Ciao'd while nibbling peppermint bark. 

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Happy Holidaze! My fingers ache from online shopping. My feet relentlessly remind me (at 3 AM) of time spent cooking and baking. My derrière seems to expand every day, no thanks to cocktailing and celebrating at various holiday soirées. It's time for a rejuvenating, healthy bowl of soup. And this one's a winner. 

Farro Soup with Beans, Broccoli, and Chicken Sausage is just the foundational recipe. You can add other vegetables (cubed potatoes, green beans, and peas come to mind). If you are of the vegetarian persuasion (shout out to Glo and Randee), you can take that route. Simply omit the sausage and use water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. Go for broke and add tubetti pasta for a farro-y take on pasta e fagioli. 

I'm giving a dinner party this weekend. Rather than serving an over-the-top menu, I'm thinking of offering this soup with warm crusty bread and a salad. For real. Cozy vibes all around! 

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Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, complement the earthy flavor of farro. Sure you can use canned beans (use 2 cups if you opt for this route) but the texture of the cooked dried beans is so much more substantial. You can also opt to make this a vegetarian soup. Simply omit the sausage and use water or vegetable stock rather than chicken stock. This is a hearty, satisfying soup that tastes even better on the second or third day. It freezes well, too.

Serves 6 to 8

1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces fully cooked chicken or turkey sausages, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup farro
One 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
8 cups chicken stock or water, more as necessary
2 cups broccoli florets
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Place the beans in a large, heavy pot. Cover with water about 2 inches above the beans. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Let the beans soak in the water for 1 hour and then drain.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onion, celery, and carrots to the pot along with a ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, scraping up any brown bits of sausage from the bottom of the pan, until the onion has softened and turned translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the farro, beans, tomatoes, sausage, and stock. Bring to a boil, and then decrease the heat and simmer until the farro and beans are tender, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Add the broccoli florets and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and stir to combine.

Serve the soup and pass the Parmesan at the table.

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Ciao'd with the AC on full blast.


Two classic summer flavors, zucchini and tomato, pair together in this light, vibrant, quick-cooking sauce. Marcella Hazan suggests, "The taste comes through even more explicitly if you can obtain vine-ripened, fresh, firm tomatoes." And she shares another secret: "An important component of the light, bright flavor is the way the garlic is handled. It is sliced very thin and aside from a brief, preliminary contact with hot oil, it is simmered in the juices of the tomato so that what emerges of its aroma is the sweetness rather than the pungency."  While Marcella calls for scooping away the tomato seeds, I left most of them intact as I like the flavor the seeds impart.

Suggested pasta: Spaghetti or spaghettini

Enough sauce for 1 pound of pasta,
making 4 large or 6 small servings

4 to 6 medium zucchini, about 1 pound, trimmed
3 to 4 garlic cloves (enough to yield 2 tablespoons sliced garlic), peeled and sliced very, very thin
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fresh ripe, firm tomatoes (about 4 whole), peeled and seeds scooped away*, chopped rather coarse OR drained canned Italian plum tomatoes, chopped rather coarse
Freshly ground black pepper
A dozen basil leaves, cut into thin shreds

Cut the zucchini into fine julienne strips.

Put the garlic and olive oil in a skillet, turn on the heat to medium, and cook, stirring two or three times, just until the garlic becomes colored a very pale blond.

Add the chopped tomatoes, turn the heat up to high, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or slightly longer if the tomato is watery.

Add the zucchini, salt, black pepper, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning the ingredients over from time to time. The zucchini should be quite firm - al dente - but not raw. 

Cook and drain the pasta and toss it immediately and thoroughly with the sauce, mixing into it the basil shreds. Serve promptly. Marcella Cucina, Marcella Hazan, Harper Collins, 1997.

*How to peel and seed a tomato: Core the tomato. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomato into the boiling water (you can add several tomatoes at a time). Remove the tomato when the skin begins to peel, 15 to 30 seconds, and put in a blow of ice water to cool. The skin will slip off easily. Cut the tomato in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds. 


Ciao'd with an Arnold Palmer and a splash of pineapple juice.

The yellow dots spike the darkness behind my eyelids. Like white-hot meteors, they come crashing through my brain. This is my migraine. I'm ten years old.  

The hand gently patting my back, one-two-three, one-two-three, keeps rhythm with the words that seep through the pounding ether. “This will pass.” “You’ll be fine.” “That’s my girl.” One-two-three, one-two-three. 

When I float back to childhood, this memory rises to greet me. A migraine, pulsing darkness, light, distress, and fear allayed with comfort, assurance, and calm.  

It was my dad’s hand that patted my back. It was my dad who accompanied me to the eye doctor and when the doctor admonished, “She could have been hit by a truck,” he replied, "Not a car?”

In fifth grade, I was on my way to the corner to meet my friend, Laura, for our walk to school. Halfway there, taunts crackled from behind a cluster of dogwood trees, “Donut! There goes sugar donut, cinnamon donut, chocolate donut.” It’s a weird skill kids possess, the ability to siphon a sassy name from a given one. Donata = donut.

