•December 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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We spent a long weekend in Umbria this past weekend, a lovely fall getaway where we could finally see some fall color, the leaves of olive trees don’t change, remaining a silvery green all year long. Umbria is a very special region, with its beautiful medieval hilltop towns and an infrastructure that despite the many earthquakes, has kept everything spit spot. We spent an afternoon in Assisi, making pilgramage to San Francesco’s basilica at the bottom of the hill, and we spent an afternoon in Perugia, famous for its chocolate, but should be more famous for the incredible public transportation of getting from one level of the city to the next, escalators, elevators and mini metros.

We ate porcini mushrooms, truffles and lovely bean stews for the most part, but since we were staying on Lago Trasimeno, we decided that it was a must to try some of the fresh water fish that the region is known for.

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We went to a restaurant called I Bonci in San Feliciano, right on the lake, which looked like nothing from the outside and seems to have a very slow business during the cooler months, but were pleasantly surprised by the wonderful things that they brought us to eat. We started with an antipasto di lago, smoked eel served over ricotta with a drizzle of honey, a crostino with carp roe, a potato and smoked fish gratin, crawfish with green salsa and a frittura of some teenie lake fish. I should have taken better notes, but it was all absolutely delicious. Those crawfish were out of this world, and lucky me, I only had to share a few with my daughter, she was more into popping the little fried guys in her mouth, though we had to pull the tails out because she was going to eat those too.

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I only made it through the first course, leaving no room after all of those crawdads for the second course and had egg tagliolini with a persico ragu which was heavenly and really a ragu in every sense of the word. My husband went for the gnocchi and had room for a seond course with a spiedino of baked persico, apparentlt very good, but I could barely look at it I was so full.


We didn’t have any dessert that evening, but did enjoy looking in all of the chocolate and pastry shops in Assisi and Perugia. I was able to find chocolate letters for Sinterklaas, a Dutch tradition, my Oma used to bring me and my sister chcocolate letters from Holland every year to put in our shoes on December 6th. A tradition I was happy to be able to continue this year for my little girl.

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One Year Ago: White Bean, Fennel and Barley Stew

Two Years Ago: Francavilla Fontana Thanksgiving, Risotto with grated Fennel, Monkfish and Pistachios, Pranzo di Domenica& Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms

Three Years Ago: Fettucine alla Crema di Carciofi, Moroccan Chicken with Apricots, Almonds and Couscous & Mushroom and Fig Risotto

Four Years Ago: Summer Squash Curry, Cappuccino Cheesecake, Sweet Potato, Pumpkin and Apple Puree & Turkey Tetrizzini

Five Years Ago: Phyllo Sweeties, Grilled Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Pomegranate Glaze, Blackbean, Pumpkin and Leek Soup, Focaccia & Linguine con Finocchio e Sarde

Six Years Ago: Mushroom and Celery Salad, Risotto alla Milanese, Ricotta and Spinach Pie, Roasted Cauliflower, Raisins and Anchovy Vinaigrette, La Sicilia I, La Sicilia II, La Sicilia III, Fusilli with Swordfish and Pistachios, Salsicce sulla Pietra Ollare & Sfogliatella

Curried Lentil, Rice and Carrot Burgers

•November 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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I can’t say that veggie burgers have ever really been my thing,  therefore the desire to make them in my own kitchen really never existed. I do love lentils and we are trying, really trying to eat a healthier diet, even though I don’t think we were doing too badly to begin with. Looking for new and interesting ways to make lentils I ran across this recipe for lentil burgers. I figured that I would give it a go.

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The flavors were spot on, but the burgers dried out in the oven. The recipe does mention that, and maybe cooking them on the stovetop would have been a tastier solution, but I was afraid that they would fall apart. For lunch the next day I heated one of the burgers up and smashed it into a tortilla which was delectable. However you decide to cook these beauties there is one essential topping that cannot be looked over, greek yogurt.


