Monday, August 31, 2009


WHAT IS A TORTA?   Its a rich layered dessert or cheese appetizer.  Italian torta is the appetizer. This is best prepared a day before serving.
                                         Serves about 10
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
28 to 32 ounces of  Goat Cheese
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups basil/parsley Pesto   (You will have extra to freeze.)
1 cup to  1 1/2  prepared plum jam, 
        ( I reboil it to thicken it more and then cool.)

Line a 3 X 8 loaf pan with parchment paper; set aside. (I used a small plastic storage container) You can substitute a small dish of any kind that you can line. You will remove it later anyway to turn the torta over onto a serving plate.

Using a hand mixer , beat butter until smooth.  Add goat cheese, in batches, and beat until no lumps remain. Season with salt and pepper and beat again.

Divide goat cheese mixture into 2 or more equal portions. Using a spatula or spoon spread one portion of the goat cheese mixture over the bottom of your dish; top with pesto, spreading evenly. Spread the plum jam on top of the pesto. Spread another layer of goat cheese on top and completely cover the jam so that no jam is visible.  Cover with plastic wrap.  (Note: You can do several layers if you like.  I just did 4 layers because I had more cheese than I thought. Also I put the "log to be" in the freezer after each layer to get it firm.)

Sometimes I roll it in toasted pine nuts at the end.  Or press them into the bottom of the log.  Yummy.

Refrigerate and chill until firm.  Slice crosswise and serve with crackers of sourdough rounds that are toasted.  Makes over 3 cups.  

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1 1/4 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leavesPublish Post
1 1/2 cups pinenuts, toasted
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cups extra-virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in the jar of a blender. Blend until smooth. It makes a great green color. This recipe is very similar to several I found on the internet.  This is my version.

It tastes the best when its been refrigerated 24 to 48 hours. The flavors have blended perfectly. It will keep for 5 days at least.

Place chilled torta on serving plate. Slice individual portions with dental floss or a sharp knife. Its tricky. It wants to crumble a little, but it spreads back with a knife.

Now the best part. Fill a ziploc bag with some of the plum jam. Cut a corner out of the bag. Squirt the jam down the center of the top of the torta for decoration.  
You have red, green and white.   I like to put some jam along the sides of the torta if I 
have enough.

There will be no leftovers. If there is, you will take them home to eat.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


This is easy and no cooking!
Your friends will think you are a gourmet. Well, you are, aren't you?
What is it?
In Italian, bruschetta meaning the bread that is toasted.  As usual we change things and Americans call the topping  "bruschetta".  This is one of those toppings.

7 to 8 Roma tomatoes (Ripe but firm)
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 to 16 medium to large fresh basil leaves, chopped.
( 2 leaves for each tomato seems a perfect ratio.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
            Secret ingredient: 
 Pinch of Rosemary, powdered.
Add this in the olive oil mixture.
I find the fresh chopped rosemary is too much. 
Tomatoes should be salted after chopping and
Let them rest in a strainer for 15 minutes. 
This way some of the water drains off.
Place tomatoes, chopped garlic and chopped basil in a bowl.
Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of fresh groung pepper, a little more salt.  Don’t forget the rosemary powder if you have it.
Toss the tomato mixture with the olive oil mixture.
This mixture is wonderful even 4 days later.
Use on top of toasted bread slices from a baquette. Baste your bread slices with olive oil and fresh rosemary if you like. Toast  till dry. If I don’t do this, then that pinch of rosemary does the trick in the tomatoes.

Makes 3 cups.

Friday, August 28, 2009


We did it.  The lasagna was great.  She should be proud of her students. Everyone enjoyed the dinner.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Sunday, we did a run through. Start to finish and am I glad we did.  She makes it look so easy.
Doug did his pasta using the food processor.  I used my hands and a fork.  I think I won on this one.  We did use an electric pasta maker which Doug had.  It worked great.  I have to get one now of course.  I have a hand operated one which would take me forever to do the work.  Back to buying online.  Amazon, here I come.

