Magical Cartagena For Christmas


For the second year in a row my sister and I traveled south of the border for Christmas and spent the holidays together overseas, this year we ventured to Cartagena Colombia for a week. We wandered and wondered our way through the dreamlike and beautiful colonial streets of the old walled city, we swam in turquoise waters, we basked in the magic of a city I have always dreamed of visiting.




Our holiday excursions have become a new and memorable way to celebrate the holidays together all while deeply imbued with the memory of our mother. Christmas growing up was a special holiday in our house with dozens and dozens of guests, with pots of coffee, eggs, bagels, and more cookies then one could possibly eat, at the holiday’s very beating center was our mother in her slippers and her generous smile. To say the least a traditional Christmas together has seemed hard to contemplate these last 7 years but the last 2 years being together in a warm and foreign destination has felt like the best way to make a tradition of our own or at the very least a stepping stone from one deep tradition to the next. And to say our mother’s memory is with us is an understatement, especially in Cartagena we both kept saying to each other “mom would love this!” We could see our mom sitting with us in the cool shade of Plaza de Bolívar, we could hear her exclaim how beautiful the colorful houses with draping bougainvillea are, and we could feel her smile as we soaked in the hot sun.




Cartagena is called the crown jewel of the caribbean and for good reason the stunning colors of the houses, the cobblestone streets that wind and keep you gasping at the beauty around each corner, the hot air that is refreshingly cooled by sea breezes. We spent our first day getting lost along the streets and wandering from Plaza to Plaza eating Paletas and then walking along the old wall that stretches between the old city and the ocean. We soaked in our small rooftop pool and ate fish and coconut rice as we sipped coconut lemonades. For the record next summer I will be making coconut lemonades all summer because where has this been all of my life?!






We spent the next few days on a small Island in the Rosario Islands about an hour boat ride from the city. We stayed at a wonderful small eco hotel that felt more like staying with the most gracious hosts in their home. We swam in turquoise waters right off of any number of docks, we kayaked amid different islands with the sun kissing our shoulders and the warm water gently rocking us, we napped and read in hammocks, and one night we even went swimming with bioluminescent plankton in an enchanted lagoon. The days were long and slow and beautifully rich in nature. We enjoyed one of our favorite nightly pass times watching sunsets with no distractions or rush.







We came back to Cartagena in time for Christmas in the city with Zumba in Plaza de La Trinidad and a walking street food tour on our last day. Our days were filled walking from the Getsemaní district and looking at murals to the old town and back again. We spent our time wandering and taking pictures, sitting in Plazas and drinking fresh coconuts in front of brightly painted houses.







But this would also only be part of the story. Travel is one of my favorite things but it is not always the easiest thing, I have suffered my share of traveler tummies and achy muscles from too much walking on trips from Vietnam to Spain and in between. But after a particularly harrowing boat trip back to Cartagena on Christmas eve I was struck with one of my worst illnesses yet. Between a brutal stomach bug and body that felt like it had been hurled across the ocean (my sister got off of the boat looking like she had taken a full shower in her clothes) we moved slowly stopping often to sit on benches and just look around us at the beauty while I caught my breath. I moved slowly but also saw how kindly my sister could take care of me.







It would also be hard to ignore the greater context in which we took this trip as we approached a new year and one that seems rather strange at first glance. As I walked through the unfamiliar streets of a new country it was hard to not think about travel and what travel might be like in the new year. I have always considered myself first and foremost a citizen of the world and I understand that in 2017 how the world might see people from America may change. I have traveled to 31 countries, that number sounds hard to believe and truly fortunate; along those trips I have talked to people my own age in Cambodia about Pol Pot, in Panama about Noriega, I have talked to people my parents age in East Germany about living with half of their family on one side of the wall and the other half on the other side, I have talked about Snowden and the Holocaust with friends from Germany, France, and England, I have been humbled, enlightened and at times flat out yelled at because of where I am from. I have always learned from the exchange and it has always broadened my view and my understanding about my own country and the world.




