Summer fruit: apricot and noyeaux tarts

An ode to wasting no part of a fruit

Waste not, crave not. Particularly true when it comes to apricots, which, inside their stone, hide a sweetly bitter little nut born to make all foods more interesting. My grandfather would crack the stone and pass the armelline-their italian name-onto our eagerly waiting hands. My mother would gather the uncracked stones from our plates all season long, so she could use them to flavor jams, liquors, cookies, tarts.

To stave off the craving this year, I have been scattering them on my apricot tarts.

Crostata di albicocche e mandorle

Almonds and apricots tart

for a 10 to 12” tart pan

270 grams flour

100 grams sugar

135 grams butter

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

grated zest of a lemon or orange

8 ounces almond paste in 1 piece

2 pounds apricots

1 tablespoon sugar

To make the crust, place the first 6 ingredients in the mixer bowl. Using a paddle attachment, work on medium high speed.

As the butter and yolks are broken into the dry ingredients, the mixture will turn into a thick powder.

The powder will quickly turn to crumbs and appear more yellow and less whitish.

As the crumbs get bigger and the powdery appearance disappears, increase the paddling to the highest speed.

The crumbs will get bigger and bigger and the noise the paddle makes while stirring will change from continuous to slightly intermittent, as if the dough is resisting it.

When the dough is clustered in big clumps, it is ready. Empty it on a piece of plastic wrap and quickly press the clumps of dough together with the tip of your fingers.

Press to form a fat disk with the palm of your hands. Wrap tightly with plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.

If using a food processor pulse until the crumbles start coming together as described and proceed as above.

Roll the almond paste in between 2 sheets of parchment paper to as thin a layer as you can, ideally about 1/2 the thickness of the crust. Set aside in a cool place.

Roll the pasta frolla to 1/8” thick. Drape it over the tart pan. Press it down to adhere to the bottom and cut the excess crust leaving about 1/4". Prick the bottom.

Peel one layer of parchment paper off the almond paste and lay the paste over the tart pan and carefully line the pasta frolla with it making sure it adheres well all over the bottom. Place in the freezer.

Wash, dry and quarter the apricots. Crack the stones and gather the nuts that are inside. Chop them finely and mix them with a tablespoon of sugar.

Turn the oven on to pre-heat to 350˚F.

Arrange the apricot segments in concentric circles over the tart crust, alternating 1 skin side up and 1 skin side down. Sprinkle the noyeaux and sugar over the apricots

Place on a sheet pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the crust edges are golden and the apricots are a little shriveled but still delightfully pointy and looking up to the sky.

Let cool before serving.

For Lucia: gianduja and salted hazelnuts crostata

I instagrammed and FB'd the picture of a tart a couple of days ago and my beloved friend Lucia asked for the recipe.

Enjoy, Lucia and by the way, here's where you can buy gianduja chocolate.


Crostata al gianduja con nocciole salate

Gianduja tart with salted hazelnuts


for a 9" tart pan


2 cups (270 grams) flour

½ cup (115 grams) sugar

½ cup (135 grams) butter

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

grated zest of a lemon


2/3 pound gianduja chocolate

1/2 cup roasted salted hazelnuts

1/3 pound heavy cream

1 pat butter


Prepare the pasta frolla: place all ingredients in the mixer with a paddle attachment, work on medium to high speed until they start coming together.

Empty on top of a piece of plastic wrap and press together with the tip of your fingers, then form a flat round ball with the palm of your hands.

Wrap tightly with plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.

If using a food processor, pulse until the ingredients start coming together, and then proceed as above.

Roll the pasta frolla to about 1/4" and line the tart mold with it. Cut off excess crust and keep it to make cookies. Prick the bottom and return to the refrigerator.

In the meantime, chip the chocolate and place it in a stainless steel bowl.

Chop the hazelnuts.

Heat the cream to the boiling point and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until you have a smooth silky mixture.

Stir in the butter.