One learns.  We still have to taste it.  Its on ice until tomorrow for dinner.  12 people are coming.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I am a former art teacher. I still sub once in a while. I live in California. Big state. I don't think I will ever leave it. I was born in the midwest, moved with my family several times. Married and divorced, moved several more times. I have family here and I cook for them whenever I want to experiment.
I do like to attend the many Italian festa's around the state. They are always fun. I also like to travel. I have been to Italy 4 times. I need to expand my horizons I think.
Cooking, fishing, gardening, and travel are my current passions.  I have hundreds of shots of my trips to Italy and almost every plate of food put in front of me.
If you like to eat, go to Sicily. The food was fantastic. It was not near as good in northern Italy. They say eating improves as you go south of Rome. I think they are right. Northern Italy has too much of a German influence to suit my tastes. Desserts were very good there though.


I loved it when I saw it by myself last week. Tonight, I took two friends with me to see it. We were not disappointed. Its a wonderful love story and all based on true events. I relived the thrill of her books which I bought or received as a present around 72. I think they might have been wedding presents. Unfortunately, I have way too many cookbooks but have eliminated the husband part of my life. One must attempt to keep a balance.

I have tried to keep an index list of my books but the list was so long, it would crash my software so I had to split them up into types. Italian, general and other. I am way behind on adding this year's purchases. Its a compulsion. I cruise the bookstores, check them out and then go on line to Amazon, my favorite shopping site. I buy songs, kayaks, books, toys, and whatever on Amazon. No, I do not own their stock.

Do go see the movie if you are a foodie or romantic.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spices and Socks

This is food related. Honest. I have a friend who keeps spices. Keeps them for years. You ask how many? Well, 30 years or more. I told her to dump the spices and keep the containers. They are worth money. Another friend said they are worth more with the original spices. Somehow this reminds me of ashes in an urn. Oh well.

Once we covered the topic of spices, my friend said there was more. She admitted to having a couple of pairs of her ex husbands socks in her bedroom. She has been single for over 30 years. She would like to marry again. I told her that its very bad karma to have an ex's anything in her bedroom. Its probably the reason she has not met the right man. This is definitely a sock issue. Are socks covered in the rules of Feng Shui? They must be.

I think the above socks should be cremated in a small but tasteful ceremony with the releasing of white doves to complete the purification process. Maybe a little chanting of "darn, darn, darn, those socks."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

SAUCE -Fresh Italian Tomato Sauce

This is a no brainer for non cooks.
First, you use fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion and basil, salt and pepper. Big pot. 
Maybe a drop of olive oil in the bottom of it, but I don't bother. 
Photo shows the sauce after 30 minutes.
Skins come off easily. 
Color is still very red.

4-6 pounds of fresh tomatoes. Cut up into 4 pieces each
       (Roma plum tomatoes if you can get them)
1 medium or large onion chopped
4 cloves or more of fresh garlic chopped.
Salt and pepper to taste
10 leaves more or less of fresh basil.                       

Place all but basil in pot. Heat to to a low simmer. Cover. Stir once in a while with wooden spoon. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes.  If the simmer is really low, then add more time. Also a big full pot slows the cooking time.  Add basil.  Cook 5 more minutes. Stir.

Let cool. There are skins and seeds in the sauce. If they don't bother anyone's stomach, pour the sauce into a blender in batches.  

To remove seeds, a food mill, will do the work perfectly and remove almost every seed and the skins. Throw away what is left in the mill.

Now you have a fresh sauce that your family will rave about.

When cool, freeze in plastic containers. I think zip lock bags would be fine too.

If you cook the sauce longer, it will lose that fresh tomato taste.

This is a fabulous sauce. You can't go wrong.

Friday, August 14, 2009

EGGPLANT CAPONATA (Sicilian origins)

This recipe comes from a class I took in Sicily in 2006. The chef did it speaking Sicilian and I just watched and took notes. When I came home, I compared it to other recipes I had and ended up with this one. So its mine, but its a composite of a few other versions I found in my cookbooks.

What is Caponata? Well, its a Sicilian cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, and capers in a sweet and sour sauce.

You serve it with some type of bread or cracker.

Eggplant Caponata (Appetizer for fall usually. Great at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.)

