Potato Provencal, recipe

Once the dog days of summer have left and September’s cool weather is here, I ‘m ready to get back to the kitchen and start baking more often with my oven.

There is so much variety when your taste buds tell you to make potatoes.   Red skin potatoes have a thinner skin and are a little quicker to peel than a baking potato,or a  sweet potato.

I don’t recall how this cookbook called, “A taste of Heaven and Earth, a Zen Approach to cooking and eating”, came into my house; perhaps one of my mom’s book collection.  With this title, I think I’ll do some yoga poses after I’m finished, a  Sun Salutation, tree pose, dog or cat pose.   I love the spa close to my house, they have a very serene spa classroom; I just wish they were open on a Wednesday!

Now, its recipe time!

This casserole dish is rich with a variety off Mediterranean flavors.


1 pound new red potatoes.sliced 1/3 in thick

3 TBSP olive oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 medium  red onions,sliced thin

1 TBSp crushed fresh lovage or fresh sage( eek what is lovage?)

1 TBSp chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp tamari

freshly ground pepper

4 tomatoes, thinly sliced in half (about 3/4 lb)

1 cup pitted and halved black olives ( on Sunday after a baby shower, I took my mom shopping to a Dollar store and she wanted me to buy a can of olives!-however, I said, Pat said our pantry is full!)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese ( as my co-worker  ,Italian Frank just said yesterday that fresh grated Cheese is the best! , have you read the pre-grated variety container?-all the additives!)

Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Cook the potatoes by steaming them for 5 minutes or until halfway cooked and still firm.  Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the oil in a small skillet.  Saute’ the garlic, onions, and herbs over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.  When the onions become translucent, remove from the heat.   In a medium bowl, carefully mix the cooked potatoes with the onions.  Season with tamari and freshly ground pepper.

Assemble all the ingredients in a 2 quart casserole ( mine is a yellow Pyrex that my grandmother gave to me):

Place half the potatoes and onions in the bottom of the dish, cover with half the tomatoes and olives, and top with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Continue layering in this order until all ingredients are used.

Bake in the oven, covered loosely with foil, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and continue to bake for 20 minutes, until brown on top.  Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4.

Cookbook: A taste of Heaven and Earth   by Bettina Vitale

This Casserole dish

Bellini, The Origin

The Bellini was invented sometime between 1934 and 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Because of its unique pink color, which reminded Cipriani of the color of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini, he named the drink the Bellini.

A true Bellini is made with the nectar of white peaches and Italian sparkling wine. Mionetto Prosecco Brut D.o.c is an example of a good Italian sparkling wine.

The Bellini consists of puréed white peaches and Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. Marinating fresh peaches in wine is an Italian tradition.[2] The original recipe was made with a bit of raspberry or cherry juice to give the drink a pink glow.[4] Due, in part, to the limited availability of both white peaches and Prosecco, several variations exist.

Bellini Bar

Giada De Laurentiis

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Rated 5 stars out of 5
Total Time: 1 hr 5 min
Prep: 30 min
Inactive: 30 min
Cook: 5 min
Yield: 12 serving


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen peaches, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen blueberries or blackberries, thawed
  • 4 to 6 (750-ml) bottles Prosecco or other sparkling wine, chilled
  • Fresh strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, for garnish
  • Orange peel twists, for garnish


Stir the sugar and water in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Puree the peaches and orange peel in a blender with 1/2 cup of the sugar syrup until smooth. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer and into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. In a clean blender puree the strawberries with 1/3 cup of the sugar syrup until smooth. Strain through a clean fine-meshed strainer and into another bowl. Discard the seeds. Puree the blueberries in a clean blender with 1/3 cup of the sugar syrup until smooth. Strain through a clean fine-meshed strainer and into a third bowl. Discard the seeds and solids. Pour each of the purees into clear glass bowls or small pitchers.

For each serving, pour 2 to 4 tablespoons of the desired fruit puree into a Champagne flute. Slowly pour enough Prosecco into the flute to fill. Gently stir to blend. Garnish with the whole berries, as desired, and serve.

Do-Ahead Tip: The fruit purees can each be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.

This wine is perfect alone as an aperitif or as a delight- ful complement to appetizers such as prosciutto or
mild cheeses. Excellent as a base for Bellinis and other sparkling wine cocktails.

Bellini is also the name of a music group originating in Catania, Sicily .     Agostino Tilotta and Damon Che begin writing songs in August 12, 2000.  They started their first North America tour in 2001.  I must locate this group on you-tube or I -tunes and catch a few bars of their music today!