Keep the ganache runny by placing the stainless steel bowl over a pot of warm water, whisking occasionally to keep from separating.

Line a 9" removable bottom tart pan with parchment paper.

Roll the pasta frolla to about 1/8" and line the tart mold with it. Cut off excess crust and keep it to make cookies. Prick the bottom and bake in a 350˚F pre-heated oven for about 15 minutes, until it starts turning a slightly golden beige with darker edges and the smell of sugar cookies is wafting to your nose.

Cool the crust and gently transfer it to the tray from which you will be serving it.

Pour the ganache into the tart shell and let set in a cool dry place until it is firmly creamy. If you are pressed for time, you can put it in the refrigerator, away from strong smelling foods.

When it is set, scatter the hazelnuts on it and serve.


  • If you can't find roasted toasted hazelnuts, make them yourself as follows: toast the nuts in a 325˚F oven just until you smell them. Rub them in a dry kitchen rag to remove the skins. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and place back in the oven for 5 minutes.

Buon Natale ~ Happy Christmas


Today, before delving into capons and puntarelle, I am observing my favorite Christmas tradition: brekfasting on panettone lefotver from last night. Put on the robe that someone is bound to have re-gifted you, place a slice of panettone in the toaster over and, while heady from the smell which will soon kidnap your home and senses, prepare your caffelatte.

Sit, while listening to Christmas music-I am loving Barenaked for the Holidays by the Barenaked Ladies this year-and lazily dunk your toasted panettone into your warm coffee and milk.

Repeat until the slice is gone, including the crumbs.

Repeat until you have enough strength to lift 8 pounds of capon out of the refrigerator.

And, no, you do not have to make your own panettone, and can definitely get your mate or children or roommate to prepare your caffelatte.

Buon Natale!

My week in Italian politics

Foto ricevimento marino
Foto ricevimento marino

If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook (and if you don't, you should!), you know that last week our beloved consul general Mauro Battocchi picked me among the Bay Area's bevy of Italian kitchen talent to cook for Mayor Ignazio Marino of Rome.

Mayor Marino addressed an audience of 50 citizens of the world on the need to help preserve the archaeological architectural heritage of Rome as I wiled away in the kitchen, doing my best to show that anyone's commitment to the culture of Italy also means we will all eat much better.

My trend of recognition continued yesterday, when my close friend Valentina Imbeni, director of La Scuola Italian International School asked that I feed breakfast/mid-morning snacks to a roomful of 20-30 people gathering for a private meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Brekafast Renzi
Brekafast Renzi

Mr. Renzi made his dedication of La Scuola's new Kindergarten through 8th grade campus his only official appearance in SF, a moving moment for a group of parents to which I belong who have fought long and hard to establish this amazing place. La Scuola started as an informal playgroup and is now on the way to become one of the best language immersion schools in the Bay Area.

The greatest pleasure of the morning was spending time with Agnese Renzi, a witty and beautiful woman, full of questions on the Scuola, the vital community it gathers and the lives of Italians in San Francisco. Most importantly, she and I were the only ones wearing ivory in a sea of black dresses and suits AND she loved my ricotta tart with figs and pears.

Prime Minister Renzi dedicating La Scuola
Prime Minister Renzi dedicating La Scuola

I leave you today with the two recipes that were most appreciated during the 2 events, an antipasto and a dessert.

Should you wish to eat just like an Italian politician, I will include many recipes from the 2 events in the context of my monthly cooking workshop at the Consulate, reprising next Wednesday. The classes are held the first Wednesday of each month and you can refer to my calendar for instructions on registering, there are some spots still open.

Acciuga fritta
Acciuga fritta

Acciughe croccanti del Sindaco

Mayoral crispy anchovies

for 8 to 10 people

1/2 pound fresh anchovies

2 eggs

bread crumbs

oil for deep frying

salt to taste


Rinse the anchovies and pat them dry.

Slit along the underbelly and lay flat. Carefully remove the spine and head leaving the tail attached.

