CUCINA CARA MIA.......Random thoughts from "my dear kitchen" about food, travel, Italy, San Diego and life!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I am part of a Bunco group that has been together for almost 16 years and we always have a Christmas Bunco party-sometimes its at a restaurant, and some years one of the Bunco Babes offers to host. This year, my friend Ruth hosted, and it was catered by a local Italian restaurant. I was asked to make the dessert...well, everyone has already had my limoncello cheesecake, so I decided to make Tiramisu in martini glasses....the recipe I used follows...

Triple Chocolate Tiramisu - Serves 12


2 3 ounce package ladyfingers, split
1/4 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
1 8 ounce carton mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chocolate liqueur
1 ounce white chocolate baking squares or white baking bars, grated
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Chopped chocolate-covered coffee beans (optional)


1. Line the bottom of an 8x8x2-inch baking pan with some of the ladyfingers, cutting to fit as necessary. Drizzle half of the espresso over ladyfingers; set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form. Beat in the chocolate liqueur until just combined. Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over ladyfingers, spreading evenly. Sprinkle white chocolate and bittersweet chocolate over the mascarpone mixture. Top with another layer of ladyfingers (reserve any remaining ladyfingers for another use). Layer with remaining espresso and mascarpone cheese mixture.

3. Cover and chill for 6 to 24 hours. Sift cocoa powder over top of dessert. If desired, garnish with cocoa beans.

I did break up the lady fingers to fit them into the martini glasses, other than that
it is the same, and I substituted Kahlua for the chocolate liqueur.

Hope you have a sweet and festival Holiday!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


There is an expression - timing is everything, and I think that applies to my experience at the Bernardo Winery Farmers Market. I have been selling at this new location for 3 weeks and it has been very positive so far. If you are not familiar with the Bernardo Winery - it is the oldest winery in Southern California, established in 1889. It is not just a winery, but a lovely and charming destination, with shops, a restaurant, Cafe Merlot, a picnic area, a venue for weddings, and a tasting room. With 5 wine tastings for only $8.00, it would be a great place to spend a weekend afternoon. The farmers market takes place on Fridays from 9am-noon, Stop by and sample some of our locally crafted Italian fare --including rosemary focaccia, polenta vegetable lasagna, nutella brownies, orange ricotta poundcake and Limoncello cheesecake.

A big thanks to my friend Katie who has been helping me out at the new market. AND she also is passing the word around to her friends who live in the area.


Monday, September 5, 2011


...It can be used in a recipe.....I found a new one to incorporate the lovely lemon liqueur...Limoncello Madeleine' we all know that a Madeleine is not an Italian cookie, it's a tea cake, from northeastern France, but as soon as you add an Italian ingredient, it becomes Italian...

The first problem is I don't have a Madeleine pan, so I searched for one locally, and luckily, Bed Bath and Beyond carries them. The recipe is really very simple to make.

Limoncello Madeleines Recipe

1 1/2 cups Cake flour
2 tsp Baking powder
5 Large eggs
1 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter, melted
1 Tbsp Limoncello Liqueur
Zest of 1 lemon

Powdered sugar, optional
Chocolate, optional

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°F). Generously grease Madeleine pan with shortening. Sift flour and baking powder together into a bowl, set aside.

Combine eggs and sugar, beat until very pale yellow. Add butter, liqueur, and lemon zest, mix until well combined. Add dry ingredients to mixing bowl of wet ingredients, stir until well incorporated and smooth.

Spoon 1 Tbsp (15 ml) of batter into each prepared Madeleine mold cavity. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Turn Madeleines out onto a clean dishtowel, cool.

To serve, dust Madeleines with a little powdered sugar, or dip 1 end/side of each shell into melted chocolate.

I am off to discover new ways to incorporate Limoncello into something delicious and Italian that I can offer at the Leucadia Farmers Market next time.

Feel free to send me your suggestions...

Friday, July 8, 2011

Keeping your Cool!

Growing I up in New York, I was accustomed to hot, humid, summers, but San Diego is usually not muggy...except for the last few days...I started scouring old magazine issues to find a cool, easy salad...and found this one, featured in August 2009 Sunset Magazine! I changed it up by adding 6 oz. cooked pasta, omitted the chives and added chopped fresh basil and more lemon juice!

