Ciao’d with a cup of mulled cider.


Just as a rose smells sweetest before its demise, autumn flaunts its fleeting nature. This season of tailgate picnics (see you soon, CU Buffs!) and leaves crackling underfoot urges us to recognize time’s ephemeral quality and to treasure each moment.

After sending off our son to his freshman year of college with exhortations along the lines of “Best 4 years of your life!” my husband and I returned to a house resounding with silence. Rather than answering the morning (every morning) call, “Hey, mom, I can’t find my Vans/backpack/car keys,” I sit with my cup of coffee and gaze at the garden. The autumn wind rustles through the trees, their branches becoming barer with each passing day. The wind seems to have sucked the energy out of the house, too.

Teenage boys exude distinct energy. It’s all consuming, lurching from pound-my-chest masculine bravado to outright immature silliness. One evening in August, I heard Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl blaring from the speakers in our yard and my son’s friend shouting over it, “Happiest song of the summer!”

Okay, let’s take a step back, shall we? Brown Eyed Girl was written in 1967. We listened to it in college, and it was throwback even then. But some things gloriously transcend time. Brown Eyed Girl is a song about youth, growing up, and okay, it’s about “making love in the green grass,” too. It is a paean to memory. It’s nostalgic. How perfect that the boys would be playing this song on the cusp of their yet-traveled adventures.

I will miss that riotous and richly textured boy energy. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, though. I can already hear their voices trilling in the crisp autumn air. I smell their weed, oh I mean chicken katsu from the Hawaiian take-out place. I feel the pleasant softness of well-worn sweatshirts when we hug, and I see them tossing lacrosse balls (and dice for beer die). I can taste their joy.

In the meantime, speaking of ephemeral, the last of the season’s tomatoes hang heavily on the vine. My friend harvested hers this week and bestowed me with a basket of red, ripe treasures. I’m a bit tired of Caprese salad and gazpacho, so I took an autumn spin and made tomato bread pudding. Layered with cheese and laced with herbs and garlic, it’s just the thing for a warm, cozy dinner.

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Bread pudding is traditionally made from stale bread. If you have it, great. If not, a fresh crusty baguette or country loaf will do just fine. If you’re the traditional sort, toast the fresh bread slices in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

½ pound country bread, sliced about ½-inch thick
3 large, ripe, tomatoes, sliced (about 1 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
3 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 ounces Fontina or Gruyere cheese, grated (about ¾ cup)
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
4 large eggs
2 cups milk (low-fat okay)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil or butter.

Layer half of the bread slices in the baking dish. Top with half the tomato slices. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and half the herbs and garlic. Top with half the cheese. Repeat the layers.

Beat together the eggs and milk. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pour over the bread and tomatoes. Bake until puffed and golden, about 50 to 60 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. Adapted from The New York Times.

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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 with a blueberry muffin and a glass of rosé

After a few weeks back East, I returned home to find a mint melee in the garden. The Greek oregano, while abundant, was no match for the madding crowd of mint. The chives popped above it, their purple flowers bobbing like surrender flags.

What to do? I can make mint pesto for grilled lamb, add the herb to salads and smoothies, create pretty ice cubes, or stir it into ricotta as a topping for crostini with peaches and prosciutto. 

No doubt I will get around to all of these options; however, a trip to the farmers market sparked another idea.  Wouldn’t sweet, crunchy yellow corn and fat, juicy cherry tomatoes make the perfect canvas for a pretty and toothsome salad whose flavor would be lifted by the refreshing mint and perhaps, a salty snap of ricotta salata?  

Proving that there are few new ideas in the cooking world, wouldn’t you know that the great Mark Bittman had already created a recipe for this salad? Prior to seeing MB’s recipe, my musings about the salad popped cherry tomatoes into the mix rather than the medium ones MB suggested and opted for ricotta salata rather than feta.

Mark Bittman’s Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint is super delicious not to mention beautiful in a bright summer kind of way. Your mission to success is finding sweet, ripe corn and juicy, red tomatoes. If you need mint, come on over to my garden and help yourself. I’m afraid I’ll wake up one morning and it will be creeping through my kitchen windows.

Here’s Mark Bittman’s recipe for Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint. Enjoy!


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.