Cousin Daisy died yesterday while undergoing surgery to remove an eye, which had long been troubling her. She was fourteen. Cousin Daisy was a most marvelous pug, sweet, and charmingly cantankerous in her later years. She was always obstinate. Though she hailed from Staten Island, she had a most Manhattan aura about her.
When she was younger and more mobile, Daisy’s idea of a good time was to wake you up by putting her tongue in your ear (when the Italian Scallion put his tongue in her ear in retaliation, she didn’t much enjoy it). She liked to make mad dashes out of doors, particularly onto two-lane highways in upstate New York. She thoroughly enjoyed her time at the dog run in Washington Square Park, and was recalcitrant when it came time to leave: once, there were four us of trying to round her up; we held a competition to see who could do it the fastest. The Italian Scallion’s brother won in record time (4 seconds; for the rest of us, it was close to a minute).
She was the bane of Tillie’s existence. Though one could argue that pugs are butt ugly, Daisy always attracted more attention when the two were out in society together (Tillie became the big-boned, buck-toothed sister, the wallflower at the party).
Tillie had this to say about Cousin Daisy in her sadly unpublished-during-her-life-time memoirs: “ … [she] absolutely adores fegatini. She has inflicted herself on me four times since I have been living here. She is the bane of my existence, and inescapable. She is from New York and has lots of attitude, a big designer wardrobe including several winter sweaters, a raincoat, and boots, and she is spoiled rotten. Whenever we are out together, everyone always pays attention to her and ignores me. It’s one of those cases that, since we’re family, we’re supposed to like one another. Well, she might like me, but I have very little use for her. When she was younger, she used to be ok as a puppy playmates went, but now she is merely a thorn in my side. Two things bug me about her: she gets to ride inside the airplane whenever she travels, and she’s small enough to fit in people’s laps. Maybe I am a lapdog wannabe.”
“Carlino” is Italian for pug (don’t ask me why, as it means Little Charles). Italians would ask my sister what Daisy’s name was, and Kerry would say, “Daisy” and they would not understand. “Margherita” she would then offer which is, of course, Italian for Daisy.
Daisy never came when called. She always enjoyed Asian food, particularly Chinese. One time, when Kerry and Daisy were visiting Florence, we decided to go to one of Florence’s better Chinese restaurants. We called to see if we could bring a dog (many restaurants allow dogs to dine with their people). “You’ll have to speak to the chef," they said. We think they thought that we wanted to add this to our menu.
Daisy was well traveled; she came to Italy many, many times (she continued to visit after Tillie died in 2004). Her first visit was in February 1997, and though she took in the sites (there was a memorable trip to Piazza Santissima Annunziata), she took in more food. My sister loved fegatini, and decided to introduce both pups to it. Who, naturally, took to it like a house on fire. During Daisy’s first visit, my sister regularly bought store-made fegatini and fed it to them, liberally.
Fegatini is classic Tuscan cuisine. You make the spread, and then you toast that saltless bread, rub a clove of garlic over it, and then lather it on. There are two schools of thought: creamy or chunky. Both are good: Fabio Picchi, at Cibreo, serves the best creamy version in town. The folks at La Giostra serve the best chunky version in town. Below is a variation on La Giostra’s recipe.
This one’s for you, Puggles.
Crostini di fegatini
Chicken liver spread
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. chicken livers, cleaned and trimmed
Dash of extravirgin olive oil
¼ lb. butter
One glass of red-wine vinegar (have a bottle on hand)
1/3 c. red wine
1 bay leaf
3 juniper berries
½ c. red-wine vinegar
1 onion, finely minced
1 carrot, finely minced
1 celery rib, finely minced
A generous ladleful of chicken stock (a scant cup)
A half glass vin santo (about a ½ c.)
2-3 T. high-quality balsamic vinegar
One small jar of capers, with their brine (chop the capers)
1 tube anchovy paste
Saltless Italian bread or a baguette, for toasting
Place the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and let melt. Add 3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped. Do not brown the garlic.
Add the whole chicken livers and cook over high heat. Add the bay leaf, juniper berries, and glass of red wine vinegar. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
When most of the liquid has evaporated from the pan, add the glass of red wine, let bubble and reduce. Once done, remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Do not chop the liver when it is hot, as it becomes mush. Put the liver mixture in a bowl and reserve.
In the same pan (unrinsed), put a quarter glass of extravirgin olive oil. Mince the carrot, celery, and onion, and add to the pan. If necessary, add a little red wine vinegar to the pan to deglaze it. Dribble the liquid from the cooling liver into the pan. Add another generous dollop of red wine vinegar.
Coarsely chop the cooled liver (remove the juniper berries and bay leaf), and add to the pan once the vegetables are softened. If any liquid from the pre-chopped liver remains, add that to the pan as well. Add one generous ladleful of stock, a half glass of vin santo , and cook slowly over a low flame. Add the jar of capers with their brine to the mixture, and the tube of anchovy paste. Stir vigorously. Let the liquid evaporate, and remove from the pan.
Just before serving (preferably almost immediately upon removing the pan from the flame), add two to three tablespoons of high-quality balsamic vinegar, stir quickly.
Take the Italian loaf, or the baguette, slice, and toast it. You can, if you wish, drizzle a little olive oil on the toast, but it isn’t necessary. Generously lather on the liver spread, eat, and make sure to share with dogs.
Terracotta Sculptress says that one of life’s greatest tragedies is that dogs don’t live as long as we do. She’s right.
When Tillie died, we pictured her as chasing cheeseburgers in the sky. Not our Daisy: I’m sure she’s sitting around, waiting for someone some saint eternally serving her crostini di fegatini.
December 12, 1996-March 26, 2010
 She summered in the south of France with Waldo, who was then a pup, and admirably tolerated his obnoxiousness. She went to Mexico a couple of times; she also became well acquainted with various states, including Virginia and North Carolina. She was especially fond of Maine – had a great liking for mussel shells.