I thought a lot in Columbia about travel and what it means to me and what it might look like in the years ahead. I also thought a lot about how much travel gives me and about the exchanges it brings into a life. I thought about considering myself an ambassador for the United States that I believe in (if not the one in the news). An ambassador for an America that believes in acceptance, inclusion, hope, curiosity for other people and cultures, a country that is trying to move towards love and peace. Because at the end of the day wherever I travel that is the message I wish to carry with me and leave with the people I meet.


Helpful Cartagena Travel Links:

Casa La Fe – Hotel

Les Lezards – B&B in Getsemaní

La Mulata – Restaurant

Demente – Restaurant

La Cevicheria – Restaurant

Cafe Del Mar – Drinks and Restaurant

La Paletteria – Palletas



01 2017

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Spice Cookies


Growing up my one of my favorite Christmas books was The Sweet Smell Of Christmas – a scratch and sniff book about all of the scents of Christmas. It was a magic book filled with every fragrance I loved from the season – apple pie, pine from trees, ginger from cookies. I would scratch and smell and smell and smell, in fact I used the book so much it all started to smell alike, the sugar and ginger from cookies, the pine from trees, and oranges from little bears stocking all became one larger scent of Christmas. I loved that book and how it all became one big sensory seasonal explosion. A few years ago Bari found a copy of the book and bought it for her kids, immediately upon seeing it I yelled it was my favorite holiday book and everyone laughed.


I may have outgrown a book with scented stickers but the smell of Christmas never grows old to me – the fresh pine on the streets where trees are sold, the ginger and sugar of baked goods, and the citrus from bowls of oranges immediately bring a smile to my face. A few years ago I ran upon a recipe for Spice Cookies from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s cookbook Jerusalem, these cookies became a yearly staple and possibly my favorite cookie to bake on dark December nights. They are loaded with warm spices, flecked with chocolate, enlivened by citrus they remind me of my favorite German cookies Lebkuchen that I literally load my bag with on visits to Berlin.


Baking these this year for a friends holiday gathering the scents of spice, citrus, and a touch of Grand Marnier reminded me of the book The Sweet Smell Of Christmas and the joy it brought to me as a child. The nostalgia for childhood smells baked into an adult cookie could there be anything more perfect for a Christmas memory, I might say no. I have made these cookies both with the currents and liquor and without as a kid friendly alternative and both are great. They are warm from spice, hinted of chocolate and citrus, and sweet enough to create a holiday memory for anyone.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.


Raimg_0078Ottolenghi’s Spice Cookies
adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook


¾ cup currants

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (the original recipe called for brandy but I made this swap and rather liked it)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons best-quality cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

4 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely grated or chopped

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup superfine sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon grated orange zest (plus juice from the orange)

½ large free-range egg


3 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup confectioners’ sugar


  • Soak the currants in the Grand Marnier (or brandy) for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and dark chocolate.
  • Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon and orange zest to combine about 1 minute. With the mixer or beater running, slowly add the egg and mix for about 1 minute.
  • Add the dry ingredients, followed by the currants and brandy. Mix until everything comes together. I usually squeeze the juice of the orange as the dough is very dry and this added moisture helps hold it together and adds some nice flavor echoing the zest.
  • Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it is uniform.
  • Divide the dough into size of golf balls and roll each chunk into a perfectly round ball.
  • Place the balls on 1 or 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them about ¾ inch apart, and let rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until the top firms up but the center is still soft.
  • Remove from the oven. Once the cookies are out of the oven, allow to cool for 5 – 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack.
  • While the cookies are still warm, whisk together the glaze ingredients until a thin and smooth. Pour a tablespoon of the glaze over each cookie, leaving it to drip and coat the cookie.
  • Repeat the glaze step for a thicker glaze. Leave to set and then serve, or store in an airtight container for a day or two.



12 2016

Jessica’s Corn Pudding


For as unconventional a life as I grew up in I have always felt like I was a bit of a traditionalist and sentimentalist. I love tradition and ritual. I love holidays! I love the lights of Christmas, the latkes and candles of Chanukah, and a giant meal with loved ones on Thanksgiving. I have fond memories of playing a version of football with my uncles and cousins on Jomar Drive in Napa; and of Thanksgivings spent on a farm in upstate New York with Zelda’s family; and cooking next to one of my oldest and dearest friends for years in her kitchen in Pennsylvania.

