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This recipe is adapted, very slightly, from a recipe in Adventures of an Italian Food Lover , by Faith Heller Willinger and is a bit of a cross between bread pudding and a fruit cake. It is a combination of custard, cooked fruit, raisins soaked in a sweet desert wine such as Moscato or perhaps rum and coarse fresh bread crumbs.  This bread pudding is easy to make and has an incredibly delicious, moist and dense texture.

The desert in the book was prepared by Fausto and Franca Maculan and their mother Giuseppina for a luncheon given at their Maculan winery near Venice. The original recipe uses raisins soaked in their Torcolato. The same desert wine is also served with the bread pudding. Torcolato is a very elegant desert wine, but it can be difficult to find in this country and generally sells for about $60 to $80 per bottle. You can find it online from several sources. The recipe below substitutes a Moscato desert wine for the raisins and a sparkling glass, or more, of a Moscato d”Asti to drink.  Both are readily available and generally quite a bit less expensive than the Torcolato.


1 1/2 cups of seedless raisins

1 1/3 cups of Moscato, you can substitute your favorite desert wine or dark rum, such as Meyer’s Rum from Jamaica

2 or 3 firm ripe pears, such as the Bartlett Pear, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

1 large Gala, or Fuji apple, you can substitute your favorite apple for making apple sauce, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups

1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter, plus some additional for buttering the pan

1/2 cup of turbinado or raw sugar, adjust amount according to the sweetness of the fruit and your taste

3 cups of course, fresh bead crumbs from a good quality loaf of artisan bread, or make your own with Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe tear the bread into chunks and pulse in a food processor

4 cups of whole milk

1 teaspoon of a good quality vanilla extract

3 large eggs zest from one medium organic lemon, about 2 teaspoons

sea salt


Soak the raisins in the Moscato, covered for about 12 hours, at room temperature.    Drain and reserve.

Peel, quarter, core and slice the pears and apple. Melt the butter in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Add the sliced pears, apple, and sugar. (If the pears are a bit soft, you can add them after the apple has cook for 5 minutes.) Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. the pan with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. Mash the fruit in.

Then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the the juice is thickened and the fruit resembles a chunky apple sauce, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Transfer the fruit mixture to a dish, taste and add sugar if needed, then allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 400o F.

In a bowl, whisk the milk and vanilla. Then stir in the remaining 2 1/2 cups of bread crumbs and let them soak for at least 15 minutes, up to hour or until the bread is well saturated. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest and a pinch of sea salt. Then stir in the milk with the soaked bread crumbs, fruit purée and raisins.

Line the bottom of a leak-proof 10-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper.. (You can cover the outside bottom and side tightly with aluminum boil to make sure it is leakproof.) Lightly butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs.

Pour the filling into the pan and bake in the middle of the oven until the top is golden and the center is evenly set., generally about 35 to 45 minutes. In some ovens, however, it has taken me closer to 60 minutes.

Cool completely in the pan placed on a wire rack, for about 1 to 2 hours. Then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will allow the flavors to develop.

To serve, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and release the sides. Transfer to a serving plate and slice. Serve with whipped cream or powdered sugar and a sparkling glass of Moscato d'Asti.

Black Bean Burgers

 black bean burgers

black bean burgers


Black Bean Burgers

2 (15 oz) cans of organic black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed, no salt added and packed in a BPA free can, such as Eden Black Beans or your favorite black beans

1 cup farro perlato, cooked according to package directions, you can substitute cooked semi-pearled or whole farro or brown rice and adjust time accordingly

1/4 cup white miso paste, you can substitute 1/4 cup fermented black beans, (both are strong flavors, so adjust to your taste)

3 eggs, lightly beaten 

1/2 cup of all purpose flour 

1 medium yellow onion, minced 

4 cloves of garlic, minced, or to taste 

1 fresh red chili pepper, or jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced, you can substitute a pinch of dry

red chili flakes 

1/4 cup tahini

2 tbsp Tamari, you can substitute your favorite soy sauce 

2 tbsp Dijon mustard, or your favorite mustard 

2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped 

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin 

1 tsp ground coriander pinch of cayenne, or to taste 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

extra-virgin olive oil


Your choice of tomatoes, sliced onions, cheese (American, cheddar, Monterey Jack, or any good melting cheese), lettuce, sprouts, guacamole, ketchup, mustard, sriracha aioli from Stonewall Kitchen, or whatever you prefer.

Serve on a toasted onion roll, english muffin, brioche or hamburger bun.


Preheat oven to 350o F.

