs $24.95.

I plan to ask Elisa and Frank is I can post some of the other recipes throughout the summer, including a salad, a vegetable and a dessert, so you have an entire meal. For now, here is Elisa’s Eggplant Parmiagiano. The recipe will bleed into the right hand margin, but if I made it any smaller, you would not be able to read the writing.