Unfortunately, it is now the time of year when we as Chicago
residents must battle our two ferocious enemies: tourists and the brutal weather.
Like clockwork, they both take over downtown and become pretty annoying.
However, the arrival of these two groups also signifies the
beginning of the most flavor time of the year. With Thanksgiving only hours
away, I know the next month and a half are going to be delicious! From holiday
parties and eggnog to the cookies left in the office kitchen, food is going to
wreak havoc on my finely tuned “beach body” and I’m totally okay with that.
In addition to being a tasty time of year, I love the Christmas
season because the tourists and craziness of downtown are a perfect excuse to
host a dinner party. Recently, I had a chance to eat lunch prepared by Chiara
Lima, the daughter of legendary Italian chef Mamma Agata, and I found the
cookbook I’m going to use for my next dinner party.
I met Chiara at the Macy's Culinary Studio, down the hall
from Walnut Room, when she was in Chicago promoting her new cookbook “Mamma Agata.”
Within the first few moments of watching her cook, she impressed the group with
her culinary knowledge and captivated us with stories about the celebrities who
have cooked with her and her mom (e.g. Pierce Brosnan,
Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart). The stories
were funny and lighthearted but the food was the highlight of our time
Assisted by her husband Gennaro Penni, Chiara and Gennaro cooked
eggplant parmigiana, a veggie filled spaghetti (recipe below), and the best lemon
cake I’ve ever had. One of the reasons I’m an advocate for these three amazing
dishes, and Mamma Agata’s cookbook, is that didn’t put me a “food coma” like
many Italian dishes in the past.
I’ll probably host one or two dinner parties before the end of the
year and I’m excited to test a couple recipes from Mamma Agata's cookbook
I think I can tackle these recipes in my studio. One of my pitfalls in the kitchen is a lack of
space and equipment but when I drool over the Sausage and Red Pepper Pasta recipe,
I’m impressed that it is one of the many recipes that don’t require a Top Chef
style kitchen. Whether you’re the next
Rick Bayless or a casual cook, this cookbook offers slam dunk dishes for
newbies and more challenging recipes for experienced chefs.
(Cent Anni is an Italian toast Chiara taught the group and it’s
used as if to say "may we have 100 years of life, love, health and