"Royal Blue Cheese"
Sage and Chive Butter

I'm so exited when I get the opportunity to sample products, especially when they are large samples that I can create a meal with for my whole family. I knew I was receiving a package from Fair Oaks Farms' dairy department, but I had no idea that it would include four cheese varieties, one of which was my choice and the others a much appreciated surprise. I love the Midwestern states and their grand generosity!

Today I'd like to share with you the "Royal Blue" cheese. It has a creamy white base with bluish green and caramel veins running through it, it's not too acidic or too pungent, surprisingly it was pretty mild for blue cheese and it had a lovely moisture content but held together well. I know that depending on the amount of whey reserved, mold used and geographical location of the dairy, the depth of flavors and strength of pungency is achieved. These darling dairy cows I'm pretty sure are being well fed and kept!

*It's interesting to note that even though Roquefort cheese is in the Blue Cheese Family and similarly have a mold introduced into the milk curds, blue cheese is a more mild tasting cheese than Roquefort. Also, Roquefort cheese is native to Roquefort-sur-Soulzon France, where there is a special type of mold that grows in the village's caves called "Penicillium Roqueforti". Under a formal decree from the French government, only certain permit-holders are allowed to use these caves in Soulzon, and only cheese made from Penicillium roqueforti can be labeled Roquefort cheese.

I wanted to get started pretty quickly with my cheeses so I opted first with some easy preparations. We were having rib eye and vegetables with a side dish of salad so I decided on preparing an Herbal Blue Cheese Butter to top our steak and a Carrot, Raisin and Almond Salad tousled with chunks of Royal Blue Cheese drizzled with a dressing of champagne vinegar and olive oil.

Royal Blue Cheese, Sage & Chive Butter
1 cup/ 8 oz. Royal Blue Cheese
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter at room temperature
2 -3 Tbsp. Heavy Whipping cream
5 Chive Sprigs roughly chopped
5 Sage Leaves roughly chopped
Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

In a mini prep or food processor blend your blue cheese with the butter till combined. Add your roughly chopped herbs and pulse lightly just till blended. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste, approximately two to three twists of your pepper mill or one pinch from your jar. If you feel you need salt after you taste it, by all means add it but be conservative.

Top generously on steak.

Toss Royal Blue Cheese in with a beautiful green salad of carrots, almonds and raisins.. and add a light dressing of champagne vinegar and olive oil.

Or.. you can even enjoy Royal Blue Cheese on a fluffy slice of warmed french bread!

Broccoli Rapini with a
Garlic, Red Pepper and Lemon Rind Saute

Broccoli Rapini, also known as Broccoli Rabe, is another one of those flavorful but bitter vegetables that takes an acquired taste. Rapini is not a mild flavored green at all! Although it is more closely related to it's Chinese brother Brassica, the Italian cultivar is pungent with a nutty flavor but even more bitter than radicchio, another one of my favorite Italian vegetables. Rapini is common and now readily available across the continental borders but it hasn't always been. Common in China and Italy it is thought to have descended from the turnip family.

Growing up in California we didn't see this vegetable until later in years, but my mothers preparation for broccoli is much like the traditional saute preparation for rapini. Rapini I have seen prepared in a number of ways, but the most common is sauteed in garlic, red pepper and olive oil. I take it a step up and thinly slice and chop lemon rind and add that to my saute also.

For the lemon preparation I take two small lemons and closely peel them away from the pith. The pith is bitter and adds a most offensive taste when not disposed of. I then finely chop the rind.

Finely chop 1 plump clove of garlic.

In a saute pan, add 1/4 cup plus two Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Slowly brown till garlic just starts to turn color, add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and continue to saute for 30 seconds.. then add the chopped lemon rind. Turn heat off but leave pan on the burner. The heat from the oil and garlic will draw the flavors from the lemon rind without burning the peel adding a beautiful bouquet.

Rapini is sold in a bunch with a tie around it, one bunch usually does it for my family because the kids have not yet acquired a taste for it. Rinse your rapini well. After you rinse it, cut off around two inches from the bottom.

For preparation have a bowl filled with ice water. In a large skillet or pot, boil enough water to just cover your vegetable. Add salt to the water and wait till it comes to a rapid boil. Add rapini and par boil for three minutes. Take out and put in the cold water. This will stop the cooking process as well as maintain the bright and beautiful color of your greens. Drain well and pat dry with a towel before you saute it in the hot oil.

