Pistachio Beef "Rustico"
Rustic Savory Pastry

It is no secret that I adore pistachios.. this aromatic nut is flavorful and holds its own when combined with meats such as beef and sheep, but is as gentle as a lamb when whipped into a gelato and chocolates or used as a base for my smooth and tasty pistachio pesto and cream sauce. But then again, you will often just find me eating them right out of a plain paper sack, satisfied to snack on instead of the alternative, oily roasted peanuts and potato chips.

I'm always looking for ways to incorporate pistachios into my home cooking, and when I found that I had a couple extra cups the same night I was making a collection of savory pastries I began combining flavors. The pistachio and ground sirloin were definitely the stars, but they combined well with sauteed shallots, fennel and garlic, red pepper, capers and raisins.

I first browned my ground sirloin, then added red pepper flakes as well as cayenne pepper, ground black pepper, salt, capers and raisins. In a food processor I ground my shelled pistachios and then added them to the beef mix.

In a separate saute pan in olive oil I lightly sauteed my chopped shallots and fennel till translucent. Then I added my finely chopped garlic and continued to saute till golden. This was then added to the pistachio beef mix. I approximately used 1 onion, 1 shallot and 3 cloves of garlic. (for added flavor, a minced green and red pepper sautéed along with the garlic, shallots and fennel would also be amazing!)

When all ingredients were combined I then added a few more teaspoons of olive oil, an 1/8 cup of beef broth and a dab of butter plus a few more seasonings for taste.

The "pastry" is a post in itself. Pasta Frolla is the typical Southern Italian pastry for Rustici and Crostata's. It is by far my favorite pastry to use and is not too hard to make. It tastes like a combination of a shortbread crust and pie pastry dough, but in my opinion is better than both and holds up to many a pastry dessert.

I do love Nick Malgieri's pastry recipe's, and his are usually my "go to" recipes of choice.

But this Italian Pasta Frolla recipe is the basic recipe you can find in almost any Italian cookbook or Nonna's kitchen collection.


1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 freshly grated lemons, zest of or 1 oranges
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla


1.In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest.
2.Cut in the butter, until it resembles coarse meal.
3.Add the egg and the vanilla and toss the mixture until incorporated.
4.Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly, forming into a disk.
5.Chill, wrapped in plastic at least 1 hour or overnight.
6.Let the dough stand at room temperature until softened, but still firm enough to roll out.

Buon Anno and Buon Appetito!!
I hope you and yours enjoy a Blessed New Year,
From My Kitchen..


Pepper Jelly Scones

I'm so happy to share this recipe with you today.. even more so because I've created it using one of my favorite products ever, Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies! These unique blends come in three amazing flavors; Ja-Ha (Jalapeño-Habanero), Jalapeño Garlic Lime and Mango Ginger Habanero. 
Handcrafted with the freshest ingredients, Mrs G's artisan hot pepper jellies are produced with great care in small batches in an FDA-certified kitchen to ensure quality and consistently excellent flavor!

Not only is Mrs G a producer of fine products, but she happens to be one of my dearest friends!
I've been fortunate to be able to photograph her products, and at the same time enjoy using these peppery jellies in many of my own dishes. This recipe came from our recent Valentine Day shoot where we had the idea to use spicy jam with yummy scones.. I knew that we could easily infuse the jam right into the baking process as well as smothering it on later. :) These scones are light with a hint of Ja-Ha spiciness. Just the right amount to add that extra something to your Valentines Day!

Pepper Jelly Scones
Recipe courtesy Laurie M. Vengoechea, Dalla Mia Cucina

4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar 
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
*2 Tablespoons Mrs G’s Pepper Jellies
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream *minus 2 Tablespoons (Pepper Jelly is replacing the milk)
2 tablespoons milk, to brush on scones during baking

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, and salt in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Blend in the cold butter and 2 Tablespoons of pepper jelly at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. 
Combine the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add to the flour/butter mixture. Combine until just blended. The dough may be a bit sticky.
Place the dough out onto a floured surface, push together till combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough out to 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. You will see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into circles with a 4-inch fluted cookie cutter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Brush the scones with milk. 
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the outsides are crisp and the insides are done.

1/2 cup milk
2 cups confectioners' sugar 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Mrs G’s Pepper Jelly

Mix all ingredients together in a small pot till well combined!
Drizzle abundantly over your the scones!! :)

And please don't forget to check out Mrs G's Hot Pepper Jellies website!

Custard Filled Cream Puffs

We celebrated our youngest daughter's 10th birthday on Valentines Day. My little sweets request.. my Lusciously Rich Custard Filled Cream Puffs! They really are the best and never disappoint  I hope you enjoy!

Pastry Cream
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 vanilla bean split lengthwise (not vanilla extract)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. granulated white sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoons butter

In a saucepan on medium heat, combine the milk and the split vanilla bean; cook till it begins to simmer. Watch carefully so your milk doesn’t scald or you will have a skin on top. If you do notice a skin forming, remove it before you are ready to add it to your egg mixture. Turn heat off.  

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat eggs and sugar together until creamy pale yellow. You can also do this in a medium size stainless steel bowl with a wire whisk, but beat hard and consistently. (This is how I start my Zabaione when making an Italian custard) Next add the flour and beat hard till well incorporated and it has the texture of a thick paste. 

Slowly pour hot milk into egg mixture in a very thin stream whisking constantly to prevent curdling. When incorporated, remove vanilla bean. Scrape the seeds from the pod and stir them into the custard mix. Return custard to pan you heated the milk in and place on medium heat till mixture begins to thicken and come to a soft boil. Stir constantly and mix from bottom of pan to prevent custard from scalding. When it begins to come to a slow boil time it for another minute or so.. custard will be a medium consistency. Turn off heat. 
Add the 1 tablespoons of butter and mix well. Scrape the custard into a bowl. Smoothe plastic wrap directly on top of the custard. The first time I read this in directions I was kind of disconcerted thinking I would waste much of the top layer of custard when I pulled it from the top. When refrigerated and cooled, the plastic comes off clean from the top of the custard. No waste! 

Choux Pastry Puffs
1-cup water
1/2-cup butter (no substitutes)
1-cup all-purpose flour
1/4-teaspoon salt
4 eggs

In a saucepan, bring water and butter to a boil. Add flour and salt all at once; stir until a smooth ball forms. Remove from the heat; let stand for 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until mixture is smooth and shiny.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove puffs to wire racks. Immediately cut a slit in each for steam to escape. Cool. Split puffs and remove soft dough.