Category Archives: party

Eggnog as we love it

I was only eighteen, but it was my job to provide the eggnog.  I went to the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and there it was, a recipe for eggnog that seemed perfectly easy.  I went to the market and bought the ingredients.  Then at home I started making the parts.  But I hadn’t actually read through the whole recipe, so I made it wrong, and we loved it so much it became our favorite eggnog and no one in my family wants any other kind now.  If you live somewhere that has chancy eggs, buy pasteurized ones.  In Italy, if you check the dates, you’ll be fine.

For parties I make up the various parts for a double recipe and blend them in a punchbowl just before serving.  I grate nutmeg over it all.  I then proceed to rob the punchbowl and lose track of what else there is to do.  Be warned, your other duties should be finished before filling the bowl.  My kid is a teetotaler and does not add the liquor, but is a dedicated lover of this eggnog, anyway.

Judith’s Screwed-Up Eggnog

for 6-8 servings (who do they think they’re kidding?)

1/3 cup (79 ml) sugar

2 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 quart (946 ml) milk

2 egg white

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (or use vanilla sugars in both cases above)

brandy or rum to taste, start with 3/4 cup (177 ml)

1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream

Beat the egg yolks and the first sugar together very well, add salt.  Stir in the milk.  Put aside.

Beat the egg whites, slowly adding the second amount of sugar until it forms a meringue, beating in the vanilla, if used, toward the end.  Put aside.

If making this ahead, put both concoctions into the fridge or out on a frosty porch, well covered.

When ready to serve, beat the whipping cream to a stiff consistency.

Put the first mixture into a big bowl.  Stir in the liquor.  Using a whisk, fold in the meringue.  Taste to see how much liquor to add.  Still with the whisk, fold in the whipped cream.  Grate or sprinkle nutmeg over and serve with a ladle.

That’s it folks, the one-way fluffy road to Nirvana.



How about a nice piece of pie?

Pie for supper

It’s time for another video.  This one describes five savory pies that I made yesterday for a supper for the neighbors.  I will add the recipes one by one over the next day or two.  I think I’ll probably get better at videos as time goes on.  One can certainly hope, anyway.

These torte salate (tohr-tay sah-LAH-tay) were eaten as one dish meals with a salad because it was supper time in Umbria.  They also can be antipasto or first course as well as swell picnic foods.  All but one are vegetarian.

All of these can be made with purchased crusts, making them quick and practical for a cook who works, but all can be made from scratch if you want to save money.  I always make the bread crusts from my Sloppy Dough Revolution recipe, then knead more flour into it before rolling out so that it won’t be too wet to form.

All of these except for the Pepper and Salame torta were served at room (or garden) temperature, so they’re perfect for carrying along to a get together or for the concert in the park.  Click on the link for the recipe.  You won’t be sorry!
: Zucchini and Scallion Tart

: Easy and delicious, a great summer meal

  1. 4 sheets filo dough
  2. extra virgin olive oil
  3. 2 small zucchini, cleaned and thinly sliced lengthwise
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 2-3 scallions, cleaned and cut in two lengthwise
  6. 1 ounce (30g) grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
  7. 2 slices American cheese (Sotillette)
  8. 1/2 teaspoon mixed dried herbs
  9. sprinkling of hot paprika or cayenne pepper
  1. Prepare the zucchini 30 to 60 minutes ahead of time, and lightly salt, leaving it to weep for a while. You could also prepare all the vegetables a day ahead and leave them in the fridge, but take them out to come to room temperature before baking if you do.
  2. Take 2 sheets of filo and drizzle some olive oil on then. Use a pastry brush or your hands to spread the oil around a bit. Add two more sheets and do the same thing.
  3. Lay the zucchini ribbons and the scallion halves on the filo, about 6 inches (15 cm) from one of the shorter edges and keeping about 2 inches (5 cm) of both sides free.
  4. Sprinkle with the herbs, the grated cheese and the hot paprika, then tear the cheese slices into strips and lay them over the vegetables. This cheese will melt and combine with the vegetable juices and seasonings to make a creamy sauce when cooked.
  5. Pull the free 6 inches over the vegetables, then fold the edges up for their full length. Carefully roll the packet to completely close it up.
  6. Using a big spatula and your hand, transfer the packet onto a lined baking sheet. Slide into a 400°F (200°C) oven and bake about 10 minutes, or until it starts to color, then reduce the heat to 350°F (165°C) and continue to cook another 10 minutes, or until golden brown like the ones in the video.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

