Family and cooking are both important to Little Rocky Run's Laurina Filippini Holte, so it's only natural that she wrote a cookbook of favorite recipes — many of which she learned from her parents, grandparents and husband.
Called "Prima! Recipes of Choice: The Best Recipes for the Foods You Love to Eat," the just-published cookbook reflects her Italian heritage, her husband's Norwegian ancestry and the recipes friends have requested most from her, over the years.
"I decided it would be a good idea to have my recipes in one place," explained Holte. "And it was a way of passing them on to my children and friends."
Her grandparents were from Tuscany and moved to Rome, N.Y., where Holte and her six siblings grew up. She became interested in cooking during visits to her grandparents' house for Sunday dinner. The dishes were all homemade — complete with homegrown vegetables and fresh basil.
"My grandparents made veal dishes, pasta, vegetables, soups, homemade bread and even homemade wine," said Holte. "I loved my grandmother's chicken soup with pastina — tiny pasta."
She was also influenced by her mother who made homemade pasta, bread, minestrone and tomato sauce with lamb chunks served over pasta. "We had a lot of people around the table, so she always cooked in large quantities and would send people home with loaves of homemade bread," said Holte. "She also made a lot of blueberry pies and recipes with mushrooms because my father picked [them both] wild in the woods when he went hunting."
Holte grew up and raised a family of her own. She and her husband Roger, a retired Air Force judge, have two daughters, Lee Anne, 32, in Andover Newton Divinity School in Boston, and Amy Jo, 30, working on her doctorate at the University of Texas. Holte is a legal secretary for the Washington, D.C., law firm of Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky LLP.
She'd been thinking about writing a cookbook, the past couple years, and began in February. She culled through her thousands of recipes — collected over 45 years — sorted them into categories and chose the 600 best for the book. Said Holte: "They're the ones I knew were especially good, or that people had requested or that my family liked."
The book is divided into categories such as appetizers, pasta/rice/casseroles, meats and poultry, seafood, desserts, etc., and contains a wide variety of recipes within each one. Besides Italian and Norwegian dishes, it also offers recipes for traditional American food, as well as Asian, Greek, Indian, French, German and Spanish dishes. Desserts, alone, range from Cannoli Cake to Baklava to Norwegian Rosettes to Heath Bar Cake.
Holte's signature recipes include Chicken with Creamy Swiss Cheese Sauce ("It has lemon, sour cream and Swiss cheese and is really very good"), cannoli ("That's always been my favorite, ever since I was a little girl"), Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and Fettucine with Lamb Sauce.
Other noteworthy recipes, said Holte, include Pasticiotti (chocolate or vanilla tarts). "This is one of the recipes that is difficult to find," she said. "Bakers don't often want to reveal their recipe for it." And her Chocolate Cake recipe won a prize during a fund-raising bakeoff her law firm had for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. "It was unanimous," she said. "Everybody loved it."
Friends' favorites include Broiled Marinated Lamb Chops (marinated in yogurt and onion), Curried Loin of Pork (flavored with bay leaf, sage, curry and wine), Candied Sweet Potatoes (with orange juice and pecans), Pineapple Cranberry Salad (with lemon, orange and walnuts) and Italian Seafood Salad ("It's great for brunch, dinner or an appetizer," said Holte. "It's a nice-tasting combination of ingredients.")
She also likes her Chicken in Creamed Coconut Sauce, a flavorful Indian recipe, and her mother's Bread Dough recipe is also the basis for homemade pizza, sausage bread, baguettes or calzones. She's also received raves for her Apple Bran Muffins and Cherry Cookies, and some of her family's favorites are named after them — Short Ribs Roger, Pretzels - Amy Jo and Chocolate Chip Heath Bar Cookies Lee Anne.
"It's good-tasting food made with good ingredients," said Holte. "I like cooking from scratch, but many of the recipes are quick and easy."
With more than 300 pages — plus menu suggestions for children and adults — the cookbook sells for $11. And, so far, it's selling like, well, hotcakes (see Laurina's Pancakes, page 204). After receiving copies of her book on Nov. 12, Holte's already sold 675 books via a book-signing and by word of mouth.
"I tell people about it wherever I go," she said. Her co-workers bought several, having previously sampled her culinary talents when she'd bring in goodies to the office.
The book is available in some gourmet-food stores but, locally, Holte's selling it, herself. She publishes her phone number in it and encourages people to call her at 703-266-0860 to place orders. She'll deliver the books, herself (for free in the local area), or make arrangements to get them to the customers.
People may also call to chat about the book. Said Holte: "I love to talk about cooking, so people may call me if they have any questions about the recipes, menu planning or substitution of ingredients."
Robert La Tour of Winding Ridge already purchased the cookbook and loves it. He's a hairdresser at Creative Cuts in Centreville, and Holte's a customer.
"She brought in the book as a gift for the girl doing her hair, and I was impressed with it," he said. "It's user-friendly, has interesting recipes and I could find the ingredients. Everything sounded delicious, it's got great photos and it's obviously a labor of love. I plan on using it a lot and, at $11, I could afford to buy it for everybody for presents."
La Tour also found it "endearing" that Holte included her phone number in case people had questions. "I don't see Martha Stewart putting in her phone number," he said. "And who knows Betty Crocker?"
Angela Peabody of Singleton's Grove bought one book for herself and eight for gifts. Holte showed it to her during their daily Metro bus ride to Vienna. "She gives ideal tips about keeping food fresh and preparing it," said Peabody. "I'm already selecting which recipes to make for the holidays when entertaining guests."
Below is a sample recipe:
<mh>Spaghettini with Smoked Salmon
<bt>1 lb. spaghettini
2 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. smoked salmon, diced
1/4 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. minced Italian parsley
Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Melt butter in a large skillet. Add parsley and cook 3 minutes. Add cream and cook on medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add salt and pepper. Add smoked salmon and stir. Remove from heat and keep warm. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and cook spaghettini until al dente. Put spaghettini into a warm serving bowl. Pour sauce over and mix. Add Parmesan cheese and mix again.