I am very fortunate to have a number of friends from my youth, decades of friendship stretched over distance but still bound tight with instant love and familiarity when we see each other again. My mother always said the mark of a real friendship was its ability to seamlessly pick up when you see the other person despite time or space. Two of these friends are Zelda’s nieces whom I met when we were 5 or 6 on their farm in upstate New York, and a lifelong friendship began. We spent weeks of the summer together and for a few years a week in February. I loved the farm and my days with them milking cows, making up songs, playing in Aunt Rose’s house and imagining a life that was so different from the one I lived in San Francisco. Our friendship stretched through our childhood and into adolescence, it moved through college, and into our 20s and 30s. I was honored to be at their weddings and watch as they had children and find my own friendship with their daughters and son. I spent many a Thanksgiving with Jessica and her family as it grew in Pennsylvania, baking pies late into the night and then delicately moving around each other the next day as we cooked a giant traditional feast. I loved the way we both talked and didn’t as we chopped and mixed ingredients and washed the never-ending stacks of dishes.


Jessica is one of those special friends you find in life, one who grows with you and continues to grow through changes and triumphs and defeats. She is one of the kindest and most generous spirits I know. She is humble and gracious. She is warm and encouraging and wise. She is observant and honest. She is one of the best mothers I know and I have watched her for years in awe and hoped that someday I can be a fraction of the mother she is. It was an honor to stand with her on the day she got married and to hold each of her 4 daughters as babies. I have always felt grateful to have a friend like Jessica in my life because she is the truest definition that I know of what a friend should be – a person who you go through life with, a person who you hold in your heart and you know holds you in theirs not for a few days or years but for a lifetime.


This past year Jessica was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) she has taken on the hardest part of her life the way she has taken on everything else I have seen her take on – with truthfulness, acceptance, determination, and faith. She has undergone 6 months of chemo, surgery, and now radiation. I have been inspired so many times in life by Jessica and this past year has been another example of how much I admire her. She is so open and honest in sharing this journey, she writes beautifully about the experience and has bared both her fears and her faith. She is one of the most optimistic and realistic people at the same time. I have been moved by her fight and her resilience, how she is handling this with such grace and inspiration.


I have been thankful for her friendship for so many decades but this year I felt particularly thankful to have her in this world and in my life. In the years that we shared Thanksgiving she always made this corn pudding that I loved and then one year she wrote the recipe on a card to send me home with it along with leftovers. The last few years I have made her corn pudding to everyone’s enjoyment and found that for me it feels like the quintessential Thanksgiving dish – filled with butter, sour cream, corn, imbued with a history of friendship, and then lovingly baked in a casserole until warm and brown. I texted with Jessica on Thanksgiving morning and told her I was making her corn pudding, I thought of her as I mixed the ingredients together, and I thought of our many years of friendship and what I hope is many more years of love and sharing as I ate the corn pudding cold directly from the fridge on Friday morning.


Perhaps it is the sentimental side of me that loves tradition, it’s the side of me that likes to feel the history and years fold up on each other in a single recipe and the way it can bring back a lifetime of memories and love. I am lucky to call Jessica my friend, I have been lucky to call her a friend for over 30 years, and I will continue to feel lucky to call her a friend as we move forward into future years of life together.




Jessica’s Corn Pudding


1 stick butter

2 eggs

2 cans cream style corn

8oz of sour cream or milk

1 box of Jiffy muffin mix (8 ½ oz)

  • Pre heat oven to 350°
  • Melt butter in 13x9x2 inch baking dish
  • Combine all of the ingredients except the butter and mix well.
  • Add the butter to the combined ingredients and mix again.
  • Pour into the pan that melted butter and bake for 45 min – 1 hour until golden brown and set.
  • Enjoy hot, room temperature, or cold the next day.