First, partially dehydrating the beans will improve the texture of the beans and help avoid a soft or mushy burger. To do this, spread the rinsed and drained black beans in a single layer on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Using your hands, dry the beans. Transfer the black beans to a large bowl.    Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and toss the beans to coat with the oil. Remove the paper towel and line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the beans in a single layer on the baking sheet and place the sheet in the middle position of the oven. If you need two baking sheets for the beans, place the other sheet on the top rack of the oven. Roast, shaking occasionally, until the beans get crunchy and start to split open, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Add about 1 tbsp of olive oil to a hot sauté pan, over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fresh red chili pepper and cook for about 1 minute more.. Let the mixture cool.

In a bowl, mash the beans with a the back of a fork until fairly smooth, but with some texture. Some of the beans can remain whole. (You can also use a food processor.) Stir in the farro, onion mixture, miso, flour, tahini, Tamari, mustard, parsley, thyme, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Stir in the lightly beaten eggs. At this point you should have a moist mixture . If it is too moist you can add a bit more flour to firm it up.    A bit of water or more egg can also be used to moisten the bean mixture

The black bean mixture can be kept in the refrigerator for several days, or frozen. If you freeze the black bean mixture, it is a good idea to form individual bean burgers, using about 1/3 cup of the mixture for each burger, before freezing them. To freeze place the burgers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and freeze, about 1 hour. Then wrap each individual burger in parchment paper and store in an airtight plastic bag or container.

To cook the bean burgers, heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet or heavy bottom sauté pan over medium heat. If the heat is too high, the outside of the burgers will finish before the middle of the burger is cooked. Place about 1/3 of a cup of the bean mixture into the pan for each bean burger and flatten with a spatula. The burger should be about 1/2” thick. Cook the the burgers on both sides until golden brown and cooked all the way through, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. (If you prefer a thicker bean burger, form the burgers and refrigerate them for 30 minutes. Then lower the heat to medium low and cook about 5 to 7 minutes per side.)

You can add a few drops of Tamari to the top of the bean burgers, for additional flavor, while they are cooking and melt some cheese on top while the second side is cooking.

Serve on a toasted onion roll, english muffin, brioche or hamburger bun and the garnishes of your choice. You could also include some crisp oven fries.

cherry clafoutis

 cherry clafoutis

cherry clafoutis



3 cups cherries, pitted

1 tbsp sugar 

2 tbsp kirsch, or to taste


3/4 cup all purpose flour 

6 eggs

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

4 tbsp of sugar, or to taste 

1 tbsp vanilla extract 

pinch of sea salt 

1 tbsp unsalted butter


Mix the cherries with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of Kirsch. Marinate for several hours to develop the flavors.

Preheat the oven to 425o F. Gently melt 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and brush the inside of a 9” cast-iron skillet or baking dish. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and shake to coat the inside of the skillet or dish.

Add the eggs, 3 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla extract, milk, cream and a pinch of sea salt to a blender. Blend for several seconds to mix the ingredients, then add 3/4 cups of flour and blend until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. You can also prepare the batter in a mixing bowl by whisking the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, milk, cream and salt until combined. Then slowly whisk in the flour until you have a smooth consistency. Add the cherry and kirsch mixture to the batter and stir to incorporate the cherries into the batter.

Pour the batter into the skillet or dish and bake in the preheated oven until a cake tester or thin knife comes out completely clean and the top of the clafoutis is golden brown, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature

crostini with roasted tomato and herb pesto

 crostini with roasted tomato and herb pesto

crostini with roasted tomato and herb pesto


about 20 crostini using a baguette or ciabatta bread

extra-virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds of small ripe tomatoes, such as campari, plum or roma,

halved lengthwise, cored, and seeds removed

2 pounds of burrata, substitute fresh mozzarella or goat cheese

basil and Italian parsley pesto or substitute your favorite pesto or purchased pesto


Preheat the oven to 450o F. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the tomatoes with olive oil and season with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the tomatoes until the skin starts to break and shrivel, but the tomatoes retain their shape, about 25 to 30 minutes, the time will vary with the size of the tomatoes. Remove and serve warm or at room temperature.

The tomatoes can be roasted several hours ahead, cooled completely, then kept covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature. Reheat in a baking dish or pan in a preheated 350o F oven until the tomatoes are heated through, about 10 minutes. Cut the tomatoes to fit on the crostini, if necessary.

To serve, break the burrata into small pieces that will fit on the crostini. Season with a pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Add a some pesto on top of the burrata and top with several pieces of roasted tomatoes. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the tomatoes, perhaps a bit more pesto and serve.


French Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese Dijon Mustard & Fresh Herbs

French Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese Dijon Mustard & Fresh Herbs

This tart is a perfect way to use the new heirloom and other ripe fresh tomatoes that are arriving at the farmer’s market or your favorite store. The recipe is adapted from one by David Lebovitz, who adapted it from Kate Hill. You can find her recipe for Tarte de Tomatoes Matelot in her book A Culinary Journey in Gascony 

It works well as as a starter, cut into thin slices, or perhaps with a salad for lunch, served with a chilled rosé from Provence. The goat cheese, tomatoes, a bit of Dijon mustard and fresh herbs provide an especially good balance of flavors and textures. But you can substitute any type of cheese that melts well. I frequently use Gruyère, Comté, or Fontina. You can replace the the mustard with pesto or add a layer of caramelized onions under the tomatoes. You can also add a slight drizzle of honey over the tomatoes before baking the tart.

The pastry in the tart is a Pâte Brisée Salée or savory short crust and it produces an extremely rich, buttery and flaky crust.



2 or 3 large ripe tomatoes, heirloom if available, sliced, and placed in a colander, with a pinch of salt, for about 15 minutes, to drain

8 oz of fresh goat cheese, sliced into rounds or crumbled

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, tarragon, thyme or chives

Extra-virgin olive oil Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tart Dough

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

4 1/2 ounces chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes or rounds

sea salt

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten 2-3 tablespoons of ice water


Add the flour and a pinch of salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to mix the salt with the flour. Add the cold butter and pulse several times until the mixture is crumbly. You do not want the butter to be fully incorporated into the flour. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water to the egg and then add it to the food processor. Pulse again until the dough just comes together . If it is still dry add the other tablespoon of water and pulse a few times until the dough does hold together. It is important to not overwork the dough.

You can also mix the ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender until they are crumbly and hold together. A good detailed description of both methods, with images, can be found at Recipes from Tom.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form it into a disk. Roll the dough until it is about 1/8” thick and large enough for your tart pan. Place the dough into the pan, trim the edges and dock the bottom of the pastry.

(The dough can rest in the refrigerator in plastic wrap for about an hour or overnight, but it is not necessary. The original recipe calls for placing the tart in the oven without resting and the results have always been outstanding for me. If you do let it rest in the refrigerator, remove the dough about 30 minutes before using.)

Preheat the oven to 425o F.

Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on the bottom of the tart and let it sit for a few minutes to dry. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on top of the mustard. Drizzle some olive oil on the tomatoes, sprinkle some of the fresh herbs and freshly ground black pepper. Then add the goat cheese on top of the tomatoes and sprinkle the balance of the fresh herbs.

Bake the tart for about 15 to 20 minutes. At that point the pastry should be a golden,the tomatoes tender and the cheese lightly caramelized on the edges. If the tart is not quite done, continue baking for another 5 to 10 minutes. You can also finish caramelizing the cheese under the broiler if necessary.

Mouton Gardianne

Braised Lamb Chops with Potatoes, Fennel & Onions

 Mouton Gardianne {Braised Lamb Chops with Potatoes, Fennel & Onions}

Mouton Gardianne {Braised Lamb Chops with Potatoes, Fennel & Onions}


4 large shoulder lamb chops, about 1/2 inch thick, trim any excess fat

4 to 6 boiling potatoes such as Yukon Gold, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick

3 to 6 garlic cloves, depending on your taste, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, sliced 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cleaned and sliced

2 sprigs of fresh thyme and 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and roughly chopped 1 bay leaf

extra virgin olive oil freshly ground black pepper and sea salt 1 cup of white wine

3 to 4 cups of chicken stock, home made or low sodium, you may not need all of the stock

2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter about 1/2 cup of chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley


Preheat the oven to 375oF.

Dry the chops and

season with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat the olive oil in a 12” heavy fry pan or skillet over medium- high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the chops to the pan, in batches if necessary and sear all sides until golden brown. Remove to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the sliced onions and fennel with a pinch of salt. Cook until they start to soften and brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add the sliced garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the white wine, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat.

Then add the about 1/2 of the sliced potatoes to a baking dish. Cover with the 1/2 of the onion and fennel mixture. Add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and a pinch of salt and pepper, to taste. Add the lamb chops and cover with the remaining potatoes, as well as the onion, fennel mixture. Add any lamb juices from the plate, the remaining wine from the onion and fennel and 2 1/2 cups of stock to the baking dish.

Baked uncovered, basting several times, until the meat is fork tender and the potatoes golden brown, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.    Check the lamb and potatoes after 60 minutes and add additional stock if needed.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb, with the potatoes, onions & fennel to a plate and keep warm

in a 200o F oven. Strain the stock into a small pot, remove any excess fat and cook until the stock is reduced to a sauce consistency. Swirl in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the lamb chops with the potatoes, fennel and onions, some of the sauce on top with the chopped parsley and perhaps a Provencal roasted tomato.

