Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking


January 13, 2018


Chicken Thighs With Fennel


If I had to choose my favorite one dish dinner, this may just be the one.  I was introduced to this recipe and to the pleasure of fennel many years ago in a cooking class I took with Lynne Rossetto Kasper, who until last year was co-host of the popular Splendid Table radio show.  As a young enthusiastic cook I had the opportunity to spend six weeks with Lynne studying the basics of cooking and I credit her for giving me a strong foundation in the culinary arts.

The original recipe for this dish calls for rabbit and although I have eaten it various times in Italy, I’ve yet to prepare it myself. I’m a big fan of chicken thighs and the long roasting  results in a meat that is falling off the bone.

I have made many a convert to fennel with this dish. If you’ve tasted raw fennel you know that it has a very distinct licorice-like taste. It is crisp and so flavorful and I love it dipped in a little coarse salt. When roasted with olive oil it becomes meltingly tender and its flavor mellows out and it hardly resembles its original form. Along with roasted onions and garlic, the fennel is a wonderful counterpoint to the roasted meat. Each bite is better than the next and I’ve yet to serve this dish to anyone who wasn’t thrilled by it. If you happen to have fennel pollen in your pantry go ahead and sprinkle some over the  chicken and the vegetables.

chicken w:fennel

Pollo Al Forno Con Finnochio
(Chicken Roasted With Sweet Fennel)

8  bone in chicken thighs
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 branch fresh rosemary (about 1 inch), chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 bulbs fresh fennel (I like to use more), cored and cut into wedges
1 large onion, cut into wedges
3 ounces pancetta, minced
3 cloves garlic, split
1 teaspoon fennel seed, coarsely ground
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh fennel leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pan Sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup stock

Make a paste of 1 clove garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and rub over chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least a few hours, but better if you do it the night before.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the meat in a roasting pan (large enough to hold meat and vegetables in a single layer). Scatter the vegetables and garlic around the meat, and add fennel seed, pancetta and fennel tops. Sprinkle with olive oil. Roast 1/2 hour, basting often with juices. Pour in the wine and roast for about an hour, basting often and turning pieces. Add a little water if the juices are drying up. Lynne’s recipe calls for turning the oven to 450 for 15 minutes but I’ve never felt the need to do that. My chicken always seems to have a nice brown color and I think more time would dry it out a little. Maybe with rabbit, the extra time would be better.

Remove meat and vegetables from pan. Quickly make a sauce by setting roasting pan over burners and adding wine and stock. Scrape up the brown bits from the pan, boil liquid down to about half, pour into a small pitcher and serve with meat. Many times I forgo the sauce and just scrape everything form the pan onto the meat when serving!




December 19, 2017


Pecan Cookies


Long ago I fell for this cookie from a local cafe and tried to no avail to obtain the recipe through both Bon Appetit and Gourmet. Whenever I was near the cafe I would treat myself to this amazing pecan cookie, but I always held out hope for baking it in my own kitchen.

As luck would have it a good friend was given the recipe years ago and was kind enough to share it with me. This cookie will probably only be recognizable to those of you living in San Diego or Orange County and have eaten at this cafe. The rest of you will have to take my word for it that it is incredible.

Pecan Cookies With Lemon Glaze

1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 pound butter
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans

Cream butter and sugar together in mixer. Add remaining ingredients. Use a small muffin or ice cream scoop, form half spheres and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to 375 and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove to rack and let cool. When cooled place a dollop of frosting on each cookie. Yield: 24 cookies


2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Juice of one lemon
Strips of lemon rind

Add lemon juice slowly into powdered sugar, making sure to keep the glaze very thick and viscous.

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018 to reserve get in touch @

December 13, 2017


Come Along To Lucca


Wouldn’t you love to pack a bag and run away to Italy? I know I’m not the only one that feels that way. Come along this spring on the Panini Girl tour and let me be your guide. I guarantee you will fall for Lucca in a heartbeat.

wall walk

From its famous “wall” to its many glorious churches, there’s a delight around every corner.

The main focus of our week will be food! A hands on cooking class in our apartment with a local chef followed by a meal that we’ve prepared will inspire you to have a dinner party once you’re back home.





We’ll spend a day in Florence on a “foodie” walking tour  with a focus on the Mercato Centrale-the city’s premier food emporium  We’ll also stop in a forno (bakery for bread), a pasticceria (pastry shop), an enotecaa (wine shop) and a cioccolateria (chocolate shop) with tastes along the way.

And one of the most memorable days of the week is spent in the Garfagnana-the mountainous region outside of Lucca. We’ll visit a farm and watch Gemma make pecorino cheese with milk from her sheep.


We’ll be treated to lunch cooked by Gemma in the farm house dining room and get to sample some of her aged pecorino and also the fresh ricotta we watched her make that morning.

farm lunch

Let’s not forget sampling the wines of the region which we’ll do both at home and at a local winery located outside of Lucca in Montecarlo.

