Remy Rotella is an expert on edible heirlooms.
Just recently, the Niagara Falls tomato aficionado was invited to be a speaker at the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, California.
Her online business is called The Sample Seed Shop and she specializes in heirloom tomato seeds, along with seed samples from many other fruits, vegetables and flowers.
During a recent interview, Rotella explained that heirloom tomatoes are the kind of fruit we all remember from the old days, when a giant slab of tomato on a fresh slice of Italian bread slathered in mayonnaise, tasted a little like heaven.
She was inspired to find seeds for such tomatoes by her memories of visitors who brought gorgeous, delicious tomatoes to her grandmother’s home in Niagara Falls.
On her website at www.sampleseeds.com, she also shares some favorite recipes from her childhood, including the recipes below.
REMY ROTELLA’S BEANS AND GREENS
Remi says “This is a dish that used to be exclusively made by poor Italian people. It is thought of as comfort food to me. You can often find variations of this at very nice restaurants these days. It doesn’t seem like much, but it tastes great.”
1 pound or so of escarole or other greens cut up
1 pound or so of fresh shelled, cooked dried beans (1 pound after cooking) or or a can (cans are a bit less than a pound, but close enough) of beans like Great Northern or any favorite cooking bean
4 large cloves of garlic or more (I like more!), chopped
Parmesan or Romano cheese
good Italian bread
vegetable or chicken stock
(sometimes people add onions, but I think that is wrong for this recipe)
Add enough olive oil to the pot to cover the bottom. Add garlic and saute on medium. Don’t brown, just soften. If you are substituting Swiss chard, sauce the chopped stems first before the garlic, so as to soften a bit. Add about a cup or two of water, enough to be able to get escarole cooking down. Don’t add too much. You can always add more after the escarole cooks down, if you think it needs it. Instead of water, some people add stock. Keep adding escarole in to the pot to cook down. Let cook for a few minutes. Adjust time for greens that may take longer to cook down.
Add beans, pepper and just a touch of salt. The cheese is salty so you don’t need to add a lot of salt. Let the mixture cook for a couple minutes. Taste. Add more salt, pepper or oil as needed.
At this point, my family members typically throw in a few pats of butter. Some people add a touch of lemon juice or bacon bits. Add cheese when you eat it with a nice hunk of Italian bread.
REMY ROTELLA’S BLACK BEAN SOUP
2 cartons (8 cups) chicken stock
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed or the equivalent of your own dry beans cooked
2 cups of tomatoes diced or a small can of diced tomatoes
1 andouille sausage link, chopped
2 cups onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery stalks chopped
2 carrots chopped
1/2 or 1 jalapeño peppers, chopped fine
2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped fine
1-2 cups corn
1 cup rice
2 teaspoon cumin
4 teaspoon. chili powder
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
In a stock pot, saute the andouille sausage with medium high heat in oil. Then turn the burner to medium low and saute the onion, celery, jalapeño and carrot until softened. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, corn, beans, cilantro, cumin and chili powder. Turn up the heat and bring to boil. Add rice and bring back to boil. Then cover and simmer until rice is cooked.
Add lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste and serve. I like to crumble tortilla chips on top.
REMY ROTELLA’S TORTELLINI SOUP WITH SAUSAGE
1 bag frozen cheese tortellini
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 carrots diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cans diced tomatoes
- 8 cups chicken stock (2 cartons)
- 4 links Italian sausage, casings removed and broken into pieces
- baby spinach
- spices including oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, pepper
- Parmesan cheese
- olive oil
In a large pot, cook the tortellini until about done, set aside.
In another large stock pot, sauté carrots for about three minutes. Add the celery and onion cook until onion is translucent about 10 minutes. Add the Italian sausage and brown. Add garlic, cook a minute or so more. Add the chicken stock, spices, baby spinach and tomatoes, bring to boil and let simmer for five minutes. Add tortellini bring back to boil. Turn off heat.
Serve topped with cheese.
THIS STORY APPEARED IN THE SEPTEMBER 23, 2019 EDITION OF DELISH MAGAZINE, DISTRIBUTED BI-MONTHLY TO SUBSCRIBERS OF THE NIAGARA GAZETTE AND THE LOCKPORT UNION-SUN & JOURNAL.