Hope’s Boiled Peanuts


Hope purchased raw peanuts in the shell at a roadside stand near Edisto Beach, South Carolina, and refrigerated them.  When we cooked them, the end result was something I’d never tasted.  Growing up in the South, Hope said she consumed lots of boiled peanuts but no peanut butter.


1-1/2 pounds of raw, unshelled peanuts

¼ cup sea salt



Place unshelled peanuts in large stewpot

Cover with water

Bring water to boil, then lower heat to medium

Simmer peanuts 45 minutes, then drain

Cover peanuts with ice, drain water when melted

Refrigerate overnight

Shell when ready to eat

Hope’s Cilantro Bean Salad


2-16 oz. cans garbanzo beans, rinsed

1-16 oz. can cannelloni beans, rinsed

2-16 oz. black beans, rinsed

1 whole container cherry tomatoes

6-8 sliced green onions

4 minced cloves elephant garlic (or 8 small)

juice of 3-4 lemons

sea salt to taste

¼ cup olive

big handful fresh cilantro, chopped


Mix all ingredients in large bowl

Serve at room temperature, then refrigerate

Great left over!


Huevos Rancheros

huevos rancheros

With the whole family pitching in, this dish was quickly assembled and made a festive Labor Day weekend brunch.  Home-grown tomatoes added extra sparkle.  A small bowl of orange wedges sufficed for dessert.

This recipe yields four large servings with two eggs each.  Use small tortillas or halve large ones to make smaller servings.  One egg/tortilla (or tortilla half) would satisfy many people, especially if half the plate is filled with lightly dressed mixed greens and sunflower sprouts.

Consider making the salsa and guacamole a little in advance or purchasing them already prepared to save time and eliminate steps.


2 tablespoons canola oil

2 teaspoons butter

4 large multi-grain or 8 small corn tortillas

5 large tomatoes or ½ box Pomi Chopped Tomatoes

1 small purple onion, chopped

¼ chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnishing

1 large garlic clove, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

juice of 1 lime

8 eggs

2 cans whole black beans

¼ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese

½ cup plain yogurt

1 cup guacamole (See recipe under Eric’s Burrito Bowl.)


Warm 1 tablespoon oil in heavy skillet.  Add a layer of tortillas and cook 1 minute.


Flip and cook other side.  Remove from skillet, set in pie pan, cover with aluminum foil, and place in warm oven or toaster oven.  Repeat until all tortillas are warmed.


Puree tomatoes, onion, lime juice, cilantro (reserving stems for garnish), garlic, and salt in blender.


Pour carefully into the same (now empty) heavy skillet and simmer, stirring until salsa thickens, about 10 minutes.


Add 1 tablespoon oil to separate pan.  Add drained beans.  Stir very gently only occasionally so beans retain their shape and glossy color.  (Don’t mash!)

In separate skillet, fry 2 eggs in 1/2 teaspoon butter.


Set aside to keep warm.  Continue until all eggs are fried.

Plate Huevos Rancheros:

Lay 1 large or 2 overlapping small tortillas on plate.  Spoon beans on each tortilla.


Gently lay eggs atop beans (2 on large tortilla or 1 on each small tortilla).


Drizzle salsa over everything.


Sprinkle with cheese.


Add dollops of yogurt and guacamole.  Garnish with reserved cilantro.

Caprese Salad with Goat Cheese

caprese salad cropped

Combining farmers’ market tomatoes and goat cheese with our own garden tomatoes and basil, we assembled this salad in minutes.  Final touches included drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and coarsely ground pepper.

Bacon and Cod Gumbo

bacon cod chowder

Bacon and Cod Gumbo

Eric and I concocted this recipe from his farmers’ market finds and frozen cod filets.  Even if the fish hasn’t defrosted, you can whip this meal up quickly.


1 pound of cod

¼ cup flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 small, coarsely chopped onions (We used purple and white.)