11 2016

Rosquillas de Vino – Spanish Wine Cookies


On my last trip to Spain I was introduced to these small and simple cookies called Rosquillas de Vino (Wine Cookies). They were dainty, delicate, and lightly hinted of wine – I loved them straight from the plate or box, dunked in morning coffee, or dipped in a glass of after dinner wine. I came home with a box of these cookies and savored every bite while thinking about Spain and its beauty. I also fully intended to bake them myself, but then life got busy and the small pleasure of simple but perfect cookies slipped like the days along the Mediterranean into a memory. That was until the other week when I went to see the new Pedro Almodovar film JULIETA at the New York Film Fest. The film was as sumptuous as Spain and made me want to return. It also reminded me of the cookies I loved as much as the olive oil, the art, the sun soaked days. 


This recipe is a compilation of a few recipes I found online, and while I am not sure if it is the quintessential recipe it reminded me of the light, slightly sweet cookies kissed with anise and olive oil and a touch of wine. They are traditional for Christmas but I found them just as lovely in the summer along the Costa Blanca and in Fall in Brooklyn. There is so much I love about travel but one of my favorite things is the way the memories, the tastes, the images enrich my life long after I return home; the way a place changes me and a part of the place stays with me forever. These Rosquillas de Vino will always remind me of the full moon over the Mediterranean and the days I have spent in Barcelona, Cadaques, and the Costa Blanca, all places that now inhabit parts of my heart. 




Rosquillas de Vino Recipe – Spanish Wine Cookies

This recipe made approx 3 dozen cookies.


1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup butter

1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup wine (I used a white Albarino wine, but saw these also made with red wine)

1 tbs anise extract or anise seeds ground

3 cups flour

granulated sugar for topping cookies

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Prepare and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
  • Using a hand mixer combine the sugar, olive oil, butter, and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add wine and anise and mix well.
  • Add flour one cup at a time; the mixture will seem dry or crumbly. I mixed the last cup in using my hands.
  • Working with a small amount of dough at one time roll into a rope 1/3″ thick on an un-floured cutting board. 
  • Cut into 4″ long pieces and fold into a circle with an overlapping end (kind of like a wreath). 
  • Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Continue to roll and form cookies. 
  • Bake cookies 18 – 20 minutes or until they become golden in color. Be careful to not burn the bottoms. 
  • Let cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes.
  • Roll cookies while still warm in a dish with granulated sugar until they are nicely coated. 



10 2016

Fresh Thai Salad with Cayenne Cashews


“It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons…” ~ THE FALL OF FREDDIE THE LEAF by Leo Buscaglia

We are solidly settling into fall here in New York and that is not a bad thing. Fall and Spring have always been my favorite seasons in New England the change and the slow feeling of relief and gratitude for more temperate days and nights and the visible transformation of color in all of nature. The sentiments of this time of year feel so fittingly captured in this quote from the children’s book THE FALL OF FREDDIE THE LEAF.


And just as the sentiments of fall are captured in this quote they are also captured in this salad. This is a salad filled with color, subtle spice, crisp crunch just like the autumn leaves on the ground. The purple, red, orange, and green salad is dressed in a delicious and enticing nut (either almond or peanut) dressing, and an exotic touch from the spices and the toasted cashews. It holds up well to travel and it makes both my appetite and my taste buds happy, added bonus is all of the healthy ingredients. This salad is about colors, its about seasons, and its about enjoying what we have in front of us.


Fresh Thai Salad with Cayenne Cashews From Goop

Ingredients for the cayenne cashews:

1/3 cup cashews

1 teaspoon coconut oil

¼ teaspoon salt

⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ingredients for the dressing:

1 tablespoon almond butter or peanut butter

Juice + zest of 1 lime

Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

2 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 clove garlic grated

4 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon honey

Ingredients for the salad:

2 carrots, washed and julienned or finely chopped

1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed, and finely chopped

1 cup purple cabbage, finely chopped

1 cup cilantro, washed and chopped

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, lightly toast the cashews, tossing constantly, until fragrant and golden brown. Toss with cayenne, coconut oil, and salt; set aside.
  • Pulse together all dressing ingredients until smooth.
  • Pour over vegetables and cilantro, tossing until well coated. Top with cayenne cashews.



10 2016

Montego Bay Bars


The other weekend the weather turned from summer to fall and I wanted to bake something but didn’t know what I wanted to bake. I didn’t want cookies, it wasn’t a cake I had in mind, I wanted something slightly fruity but also a bit of chocolate. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on baking and I didn’t want a lot of ingredients.

