Ciao'd with handfuls of white cheddar popcorn.

Friday is my day to write an essay for the blog but for the last few Fridays, I have found myself at a loss for words. Perhaps it's all the noise reverberating out there and around us. How can I get a word in edgewise? Perhaps it's the time of year, a new season and therefore, a reset for my thoughts. The winter birds are flying away and the spring birds, golden finches among them, are alighting on our feeders. I like to think that the cold weather birds have pecked my negative thoughts to carry with them as they head to points north. As for the spring birds, I hope they bring sunny optimism.

My kitchen has been a respite of late, more than usual. I am a slave to television news and talk radio. Neither is serving me well these days. I need the simple tasks of the kitchen. Chopping and dicing onions and carrots. Stirring and mixing breadcrumbs, basil, and parsley. Washing dishes and wiping counters. These actions draw a baseline of calm. 

When I cook, my brain (and ire) rests and my senses sing. The aroma of fresh garlic and basil. The song of sauteeing onions. The loveliness of glowing lemons in a white bowl. The push of the knead and the pull of shaping pizza dough. The taste, oh, the taste of so many miraculous things! Fresh-picked lettuce, grassy, green artichokes, the first asparagus. And sweet, red, ripe strawberries! 

The earth gives in equal measure. It does not judge if we're flying on the right or on the left. It does not care if we're the 1% or the 99%. It bestows its bounty on any level of cook and invites, "Do what you will with me." And anything we do is just fine.

This week, I planted my garden with warm weather deliciousness, including Swiss chard. This recipe is a harbinger of what's to come. I think you'll enjoy its simple preparation and fresh, uncomplicated flavor. 



Succulent chicken thighs (yes, you can use chicken breasts, if you wish), Swiss chard, and tubetti pasta cook together in one pan (easy cleanup!) for a light and bright springtime meal. If you can't find tubetti (I use De Cecco), substitute orzo or Israeli couscous.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves (or 3 small cloves), finely chopped
1 cup tubetti pasta or other small pasta such as orzo
1 bunch Swiss chard, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine basil and thyme in a small bowl, crumbling between your fingers to release the flavor. Add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with half the spice mixture.

In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Stir in the garlic and pasta and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the Swiss chard, lemon zest, and remaining spice mixture; cook, stirring, until the chard just begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan along with any accumulated juice from the plate. Pour in the broth and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the pasta is al dente (firm to the bite), 10 to 12 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Serve, passing Parmesan at the table. 


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.


Ciao'd while sipping turkey bone broth. Thanksgiving just keeps on giving. 


The heat of the oven concentrates the sweetness of the fresh shrimp and gently chars the broccolini for a fast and light one-pan supper. 

Serves 4

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
32 extra-large shrimp (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and deveined
2 large bunches broccolini, ends trimmed

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a medium bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, basil,
garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.

Spread broccolini in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the remaining oil and toss to coat. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast
10 minutes, turning once, and removing thinner stems as they are done.

Add shrimp to baking sheet, nestling it among the broccolini stems. Roast, turning the shrimp once, until the shrimp are opaque and the broccolini is crisp-tender,
to 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges.



Okay, here’s the deal. First, for you 4 PM Fixers out there (and who’s not?), it’s one thing to a have a ready pantry for preparing quick and #dolcevitadelish dinners, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to have cookware that makes cooking those dinners easier. This one-skillet recipe for Secret Ingredient Chicken Thighs with Butternut Squash is one of those dinners. 

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But the best postings are those that stir passion and ire. They make for good reading when you’ve polished off your monthly Vanity Fair. Some even beg the snarky retort á la the VF Mailbag section. I have indulged in the snarky retort once or twice. This was when I learned...

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Ciao'd after the news about Kim K. and the jewels. Celebs they're just like us. Not.



Gremolata is a classic condiment made from three ingredients found in every Italian kitchen: Parsley, garlic, and lemon. It’s also the secret ingredient in the breadcrumbs that top the fish in this recipe, lending brightness to this healthy, simple one-pan supper.

Serves 4

Gremolata Breadcrumbs
1 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Broccoli and Fish
5 cups broccoli florets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
4 fish fillets of any kind of fish, ½- to 1-inch thick
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, and a generous pinch of salt. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss until the breadcrumbs are moist; set aside.

Place the broccoli florets on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Toss gently to coat with the oil.  Roast for 5 minutes.

Brush the fish fillets with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the breadcrumb mixture on top of the fish in an even layer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the fish on it, nestling with the broccoli. Return to the oven and roast until the fish is cooked (about 10 minutes per inch of thickness) and the breadcrumbs are browned. (Keep an eye on the broccoli.  Depending upon the thickness of the fish, it may be ready beforehand.)

Divide the fish and broccoli among four plates. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the broccoli. Serve with lemon wedges.