2 large eggplants (Large ones) 
   This cooks down in size quickly. Cube, salt, drain for 30 min.  Rinse, drain.
    Sauté in Olive oil for 10 minutes until tender, set aside
2 med. Green Zucchini cubed (large ones)  
     Sauté in oil olive add to eggplant
1 green pepper chopped up
1 red pepper chopped up
1/2 med. Onion sliced thin and chopped
    Sauté above in oil olive until tender
Add to eggplant mixture and toss. 
In a separate saucepan, mix the following and bring to low simmer on stove.

1/4 cup sugar
2 T. honey
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 can tomato paste (I used 1/2 to a whole small can)
1 can of whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped up
After 10 minutes add the following to the sugar mixture:

1/4 cup Pine nuts
2 to 3 Bay leaves
1/4 cup Raisins ( could handle more)
1/4 cup capers (also could handle more)
a few red pepper flakes ( do not overdo)
8 sliced green olives or more
1/3 cup chopped celery

        Cook for another 5 minutes. Pour on eggplant. 
        Mix together.

Salt and pepper to taste.
More Olive oil if needed.
Refrigerate overnight.

Separate portions in plastic bags and freeze for future use.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BISCOTTI - Cranberry, Walnut, Apricot

This is my all time best Biscotti recipe. 
I use about 40 pounds of flour when I make biscotti cookies and sell them for my church benefit each Christmas. Always a big hit. I think I now qualify as an expert in biscotti. I have done everything wrong you can do and they still are good. And I always share recipes. 
You will find this an easy recipe if you have made biscotti before.  If its your first time, I would cut the recipe in half and learn from that. Its really wonderful. Just more work than normal cookies.   
A short history of Biscotti   
The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked). The Roman biscotti were convenience food for travelers. Unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were baked, then a second time to dry them out. Later after the Renaissance, Biscotti became popular in Tuscany because a local baker served them with a sweet wine. Their dry, crunchy texture was a perfect medium to soak up the wine. It was hit. Biscotti is found in every town in Italy. The reason is more for the American tourists than the locals. America has fallen in love with biscotti.

Apricot Cranberry Walnut Biscotti Recipe
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoon baking powder (FRESH)
3/4 teaspoon salt
6-8 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temp.
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (note: I like to use vanilla powder if I am concerned about moisture in the batter.  It works well and I can put it in the flour mixture instead of with the wet.)
1 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries, soaked in water, patted dry
1 cup dried apricots, chopped, soaked in water, patted dry
DIRECTIONS: Play some Bocelli while you are working.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Two bowls required.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add cranberries, apricots. walnuts OR pistachios. Stir well.

In a separate bowl combine sugar and butter. Beat.
Add eggs and beat well.
Add vanilla extract and mix.

Combine contents of both bowls.
Mix flour into the wet mixture a third at a time. Dough should be sticky. Divide dough into three pieces.

Place each separately in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  If the dough becomes too cold, you need to let it sit on the counter until its softens.

Place one of the three, on a floured wood board. Lightly knead. 
Shape by hand into a log of about 3 “ wide and 10 “ long. Repeat with the two other pieces of dough.

Place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Do not crowd logs as they will expand.
Bake 25 minutes or until dough pops back up when lightly pressed with a finger.

Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. I like the cold tile of my counter myself.

Using a long SHARP serrated knife, cut logs into 1 inch slices.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees.
Place each back on a cooking sheet with cut side up. Bake another 12 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely on wire racks.
Yields about 6 dozen biscotti.
I leave them out overnight on the counter. In the morning, I package them in ziploc bags and freeze them until my sale in December. Remember, they have real whole eggs and butter. Do not leave them out for months.

The ingredients make them special. Use the best.


I am new to blogging so bear with me. I watched Julie and Julia yesterday at the show. You know the movie on Julia Child. It was great. Loved it. Well I am a foodie. The Julie who writes the book about cooking her way through the Mastering the Art of French Cooking starts a blog. That intrigued me so here I am.
On last Saturday, I took a cooking class in Sacramento at Biba's. If you are a foodie, you should know who this is. She wrote about 8 cookbooks. Has been on Martha Stewart 3 times I believe.
Anyway, it was so great, we are doing a lasagna dinner from scratch, of course. Her lasagna is not southern Italian. It is definitely different from the cheese lasagna you know.
I plan to have a website for recipes soon so this is my first attempt. More to come.