When rapini is drained, add it to the pan that you sauteed your garlic, red pepper and lemon rind in. Turn the heat on and saute coating all sides of the rapini. With the lemon that you peeled the rind from, squeeze the juice over the sauteing vegetables. The rapini should be salted enough if you added salt to the water you boiled your vegetables in.

Serve in a flat dish with lemon wedges.

1 -2 bunches Broccoli Rapini (rabe)
2 small lemons
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Large or 2 small cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lemon

Carrot Pineapple Cake

There are certain events in life that pave a path before you, sometimes without you even realizing it. Such events in my life took place around 21 years ago soon after I became a bride. The difficult thing in this is that I had already made plans for my future early in my college years. Studying art and music led me on a course and set my feet to traveling with a band through America and Europe, but my journeying always led me home, back into the comfort of my mothers kitchen, gleaning from her and her mothers passion for cooking and creating a warm atmosphere for their families.

I knew I loved cooking but there was a fear that the course of tying myself to a kitchen would demean the carefree spirit that I had inside of me, needing to be an explorer and adventurer in the world around me. Luckily when I got married my husband and I moved around enough to satisfy and maybe even wear out the adventurer in me for the time. My new adventures were in the meeting and making relationships with woman whom I would bond with and learn from.

What does all this have to do with carrot cake you ask.. I gather it has to do with how I came into possession of this recipe, or better yet this cookbook. I remember one day sharing with a friend, no.. complaining to a friend that my cupboards were a little too bare for comfort. Mind you, I was still a newlywed learning the ropes. Her question to me was, “Do you have flour and eggs?” Well, yes I said! Her life guiding response was, “Bake my friend, bake!” She was an inspiration and from that point on I started baking homemade-yeasted breads, fresh pastas, biscuits and cakes. My Basque hubby was a happy man! I knew this, I had this instruction.. it was in my genes to take the freshest ingredients and create healthy homemade meals.. but I was dead set against being the traditional housewife that was expected of an Italian gal.

My next step was cookbooks. I was given the favorites like Good Housekeeping and The Betty Crocker Cookbook for wedding gifts, I even had my Italian Regional books that were handed down to me, but I was intent on finding the newest and most praised cookbooks on the local shelves. Luckily for me I had a sister in law who knew her way around the cookbook aisles and gave me The New Basics from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, it became my new best friend and from there I purchased another favorite, The Silver Palate. Love, LOVE these books! They are great teaching books that had sparked my interest in gourmet nouveau cooking. Enter.. this wonderful and moist Carrot Cake recipe that has become a birthday tradition for my husband. He loves carrot cake and of all the recipes I have ever tried, even ones from my mom, this is the best!

Hope you enjoy!!

The Silver Palate's Carrot Cake

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups corn oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 1/3 cups pureed cooked carrots
3/4 cup drained crushed pineapple
Cream Cheese Frosting
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting top

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch springform pans.
2. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon into a bowl. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots and pineapple.
3. Divide batter between prepared pans and smooth tops with a rubber spatula. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake until edges have pulled away from sides and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
4. Cool 15 minutes, then remove sides of pans and place layers still on pan bottoms on cake racks to cool completely, 3 hours.
5. Gently remove layers from pan bottoms and use Cream Cheese Frosting to fill cake and frost the sides. Dust top of cake with confectioners' sugar.
Serves 10 to 12.

Recipe courtesy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, 25th Anniversary Edition, by Julee Russo and Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing, 2007)

Rainbow Spiral Cookies

I can't take any credit for this colorful and cheery cookie other than the time I took to make them, they are originally and perfectly executed by Heather at Sprinkle Bakes. A beautiful blog with even more wonderfully created goodies that you can tell have been lovingly hand crafted with her passion for baking. I wish I had the talent to craft and create such masterpieces as some of the cake and cookie designers here in food blog kingdom, but alas.. my creations usually come from rushing to get something sweet out to my family at least once a week.

But I did enjoy searching through bake sites and turning pages of culinary magazines to find something colorful.. and pink, to add to the festivities for my little princesses sixth birthday celebration.

