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

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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.


Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018  get in touch @

November 4, 2017


Pumpkin Panna Cotta & A Sendoff

panna cotta

In honor of my good friend K. who was about to set off on an adventure to the south Pacific, I had a few women in for lunch. I kept the menu simple-a wild mushroom tart and a salad. Much to the surprise of my guests I also served a dessert-not sure why this was unexpected, but in my book if you have people over a meal, dessert is a given!

I toyed with the idea of making burnt caramel pudding or apple crisp, and had finally decided on Dorie Greenspan’s Custardy Apple Squares when I remembered a pumpkin spiced  panna cotta that I tried a few years back. In terms of simplicity, panna cotta is right on the top of my dessert list. It comes together in less than fifteen minutes and uses only one saucepan. This recipe calls for making caramel sauce which I’ve done in the past, but this time I used a good quality purchased sauce.

I’m not a fan of pumpkin pie, maybe because I find it too heavy both in texture and in spices. This panna cotta uses the same flavors, but with a much lighter hand. You could certainly forego the caramel sauce, but why would you? Pumpkin panna cotta would be a nice ending to your Thanksgiving meal-light and creamy, yet packed with all the flavors that we’ve come to associate with the holiday.


Pumpkin Panna Cotta

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 packet powdered gelatin

3 tbsp. cold water

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Caramel Sauce

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp cold water

1 1/2 tbsp light corn syrup

6 tbsp unsalted butter

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Make the sauce by combining the sugar, water and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed pan until it has boiled to a deep amber color. Do not stir.

Add the butter and whisk until it’s all mixed through. Add the cream and vanilla and whisk again. Boil gently for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. After 5-10 minutes, pour about an inch of sauce into the base of each mold you’re going to use. Place them in the fridge while you make the panna cotta.

In a medium bowl, Add the cold water and sprinkle the gelatin on top of the water. Take a large pot and place the cream and sugar into it. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the spices, vanilla and pumpkin. Whisk gently until everything is incorporated. Gradually pour the cream mixture into the gelatin/water and whisk to combine.

Take the molds from the fridge and make sure the caramel sauce has begun to set. Gently pour some of the cream mixture on top of each caramel sauce. Place the filled molds back into the fridge and let them set for at least 6 hours or overnight. Serves: 8

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018 get in touch @


October 27, 2017


Kabocha Squash & Fennel Soup

It’s finally fall-well sort of. I was recently on the east coast looking forward to those crisp autumn days and it ended up being in the 70s. At any rate the vendors at the farmers market, despite unseasonably high temperatures here in CA, have moved on to displaying all the colder weather veggies that I love. Kabocha, butternut, and acorn squash, lovely leafy chard, the tiniest brussel sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower are all proudly displayed.  Goodbye tomatoes, peppers and zucchini-it’s time to move on.

This is a soup I’ve been making for years. It comes from one of my favorite cookbooks-Sunday Suppers At Lucques-written by Suzanne Goin.  Feel free to substitute butternut squash as I did this time. Don’t even think about leaving out the fennel-roasting brings out its natural sweetness and it’s flavor complements the subtly spiced squash.

As you can see, I didn’t make the candied pumpkin seeds this time. I admit that I forgot to buy them and couldn’t bear to make one more trip to the grocery store. Nevertheless we devoured the soup one day before the temperature here hit 100 degrees.



Kabocha Squash and Fennel Soup With Creme Fraiche and Candied Pumpkin Seeds

2 pounds Kabocha squash
2 medium fennel bulbs
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups sliced onions
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de arbol
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup sherry
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup creme fraiche
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Candied Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the squash. Cut in half and remove the seeds. Slice squash into 1″ thick wedges. Cut the fennel in half and then into 1/2″ thick wedges. Toss the squash and the fennel with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper. Place the vegetables flat on a baking sheet and roast until tender and slightly carmelized, about 35 minutes.

Meanwhile toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar, or put between parchment paper and crush with a rolling pin.

Heat a Dutch oven or soup pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter and when it foams add the onions, fennel seeds, thyme, chiles, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt and a good amount of freshly ground pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often until the onions are soft, translucent and starting to color.

Add the squash and the fennel and stir to coat with the onions for a minute. Turn the heat back to high and pour in the sherry. Let it reduce for a minute or two and then add the stock and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Strain the soup through a colander set in a pot. Put 1/3 of the solids in a blender with 1/2 cup broth (you will need to puree the soup in batches.) Process at the lowest speed until the squash mixture is pureed. Add another 1/2 cup broth and then turn the speed up to high and pour more liquid in until the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Blend at least a minute on high until the soup is completely smooth and creamy.Transfer to a container and repeat with remaining ingredients. You may not need all the liquid. Taste for balance and seasoning.

Pour the soup into six bowls, spoon some creme fraiche into the center of each and scatter pumpkin seeds over the top.

Candied Pumpkin Seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup raw pumplin seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Generous pinch each of ground cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon honey
Kosher salt

Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar.

Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and sugar and then sprinkle the spices and a healthy pinch of salt. Toss the pumpkin seeds to coat well with the butter and cook for a few minutes, until they pop and begin to turn color.

Turn off the heat and wait 30 seconds. Add the honey, tossing well to coat the seeds. Spread on a plate and let them cool. These are delicious to just nibble on!

I made this the first time using chicken broth and this time with water and both versions were equally delicious.

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018 contact me @