Curried Lentil, Rice and Carrot Burgers

from the New York Times

  • 2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
  • cup finely diced onion
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 6 ounces mushrooms, sliced or finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  •   Pinch of cayenne (or to taste)
  •   Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 ½ cups cooked brown lentils, drained
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet and add the onion and carrot. Cook, stirring often, until just about tender, about 3 minutes, and add the mushrooms, ginger, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, mustard seeds and cayenne and a pinch of salt. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender and fragrant and the spices aromatic. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the rice.

Purée the lentils with the egg and add to the vegetable and rice mixture. Stir together, season with salt and pepper, and shape into 6 patties.

Heat the ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and, working in batches if necessary, cook the patties for 2 minutes on one side, or until nicely browned. Carefully turn the patties over and place in the oven. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the patties are lightly browned and don’t fall apart. Remove from the heat and serve, with or without buns, chutney or ketchup and the works. (Greek Yogurt!!!)

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Two Years Ago: Roasted Vegetables with Rosemary and Fennel scented Fish

Three Years Ago: Carolina Gold Risotto with Pumpkin and Oil Cured Black Olives & Pureed White Bean and Winter Squash Soup

Four Years Ago: Risotto with Snapper in a Saffron Broth, Farfalle with Calamari and Yellow Tomatoes & Risotto with Pattypan Squash, Kale and Grilled Sausage

Five Years Ago: Spanakopita, Peanut Butter Brownies & Polpettone

Six Years Ago: Cicoria Saltata in Padella, Lunch in Anzio, Mezze Maniche alla Checca, Squid Ink Risotto with Cuttlefish and Artichokes, Mezze Maniche con i Broccoli Romani, Braised Lentils With Spinach & Fish, Zucchini and Potato Gratin


Polipo alla Pignata

•November 7, 2014 • 1 Comment

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I have made many an ode to octopus and feel as though my time in Puglia has been all about the discovery of this highly intelligent creature and all of the yummy ways to prepare it. It manifests itself in so many different ways on the plate in this region and I am forever delighted to find it on a menu or at my own table.

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Polipo alla pignata is an octopus stew and is a very traditional pugliese preparation of octopus. It is stewed in its own juices with tomatoes, leeks and potatoes, it screams for crusty bread to dunk in the sauce and to clean your plate with. Good hearty meal for blustery November nights.


Polipo alla Pignata

  • 2 large octopus, around 1 kg
  • 5 potatoes, around 1 kg
  • 10 winter tomatoes, or very ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 small leeks
  • parsley
  • pepper or chili peppers
  • half a cup of white wine
  • extra virgin olive oil

Peel the potatoes and put then in a bowl of water for a few minutes, then cut them each into eight pieces. Immerse the tomatoes into boiling water for a minute to make it easier to peel them and then cut them into little pieces. Thinly slice the onions into rings, cut the white part of the leeks and chop with the garlic.

Cut the previously cleaned octopus into medium size pieces. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed stove-top casserole, enough to cover the surface. Add the octopus and cook over medium-low heat for thirty minutes.

Add the potatoes and the white wine, stir in. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover the pot, cook for an additional thirty minutes. Check to see if the octopus is cooked by penetrating it with a fork, it should not be tough.

Serve with crusty bread.


One Year Ago: Tagliatelle con speck, funghi e panna

Two Years Ago: Sweet Potato Biscuits & Pasta, Patate e Provola

Three Years Ago: Seed Crusted Pork Loin & Zucchini and Smoked Salmon Spaghetti

Four Years Ago: Snapper alla Matalotta

Six Years Ago: Fruit Tart with Crema Pasticciera and Shortbread Cookies, Farfalle alla Nerano, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Renella, Pizza, Zucchine alla Scapece, Obama!! & Linguine with Artichokes

Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

•October 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Two weeks have passed since Italicious’s six year anniversary, I am shocked that I missed it, but I have been teaching English to pre-schoolers and it is sucking the life out of me. I’m not sure who’s bright idea it was, nor why I thought I could do it, this lady may have a preschooler, but that doesn’t mean I have the patience for a classroom filled with them. Let’s talk cauliflower though.

