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 with a beer and chili. It's the Super Bowl, y'all.



Marcella Hazan said, "This is so modest and elementary a cake it could almost be called naive." She's right that it's a simple, rustic dessert. It is also soooooo #dolcevitadelish. When I made the recipe, I was skeptical as the ratio of fruit to batter tipped to fruit. Would the cake be sticky and/or soggy? I should not have questioned Marcella's genius. The baked cake delivers layers of sweet pears with a custardy filling in between. It is honest and light. Serve the cake with a dollop of whipped cream and raspberries, if you wish, but it is truly perfection on its own. 

Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1/4 cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs
2 pounds fresh pears, such as Bosc or Comice
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. 

Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter, and sprinkle the bread crumbs on it. Turn the pan upside down, and tap it or shake it lightly to get rid of the loose crumbs. 

Peel the pears. Cut them in half, and scoop out the seeds and core. Cut them into thin slices, no more than 1-inch thick.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract to combine. Add the sugar and salt, and continue beating to mix. Add the flour, mixing it thoroughly with the other ingredients. Add the pears to the bowl, and gently stir to coat with the batter. 

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, leveling it off with the back of a spoon or spatula. Dot the surface with the two tablespoons of butter. 

Bake the cake in the upper level of the oven until it is set in the middle and the top is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan as soon as it is cool and firm. Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan, More Classic Italian Cooking, Knopf, 1978.