Summer's Swan Song

Ciao'd with a tomato sandwich. Mayo mandatory.


Hey, everybody!

It's been awhile - almost a whole summer - since I've posted. How could I take a step back when there is such a bounty of deliciousness to highlight in recipes. But yeah, I took most of the summer off. This doesn't mean I wasn't cooking and eating. And eating. And cooking. And eating more. 

I woke up today with the realization that summer is singing its swan song. Hate to be a downer but ain't it the truth? We only have weeks left to enjoy juicy plums and peaches, mouth-watering tomatoes, sweet corn, and I could go on and on.

So before I take the next few weeks off (I will be grieving my only son having left for college), why not a nod to the tomato, tomahto? 

If you go to the archive (click on it above), you'll find lots of tomato-y recipes. One of my favorites: Italian Gratin with Tomato and Zucchini. This gem is archived under the date August 25, 2016 and carries the title A Cry for Tomato Help (And The Italian Gratin Answer). Let's face it, as we think about back-to-school, it's the tomato and the zucchini that would become the fast friends at carpool. Perfectly matched.

The lead to the recipe is a story about (human) friendship of the girlfriend kind. Where would we be without our sister friends?

Enjoy! See you in September. 


Ciao'd after a day at the races.


Gratinato is the Italian word for gratin, a French dish baked in a shallow pan and topped with something that browns to gratifying crunchiness, such as breadcrumbs or cheese. In this recipe, I used both. Classically, potatoes cook to creamy lusciousness under the topping, but truth be told, any vegetable or pasta (think macaroni and cheese) can play the starring role. In this rendition, I topped zucchini with panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) for an extra dose of crispy and tossed them with fresh (semi-soft) Asiago cheese and a kiss of Parmesan. The gratinato makes a fresh yet earthy side dish for grilled or roasted meats and poultry. I eat it on its own for lunch, too.

Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 pounds medium zucchini (4 to 5), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup thinly sliced green onions (about 5), white and green parts
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup hot whole milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 cup panko
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup grated fresh Asiago cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Grease a 2-quart shallow baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are just translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, 4 to 6 minutes. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the flour. Add the hot milk, basil, and mint and cook until the liquid thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Combine the panko, Asiago, and the remaining Parmesan. Sprinkle on top of the zucchini mixture Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, cut into bits, and bake until bubbly and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. If the topping browns too quickly, cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Remove the a minute or two before taking the dish out of the oven.


Ciao'd after a March Madness weekend. And I do mean mad.

Continuing the asparagus theme from last week (spring is to asparagus what summer is to zucchini), here's a recipe that pairs the subtle flavor of white Swiss chard stems with the more pronounced one of asparagus. It's a brilliant marriage and, of course, Marcella Hazan offered the recipe to us. The vegetables are topped with Parmesan cheese and butter. As Marcella says, "It's a rare vegetable that cannot profit from this classic technique." She is so, so right. 

Serves 4

2 pounds Swiss chard
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 pound asparagus
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Trim the Swiss chard stalks of all leaves. Reserve the leaves for another use. Cut off any discolored portion of the bottom of the stalks but shorten them no further. Wash the stalks in cold water.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with one tablespoon of the salt. Add the stalks and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a plate and pat dry. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Trim the ends of the asparagus, leaving only the moist tender parts of the stalk, about 1 inch or so. Peel the tough green skin from the base of the spear to the end of the stalk. Bring the chard water to a boil once again, add the remaining tablespoon of salt and asparagus spears. Cook until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a plate and pat dry. 

Grease a shallow, medium-sized baking dish with 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Line the bottom with a layer of chard stalks, and then top with a layer of asparagus. Repeat until you have used up all the vegetables. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top, distributing it evenly. Dot with the remaining butter. Place the dish on the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Recipe by Marcella Hazan, Marcella's Italian Kitchen, Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.


Every woman has that friend. The one we regard with wonderment – and gratitude. Three kids, loving husband, business owner (Fashion. Of Course. You can check it out here), football booster club president, great cook (who finds time to cook), thin, gorgeous, funny, thoughtful, always there for her friends. I'm guessing she doesn't wear Spanx. This girl has got it going on. And I love her for it.

So when Lynn, my Italian paisana, texted a culinary “Mayday" along with photos of her copious tomatoes (see image above), I sat up and read it...

Read More