2 large sliced celery stalks

½ pound okra, sliced into ¼ inch coins

6 coarsely chopped garlic cloves

3 strips bacon (optional)

3-4 fresh chopped tomatoes (or ½ box Pomi Chopped Tomatoes)

2 small bell peppers (We used red, green, and yellow.)

½ – 1 cup chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-2 drops Tabasco sauce


If cod and bacon are in the freezer, take them out.

Brown flour in heavy, dry pan.  Avoid burning by stirring continually over medium-low heat.  After about 15 minutes, when golden brown, remove flour from pan. Set aside in small bowl.

Add olive oil to same pan.  Turn heat to medium.  Add onions and fry 3-5 minutes.  Add sliced celery and fry 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic and fry 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using bacon, fry it in skillet.  When fully done, take from skillet, pat dry with paper towel, and cut into ½ inch squares.  Remove most of the bacon grease from skillet and add 1-2 tablespoons of grease to pan of vegetables along with the bacon.

Add cod, flour, bell peppers, and spices to the vegetable pan.  Simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use the spoon to break the fish fillets into pieces.

We fried polenta (made earlier in the day) in the bit of bacon grease left in the skillet and topped each bowl of gumbo with a square of polenta.

cod gumbo bowl

Is it really clutter?

Thumbing through Italian Cooking: the Definitive Encyclopedia of Fabulous Italian Food after dinner Thursday night, my son Eric spotted the Walnut and Ricotta Cake recipe on page 456.  Like Julie Powell’s homage to Julia Child, Eric’s culinary adventures often embrace Fusco family traditions.  Full-color photos of the ricotta cake looked temptingly similar to a cheesecake my mom used to make, so we scrambled through the kitchen ferreting out ingredients.  We found ricotta in the freezer, but substituted lemon for orange rind, rum for brandy, and the last half-jar of Eric’s superb 2008 batch of homemade raspberry jam for apricot jelly.

With three of us working—my husband David helped, too—whisking egg whites, grating lemon rind, and shaving chocolate took merely minutes.  Eric was soon folding stiffened egg whites into buttery, walnut-studded batter.

At this point, we noticed that the recipe called for a “9-inch round, loose-based cake tin.”  Eyeballing the lemony batter, I knew my only cheesecake pan was too small to hold it.  Why hadn’t I kept Mom’s large one?

On Father’s Day 2009, at David’s request, the three of us had rummaged through the basement, disgorging our house of items David and I had misguidedly grabbed while emptying our parents’ homes.  Stumbling across a stack of Mom’s tart, torte, cheesecake, and bundt pans, I struggled against my desire to hoard them.  How much baking should I be doing now anyway?  Weren’t many of my friends dieting, diabetic, or eating healthfully to prevent heart disease?  These dessert pans had to go, and, if I were smart, I’d toss Mom’s recipes, also.

The recipe cards bore Mom’s loopy handwriting and fanciful capitalization, so I left them, unsorted, in their cardboard box.  But I stuffed the dessert pans into a giveaway bag and shoved it, with other extraneous items, into the trunk of my car.

Looking at the lemony batter, I remembered something else.  Father’s Day falls on a Sunday: the thrift store had been closed.  Monday morning, I’d opened the trunk, groped through the bag, and retrieved Mom’s glass-bottom, spring-form pan.  I found it where I’d left it, on a basement closet shelf.

Back in the kitchen, I released the spring and freed the pan’s bottom to wash it. Two golden crumbs from the last cheesecake Mom had made fell onto my kitchen counter.  I pressed a fingertip onto the crumbs, lifted them up, and fought the desire to once again taste my mom’s cooking.

That déjà vu moment came later, after Eric slid the puffy Walnut and Ricotta Cake from the oven, let it cool, glazed it with raspberry jam, and topped it with chocolate shavings.  Sitting at our kitchen table under our chandelier’s yellow light, I felt as though more than three of us savored this moment together.