Monday, June 18, 2012

A Family Classic: Bringing Back The Memories

Lewis Grizzard, famous American writer and Southern lifestyle humorist, once said, "It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” Grizzard had a good point and I feel like you could make the same comment about any homegrown fruit or vegetable. As mentioned before, it is somewhat akin to blissfulness to walk into your backyard and pluck veggies fresh from the vine and then use those fresh goodies to prepare the evening's meal. When the recipe for the evening meal is an old family favorite, the joy becomes rapture.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog then you probably already know that I spent my formative years as a child growing up in an area of North Central West Virginia known for it's Italian heritage, thanks to the Italian immigrants who settled in the area around Fairmont, West Virginia decades ago to work in the coal mines and raise their families in the hills and "hollers" that surrounded those coal mines. My father, while not of Italian descent, grew up in a town and neighborhood that was home to many of the families of these Italian immigrants so consequently he not only had a fond appreciation for eating Italian food, but he was a pretty good Italian food cook as well. Italian food and it's traditions seemed to be infused into my family as evidenced by the way we celebrated holidays and special occasion meals. For instance, every Sunday at our house was "pasta day", or angel food as my dad would say. The menu and activities on any given Sunday at our house included some sort of pasta, salad and garlic bread for the afternoon meal and if it was football season you would always find the Pittsburgh Steelers on our television. There was a small radio in the kitchen and on Sunday afternoon it would be dialed into AM 1490 WTCS Radio in Fairmont and "The Italian Hour" where local radio station owner, Nick Fantasia, played and dedicated traditional Italian music to the matriarchs and patriarchs of local Italian families. (Treat yourself to a sample of the original Italian Hour by clicking here)

I probably owe my affinity for gardening to my parents as well, they always planted a large garden and produced some amazing tomatoes, peppers and squash. Like most people who garden and grow squash, especially the green ones called zucchini, my parents had to search for creative ways to use all of the harvest. It seems that you can make any kind of food using zucchini in place of the primary ingredient. There was one family favorite though that used zucchini that was an authentic "zucchini recipe." The dish is a hearty tureen consisting of zucchini, Italian sausage, potatoes, onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, chicken broth, tomatoes , basil, oregano, garlic and grated italian cheeses and is called Tialla.I can't begin to describe the aroma that permeates the entire house while this dish slowly bakes in the oven. And paired with some warm Italian bread, the dish becomes a Summertime meal fit for a king.

Hopefully the weekend provided you with some opportunities for quality relaxation and fun. We are at the stage of Summer where our thoughts and attitudes are most carefree with most of the season in front of us, we haven't yet begun to think about "back to school" and the upcoming Autumn. If you are a gardener or happen to be the recipient of the bounty of a harvest from a summertime vegetable garden you will probably have an abundance of squash. If so try this hearty casserole, it's sure to be a hit with your family.

1 pound of Italian Sausage cut into chunks
2 zuchinni squash sliced
5 medium size potatoes sliced
1 medium sweet onion chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1 can of diced tomatoes or 3 fresh tomatoes diced
sliced mushrooms
1 cup chicken broth
parma cheese
romano cheese
1 green pepper sliced into rings
1 hot bannana pepper sliced into rings

1- Prep all ingredients
2- Spray a large baking pot with cooking spray
3- "Build" the tureen by layering all ingredients and repeating until complete
4- Bake at 350 degrees, covered for 1.5 to 2 hours (uncover for the last 30 min)


  1. Thanks for the recipe; I think I'll try it. Looks like it will make a very large quanity, tho; am I correct.

    Enjoyed reading the narrative about your childhood and gardening.

  2. I know the magic, the chime, the cling you feel when picking a fresh veggie from your own. Gardening is much like caring for a family, on a more personal and substantial level I feel. It can be relaxing, it can be tedious, but in the end you're giving life, and promoting it. Keep it up, god bless and happy gardening!

    -Tony Salmeron


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