Thanks to Nicky D for sharing her summertime memories and recipes with us today!
Nicky D here from www.nickydcooks.com . I’m happy to be doing a summer guest blog for BeezusKiddo today. I am sharing with you today summertime memories of growing up in Rhode Island and a recipe for a delicious salad that reminds me of this special time.
The Summer String Bean Salad
One of my fondest memories of growing up in Rhode Island was going to the beach with my family. It was always a fun time, playing in the sun and surf while my family was gathered around.
It looked like a Norman Rockwell scene, typical Americana- that is until meal time.
My family brought a bevy of tasty treats with them, they didn’t travel lightly when it came to food. My female relatives suffered from an irrational fear that someone in the family will go hungry and heaven forbid this should happen.
The rationale for the copious amounts of food brought for the day was my Grandmother’s notion that “you never know who’s hungry”. And who is going to argue with an Italian Grandmother’s logic?
Truth be told, if you were running and playing on the beach all day you, really did work up an appetite.
Here was our strategy for going to the beach. First, a liaison was sent out in advance to stake out a prime spot for picnicking and beaching all day. The person in charge of this was usually my dad, who with help from some of the other men in the family, scoured the beach for the perfect spot.
My father was like a war time general, marking out strategic positions and locations. We needed to be near the bathroom facilities and picnic tables but far away from the snack bar. Once the perfect spot was located (this was only signaled with the nod from the patriarch of the family), the unloading of the supplies could begin.
Hibachi’s and coolers and blankets, oh my! Tent spikes were hammered into the sand to hold the canopies in place. The men unloaded the food and supplies and the women set up what looked like a mini-camp.
I’m sure we were quite the sight but we were there for the day, at least 2 meals and multiple snacks. In fact, this is how the day was measured, by the number of meals that were prepared for that day. This task was done and then the day of fun in the sun could begin.
I remember meals at the beach starting by someone in the family asking “is anyone hungry”? The adults would all shake their heads in agreement, and the preparations began: A well-oiled machine, all of the pieces working in unison.
My dad would start the coals on the Hibachi’s, and each male relative had their own tried and true method as to how to get the charcoal briquettes to light. There was intense discussions and debates as the fires were being lit.
As children we were never allowed to go near this area, there was always a fear that someone would catch on fire. Italians always live in the dark place, there was always “someone that so and so knew that had an accident when lighting a fire”. So as kids we stayed closer to the deli meats, no one ever died or lost a limb while near these things.
My mother and the others had the task of setting up the rest of the food, all under the careful direction of my grandmother. Children were discouraged from being around because we brought in the extra sand, so we were given snacks and sent off to play until the meal was ready.
This truly was a thing of beauty. Multi generations of a single family all gathered together for a meal at the beach. The coals burned brightly and the smell of the hamburgers and hotdogs cooking filled the air. Colorful salads and side dishes displayed on red checkered table clothes. Italian cold cuts laid out for sandwiches and bowls filled with various potato chips spread out on the picnic tables. Ocean waves would break in the background and pesky seagulls flew overhead.
I always remember hearing the older family members talking about how much better the food tasted when it was eaten by the salt water.
There was the thermoses filled with Kool-Aid that left a distinctive red mustache on our faces and the directive from my grandmother to go and “clean your face in the water…the salt water, it’s good for you”!
I ingested my fair share of beach sand, but in my family I think that they considered a few grains of this stuff a digestion aid. If you complained about it, you would hear an audible sigh and a collective “it’s good for you” from several family members.
Dessert was always watermelon. Before you think that we brought down beautiful storage containers of precut cubes and slices, I need to relieve you from this notion.
These Italians were hard core and brought a few big watermelons right from the farm because my grandfather knew the farmer. My father brought out his butchers knife and sliced gigantic pieces for everyone.
There we sat munching on our watermelon slices, juices dripping down our arms and we were happy. Inevitably there was a seed spitting fight, this was usually started by my brother and I was his intended target.
My father would bellow loudly “stop spitting seeds on your sister”! I smiled because as my brother was getting in trouble, I could usually get a good shot in at him. I was the baby of the family and it was just what you did with your older siblings.
We played some more and tanned ourselves under the scorching heat. When the food ran out it was then time to leave.
We were tired with sand trapped in our hair and had managed to escape the wrath of the seagulls. We all knew that it could only mean one thing, it was another successful day at the beach.
For me, this is what summer was all about to me as a kid. It was family, fun and of course the food.
I wanted to share my recipe for Neapolitan Italian Style String Bean Salad. This is salad that we frequently brought with us to the beach. It was also a staple at picnics and other family gatherings during the summer months when string beans were readily available from the gardens and local farm stands.
Neapolitan Italian Style String Bean Salad is an Italian American Peasant style salad. I define this to mean that it contains simple ingredients, tastes delicious and is easy to prepare. This classic salad has many variations in Italian American homes. I am sharing with you my family recipe for it.
The combination of string beans, olive oil and mint is truly a delicious one. It is refreshing and the perfect side dish for the summer grilling season. I hope that you enjoy this dish.
Nicky D Cooks: Neapolitan String Bean Salad
copyright 2011 Nicole DaCosta Shadel
This is a great dish to make if you are having a picnic or going to the beach. The measurements for the spices are estimates, so go according to your palate. This dish can easily be doubled to serve a large crowd. Enjoy!
String Bean Salad (Fagiolino Insalata)
1 pound fresh string beans, cooked and drained
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 mint leaves, minced
Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Cut the cooked string beans in half and place in a deep bowl. Add the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and mint. Season the string beans with salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss until the string beans, making sure they are evenly coated with the olive oil. Serve at room temperature.