My little daughter had originally designed this three tier cake masterpiece covered in fondant and roses with candied pearls and confectionery ribbon. Dusted with edible gold and trailing in silver. She is a princess by all accounts now and anything less just would not do! Have you ever heard of a mom trying to play hooky from her own responsibilities and call in sick? I just happen to catch a flu mid week and opted out of cake baking by ordering the next best thing .. a princess theme cake filled with ice cream and rich chocolate ganache. She wasn't thrilled at first but she finally came around and we all had a wonderful birthday event. And still, we have plenty of leftover cake and spiral cookies to share. :)

I loved these cookies and they weren't hard to bake at all. I took Heather's advise and used my Cuisinart to mix up the dough. She had said it made mixing quick and easy.. she was right! What I do know about sugar and butter doughs is that you need to keep the ingredients cold. Above in my photo collage I reiterated the importance of refrigerating and re-refrigerating your dough. You cannot slice the dough soft and expect to get clean lines where the dough colors don't run into each other. I also advise using a very sharp knife so not to have the dough smash down.

Have fun baking!
Ciao and Buon Appetito..

Colorful Spiral Cookie Recipe
by Heather Baird @ Sprinkle Bakes


2 cups unsifted cake flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup unsifted powdered sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon strawberry(or other)extract
½ teaspoon(or more)Rose food coloring
2 tablespoon unsifted cake flour
1 ½ cups multi-colored nonpareil decors


Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugars in a food processor and process briefly to mix. Add the butter in pieces; process with on/off bursts until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add the vanilla and process until the mixture just forms a ball.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions then return one of the portions to the food processor. Add the strawberry extract, food coloring, and the extra tablespoons of flour to the processor and process until just incorporated.

Roll out each portion of dough between sheets of waxed paper. You want a rectangle about 11×8 ½ inches by ⅛ inch thick. Leave the dough between the sheets of waxed paper and slide onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, for at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Remove dough pieces from refrigerator. Pour the nonpareil decors into a shallow rectangular dish (such as a 9×13-inch pan.

Peel off the top sheet of waxed paper from both doughs. Brush the vanilla dough very lightly with water. Using the waxed paper, lift the strawberry dough and flip it onto the vanilla dough so they are stacked. Press with your fingertips to seal the two doughs together. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and trim the edges even.

When the dough is just pliable (but still cold), roll up the dough(begin with the long side) like a jellyroll. As you begin to roll, gently curl the edge with your fingertips so you don’t get any air pockets as you roll dough into a log. As you roll, the vanilla portion may want to tear, pinch tears together as they happen and keep rolling.

After forming the dough into a log, throw away the waxed paper. Gently lift the log on top of the nonpareil decors in the dish and roll until the log is completely coated with decors. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice (from 4 hours to a week, or freeze for up to 2 months; defrost in the refrigerator overnight before slicing).

Heat oven to 325°. To bake, slice the log into ⅛— to ¼-inch-thick cookies and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets for 15 to 17 minutes, until the cookies are no longer shiny on top and the bottoms of the vanilla portion are golden.

This recipe printed from Key Ingredient.
Direct recipe link: http://keyingredient.com/recipes/229474/

From Feasting to Fasting;
A Pepper Pistachio Encrusted Rib Eye Steak
& Mediterranean Orange Roughy

Wednesday February 17th is Ash Wednesday which signals the first day of Lent. In many religious cultures this is the time of year for spiritual reflection, discipline and fasting. On Ash Wednesday it is customary to fast for the day with no meat, eating only one full meal, and if necessary, two small meals also. For the Catholic denomination as well as the Christian faith, it is a time of commemoration of the crucifixion of Christ.

In remembrance of this, the season of Lent has become a time of abstaining from food luxuries. For some it is a time of fasting from one “food” item, for some others, as I heard on the radio today it might be an addictive habit, like “Facebook”. ☺

What is common practice in many homes during Lent is to abstain from meat on Friday. Beef was considered to be a rich mans convenient food while fish, which was easily caught from the sea or lakes was among the cuisine afforded to a poor man. So for all, it was obvious that during Lent eating more simple and easily accessible foods were acceptable practices for a family devoted to prayer and reflection.

Today being the day before Lent, is “Shrove Tuesday”. As far back as 1000 AD, "to shrive" meant to hear confessions. The faithful would confess their sins to their Parish priest and receive forgiveness before the Lenten season began.

Shrove Tuesday also marked the day before the beginning of the 40 day fast period when the faithful were forbidden by the church to consume meat, butter, eggs or milk. With all these leftovers in the house and in the community, there would be feasting and a consumption of fats. Fat Tuesday was another term coined for this day of gluttony. “Mardi Gras” is French for Fat Tuesday referring to this practice of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season.

