Friday, January 29, 2010

Crostata di marmellata di fichi e crema di vaniglia

What a nice treat to prepare for someone special. A sweet layer of figs, covered with a rich dense vanilla cream..   I have used this Vanilla Cream  recipe several different ways; filling for cream puffs, spread between cake layers, and on it's own served with a spoon.  This is a favorite at Debbie's house and all come a running when it's time to enjoy.  You know who you are... :)  Thank you for this sweet delicate goodness! 
Vanilla Cream Filling
150 g sugar
100 g corn starch
.5 tsp salt
770 ml milk
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tbs butter
1 tbs and 1 tsp vanilla

-Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt in 1/2 quart pan.  Stir in milk gradually.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils.
-Boil and stir for one minute.
-Stir at least half of the mixture into the beaten egg yolks, then blend into the hot mixture in the pan.
-Boil and stir for one minute.
Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla
-Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  One hour.

Choose a jam of your preference.  I used organic fig jam, a nice mix with the delicate cream.

Monday, January 25, 2010

a walk in Portofino...

Oh to have been around during the time of Plinio il Vecchio and to have seen the many dolphins swimming in the neighboring waters of this place...  For it was he who first named this beautiful harbour "Portus Delphini" after his experiences here.

 The characteristic fishermen houses, that snugly line the coast of the harbour and reflect in the blue sea, are supported on one another and distinguished apart only by their delicate colors.

The importance of this village grew in the medieval age thanks to its natural port that offered secure landing and shelter to the sailing ships of the period. This happens to be the most famous harbour, and I've heard in the world,  that is set in the middle of a natural peninsula formed by the inlet of Portofino Bay.

Castello Brown perches high above the village. After we followed a small winding path, we reached the castel where a museum, gardens, and breathtaking views over the bay and the Gulf of Tigullio were waiting.
A magical place...

The entire walk had me wanting to discover what was around each corner.  This scenic pathway eventually takes you out to the lighthouse, faro, on Punta del Capo where you can sit back and watch the sun set...

Portofino, we'll be back...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

il mio mattarello

With all that pesto made, I got to work on fresh pasta.  Last night we had a dinner for six and we were going to serve the maltagliati pasta with pesto, and the fresh sheep ricotta ravioli with salsa alla noci.  While I was rolling, Gabriella prepared the noci, so I'll work on adding that subtle sauce soon...
All this was made possible due to my purchase from the street market on Thursday; my new, extra long polling pin!

Just a reminder, for fresh egg pasta, 100g of durum wheat pasta, one egg, and a touch of salt.  Rule of thumb, 400 g flour with 4 eggs will serve 6 portions of fresh pasta and 8 portions of filled pasta.

Pinoli e Pesto Genovese

A few months back, we set out to gather pine nuts with our friends in the hills of Sicily. The landscape was amazing as we searched for those very characteristic Mediterranean Pines (Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine).  These raw pine nuts grown in the wild are adored throughout the world for their taste and texture.  And here they are, literally at our fingertips! 

We then passed through the town of Novara for a pick-nic lunch and enjoyed the shade and beauty of this sweet place between the Peloritani and the Nebrodi Mountains.  In Novara, during the time of Carnival, the traditional “Gioco of the Maiorchino” takes place, where wheels of maiurchèa (a seasoned pecorino cheese) are rolled down along the town streets. People gather and follow this rolling masked ball through the many twists and turns of the town.
Rocca Leone

Now, being that I am in Genova, what more traditional recipe is there than the well known Pesto Genovese?  I have made my fair share of pesto, but I've learned that there is nothing like the Pesto Genovese.  The very best Genovese basil is said to be grown in Prà, where the basil is distinguished for its small, oval shaped, fine green leaves. Their perfume is - with respect to other types of basil - exceptionally delicate.  Prà happens to be very close to where I am, so my friend Giovanna picked some up on her way over to Gabriella's house for a day of pesto making. 

To truly make this pesto, one needs to use the marble mortar and wooden pestle with diligence and patience.  The tender leaves of the basil should never get near a heat source and a mixer could give off heat causing the leaves to wilt.  Unfortunately we did not have the proper utensils, but I'll work on that for the next time! 