I love cauliflower, always have and have always loved it in every manifestation, but until only a couple of years ago, I had never tasted the wonder of browned cauliflower. That is, roasted or pan seared. I never truly understood the complexity of flavor that this pale vegetable could offer, now my love of cauliflower is that much greater.

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I found this recipe on the New York Times and it was perfect to try for a weeknight meal. I made a few adjustments, adding a little cream to moisten the baked pasta, because when I mixed it all up to place in the baking dish it seemed a little dry. It was good, but I have to say that it was even better when I reheated or shall we say, researed the leftovers in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil, letting the pasta get a little crunchy, that is when it really sang to me.


Rigatoni and Cauliflower al Forno

from the New York Times

  • pound rigatoni or other large pasta shape
  • 1 medium cauliflower, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped sage, plus a few sage leaves left whole
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 6 ounces coarsely grated fontina or mozzarella
  • 2 ounces finely grated Romano cheese or other hard pecorino
  • ½ cup coarse dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Cook the rigatoni in well-salted water according to package directions, but drain while still quite al dente. (If directions call for 12 minutes cooking, cook for 10 instead.) Rinse pasta with cool water, then drain again and set aside.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower in half from top to bottom. Cut out tough core and stem any extraneous leaves. Lay cauliflower flat side down and cut crosswise into rough 1/4-inch slices. Break into smaller pieces.

Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves and lemon zest and stir to coat.

Put cooked cauliflower mixture in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked rigatoni and fontina and toss. Transfer mixture to a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with Romano cheese, then with bread crumbs and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. (Dish may be completed to this point up to several hours in advance and kept at room temperature, covered.)

Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is crisp and golden. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley before serving.Put 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add cauliflower slices, along with any crumbly pieces, in one layer. (Work in batches if necessary.) Let cauliflower brown and caramelize for about 2 minutes, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Cook for another 2 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork. It’s fine if some pieces don’t brown evenly. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add capers, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped sage, sage leaves and lemon zest and stir to coat.


One Year Ago: Provençal Orecchiette al Forno, Lentil and Escarole Soup & Turkish Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Pomegranate Relish and Tahini Yogurt

Two Years Ago: Fried Calamari, Alici Indorate e Fritte, Casareccie with grilled zucchini, pancetta and pine nuts, Orata al Cartoccio con i Finocchi Arrostiti & Risotto di Pesce a l’Aroma di Limone

Three Years Ago: Flounder in Saffron-Tomato Sauce, Cold Asparagus Salad with Sesame Seeds, Spaghetti di Ettore & Roasted Figs

Four Years Ago: Luchin, Frittura di Funghi Porcini & Orecchiette

Five Years Ago: Gnocchi with Sausage Fennel Ragù, Lemon Curd Marbled CheesecakePasta e Ceci, Spaghetti with Caramelized Onions, Anchovies and Toasted Bread Crumbs, Kale and Potato Soup, Pumpkin and Kale Risotto, Apple Pancakes & Pasta e Zucca

Six Years Ago: Cuttlefish over Spaghetti with a Tomato – Olive sauce, Pasta e Fagioli, Roasted Ricciola on a bed of Fennel, Pizza for Lunch and Pizza for Dinner, Marco’s in Riviera di Chiaia, Napoli, Fried Sole with Mache and Pear Salad, Babà, Melanzane alla Lina, Orata alla Ligure, Pizza Bianca Farcita & Ziti with a Seafood-Fennel Sauce

Risotto with Calamari and Zucchini Blossoms

•October 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment


We are still seeing zucchini blossoms popping up at the markets, though these days the bounty is starting to run thin. When I found these a few weeks ago I couldn’t resist, they were so beautiful and fresh, though knowing what to do with them is always a problem. Weeknight meals tend to be delicious, but quick, no stuffed flowers or anything fried, but that goes for most nights of the week. I found some lovely calamari at the market the same day and decided that since I had some fish stock in the freezer and our evening temperatures are starting to decline that it was due time for a risotto.

