Welcome to my world - a blend of passion, taste, and old-world traditions.

Benvenuti nel mio mondo - un mischio di passione, gusto e vecchie tradizioni.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Blood Oranges, Town Crier and my childhood - Arance Sanguine, Bannitore e la mia fanciullezza

Recently, I was reading a recipe for Margaritas and it called for blood oranges. Now, I have not seen nor eaten a blood orange since I was a child and, of course, this sparked a childhood flashback.

Blood Orange

But what does a town crier or bannitore have to do with blood oranges? I grew up in a small town in Abruzzo, post World War II. You see, in those days, there weren’t any circulars or ads in the local paper advertising sales.

A town crier or bannitore would be the person that, when a vendor would arrive in town, would go street by street communicating the notice to others. Generally, he was equipped with a trumpet or horn which served to draw people, who would then rush to their windows to hear what was being sold at the piazza. “Attenzione, attenzione; รจ arrivato il venditore con le sue belle arance sanguine dalla Sicilia.” Correte tutti in piazza…”. “Attention, Attention, a vendor has arrived with  blood oranges from Sicily.  Run to the piazza.”  The announcement would diffuse in record time because in those days neither radio nor other methods of communicating with others existed.

My mother and I upon hearing the sale announcement rushed to the piazza and purchased blood oranges by the kilos. These blood oranges, stained with red like Lady Macbeth, had an unforgettable sweet and tangy like taste with a hint of raspberry. I was told that the rich soil of Sicily and the Mediterranean temperature variation between day and night seems to be necessary to develop the distinctive red color.

We did not have Margaritas in those days nor did we have desserts on a daily basis.  Blood oranges and other fruits substituted for desserts which we only had on special occasions.  Today, being food conscious and a label reader of many cookies and cakes laden with corn syrup and artificial ingredients, I wish all children would eat oranges or other fruits as a snack or dessert.  In my opinion, they would be healthier.


The rich hue of blood oranges can be an aesthetic wonder when added to fresh fruit mixes and salads or used as a garnish.



Ingredients –

• 2 large navel oranges and 2 blood oranges
• 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced but save a few feathery fennel leaves
• Extra virgin olive oil to taste (about 8 – 10 tablespoons)
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Cut the oranges and fennel bulb
• Arrange orange and fennel slices on a large round plate
• Drizzle with olive oil
• Add salt and black pepper
• Sprinkle with the fine fennel leaves and serve.

Oh yes, the Margaritas


1 quart fresh blood orange juice or fresh orange juice (about 12 blood oranges or 8 large navel oranges)
1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice (about 12 limes)
1 1/2 cups Cointreau or other triple sec
3 1/2 cups silver tequila
Kosher salt
1 blood orange or orange wedge, plus 12 thin blood orange or orange slices
1 dozen small sage sprigs or leaves

1.In a large pitcher, mix the blood orange juice with the lime juice, Cointreau and silver tequila. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.
2.Spread a small mound of salt on a small plate. Moisten the outer rim of 12 martini glasses with the orange wedge, then dip the rims into the salt to lightly coat.
3.Add ice to the pitcher and stir well, then strain into the prepared glasses. Garnish each margarita with a blood orange slice and a sage sprig and serve.

Make Ahead
The margarita recipe can be prepared through Step 1 and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Preserving Garden Herbs - Conservare le Erbe del Giardino

What makes those summer dishes flavorful are the fresh garden herbs. To relish those flavors all year long, I preserve my garden herbs.

All photos - Copyright - ©2011 - La Casa e Il Giardino – picasaweb

We cultivate these culinary herbs: sage, rosemary and mint.  In mid summer, I pick them at their peak and hang to air dry in a warm dry place until they are crunchy to the touch.  I then place each dried herb in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.

How can my leg of lamb or pheasant dish be flavorful without the rosemary?
How can the string beans, pasta maritata and zucchini fritters taste spring-like without mint?


Basilico sott'olio
Basil can be preserved two ways - dry and in oil. I prefer the oil method. 

Remove the basil leaves from the stalks, wash them, dry them with a cloth and leave for a few minutes stretched out to dry. To keep the basil in oil take a glass jar with a wide opening and fill it completely with dry basil leaves, spreading and overlapping them well. Add olive oil, pressing the leaves so that they remain under the thread of the oil. Close the jar and keep in the refrigerator.  Basil kept in oil retains much of its fragrance. Use basil to make savory sauces and on baked fish.

  Celery Leaves

Celery is not just for salads but great to spice up foods.  Celery leaves from our garden are worthwhile leaves with intense flavor that fall somewhere in the scent category between cilantro and parsley.
Like basil, wash the celery leaves, dry them with a towel and leave for a few minutes stretched out to dry. 

Place the dry celery in a zip-lock bag and freeze. 

Celery is excellent with zucchini and potatoes, baccala', chicken soup and a must in bird stuffing.

Buon Appetito!

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Bountiful Harvest from Our Vegetable Garden

We are celebrating this year’s bountiful vegetable crop thanks to a glorious early summer here in the North East.

Pears - Pere

All photos - Copyright - ©2016 - La Casa e Il Giardino

Yes, it required some workseeding, planting, mulching, fertilizing, watering and weeding.


