cooking at home

Cooking Rustic Italian

Last weekend, my husband, sister, and I had the pleasure of getting to spend a Friday with a lovely client over dinner. This dinner was not your average dinner. It was extraordinary. It was Italian. It was divine. My client had recently returned from Italia where he took some classes to continue to educate himself on rustic Italian cooking.

When we arrived he has the largest chunk of parmigiano reggiano that he had smuggled back into the US for us to sample and a colorful array of other cheeses, charcuterie, and the kicker- not only a loaf of walnut bread he made that morning (seriously…this is true) BUT fabulous flat bread he made as well. He was so sweet and kind answering some of the most ridiculous questions coming from me. I have so much to learn when it comes to cooking and what we loved seeing was how happy he was in his element- not to mention relaxed and having fun! 6659896207_2fef39f0a5

We sipped wine, nibbled yummy appetizers and then the real fun began. Our evening was a cooking dinner party- part education, cooking, and eating. What a way to spend a Friday after a long week! He made the pasta from scratch and was the most patient cook I have ever witnessed…slowly folding the flour “volcano” into the eggs with a fork…ever so slowly. The pasta came out absolutely perfetto! He then taught us to make pesto using pistachios (versus pine nuts that can go rancid quickly) and an incredibly rich carbonara sauce. A short video montage my sister put together from the night.basil-pesto-in-cuisinart-food-processor

The pièce de résistance was his Torta di Mele cake for dessert- once again completely made from scratch. Delicious apples, sliced paper thin, baked in almost a crepe batter until caramelized. The smell of the torta di mele poured through the oven and was so pretty to watch as it baked in the oven. He served it with a local San Francisco based Madagascar vanilla ice cream paired with ice cold limoncello.

With the holidays right around the corner, giving gifts of homemade limoncello is creative and something anyone would appreciate (also the perfect hostess gift!)Imagine your homemade limoncello poured over ice cream or pound cake. Here is a random video I found to see how it is made. Keep your bottles of limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. The ingredients are simple and making a batch doesn’t require much work, but you’ll need some time. In most recipes, limoncello must steep anywhere from 40-60 days or so. So that means get started now!

We played board games, we laughed, and drove home that night in awe and with tummies extremely stuffed. He not only gets tremendous satisfaction out of cooking himself two meals a day using only the freshest ingredients from farmers markets but cooks regularly for friends. If we lived closer, I have a feeling we would be camping out on his porch daily waiting for meals of any kind.

ere is the recipe for the apple cake. It was SO good we are making this for this Thanksgiving:

5 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and sliced paper thin
2 eggs, extra large
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
Powdered sugar for decoration

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and lightly flour two round pizza pans or a 9×13 lasagne pan.

Beat the eggs and sugar together and add the flour, baking powder, milk, butter and vanilla. Mix well. Add the apple slices and pour into the prepared pan. Place the pan on the bottom of the oven for 10 minutes, then place in the center of the oven to cook until golden, about 1 hour. Torta di Mele is a very thin, rich cake that will bake down to about one-half inch. It will cut easier if you let it cool before serving. But you can reheat it in the oven before serving.

Date Night at Home

Summertime is the perfect season for staying in and doing date night at home. Gathering the freshest ingredients, prettiest backyard flowers, using Tuscan party string lights suspended throughout trees and bushes, lighting tons of votives, and opening a gorgeous bottle of champagne creates magic for any couple.

Our featured song is Kool and the Gang Summer Madness. 

Last night, we wanted to stay in and chill at home. Husband cooked a delightful meal of heirloom tomatoes with burrata, chilled spinach fettucine with roasted chicken and sesames, and a vanilla scented whipped creme and fresh berries for dessert. 

Here are simple ways to add sparkle to your backyard:

Restoration Hardware “Party Globe Light String” (I have had ours in the backyard for a few years now. Have a handyman come out to string multiple rows together, using duck tape along the way and nailing on your fence if you have a fence.) Another festive idea is Restoration Hardware’s “Starry String Lights” for a tree.

Wine bottle candelabra- Amazon has a few varieties. Keep a special bottle your honey and you shared from an anniversary and use that bottle for home entertaining. All you need is the candelabra and some tall candlesticks.  Another cool idea is to get a larger wine bottle like a magnum w the candelabra, smaller bottle with candles next to it, and a third bottle as a vase. Group all three next to one another.

Fresh garden flowers and flower petals on your dinner table. Romance is created.

The best bubbly you can afford. Champagne is so fun to drink. Make French 75’s if you really want to add a special twist you your evening. I prefer high quality bourbon French 75’s over gin. He will love it! Trust me. Dip the champagne flute rims in a little colored sugar for an extra sweet touch.