In case you’re wondering, there will be plenty of time for shopping in Lucca’s charming stores so you might want to pack an extra bag.

Don’t miss out! April 28 to May 5

Panini Girl In Lucca  has all the details/ questions get in touch:


December 2, 2017

1 comment

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies


I can’t seem to get enough of these two flavors. It’s a classic combination (Nutella) and whenever I’m in a gelateria in Italy my first instinct is to order nocciola e cioccolata-hazelnut and chocolate. These cookies have a slightly crisp exterior with a lovely soft center. I couldn’t resist sampling a few, but my real intent is to package them up for holiday gifts. Next up-pecan cookies with a lemon glaze so stay tuned.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

2/3 cup hazelnuts (toasted for about 10 minutes at 350, then wrap in towel and rub skins loose)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate
2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Cool nuts completely and pulse with granulated sugar in food processor until finely chopped.
Melt chocolate in double boiler over barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder and crushed nuts in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat butter and brown sugar with mixer until creamy and then add eggs 1 at a time. Beat melted chocolate until combined. Add milk and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Cover bowl and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until firm.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment. Sift confectioners into bowl. Halve dough (refrigerate half until you are ready to use). Roll remaining dough into 1 inch balls, roll in confectioners to coat generously and place on sheets, 2 inches apart.
Bake for about 16 minutes, switching sheets halfway through baking. Cookies will be puffed and cracked, edges dry but centers still slightly soft.
Transfer to cooling racks and cool completely. Bake the rest of the dough.
Yield: about 5 dozen

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018 April 28 to May 5 questions


November 25, 2017


Blue Cheese Bites With Fig Jam

fig cookies

Need a tasty starter for your next party? The classic combination of figs and blue cheese come together here in one buttery bite. What’s great about this recipe is that there’s no waste at all-you can keep rolling the scraps of dough out and cutting circles until there’s none left.

I must admit that these are slightly addictive. Serve with a chilled glass of champagne and let the holidays begin!

Blue Cheese Bites With Fig Jam (From Food 52)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 ounces blue cheese,crumbled
Ground black pepper
Fig preserves, about 3 Tablespoons

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the flour, butter, blue cheese and a few grinds of black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the dough just comes together and starts to form a ball.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to pull the dough together. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick with a floured rolling pin. Cut rounds out of the dough with a floured 1-inch cutter and transfer the rounds to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Using the back or a round half-teaspoon measure or your knuckle, make an indentation in the top of each dough round. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of fig preserves into each indentation, using your finger to push the preserves as best as possible into the indentations.

Bake the savories for 10 – 14 minutes, until the preserves are bubbling and the pastry is light golden on the bottom. Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes, the remove to a wire rack to cool. You’ll find fig preserves at the grocery – it may be shelved with the “fancy” jams and jellies. You can make these a day ahead and keep them in two layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container.

Panini Girl in Lucca May 2018 (April 28 to May 5) get in touch @

November 20, 2017


Wild Mushroom Tart


So I’ve finally moved on from all things tomato and am ready to try some new recipes focusing on fall flavors. I know that you can get mushrooms all year long, but I didn’t even think about making this tart until the weather turned a little cooler. When I went to the cupboard to find my stash of dried porcini I was surprised to find that there were none. Rather than running out to the store I decided to just go forward with what I had in the fridge-crimini mushrooms.

The crust comes together quickly in the food processor. I made it a day ahead which made the actual assembly of the tart pretty easy. You do need to “blind bake” the crust and while it’s in the oven you can work on the filling. Saute mushrooms, grate cheese, chop some herbs and whisk cream and eggs and you’re done.

I served this for lunch recently with a green salad, but this one was a birthday gift for a co-worker.  It would also be a nice first course for a dinner party.

Wild Mushroom Tart


1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 tablespoons (about) ice water


1 cup water

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

10 ounces crimini or button mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup minced shallots

2 tablespoons Cognac or brandy

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs

2/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese

3/4 cup whipping cream

2 large egg yolks

1 large egg

For crust:

Blend flour and salt in processor. Cut in butter using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add enough water to blend dough. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic, chill 45 minutes.

Roll out dough on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Trim edges, leaving 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang in to form double-thick sides. Press tart edges to raise dough 1/8 inch above pan. Chill 30 minutes.

For filling:

Bring 1 cup water to boil in saucepan. Add porcini; remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Spoon porcini from liquid; reserve liquid. Coarsely chop porcini.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add porcini and crimini mushrooms. Season with salt; sauté until deep golden, about 10 minutes. Add shallots; sauté 2 minutes. Add Cognac and reserved porcini liquid, leaving any sand behind in saucepan. Boil until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Mix in 1 tablespoon herbs. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans; bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.

Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese in crust. Cover with mushrooms. Whisk cream, yolks, egg and 1 tablespoon herbs in bowl. Pour custard over mushrooms. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until filling is set and top is golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on rack 15 minutes.


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