Bellini is a rhythmic, tight, beautifully aggressive quartet consisting of Agostino Tilotta, his wife Giovanna Cacciola (both also of Italy’s famed Uzeda), bassist Matthew Taylor (the Romulans) and drummer Alexis Fleisig (Girls Against Boys). Though retaining some of the basic elements of their former selves, Bellini are more focused, more structured and more rhythmic than ever before. They embody the true spirit of perseverance and punk rock, making uncompromising, honest music strictly for the brutal love of it.

The Teatro Massimo Bellini is an opera house in CataniaSicily, southern Italy. Named after the local-born composer Vincenzo Bellini, it was inaugurated on 31 May 1890 with a performance of the composer’s masterwork, Norma. It seats 1,200.

Saint Lucia Day is December 13, 2010

Saint Lucia day is December 13, 1010 and my dad’s cousin Lucy’s birthday is today!

Happy birthday, cousin Lucy!

Saint Lucia Coffee cake wreath:

Saint Lucia Wreath

A Saint Lucia coffeecake is the traditional offering on Dec. 13. The rich dough is colored and flavored with saffron. Either a large wreath or a plate of individual buns — formed in the shapes of wreaths, crowns and cats — is perfect for a holiday brunch or when guests come to call. This authentic recipe is from Beatrice Ojakangas’s “Scandinavian Feasts” (University of Minnesota Press). If yours is a small household, divide the dough in half and make two smaller wreaths.

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick ) butter, melted
1 teaspoon saffron threads (a good pinch)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup currants
2 eggs, warmed
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1 large egg, beaten
Sugar sprinkles, optional

To make the dough: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar. Heat the milk and add the melted butter to it; cool until the mixture is lukewarm.

Pulverize the saffron with 1 teaspoon of the sugar, using a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon in a small dish. Add 1 tablespoon of the warm milk-and-butter mixture and allow the saffron to steep for 5 minutes.

Add the saffron mixture, milk-and-butter mixture, sugar, salt, currants and eggs to the yeast. Using an electric blender on medium speed, beat until blended. Add 2 cups flour and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of the remaining flour and mix with a wooden spoon to make a medium-stiff dough. Let dough rest for 15 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead for 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and satiny. Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough over to lightly oil the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

To make a braided wreath: Punch the dough down and divide into 3 parts. With the palms of your hands, roll and shape each part into a rope-like strand about 36 inches long. Braid the strands by aligning them vertically and alternately crossing each outer strand over the center strand. Shape the braid into a circle and place on a greased or parchment-covered baking sheet. Pinch the ends together where they meet to seal the strands and to conceal the beginning and end of the braid.

Transfer to the baking sheet. Brush with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with sugar sprinkles if using. Let rise for about 45 minutes or just until puffy.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the dough comes out clean and dry. Cool on a rack. Makes 16 servings.

Note: To make two smaller wreaths: Divide the dough into 2 parts and braid as above. Place each wreath on a baking sheet, allow to rise and bake for about 20 minutes.

reposted from another blog, POST Gazette.com from Pittsburg.
As far as weather, my mother always says, “whatever Pittsburg, Pa gets, that we’re going to get”; for example SNOW is coming our way, since Pittsburgh has it.

Saint Lucia was Italian

Oddly, Saint Lucia was Italian, a Sicilian martyr. So how did an Italian girl-turned-saint come to be honored in Sweden?

There are several legends about the real Saint Lucia. One of the most common is that she was born of wealthy, noble parents about 283 AD in Syracuse, Sicily. Her father died when she was very young.

When her mother fell ill and her death appeared imminent, the desperate Lucia took her on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Saint Agatha, where miraculous healings were rumored to take place. The mother was healed and both women embraced Christianity. Together they pledged to use their wealth to help the sick and the poor.

At the time, Sicily was under the rule of an emperor, and Christianity was forbidden in favor of pagan gods. But the devout young Sicilian virgin held to her faith and distributed food to the homeless and starving.

Many of those poor families sought refuge in caves, and Lucia would make her way through the passageways with armfuls of bread. She wore a crown of candles on her head to light the way, leaving her hands free to distribute the food.

Now the plot thickens. Lucia vowed to remain a virgin. But before her father died, he had arranged her marriage into a pagan family, a deal that Lucia had no intention of honoring. Her betrothed, however, demanded her hand as his bride. Lucia flat-out refused. In a rage, the suitor took his revenge and reported Lucia’s Christian faith to the Roman officials, setting up a worst-case scenario.

On Dec. 13, 304 AD, Lucia was led before a court where she was sentenced. But she was one tough cookie. When the guards tried to drag her away, she was immovable. They tried to poke out her eyes, but she could still see. In desperation, the court ordered that she be burned. Bundles of wood were piled up around her and the fire ignited. But she was not consumed by the flames. Lucia was finally killed by the sword of one of the soldiers.