: Creamy Zucchini Tart with Mascarpone and Basil

: A richer picnic tart with more zucchini

  1. 4 sheets filo dough
  2. extra virgin olive oil
  3. 2 zucchini cleaned and sliced lengthwise
  4. good 2 finger pinch of salt
  5. 2-3 scallions, cleaned and split lengthwise
  6. about 1/2 cup (125 ml) mascarpone
  7. 2 ounces grated Parmigiano
  8. dash Tabasco
  9. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  10. 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  1. Prepare the vegetables and salt the zucchini at least 30 minutes ahead of time. A two finger pinch is the amount of salt you easily pick up with two fingers and a thumb.
  2. Lay out two sheets of filo dough and drizzle the oil over the top one. Use a pastry brush or your fingers to spread the oil around.
  3. Lay the zucchini and scallions on that, leaving about 6″ or 15 cm free at one end and 2″ or 5 cm at each side.
  4. Mix the mascarpone, the Tabasco and the Parmigiano together in a small bowl. Add it to the vegetables in dollops from a spoon. Sprinkle it all generously with paprika.
  5. Fold the 6″ piece of free filo over the vegetables, then fold the sides up, then continue to fold the packet until it is completely closed.
  6. Lay the second 2 sheets of filo out, and add the oil exactly as before. Distribute the basil leaves here and there. Lay the packet you made 6″ (15 cm) from one edge and proceed to roll or fold exactly as before. The basil leaves show now, but they won’t when cooked, which is too bad, but they do flavor this tart very nicely.
  7. Sprinkle the packet with paprika and slide it into a 400°F (200°C) oven and cook for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F (165°C) and cook another 10 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Serve hot, cold or room temperature. Pesto Genovese makes a nice sauce with this tart.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Cooking on a snowy day: Chicken Pate’

snowy day

The recipe is supposed to be made of chicken breasts, but it’s all snowy out there! Add to that the fact that we were giving a dinner last night, but one guest caught a tummy bug. so we made it tonight instead. The other guest got it. That means the huge amount of chicken rear quarters is there to use.

I am taking photos as I go along, so as soon as I get the CD from the camera into this computer, I’ll add them. The dish isn’t done yet, anyway.

I invented this dish about 15 years ago when I was doing a lot of garden entertaining for larger groups. It’s a make ahead and serve cold dish, so it’s ideal for hot weather when you don’t want to do hot things mid-day. I will give you the original recipe using breasts, because breasts don’t have all the tendons these legs and thighs have, so the end product is much more predictable.

the finished pate

Chicken Pate’

butter well a loaf pan
preheat oven to 325 F 160C

about 4 pounds of chicken breast meat
the carefully removed skin from those breasts
about 1/2 to 3/4 cup (125-190 ml) of hreavy cream
1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon leaves
up to 3.5 teaspoons salt
a few shakes of pepper sauce
freshly ground pepper

Clean the meat of all tendons and most of the fat, then put it into a food processor. Pulse it several times to chop it. Add the salt, the first 1/4 cup (65 ml) of cream and pulse it until mixed.
Scoop the mixture out of the food procerssor and into the loaf pan, making sure not to leave air bubbles. Drizzle additional cream over the meat, then grind fresh pepper over it. Cut the4 reserved skin into rectangular shapes that will cover the top of the pate’. Grind more pepper over it. Bake it in the oven for an hour or until the internal temperature is 165 F.

Move the pan closer to the broiler and broil the skin briefly if it has not achieved golden beauty.

Cool in the loaf pan. When cool, carefully remove it and wrap for the fridge. Slice it when it has chilled, because until then it is too delicate to slice. I serve it fanned out on dark leaves and with a dish of homemade mayonnaise and a salsa. Leftovers are even better. In Italy this would not be cheap to make, but here in the USA it is very economical. I am just blown over by how cheap chicken is in all its forms.

PS: I’ve just been to the kitchen to check on my finished pate’ and I discovered something I had forgotten. You should make the skin pieces on top bigger by about an inch than the pate’ because the shrink in cooking. But believe me, the taste I took was YUMMY. Even hot.

These photos were taken with the still option of my video camera and they are seriously blue from the cold light of snow. Sorry. I’ll get out the better one.

Saturday Night Lively

I rolled out the welcome wagon to friends Saturday night but inside instead of in the garden. This summer has been more humid than ever before and for that reason it’s buggy. I am their movable feast.

The raspberries are ripe in my orto! They are not only ripe, but plentiful, so I reached into the closet of my mind where I keep old memories and pulled out the “Parrot” or “Pappagallo” in Italian. It really takes only a few raspberries per serving, so it’s something to serve in late summer even if you have to pay the godawful price they ask in the shops.



For each drink
4-6 raspberries
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Prosecco or Champagne to fill

Mash the raspberries and sugar together, then spoon into the bottom of a flute or a white wine glass, or a jelly glass if necessary. Carefully fill with sparkling wine so that it doesn’t foam up and flood your counter. Don’t ask. Serve cold and foamy to happy drinkers.