Beat the eggs well and salt lightly.

Fill a frying pan with the oil about 3/4 up the sides. Heat the oil to 320˚F (use a candy thermometer to measure).

Grab and anchovy by its tail and dunk in the eggs, ensure it is all covered. Dredge it through the breadcrumbs to coat all over in a light layer. Repeat until all the fish are coated.

Fry in small batches to avoid overcrowding the pan and cooling the oil. The oil should bubble and hiss quickly around each anchovy as it goes into the oil. When the first side is golden-about 2 minutes- turn over with tongs to finish the other side.

Transfer to paper towels to let the oil drain drain.

Repeat until all the anchovies are fried and transfer them to a shallow bowl. Salt lightly and toss by shaking the bowl.

Serve immediately.


Crostata ministeriale di ricotta con fichi e pere

Ministerial ricotta, figs and pears tart


for a 9 to 10” tart pan:


2 cups (270 grams) flour

½ cup (115 grams) sugar

½ cup (135 grams) butter

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

grated zest of a lemon


2/3 pound fresh ricotta

1/2 cup sugar

grated zest of 1 orange

2 eggs

1 tablespoon rum or brandy

4 slightly under ripe figs

2 small pears


Prepare the pasta frolla: place all ingredients in the mixer with a paddle attachment, work on medium to high speed until they start coming together.

Empty on top of a piece of plastic wrap and press together with the tip of your fingers, then form a flat round ball with the palm of your hands.

Wrap tightly with plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.

If using a food processor, pulse until the ingredients start coming together, and then proceed as above.

Push the ricotta through a sieve into a bowl and add the sugar and zest. Whisk together to dissolve the sugar and smooth.

Separate the eggs. Stir in the yolks and liquor into the ricotta mixture. Leave the whites at room temperature.

Roll the pasta frolla to about 1/4" and line the tart mold with it. Cut off excess crust and keep it to make cookies. Prick the bottom and return to the refrigerator.

Eliminate the stem from the figs with a pair of scissors, leaving the skin on. Cut in 8 sections.

Core and quarter the pears, cut each section into 4 slices. You will have an equal number of fig and pear slices.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold into the ricotta then pour the mixture into the tart shell just above the half way point.

Make rows or concentric circles with the fruit slices, alternating them and gently laying them on the top, without pushing into the ricotta.

Bake at 350˚F for about 1 hour, keeping the mold closer to the bottom of the oven. The edges with be a dark blond. The fruit slices will look slight withered and will have partially drowned in the filling.

Let cool before serving.

Cooking in Italy: Chocolate on my sandals

  Sandali al cioccolatoI adore these sandals, chosen by my child among several pairs he had me model during a shoe shopping session he deemed the most Mamma/Ernesto fun  we had this year. They have style, comfort. They sexily showcase my ankles-sexy ankles being a critical criterion of beauty for Italians.

And since last week they are further adorned by a permanent chocolate stain acquired at the splendid Scuola del Cioccolato Perugina in my hometown of Perugia, where I spent 2 days under the tutelage of Maestro Massimiliano Guidubaldi.

You might remember last summer's post about my incipient collaboration with Perugina Chocolate. As those buds continue to blossom, Baci and other Perugina products have inspired me to create, share, teach and immerse myself in the story of quality that is Perugina.


Baci making con Marina


Rediscovering and elaborating this part of my heritage has been a path of much joy: from creating delectable Baci based desserts, to watching the faces of children making Baci from scratch, to telling the tale of a family where so many thought out of the box and from which I am proud to descend.




Alcohol:Chocolate pairing


Massimiliano and I tempered, molded, dipped. We improvised, we taught and, as in what has by now become a yearly tradition, imbibed remarkable amounts of espresso and alcohol, including a 10am session on how to properly pair chocolate with alcohol that started with the playful match of a glass of Sagrantino Passito VS a bar of Luisa Dark 51%  and ended with reserve rum whipping the snap of a 70% Nero Sfoglia into perfect shape.

