De Gustibus On Thursday, December 3 at 5:30, I will be teaching at De Gustibus Cooking School at Macy’s.  We’ll make a variety of Italian dishes that you can use for all of your holiday entertaining.  I am working on the menu now, but you can be sure there will be something old — it’s not Christmas without struffoli — and something new, a creamy ricotta  cheesecake you can make in a slow cooker!  All the dishes have one thing in common:  they can be made ahead so you can relax and enjoy being with your guests.  Have a special request?  Let me know and I will try to include it.  Charles is lining up some great wines to match the menu.

To find out more about the class, please go to:

Hope you can join us!


Fresh Blueberries   Some friends came over for a casual dinner on Sunday.  Because the weather was so steamy, I made cold zucchini soup with basil, followed by grilled local swordfish with a fresh corn and tomato salsa, and potato and arugula salad on the side.   I wanted something blueberry for dessert, and decided on a galette.   These rustic, free form tarts have the perfect balance of crust and filling.  And I like the fact that they are quick to make.  It’s okay if their shape isn’t perfect —  that is part of their charm!  

      It has taken me a while to find just the right crust for a galette.  I had tried a number of variations.  One contained cornmeal for crunch, but I thought it was too heavy.  Another had a lot of butter, plus shortening.  It tasted great, but became difficult to handle in a hot kitchen.  I finally came up with this basic one which is easy to make and stays crisp even under the juicy fruit.  

     Try the galette with other summer fruits.   I don’t think I have to tell you that this tastes great with creme fraiche or sour cream.  


Serves 6 to 8


1-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar plus 1 teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1 large egg, separated

3 to 4 tablespoons ice water


3 cups blueberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

1. Make the pastry:  In a food processor or large bowl, mix together the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the salt.  Add the butter and pulse or blend with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the egg yolk and 3 tablespoons of water.  Pulse the machine or stir with a fork until the mixture just begins to come together and form a ball.  If it seems dry, add a little more water.  Do not over mix. 

2. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a disk.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 3 days. 

3. Make the filling:  In a large bowl, toss together the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest, cinnamon and salt. 

4. Preheat the oven to 425° F.  Butter a large baking sheet. 

5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 15-inch circle.  Center the dough on the baking sheet.  Pile the blueberry mixture in the center of the dough leaving a 1-1/2-inch border all around. Dot the filling with the butter.  Pleating it as you go, fold the border of the dough over the filling.

6. Beat the egg white and brush some of it over the dough.  Sprinkle it with the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar. 

7. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.  Cool the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes.  Slide the galette onto a serving platter.  Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with confectioner’s sugar.

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice CreamOn Sunday, I stopped at the Shake Shack for an ice cream cone.  The flavor of the day was blueberry and  it was so good that I have been thinking of  it ever since.   I had some blueberries in the refrigerator, plus a half quart of buttermilk, so I thought I would make a buttermilk version of the Shake Shack ice cream.  During the summer, I always keep a container of buttermilk in the fridge.  It makes great corn muffins and cakes, cold soups,  and best of all, a light version of ice cream.  I had used the rest of the container in a delicious cold zucchini soup the other day.  

I put some blueberries and sugar into the blender and only then realized I was short about 1/2 cup of buttermilk.  So I added some sour cream to the mix and blended them all together.  The result was light, a little tart, and fresh tasting with gorgeous color and just the right amount of richness from the sour cream.  You can always make it with all buttermilk if you prefer something more like sherbet.

Can’t wait to try this combination with other fruits.  I’m thinking apricots, bananas, peaches…

Blueberry Buttermilk Ice Cream

Makes about 4 cups

2-1/2 cups blueberries

1 cup sugar

1-1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

In a blender, combine the blueberries and sugar and blend until the berries are pureed.  Blend in the buttermilk and sour cream.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream freezer and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.  Transfer to a tightly sealed container and freeze at least 1 hour before serving.