It’s actually a pretty drink in person, but photographed a bit messy. Maybe putting it among my painting gear to catch the western light was a wrong move?

Anyway, the meal was pleasant and remarkable only in that almost all of it was grown right here on this farm. That’s not always possible, but it’s really great when it is.

I didn’t photograph most of it, because how many times can you look at pesto before you get really sick of it? Well, lots of times if you’re me, but…


The drinks came with taralli from Puglia served with guacamole in which only the avocado and green chilis were not grown here. The first course was trofie, the correct shape at last, with pesto, which we all nommed with glee. Eating seasonal can be way more fun than it sounds.

The meat course was pork tenderloin that I marinated in a modified Asian sauce. I then dried the meat off, fried it briefly and then roasted it for an astounding fifteen minutes, whereupon it measured exactly 155° F as ordered. Wow. I summered the marinade to serve with the meat, although I thought it might be tpp strong, but they loved it. Surprises everywhere. With the pork we ate taccole, or Italian flat beans that resemble pole beans, served alla Greca or with minced garlic, olive oil and diced tomato. All of that came from here.

We cleared our palates by eating a salad made of lettuce I grew and dressed with strawberry vinegar that I made in June.


Tina made and presented this incredible Pastiera! It’s richly decorated with mint branches, oregano flowers and a star cookie cutter and looks ready to present to aristocracy. And that would be us, the aristocrats of Città di Castello!

To August!

I’ll drink to that.

Potato salad with Italian flavors

Sapori italiani

This was the most popular of the potato salads I made for the 4th of July. Making it was as simple as making the basic American standard potato salad as published last week but leaving out the eggs, the parsley and the dressing.

Buy a couple of jars of Italian pickled vegetables. I bought one called “insalatina” which just means little salad and consists of julienne of carrot, celery root etc. I’ve noticed that what’s in it alters with the seasons with more this or that depending on what’s in the marketplace. That one is pickled in brine. The other one was a julienne of eggplant/aubergine pickled under oil, farmwoman style. They could have been anything I liked, really, but if you buy a pickle that comes in big pieces, like giardiniera, you will need to chop it up before adding it to the salad. I also added some sliced black olives mostly because they were leftover from something. They looked great among these colors.

Drain the oil into a bowl and add the solids to the potato salad. To the oil, add mustard and lemon juice, beating it in with a whisk. Start adding salt and/or herbs when it starts to be a vinaigrette that holds together. Taste it to see what it might need. When you like it, pour it over the vegetables and mix it in. Now you can add mayonnaise and stir it in until it becomes a texture you like. It will take less mayonnaise than ordinary salad because of the pickle vinaigrette, and a lot will depend on which pickles you used. Just make sure one of them has oil that you can put in the dressing.

No one really knew what this was, but it went very quickly and someone told me that they liked the one with the carrots best. It’s a super easy way to alter a standard summer dish and have a non-standard experience.

Greek Salad, perfect for picnics

Greek Salad

The first time I ever ate a Greek salad was at Jimmy’s Seafood Palace in Yorktown, Virginia. I was about twenty years old. Having been from birth a New Englander when I ordered a salad I expected a chunk or two of innocuous lettuce with maybe some tomato and cucumber on it. Instead there arrived an oval platter piled high with concentric ovals of vegetable chunks. No lettuce at all, because of course lettuce hates hot, dry weather and the summers in Greece are hot and dry.

Forever after to me a Greek salad was a salade composèe, as beautiful as it was fresh, large and uncompromisingly Greek. Feta. Kalamata olives. Strong olive oil. For me there is everything right about that list. Fool around with it much and you’ve wrecked a classic. Okay, I haven’t found Kalamata olives here in Città di Castello, but I found Saclà Olive Toste and they are darned close. For the rest of it, if I can’t find good tomatoes, sweet cucmbers, real Feta, I don’t make Greek salad. The world is full of good salads and many of them are also beautiful. Just Google the internet using the phrase salade composèe and you’ll see.

What makes the Greek salad a portable salad is that it is dressed only with oil, so it keeps, You can layer it into a plastic covered box, a bento box or a Tupperware bowl. Add some oil and it’s a salad that can go where you go. Keep it cool, but don’t refrigerate if possible, because the tomatoes hate refrigeration and never completely recover.

Leftovers? Lucky you! They make great summer sandwiches in crusty bread and a whole meal if you scramble a couple of eggs and tuck that in too.

I can’t call this a recipe, but this is what’s in that foto:

The first layer is chunks of ripe tomato sprinkled with coarse sea salt and thin strips of basil. Sometimes I use fresh oregano leaves instead. This I make and leave under a napkin to exude some juices.

