Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Rose Dunphy, Author and Cook

Novelist Rose Dunphy, an Italian by birth, responded to her fans’ request to bring her family’s recipes for sumptuous Italian dishes to her readers. She published her new cookbook THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING with recipes handed down from her grandmother, mother, and other family members and also produced by her own experimenting. Reviewers praise her use of photos to demonstrate her kitchen and the foods, and claim “As I turn the pages of this beautiful book I can ‘smell’ the aroma of Rose Marie’s recipes.”

In addition to her cookbook, Dunphy published her most recent novel in both English, ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES and Italian CIOTTOLI e BUCCE D'ARANCIA, and has also been published in many magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday. She has a new novel on the “back burner” and plans to get to it soon!

Q: You first wrote ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, a novel described as a “coming of age love story.” What made you decide to create a cookbook, THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING?

Rose Dunphy: Food plays a role in the relationship Marietta, the protagonist in ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, has with her mother once they reunite.  Readers of the novel have written telling me how much they enjoyed that aspect of the book and did I have more recipes and could I put them in a book or in my next novel?  My family and friends know how much I love to cook.  When they found out that readers wanted recipes, they pushed hard for a cookbook.  So I spent most of the summer writing down the recipes I knew by heart and those handed down to me by my mother, grandmother and other Italian relatives living in Italy.  Included in the cookbook are an Introduction, How to Shop for Foods (a request by male relatives new to cooking) and colorful photos of meals alongside the recipe, as well as photos of my mother, cousins and the Italian landscape.  

Q: What makes your recipes “Italian?” How would you characterize Italian cooking? Is it just pasta, garlic, and tomato sauce?

Rose Dunphy: It’s much more than that.  Italian cooking means using only the freshest ingredients possible, especially vegetables.  In fact, many Italians I know grow their own tomatoes, string beans, peppers, eggplant and herbs in summer gardens.  It’s simple cooking in that you would use vegetables, meats, fish and herbs in their most natural state and blend the flavors to produce the most delectable tastes, aromas and colors our senses can enjoy.  Yes, pasta is a consistent part of the Italian meal, but each pasta, especially if it’s fresh, has its own distinctive flavor due to its shape and the type of sauce put over it, whether it’s tomato sauce with or without meat, pesto, oil and garlic, béchamel or Alfredo sauce.

Q: What are your top 3 to 5 tips to guide us on how to cook Italian?

Rose Dunphy:
1.     Buy the freshest ingredients possible and cook them within a day or two.
2.     Use extra virgin olive oil in all your cooking instead of butter for better health.
3.     Cook vegetables together, blending and enhancing flavor and nutrition, for example, broccoli and carrots, zucchini and string beans.  The natural sweetness of one complements the other.
4.     Use fresh herbs and don’t be afraid to mix those in many recipes, for example, sage leaves, a sprig of rosemary, chives, parsley, basil, oregano, whatever you like.  Be creative.  The final flavor will astound you.
5.     For pastas and bread, the flavor of fresh can’t be beat.  If you don’t have time to make pasta or bread yourself, today you can buy fresh pasta or freshly baked bread in most supermarkets.

Q: What do you consider a satisfying, superlative Italian dinner?

Rose Dunphy: One made simply with fresh vegetables as a side, some meat or fish for the entrée, a pasta dish at the beginning of the meal and, at the end, a Romaine or other green salad with basil and arugula that’s dressed with salt, oil and balsamic vinegar.  A cup of espresso with one or two biscotti clinches the final act. 

Q: How do you test your recipes? (I’d like to volunteer, if you still need any help.) What was the best and worst comment you’ve received from any of your “testers?”

Rose Dunphy: I use the taste test.  I taste the finished product and my husband tastes it, too.  If we agree, I know the recipe is a “wow!”  When an entrée or dessert has not come out as expected, both my husband and I are not afraid to say it.  But I am its worst critic.  I go back and try to ascertain what went wrong or what I could have done differently and note it so I don’t make the same mistake again.

I’ll never forget the time I made Talapia in the oven.  Because the colors are similar and I was probably distracted, I inadvertently added cinnamon instead of paprika to the fish.  While it was baking, I detected a sweet scent I wasn’t used to in cooking fish.  When I opened the oven, I realized my mistake.  I tried to rub it off, but it wasn’t easy as the fish was already cooked.  We tried to eat it, but it was not enjoyable.  “It’s terrible,” my husband and I both finally said.   I rose from the dinner table and pulled out two more pieces of Talapia from the freezer and paid more attention to how I dressed them.

Q: Where/how did you get your recipes? Did you do much research?

Rose Dunphy: My recipes have come from my mother, grandmother and other Italian relatives living in Italy.  They’ve been handed down from one generation to another for many years.  I’ve also gotten some from my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, friends and newspapers from which I’ve tweaked them to create my own versions.  My research involved asking my relatives for their recipes that I did not have and confirmation of what I did have.  Also, some of my recipes have evolved over the years.  I like to think they’ve improved due to my creativity to try different combinations of ingredients.