Tomato Bruschetta with Tuna and Cannellini

Serves 4

5 T. extra virgin olive oil
Finely shredded zest of 1 lemon
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tsp. chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped flat leaved parsley
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans tuna
3 green onions, sliced
4 to 8 slices large tomatoes

In a medium, bowl whisk together oil, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt, pepper and chives. Add parsley, beans, tuna and onions and stir until coated.

Arrange tomato slices and spoon tuna mixture on top.

I also recommend a cold glass of Pinot Grigio to keep you really cool!

Friday, July 1, 2011

What is on David Rocco's Mind?

Have you seen his show on the cooking channel, "Dolce Vita" yet? It is addicting and I have a new food crush - David Rocco is a Canadian chef who films a show in various parts of Italy. He is so likable and, if I must admit, really cute, and he whips up easy Italian recipes either on the stove of his kitchen in Florence, or literally on a rock near a Sicilian beach,'s a cooking/travel/lifestyle show and I love every episode shot in the beautiful countryside of Tuscany, the crowded streets of Florence, or along the Sicilian or Amalfi coasts..along side him is him is his wife Nina, and in the last two seasons, his adorable twin daughters.... Yesterday his Facebook post was "Had these Nutella Fritelle" last night, and the craving lingers, How do you like your Nutella?" - he received 77 comments on that post...of course I had to chime in...

My friend Janie sent me this recipe the other day courtesy of The Moonlight Baker, and it sounds like the next perfect way to include Nutella in a delicious cheesecake....

Nutella Cheesecake Layer Bars

- 8 Chocolate Graham Crackers

- ½ Stick Unsalted Butter, melted

- 16 oz. Cream Cheese, at room temperature

- 2 eggs, at room temperature

- ½ C. Granulated Sugar

- ¼ + 1 Tbsp. Heavy Cream

- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

- ¼ C. Nutella

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter an 8 x 8 baking pan and line with parchment paper, making sure that the parchment is well pressed in the corners. Set aside.

In a food processor, pulse chocolate graham crackers until they become crumbs (like bread crumbs). Add in melted butter and pulse until moistened. Press graham cracker mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Bake crust in the center of the oven until set, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.

Clean out the food processor. Add cream cheese, eggs, sugar, ¼ C. heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Pulse until smooth. Put 2/3 of the cream cheese mixture in a bowl and set aside. Add Nutella and 1 Tbsp. of heavy cream to remaining 1/3 of the cream cheese mixture in the processor. Pulse until smooth.

To assemble, spread the vanilla cheesecake mixture over the cooled graham cracker base, being careful not to disturb the crust. Pour Nutella cheesecake layer on top of vanilla layer and spread evenly. Bake on the center rack of the oven for about 35 minutes, or until the center jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, lift bars out of the pan by lifting up the parchment paper (it should release easily). Slice into 16 squares and serve.

Yields 16 Squares

My repertoire of nutella recipes includes nutella brownies, nutella banana bread, nutella pumpkin cheesecake and nutella pumpkin bread to name a few...

This weekend I am featuring zucchini nutella bread at the Leucadia farmers market.

As David Rocco said "so I think its probably safe to say that Nutella would taste good on a shoe"..."

Monday, June 13, 2011


According to wikipedia - it's an Italian baked dessert, tart, and a form of pie, its rustic, its kind of messy and its DELICIOUS!

Flour, sugar, butter, berries - that is about all you need to make this heavenly dessert...Summer has arrived and a multitude of berries are in season...I love a simple dessert and a mixed berry crostata is the perfect one for a warm summer night-of course it isn't complete without a little vanilla gelato! Ciao Bella makes a tahitian vanila that is a pretty good substitute for the real stuff in Italy!

Mixed Berry Crostata (adapted from


1-1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cake flour
3 T. granulated sugar
Dash of salt
3/4 cup cold butter (cut into cubes)
2 T. ice water
1 T. vanilla extract

Mixed Berries:

3 cup mixture of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, in bowl of electric mixer, combine flour, cake flour, sugar and salt. Distribute the butter over the top and mix until the butter is thoroughly incorporated and mixture resembles moist cornmeal.
2. Combine the ice water and vanilla and sprinkle over the top of the dough. Mix until dough comes together and pulls cleanly away the sides of the bowl.
3. Remove the dough and flatten into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
4. In a medium bowl, toss berries, sugar and cornstarch stirring gently until well coated. Set aside.