And here is a scrumptious carnivorous recipe for you to enjoy on your last day before Lent begins from my recipe box to yours!

Pepper & Pistachio Encrusted Rib Eye Steaks
with Rosemary Green Butter

2 Rib Eye Steaks around 3/4 inch thickness
Vegetable oil
White Wine

1/2 cup Pistachios
1/4 cup black peppercorns

Rosemary Butter
1 stick butter salted
3 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves torn off their stalk cleaned and dried
2 chive chutes cleaned and dried
2 parsley sprigs cleaned, dried and leaves removed from stems

Crust Topping Prep
In mini prep or food processor pulse peppercorns until chopped to a medium texture, add pistachios and continue pulsing until the texture is fine but still has crunch.

Steak Prep
Mix around two tablespoons of oil with two tablespoons of wine. Pat on steaks just to moisten but not to drench. Set aside. On wax paper spread out pepper pistachio crumbs. Lay Rib Eye steaks on crumbs and press to cover all over on both sides. On a pre-heated grill set to medium high cook steak for around 4 minutes on each side. This resulted in a medium done steak, around an 1/8 of an inch line of red in the middle. The steak was 3/4 inch thickness.
In the mean time make butter.

Rosemary Green Butter Prep
In food processor finely chop rosemary leaves, chives and parsley. When done add cold pieces of butter and continue to process till blended. Stop blending when ingredients are well combined. Refrigerate until steaks are done.

When steak is done, let rest for 5 minutes. Take two dollops of rosemary butter to top steaks and dress with rosemary leaves. Serve remainder of butter with butter boiled small potatoes or crusty bread.
*Warning, expect this dish it to be extremely rich and full of fats!
I would serve this dish with vegetables, a salad and some wild rice and for dessert something to cool off the palate unless of course you are using up all your dairy.. in that case here is a rich recipe for rice pudding. :)

My goal for the Lenten season is to post recipes prepared especially to commemorate the season of Fast; Italian, American, English, French, there are recipes steeped in history and religious practices especially for this season.

I would love to hear from you too! Do you have food traditions that you still practice and hold to religiously? Send me an email or even a recipe if you would like, giving me a brief account of how tradition plays a role in your food choices for Lent. Or.. just leave me a simple comment. I would love to hear from you!

I hope you enjoy this fish dish from my recipe box to yours to start your fast on Ash Wednesday!

Orange Roughy with Sauteed Olives, Capers & Tomatoes

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Orange Roughy fillets
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup Kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, whole
1/8 cup Capers
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs. Sauvignon Blanc

Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Add half of fish to skillet and sauté until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter. Repeat with remaining fish. Add parsley and crushed red pepper to same skillet; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, olives, capers and garlic; sauté until tomatoes are soft and juicy, about 2 minutes. Splash a few tablespoons of wine and season with salt and pepper as needed; spoon over fish.

Buon Appetito,

*My personal note. The phrase “confession is good for the soul”, is something to contemplate. I have read that when we have someone to share or confess our sins to, a healing begins; it helps put into perspective our actions whether good or bad. When we have someone to be accountable too, we often don’t repeat those same mistakes.. or sins if it be. In my practice as a Christian, yes, I do confess my sins to my God, but I also have a dear friend who is an accountability partner. She is someone who I know I can trust. We listen to one another without judgment and know that what we do share with one another is safe and confidential, but at the same time, we encourage one another to greater works and actions and don’t make light of serious offenses if any. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16 in The Bible

Blueberry Scones

"Happy Belated Valentines Day"!

I hope you all shared in affection and amore with your loved ones. We had a fun and busy morning not just celebrating love.. but partying the day away in honor of our daughter Bella for turning six years old. I don't know about you, but I think having a child on Valentines day just rocks! I'll never forget the morning of her birth as my husband and I, as well as the other three kids sat around and exchanged gifts.. I gave my husband the movie Emma.. have any of you had the pleasure of watching that movie? It is still one of our favorite movies and we to this day love watching it.

