26 June 2013

Nicola “Pop” Buono 1910—2013 ~ Old-School Seattle Real Estate Investor and World-Class Eater

My grandfather Nicola Buono, who recently passed away at nearly 103 years of age, taught me many things in life.  As my professor in the School of Good Times, he taught me a lot about food, drink and laughter.  He also taught me, at the risk of sounding a bit too fancy, the advantages of long-hold real estate investment.  Through his life he accumulated many rental properties, mostly on Capitol Hill.  After decades of ownership and appreciation, you can imagine the benefits he gained from his holdings.  Two of his last properties on 18th Avenue East just sold on hallowed Seattle real estate, and if you check out the other side, you’ll see what wise investing can do for you.  My favorite lessons centered around the simple pleasures in life.  Here are some of Pop’s tidbits for you!

Cucina Povera.  Orecchietti (Casa Fiore #58—March, ’11).  Aglio olio (Casa Fiore #29—April—May, ‘07).  Raw ciccoria—aka as dandelion greens. Capuzelle (you don’t want to know what that is.) Squid eyes for breakfast. These are all dishes that help formed my ethic both in and out of the kitchen.  The Cucina Povera of Southern Italy, or literally “Poor Kitchen”, is frugal cuisine, and it’s very much in vogue.  In honor of Pop, I am reposting the above recipes on CasaFioreOnline.com—see below.
Know Your Fig Trees.  Long before the foodie locavore craze of today, Pop knew of every single fig tree (and many other edibles) all around Seattle.  Very conveniently, he also personally “knew” every owner of said trees and other found fruits and vegetables.  I very painfully had this lesson reinforced when a luscious stand of overwintered chard mysteriously disappeared from my garden one day while I was at work.
How to Shuck an Oyster.  Christmas Eve morning was and still is the party before the party, and Pop could mutilate an oyster better than any average chef.  And, boy, did he show me the finer points on how to suck ‘em down when no one else was looking. 
Cent’Erba.  There are many stories that center around this Italian elixir of literally “100 herbs”.  100 herbs for 100+ years—I guess that was an adage to live by! 
RECIPE:  Lupini.   These odd legumes were home-cured by Pop and were always a hit at the table.  Great with beer and other munchies.  Like peanuts at the ballgame (Pop was a great baseball fan, and as the mascot for the Seattle Rainiers, he once met Babe Ruth!), lupini are equally food and pastime.  Here is a simple recipe—be sure to always pop them out of their rubbery shell before eating!  Just use dried beans and soak them in lightly salted water for 2-3 weeks. Try to change the water every day. Try the beans occasionally. If they are not done they will be very bitter out of the shell. Sometimes a scum will appear but just ignore it and change the water. When done, drain and rinse and store indefinitely in a jar of water in the refrigerator.
Orecchiette con Cim’ d’Rabb

  1. Gather, clean, and coarsely chop any variety of greens available in your garden. If purchasing greens, you can stick to the traditional recipe and use 1. 5 lbs. of broccoli rapa.
  2. Meanwhile, boil 1 lb. orecchiette pasta or any other noodle until “al dente”.
  3. Sauté 6 tbsp. olive oil and 6 cloves of minced garlic over  low heat until translucent but not brown. (Adding a few fillets of anchovy is a nice option at this stage!)
  4. Add fresh greens, salt, and pepper to garlic sauté. Cook until just tender. Drain pasta, add to greens, add a few drops of pasta water reserved from the pot, and sauté for a few minutes to meld ingredients. Serve with grated romano cheese.
Aglio Olio
  1. Boil water for 1 lb. of dry pasta, which is preferred over its fresh counterpoint for this dish. Mince lots of garlic—6-8 large cloves at least. Sauté over lowest heat in a pan generously coated in olive oil (1/3 cup) until translucent.
  2. Pat oil from 1 tin of anchovies, chop coarsely, and add to garlic. Sauté until anchovies melt. Throw pasta into boiling water. Throw a large handful of chopped parsley into garlic-anchovy-oil sauce.
  3. Drain pasta when al dente (or literally, “at the teeth”, firm and not soft and soggy), reserving a couple of tbsp. of the water. Then mix pasta, sauce, and water together and, if you like, season with spoonfuls of pecorino romano cheese.

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