5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the crostata dough out to a 16 inch diameter circle. Leave it a little thick, the added texture is better. Transfer dough to a cookie sheet, then place the fruit mixture in the center, and distribute in a low mound, leaving a 2 inch border.
6. Fold the edges of the dough over the fruit to form a 6 sided tart, with the fruit showing in the center. Fold one edge over, pleating the dough if necessary and pressing firmly on the pleat.
7. Lightly brush the surface with a little water and sprinkle with course sugar. Bake until the crust is browned and the fruit is soft and thickened, about 30 minutes. Rotate crostata halfway.

Serve warm!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


I will be at the Farmers Market this Mother's on Mother's Day? Why not...the weather is usually lovely and I haven't been in a month because of various events taking place in my life! Besides the usual fare, I am offering dark chocolate dipped espresso shortbread cookies-great little gift to give to your Mom.

Of course, when I return home I do expect someone else to cook dinner!

* ½ pounds Unsalted Butter, Cold And Cubed 1/4 Inch
* ½ cups White Granulated Sugar
* ½ teaspoons Salt, Fine Ground
* 2-¼ cups All Purpose Flour, Unbleached
* 1 teaspoon Vanilla
* 2 Tablespoons Espresso, Finely Ground
* _____
* 9 ounces, weight Bittersweet Or Semisweet Chocolate, Chopped Or Chips
* 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Shortening Or Oil

Preparation Instructions

To make the cookies, place the butter, sugar and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (this much easier than using a hand mixer; if you do use a hand mixer, use a large bowl). Mix on low speed until combined. You should still be able to see sugar granules in the butter. Add the flour, vanilla and finely ground espresso beans. Mix until it comes together. This will take a few minutes. When the dough just pulls away from the bowl (like a pie dough) and pulls together, stop mixing. Do not over mix.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface about 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters or cut squares or rectangles/bars with a knife. Place the cookies on parchment paper on top of a cookie pan and chill for about 20 minutes in the fridge.

While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies look dry on top and are a shade darker. Remove from the oven and let cool.

To melt chocolate and dip the cookies, place the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler (I used a glass bowl over a small saucepan with gently simmering water). Add the vegetable shortening or oil (I used canola) and stir until it is melted and glossy. Take each cookie and dip it halfway into the chocolate and set on waxed paper until set, approximately 2 hours.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking Issue #23, Chocolate-Dipped Espresso Shortbread

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful Moms out there! You are amazing and inspiring...and hopefully very appreciated by all of those who love you.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Strawberry mascarpone tarts with nutella..Can it get anymore decadent than that??

I was looking for a recipe with an Italian twist for the strawberries that are so bountiful right now in San Diego, and here it is. -I found it on I used a traditional sweet pastry crust and for more deliciousness, I spread nutella on the crust, then added the mascarpone cheese mixture on top of that!

* 1 recipe pie dough

* 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
* 1 egg, whisked

Filling and Glaze

* 2 lbs strawberries, stemmed and quartered
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1 Tbsp orange zest, divided
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 12 ounces mascarpone cheese (can also use 8 ounces mascarpone mixed in with 4 ounces of ricotta or 4 ounces of whipped cream)
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
* 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (substitute a teaspoon of lemon juice if you don't have balsamic)


1a Using Pie Dough Roll out the pie dough and line a 10-inch tart pan with the dough. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with the tines of a fork. Freeze for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the tart shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Fill at least two-thirds with pie weights - dried beans, rice, or ceramic or metal pie weights. Bake initially for 15 minutes, then remove from oven, let cool enough to handle, and remove the aluminum foil or parchment paper and pie weights. Return to oven and cook until lightly browned at the edges, about 20 more minutes. Let cool completely.

1b Using Puff Pastry Roll out puff pastry sheet to 15x5 inches or 12x12 inches. Place on a baking sheet. Fold the edges over to form a border. Prick bottom of pasty with tines of a fork. Chill for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Use a pastry brush to brush on egg wash over exposed surfaces. Place in hot oven and cook until nicely browned all over, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven to a rack, let cool completely.

2 Gently combine strawberries, half of the orange zest, and the granulated sugar in large bowl so that the strawberries are coated with sugar. Let sit to macerate for 30 minutes.