I looked through old recipes I had filed away and at blogs, but what I was looking for eluded me. That brought me to the tried and true 1976 Betty Crocker cookbook that always lived on the thick wood book shelves in my mother’s kitchen and now lives on a narrow wood bookshelf in my hall. Before the internet or as my mom called it “Mr Google” there was the Betty Crocker cookbook. It could teach you how to make rice, roast a chicken, or decorate a cake, all in one book everything was there in the yellowing pages that are starting to separate from the spine of the book. I leafed through and fell on Montego Bay Bars…and just like that I knew. This was what I had been looking for!


I had never made these growing up, there is no emotional story to connect to, I had first heard of these bars at a favorite Brooklyn bakery but had never felt more then a curiosity towards them. But as I read they seemed perfect – the centers were chocolate and slightly jammy from dates, the crumb was easy and I had most of the ingredients on hand, and they were fast and uncomplicated. I made them and felt jubilant at finding exactly what it had been I was looking for.

Indeed these bars were so good I gushed about them to Anne who shortly there after made them herself. The recipe has been altered slightly, Anne thought we needed more butter to hold them together and she was correct, and I wanted to try toasting the nuts. You could use any nut but to echo the exotic feel of the name Montego Bay Bars and the way it makes me invasion white sand beaches and swaying palm trees I choose a combination of macadamia nuts and almonds. For all of my flare for the dramatic I am not exaggerating (or I might be) when I say these bars might just change your life. They might make you want to make them again and again, they might be the perfect answer to the elusive what shall I bake conundrum, or they might just make your taste buds happy and sometimes that is enough in life. 


Montego Bay Bars


1 1/2 cups cut-up dates

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 cups water

1 1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate (60-70% dark)

1/2 cup butter softened (1 stick)

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I liked almonds and macadamia to make it fancy but walnut or cashew would also be good)

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches. 
  • Cook dates, granulated sugar, water, and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Cool.
  • Meanwhile cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in remaining ingredients. 
  • Press half the mixture evenly into bottom of pan. Spread with date mixture; top with remaining crumble mixture, pressing lightly. 
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool; cut into bars.



10 2016

Pistachio Rose Cake


This summer I found a new food blog I just loved, its called The Little Library Cafe and all of the recipes on the blog are inspired by books that the author has read, how dreamy does that sound. There is Sole with White Sauce for A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN, Pink Grapefruit Marmalade for A BEAR CALLED PADDINGTON, and Sesame Balls for THE JOY LUCK CLUB, the list and the inspiration could go on and on and indeed does. I loved the marriage of two of the most important things in my life – books and food. 


While all of the recipes look delicious and so inviting I found it hard where I wanted to start but I started with a Pistachio and Rose Cake for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. The cake is light and stunningly scented of rose, citrus, and pistachio (I would wear this scent as perfume if it were an option). Its filled with bright flavors that whisper love with every bite. Love like Shakespeare wrote about, love of words, love of sugar and butter, love of reading, and love of baking. What could be better?! This cake!!


I have made some slight adjustments to the recipe from the blog and converted from metric. The second time I baked this cake I reduced the amount of sugar and butter to the below amounts, as I found the first one to have more then I wanted. When I started baking with rose water last year I never imagined I would enjoy it as an ingredient as much as I do, but I have found myself baking more cakes and cookies that call for the intensely scented water and loving the subtly and stunning way it elevates a recipe. 


Pistachio Rose Cake

Seves 10



1 stick of butter

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup shelled and peeled pistachio 

1/2 cup raw almonds

1 orange

1 tsp rose water

1/2 cup spelt four


3/4 cup powder sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice

  • Preheat the oven to 350° and grease and line the bottom of a cake tin (or I use a springform pan) with parchment paper.
  • Pulse the pistachios and the almonds in a food processor until they are fine texture. Set aside.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Beat the eggs in 1 at a time. Fold in the nut mixture. 
  • Grate the orange zest into the batter, and then juice the orange and add it along with the rose water. Finally, fold in the flour.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 50 minutes or until a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. If the cake is browning too quickly cover it with tin foil for the last 10 minutes. Cool cake.
  • While the cake is cooling make the icing. Mix the lemon juice and powered sugar until it is smooth and consistent consistency. Once cake is cool, run knife along the edges to loosen the cake (I found the cake to stick ever so slightly and needed this help in getting out of the pan). Pour or spoon icing over the cake and decorate with rose petals and chopped pistachios as desired. 