Chocolate fun in Perugia












Ernesto e cartigli



The 2-day chocolate marathon ended with a 4-hand bilingual class delivered to a group of 10 which included my sister Silvia and my little Ernesto, who beamed at his creations and stated: "Mamma, it's just in our genes". Well, if the stain on my sandals is any indication, then Ernesto might be right: this is something I just can't seem to scratch off.




I will be teaching classes modeled on my experience at Scuola del Cioccolato throughout the year-including Baci making from scratch, of course-and will integrate more chocolate work and Baci desserts from my growing collection in the Italian cooking workshops I hold at the Italian Consulate in San Francisco on the first Wednesday of each month from September to June, from 1 to 5pm. Click here for my calendar of events. As always, the teachings are for home cooks, who, as I have been learning through my work at the Scuola, can achieve professional grade results while working chocolate at home without any particular implement, other than some techniques and a lot of passion.

Until you can join one of my classes, try this creme caramel al gianduja, a creation which found much favor during a reception the Perugina team hosted at Eataly in Chicago in early May and is yet easy enough that my 18 Reasons Mother's Day kids class could make it. By the way, much credit for me managing to perfect this confection goes to the invaluable sounding board that is my friend and accomplished pastry chef Deirdre Davis.

Creme caramel al gianduja Gianduja creme caramel

Gianduja, a type of chocolate Italians call the 4th flavor, is a mix of dark and milk chocolate and hazelnut paste, created in Piedmont in the early 1800's. This sweet is best made the day before, to maximize the advantage of a careful cooling process. However, times can be shortened in a pinch (see note)

for 6 peocreme caramel al giandujaple 1/4 pound sugar 2 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon Frangelico 2.5 cups milk 1 vanilla bean 1/2 cup well toasted hazelnuts 10 ounces gianduja chocolate 4 eggs 4 yolks 1/4 tsp salt

Place half the sugar, water and Frangelico in a small sauce pot. Place over medium heat and melt without stirring but often swirling the pot around.


The sugar will slowly melt, then start bubbling. At some point, the color will start turning from clear whitish to beige, golden and, eventually, dark brown. When a marked burnt smell can be detected, it is ready.

Pour it on the bottom of a deep circular mold with a hole in the middle. Swirl the mold all around so that the caramel coats the sides and bottom of the mold. Set it aside to cool and harden.

Heat the milk to just before boiling. In the meantime, score the vanilla bean and chop the hazelnuts.

Remove the milk from the heat and drop the vanilla bean and about 1/3 of the hazelnuts in it. Cover the pot and set it aside to infuse for 15 to 20 minutes.

In the meantime, cut the gianduja in small pieces. Whisk the eggs, yolks and remaining sugar until the sugar has completely dissolved and it is pale yellow and a little fluffy-this can be done in an electric mixer.

Strain the milk and pour it over the cut gianduja. Whisk until it is smooth then gently pour it into the eggs and sugar mixture. Stir the mixture with care until it reaches uniform color and texture.

Strain everything twice through a very fine mesh sieve then pour it into the mold over the solidified caramel.

Heat the oven to 350˚F and set up a water bath with rack on the bottom. Set the mold in the water bath, tent with aluminum foil and bake until set, about 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove the water bath from the oven and leave the mold in until the water has completely cooled.

Remove the mold from the water bath, wrap tightly and hold overnight in the refrigerator to dissolve max amount of caramel.

To unmold, run a paring knife around the edges of the mold, place a round platter on top, turn over, tap all around and gently shake. The creme caramel will slide right off.

Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts right before serving and enjoy cold.


  • If you are short on time, you can move the mold to an already cool water bath to hasten the cooling process. Leave it in for an hour or so then place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to unmold it.
  • The creme caramel will still come out, though it will be a little creamier than expected and the caramel will not be as fully dissolved as it would be in an overnight rest.
  • Lastly, the sieving passage is critical to eliminate the foam after from the mixture. An excessively foamy mixture poured into the mold will shrink down to little and be taken over by the caramel.