3 Mix together the mascarpone cheese, confectioner's sugar, the remaining orange zest, lemon juice and the vanilla in a medium bowl until well combined. Refrigerate until needed.

4 After the strawberries have macerated for 30 minutes, place a sieve over a bowl and drain the liquid out of the strawberry mixture into the bowl. Take that strawberry liquid and put it in a small saucepan. Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the saucepan, and bring to a boil on medium high heat. Boil until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of syrup, remove from heat and let cool.

5 Assemble the tart. Spread the mascarpone mixture over the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the strawberries on top of the mascarpone mixture. Use a pastry brush to brush on the balsamic glaze.

Serves 6 to 8.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

100th POST

In honor of my 100th post I found a quote that really epitomizes my life since I started this blog...

“Do the things you used to talk about doing but never did. Know when to let go and when to hold on tight. Stop rushing. Don't be intimidated to say it like it is. Stop apologizing all the time. Learn to say no, so your yes has some oomph. Spend time with the friends who lift you up, and cut loose the ones who bring you down. Stop giving your power away. Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting. Be old enough to appreciate your freedom, and young enough to enjoy it. Finally know who you are.”

- Kristin Armstrong

Through this blog I have discovered more of who I am, and what I am capable has helped me to move in the direction that I always wanted to go, I have met some amazing people through this blog... I have been inspired by other bloggers...I have found some great recipes....I have started a business...and at the age of 57 I am happy to be embracing my creativity...

Thank you for reading, thank you for's to 100 more...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Sicily is known for their blood oranges, and luckily, in San Diego we also reap the benefits of these little gems growing here. February and March are the prime months to enjoy this delicious fruit. I asked a friend at the Leucadia Farmers Market to pick up a few for me (since I couldn't leave my booth). After searching the internet- I adapted this recipe from many containing blood oranges...


1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used greek style plain)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
zest of three blood oranges (mine were small)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or almond liqueur
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. (i would recommend using glass) Line the bottom with parchment paper. grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. in another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, blood orange zest, and vanilla. slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. with a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated. pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup blood orange juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. while the cake is still warm, pour the blood orange-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. cool.

A few facts about blood oranges - High in Vitamin C, potassium, carotene and fiber.

The most popular variety grown in Italy is the Tarocco and you will find the Moro variety grown right here in San Diego.

I am half Sicilian, and have yet to visit this beautiful part of Italy...I look forward to the day I can sip a glass of freshly squeezed blood orange juice while soaking up some warm Sicilian sunshine.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

World Nutella Day 2011

Nutella - a lot of people have a love affair with this product, it's heaven in a jar...

I was first introduced to it in 2008 when my daughter Ali was studying in Spain for a semester...she was raving about it and said send care packages with Nutella...PLEASE!!!

At first, I wasn't crazy about it, but the more I bake with it, the more I love it! My first attempt was nutella brownies - they are still one of the best sellers at the Farmers Market...since I already make limoncello cheesecake, the next product was nutella cheesecake with a chocolate crust - now that is decadent!

As fall approached, I wanted to offer something seasonal at the market with nutella, fall equals pumpkins, pumpkins plus nutella - Pumpkin Nutella Bread!

Then the classic banana bread got dressed up with a little swirl of nutella - not bad!

Last but not's Valentines Day next week....what could be more sinful or romantic than a Nutella Truffle? I found this one on line-there are quite a few to choose from!

1 cup Nutella

3 table spoons sweet whipping cream

1 tablespoon) rum or brandy (optional)

Chocolate sprinkles (or shredded coconut or chopped nuts or cocoa powder)

In a small saucepan heat the whipping cream just until it boils and then set aside to cool.

Melt the Nutella in a double boiler (or the microwave).

Add the rum (or brandy) to the whipping cream after it has cooled and then mix the cream and Nutella together with a fork.

Refrigerate for about an hour, then roll into balls about the size of a cherry.

I found that if I occasionally wet my hand with cold water, none of the Nutella mixture stuck to my hands.

Roll the truffles in the chocolate sprinkles (or shredded coconut or chopped nuts or whatever tickles your fancy), place in mini muffin papers.

Serve immediately or keep in the fridge until ready to serve!

Happy Nutella Day!

I will let you know how they turned out!