I wish I could say I slayed the beast, threw a rock or yelled back at least, but instead, I ran home. My dad was in the driveway about to depart for his office. I blubbered about donuts and having a stupid name. My dad put his hands on my shoulders and asked, “Do you know the meaning of the word individual? It means that you have unique characteristics that set you a part from others in a good and special way. You’re not Sue, Jane or Linda; you're Donata." And then he said, "Own it, girl." LOL, not. So, losers behind the dogwood trees, put that in your bologna sandwich and bite it.

The migraine memory is true, and it's a metaphor, too. The migraine is a child's pain in all its manifestations. The back-pat is a parent’s salve.

My dad lived in a house with five females, my mom, and four daughters. I ask you, people, especially those long-suffering souls who know the havoc that daughters can wreak, how did he do it? How did he remain sane and in fact, sanguine about the whole thing? My dad was the nurturer. He kept us safe and dried our tears. He lifted us when we were blue and took the wind out of our sails when we bragged. He listened to God knows how many laments about mean girls and inattentive boyfriends and, if that weren’t enough, he listened while Carly Simon (“You’re So Vain”) or the Bee Gees (“How Deep Is Your Love”) sang in the background. And so it went throughout our lives.  Dad nurtured, we thrived.

I’m not a nurturer, at least not to the degree that my father was. I feel sad that I can’t return his depth of comfort, assurance, and calm as he slips along the shoals of Alzheimer’s. He won’t know it’s Father’s Day. His mind has been left to languish in twilight.  Still, I like to believe a scrap of my memories or some like them embrace his heart. After all, isn’t the heart where memories reside?

Happy Father’s Day, dad. I love you.


Pepata di Cozze

The Pugliese (denizens of the Puglia region of Italy) are greatly fond of mussels so it makes sense that my dad holds them in high esteem, too. In this rendition, an abundance of black pepper (the pepata) lifts the briny creaminess of the mussels. Serve the mussels as a first or a main course, accompanied with toasted country bread that has been rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. 

Serves 4 to 6

2 to 3 pounds mussels, scrubbed
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine or water
Finely chopped parsley (optional)
Lemon wedges (optional)

Place the mussels in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Grind over them the black pepper, add the wine or water, and cover with a lid. Let the mussels steam, shaking the pot from time to time. Cook until all the mussels have opened,
6 to 8 minutes. Discard those that have not opened. 

Serve from the pot or transfer with the broth to individual bowls. Sprinkle the mussels with the chopped parsley, if using. If you wish, serve the mussels with lemon wedges, though this is not necessary. 


Ciao'd as Rafael Nadal won his 10th French Open. Allé CHAMP10N!

Aglio e olio, garlic and oil, is an Italian mother sauce that forms the foundation for a host of other sauces, many of which include vegetables. Marcella Hazan's rendition highlights the vegetable of the moment, cauliflower. Paired with anchovies that imbue the sauce with depth of flavor, fruity green olive oil and parsley for herbaceous freshness, and a lilting dash of red pepper, this sauce proves that simple ingredients can sing. 

Serve 4 to 6

One 1 1/2-pound head cauliflower
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
6 flat anchovy fillets, chopped or 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-pound package penne or other macaroni
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Strip the cauliflower of all its leaves except for a few of the very tender inner ones. Rinse it in cold water, and cut it in two.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, then put in the cauliflower. Cook until tender, but compact - about 25 to 30 minutes. Test it with a fork to know when it is done. Drain and set aside.  

 Put the oil, garlic, and chopped anchovies or anchovy paste into a medium-size sauté pan. Turn on the heat to medium, and sauté until the garlic becomes colored a golden brown. Stir from time to time with a wooden spoon, mashing the anchovies with it. 

Put in the boiled cauliflower, and break it up quickly with a fork, crumbling it into pieces no bigger than a peanut. Turn it thoroughly in the oil, mashing part of it to a pulp.

Add the red pepper and a liberal amount of salt. Turn up the heat, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring frequently. Then turn off the heat.

Bring 4 to 5 quarts water to a boil, add a liberal amount of salt, and as soon as the water returns to a boil, put in the pasta. When cooked al dente, tender but firm to the bite, drain it well and transfer it to a warm serving bowl. 

Ver briefly reheat the cauliflower, and pour all the contents of the pan over the pasta. Toss thoroughly. Add the chopped parsley. Toss again, and serve at once. Recipe from More Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, Knopf, 1978.

NOTE: This type of sauce is meant to be served without grated cheese, and that is how Marcella preferred it. But as Marcella said, "One may do as one pleases, and choose to have either pecorino or Parmesan cheese, depending upon whether one wants the sauce more or less sharp."


Ciao'd while watching the National Spelling Bee. It's all the buzz. 