Blogblock no more! Caramel walnut tart with chocolate ganache

The unfinished tart I instagrammed last night and with fingers crossed that it would get me blogging again? Crostata caramello, noci e ganache a metà


It was a hit with the indomitable moms gathered around my table for a send off to our children's 4th grade teacher, fabulous Mia Straghalis, the stunning blond in the middle of the group pictured below.

Celebrating the teacher


The evening was a blast and the tart beyond easy.

So from #blogblock, I hope to now be back to #almostweeklyblogging-or as close to it as possible...







Crostata di caramello e noci con ganache di cioccolato amaro Caramel and walnut tart with chocolate ganache

for a 10" tart mold 1 dose pasta frolla 1.5 cups walnuts

The whole cake was eaten to quickly for me to take a full picture!

1 cup salted caramel sauce (see note) 250 ml cream 250 grams bittersweet chocolate 1/2 tablespoon butter

Make the crust. Wrap it tightly and place it in the refrigerator to rest for at least half an hour.

Line the tart mold with parchment paper.

Roll the pasta frolla into a disk about 1/8" thick. Carefully roll it around the pin then unroll to drape over the mold. Gently press it in to line the bottom and sides.

Let the excess dough fall over the edges, then press all around with a rolling pin to let the overhanging dough fall off. Prick the bottom and place in the freezer.

Pre-heat the oven to 325˚.

Roughly chop the walnuts.

Gently heat the caramel sauce in a small sauce pot. Pour in the walnuts and mix to coat. Let cool to lukewarm.

In the meantime, par-bake the tart shell for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and spread the walnuts and caramel on the bottom of the tart shell in a thin, even layer.

Return to the oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.

In the meantime, chop the chocolate and place in an aluminum bowl with the cream.

Set the bowl on a sauce pot over simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water and the water does not come to a boil.

The steam will warm the cream and melt the chocolate. Whisk everything together to a homogeneous color and velvety appearance. Stir in the butter.

Pour the chocolate ganache into the tart shell and over the walnuts in caramel. Let set until thick enough to be cut without running.


  • I used a shelf stable salted caramel sauce I made in a canning class with the great Shakirah Simley. If you are inclined to make fresh caramel sauce, there are many great recipes to follow.
  • The completely assembled tart is best left to set at room temperature, but, if in a pinch, do place it in the refrigerator to thicken more quickly.
  • While butter is not necessary for the ganache, I find it gives it a sheen finish I enjoy.



Truffles and chocolates

When I asked Ernesto what would he wanted for breakfast Saturday of last week, he answered: "Spaghetti al tartufo, mamma-Spaghetti with truffle, mommie". And yes, he was serious. Tartufi marzolini

The first week in March, both Ernesto's current school, Miraloma Elementary, and his former pre-school, La Scuola Internazionale di San Francisco, hold their yearly auctions and every year, my truffle guy ships a generous in-kind donation straight from Italy to contribute to the success of the events.

As he's a stickler for quality, Piero Cipriani always puts in a sample for Ernesto and me to test. This year, we were blessed with 300 grams of bianchetti or marzolini, white spring truffles bursting with uncomplicated earthy flavors that I find best brought out by the subtle addition of anchovies.

By the way, Piero will ship directly from Italy truffles that are dug by cousins of his. Should you be interested, I would be happy to put you in touch with him.


On the chocolate front, I have been putting my training at Perugina's Scuola del Cioccolato to good use...

Baci e Cioccolato 1On Valentine's Day, 50 people at San Francisco's Italian Cultural Institute learned how to say "I love you" the Italian way by making and eating Baci Perugina. We all had a blast and went home happily covered in chocolate.

