Mother's Day Menu with an International Flair

Holidays, Mother's Day, Recipes, Special Occasions
on June 5, 2012
Mark Boughton Photography

For those who celebrate Mother's Day in restaurants (four out of 10 Americans do, according to the National Restaurant Association), the holiday should be renamed "Take your mom to an all-you-can-eat-buffet-and-wait-an-hour-to-be-seated" Day.

I don't understand why anyone exposes a loved one to that treatment. But maybe that's because I love to cook. And I got that love from my mother's obsession with food and gathering the family around the table.

So this is her day.

Growing up in our house was all about food. My parents owned small restaurants, and food was the topic of discussions. I remember talking about what was for dinner at 8 a.m. Every morning I woke to another aroma wafting from her kitchen. As I packed school lunch, I already knew what tonight's dinner would be.
Pots were always simmering on Mom's small electric cook top. There was no top-of-the-line gas range with convection oven in my childhood home.

I lived in the Catskill Mountains where everyone gardened. If it didn't grow outside the door, one of the neighbors grew it. My grandmother lived down the street, so did my two aunts. Everyone grew amazing vegetables and beautiful flowers to decorate the dinner table. We lived on a farm surrounded by goats, dairy cows and wild blueberries.

My mother sorted through all of these ingredients and instilled them with love.

I hope to pass that love to my kids and their friends who are growing up in a world of fast food, empty dinner tables and frozen dinners. I remember simple dishes like a tomato and dill salad and eggplant caviar, which I pass to you. Together they make a wonderful dinner to celebrate Mother's Day — with or without your mom.

Serve this dinner with a loaf of warm Italian semolina bread and maybe some minestrone soup, if you feel inclined. Everything can be made in advance for a soul warming meal.

—By Chef Steve Petusevsky