Riviera Roasted Potato String Bean Pie

Baked Potato-String Bean Pie

Baked Potato-String Bean Pie

Mmmmm….good.

I learned this recipe many years ago from a fearless, adventurous Ligurian woman named Bianca. She lived in a charming pink villa high atop the hills overlooking the Mediterranean on the Levante side of the Italian Riviera. The villa’s sweeping terrace presided over the sea and from that vantage point you could see the small peninsula of Portofino in the short distance.

Bianca's Villa

Bianca’s Villa

I had the fortunate honor of staying there for a full month. And every day of that month I gravitated to the kitchen to see what Bianca was cooking. I spent the other hours mining her Italian cookbook collection and sitting at a cafe in the nearby seaside town of Zoagli, translating captivating recipes into my notebook.

This potato-string-bean “cake” is one of hers. This is her exact recipe. The pie is great as a snack, a side, a picnic dish, or a full meal if you like at any time of day.

Peel and quarter 4-5 medium gold potatoes. Boil till tender. Drain & mash.

potatoes boiling

potatoes boiling

Boil till tender about 2 pounds tipped green beans/string beans. Drain. Pulse in a food processor until broken up but not pureed.

green beans boiling

green beans boiling

Peel and dice 1 medium onion. Simmer in a little milk diluted with water until tender. Drain.

onions simmering

onions simmering

In a large mixing bowl, mix the potatoes, string beans, onion, 3 eggs, and 1/2 cup grated parmigiano. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Butter a 9 x 13 inch sheet pan. Coat butter with breadcrumbs and shake out excess. Press mixture into pan evenly. Press the top with the tines of a fork to make a pattern. Sprinkle some more parmigiano. Drizzle a little olive oil.

ready to bake

ready to bake

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until golden.

baked potato string bean pie

baked potato string bean pie

Let cool before cutting into squares.

Riviera pie cut into squares

Riviera pie cut into squares

I learned recently that the villa Bianca I lived in is now open for vacation rentals. Looking at the pictures on the new website representing the house wows my memories. Everything looks the same. Everything as beautiful as my memories. Villa Bianca

Riviera Potato & Green Bean Pie

4-5 medium gold potatoes

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. green beans (string beans)

1 onion, diced

1/4 cup milk

3 eggs

1/2 cup grated parmigiano, plus extra for sprinkling

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the potatoes and quarter them. Boil in salted water until soft and cooked through. Drain and mash potatoes. Boil string beans until cooked through. Drain and pulse them in a food processor until they are broken up but not as far as pureed. Heat the onion in a small saucepan with the milk and a 1/4 cup water. Cook till softened. Drain.

Mix together the mashed potatoes, pulsed beans, cooked onions in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, and cheese, season with salt & pepper. Mix well. Butter a 9 X 13 sheet pan. Coat with the breadcrumbs and shake out excess. Press in the potato mixture until flattened and even. Using the tines of a fork press a pattern on the top. Sprinkle with parmigiano. Drizzle a little olive oil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Let cool before cutting into squares for serving.

What I Buy at Trader Joe’s – Part 2

Oh, this list can go on forever, but I’ll try to fill in the blanks little by little, each time with a new list of goodies. I have fun at Trader Joe’s. I have fun at supermarkets period. At farmer’s markets. At Costco. At foreign supermarkets, outdoor markets, little food stores. Seeing food on display, deciding what you want, imagining recipes, discovering new products, sampling, happy to see the season’s new crops…I love all of that. It’s my idea of a good time.

New List of My Trader Joe’s Favs:

Fresh Artichokes – 4 medium artichokes to a pack – cheap money

Fresh Artichokes at Trader Joe's

Fresh Artichokes at Trader Joe’s

I am an artichoke junkie. I love the Italian word for artichokes: carciofi. Finding fresh ones, consistently, that aren’t the size of tractor trailers, that are human-sized, that you can cook up in the many ways I love to cook them (here’s one recipe), is sometimes the equivalent of obtaining the Holy Grail (yes, I exaggerate). But these are gold-like to me. And TJ’s is the only place where the packages are stacked high and easy to buy. I grew up eating them “Italian-style” then shared an apartment on LI with a California friend (hello, Castroville, CA, American capital of artichoke growing) and learned her way of eating them and then we came up with a recipe we both adored: boil or steam them till the heart is tender. Make a dip of mayo, lemon juice and soy sauce. Umami-central.