It's the grilling season. For many, this momentous shift in the calendar means that the man of the house will submit himself to the task that we women carry all year. Carry is the operative word here. We carry the task in the kitchen, he carries the torch at the grill. Fire allusions aside, this hand-off means that said man can drop his winter coat and adorn himself with the mantle of caveman, instead. Whatever.           I'm pretty sure cavewomen were manning the fire, too. And I know for sure that globally, women (wo)man the grills. But we're 'mercans and in the blessed US of A, women cook and men grill. So, why not humor him so we can out-source the main course? 

I do not belong to the church of women in the kitchen while men be beer drinkin' but I do believe that imprinting plays a part in the man-at-the-grill thing. Everything harks back to our childhoods, doesn't it? Who did the grilling at your house, I ask? 

The primal appeal of fire and tools (fork, spatula, tongs) attracts men (with beers). Think about it. Have you ever attended a social gathering, grill or not, where men actually interact with women? As women, we're perfectly happy to nibble on brie and sip chardonnay in the kitchen while talking about our latest diets ("But I'm treating myself tonight") and bragging (passively. not.) about our kids ("He's the top lacrosse scorer/math maven/artist"), but the guys? They need entertainment. When it's not big-screen TV football, it's the grill. 

A few years ago, Kingsford Charcoal ran a commercial during which a husband comes upon his wife pouring charcoal into the barbecue. "What do you think you're doing? What would happen if I walked into the kitchen and started making a salad?" he asks. "Yeah, that would be weird," she answers.

So, let 'em have at it. The men can man the grill but we mandate (I know, all these "mans") the food that adorns it. How about something like these Greek-Style Mess 'O Greens Lamb Burgers. The burgers are infused with mint and garlic and then topped with a riff on the classic Greek salad. The salad, a party of arugula, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, red onion, and gorgonzola, brings zing and crunch to the burgers. Serve the burgers on crusty rolls. Then stand back and let the caveman take the bow. Cuz, yeah, we're humble.  



I love this Mediterranean take on the customary beef burger. Lamb takes center stage with a lively complement of herbs - mint, oregano, parsley - and a healthy dash of garlic. Top it off with a riff on the classic Greek salad - arugula, cukes, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and here comes the Italian component - Gorgonzola! - and yeah, perfection. 

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing burgers and buns
4 hamburger or ciabatta buns, split
1 1/2 cups arugula leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 Persian cucumber, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

In a medium bowl, gently mix the lamb, mint, chives, oregano, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Shape into four 1/2-inch thick patties. Using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each patty (this will help the burgers stay flat while cooking rather than swelling into a ball shape). Brush with olive oil.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet begins to smoke, grill the burgers, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Alternatively, prepare a charcoal grill or gas grill for direct grilling over high heat and grill the burgers.

Meanwhile, preheat a broiler. Brush the insides of the buns with olive oil and broil, cut side up, until golden, about 2 minutes. Place a burger on the bottom of each roll. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula, parsley, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, onion, cucumber, and vinegar with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Gently stir in the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the salad on top of each burger. Cover with the bun tops and serve.


Ciao'd while watching the weather report. More rain. For days. 

A few days ago, plagued by a fit of indecision and doubt, I asked a question of the universe, “Let me know if what I am thinking (hoping) is the right way to proceed?” I asked for three signs. 

This morning, gazing out my kitchen window at the birds as I usually do, I saw five woodpeckers perched like soldiers in formation on my fence.  Their garnet heads bobbed and glowed above the squadron of  little mushroom-brown wrens pecking on the lawn.  Woodpeckers are known for their temerity. A sign? And, p.s., in a 5-plus expression?

Later in the morning, a squirrel flew from the Blue Spruce tree to the terrace outside the den. He (she?) hopped from planter to planter, pausing in each one to gaze, dare I say stare, at me. Even my Carolina dog, slung across a club chair to better see out the window, could not growl or bark him away.   Alighting on the last planter, the squirrel flicked his tail and, I swear to God, fixed a “let’s roll” expression on his face and launched himself at the window. Squirrels are light, swift, and agile. And clearly, determined. A sign?

So far today, the third sign has not availed itself. Maybe the moon (or a nightingale, wouldn’t that be nice?) will wake me with a message. Perhaps an owl will hoot a bon mot of wisdom from the top of the tree. Nature has an uncanny way of whispering to us if we are open to listening.  

Please enjoy this simple and satisfying Chicken with Rice and Chickpeas. It’s a one-pot meal that expresses itself honestly and deliciously. Why tackle the complex when you can cook the comforting?



Every culture has a version of chicken with rice, led, I think, by the Spaniards. They, after all, govern the realm of paella. This dish is inspired by that savory history. In Spain, you would not likely come upon chickpeas in this dish while in Italy, you may. I like the nutty flavor and crunch they add. 

Serves 4 to 6 

4 bone-in chicken thighs
4 bone-in drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups canned tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
one 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long-grain rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. In a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally until well browned, about 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Remove. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.

Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the pancetta and onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, smoked paprika, chickpeas, a generous dash each of salt and pepper, and broth, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the rice and arrange the chicken in an even layer. Cook, partially covered, over medium-low heat until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.