EASTON — In the lush green hills of Cerignola, Italy in the 1960s, Rosa Prezioso Galeno tended to her essential food pantry filled with fish cured in salt, flavorful beans hung to dry, flour, sugar, and yeast stored in pots.
Life was simpler in the countryside. The streets were tiny. The sunset over the hills with cotton candy-colored skies. The meticulous preparation of food was more appreciated and beauty could be found in churning cream into sweet butter.
Galeno, 62, fell in love with cooking as a child and she has turned that love into a successful family business, Rosa’s Food Shoppe on Eastman Street in Easton.
The Gourmet Italian market offers made-to-order dishes created right in front of you and imported Italian goods right at your fingertips. While there are no tables for dining-in, there are decorative art and bright novelty items to gaze at.
Galeno grew up on one of three dairy farms about 25 miles southeast of Foggia, Italy with her parents and four siblings.
The family farm sold milk to the locals. In her distant memory, she recalls if you didn’t make cheese, then there would be no cheese to eat.
The basic ingredients needed for cooking had their long processes and that made you appreciate eating more.
Growing up on a farm was an unconventional way of life but there were so many rewarding aspects, she said.
Her mother knew how to make something out of nothing. Her father would come home and bring whatever he could find, and then her mother would whip up something delicious.
“It was magical to live on a farm. It helped me enjoy eating more because I knew how hard it was to get this food,” Galeno said.
In 1966 the family relocated to East Boston. There was a thriving community of Italian immigrants in Boston, some of whom knew each other from Italy. The neighborhood was a melting pot of Italian immigrants willing to help one another, which kept the traditions alive, including family recipes, she said.
Those recipes have been passed down from generation to generation and Galeno continues that tradition with her three adult children. The food is deeply layered with an infusion of aromatics, different salts, bold spices and that staple of traditional Italian cooking, olive oil.
Galeno is proud to say all the food sold in the shoppe is healthy, all-natural and made without preservatives.
A signature dish is the shoppe’s healing soup.
“When people feel compromised or just feel off, the healing soup is so beneficial to them. The healing soup makes you feel better,” Galeno said.
Cooked with 18 vegetables, the gluten-free soup offers layers of natural vegetables with low sodium content. (See below for recipe.)
Galeno is on a mission to provide healthy and sustainable food options that are rich in authentic Mediterranean style and not only taste good but are beneficial to your body, she said.
In addition, the shoppe has authentic goods that are shipped from Italy. The selection is extensive, from pasta sauce and oil to Sicilian oregano, potato gnocchi and award-winning fruit preserves.
Rosa and her husband and son, both named Peter Galeno, own The Fieldhouse Arean sports complex in the same building as her gourmet market. They thought a shop inside the sports complex would be perfect spot for athletes to get delicious, healthy food afterward.
“Everything has to be in its ultimate natural state. I like cooking food that I know will do good for your health and body. That’s the main priority at Rosa’s Food Shoppe,” she said
Rosa’s healing soup
Wash vegetables before placing into the soup pot.
4 large onions coarsely chopped
8 scallions minced
10 Yukon gold potatoes peeled and chopped
3 large sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
1 head of celery chopped
1 cup parsnips peeled and chopped
1 butternut squash peeled and chopped
2 cups carrots peeled and chopped
1 cup lentils (any color)
1 cup navy beans
1 cup heirloom red beans
1 cup white beans
1 cup split peas
1 cup fava beans
1 cup lima beans
(Mix and match beans according to your taste)
2 cups sweet corn
2 cups cream of corn
2 cups tomato puree or tomato soup water
6 cups water
To season the soup you will need:
Red pepper flakes
Fresh minced parsley
(These are Rosa’s favorite spices. They are all optional. She says people should add the spices they like best.)
Pour 1 cup good olive oil in a tall stock pot.
Add chopped onions, scallions, Yukon and sweet potatoes, celery, parsnips, and butternut squash to oil in pot.
Let vegetables cook and release juices for about 20 minutes (low heat).
Then add carrots and beans and toss. Let cook for 10 minutes.
Add sweet corn and cream of corn.
Add tomato puree or tomato soup water.
Add 6 cups of cold water or enough water so that all ingredients are under the water in the pot (very important), stir to blend.
Place on medium/low flame on stove top until mixture reaches a slow simmer. Add spices. Stir to blend.
Let soup simmer and cook slowly. This allows vegetables to cook and break down and helps to thicken soup stock
After a few hours, you will see that the vegetables and all the flavors blend into one delicious healing broth. The soup is done when there is a dark skim coat top layer in the pot. Don’t be afraid to taste your soup as it cooks and simmers.
Alisha Saint-Ciel can be reached by email at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @alishaspeakss. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.