Olives (Picholine)

Trader Joe's Picholine Olives

Trader Joe’s Picholine Olives

Trader Joe’s has 3 different olives that I love. Picholine is one of them. Perfect acidity, soft but al dente, goes with ANYTHING. My other favs are their pitted Kalamata and the green Jaques Lucques olives–oh, yum.

Red Argentinian Shrimp

Trader Joe's Argentine Shrimp

Trader Joe’s Argentinian Shrimp

These are in the freezer section. Raw, shelled. And are not always available. They SELL OUT. Something unusual about this shrimp. They are pink while raw, and they are soft when cooked. It’s an odd, pleasant, and luxurious sensation to bite into one, like you’ve been invited to the high gourmand table.

Trader Joe’s Italian Shelled Fava Beans

Trader Joe's Frozen Fava Beans

Trader Joe’s Frozen Fava Beans

This product is a boon to mankind. How often do you run across fresh fava beans? I do, sometimes. Sometimes in the regular supermarket. More often in the Asian market. But not always. THESE are out of their pods, but still in their individual shells. I just discovered them in TJ’s freezer section last month. LOVE. I give them a quick blanche, then peel each shell away to reveal that startling green lovely, so lovely, fava bean. My fav recipe: Sauté some sliced onion and diced pancetta in some olive oil. Add beans, add a bit of wine. Cook for just 5 minutes or so (TJ’s are young beans, so don’t need to cook too long). Add some salt. LOVE this.

Walnuts, Halves & Pieces

Trader Joe's Walnuts Halves & Pieces

Trader Joe’s Walnuts Halves & Pieces

So when I usually buy walnuts they are whole. Supposedly, that’s preferred. If you’re snacking on them I’m sure that whole is more satisfying. But if you’re cooking, I end up breaking them between my fingers (since on a board with a knife they tend to have a flight life all their own). Trader Joe’s sells them broken. TJ’s nut department– no, not the employees — nor the shoppers — but the nuts as in walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds is EXTENSIVE. It’s a pleasure just to peruse the shelves and marvel at the variety. Yes, you can get whole walnuts, but I like these broken ones…ready to go. Same with pecans, whole or broken, candied or salted, raw or roasted. And the list goes on…leaving an irresistible trail for you to follow …nibbling all the way.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder

I love this package. And I love this cocoa. What more could you want?

Blood Oranges (when they have them)

Trader Joe's Blood Oranges

Trader Joe’s Blood Oranges

I almost fainted when I saw this bag of blood oranges at Trader Joe’s this past January. They’re a rare commodity. They aren’t there now. But you never know. And that’s the thing about Trader Joe’s. They come up with seasonal stuff. (Like a 2-foot branch of Brussels sprouts. And their burnt-around-the edges-but yummy matzoh crackers only in around Passover.) And then it’s gone. Grab it when you can. These blood oranges are so delicious, not as sweet as “orange” oranges, but the tartness elevates the flavor. They’re so pretty and remind me of my student days in Rome. My other fav TJ’s orange is the Cara Cara.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part 3. Because there’s always something cool to get at TJ’s. Don’t be shy about trying stuff. You will likely not go wrong. (They ain’t paying me for this.) (Maybe they should!) :)

TJ's Blood Oranges

TJ’s Blood Oranges

Hearts For Your Valentine (or for YOU)

Heart Tarts

Heart Tarts

Valentine’s Day can be fun, warm, and exciting…or major stress. Sweethearts stress over WHAT TO DO that is EXCEPTIONALLY romantic. And loners can’t bear another Kay Jewelers ad on TV.

My advice? Relax. If you love someone, you’re loving them every day. Just because they SAY this is the BIG day of love you don’t have to stand on your head over it. Just be together. That should be plenty. If you’re not with a sweetheart, then this is the day to love YOURSELF. Give yourself a gift. Treat yourself with tender care.

In any case, a nice easy heart-inspired sweet red dessert may be just the thing. Here’s mine. Mini-Heart-Tarts. They’re smile-producingly cute. Small bites of tasty pleasure. And tickle you while you bake.