Beef & Ale Pie With Mushrooms and Herbs

 Beef & Ale Pie With Mushrooms and Herbs

Beef & Ale Pie With Mushrooms and Herbs

Serves 4 to 6



2 to 2 1/2 pounds of beef, such as chuck roast, or a mixture of chuck roast, bottom round and beef short ribs, excess fat removed and cut into chunks approximately 1 1/2” to 2”

1/4 pound of pancetta cut into cubes, you can substitute bacon

1 12 oz bottle New Castle Brown Ale or ale of your choice

4 cups of beef stock, homemade or low sodium, you may not need all of the stock

3 medium onions, peeled and diced

4 medium carrots, peeled, cleaned and cut into 1” pieces

2 stalks of celery, cleaned and roughly chopped

1 pound of cremini, shiitake or similar mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

stems from a bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

6 stems of fresh thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped

6 stems of fresh sage, leaves removed and finely chopped

2 bay leaves

4 to 6 cloves of garlic, or to taste, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons of tomato paste unsalted butter extra-virgin olive oil sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed

all purpose flour for rolling dough

several sprigs of sage and several sliced mushrooms for decoration

1 large egg beaten with a tbsp of milk or water for egg wash


Season the beef well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, sprinkle with several tbsp of flour and toss until coated.

Heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or casserole over medium heat and fry the meat until it is caramelized on all sides. It is important to avoid crowding the meat, so you will probably need to do this in batches. When there is a dark brown color on all sides, about 10 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and set aside. When all of the meat has been cooked, add a splash of the ale or water to the pan and scrape up all of the brown bits. Add the liquid and brown bits to the meat.

Next add the pancetta to the pan, over medium heat,with a bit more olive oil and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook for about 2 minutes, add the carrots and celery, mix to combine and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for several minutes until they start to give up some liquid and the onions are soft and starting to caramelize. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally Add the sliced garlic, fresh herbs and bay leaves, then stir to combine. Continue to cook for another minute. Slowly add the New Castle Brown Ale, and allow it to reduce a bit before adding the stock, about 5 minutes. Add the beef and enough of the stock to cover the beef. This will help prevent the meat from drying out. Bring the stock to a boil, stir well, then reduce to a simmer. (Add additional stock, if needed as the beef cooks.)

Cover with a lid and continue to cook until the beef is almost tender and the sauce is thickened and flavorful,about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

At this point you can either proceed with the pie or allow it to cool a bit, and refrigerate it overnight. The final flavor will improve if you keep it overnight.

If the stew is too liquid, leave on the stove over medium heat for several minutes with the top off until it thickens up. If you are leaving it overnight, you can do this the next day when you reheat the stew.

Preheat the oven to 400oF.

If you are using sliced mushrooms to decorate the top of the pie, you can lightly sauté them in some butter or olive oil for several minutes until they just start to develop some color. Remove from the pan and let cool.

Next place the beef, mushrooms, vegetables and sauce into your pie dish. (see note below for free standing pie) It is important to fill up the pie dish with the beef and other ingredients to make sure that the pastry lid does not sink in when you put it on.

Flour your work surface and roll out the pastry so it will cover your pie dish. Brush the edge of the pie dish with the beaten egg to help the pastry stick. Place the pastry lid on the dish and press down gently with the back of a fork to seal. Trim the excess pastry of the edge of the dish and brush the top of the pie with the beaten egg and a tablespoon of milk or water. Avoid the edges of the pastry with the egg wash as it may prevent the puff pastry from rising

Cut several small slits in the top of the pie to release the steam. You can also decorate the top with leaves using any excess puff pastry or add sliced mushrooms sautéed for a few minutes in a some butter and a few sprigs of fresh sage or other herbs used in the pie. Chill the pie in the refrigerator until the pastry is firm, about 10 minutes.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the puff pastry is golden brown and puffed all over, about 30 to 40 minutes.

You can also make a raised pie with a double crust using a pie mold such as this one found on Etsy. Molds like this can be difficult to locate and are rather expensive. But you can also use a tart mold, such as in this chicken and mushroom pie inspired by Maggie Beer or a springform mold, or even a loaf pan or a ramekin.

You only need to roll out 2 sheets of puff pastry or short crust pastry and cut 2 circles. The first one should be large enough to line the bottom and sides of the pan and the second slightly larger than the top of the pan. The mold and the top should be refrigerated until the dough is firm, about 10 minutes. The mold should then removed from the refrigerator and filled with the beef and ale mixture. Next place the top on the pie, crimp, seal and proceed as described above.

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