The second layer is chunks of cucumber that are partially peeled, then chunked into a bowl filled with ice water. Toss the herbs for garnish in there, too.

The third layer is thinly sliced mild onion. I used the first cipolla rossa di Tropea that I’ve seen at market this year. Lovely, really. Mine did not come from Calabria, but from Puglia next door.

The next layer is Feta, crumbled with my fingers and creating a generous snowcap that reminded me of Kilimanjaro. Why it didn’t bring Olympus to mind I don’t know.

The whole was circled with thin splints of red bell pepper or capsicum. Then the olives most reminiscent of Kalamata were distributed around and some spare leaves of basil fell upon the snowy Feta.

I poured oil from Puglia over it all, covered it with a screen umbrella in case any Greek flies might find my kitchen, then served it up after the antipasto and pasta courses. I think it is interesting that the colors get richer when I photograph food in natural dusk. The tastes were pretty deep and complicated, too.

I serve this as antipasto, as first course, as salad course or as a whole meal when the weather is hot. I ate it every single day when I visited Greece. In Greek cafes they leave the Feta as a whole chunk, but that’s to show you that they are being generous and at home you wouldn’t do that. It’s messy to eat it uncrumbled.

My guests ate this with some homemade flat bread with rosemary that I made and served as antipasto with my olive spread. It went with this salad too. I served bakery bread, but no one was interested and it went back to the kitchen uncut.

There may be things that are nicer than sitting outside of an evening eating Greek salad and drinking wine, but I think when I find them I am probably not going to tell you about them, but keep them to myself. I’m sure they’d be way too emotional for sharing. Feel free to tell me yours, however.

Supper in the garden

Cestello di Ravioli

Last night was our first night to eat outside as I made supper for all my neighbors. The weather, the number of shoulders to help lift the gazebo, parties elsewhere had all conspired to put off a season that usually starts in late May.

We’ve reached the point, we neighbors, where it doesn’t matter what I cook they’ìll try to eat it. They aren’t suspicious or nervous any more. It’s why I decided to try my experiment as shown in that foto and serve it to them. That foto represents all presentation. I will take credit for thinking out a cmbination that works, but I didn’t make anything you are looking at.

I am told people are way too busy for good cookery now. It is unimaginable to me that people might not be not eating good, healthy food. Delicious I insist on too, but at least healthy! So if cooking from scratch fits so few lives now (do they really think an hour in the gym makes up for nasty lists of chemicals?) where does beauty come in?

There is a grand tradition in parts of Italy for serving complicated and rich cases of pastry for certain feast holidays. The finished item may 8 or 9 inches tall, a browned and crispy pastry which when cut reveals cooked and sauced pasta. I don’t really like them, because parts invariably have to be overcooked, they are heavy in the midst of a feast and they are usually big enough to feed the masses.

What if you just used the idea but didn’t make it so complicated? What if it could be served like any pasta? How would Italians like it?

I used a round of purchased fresh puff pastry which came in its own parchment baking paper. If it had not I would have used my own. I took a moderate sized stainless steel mixing bowl and lined it with the paper-supported pastry. I put it into a hot (400°F/200°C) oven and baked it about 10-15 minutes. I then removed it to cool a bit before taking it out of the bowl and removing the paper. That pastry is usually flexible while still hot, and flexibility is not a virtue in a serving bowl.

A few minutes before pasta time I boiled some salted water. I tossed in purchased cheese and spinach ravioli from my freezer and cooked them until done. Those I put to drain in a colander. leaving a little, perhaps 1/4 cup/65 ml, of the pasta water in the hot pot.

I added a package of ready truffled sauce to the pan and stirred it to loosen it with that hot water. I tossed the ravioli back in and mized them well with the sauce. I then just scraped the ravioli and the sauce into my pastry bowl and carried it to the table.

And they loved it. They ate the ravioli until they could begin to tear pieces of the pastry off the “bowl” and then they satisfyingly munched at the truffled pastry. It could have been any of the drier sauces, really, like pesto or a stiff cheese sauce, I just didn’t want anything juicy to make the “bowl” soggy. Even the one neighbor who can pretty much always find a weak spot to insert criticism was over the moon about this.

This is something I will do again. I’ll try using a loaf pan with rectangular pastry, or if I get energetic and order the pastry from the pastry shop, I could make much bigger containers, too.

Try this out. If you’ve the time to make it all from scratch, good for you. If you’ve only half an hour, do it my way. That’s ten minutes to make the case and a few minutes to cook and heat the rest and voila!

If I hadn’t been making an entire 5 course feast I’d have taken the time to garnish it, but really it’s all one big garnish if you think about it.

It’s been so long since I last made pasta, I almost forgot to send it to Presto Pasta Nights, next Friday to be found at Sidewalk Shoes. Check it out.