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Torta di Nada

I'm leaving tomorrow for a wonderful week in the Pacific Northwest, one of our favorite places. We've been going out there every summer for three years now and we really love it. Going to Seattle's Pike Place Market is a cook's dream. It's so frustrating, though, when you're just visiting and don't have access to a kitchen. The local fresh fish and the incredible produce are really something to see. Of course, I've already made reservations at a number of restaurants I want us to try. One of these that I'm so looking forward to is the highly acclaimed "Tilth" in Seattle. The restaurant is in a little house and is run by chef Maria Hines, who is totally committed to using organic, regional food.   I always know a place has to be good if they have a "forager" on staff! She is already doing some of her cooking using the "sous vide" method, which I'm anxious to sample.   Charlie Trotter, who is always on the cutting edge in the cooking world, has been cooking with this method for a while now. He estimates that 50% of the ingredients used in his dishes are cooked sous vide. Thomas Keller is coming out in the fall with a book about it called "Under Pressure". He's been using this method for years, also. I will post about it when I come back.

I wanted to post this recipe before I left, though, because Susan over at Food Blogga is hosting the July's Sugar High Friday blogging event, run by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess. The theme is "Berries".

This is based on a classic Tuscan grape cake, which traditionally is made during the grape harvest (duh) when grapes are plentiful. This cake is Jamie Oliver's version in his cookbook "Jamie's Italy", which is really just a fantastic cookbook. He really went all over Italy from the north down to Sicily to research this cookbook. The recipes are great and the photography is wonderful. He substitutes blueberries in this cake for the grapes and I have, too. My local farmer's market will have grapes later in the summer and I can't wait. But until then blueberries will do. I love this cake because it is not overly sweet - it's light and moist and just right.

And if you don't know, Jamie Oliver has a new show on the Food Network called "Jamie at Home". It's much better than the older Naked Chef series, I think. This one takes place basically right in his vegetable garden, where he picks things and then retreats into a garden shed to cook things up on a hot plate. It shows what you can do with great, fresh produce right out of the garden. He'll have a show just on onions, for instance, and show you several different ways to cook them. It's a fresh, simple way to cook.

Torta di Nada



  • butter and wax paper, for preparing the cake pan
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • a good pinch of kosher or sea salt
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 lb. 6 0z. fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line the base with waxed paper and set aside. Beat the eggs and sugar in a mixer for about 3 minutes, until thick and pale yellow, then add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla. Mix well, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the lemon and orange zests and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquid.

Stir about a quarter of your blueberries or grapes into the batter, spoon it into your cake pan and smooth out the top. Place the cake pan in the center of your oven and bake for 15 minutes then remove it from the oven and scatter the remaining blueberries over the top. Gently push them down into the cake then return it to the oven for another 30-40 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm. Put the pan on a rack to cool. After 10 minutes run a knife along the sides of the pan and turn out your cake.


July 4th Dishes

It was a great July 4th weekend here. The weather was picture perfect, my youngest son, Nathan, turned twelve and we decided to have a big party. Parties always make me happy. I had a slightly ambitious menu and ended up cooking about 15 dishes from scratch. I had some help (thanks, Linda and Binder!) because I was going to crash and burn without it. Anyway, there were a couple of dishes which people wanted the recipes for and so I thought I would just go ahead and post them. Since I wasn't making these dishes for the blog, I didn't photograph them with my regular camera that I use for blog photos (my Canon EOS 10D with a Speedlite flash) so I just have some casual shots with my little Canon ELPH that my friend Linda took. I've blown them up the best I could so you could see the dishes.

Also, there is a new item on the blog site. It's the official Italian Dish apron, designed by my oldest son, Barry. Check it out!

And lastly, I wanted to include a photograph of my son's birthday cake. It was just too cute. It was created by a great bakery here in town, A Piece O Cake, and I thought I'd just show it to you. They have a beautiful web site where you can see all their great creations.

Orzo with Roasted Carrots


I use the Asian Orzo blend from Pappardelle's Pasta. It's a blend of lemon ginger, cayenne pepper, sesame, chive and garlic orzos. It's so pretty and looks great with the roasted carrots. The cayenne pepper orzo gives it a zing. If you've never heard of Pappardelle's Pasta, you should go to their web site and check them out.


  • 3 pounds carrots
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound orzo
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 scallions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • Fresh ground pepper


Preheat oven to 400. Cut carrots diagonally into 2 inch pieces. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots and garlic with 2 Tablespoons oil and a big pinch of salt. Roast until carrots are tender and slightly browned, about 20 minutes. Toss them and keep checking so they don't burn. Squeeze garlic from out of skins; mince to form a coarse paste and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; add salt. Stir in orzo and cook until al dente. Drain. While still hot, transfer orzo to a large bowl and toss with 2 Tablespoons oil. Let cool slightly and add roasted carrots.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together lemon zest, juice, scallions and the roasted garlic. Add dill and pour mixture over orzo. Stir and season with salt and pepper. Serve or store, covered, in refrigerator for up to one day, bringing to room temperature before serving.

Italian Potato Salad

I don't use a recipe for this, so I never make it the same way twice. This is a basic recipe for you and you can adjust anything to your liking.  Personally, I like a lot of capers and parsley.


  • 1 quart small red potatoes
  • 2 celery stalks
  • some chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon capers packed in salt, rinsed
  • salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • white wine vinegar
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced into wedges.


Boil the potatoes in their skins and let cool slightly. Cut into fourths.

Chop the celery into thin slices. Add the celery, chopped parsley and capers to the still warm potatoes. Toss. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil over the salad and then splash some vinegar over. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust vinegar and salt to your liking. Place the hard boiled eggs around the salad.


Eggplant Parmesan

I have an Italian cousin, Laura, who lives in Turin. Her son Fabio speaks English really well and we correspond via e-mail. He sent me this recipe from his mother (grazie, Laura!) for the way they fix Eggplant Parmesan. It's what I love about Italian cooking - so perfectly simple and fresh.

Don't forget to salt the eggplant - remember my previous Eggplant Rolatini post? I explained the importance of salting the eggplant, not to get rid of bitterness like some people think, but to collapse the tiny air holes in the eggplant itself. If you like to read about stuff like this - the "whys" of cooking and the science of food, you should really pick up a copy of Harold McGee's must have book, "On Food and Cooking".   Lots of professional chefs refer to this book.  McGee has done an unbelievable amount of research on the science of cooking. It's a great reference book to have.

Eggplant Parmesan 



For the tomato sauce

  • About 35 ounces San Marzano tomatoes (or canned if you can't find fresh)
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • some onion
  • some basil
  • salt
  • some water 
  • 2 eggplants
  • salt
  • canola oil
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese


Wash the tomatoes and squeeze them to eliminate the seeds. Skip this step if using canned tomatoes. Put the tomatoes in a pot, with the oil oil, salt, some minced onions and some basil leaves and 1/3 cup of water (skip the water if using canned tomatoes).

When the onion is well cooked, put the sauce through a food mill.

Slice the eggplants, put the slices in a bowl or colander and salt them generously. After an hour, wash the slices well and fry them using the canola oil.

Layer the slices in a baking pan, cover with the sauce, some basil leaves and the parmesan cheese. Serve cold.

Note: Laura says if you want you can make more layers and add ham and/or mozzarella cheese, baking it for around 20 minutes.