Last year, I became fascinated with Clara Cannucciari (August 28, 1915-November 29, 2013) after reading Clara’s Kitchen, a book she co-authored about growing up during the Great Depression. The cover of her book states she is, “Everybody’s favorite YouTube Grandmother,” as she also hosted online cooking segments through age 96.
She’s certainly mine, as none of my grandmothers ever appeared on YouTube, not even our incredible adopted Grandma Burrell.
Clara describes growing up during a time when food was scarce and jobs, scarcer. She shares the recipes that sustained her family and the necessary adjustments they made to reduce food wastage and save money. Her recipes are simple. Some, remarkably so, yet I often found myself wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Her family was rarely able to afford meat and relied on sustainable and local food systems such as raising their own chickens for eggs, planting a vibrant garden, canning excess produce, and foraging for wild edibles. For example, Clara describes how to prepare dandelion greens and burdock stalks, plants that are still available in our own backyards or parkways.
Did you know that you can place anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich? My significant other and I have eaten many recipes from Clara’s book, including many of these sandwiches. One evening, we made “Salad Sandwiches” from leftover rainbow chard quickly blanched in hot water, shocked in ice water, and sautéed with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. We also feasted on eggplant burgers, replacing ground beef with a fried slice of eggplant, plus the usual burger accoutrements.
Our favorite of all was this asparagus sandwich and we’ve made it many times, since.
Clara’s Asparagus Sandwich
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
Lemon or lime wedges
- Preheat the oven to 425℉.
- Wash the asparagus. Remove the woody ends (I like to snap off the ends).
- On a sheet pan, drizzle the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the stalks in a single layer and roast for a few minutes. Flip the asparagus, and roast for a few more minutes or until tender.
- Toast your slices of bread and butter them. Place the asparagus between the buttered bread, sprinkle with freshly grated cheese, and spritz with a squirt of lemon or lime.