This year in our celebrations for Valentines Day we started the day off with a healthy breakfast including Heart Shaped Blueberry Scones. I love blueberries and bake, cook with, and eat them regularly. They are perfect for hungry little ones who snack in between meals and ideal for adults who try to maintain a healthy and low fat lifestyle like me! :)

Blueberries are in season in Temecula in the late Spring around May through early July, but fortunately for me our markets carry imported fresh blueberries the year round as well as bags of freshly frozen berries in the freezer section of our grocery store. Every time we sit down to a freshly baked item saturated with blueberries you can hear my husband make a comment to the kids stating how high in antioxidants blueberries are, how they are good for our digestion and how they are cancer fighting, heart smart beautiful little gems power packed with vitamin A, B, C, E, copper, selenium, zinc, iron, and anthocyanin – vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system and prevent infections. Well.. he doesn't really add all of that, but it's important and it's what I want you to know! :)

Here is a bucket of blueberries.. in it's infantile stage.. that my daughter was collecting as we hunted blueberries this past May.

A heart smart blueberry scone.

They're small.. but packed with bountiful blessings of goodness!

And now for a delicious recipe for your own baking pleasure. I have this wonderful tattered cookbook from Michael Smith called The Afternoon Tea Cookbook that I absolutely love. Michael Smith seems to be one of England's premier authorities on the British taking of tea in the traditional manner. He shares many of his childhood upbringings in this book as well as he being a culinary adviser to the PBS Masterpiece Theater series "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "The Duchess of Duke. Many of his recipes in the book are taken from his personal cookbook collections that date back to the 1700's. It's fascinating to me to have him share so much knowledge and history of traditional English baking techniques. I think another reason I am attracted to his historical take on the recipes is because many years ago I had spent a month in England, one of the homes I stayed in was of a woman whom her loved ones called, "The Dragon Lady". She was this petite and aged, gentle looking woman whom just so happen to have been a cook in the Queens kitchen in her younger days. I loved her tales and vigor.. and her collection of ancient cookbooks! :)

I adapted this recipe a bit by folding in frozen blueberries after the dough was mixed. I rolled out my dough, sprinkled some blueberries on top and then folded the dough gently over a few times and rolled my dough out again to a thickness of around 3/4 of an inch and used a floured heart shaped cookie cutter.

Blueberry Scones
Recipe adapted from Michael Smith's The Afternoon Tea cookbook

2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbl baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbl sweet butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup milk

Place the baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Sift
the measured flour twice with the baking powder, salt, and other fine
ingredients such as powdered mustard (which you would use if you were
making cheese scones).

Dice the fats into the dry ingredients, then lightly rub in with cool
fingertips or a pastry blender until completely blended.

Make a well in the center and stir in the milk. Lightly mix with a fork
until the ingredients form a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead very lightly for about 30
seconds to a loose, smooth dough. Roll out with a rolling pin to
approximately 3/4 inch thick.

Stamp out with a 2-inch cutter or cut into triangles with a sharp knife.
Lightly knead together any trimmings and roll and stamp out again. Lift
with a spatula onto the HOT baking sheet, placing 1 inch apart. Brush
only the tops with lightly beaten egg or milk.

Bake toward the top of the oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until
well risen and golden brown. Lift onto a wire rack with the spatula to
cool. (If you were to make cheese scones, you would add 1 3/4 cups very
finely grated mature cheddar cheese, and a pinch of dry English mustard)

Ciao and Buon Appetito!

"Fresh Cavatelli With Cauliflower"
and an article
by Lidia Matticchino Bastianich

It is my privilege to share with you by permission, this article "Waste Not, Want Not" by Lidia Matticchino Bastianich from Lidia's Italy and owner of New York City restaurant, Felidia. I am so intrigued by this practice, and her encouragement to utilize the earth for it's resources, but at the same time replenishing and "not wasting". I try in my everyday cooking practices to conserve and use everything I purchase, but some practices which she shares in her recipe I made for you today, reusing the same water to cook the vegetables as well as the pasta, I have not even thought of before.
I am no longer intrigued nor fascinated alone.. but I am hooked! Yes, I can see that I conserved water and eliminated having to use two large stock size pots.. but the combination of flavors from the cauliflower and pasta water made such a beautiful tasting broth to add to the garlic, peperoncino and parsley saute. I love learning something new and welcome especially this day and age, tools and techniques that would allow me to be a more conscientious cook. This is a "FABULOUS recipe and I am so proud to have been sent this that I may share it with you. My family and I loved it and I know you will too!

Buon Appetito!

