Wednesday, November 25, 2015


As I write this I am looking out at the rain over the mountain in Maui; yep, I'm in paradise and it's raining!  But I am thankful that I am here with Dr. C. and our son, and we get to celebrate Thanksgiving in this beautiful place, and there is college basketball.
This year has been full, with travel and new experiences and Dr. C. retiring from his Oral Surgery practice.  I am so grateful for our family, friends, colleagues, my students, and the cooking schools that have welcomed me in and allowed me to teach their customers.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I'm also remembering those that aren't with us this year, and celebrating what they taught us. 
Family holidays can be difficult for some, and this year I'm adopting an attitude of gratitude, that I hope will continue, since the consensus seems to be that having an attitude of gratitude makes you live longer, and I'm all for that!
Wishing you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving filled with great food, wine, and the love of family and friends.  Aloha!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Limoncello Tiramisu or Trifle

The dripping trifle bowl is a limoncello trifle that I taught at a class in Indiana a few weeks ago.  When I taught tiramisu at The Kitchen Shoppe on Sunday, I mentioned that you could make a Limoncello tiramisu using lemon curd, and mascarpone....and so I promised to publish the recipe.  So if you are looking for a great dessert for the holidays, this one will do it for you.  Whether you decide to use pound cake for trifle, or ladyfingers for tiramisu, this is a simple, make ahead dessert.  Buon appetito!

Limoncello Mascarpone Trifle
Serves 8
This recipe is for a trifle (using cake rather than lady fingers)  For Tiramisu, substitute 3 packages Italian lady fingers for the cake, and lay them into a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. 

For the Cake
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla paste or extract

1.     Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and coat the inside of a 1/2sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray, or with a silicone baking liner.
2.     In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and soda.
3.     In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy, add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla; the mixture will look curdled. 
4.     With the machine on low speed, add the flour mixture a bit at a time, until the mixture begins to come together.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth. 
5.     Pour the batter into the sheet pan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. 
6.     OR:  One Sara Lee pound cake, cut into 1/2-inch slices

For the Lemon Curd
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Limoncello
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1.     In a saucier, over medium heat, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and lemon juice, and cook, whisking constantly until the lemon curd comes to a boil. 
2.     Remove from the heat, stir in the Limoncello, and whisk in the butter a bit at a time.  Push the lemon curd through a sieve into a clean bowl, and press plastic wrap into the lemon curd.  Allow to cool completely. 
3.     The lemon curd will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. 
4.     If you prefer to buy lemon curd, I recommend the Stonewall Kitchens brand—you will need at least 3 cups. 
 For the Mascarpone crème
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese

1.     In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a whisk, beat together the heavy cream and sugar, until stiff peaks form. 
2.     Add the mascarpone, and beat together until blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 

For the Limoncello Brushing Liquid

3/4 cup Limoncello
1/4 cup water
Blend together the Limoncello and water, and set aside. 

Cooled cake
Limoncello brushing liquid
Lemon curd
Mascarpone crème

1.     Choose an 8 to 10 cup glass bowl, and cut the cake into pieces that will fit into the bottom of the bowl.  Brush with some of the Limoncello mixture.
2.      Spread a 1/2-inch layer of lemon curd over the cake, and top the lemon curd with 1/2-inch of the mascarpone crème.
3.      Continue layering cake, brush with Limoncello, layer curd, and mascarpone crème, ending with mascarpone crème.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and serve cold. 
4.     Variation:  The trifle can be served in individual parfait glasses, if desired. 
5.     Another Variation:  After spreading the lemon curd, sprinkle the curd with your choice of berries:  sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015


 Coming home has its own set of angst.  After being gone for 3 months, half of that in Italy, it’s hard to imagine coming home to my own bed, and kitchen after living out of suitcases for this long.

Leaving Italy was difficult for me.  Dr. C. is still getting used to being retired, and there were a few things he wanted to get settled at home, so he was ready, but I definitely could have stayed on.  Our last few days were in Rome, I stopped by Noi Salon to get my hair cut and had a fabulous time with our friends Rick Breco and Massimo Topo.  I’m hoping we’ll get to see them at Christmas when they come “home” to So. Cal. 