Over the next 2 month, at La Scuola di Eataly in Chicago on Saturday 4/5 and in New York, on Saturday 4/12 and 5/10, during 3 classes on Baci, I will make them, chat about their history, use them as ingredients in two of my original creations, chat about how my family shaped Perugina from a high end confectionery shop in the heart of my hometown into the world wide brand it is today, and share memories of growing up under this delectable legacy.

I have worshiped at the altar of anything associated with Lidia Bastianich since my first risotto at her NYC's legendary Felidia Ristorante in the mid 80's, so I am thrilled beyond what words can express at the thought of teaching at Eataly, a place I consider the ode to all I hold sacred in my chosen field.

Click on my event calendar for details on registering for the Perugina chocolate workshops. I hope to see some of you there and, if you are reading from Chicago or New York, spread the word.

Spaghetti con salsa di tartufi bianchetti Spaghetti with March white truffles (aka: Ernesto's favorite breakfast)Spaghetti ai marzolini

for 6 people: 100 grams March white truffles 5 olive oil packed anchovies fillets 1 to 2 teaspoons green garlic (or 1/2 clove regular garlic) olive oil salt to taste black pepper to taste 1 pound bag of spaghetti 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Clean the truffles as follows: loosen the dirt with a new nail brush. Finish removing the dirt under running water while scrubbing each truffle with the brush. Dry well with a paper towel. Note that this needs to be a very quick operation, the truffles shouldn't be in the water flow for more than a couple of minutes.

Keep the smallest truffle (or a piece of truffle) whole and place the rest in the bowl of a food processor with the anchovies and green garlic.

Adding the olive oil in a stream, grind into a loose paste. Add black pepper to taste, and salt if necessary, though the sauce should be salty enough from the anchovies.

Place the truffle sauce in a warm, shallow serving bowls.

Cook the spaghetti very al dente in boiling, well salted water. If using, chop the pine nuts roughly.

Fish the spaghetti out of the water with tongs and transfer them into the bowl with the truffle sauce and toss well to coat thoroughly with the truffle sauce.

If they appear a little too dry, add a few spoonfuls of pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce.

Shave the reserved truffle on top and serve immediately as it is or dusted with the pine nuts.


  • I find that truffles are best kept well wrapped in a paper towel then placed in an airtight container.
  • Keep the dirt on them until you are ready to use them, it helps preserve them longer.
  • I have eaten well kept truffles up until after 2+ weeks of having received them from Piero and they were still delicious, though they had lost a bit of fragrance and the texture was a little softer.
  • Should you wish to freeze them, clean them as outlined above then wrap them in paper towel and aluminum place them in an airtight container and freeze them.
  • Better to use them frozen, without defrosting.
  • Note that frozen truffles are better used in sauces rather than shaved.

Reluctantly baking: tarts of winter

Baking is just not one of the already scant number of talents I have. The precision required of successful bakers feels like embarking on a fruitless quest for perfection, on a flight of no fancy, on a forced marriage from which I can't stray. The one exception to this aversion are crostate-the Italian word for tarts, a sweet medium that allows me to express my pinch-of this-splash-of-that style and still convince my audience that I know my way around an oven.

In the last few weeks I came up with these 2 tarts, which gained many accolades, including a shout out from Marcia the Fabulous, aka The Table Hopper.


Pasta frolla Italian pastry crustPasta frolla

Pasta frolla is the short pastry crust we use in Italy for our tarts and sometimes also for deeper filled tortes. There are a myriad versions, but this is my favorite and the one my mother also preferred. It is from Artusi, the still very actual late 19th century cookbook which codified Italian upper middle class cooking.

Whenever I make a tart, I always double or even triple the quantities for the crust and then freeze the excess to have ready in a pinch if I have guests or want to bribe my child with cookies for breakfast.

You have the option of using some lard, and if you decide to take, it will yield a remarkable flake and crumb. Indeed, my mother often used lard alone in her pasta frolla, though the result with all butter is also delicious.