"Waste Not, Want Not" and Make it Delicious!
By Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali,
Author of Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes

There is no more appropriate time than now to think about how and why we cook. Food is a way of connecting with the people who surround us. Through it, we communicate emotions like love, compassion and understanding, and there is no better opportunity to communicate with our children than at the table. It's where we can discuss our values of life that are important to us as individuals, as a family and as a part of the world we live in.

As over consumption and greed have come to haunt us, now is a time for reflection. We should be looking back at the generations before us to understand their approach to the table. Growing food, shepherding animals, foraging for the gifts of nature is all part of respecting food. Nothing needs to be wasted. Bread can be recycled and used in soups, casseroles, lasagnas and desserts. Water is carefully conserved as in the pasta recipe I share below where the same water in which vegetables are cooked is used to cook the pasta that follows, and then that is saved for soups or for making risotto.
When one respects the food we prepare, it also leads to a more sensible and balanced intake of proteins, legumes and vegetables. So "waste not, want not" and make it delicious!

Excerpt from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)

Maccarun ch'I Hiucc
Fresh Cavatelli with Cauliflower shared from the youngest of all the Italian regions Molise, adding rich flavors from the pastoral farmland kitchens.

Serves 6
Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables, and I regret that many people don't sufficiently appreciate its unique flavor and nutritional value. This is not the case in Molise, where it is cooked often and creatively, as exemplified by the following two simple vegetarian pasta dishes. The first recipe, maccarun ch'i hiucc, is zesty with garlic and peperoncino.

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for the pasta pot
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
7 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large head cauliflower, cut in small florets
1 batch (1½ pounds) Fresh Cavatelli (preceding recipe), or 1 pound dried pasta
1 cup freshly grated pecorino (or half pecorino and half Grana Padano or Parmigiano-
Reggiano, for a milder flavor)

Recommended equipment: A large pasta pot; a heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, 12 inch diameter or

Fill the large pot with salted water (at least 6 quarts water with 1 tablespoon salt), and heat to a boil. Pour the olive oil into the skillet, set over medium-high heat, and scatter in the sliced garlic. Let the garlic start to sizzle, then toss in the peperoncino and parsley; stir and cook for a minute. Ladle in a cup of the pasta cooking water, stir well, and adjust the heat to keep the liquid in the skillet simmering and reducing gradually while you cook the cauliflower and pasta. With the pasta water at a rolling boil, drop in the cauliflower florets, and cook them for about 3 minutes, until barely tender. Drop in the cavatelli, stir, and return the water quickly to a boil. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is fully
tender and the pasta is al dente (if you are using dried pasta, it will, of course, take longer).

Lift out the florets and cavatelli with a spider or strainer, drain briefly, and spill them into the skillet. Toss well, to coat all the pasta and vegetable pieces with the garlicky dressing, then turn off the heat, sprinkle over the skillet the grated cheese, and toss again. Heap the cauliflower and cavatelli in warm bowls, and serve immediately.

And now from my kitchen DMC.. preparations for the "Fresh Cavatelli With Cauliflower"

I used a ricotta pasta dough recipe for my cavatelli. It is very tender and rolls with ease.

Rolling dough into a long this rope.

Rolling cavatelli's on my gnocci board. Very similar pastas!

Gnocci board; a must tool in the Italian kitchen. Dough and rolled Cavatelli.

Cavatelli. Fresh pasta freezes wonderfully!

Garlic.. the recipe calls for seven plump cloves!

The smell of this sauteing was enough to be a distraction to the Super Bowl viewers!

Caulliflower.. one of the stars of the show!

Cavatelli at a rapid boil. When they are done they float to the top.

Locatelli Romano Cheese.. the recipe called for Parmesan but this is what I had on hand.

Hot, spicy, cheesy and delicious "Cavatelli With Cauliflower".

Raspberry Cocoa Biscotti

I think we all love Valentines Day, but for me it's even more special because it's our youngest daughter Bella's birthday as well. So perusing through cookbooks and strolling up and down the grocers isles, I looked for fun ideas to dress up some of her favorites as well as my beloved's. I recently came across raspberry extract made by McCormick. I had never seen it before, but chocolate and raspberry is a deal breaker for me. The ingredient list states, "extractives of raspberry". Well it didn't say imitation so I gave it a try. Not bad.. I still prefer cooking and baking with fortified flavored wines, but this was a good alternative in a pinch, only having blackberry wine on hand at home.