Pear Tree

Pear Tree


It hasn’t been a great summer as far as the weather goes, but it seems like the pear tree on my terrace doesn’t mind.  The pears are growing big and fat and the ones at the top of the tree  have a beautiful red blush.  I’m not sure what variety of pear it is.  The tree was here when we moved in and it just gets bigger and more fruitful every year.  They are still a couple of weeks away from being ripe, but I know that if this year’s crop is like last year’s, they will all ripen at the same moment.  When that happens, we’ll have lots of fresh pears and pear tarts and I plan to make a batch of pear conserve like I did last year.  I froze it in small batches and we enjoyed it all winter.  


Blueberries in Bloom

Blueberries in Bloom

The blueberries came in big and fat and juicy in late June and July, but they did not have a lot of flavor.  Still, I enjoyed going out every morning and picking a cupful for breakfast.  I ordered two more blueberry bushes this spring to add to the two I already had, but they won’t bear fruit this year.  Blueberries don’t seem to mind the harsh winters and hot dry summers we get on the 20th floor.  They are also gorgeous plants and very decorative.  The bright green leaves turn bright red in the fall and last all winter.  

I plan to make blueberry jam again this summer, but I will have to rely on berries from the Greenmarket.  I’ll post the recipe when I make it.



First Tomato!

First Tomato!

Here it is!  My first tomato of the season.  It’s really tiny, about the size of a quarter size right now. But we got a late start this year and, of course, there is the weather.  Just the sight of it makes me happy.  I have visions of homegrown tomato sandwiches like those my friend Miriam Rubin wrote about last year in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 

Basil from Palermo

Basil from Palermo

The basil is thriving.  I picked the seeds that these plants come from off the tops of a huge plant I came across growing in the garden of a baronessa in Palermo.  Lucky I came along when I did!  Those plants would just have gone to seed if I had not nipped off the tops and tucked them into a pocket pack of tissues to dry.  The seeds really like living the high life here in Manhattan!  




Sea Cloud 055_2The New York Times yesterday published this item about Charles’ upcoming classes at the Enoteca on Court Street. Don’t miss it

Vino Culture —  Wine classes conducted by Charles Scicolone, the consultant at Enoteca on Court, 347 Court Street (Union Street), Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, will be held July 28 at 7 p.m., covering how to pair wine with food, $75, and on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m. on Italian wines for summer, $40: (718) 243-1000.

IMG_0304       The Taste of Chicago, held annually in Grant Park,  is the world’s largest outdoor food festival.  An estimated 3 million visitors attend the 10 day event.  Food is the main attraction, but there is also live music and spectacular fireworks displays.  A portion of the proceeds from the event goes to support food programs for the needy in the Chicago area.   This year, Dominick’s Supermarkets invited me to do a cooking demonstration and book signing.   Charles and I decided to fly out for the long holiday weekend, do some sightseeing, and experience a little bit of Chicago. 

       When I arrived at Dominick’s Cooking Corner which was located near the magnificent Buckingham Fountain, I found that the event organizers had done a great job and everything was prepped and ready to go.  I demonstrated a favorite summer recipe for Pasta with Sicilian Pesto that I first enjoyed in Trapani a few years ago.  The audience was large and enthusiastic and asked lots of good questions.  I enjoyed meeting everyone.  Afterward, I had a chance to stroll around and explore the fair while sampling some Chicago specialties.  My favorite was the Rainbow Cone, a colorful mound of orange sherbert, and pistachio, chocolate, strawberry and Palmer House ice cream in a fresh waffle cone.  Palmer House ice cream was a new one for me, and turned out to be a luscious blend of vanilla with cherries and walnuts.  I cant believe I ate the whole thing!

      Chicago is a restaurant city, and I looked forward to trying some that friends had recommended.  Roberto Caporuscio, the pizzaiolo at Keste’, had told me that Spacca Napoli made a great pie, so that was at the top of my list.  I had a bufalina made with bufala mozzarella and DOP tomatoes.  It had a perfectly charred and blistered crust and the topping was first rate.  Though the restaurant is not exactly central, we had no trouble getting there on the subway.

