Sunday, January 26, 2014

Eva's 85th Birthday Celebration and Her Polenta Recipe

Our Famiglia Tree of Life

How can that be?  My mother, Eva has always been eternally young.  Growing up, she was almost like our 4th sister.  Of course she loved hearing that and we were all equally horrified with some of her choices over the years.  She did some crazy things while raising three daughters, but she also did many more good things.  She taught us to be strong when faced with adversity.  She taught us to be kind and the importance of girlfriends in your life and she taught us an incredible work ethic.  How true is that statement? At 85, she continues to work and while slower than before, she still loves to be busy.

Most important, she loves her famiglia and girlfriends.  Which is why after just leaving Boston a couple of weeks ago, I got back on a plane to be there for her birthday celebration.  Just as she would have liked it, we opened up my sisters Susan's restaurant, Angelina's on a Sunday afternoon and invited her friends into the family restaurant named after her own mother.  Susan was the perfect hostess working her magic to ensure everything went well.  Cookie, the party girl, made sure the party was just that - a party.  She was in charge of the appetizers and instead of a couple of platters, she, of course, has a two table tiered setup full of nice pickies (as Eva would say).  She also created the theme and the cake actually had a naked Ken doll (is that even right?) jumping out of the top along side Eva's photographs of when she was young.  On another table Cookie had a tree of life created and stamp pads and we all placed our thumb prints on her tree and left a note in a special memory book.

Eva's Favorite Phrase
For food, we all jumped in.  I wanted it to be Eva's favorite foods.  Susan made the polenta with beans, chicken Marsala and pizza.  Auntie Helen made her famous eggplant and I, coming in just the night before, made the orchiette, sausage and broccoli rabe.  Of course there was bread and a couple of different salads, wine on the table and an open bar.  Nicki also brought two different type of party drinks.  Who would have thought those ladies could drink that much on a Sunday afternoon!  I also made favors of her favorite biscotti for her guests to take home.  

Eva arrived with Auntie and while I thought she knew something was up, she did not.  It was obvious since she was not dressed, no make-up and NO JEWELRY!  Eva does not usually go anywhere without at least her big earrings and an even bigger ring.  Yes, folks, we pulled it off.

Her friends new and old travelled to be there and joined in with the family.  Oh, I forgot to mention that it was a ladies luncheon so that we could have an extra surprise.  You see, my mother while she has always loved her family and friends, has also loved men.  Even at 85 years young, she is still looking for men to dance with and enjoy and by the way, she is married.  So, with Cookie being Cookie, she decided to hire a male dancer and while some of us were crazy with the idea, Eva loved it.  Of course she did.  Also so it seems, did her 80 year old girlfriends!  I believe one of them booked him for her next birthday.

Here is her favorite food of all time.


Polenta with Kidney Beans.


6 Cups water
1 Teaspoon salt
2 Cups polenta
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 Cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans
2 cups red sauce (gravy to some)


In a large deep pan, bring the water and salt to a boil.  Gradually stir in the polenta with a whisk.  Lower heat and stir with a wooden spoon frequently to prevent sticking.  This should take about 30 minutes.  Add butter and cheese.  In addition, drain and rinse kidney beans well and add to the polenta.

Spread polenta in a lightly greased sheet pan, top with sauce and additional cheese.  Tradition is to serve on a board, but these days, plates will do.  Mangia!

Eva, thank you for being you.  I love you more.


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