Arriving in the US we are greeted with the 24 hour news cycle.  Italian TV is more civilized, in that a lot of it is old US reruns, dubbed in Italian—you haven’t lived till you have heard Marge Simpson speak Italian. 

Reentry for me involves readjusting to the stress-filled lives that we Americans tend to live.  I’ve been on the road for 2 weeks since we returned, and have tried wherever possible to do deep breathing, to remember the gorgeous views from our terrace, and the laid back life style that we led while in Spello.  It becomes harder to remember the further away I get. 
I am so blessed to be able to do things I love, and to spend time in Italy with our family at Enoteca Properzio.  Next year, I’ve been accepted as a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome to study their sustainable food project.  Dr. C. and I will live at the American Academy for the month of April, and I will study and write about the project.  Building community around the dinner table is something that is near and dear to my heart, and I want to see how the academy fosters collaboration, and collegiality around their table.  I cannot wait.  But until then, I’m 30 minutes away from landing in San Diego, and am excited to reunite with Dr. C., our son Ryan, my friends and my kitchen.  More on that later.  Until then Ciao.    

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dreams Come True


Last year while studying Italian at the local community college, I got an idea.  I wanted to go to the   American Academy in Rome as a visiting scholar in literature to study and write about their sustainable food project.   As I immersed myself into the language each day, I felt confident with my background in cookbooks, and teaching that I might just be able to pull this off. 
On Friday, while still in Rome I got the e-mail that they have accepted me for the month of April.  I am beyond blessed to be able to do this, and to study something that is near and dear to my heart; building community around the table.  So, in April, I'll be heading to Rome with Dr. C. to live and work in this amazing community.  We'll be immersed not only in this vibrant community, but also in Rome, and I for one cannot wait to share this adventure with all of you. 
For now Dr. C. and I are dealing with reentry---what no cappuccino and cornetto for breakfast? We'll get over it! 

Monday, October 26, 2015


Dr. C. and I are down to 3 more nights in Spello, and we need to use up what's in the fridge, so I thought I'd make us a crostata, an Italian jam tart with leftover sauteed apples, and apricot jam.  I'm working without a net here, so measurements are sketchy at best, and I'm just throwing things together, but this little baby turned out really well, and was delicious for breakfast this morning. 

Leftover Crostata
Serves 6
This is not the traditional pasta frolla, that is used for a crostata here in Italy. That dough uses eggs, and lots of sugar, almost like a cookie dough.  This is more like an all-American pie dough and was easy to work with.. 

For the Crust

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup ice water with 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

  1. Put the flour into a bowl.  Using your hands work the butter into the flour until it is incorporated.  
  2. Add the water a bit at a time, until the dough begins to hold together like wet sand.  Form into a disc and refrigerate for 1 hour (or freeze while making the filling)
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a 9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  4. Cut the chilled dough in half, and roll out on a floured board to fit into the baking dish.  Press into the the baking dish, and spread the filling over the crust.  
  5. Roll out the other piece of dough and cut it into strips, and lay across the filling, in a lattice pattern.  No need to weave the dough, just lay on top of each other.  
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Allow to cool a bit before serving. 
For the Filling

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Granny Smith or Fuji apples, peeled cored and sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup apricot jam

  1. In a skillet, heat the butter, and add the apples, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon, and cook down until the apples are tender.  Taste for sugar/lemon/cinnamon and adjust.  Cool and add the apricot jam.  
Cook's note:  you can do this with firm pears, and match with your favorite jam, cherry is a good choice, or plum. 

As we get ready to leave Italy, I am feeling myself getting into re-entry mode.  I'm not ready for the 24 hour news cycle or the incivility that we left.  I'm working on Dr. C. to spend the election cycle here in Italy next year, my rationale is that in Italy we know that the politics are crazy, but the food is so much better!  Until next time, Ciao from Spello.