I hope you’ve all adequately recovered from your Thanksgiving revelry and had wonderful, delicious celebrations with your loved ones! When I posted my Thanksgiving-themed carrot and fig side dish for the Virtual Vegan Potluck earlier this month, I mentioned that I was planning to spend the holiday with my cousin, Veronica. I did, and I had a fantastic time!
But, I didn’t tell you the rather interesting story about how she and I met. Or that, for the last three years, we had been living in the same city, each of us thousands of miles away from our families, and didn’t even know it. You see, I only learned that I had a cousin, Veronica, about four months ago.
My grandfather, Anthony, to whom The Cook to Love Project is dedicated, passed away last July. As I was chatting with my cousin, Edward before the funeral service, I learned that his brother, who I have never met, has a daughter living in Houston. I was shocked–not only because it seemed such an interesting coincidence that we should both land in the same city, so far from each of our homes, but also because she is now one of just a handful of people I know from my grandfather’s family. And we share the same last name.
My grandfather, Anthony, third from left.
You see, my grandfather comes from a blended family. His parents, Eduardo (Edward) and Elvira Battisti Marzola, came to this country from Italy in the 1920s. Both were widowed and had children of their own. My grandfather was the youngest of a total of eight children in that family, and one of the few that Edward and Elvira had together. All of the others were his half-brothers and sisters.
Our family tree is pretty complicated. But, it’s an intricate web Veronica and I are going to attempt to untangle. In fact, she just informed me that we may know the name of the ship that brought our great-grandfather to the US: The Campania.
Veronica’s grandfather, Sam, was the eldest of Edward and Elvira’s children, a full generation older than my grandfather. He and I never met. In fact, I only ever knew one of my grandfather’s siblings, his sister Josie, to whom he spoke on the telephone every Friday afternoon from the year 1954 until a few days before he died in 2012. At age 95, she passed away late last month. My Aunt Josie made the best Italian Christmas cookies I have ever tasted!
In keeping with our family traditions, Veronica and I had a very Italian Thanksgiving meal. She made her grandmother, Lena’s, tomato sauce, and I made a light chickpea and roasted cauliflower salad with parsley and olives. (And the vegan peanut butter mousse we had for dessert is a recipe I will be posting soon!)
The meal was delicious. But, more importantly, I had a wonderful time. With wonderful company. By now, I am certain you all know how important family is to me.
This year, it was an absolute delight to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family! I must say, it’s also fantastic to have leftover pasta with homemade sauce in my refrigerator! I think Veronica may have inspired me to make a big batch of my grandmother’s sauce one day very, very soon.
And, with the leftover cauliflower, parsley, and olives from our Thanksgiving meal, I made this lovely, simple, and versatile salad. Perfect as a side dish or topped with chickpeas for a satisfying main course.
Roasted Beet, Cauliflower, and Sweet Potato Salad with Herbs and Olives
Serves 2 as a side, or 1 as a main course
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 cup cauliflower florets
1/2 cup diced sweet potato, peeled or unpeeled
1/2 cup diced red beet, peeled
3-4 kalamata olives, sliced (Stay away from the canned variety, if you can help it, and use olives fresh from the olive bar.)
2 1/2-3tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
1 tbsp fresh, chopped mint
1/2 cup chickpeas (optional)
1 tsp (1 small clove) garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower, sweet potato, and beets with 1/2 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet roast until tender, about 25 min.
For the dressing, combine garlic, lemon juice, 2 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Toss roasted vegetables, olives, parsley, and mint, with dressing. Serve warm or at room temperature.