Q: What did you find the most difficult about writing a cookbook?

Rose Dunphy: Following the format of listing the ingredients and steps in an organized fashion to make it easiest on the reader was a challenge as was making sure that I didn’t omit an ingredient or step.

Q: Which was more fun writing – your novel or the cookbook?

Rose Dunphy: The novel was much more creative and, perhaps, more fulfilling.  But both books were work.  The fun comes at the end, when I finish.  It also comes when I speak about my books at author talks in libraries, schools, book stores, etc. and people come up to me and say, “I loved your book.  It really spoke to me because…”  Or, “I made your shrimp recipe last night and it came out delicious.  And it was so easy.”

Q: What’s next? Will you be writing another novel?

Rose Dunphy:  Of course.  One is already on a back burner ready to be lit.  But I have to finish editing someone else’s novel first, which I’m hoping to complete in a month.

Q:  Tell us something about Rose Dunphy. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or cooking?

Rose Dunphy: I love to read, go for walks, exercise at the gym and do some traveling, especially to see my family in Italy.

About Rose Marie Calicchio Dunphy

Rose Marie Calicchio Dunphy was born in Italy and educated in Italy and New York. Having spent her childhood years in her native country, she knows the Italian culture, language and culinary arts from both sides of the Atlantic. A New York State licensed science teacher, writer, lecturer and experienced cook, the author has written a number of books: ORANGE PEELS and COBBLESTONES, a novel; CIOTTOLI e BUCCE D'ARANCIA, the Italian translation of the novel; THAT FIRST BITE-CHANCE or CHOICE, non-fiction about eating disorders with co-author Mary Sullivan, r.c.; THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING, a book of recipes gleaned from generations of Italian women and men that delight everyone's nostrils and palates. In addition, the author has been published in THE NEW YORK TIMES, NEWSDAY, THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, THE EAST HAMPTON STAR, and in numerous magazines across the country.

THE SCENT of ITALIAN COOKING is a cookbook of Italian and Italian-American recipes passed down to the author from her grandmother, mother and other Italian relatives in Italy that delight everyone's nostrils and palates. It also includes recipes the author created on her own by experimenting with different foods and flavors to create in her home and hopefully in yours the wonderful scent of Italian cooking. The recipes are easy to understand and to use. The author wishes to display a love of cooking that she hopes is contagious. The book contains many photos of foods and Italian scenery as well as how to shop for foods, a Table of Contents and an index for quick access of recipes.



“The best memories I have of my childhood are walking into my grandmother’s kitchen.  It was like entering heaven.  All my senses were stirred and I became alive.” 
For many of us, our senses were stirred and we became alive when we entered our mother’s or grandmother’s kitchens.  The aroma of food cooking on the stove or baking in the oven intoxicated us, overwhelming us with joy and building a tradition of lasting memories of the people who loved us.  For me it also includes the kitchens of my Italian relatives in Italy.  Every time I visit my aunts, uncles and cousins, or they visit me, it’s in the kitchen where we congregate.  In the kitchen our minds, mouths and eyes feast on the most delicious food and drink that the earth can provide and our human hands can prepare. It is where we are family, where we become one.
I want to continue this tradition for my children and grandchildren and for others who wish it – to stir their senses, for them to become alive, not just at holiday times but every day or as many days of the year as possible. 
For this reason, I am collating my family’s favorite recipes into this cookbook so they can live on not only in our kitchens, but also in our hearts and souls and senses and in those of our children.
Pesto Sauce

You can buy pesto sauce, but it won’t taste like the kind that’s home-made.  And it’s so easy to do especially if you grow basil in your garden outside or indoors in a pot.  You can also buy a bunch of fresh basil at the store any time of year. You can put parsley in the mix by using one cup of basil and one cup of parsley, if you prefer. 

Tip: If you double the recipe or make more, you can freeze what you don’t use by pouring several spoonsful (serving for one or two) onto a piece of waxed paper, fold closed and cover with aluminum foil.  Place on a flat cookie sheet and put in freezer.  Once frozen, place packages in a freezer bag, label and date and put back in freezer for future use. 

2 cups fresh basil ½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. pine nuts 1/3 cup grated cheese
3 chopped garlic cloves or more if you like it more garlicky.

1.     Wash basil and parsley, if using it, under running water.  Dry with paper toweling.  Cut off any thick stems.
2.     Place oil, half of basil, pine nuts and garlic in blender or food processor and blend.  Add remaining basil and blend to a fine texture.  Puree.
3.     Add cheese and blend quickly.  Puree.  Yields one cup ready to serve or freeze for a future time.  

The Scent of Italian Cooking

Ciottoli e Bucce D'Arancia

Orange Peels and Cobblestones


Twitter: @RoseDunphy

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