Ciao'd while watching the French Open.


Before you play the race card on me, the white whine moniker was coined by Streeter Seidell, author of White Whine: A Study of First World Problems (2013, F+W Media, Inc.). If you take a step back, you have to admit that the title is not only brilliant but true, too.

Lately, I have been hearing a lot of complaining among my crowd about persnickety “problems.” There’s a Hatfield and McCoy battle waging at my tennis club (that alone raises the eyebrow). Non-members are attending tennis clinics. And they are super loud, laughing and calling to each other on a court adjacent to courts occupied by members. Said members are consequently bugged to distraction. Granted the noise is not prescribed tennis etiquette but it begs the question: if the pros at the US Open can play through rowdy crowds, why can’t a 3.0 player just get on with it?

Here’s another first-world whine: Queuing to get on your flight to Hawaii/Mexico/Europe because your miles did not sweep you through to first class.

Oh, and another one: A crying baby on that flight to paradise.

And how about this: Standing behind a person with 16 items in the 12-item market cash-out line.

And this: Candy corn or Peeps not sold all year long.

I can go on:

Your kid not getting into the college dorm he wanted.

And on: A sweat-showering person posing next to you in hot yoga.

And one (or two) more: No WI-FI. Wonky GPS.

Listen, I am guilty of more than one of the whines above. Stuff bugs me, too; however, in light of what transpires beyond the entitled masses, I am trying to maintain perspective.

I’m thinking about stuff like this:

For 1 billion people safe water is scarce. It takes less than 3 seconds for the water to cascade from our faucets (

Around the world, 62 million girls are not in school (

42 million – roughly one in eight Americans – rely on food stamps (CNN Money). These are fellow Americans who make only (or less than) $26, 600 a year for a family of three. Do the math - approximately $555 a week – for EVERYTHING. 

More than 13 million kids in this country go to school hungry (No Kid Hungry).

In a single night in California in 2016, 21.48% of the population experienced homelessness. In New York, 15.7% (National Alliance to End Homelessness).

I could go on with these stats but I think you get my drift.

Am I an activist? Do I have an answer for these real problems? No, but I think I finally became less of an ostrich and more of an eagle. I am well aware of the strife in the world but, until recently, it swirled around me rather than alighted upon me.

When I was overwhelmed, my grandmother told me, “Take one step and your other foot will follow.”  Recognizing that something needs a solution is the first step to making it happen. So I guess this post is the first step.

This recipe for Olive Oil Braised Potatoes with Sage and Bay Leaf pays tribute to another strife. During the mid-19th century, a blight destroyed virtually every potato in Ireland, a staple for the country’s population. About 1 million people perished. Seriously, aren't we so blessed?

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Cooking the potatoes in olive oil elicits their creamy, buttery flavor.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 small bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock + more if needed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, shallot, sage and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. If the potatoes dry out, add a bit more liquid.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley, and serve.

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Ciao'd while watching the Red Carpet hoopla. 

Many years ago, back in the culinary land inhabited by my Italian aunts and grandmothers, "bake" applied to anything cooked in the oven. None of this "roast" and "broil" stuff. Now, "roast" applies to what happens to meat and vegetables in the oven and "bake" is about the more liquid stuff, like cake batter, that solidifies into yummy goodness.  Marcella Hazan was clearly part of my aunts' and grandmothers' squad.

Marcella calls this mix of potatoes, peppers, onions and tomatoes a "cheerful, comforting dish." She also advises that we use a green, fruity olive oil. She doesn't say why but I am guessing that this type of oil graces the vegetables rather than overwhelms them. It surely did when I made it. In fact, the beauty of this dish lies in the intermingling of the vegetables' flavors with their individual textures. 

Serves 6

4 medium boiling (waxy) potatoes, white or red
3 sweet and meaty bell peppers, red, yellow, or green
3 round tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, fresh, firm, and ripe
4 medium yellow onions
1/4 cup fruity olive oil, such as Lucero
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the potatoes into wedges about 1-inch thick. Cut the peppers into lengthwise sections, following their folds. Scrape away and discard all the seeds and the pulpy core to which they are attached. Cut the tomatoes into 6 to 8 wedge-shaped sections. If you are using plum tomatoes, cut them in half, lengthwise. Peel the onions and cut into 4 sections each.

Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat. Put the vegetables into a baking dish in which they will fit comfortably. If they are packed too closely together, they will become soggy. 

Bake, turning every 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. If after 20 minutes you see that the tomatoes have thrown off an excessive amount of liquid, turn the oven to 450 degrees for the remaining cooking time. Do not worry if some of the vegetables become slightly charred at the edges. It is quite all right, and even desirable. 

When done, transfer the vegetables to a warm platter, using a slotted spoon. If there are any bits stuck to the sides or bottom of the baking dish, scrape them loose and add them to the platter. These are choice morsels. Serve at once. Adapted from More Classic Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan, Knopf, 1978.


Ciao'd with hot chocolate and whipped cream.

The secret to stovetop steaks? Dry them well, season generously with salt, and cook in a super-hot pan, preferably cast-iron. Turning the steaks frequently after an initial sear develops the deep brown crust that complements the juicy tenderness of the meat inside. Pesto Mashed Potatoes, enriched with buttery, herbal flavor and a hint of garlic, bring the classic mash side dish to another #dolcevitadelish level. 

Serves 4

2 boneless beef steaks, 1- to 1 ½-inches thick (about 2 pounds total), such as New York strip, rib-eye, or hanger
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing pan
Pesto Mashed Potatoes

Pat steaks dry with paper towels. Generously salt on both sides, and season with pepper. Place on a paper towel-lined plate and bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes.  Pat the steaks dry again. 

Place a large cast-iron or other heavy skillet over high heat. Brush the skillet lightly with olive oil. When the oil begins to smoke, add the steaks and cook without moving them, 1 minute. Flip the steaks and cook 1 minute more. Continue cooking, flipping steaks every 30 seconds. When the steaks are deep brown and crusty on each side, about 4 minutes total, check for doneness.  For medium-rare, the meat should register 120 to 125 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the steak. (Steaks will continue cooking after being removed from the pan.)

Remove steak to a cutting board and tent lightly with foil. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice ½-inch thick on the diagonal or serve whole.