09 2016

Basil Walnut Pesto

IMG_9979I went and saw the film CAPTAIN FANTASTIC yesterday and felt so many feelings, it brought back so much of my childhood, and it made me appreciate both the struggle and the great joy my unusual childhood was. Growing up in the counterculture was one of the greatest blessings and also remains one of the greatest conundrums for me – where exactly do I fit in in this world, which life and world do I belong to, and in so many cases how can I belong to both and do both justice.

To say the least I loved the film (thank you Anne yet again for sharing this life with me, being on this path as strange as it is, and knowing when to tell me to see a great movie!) I laughed at so much that I could identify with both in ways that made me happy and ways that made me slightly cringe. Like the scene where the family “frees food from the supermarket”; sadly my mother’s vision of free food moved past the soup kitchen she ran and for the better part of the first 3 years of my life she taught me to “free candy” (read steal) from the Cala Foods on 23rd and Van Ness. Those days passed but the stories stayed and mortified me into my 20s and very probably until yesterday when I saw the scene play out in a movie theater.


My mother taught me to live close to this earth and to tread lightly. To travel but leave as small a footprint as possible. To find the most uses for all items, to compost when possible, and to use as much of an ingredient and waste as little as one could. Let’s just say we are excellent left over people in my family! So what to do with the extra basil all summer, one thing always and its one of the things that was ubiquitous to my childhood pesto. Growing up in the 1980s in San Francisco I ate my share of pesto (some of my family might have lived primarily on pesto). Its beautiful and green and it makes sure to not waste any of the basil that might have been used sparingly in another recipe like Panzanella. Then just freeze it for another day! Waste not want not! “Take what we need but not more then necessary and remember to be grateful.” Words I still hear my mother say to this day.


The movie moved me to tears and made me realize for however much grumblings I might do about my childhood how lucky I was to be surrounded by such extraordinary love, boundless creative expressions, value on curiosity and acceptance, deep appreciation for nature, wonderful people, and such great food!

This is the simplest pesto recipe and at times I make smaller batches based on how much basil I have left. I use whatever nut (walnut, pine nut, pistachio, or almond) I might have in my house. This pesto is always frozen in my house and then used at later dates; one of my college roommates taught me to freeze pesto in an ice cube tray with each cube a perfect one serving portion. Once frozen I place the cubes in an airtight bag and take out however many is needed when I want pesto.


Basil Walnut Pesto


2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons walnut (or pine nut, pistachio, or almond)

2 garlic cloves chopped


1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Romano)

This makes 5-6 servings of pesto

  • Briefly soak and wash basil leaves in cold water and gently pat it thoroughly dry.
  • Put the basil, olive oil, nuts, chopped garlic, and pinch of salt into blender or food processor. Process to a uniform, creamy consistency.
  • Transfer to a bowl and mix in the grated cheese by hand. When everything is well combined freeze for later use or spoon over hot pasta or onto crusty bread and enjoy!





08 2016

Melissa Clark’s Panzanella With Mozzarella And Herbs


Oh summer how I love your long sunlit days, your lazy afternoons reading in the shade of big trees, your warm (oh who I am I kidding, at times downright hot and humid) nights. Then there is the way summer you fill the fresh markets with the jewels of the season – your bounty of berries, your cornucopia of corn, and your towers of tomatoes. As Pablo Neruda said in his poem Ode To Tomatoes:

The street/ filled with tomatoes,/ midday/ summer,/ light is/ halved/ like/ a/ tomato,/ its juice/ runs/ through the streets…”


To say the least I have been eating my fare share of tomatoes and corn this summer; in fact with berries, yogurt, and cheese that very well may have been my complete diet this week. I never was good at moderation and when fresh food is at its best I can’t help myself all the more.