     Tru is one of Chicago’s top restaurants and it was easy to see why.  Though the restaurant is formal, the welcome was warm and gracious.  Charles found a great wine on the list that he claimed was a buy — don’t ask!   The highlight of the meal for me was my main course of braised short ribs topped with unagi (Japanese style eel) in a miso broth.  It was tender and the flavors blended beautifully.  Charles’ suckling pig was delicious, too.  The meat was moist and flavorful while the skin was crackling crisp.

     Spiaggia Restaurant has been in the news quite a lot lately since it is a favorite of the Obama’s.  I was excited to hear that the chef, Tony Mantuana, had a new and more casual place at the newly- opened addition to the Art Institute.  Called Terzo Piano, it is located on the third floor of the new building that was designed by the great Italian architect, Renzo Piano.  The design is simple yet dramatic with long windows on two sides overlooking Millennium Park.  Charles and I shared the Recco style foccaccia, two thin layers of crisp and chewy dough sandwiched around a soft melted goat cheese filling.  In Liguria, where this is a specialty at Manuelina, a restaurant in Recco, it is made with prescinseua, a soft, tart cow’s milk cheese that is not available here.  The goat cheese, which was from Indiana, was an ideal substitute.  Then I had a Spring Pea Salad made with fresh peas, pea shoots, and slivers of sheep’s milk cheese with crispy prosciutto.  The chef focusses on local and seasonal ingredients and judging by our lunch, it won’t be long before this restaurant is as popular as his other place.

     In between meals, we did lots of walking and sightseeing.  We spent the afternoon in the Art Institute and really enjoyed seeing their dazzling collection of American art.  The architectural cruise on the Chicago River was fascinating, even though it drizzled the whole time.  There’s a lot more to see in Chicago and plenty more to taste.  I look forward to returning.

      Here is the recipe I demonstrated at Dominick’s.  It was first published in my book 1,000 Italian Recipes .  Now that tomato season is here, it’s a perfect dish for a hot summer night.  


     A food processor makes quick and easy work of this sauce, but for best texture and flavor, pound the ingredients in a mortar and pestle.  

Serves 4

1/2 cup blanched almonds

2 large garlic cloves

1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound very ripe fresh tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 pound linguine

1. In a food processor, combine the almonds, garlic, basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Chop the ingredients fine.  Add the tomatoes, cheese and oil and process until smooth. 

2. Bring at least 4 quarts of water to boiling.  Add the pasta and salt to taste.  Stir well.  Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is tender.   Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water.

3. Pour the pasta into a large warm serving bowl.  Add the sauce and toss well.  Add a little of the reserved pasta water if needed. 

 Copyright 2004 1,000 Italian Recipes  by Michele Scicolone


Romanesco Zucchini

Romanesco Zucchini

Charles and I just returned from 3 weeks on the Amalfi Coast.  Now  I find myself daydreaming about the views of the Mediterranean, the clear bright sunshine, the sunsets over Positano, the wonderful people, and of course, the amazingly simple fresh food, so you can imagine how happy I was to spot a small pile of Romanesco zucchini at the Greenmarket yesterday.  I was so excited, the saleswoman looked at me strangely, but I picked out some nice small ones and brought them home for dinner.  Pale green with deep ridges, these zucchini are not watery like the smooth, dark green zucchini that are typical here and they have a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.  They were in season in Italy, and we ate them in so many ways: fried and marinated with vinegar and mint, tossed with linguine and clams,  in a delicious ciambotta with potatoes and onion, and my favorite way, browned and tossed with pasta, basil and cheese.  You can make this pasta with regular zucchini, but the flavor and texture will be better with the Romanesco.  If you can’t find it, you can use regular zucchini but place the slices on paper towels to dry for an hour or so before using, or sprinkle the slices with salt and let them drain like eggplant.   Better yet, order a package of seeds on line and grow them yourself.  That way you will have lots of zucchini flowers, too, to stuff, or use in risotto, etc.