Some plants required special attention - 

Pole beans

Tomatoes on the vine

....keeping an eye on the pests

such as staking up the tomato and bean vines  


........but look at the harvest


Jersey tomatoes

Italian flat beans

In my opinion, eating vegetables that you have grown yourself is an experience everyone should enjoy. They taste so much better than anything you can buy in a grocery store. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

50 Years of Wedded Bliss

Today as both of us look back with happiness and pride upon the 50 cherished years that we've spent side by side.

Where has the time gone!

St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church

So many years later, I remember many details so well.  Such journeys one never forgets.

Our first dance: Love is Many Splendored Thing
Our first honey-moon night at The Plaza Hotel, NY
Flew out the following morning to Rome. 
Our stay at the Villa d'Este, Lake Como.
Back to Casalbordino (Abruzzo) to celebrate with family and friends

Vasto - 1966

If I were to describe our marriage in a nutshell, I would say, it’s practical, unpretentious and precious. It’s not marked by grand displays of affection, the giving of lavish gifts or romantic getaways but one built on solid foundations of shared morals and values.

Over the years, we have had our share of conflict and some of our disagreements have not been pretty but we have managed to understand our differences, accepted and then adjusted to them.
Who said marriage was easy? It's not. Never was, never will be.

Spanish Steps, Rome
Piazza di Spagna, Roma
I stumbled upon this beautiful quote today and couldn’t agree with it more!

“If you want something to last forever, you treat it differently. You shield it and protect it. You never abuse it. You don’t expose it to the elements. You don’t make it common or ordinary. If it ever becomes tarnished, you lovingly polish it until it gleams like new. It becomes special because you have made it so, and it grows more beautiful and precious as time goes by.” F. Burton Howard

St Mark's Square, Venice
Piazza San Marco, Venezia

Monday, March 14, 2016

Sustainable Eating - Means Branching Out

Changing one's eating habits is not easy. You need a diet that you can't "break" - one that's flexible enough to adapt to new changes.

Try a fruit or vegetable that you did not think you liked when it's in season or at its peak. I have seen people converted to foods from zucchini to asparagus just by tasting them freshly picked and simply prepared.

Pasta with Asparagus - Fettuccine con Asparagi

1 lb. thin asparagus
2 cloves of garlic chopped
4 ripe tomatoes or 1 can plum tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil for sauce
1/4 cup of olive oil to saute' asparagus
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. fettuccine pasta

Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces.  Throw away hard ends.
In a pan add 1/4 cup olive oil, add cut asparagus, salt and pepper and saute' for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.
In a medium pot, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and chopped garlic. When garlic is golden, add tomatoes and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, add the asparagus, and simmer few more minutes.  Adjust salt and pepper.
In the meantime, bring water to a boil and cook the pasta and drain. Pour sauce with asparagus over pasta and serve.

Asparagus are not limited to fettuccine.  We also love them with rigatoni.

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Split pea is one of our favorite soups.  Who can resist the smoky flavor of the ham bone?   The flavor of salty pancetta adds a wonderful punch.

For the soup:
1 pound dried green split peas
Ham bone
Pancetta, diced, 1/4 cup
1 small onion, chopped

Leeks, chopped 1/2 cup
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups water

Rinse the dried split peas and place with cold water in a pot to soak overnight.

In a skillet heat pancetta and olive oil.  Add onion, carrots, celery and cook for 10 minutes or until soft.  Add to the peas.

Add ham bone and seasonings.  Cover and bring slowly to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer gently for 2 hours.

Remove the ham bone.  Strain and press the vegetables through sieve and add to liquid.

Remove any meat from ham bone and add to the hot soup.  Stir the soup to incorporate the peas and broth, taste, and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

Add 1/2 cup of milk if desired.

Monday, December 28, 2015


I thought I would post my menu for New Year’s Eve!

I want it to be traditional but yet stylish and refined.

I like to start with an appetizer:

Smoked Salmon Salad

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  •  6 cups baby greens
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
  • 1 tablespoon capers (optional)
Whisk oil and vinegar in small bowl to blend well. Season with salt and pepper.
Place greens in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat lightly. Place greens over a large plate.  Fold smoked salmon slices and arrange over greens . Drizzle more dressing over salmon. Sprinkle salmon with capers. Garnish salad with red onion.

Lentil Soup

Pancetta or Cotechino may be substituted for the ham.

Stuffed breast of Veal - Punta di Vitello farcita


1 1/2 lb. Veal belly or breast
4 eggs
1/2 cup grana padano cheese or alternate
2 cups cooked spinach
1/3 lb. speck or prosciutto
Sprig of rosemary
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper


With the eggs, cheese and some of the black pepper make an omelet and save.

Flatten the veal belly with meat pounder, cover with speck or prosciutto, add the omelet and finish with the chopped spinach.  Roll and tie with butcher's string.

Place the veal roll into a roasting pan.  Add salt and pepper, sprig of rosemary, wine and the rest of the olive oil.  Bake in a 325 degree preheated oven for 2 hours.

I believe I came up with a menu which is both tasteful and easy to make.  What do you think?