One of the finest things I did with these tomatoes, besides eating one just like you would an apple, was this Panzanella. My sister had never had Panzanella until we attended a good friend’s wedding last summer, we could say it blew her mind what she had been missing simple yet perfect – fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and stale chunks of bread all mixed together and slathered in a vinegary dressing. Need I say more?! If there were any more convincing necessary I would return to the end of Pablo Neruda’s poem “…no pit/ no husk,/ no leaves or thorns,/ the tomato offers/ its gift/ of fiery color/ and cool completeness.”


This recipe comes from the New York Times Melissa Clark’s Panzanella With Mozzarella And Herbs and if you are going to be like me and eat close to your weight in tomatoes this summer this recipe is a must!

Summer I appreciate and love you this year more than most! It’s been good to bask in your glory and feel complete gratitude for what you bring.


Melissa Clark’s Panzanella With Mozzarella And Herbs


4 ounces ciabatta or baguette, preferably stale, cut into cubes (approx. 3 cups)

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste

¾ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste

2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of varieties and colors

6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces

½ cup thinly sliced red onion, about half a small onion

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, more to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or thyme (or a combination)

Large pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Black pepper, to taste

½ cup torn basil leaves

1 tablespoon capers drained

  • Heat oven to 425° Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Bake until they are dried out and pale golden brown at the edges, about 7-15 min. Let cool on a wire rack.
  • Cut tomatoes into bite size pieces and transfer to a large bowl. Add mozzarella, onions, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, oregano or thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes if you are using them. Toss to coat and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of vinegar, the mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and some black pepper to taste. While whisking constantly slowly drizzle in the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil until the mixture is thickened. At this point I add capers and break them up in the dressing using the back of a spoon. Add the basil to the finished dressing.
  • Add bread cubes and dressing to the tomatoes and mix well. Let sit for at least 30 min and up to 4 hours (although leftovers the next day are also good). Toss with a little more olive oil, vinegar, and salt to taste before serving. Enjoy!



08 2016

Overnight Cold Oats


July has sped by in a blur – out of town guests, gatherings with friends, with family, birthdays, reunions, lakes, pools, fireworks, and still moments watching late sunsets. The days of this month have been full and most certainly filled with the people I love and a lot of fresh seasonal summer eating.

Here’s a quick post with a quick summer breakfast (in fact possibly the fastest summer breakfast I can imagine). I have told just about everyone I have seen this summer how much I am loving this quick, overnight, cold oatmeal. Inspired by a recipe in It’s All Easy these oats are a base but can be adapted in all different ways (2 variations are below).


I have always loved muesli and this recipe is reminiscent of everything that I love about muesli – healthy, tasty, filling but not heavy. The recipe takes 5 min to prepare and I make 2 servings and store in individual jars for 2 mornings. I tried making a larger recipe but found more then 30 hours and they were too soft for my liking. I serve with fresh berries, peach, banana, apple, or any fruit I find in the farmers market. I love the long summer days, the sun and the way my weary tanned body feels at the end of a day outdoors. This overnight cold oats feels like everything I love about the summer in a mouthful – fresh, easy, restorative, full of life and simple joys of long warm days.

I hope you enjoy and that your summer is filled with sunshine, good company, and delicious moments.




Quick Overnight Cold Oats

Orange Coconut Variation – adapted from It’s All Easy

1/2 cup quick cooking oats 

1/2 milk of your choice (soy, almond, dairy whatever you like)

3 tablespoons vanilla or maple yogurt

2 tablespoons coconut flakes

1 teaspoon orange zest

Juice of orange

  • Combine all of the ingredients and mix in a bowl. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. 
  • Stir before serving and add fruit of your desire and nuts if desired. Enjoy.


Cardamom Cinnamon Variation

1/2 cup quick cooking oats 

1/2 milk of your choice (soy, almond, dairy whatever you like)

3 tablespoons vanilla or maple yogurt

Pinch of Cinnamon and Cardamom

  • Combine all of the ingredients and mix in a bowl. Stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days. 
  • Stir before serving and add fruit of your desire and nuts if desired. Enjoy.




08 2016