10 ounces flour ½ cup sugar pinch of salt grated zest of a small orange or a lemon 1 stick + 2 tablespoons butter (or, even better, 7 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons lard) 4 egg yolks

Whisk the flour, sugar, salt and zest in a mixer bowl.

Dice the butter and add it and the yolks to the dry ingredients.

Work on medium high speed with the paddle attachment. They will start coming together first in small crumbs which will quickly increase in size.

When the crumbs are large (there will be a change in the noise the mixing produces), empty the bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap and quickly press them together with your fingertips. Then, using the palm of your hands, form a thick round flat.

Wrap tightly with plastic and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.

If using a food processor, pulse until the ingredients come together in big crumbs, then proceed as above.


Crostata di pistacchi e tarocchi Pistachios and blood orange tartCrostata pistacchi e tarocchi

for a 9" tart: 1 stick unsalted butter+2 tablespoon butter 1 cup pistachios 3 blood oranges 1/2 cup sugar+1 tablespoon sugar 1 egg 3 tablespoons rum 1 dose pasta frolla (see recipe above)

Let the butter soften at room temperature. Lightly roast the pistachios, wrap them in a clean kitchen cloth and rub off as much of the skin as possible (it doesn't need to be perfectly removed). Grind them very finely and let cool.

Slice the oranges quite thinly. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on it. Gently caramelize the orange slices on both sides in the butter and sugar over low heat for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side.

Cream the butter and remaining sugar until pale and fluffy. In the meantime, separate the egg.

Mix the pistachios and yolk into the butter and sugar mixture. Add the rum and lastly work in the flour.

Whip the egg white to stiff peaks and fold it into the pistachio cream.

Line a 9" removable bottom tart pan with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry crust to about 1/8" and unroll it onto the tart pan. Push down gently and eliminate the excess dough from the sides.

Prick the bottom of the tart gently with a fork.

Spread the pistachio cream in it into an even layer rising just above half way up the sides of the tart shell.

Arrange the orange slices attractively in rows or concentric circles.

Place the tart on a cookie sheet and loosely tent it with aluminum foil. Bake at 375˚F for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, removing the aluminum foil half way into the baking.

Test by inserting a knife blade or toothpick in the center: it should exit slightly wet, but clean and clear otherwise.

Let the tart cool before removing it from the mold and serving.



Crostata mele uvette e nocciole cottaCrostata di mele, uvette e nocciole Apples, currants and hazelnuts tart

1/2 cup currants 1/4 cup hazelnuts 2 apples 1 8 ounces jar apple butter 1 dose pasta frolla (see recipe above)

Soak the currants in warm water.

Toast the hazelnuts at 325˚F until you can smell their woodiness. Place them in a clean kitchen towel and rub their skins off. Chop them finely.

Peel, core and quarter the apples then slice them thinly along the longer side.

Line a 9" removable bottom tart pan with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry crust to about 1/8" and unroll it onto the tart pan. Push down gently and eliminate the excess dough from the sides.

Prick the bottom of the tart gently with a fork. Drain the currants and squeeze them from excess water.

Spread the apple butter over the crust in an even layer.

Arrange the apple slices in a tight concentric circle closer to the external circumference of the tart. Follow with a ring of currants, then one more circle of apple slices and lastly a mound of currants in the center.

Sprinkle the hazelnuts all over the apples and currants.

Place the tart on a cookie sheet and bake at 325˚F for 30 to 35 minutes. The tart should be positioned closer to the bottom of the oven, and, for the first 15 minutes, loosely tented with aluminum.

When done, the edges should be a golden blond and the bottom firm and the apples soft but not mushy.


Yoga breakfast for friends: goat yogurt, brown sugar and almond loafcake

Sometime this week I heard the say that friends are the family you choose, but I don't agree. I would not choose any family over the delightfully dysfunctional one into which I had the blind and extraordinary luck of being born. I think of friends as yet another way to rejoice, to learn, to grow. Friends are another, no smaller, kind of affection, relationships that enrich and better us a little every day.

