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Posted 05/29/2012

Perfecting Pesto

Confession: I am a failed gardener. While I can grow flowers with the best of them, I have never nurtured a successful vegetable garden from seed to kitchen. My maternal grandmother Martha, who was the best cook I have ever known, started her seeds in February and transplanted the sturdy plants into rich soil in May, harvesting lush and perfect vegetables all summer long. My seedlings developed damping off disease.  My soil is irresistible to quack grass. I once asked her the secret for her perfect garden, with lush plants and incredible yield,. She said, “when I see a weed, I pull it out.” Continue Reading…

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Posted 02/21/2012

Growing Italian Seeds to Cook Italian Food

One day while watching Gabriele and Debi on ExtraVirgin I got inspired to grow some of the herbs and vegetables featured in their Italian recipes. So, I headed down to the garden center in search of seeds so I could grow my own ingredients in the garden this summer.  I was presented with the usual array of seeds from some of my favorite seed companies. A couple of which even had a selection highlighting their use in Italian cuisine.   Continue Reading…

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Posted 11/07/2011

Athena’s gift

Before becoming a precious gift for humanity, the olive has been an object of victory and defeat. Greek mythology, in fact, narrates the quarrel between Poseidon and Athena for the possession of Attica, a piece of land in Greece. Obviously, we are not talking about just anybody: Athena was the goddess of agriculture, arts and crafts as well as of order, law and justice, whereas Poseidon reigned over the earthquakes, the water and the Mediterranean sea. Continue Reading…

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Posted 08/25/2011

Dog Day Cooking

Ancient Romans referred to the time period between July 24 and August 24 as “dies caniculares,” or “dog days,” and blamed their late-summer misery on the rage of Sirius, the dog star. Present-day New York City is a long way from ancient Rome, but some things never change: the dog days of summer can be miserable. And while most of Italy shuts down during August while Italians head to the beach, I’m afraid no such respite is in store for me. The worst part of August’s relentless heat and oppressive humidity is that my interest in cooking begins to wane. Why turn on my stove when the entire city has become a gigantic convection oven? Continue Reading…

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Posted 06/08/2011

“Prova Bikini” (The Bikini Test)

Only a few weeks ago we got the better of freezing cold,  loads of snow and  slippery ice in a country which seems never ready for the winter season.  Some  even gained victory over tire chains, experiencing the thrill (and the neighbor’s deep respect) of having them properly fixed around the wheels. We should all be feeling proud and real winners.  A Northerner probably does, because normally nothing else terribly difficult will happen for the rest of the year. Not so Italians. Their next trial just about to turn up is called “bikini test” or prova bikini, a merciless day of reckoning, thorny for at least fifty percent of the population – female and male. Continue Reading…

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Posted 06/02/2011

The garden… it’s what’s for dinner tonight!

Let me begin by giving a huge thanks to the UTTG family for welcoming me aboard.  I am excited about opening the conversation on cooking and gardening with kids of all ages.  My goal is to share personal experiences both as an Aunt and a culinary instructor.  I hope you’ll discover some useful tips and maybe a little entertained.  As you know, kids say the darndest things. With that in mind, grab a cup of coffee, kick up your feet and feast on this first installment of cooking and gardening with pint-sized chefs. Continue Reading…

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Posted 05/18/2011

A Summer Herbs Almanac

One of the most fulfilling experiences you can have in Italy, specially in Tuscany, is summer food. Very fresh, natural ingredients, cooked in a simple and healthy manner for the sake of appeasing one’s hunger  in the best possible way, whilst sharing the pleasures of the table with family and friends. Being deep-rooted traditionalists, Tuscans have trust in their ancestor’s experience and the preparation of meals is almost always faithful to the recipes handed down through the ages. The people here have a very fine nose and know exactly what they are enhancing with which aromatic herb by keeping a perfect balance. Continue Reading…

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Posted 04/21/2011

Some Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti

After a frigid and seemingly interminable winter, daffodils have begun appearing here in New York City.  As the days grow warmer and longer, I find that I no longer crave the soul-warming sustenance of winter’s slow braises, stews, and baked pastas.  Instead, I hunger after lively flavors that sing of springtime, and nothing typifies spring more than the classic pairing of fava beans with pecorino cheese.

Fava Beans (Vicia Faba) and Pecorino are an ancient combination, borne of the Tuscan culinary wisdom that makes the most of what is fresh and readily available.  In the spring, Tuscan sheep begin grazing on young spring grasses.  The sheep’s early milk becomes marzolino, a “little March” cheese whose herbaceous pungency pairs beautifully with the creamy, tender fava beans that appear each spring. Continue Reading…

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Posted 03/22/2011

Free Garden Plants From Your Food

A few weeks ago on Twitter Debi mentioned that Gabriele once brought passion fruit seeds from Miami to L.A. that they had eaten and grew them into vines, but that the fruit didn’t taste good. I think we’ve all have this instinct to save the seeds of a particularly good fruit and plant it in the hopes that we’d grow something as delicious as what we ate. With a few exceptions, saving seeds from fruits we eat in restaurants and grocery stores will not produce fruits or vegetables that are the same as the ones we ate. What’s available commercially is usually a hybrid and the seeds will not result in a plant or fruit that is identical to the one we experienced. The same goes for fruiting trees like apples, peaches and oranges. Sure, you can usually nurture these seeds into plants that may flower and fruit, but the resulting fruit will not taste very good. Continue Reading…

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Posted 03/04/2011

Garlic, “The Stinking Rose”.

Garlic (allium sativum L.) What could be more Italian? And either you love it or you hate it. Garlic haters usually don’t like onions either and will doubtlessly appreciate the antique legend which reveals that when the devil was thrown out of paradise and came to earth his left foot touched the earth and sprouted garlic whilst his right foot brought forth onions. In fact, both plants belong to the lily or liliaceae family and certainly have a very distinctive odor. Continue Reading…

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