Start with a defrosted sheet of puff pastry. And 2 heart cookie cutters…1 bigger than the other. Mine were 2 inches and 1.5-inches (borrowed from my mom’s cookie cutter collection).

cutting out the hearts

cutting out the hearts

Don’t have hearts? Find 2 other shapes, one smaller than the other. Doesn’t have to be hearts; this is your day to shape as you please. Cut out 2 larger hearts, then cut out a smaller heart from the middle of one of the larger hearts.

smaller heart

smaller heart

Brush egg wash on the larger heart and place the cut-out/stencil-looking larger heart on top so you have a small heart-opening. Brush the top with egg wash. Brush the little cut-out heart with egg wash, too.

hearts on sheet pan

hearts on sheet pan

Place them on sheet pan. Cut up some strawberries into small pieces, and/or raspberries, add some sugar and mix up in a mixing bowl…

Cut-up strawberries

Cut-up strawberries

Fill the smaller heart opening with your berries…

ready to bake

ready to bake

Sprinkle some sugar on top of each. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden in a 375 degree oven.

baked heart tarts

baked heart tarts

The border will puff up and the little hearts will puff up, too. Serve as is or add a dollop of whipped cream over the berries, and top with the little heart. A sprinkling of powdered sugar looks nice, too.

A heart for your heartthrob, a heart for a pal, a heart for your mom or sister, or dad or brother, a heart for you. Keeping the love pouring in all directions.

I Heart You

I Heart You

Strawberry Heart Pastries (makes about 8)

8 strawberries, or 12 raspberries, or combination, cut into tiny pieces

2 teaspoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

1 2-inch heart cookie cutter

1 1.5 -inch heart cookie cutter, or smaller

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the berry pieces with the sugar until well combined.

Lay out the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Using the larger cookie cutter, cut out 2 hearts. Using the smaller cookie cutter, cut a heart within one of the larger hearts, leaving a border all around. Brush the whole large heart with egg. Place the heart with the cut-out over the large heart lining it up the borders to fit exactly on top. Brush top with egg. Fill open heart cut with pieces of strawberry. Place on parchment lined sheet pan. Brush tiny heart that you cut out with some egg wash. Place next to large heart on sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Sprinkle the pastries lightly with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Serve tiny puff pastry heart with each larger pastry, Optional: add a dollop of whipped cream.

 

 

Peas, Roman-Style

Rome Umbrella Pines

Rome Umbrella Pines

Give me anything Roman-style and I’m happy.

Food, architecture, culture, coffee, personality, shopping, cafes, trattorie, character…just the feel of the air, even that makes me happy. The sound of the traffic. The feel of the cobblestone streets (the stones they call sanpietrini). The fountain around most corners. The markets. Yes, si, si, si.

Campo Dei Fiori Market

Campo Dei Fiori Market

So peas Roman-style are equally alluring. I learned this from a professor of mine when I went to school in Rome. It was common to trade recipes while passing in a hallway between classes. Eating is a frequent subject. I say trade recipes, but I really mean was told recipes. At that point in my life I had few to trade, but I was all ears for anything…Roman.

Cafe in Rome

Cafe in Rome

It’s an easy recipe and whenever we make it in my classes (or at private cooking parties) people LOVE it. I use frozen petite peas, but if you’ve got your hands on fresh by all means. I imagine regular size peas–frozen or fresh– work just as well, but I’m a petite pea fan (must be from my childhood days when peas came from the Le Sueur can).

Peas, Roman-Style

Peas, Roman-Style

Peas, Roman-Style

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, cut into thin half-moons

1/4 lb. pancetta, diced, or torn into small pieces

1 lb. petite frozen peas (you don’t have to thaw them first)

1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth

salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium or large sauté pan. Add the onion and pancetta and cook until onion is softened and pancetta is cooked thru. Add the peas. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer (if it isn’t already simmering). Add the wine or vermouth. Let evaporate. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for a few minutes more (5ish). Finito.

sampietrini in Rome

sanpietrini in Rome

Classic Bolognese Sauce – A Recipe

Classic Bolognese Sauce   photo by Jen McCarter

When a classic is a classic, let’s keep it a classic. I’m all for experimentation. But after the new-fangled dust settles, let’s go back to homey goodness of what definitely works.

Bolognese Sauce. It’s classic version varies slightly but the usual suspects are still hanging around making sure the taste remains superb.

We recently made Bolognese sauce with fresh-made spinach fettuccine in a class of mine. Oh happy day.