I have been using this biscotti recipe for years now and love it! It has worked well with changing the flavorings as well as the nuts and the texture is wonderful, much like a crunchy brownie that dips well in your favorite hot beverage.

Today is World Nutella Day.. I can't believe I didn't have any nutella on hand.. but if you would like to check out all the fabulous recipes, head on over to Michelle at Bleeding Expresso's blog for a delicious read! From there you can be directed to the other favoloso hosts of this world famous event!

Ciao, amore ed abbracci!

2/3 cups Softened Butter
1 1/4 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
4 Tsp. Raspberry Extract (I used McCormick's)
1 Tsp. Pure Vanilla
2 1/2 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Cocoa Powder
4 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
2 cups Walnuts

Preheat Oven to 375˚.
Prepare 3 cookie sheets by coating them lightly with butter. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue beating.
When light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time continuing to beat on medium. Every once in a while
scrape down sides of the bowl. Add raspberry and vanilla extract and incorporate.

In a separate bowl mix dry ingredients except for the nuts. A little at a time add dry ingredients into your butter, egg and sugar mix. Just blend until well combined. Add nuts and mix in.

Dough will be sticky and hard to handle at this point. Have some flour on hand to dust your hands with while working the dough into logs. With hands dusted, divide dough into 6 equal portions. Shape dough into six 8x1, 1/2 inch loaves.
Place 3 logs on each cookie sheet 4 inches apart, flatten slightly. Bake 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool for around 45 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325˚. On cutting board cut each loaf diagonally into 1/2 inch slices; return slices to cookie sheet. Bake 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake cookies an additional 5-8 minutes more or until gold, dry and crisp. Don't let them get brown. For me I think they taste overdone when they are let to stay to long. Cool on racks. Decorate with a drizzle of fine melted chocolate.

Prime Rib Eye Roast with an Herb Purée

Arrosto con un pure dell' herba

I love making a Sunday roast.. I guess actually I love preparing a roast on any day that I am looking for comfort by way of a warm kitchen and the aroma of fresh herbs and succulent beef cooking in the oven. And don't you also anticipate the abundance of hearty vegetables that go wonderfully with a roast like winter parsnips, beets, turnips and rutabagas.. well then pull up a chair, serviette and utensils and enjoy a meal with us hear at DMC!

The herb purée is quite simple, a combination of fresh thyme, basil, parsley, lemon rind, garlic, a few tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil is blended in a food processor or blender. I don't add salt to the purée, instead I season the meat by rubbing it with kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of red wine and then let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour before I apply the herb purée. If you notice, I placed a layer of sliced lemons on the bottom of the roasting dish for my aromatics. I change the aromatics depending on how I dress my roast. Sometimes I layer the dish with celery, fennel, carrots, potatoes, parsnips.. you get the idea, it's ideally for the aroma and for keeping the meat from stewing in it's juices. You can also use a meat rack placed on the bottom of your roasting pan.. but can you believe I don't own one! :)

For my winter vegetables I cut them up and layer them in a baking dish, drizzle with white wine, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, fresh bay leaves, fresh basil, sliced onions, garlic, shallots and olive oil. Here again you can use whatever root vegetables are available to you in your produce department. I'm using fresh beets, parsnips, turnips, carrots and rutabagas. Yum! Heat the oven to 400 °F. Cook turning the vegetables occasionally till golden brown and tender. Approximately 45 minutes.

As far as the roast is concerned, I buy a 4 1/2 lb. prime rib eye roast trimmed and de-boned by my butcher. What he does do for me and I totally appreciate it, is after he cuts off the bone he ties it to the roast. That way I keep much of the flavor. When I dress my roast I spread the purée of herbs between the meat and the bone to get full flavor.

This is the basic heating/cooking instructions that have worked best for me with a prime rib roast.
Cook 18 min. per pound for rare to med rare, 20-22 min. for medium to med well.

Preheat oven to 450°F
Put beef, fat side up, in a shallow flameproof roasting pan. Sprinkle salt over top and season with pepper. Roast beef in lower third of oven 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and roast beef 1 hour and 15 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted 2 inches into center of meat registers 115°F. Transfer beef to a cutting board, reserving pan juices in pan, and let stand 25 minutes. Beef will continue to cook as it stands, reaching 125°. (medium-rare)

Buon Appetito!!