Ciao'd while watching finches at the feeders.


After the excess, the abstinence. Whether you're enduring dry January, swearing off sweets, or embracing Paleo, this is the month that's buttressed by food resolutions (yes, I used BUTTress intentionally). Thankfully, resolving to eat healthfully doesn't mean jettisoning flavor. To wit, this winter salad with Gorgonzola and pears. Its crisp textures and full flavors are at once satisfying and refreshing. Yes, I know the salad includes cheese. Leave it out if you must but you'll miss the lovely creaminess that counterbalances the crunch of the other ingredients. Since you're eating so healthfully EVERY SINGLE DAY, a little bit of Gorgonzola won't harm you. 

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This robust salad is terrific with roast meats and poultry. Store the walnut oil in the refrigerator after it's opened. 

Serves 8 as a side dish

1/2 cup walnuts
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper
3/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
Leaves from 2 small heads romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups)
3 ripe but firm small pears, such as Red Crimson or Bosc, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast until the nuts are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Cool and then coarsely chop the nuts. 

In the bottom of a large salad bowl, stir the red wine vinegar, mustard, a generous dash of salt, and a sprinkle of pepper together. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary. Add the cheese and stir to combine. 

Add the lettuce, pears, and red onion to the bowl. Toss gently to coat the salad with the dressing. Sprinkle with the nuts and serve.

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Ciao'd after (organically) spraying my greens garden because somebody (pointing to you, squirrel) is enjoying the kale and chard a bit too much. 

Gorgonzola and walnuts play beautifully in this classic salad that pairs deliciously with a main course of beef. The salad also serves admirably as a light lunch. In either case, don't forgot the crusty bread. Marcella Hazan's touch manifests itself in the perfectly balanced vinaigrette that dresses the salad. 

Serves 6 to 8

1  to 2 heads butter lettuce, about 1 pound
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnut
2 tablespoons whole fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, shallot, salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Add half the Gorgonzola, and mash it well with a fork. 

Add half the walnuts, all the lettuce, and toss thoroughly. Taste and correct the seasoning. 

Transfer to a bowl. Top with the remaining half of the Gorgonzola, cut into small pieces, and the rest of the chopped walnuts. Garnish with the parsley.  Recipe adapted from More Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan, Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.

*Because the Gorgonzola adds a robust richness, you would do well to use a grassy, green olive oil. I am partial to Lucero Taggiasca olive oil.  It's bold but green (think a bit of spice with artichoke aroma) so it can hold its own with the cheese. Note: this special olive oil does not have broad distribution so chances are you will need to order it online. It's worth the effort for its taste and affordability. 


Ciao'd with a glass of rosé. It's still summer. Please. 

It’s Friday. I am rushing to a photo shoot. Call time 8 am. Friday is also the day our housekeeper saves us from complete slovenliness. Getting up an hour earlier is mandatory to clean the house before the housekeeper arrives to clean the house. Strip the beds, vacuum the dog hair, hide the sex toys, and make my teenage son’s bathroom halfway accessible.

In my son’s bathroom, I check the toilet, hoping there is nothing in it that makes me gag. When I swipe the Lysol-laced paper towel around the rim, my iPhone dives into the toilet, with a splash no less. Thank God the water is clean. I am quick. Scoop out the phone, remove the case and encase the phone in a towel. The screen is live. The text works. The email is functional. No rice needed. I ROCK. Until I don’t.

A few hours later, at the shoot, my phone rings as I’m walking to the next photo location. It’s my husband. I answer. No reply. Ring again. No reply. This goes on for another four rings. He is a champion butt caller. I text, “WTF? Your ass is not that big.”  Unbeknownst to me, he’s 100 yards behind me, yelling for me to slow my walk so he can catch up. (I am freelancing for my husband’s agency in a show of nepotism at its finest.) Everything BUT the phone function is working on my iPhone. This it at once a problem and a blessing. What if the Food Network is ringing to offer me a series (I wish)? What if my mom is calling to report on my dad’s health (I don’t wish)? I need a new phone.

 I love the notion of the new iPhone 7S with its enhanced photography mechanism. I use my phone to take photos for my blog and Instagram (the mother of all balls and chains when you’re trying to get your brand noticed). It would be nice to have a larger phone because, for the life of my fat fingers, it is a challenge to reply to texts and emails without deleting and repeating and correcting the auto correct.

But, still. I have reveled in the quiet for the last few days. No chirping crickets singing a call. No beep when a text arrives. I am nostalgic for the landline days, and even more nostalgic for the days before landline voice mail. The notion of a phone ringing ad infinitum with no voicemail stepping in is quite liberating. “If it’s important, they’ll ring back."

When I was growing up, my sisters and I prayed that the phone would not ring during dinner. If it did, my dad would either let the phone ring while he glared or he’d pick it up and, without listening to who was on the other side, bark, “Have you no manners?” Receiver. Slammed. Down.  

 If my teenage son had dropped his iPhone into the toilet, mayhem would ensue. I know this because I experienced the bedlam when he left his phone in his pants and I literally washed it to death. No phone? No texting? No Snap? Teenage Armageddon.

 That’s when I realized I am ensnared in my son’s technology, too.  I depend upon his text updates, especially when he is out on the weekends or lacrosse practice is running late. I text him when the lardass I am doesn’t want to stop at the market for milk and I guilt him into doing so.

When I was growing up, we didn’t wear seatbelts, we walked to school with the slightest admonition to refrain from talking to strangers, and we did not have smartphones. We –and our parents – did just fine, thank you. Still, I am grateful for the always-on connection that links me to my son and him to me, like an infinite baby blue Princess telephone cord.

While your kids are out and about, send them a text and tell them what’s for dinner: Gorgonzola Mac and Cheese. The dolcevitadelish-ness will lure them home. Dinner served. Phones down.



Served as a main course, this is definitely an indulgence, but what the heck? Add a green salad and you’ve met you’re daily nutritional goals. Served in more restrained proportions, it’s an ideal accompaniment to grilled steak or roast beef. So the macaroni retains its texture and does not turn to mush, boil it until it is just al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven.

Serves 3 to 4 as a main course; 6 as a side dish

½ cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 ounces diced pancetta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, heated
4 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
A few dashes Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound (1 ½ cups) elbow macaroni

Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter 4 small gratin dishes or a shallow 1 ½-quart baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese; reserve.

In a medium skillet over moderate heat, cook the pancetta until crisp and browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate; reserve.

Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the foam has subsided, add the flour and cook, stirring until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the milk and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the Gorgonzola and Tabasco and cook, stirring, until the cheese melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain well and add the pasta to the cheese sauce, tossing to coat. Stir in the pancetta.

Divide the macaroni and cheese between the gratin dishes. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the macaroni. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from my book, Real-Life Entertaining (Clarkson-Potter).