Later she was venerated as a martyr and saint, and the day of her death, Dec. 13, was named Saint Lucia’s Day.

Bringing light to Sweden

Time passed, and the day had no real significance for centuries. As Christianity spread through Europe and into Scandinavia, though, the pagan celebration of Winter Solstice had to be replaced with a Christian celebration. In keeping with “timing is everything,” winter solstice happened to fall on Dec. 13, so Saint Lucia was the natural choice.

The legend of the celebration was cemented when a terrible famine came to the Province of Varmland in Sweden during the middle ages. The poor village was starving to death. But on Dec. 13 of that year a large white ship was seen coming through the night across Lake Vanern, with a beautiful young woman standing on the bow. She was wearing a brilliant white gown, and a ring of light encircled her head.

The country people boarded the ship to find that its cargo was food, clothing and supplies. They quickly unloaded it, and as they carried the last baskets away the people looked back to see that the ship was no longer there.

Probably, it had been a much-needed supply ship from another province. But many felt in their hearts that it was a gift from Saint Lucia, and as the story spread, celebrations of Saint Lucia’s Day began. Even after the calendar was reformed and winter solstice fell on a later day, the 13th of December remained the celebration of Saint Lucia.

Visiting Lucy and family in Vermont, 2008

Tomato-Pomodoro, origins and pasta sauces


What is Italy without the tomato? The history of the tomato.

The tomato was first brought to Europe in the sixteenth century from voyages of discovery to Mexico and Peru.

The tomato was first known as ” pomme d’amour or ‘love apple’ because it’s iron and vitamin content seemed to impart a lusty vigor.
The name eventually became changed to pomme d’oror ‘golden apple’, evoking memories of the Hysperides myth, and in Italy the name Pomodoro is still used today.

In Italy, one can find at least four types of tomatoes in local markets during the summer. The unripe orangy-green are used for salad, the large round red are mainly stuffed with rice. The tomato used for sauce is the San Marzano, the plum tomato that is also tinned and exported all over the world. Even I have seen the San Marzano Italian brand on the shelves in my local grocery stores.

In the south the small round cherry tomato is used for pasta sauce.
In the cities, the Italian housewife buys fresh tomatoes daily throughout the summer to make her sauce. And in September large crates of tomatoes are sold by the roadside (oro rosso or red gold).
Then whole families of grandparents, fathers, mothers children gather together to make sauce and bottle it for the winter. The washed tomatoes are put through a simple apparatus that removes skin and seeds. The resulting puree is poured into clean mineral water bottles and a leaf or two of basil is added before they are capped and sterilized in a seething cauldron of boiling water. This is carried out in the open air and if you drive through the countryside, you may see the red colour on the grass and earth of fields from the tomato skins and seeds thrown out by the primitive pulping machines.
This filtered puree is known as passato, and even today when it can be purchased bottled, there is pride and pleasure in this personal preparation for the cupboard of one’s own sauce.

In Puglia and Magna Grecia, there is an ancient method of drying tomatoes in the hot southern sun which is still used today. You can find these dried tomatoes in small glass jars in specialty shops.

Tinned, peeled tomatoes known as pellati are also used to make pasta sauce and are the first choice of most cooks outside of Italy. Even the same variety grown in Northern climates would not have the same taste, and it would be a mistake to use. Always use tinned Italian tomatoes in preference to a fresh Northern variety.
To use fresh plum tomatoes, remove the skins by plunging them ito boiling water for a few minutes. Allow less cooking time, becuase there will be less water to evaporate.

There are many different versions of tomato sauce and every Italian family has its own favorite. Some prefer to leave the garlic and onion whole, removing the garlic at the end of frying time.
Some cooks add a small piece of celery chopped with the onion and garlic, others ad celery and a chopped carrot. There are families that add a spoonful of brandy to the finished sauce like the Italian habit of adding Brandy or other liqueurs to the morning black Espresso coffee.( which is called caffe coretto or ‘corrected coffee”!). Others add a generous amount of good red wine.

No two tomato sauces are ever identical This is generally accepted and in Sicily , there is even an expression to describe a changeable personality: Cambia sempre come la slasa- ” He is always different like a sauce”.