And because in my world love multiplies rather than divide, I am always finding more people I can call friends. A new friend does not claim space in your heart, they just help you find more space. Love always makes room for more love, and I LOVE that. I guess I could aptly, if somewhat cornily, say that my heart is like an Italian table, there is always space for one more seat.

A few of those friends, with whom I delight in a yoga class every Thursday morning, got a front row seat for this latest version of my favorite yogurt loaf cake.

Chiara, Jennifer, Lucia, Sophie: this is for you!

Tortino di yogurt di capra e zucchero grezzo alle mandorle Goat yogurt and brown sugar loaf cake with almonds

Note: use the yogurt container as a measuring unitTortino yogurt di capra e mandorle

for a 10" loaf pan: 1 6ozs container plain goat yogurt 1/2 container extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons almond extract 2 tablespoon peeled almonds 3 containers all purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1.5 container brown sugar+1 tablespoon pinch of salt grated zest of a Meyer lemon 3 eggs

Line the loaf pan with parchment paper. In a small bowl, blend the yogurt, olive oil and almond extract well. Chop the almonds finely.

In a larger bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, 1.5 container of sugar, salt and zest. Mix in the eggs and then the yogurt and olive oil mixture.

Pour the batter into the lined loaf pan. Dust with the remaining sugar and chopped almonds.

Bake at 375˚F for about 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Unmold and let cool on a rack.


Thanksgiving dessert: pears in crust with Baci and amaretti

Who'd come to my funeral if I died today? How sad would my husband be and for how long? If I really love him, I would want him to be happy without me, no? Does harboring the secret hope that he'll mourn indefinitely make me a less than ideal wife?? OMG, can't I see my marriage is in trouble??? These are but an example of the runaway thoughts that plague the recent and unsettling phenomenon of unscheduled early morning risings. I have stopped fighting them and taken the unexpected extra time to the kitchen, where a solid round of experiential cooking can always be counted on to assuage anxiety.

Here are some of the things I am finding in my early morning cooking forays:

Neil Young sounds awesome through fancy noise-canceling headphones. My friend Shakira's recipe for shrub makes the loft smell amazing. Beans simmering on the stove warm much better than a space heater. I can add one more taste memory to Ernesto's rich baggage if he rises to freshly baked cookies. Pears in crust with Baci and amaretti are a task to put together but worth the effort. My husband does love me or he wouldn't put up with this.

The above mentioned pears, which I put together for my collaboration with Perugina Chocolates and are a perfect dessert for the Thanksgiving table, will be featured in an upcoming class, the first featuring a full Baci desserts docket. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am teaching it at the Bristol Farms Cooking School in Newport Beach on December 14.

If you are not in LA, here is the recipes for those pears.


Pere ripiene di Baci e amaretti in crosta Baci and amaretti filled pears wrapped in pastry crust

for each 2 juicy and very ripe small to medium pearsPere ripiene Baci e amaretti 3 Baci 3 amaretti cookies 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur 1/2 tablespoon sugar your favorite pastry crust recipe 1 egg 1/2 Perugina Luisa chocolate bar 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts or almonds

Finely chop the Baci and crumble the amaretti cookies. Mix the 2 together and toss with the Amaretto and sugar.

Peel the pears and cut them in half. Using a mellon baller, carefully scoop out the core to make a small hollow on each half.

Fill the hollows with the chocolates and cookies mixture and recompose each pear by reuniting two halves.

Roll the crust to about 1/2” and carefully wrap each pear with it. If you are inclined to do so, you can make some decorations resembling leaves and a stem.

Beat the egg and brush the pastry crust with it. Carefully place the wrapped pears on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350˚F for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden. Let cool completely before serving.

When ready to serve, melt the Perugina Luisa in a double boiler and finely chop the nuts. Place each pear on a plate, top with the melted chocolate and sprinkle with the nuts. Serve right away before the chocolate hardens.