I like to use pecorino Romano with this pasta, but Parmigiano-Reggiano is good, too.



Serves 2 – 4

1-1/4 pounds small zucchini, preferably Romanesco zucchini

1/2 cup olive oil


8 ounces linguine

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano

     Scrub the zucchini with a vegetable brush.  Trim off the ends and cut them into thin crosswise slices.  Pat the slices dry with paper towels.

     In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add only enough zucchini slices as will fit comfortably in a single layer.  Fry the

slices until nicely browned on both sides.  Transfer them to a large serving bowl without draining off too much of the oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Fry the remaining zucchini in the same way sprinkling each batch with salt.  Sprinkle with the basil.

     Bring a large pot of water to boiling.  Add the linguine and salt to taste.  Stir well and cook until al dente, firm yet tender to the bite.  Drain the pasta reserving a little of the cooking water.  

     Add the pasta to the bowl with the zucchini.  Add the cheese and toss well.  Add a spoonful of the pasta cooking water if the pasta seems dry.  Serve hot.


Roman Artichokes

Roman Artichokes

 It is artichoke season, and I am wishing I was in Rome   where I would be having an artichoke feast.  Romans grow artichokes in abundance and cook them in the most delicious ways.   I would go to a favorite trattoria, such as Da Giggetto in the Ghetto or perhaps La Campana on Via Campana.  I would order fried artichokes for a starter, then have fettuccine with artichokes, then La Vignarola, a stew of artichokes, fava beans, pancetta and peas.   And for a salad course, artichokes ala Romana, cooked right side down with herbs and olive oil.  

         I won’t be in Rome until the middle of June, so to satisfy my artichoke craving, I think I will make Fettuccine with Artichokes for dinner tonight.  Here is my recipe, which originally appeared in my book A Fresh Taste of Italy.   I don’t serve this pasta with grated cheese, though I do like to add a little bit of butter at the end to make it slightly creamy.                                                                                                                                  

FETTUCCINE WITH ARTICHOKES                                                                

Serves 4

3 medium artichokes

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 pound fresh fettuccine

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Cut off the top 1/2 to 3/4 inch of the artichokes with a large, sharp knife. Rinse the artichokes under cold water, spreading the leaves open. Be careful to avoid the little thorns on the remaining tips of the leaves. Bend back and snap off all of the dark green leaves until you reach the pale yellowish cone of tender leaves at the center of the artichoke. With a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife, peel off the tough outer skin around the base and stems. Leave the stems attached to the base. Trim off the ends of the stems. Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise and scoop out the fuzzy chokes with a spoon. Cut the artichokes into thin lengthwise slices.

2.Pour the oil into a saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta. Add the onion, parsley, and garlic and cook over medium heat until the onion is golden, about 15 minutes.

3. Add the artichoke slices, wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, then the pasta. Stir well. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, tender yet still firm to the bite. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the pan with the artichokes.

5. Add the butter and a little of the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Toss well. Serve immediately.






Chef Norbert Niederkofler of Hotel Rosa Alpina and St. Hubertus Restaurant

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of Hotel Rosa Alpina and St. Hubertus Restaurant




Chocolate Pudding with Fromage Blanc Ice Cream and Rhubarb Soup

Chocolate Pudding with Fromage Blanc Ice Cream and Rhubarb Soup

High up in the Dolomite Mountains in the Trentino Alto Adige region of Northern Italy is St. Hubertus, one of Italy’s finest restaurants.  Named for the patron saint of hunters, this elegant 2-star Michelin restaurant is located at the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa in the tiny town of San Cassiano.  Though Charles and I were not able to dine at Rosa Alpina when we were in this area several years ago, we met the chef, Norbert Niederkofler, here in New York this week with Hugo Pizzini, whose family has owned and operated the Rosa Alpina for more than 70 years.  The hotel is a part of the luxurious Relais & Chateaux group.