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A wise choice, this was delicious, so delicate and since the flowers were added to the rice at the end of the cooking, they were still a little crunchy. I also added toasted pine nuts, which made the texture of this risotto dynamic, sometimes a tough sell, risotto tends to have a blanket texture, no surprises. I like surprises sometimes, especially when I am experimenting in the kitchen. The dynamicism of the risotto was also enhanced by the quality of the rice that we used, a fancy purchase from Eataly in Genova, and well worth it. The quality of your ingredients always matters.


Risotto with Calamari and Zucchini Blossoms

  • 1 cup of Carnaroli or Arborio rice (Italians measure rice by demitasse cups, 1 cup for each person and one for the pot)
  • ½ an onion, chopped finely
  • 1 lb of fresh calamari, cleaned
  • 8-10 zucchini flowers, stems removed and rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 5 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • salt to taste

Rinse the calamari and cut into strips, separating the tentacles from the body.

Heat 1 tbsp of the butter in a medium pot over medium heat and add the calamari, stir to saute and let the calamari simmer for about 20 minutes or until they have released their juices and have become a little bit more tender, they will continue cooking in the rice.

Chop the onion into fine pieces and bring the broth to a simmer. Heat a large stovetop casserole pan over medium-high heat and melt butter at the bottom of the pan. When the butter is melted add the onion and sauté until it is translucent. Add the rice and coat it in the butter, toasting it a bit. When the rice becomes opaque, after about 1 minute, add the wine to the pan, enough to cover the rice, stirring frequently.

When the rice has absorbed the wine, add the calamari with the liquid that it has released and continue stirring. Continue adding the broth as the rice absorbs it, you want it to almost dry out before adding the broth each time.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet until browned, careful not to burn them.

Right before the rice is al dente add the zucchini flowers and stir into the rice for them to wilt.

When the rice is finished it should be al dente and all of the liquid should be absorbed. Remove from heat and toss in the pine nuts, a tab of butter and the parsley. Serve immediately.

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Two Years Ago: Insalata di Seppie con Paté di Olive

Three Years Ago: Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

Five Years Ago: Supplì

Spiced Brisket with Leeks and Dried Apricots

•October 4, 2014 • 1 Comment

P1360227 P1360229 P1360232 P1360235Brisket, delicious meat that gets better over time. Spice rubbed with the addition of honey for the sweet new year, soaking up the flavors overnight and cooked in the oven to be eaten the day after. Brilliant make ahead meat. The flavors were heavenly, but we aren’t in love with the quality of the meat in these parts, I appreciate that they like their meat lean, but when it comes to brisket and burgers, fat is flavor and fat is juice. My brisket was delicious, I made enough for an army, maybe I could have held back since I also make 2 chickens, which were the first to go.

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Despite the fact that my laziness got the better of me and we are far past Rosh Hashanah, a brisket is good at anytime. The spices in this recipe make for really delicious layers of flavors, though I wish that we had been able to find a few sprigs of cilantro to finish it off, that would have been the perfect freshness for the depth of the braise.

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Spiced Brisket with Leeks & Dried Apricots

from Bon Appétit

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-pound flat-cut (first-cut) brisket, well-trimmed
  • 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 24 whole dried apricots, divided
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Turkish bay leaves
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon matzo cake meal or flour
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Stir first 8 ingredients in small bowl. Arrange brisket in large roasting pan; spread spice mixture evenly over both sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat broiler. Uncover brisket. Broil until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Turn brisket fat side up in pan.

Set oven temperature to 325°F. Sprinkle leeks, onion, 12 apricots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves around brisket. Pour wine over. Cover pan with heavy-duty foil and bake brisket until tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Uncover; cool 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer brisket to work surface. Pour juices into large measuring cup. Spoon off fat, reserving 1 tablespoon. Thinly slice brisket across grain on slight diagonal; overlap slices in 15x10x2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon 1 cup degreased pan juices over brisket; cover with foil. Stir reserved 1 tablespoon fat and matzo cake meal in medium saucepan over medium heat 3 minutes. Add remaining degreased pan juices; add remaining 12 apricots. Simmer until sauce thickens and boils, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover brisket and sauce separately and chill.) Rewarm covered brisket in 350°F oven 30 minutes or 45 minutes if chilled. Rewarm sauce over low heat.