Pesto for 600 g of pasta

50 grammi di foglioline di basilico.
Olio extravergine di oliva - ½ bicchiere
Needs to be from the origen of Liguria or a product of Italy
Formaggio grattugiato - 6 spoons of  Parmigiano Reggiano and 2 of Pecorino DOP
- 2
Pinoli - 1 spoon
Sale grosso - few grains
Grind the pine nuts with the garlic, then add the basil.  Add a touch of salt and the ground cheeses.  Taste for salt and enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cotto e Crudo

This morning I found a new website that I would like to share, ‘Cotto e crudo’ . I appreciate their approach and what they are all about.  Enjoy...

"Choosing the food we buy and eat is a powerful means of taking responsibility for ourselves and the world we live in. It is important that such choices are informed and conscious. ‘Cotto e crudo’ is focused on sustainable, cruelty-free cooking and the development of recipes that are delicious, healthy, nutritious, animal-friendly and gentle on the environment. The site gives people some ideas and resources to introduce more plant-based food into their diets, to optimize their health, eating habits, lifestyle, to prevent disease and lower the negative impact that modern, contemporary (food) production and consumerism have had on nature, the planet and its inhabitants."

Friday, January 15, 2010


Yes, that flat oven-baked bread that we all know, Focaccia. I have only one question. How many Focaccia places can be in one small town? Everywhere I turn there is another sign for Focaccia? Everyone must eat Focaccia here... ;) After all, I am in Genova and this is the focaccia genovese! The proper way of eating this bread is turning the seasoned side down, so your taste buds can enjoy all the flavors...

My three new friends enjoying their tasty treat after a long walk by the sea at the street market...

Cogoleto, Genova

Here we are!! Cogoleto, our home for the next few months... My first walk through the town I found myself grinning from ear to ear. This place is so cute with a nice small town feeling. I'm so happy we decided to stay here, rather than in the city of Genova. Each have their our characteristics, but the slow pace, everyone knowing everyone environment, is more my taste. Needless to say, I have found all the pastry shops and will be trying my hand at creating "Dolci Tradizionali Genovesi"...

There is an amazing lungomare for the whole length of the town. Every day there are people walking, enjoying the fresh air, rain or shine!

Cogoleto also claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus... Here you can take a look at his portraits and life scenes that are scattered around the town.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Genova, here we come...

On December 28th, we set sail for Genova with our car packed with all the necessities for our new adventure. For the next few months we are going to live our Sicilian Simplicity in Genova, Cogoleto to be exact. Our small seas side town of Cogoleto will be our home away from home as we discover Northern Italy and take in all things new! Nice way to start the year...

Concerto de LE 7 MUSE, Taormina 26.12.2009

We had the pleasure of singing in Taormina the day after Christmas in the Cattedrale...

Liquore alle more

Blackberry Liqueur
I have been saving this post for a long time, as I wanted to post it once everything was complete. It took five months of preparation, but I have to say that it was well worth it! During the warm summer month of July, we set out with some friends to collect wild blackberries. This year we wanted to give a bottle of this unique sweet liqueur for Christmas, and we had just the right amount of time to do so. Once December came around, family and friends enjoyed all the sweetness of the summer...


I happened upon a Pandoro form a few months back (maybe not a perfect shape), and I've been wanting to try my hand at making one. What a pleasure... The scent in the kitchen was amazing! Then, to share this perfumed loaf with those whom you love... Well, there is nothing better. AUGURI!


This is a type of pre-ferment used in italian baking. The biga adds complexity to the bread's flavor and is often used in breads which need a light, open texture.

-Flour 70 grams
-Fresh yeast 10 grams
-Water at room temperature 50 grams

Dissolve the fresh yeast in the water, then add the flour. Set aside to rise, double in size.

First Mixture
-Eggs 2
-Flour 130 grams
-Sugar 40 grams
-Butter 40 grams

Mix all the ingredients in the First Mixture, then add the Biga. Mix well and set aside to rise, double in size.

Second Mixture
-Flour 270 grams
-Sugar 100 grams
-Eggs 3
-Egg yolk 3
-Salt 1 tsp
-Rum 2 tbsp
-Vanilla 1 tbsp
-Melted Butter 250 grams

Mix all the ingredients in the Second Mixture, then add the First Mixture. Form a ball and place the dough into a buttered pandoro form. Set aside to rise for 10-12 hours. Bake at 180° C for about an hour. Leave to cool and then flip the form over.

This is worth the extra time! Your friends and family will be VERY happy... ;)