The personable Chef Norbert prepared an outstanding tasting menu for us which was paired with some of the region’s great wines.  Here is the menu:

Speck with Horseradish served with crispy dried bread from the Dolomites  — Speck is a tender smoked ham that is typical of this region.  The bread was light and airy and super crunchy.                                                                                                                                                                                        Terrine of Foie Gras with Alto Adige Apple Snow  — The snow was a tart green apple granita, a delicate complement to the foie gras.  It was perfect with the Tramin Gerwurtztraminer, a slightly sweet wine, that accompanied it.                Char cooked in Moutain Herbs with Potato and Wild Ramp Puree — The fish was delicious and cooked to perfection, but I loved the potatoes and wild ramps that went with it.  I think I will try this if I can find some ramps at the Greenmarket this weekend.          Crispy Red Mullet on a Tartar of Scallops with Sauteed Calamari and Coconut Coriander Sauce — Sounds like a lot going on, but this was actually very delicate and the flavors were subtle.  The coconut and coriander flavors were a subtle undertone.                                                                                            Risotto with Pine Needles and Slow Cooked Breast of Guinea Fowl — Yes, pine needles!  Tender green tips of low-growing mugo pine branches are pureed and blended with sweet butter which as stirred into a basic risotto in bianco.  Very delicate and different.                                                        Venison with White Asparagus, Pea Puree and Fresh Morels — The venison was tender and perfectly cooked while the vegetables were the essence of spring.                                                                           Chocolate Pudding with Fromage Blanc Ice Cream and Rhubarb Soup — Warm, cake-like steamed chocolate pudding topped with tart, creamy ice cream and surrounded by a tangy rhubarb sauce.  Charles was really crazy about this.

 Home cooking in Trentino Alto-Adige is hearty with many kinds of whole grain breads made with nuts as well as buckwheat, oats, and other grains.  There are stewed meats, delicious cheeses, and dumplings of all kinds served in broth or simply doused with butter.  It may not be what you think of when you imagine Italian food, but believe me, it is all delicious!  The Alto Adige region is influenced by Austria, and before WWI, was actually a part of that country.  The first language in the region is German, and Italian is second.  The people in the valley where the Rosa Alpina is located also speak Ladin, derived from Latin.  Hugo Pizzini said that the region is eligible to become a United Nations World Heritage Site which he believes will help to preserve the beauty of the area and the local traditions. 

Charles and I look forward to returning to this stunningly beautiful region of Italy to see Chef Norbert and enjoy his delicious cooking once again.  For more information about the Rosa Alpina Hotel & Spa and St. Hubertus restaurant, go to  And for a complete run-down on the wines we tasted with our meal, see Charles’ post, which will appear soon,  at

img_1354Last week, my friends at Family Circle Magazine asked me to stop by and give them a lesson on making struffoli.  These little balls of fried dough dipped in honey are essential for many Southern Italians at Christmas time.  When I was a child, my mom and I used to make them assembly-line fashion, with me doing the cutting and rolling while she did the initial mixing and then the frying.  After frying, they were coated with warm honey that she would buy from a beekeeper on  Staten Island.  The finished struffoli would be piled onto shallow plates and decorated with colored sprinkles and maybe some candied fruits.  They would last for quite a while and we would serve them to guests and bring some to relatives we visited throughout the holiday season.  They were perfect for nibbling with a cup of coffee and we would all sit around the table and pick them off the pile with our fingers.  They were messy to eat and many people claimed not to like them, but somehow they would all disappear.  I always thought my mom’s were the best because they were light and airy, not hard and dense like some others I have tasted.  

I will post the recipe struffoli at Christmastime, but if you just can’t wait, you can find it in my book 1,000 Italian Recipes

To see more photos of the struffoli class at Family Circle, see