Sprinkle brisket with cilantro and serve with sauce.


One Year Ago: Ziti con le Sarde e Cicoria

Two Years Ago: Roma

Three Years Ago: Risotto al Pesce & Farfalle alla Vodka

Four Years Ago: La Focaccia al Formaggio di Recco

Five Years Ago: Garganelli with Sausage Ragù, Lentil Pottage & Swiss Chard With Raisins and Pine Nuts

Pomegranate Chicken

•September 27, 2014 • 2 Comments


Outstanding. I prepared a feast for the last night of Rosh Hashanah, celebrating the end of a very trying year, as well as celebrating the amazing friendships that have developed as a result of it, but mostly the welcoming of a sweet sweet new year. Pomegranates are a symbolic fruit for Rosh Hashanah, they are both a new seasonal fruit and symbolize our wish to have a year full of mitzvot and good deeds, just as a pomegranate is filled with so many ruby seeds.  My carrot coins were in this dish, representing abundance, either of blessings or wealth, I’ll take both! Most importantly, and an ingredient that was in almost every dish that I prepared, honey. Bring on the sweetness!

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I started my preparations for this meal three days in advance, making sure that my chicken was well seasoned and perfectly marinated, that advanced prep was a life saver. I love a meal that you prepare in advance, leaving you time to doll up before a dinner party, relax and make sure your mama’s hand-stitched table cloth is ironed for the occasion. All I needed to worry about was heating these puppies up before the meal. This chicken was one of two meats prepared, a brisket as well, which will appear in the next few days, and several sides that I have prepared in the past, Rice Pilaf with Golden Rasins and Pistachios, Moroccan Beet Salad & Apple Cake with Honey. I also made rugelach, and in my fear that they would be a disaster, I didn’t photograph the process, they looked like they would be a disaster and turned out pretty perfectly, not to mention dangerously delicious.

Shana Tova and a sweet new year to everyone!!


Pomegranate Chicken

from House & Home

2 medium onions, sliced
2 cups baby carrots (or 2 cups peeled and sliced regular carrots)
2 whole chickens (3-1/2 lb. each), cut into pieces
1 tsp dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried whole apricots, loosely packed
1 cup pitted whole prunes, loosely packed
2 tsp sweet paprika

1/2 cup pomegranate juice (or juice of 1 pomegranate)
2 cloves garlic (about 2 tsp minced)
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp honey


According to ancient lore, the amount of seeds in the pomegranate is exactly the same number (613) as the mitzvot (good deeds) found in the Torah (the Jewish Bible). If you’re curious, count away!

Step 1: Spray a large roasting pan with cooking spray. Scatter the onions and carrots in the bottom of the pan. Rinse the chicken well and pat dry with paper towels. Trim the excess fat. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and sprinkle — under the skin and on top — with thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Tuck the apricots and prunes between the chicken pieces.

Step 2: Whisk the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. (If using the juice of a whole pomegranate, reserve some of the seeds for garnish.) Pour over the chicken and sprinkle with paprika. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or for as long as 2 days.

Step 3: When the chicken is marinated, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cook the chicken, covered, for 1-1/2 hours or until tender. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes longer, basting occasionally, or until the skin is golden. Remove from the pan from the oven and let cool before refrigerating overnight.

Step 4: About 30 minutes before serving, remove and discard any congealed fat from the chicken. Reheat, covered, for 25-30 minutes at 350°F. Transfer the heated chicken to a large serving platter and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately. Keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Freezes well for up to 4 months.


One Year Ago: Stuffed Eggplant

Two Years Ago: Zucchini in Israeli Tomato Sauce, Crunchy-Topped Whole-Wheat Plum Cake & Caprese Pasta Salad with Grilled Eggplant

Three Years Ago: Salade Niçoise & Snapper al Sale

Four Years Ago: Porcini Trifolati

Five Years Ago: Meat TzimmesSweet Carrot Coins, Rice Pilaf with Golden Rasins and Pistachios, Challah & Apple Cake with Honey



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