Start off with that trio of bottom-flavor goodness: diced onion, carrot, celery…

Amie and I talking soffritto

Amie and I talking soffritto  photo by Jen McCarter

…AND some minced pancetta.

first ingredients

first ingredients  photo by Jen McCarter

Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and pancetta…sauté until softened…

soffrito cooking

soffritto cooking

Lindsay sauteing

Now it’s time to add the meat. Ground veal is the traditional ingredient. We added 1 lb. ground veal and 1/2 lb. ground beef.

ground veal and beef

ground veal and beef

Add it to the cooking soffrito and break up the meat into small pieces as you stir…

Lindsay breaking up meat

Cook meat until it loses its raw color…

browned meat

browned meat

Next comes the dry white wine or dry vermouth — about a cup…

pouring in the vermouth

pouring in the vermouth   photo by Jen McCarter

Cook until wine or vermouth evaporates. Now add the other liquid ingredients. We added a 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes and about 2 cups chicken broth…

add tomatoes & broth

add tomatoes & broth

Season with salt & pepper and bring to simmer. Cook uncovered for about an hour or more until the liquids mostly evaporate and the sauce thickens.

cooked Bolognese sauce

cooked Bolognese sauce

We made some fresh made spinach fettuccine (looking for that recipe? let me know!) to go with our Bolognese sauce…

making fresh fettuccine

making fresh fettuccine   photo by Jen McCarter

Spinach Fettuccine w Classic Bolognese Sauce

Spinach Fettuccine w Classic Bolognese Sauce

Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 celery stalk, minced

2 carrots, minced

1 small onion, minced

2 slices pancetta, coarsely chopped

1  1/2 lbs. ground beef or a mixture of beef and veal

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1-2 cups chicken broth

¼ cup heavy cream or milk (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

In a medium heavy saucepan heat the olive oil. When hot add the celery, carrot, and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pancetta, cook another 3 minutes. Add the beef/veal and cook, breaking up the clumps until no longer raw. Add the wine. Cook until almost evaporated. Add the tomatoes and broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a slow simmer and set heat to low. Let simmer for an hour or two until the liquid has reduced. Add cream and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Bonnie serving up the pasta

Thanks to Jen McCarter for some of the photos!

Gorgonzola Acorn Squash – A Recipe

You really don’t have to do much with acorn squash. At least that’s what I think. I like the taste of it. Just as is. I used to flavor it with butter and maple syrup. Now I’ve got gorgonzola taking over and making acorn squash a rock star.

Here’s how:

Cut squash in half. Scrape out seeds and stringy stuff. Place cut-side down on a foil-lined sheet pan. Add a little water to pan, about a 1/4-inch. Bake at 400 for 40-45 minutes until a paring knife easily pierces and flesh feels soft.

Baked Squash Just Out of Oven

Baked Squash Just Out of Oven

Flip over cut-side up.

Squash ready to stuff

Squash ready to stuff

Season with salt, pepper, and a little hot pepper.

Seasoned squash

Seasoned squash

Add some crumbled gorgonzola. (If you like add some butter and a pinch of breadcrumb, too.)

Crumbled gorgonzola in your squash ready to bake

Crumbled gorgonzola in your squash ready to bake

Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for another 10 minutes until cheese melts.

Tasty cooked sqaush

Tasty cooked squash

Eat with a spoon. Half a squash per person. Your own personal squash (half).

Eat it with a spoon

Eat it with a spoon

Gorgonzola Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds removed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

salt & pepper to taste

Pinch hot pepper

1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a small sheet pan (with at least 1-inch sides) with foil. Place the cleaned acorn squash cut-side down. Pour a little water in the pan to make a not too deep puddle. Roast squash for about 45 minutes until tender (test by poking a paring knife into flesh). Remove from oven and gently turn squash halves over making cut side up. Season with salt & pepper, add a little hot pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to each half. Sprinkle with gorgonzola, then breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil. Return to oven for about 10 minutes until cheese melts and breadcrumb is golden.

What I Buy at Costco – Part One

Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy

Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy

Costco ain’t Campo dei Fiori. But…

I resisted for a long time. The idea of paying a yearly fee to shop didn’t sit right with me. But my mom (my voice of reason and still my advisor) encouraged we join. So we did. Little by little we discovered and tried and explored and now have a list of regular stuff we buy and rely on.

Costco’s brand is Kirkland. It’s not the only brand they sell, but when you see the Kirkland label you know it’s reliable and (so far that we’ve tried) really good quality.