Tagliatelle o Spaghetti al Pomodoro

500 g/ 1 lg tagliatelle or spaghetti
30 ml/ 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 400 g/ 14 oz cans Italian plum tomatoes
1 sugar lump
salt and black pepper to taste
60 g/ 2 oz ( 1 cup) freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Heat the oil and gently fry the chopped onion and garlic until softened. Cover the pan to prevent browning. Add the tomatoes and their juice , sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and cook on a high flame, uncovered fro about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sauce is reduced and thick , check the seasoning , then pass the sauce through the meduium disc of a food mill . ( although not authentic, you can also use an electric blender or food processor to save time.) I like the familiar old scraping type sound as the tomatoes are pressed through the food mill that my maternal grandmother and mother used as I rotate the handle first one direction and then the opposite.

Cook the pasta , following the directions on the packet very carefully to avoid overcooking. Drain the pasta and add half the freshly grated cheese, stirring thoroughly. Then add the sauce. Stir well, add the rest of the cheese and serve.

Penne Al Forno con Pomodoro e Mozzarella
Baked Penne with tomato and cheese

This is a favorite of my family at get-togethers.

500 g/ 1 lb penne or other short pasta
tomato sauce ( see recipe above)
50 g / 2 oz ( generous i/2 cup ) freshly grated Parmesean cheese
300 g/ 10 oz mozzarella cheese
120 ml/ 8 tbsp toasted breadcrumbs


Cook the pasta for half the time given in the packet/ box directions and drain.
Put 120 ml/ 4 fl oz of the tomato sauce on one side and mix the rest with the pasta.
Add one third of the freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Butter an oven-proof dish and put in half the pasta. Cover with thin slices of Mozzarella, the reserved tomato sauce and half the remaining Parmesan.
Add the rest of the pasta and cover with the remaining Parmesan
mixed with the breadcrumbs.

Bake in a hot oven 220 degrees Celsius/ 425 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

Penne alle Olive
Penne with Olive and Tomato Sauce

My mother still has fond memories of her father’s favorite gift at Christmas time, a huge tin of black olives; grandpa ( pop-pop) loved to eat black olives.

500 g/ 1 lb penne or other short pasta
30 ml/ 2tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 small chili pepper 5 ml / 1 tsp dried chili pepper flakes
800g/ 28 oz tinned Italian plum tomatoes
200g/ 7 0z large black olives
parsley, and salt


Heat the oil and fry the chopped garlic and chili until garlic turns golden brown.

Now add the tomatoes with their juice and cook for 20 minutes. Add the chopped, pitted black olives and salt to taste.
Recently on cable television, I watched “Lidia” of ‘Lidia’s Italy” on how to crush an olive.
With wide knife, gently press down on one olive at a time, remove the pit and put the olive pieces aside, the add to sauce recipe.

Cook the pasta, following the packet/ box directions carefully to avoid over-cooking.
Drain, turn into a heated serving dish and stir in the sauce. Sprinkle the chopped parsley on top.


Cookbook: The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces by Diane Seed 1987

Eat Pray Love Italian Challenge

Eat Pray Love Italian Challenge

My challenge was to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love before the release date of the movie, August 13,2010 and now  I am inspired to post an Italian themed recipe and photo for Valli’s Eat, Pray, Love Italian challenge.

The challenge is open to any “foodie”, one who likes to cook.

You are welcome to go to  Valli’s website to read her  post and perhaps get in the kitchen and cook up something Italian to share with other foodies.

Valli of ” More Than Burnt Toast” blog has an Italian food recipe challenge inspired by the upcoming movie release of EAT,PRAY,LOVE on August 13, 2010.

You can find her post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com.
If you would like to join Valli  simply prepare an Italian dish from antipasti, primo, secondo, contorno to dolce and send the link with photo to eatchallenge(at)gmail(DOT)com before the opening of the movie ,  August 13, 2010.

She writes:

Eat , Pray,Love is Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderfully crafted book about life changing experiences when she trades in her previously perfect life to travel the world “to find herself. ” After a heart wrenching divorce she spends a year traveling in Italy, India and Indonesia. Each word in the title Eat, Pray, Love is expanded by her experiences in three countries.

In my next post, I’ll  add my Italian themed recipes and continue reading Eat Pray Love.

Happy Columbus Day


Me making etching of my grandfather's name at Ellis Island

Me making etching of my grandfather's name at Ellis Island

There are

a few things  that I always remember about Columbus Day  and one is that is was my maternal grandfather’s birthday.  My grandfather was born in Italy in the small town of Poggio Cinolfo about 40 miles from Rome.   He immigrated to the USA with his mother at the age of 6 coming through Ellis Island.

My husband and I recently went to visit Ellis Island again.  I had made an etching of my grandfather’s name a long time ago in the early 90’s and decided to make a new one.

 I thank my cousin Donna for having his name inscribed on the Ellis Island wall when it was being built.

My maternal grandfather and I playing a board game after dinner as a teen.

My maternal grandfather and I playing a board game after dinner as a teen.

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