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Late last week, writer and author Carol Field passed away, not quite three weeks after the death of her husband, architect John Field, on Feb. 21.

Field skyrocketed to national prominence with her book “The Italian Baker” (Harper & Row, 1985), which inspired a current generation of bakers and is, to a large degree, responsible for the extraordinary quality of breads now available in the United States. A revised edition was published by Ten Speed Press in 2011.

She continued her documentation of Italy, which began with her first book, “The Hill Towns of Italy” (Dutton, 1983), with beautifully researched and written books that explore Italy’s seasonal celebrations, the cooking of its grandmothers, Italy’s small bites — nibbles traditionally eaten between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner — and, an offshoot of her baking book “Focaccia.”

She stands alongside Marcella Hazan and Mary Taylor Simeti, the three women who have brought traditional Italian and Sicilian cooking and traditions into our home kitchens with eloquence and depth.

Carol Field had many connections here in Sonoma County, which is not surprising given that she lived in San Francisco and had a great love of all things Italian, including really good extra-virgin olive oil. She was an early fan of DaVero’s beautiful oils, which are considered among the finest produced in California.

Because of Field’s death, today’s column does not focus on St. Patrick’s Day. For recipes for the holiday from the Seasonal Pantry’s archives, visit “Eat This Now” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.


This dish, from Field’s “In Nonna’s Kitchen: Recipes and Traditions from Italy’s Grandmothers” (HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, $30), is simple, easy, and perfect at this time of year, when dandelion leaves are tender and not as bitter as they may be later in the year. The Italian parsley is my addition; it keeps the soup a vibrant green and adds a pleasing element of taste, as well.

Dandelion Leaves Simmered in Broth (Cicoria Lessata)

Serves 4 to 6

4 bunches dandelion greens, thoroughly washed

— Kosher salt

1 cup, lightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped

2 cups homemade chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Set the dandelion greens on a clean work surface, trim and discard the tough stems and remove any wilted leaves. Trim and discard any wilted dandelion leaves.

Pour 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan, season with several pinches of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the greens and parsley, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and cook until the leaves are completely tender, about 10 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat, stir in the cheeses, and correct for salt, if necessary. Stir in the olive oil and ladle into individual soup cups or soup plates and enjoy right away.


This recipes, also from “In Nonna’s Kitchen,” is from Lucca. It is easy to make and you should feel free to use a local cheese instead of the Italian one Field includes in her recipe.

Mashed Potato and Spinach Tart

Serves 6

3 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled

— Kosher salt

1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature

3 egg yolks

2 eggs

1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

— Black pepper in a mill

4 1/2 pounds young spinach, stems removed and very thoroughly washed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Fill a large saucepan or soup pot half full with water, season generously with hot water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully plunge the potatoes into the water and cook until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 20 to 35 minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally butter the inside of a 9-inch spring form pan and set it aside.

When the potatoes are tender, drain them thoroughly and pass them through a potato ricer into a large bowl. If you do not have a potato ricer, use a vegetable masher to mash them as smoothly as you can.

Make a well in the center of the potatoes, add the egg yolks, eggs, cheese, half the nutmeg, and several pinches of salt and mix thoroughly, until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Rinse the spinach in water and immediately put it into a large pan set over medium heat, with only the water that clings to the leaves. Using long tongs, turn the spinach until it wilts and is barely tender, about 4 minutes.

Working quickly, use the tongs to transfer the spinach to a colander, return the pan to the heat, and add the butter and remaining nutmeg. While the butter melts, press the spinach to releases any excess water, set it on a work surface, and very quickly chop it. Add it to the pan with the melted butter, turn the spinach, season lightly with salt, and remove from the heat.

To finish the tart, spread half the potatoes over the bottom of the spring form pan and spread the spinach on top. Add the remaining potatoes and spread evenly, completely concealing the spinach.

Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until the top is golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let rest 5 to 10 minutes, carefully release the spring form, and slide the tart onto a platter.

Cut into wedges and enjoy hot, with a big green salad alongside.


This voluptuous dish illustrates one of the most engaging aspects of “In Nonna’s Kitchen,” the way in which Field ferreted out traditional home recipes that are quickly disappearing. This one comes from Vanna Corbellani Camerlenghi of Mantua, who learned to make it by watching her grandmother. Neither woman measured anything but instead simply cooked by sight and intuition. Originally, the dish was made with inexpensive cuts of pork but later came to be made with a very simple pork sausage, seasoned only with salt and pepper.

Rice, Celery, and Sausage

(Riso, Sedano, e Salsicce)

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onions

1 1/4 cups finely chopped celery

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

2 pork sausages, casings removed

1 1/2 cups homemade chicken or meat stock or broth

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato (use canned diced tomato in the off season)

1/2 cup Italian rice, preferably Vialone Nano or Carnaroli

— Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, in one piece

Warm the oil and butter in a heavy 3-quart pot set over medium heat, add the onions and celery and season with salt and pepper. Sauté gently until limp, fragrant, and very lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Crumble sausage into the pan and stir with a fork to break it up as it cooks. Add broth or stock and the tomatoes and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice, cover, and simmer very slowly for 25 minutes, until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid. If necessary, add a little extra liquid (broth, stock, or water) so that the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.

Remove from the heat, ladle into soup plates, top generously with grated cheese, and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com.

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