Everything is extensive at Costco. Huge produce department, cheese department, meat and fish, big frozen food department, aisles and aisles of jarred, canned, packaged foods. I push around the SUV-sized shopping cart thru aisles stacked, stocked & full…agape at this Museum of Giant Food.

Here’s what helps: my mom and I often share stuff, which means we can get the multi-can package of baked beans, or the large bag of mini-cucumbers, or the 8-to-a-pack artisan romaine lettuce, or the 4-lb package of unsalted butter sticks. And because of my classes I often pick up the “large” size; my menus absorb quantity. STILL a single shopper can do great (helps to have a freezer).

I’ve got a long list of favorites but here’s a partial roundup. It would be fun to take people with me when I shop so I can show them where I get my ingredients. People in my classes often ask. In lieu of that, here’s a Costco shopping tour on a page!

Large Bag ‘O Lemons/5 lbs.

Costco Lemons

Costco Lemons

I LOVE lemons. Not only do they sneak into many of my recipes but I’m in the habit of making Duane and I a lemon elixir every morning. We split a squeezed lemon and a squeezed orange with a little water. It’s a shot of toxic-clearing liver-cleansing goodness. (This morning drink was recommended by Mom, but, added to that, I remember long ago when I was doing a residency at the MacDowell Colony, a long-time-resident writer there would drink a cup of hot water with lemon every morning. She was about 95 years old.) Costco lemons are beautiful and sometimes as large as the ones I found in Amalfi! Here’s something fun to do with lemons inspired by the Amalfi Coast: Click Here for TV Demo SegmentClick Here for Recipe

Columbian Coffee… 3 lbs

Costco Columbian Coffee

Costco Columbian Coffee

Okay. My mom’s advice again. She insists Columbian coffee tastes the best and loves this coffee. I don’t drink coffee (except espresso), but Duane drinks coffee every morning. He’s not fussy about what kind but likes this one just fine (it certainly smells heavenly). The price for the quality is excellent.

Citterio Italian Rosemary Ham… 2 – 1/2 lb. packs

Citterio Rosemary Ham

Citterio Rosemary Ham

Imported from Italy. This ham has a slight hint of rosemary giving it an exotic irresistible spin. Comes in a 2-pack. I cut them apart and freeze one for later.

Already Peeled (except for tail) Raw Shrimp…2 lbs.

Kirkland Shrimp

Kirkland Shrimp

Kirkland brand, 31-40 to a pound. So easy to defrost in 1/2 hour (put in a bowl and run cold water on top, then let sit in cold water until soft). I love shrimp (okay, who doesn’t?). Here’s a fav shrimp recipe: Spaghetti w Shrimp

Grated Parmesan Cheese…3 lbs.

Cello Grated Cheese

Cello Grated Cheese

Yes, I know. Grating your own parmigiano or grana padana is IDEAL. But I go through a lot of cheese in my classes. Not only is grating yourself time-consuming, parmigiano is EXPENSIVE. I found this Cello brand grated domestic parmesan to be a superior quality and it complements so many of my recipes. It’s reliable and affordable. (Put some in a container in your refrigerator, freeze the rest until you need more.)

Campari Tomatoes…2 lbs.

Campari Tomatoes

Campari Tomatoes

The size of these tomatoes is seductively charming. I can’t resist. They have a lovely taste and adapt to cooking or salads or pairing with mozzarella. And their name is Campari (my favorite drink). I love these for making Fish in Crazy Water (Acqua Pazza), which is a tasty, easy way to make fish: Acqua Pazza Recipe

Kirkland Unsalted Butter…4  1 lb. boxes

Kirkland Unsalted Butter

Kirkland Unsalted Butter

Butter? Oh, yes. I often have pastry-based desserts on my class menus: tarts, pies, galettes, and savory pies, too. I use a lot of butter. 1 lb. goes in the fridge, the rest in the freezer until needed. This brand has a great taste and works well in recipes.

Eggland’s Eggs…18 eggs

Eggland's Eggs

Eggland’s Eggs

You can certainly get Eggland’s eggs in any supermarket but this dozen and a half pack is a good price. I like these eggs. They make me happy. Got eggs? Why not make a frittata? Frittata Recipe

Stay tuned for What I Buy at Costco Part Two. In the meantime let me know if you try any of these products and how they turn out. I’m not sponsored by them or anything. Just a shopper, eater, teacher, appreciator!