Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

I’m not a cracker eater. I could go through a loaf of bread, but crackers usually leave me cold.

Not these.

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano Butter Crackers

Parmigiano cheesy. Buttery. Dappled with sun-dried tomato and rosemary.

The flavor makes you pop them one after the other. I often wonder if they might like a friend…like a dip or a spread or a salsa. But why mess up a good thing? The cracker all by itself, needs nothing else. Maybe a glass of wine. Or a cup of tea. Or a lemonade. Yes. It goes in all those directions. (Brandy, anyone?)

Softened butter, parmigiano, salt, pepper, aleppo with a hand mixer…

Butter, cheese, salt, pepper, aleppo

Butter, cheese, salt, pepper, aleppo

Add flour, sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary…

flour, sun-dried tomato, rosemary

flour, sun-dried tomato, rosemary

then 1 egg…

add egg

…mix, then knead into dough ball and refrigerate in plastic for an hour…


roll out…


cut into strips…


or circles…


Bake for about 15 minutes at 350. Really. Try it. Let me know what you think!



Parmigiano Butter Crackers

1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons), softened (room temperature)

1 1/4 cups grated parmigiano

healthy pinch of salt

pinch black pepper

pinch hot pepper

3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon minced sun-dried tomato

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the butter, parmigiano, salt, pepper and hot pepper in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric beater, mix together the ingredients until combined. Add the flour, sun-dried tomato and rosemary. Mix till combined. Add the egg, mix until a dough forms. Knead dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thick. Using a fluted wheel cut strips of about 3-inches and/or using a small round cutter (about 1-inch-1 1/2-inch) cut out small circles. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden. Let cool for about 1/2 hour before serving.



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!

Amaretti Almond Cake w Lemon Glaze Recipe

Amaretti Almond Cake

Amaretti Almond Cake

This cake is a spinoff from another cake that I love. I was inspired by the spiced sliced almonds that my mom gave me. She got a bag of them in Trader Joe’s and split them with me. I stared at the ziplock bag with slivered spiced almonds for a week or more. They tasted great on their own but they begged to be included in something bigger. Something more elaborate. Something to make the SHINE. So I came up with this cake, tweaking and altering that other cake that used pinoli nuts and oranges.

Italians love almonds. This cake has almond paste, too. And amaretti cookies, which have almond in them, too. AND I’ve added some almond extract to the recipe. It’s a very fragrant and moist cake. The lemon glaze gives it a fun lift.

3 cups amaretti cookies

13 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided (plus a  little more to butter pan)

1 can almond paste (8 oz)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

blanched slivered almonds, toasted w a little spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Amaretti Cookies

Amaretti Cookies

Put the amaretti cookies in the food processor and pulse until they are as fine as bread crumb. Melt 5 tablespoons of the butter. Mix melted butter and cookie crumbs together.

Butter & Amaretti Crumbs

Butter & Amaretti Crumbs

Lightly butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Spread the cookie-butter mixture evenly on the bottom and bake for about 10 minutes until poofy. Take out of oven.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine remaining 8 tablespoons of butter, sugar, and almond paste. Mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Add the extracts. In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour all into batter and mix until just combined.

Pour batter into pan on top of baked cookie bottom and smooth level. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. If you don’t have spiced almonds, plain sliced almonds works as well.

Almond Cake in Oven

Almond Cake Going into Oven

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Let cool a bit in the pan. When it’s cool enough (but still a little warm), run a knife along the sides to make sure the cake isn’t sticking, then remove the sides of the spring-form pan. Make the glaze.

For the Glaze:

Zest and juice of 3 small lemons

1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, heat & mix the zest, juice and sugar until the sugar melts. Spoon glaze on top of cake (spoon some along the edge so that it drips off to the sides, too). Let cool. Cut and serve.

Mmmm. That's good.

Mmmm. That’s good.

Ewww! You’re gonna eat that?


French rolling pin, my favorite

When I was a little kid my mom steered me away from sweets. If I picked up a tootsie roll she’d scrunge her face into a frown and say: Eww. You’re gonna eat that? 

That’s the story I’m told. She’s a sweets lover (whipped cream being especially alluring). My sister, too, can happily munch cookies and candy every day. Me? Bakery displays used to appeal to me as much as the nuts & bolts bins at the hardware store. Eyes glaze over, not even seeing anything.

But that has, unfortunately, changed. I think it started in culinary school. I went to culinary school while I was still living in NYC. I was on the culinary, not pastry, track. But they interrupted our frying, braising, roasting and fabricating meat, for a quick 6-week pastry module. We whipped through puff pastry, cakes, caramel, and candies–each day bringing on a new technique.

It felt like a mini-vacation. No grease, no slimy hands, no potential salmonella, no leg joints, silverskin, or fish scales. Just butter and flour. Eggs. Everything felt lighter and happier. I feel in love with our puff pastry croissants, pain au chocolate and raisin rolls. I suddenly wanted to trail at my favorite NY cafes to learn how they made those pastries that would now pop into my eyes (and mouth) when I came in for a cappuccino or cafe au lait.

Since then I like to bake. It first felt a little foreign in my hands, but I’ve warmed up quickly. These little baked mini-pies have been haunting me since I first made them. In this recipe the filling is blueberries, strawberries, aleppo pepper & cinnamon. But I’m now dreaming of adding mascarpone. I’ll let you know how that comes out!

Mini-Pies w Fruit Filling

To make the crust, pulse in a food processor: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, pinch salt. Add 1 stick cold unsalted butter (that has been cut into cubes). Pulse until broken into small pieces. Add 1/4 cup of very cold white wine. Pulse until dough comes together in a ball. Remove and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 1 hour.


unsalted butter, the baker’s friend


like magic, food processor makes your pastry dough

Meanwhile make the filling. Combine 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries (cut into small pieces the size of blueberries), 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper.


isn’t it great when food is as pretty as it tastes good?

Roll dough out and cut into 3-inch squares (or choose your shape & size). Place about a teaspoon of the mixture in the middle. Fold into a triangle and press sides together with fork tines to seal. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with the rest. (You can knead lightly and roll out the scraps to make a few more.)


your own personal assembly line!

Makes about a dozen. Lightly beat an egg with a little water. Brush egg on top. Make a small slit in each and sprinkle a little sugar on top.


dough, pin, cutter, little pie

Bake at 400 degrees F. for about 20 minutes until golden. YUM.


I can eat at least five of them