Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking


June 17, 2016


Frittata di Pane


tomato basil

I can truly say that summer has arrived with the first bruschetta of the season. This may look like a traditional bruschetta, but in reality this dish is more like a savory French toast.

I found the idea for this in Faith Willinger’s book Adventures of an Italian Food Lover. Don’t hesitate to purchase any book written by Faith. She’s a pro on Italian food and in addition to very authentic recipes, this book includes  information on restaurants and inns all over the country worth a detour.

This tomato and bread combination makes a perfect light lunch. Imagine warm bread cooked in olive oil and then topped with summer’s best tomatoes and basil. I just happened to have some burrata cheese in the fridge so I thought “why not?”.

Be sure to use a good country style bread, your best olive oil and really let the bread soak up the egg mixture. I’ve made a few minor changes to the recipe. The original calls for the bread to be cubed and the tomatoes seeded, but I’ve eliminated these steps. Whichever way you choose, I’m telling you right now that you will love this. Lunch is served!

Frittata di Pane

4 eggs
1/4 cup water
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4-6 slices of stale country bread, cut 1/2″ thick
2 cups chopped, fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Put the eggs, water and 1 tablespoon oil in a large shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Add the slices of bread and submerge in the egg mixture until the bread has soaked up most of the mixture, about 10-15 minutes.

In a another bowl combine the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the basil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large non-stick skillet, add the bread and cook on low until the bread is brown underneath. Turn slices over and brown on the other side. When done, remove to a plate, top with tomatoes. Serves: 4

June 5, 2016


Walkerware Pottery


After looking at my my last post I realized that you didn’t get to see the beauty of the bowl that I was using. Over the past few years I’ve received as gifts a variety of colorful pottery pieces made by the talented Walker Davis. These bowls were the latest addition to my collection and I couldn’t be happier! Walker calls them soup bowls, but they have become my go to pasta bowl. Aren’t the backs lovely too?



Be sure to check out Walker’s– and if you happen to be in Big Fork, Montana  stop into the Persimmon Gallery and take a look at the rest of her work.

June 1, 2016


Pasta e Fagioli

pasta e fagioli

It wasn’t until quite recently that I became enamored of beans. I might have eaten them in the past, but I would never go out of my way to cook anything with them. I suppose I was won over by refried beans served alongside carnitas-a classic Mexican pork and bean combo. Then I discovered  cannellini beans. Spend any time in Tuscany and you can’t help but be served these creamy white beans. Dining in Lucca I’ve been know to order a side of beans to go with a grilled steak or roasted pork. And don’t even get me going on ribollita!

All of a sudden I had a craving for pasta e fagioli -otherwise known as pasta fazool to those of us who grew up with Italian grandparents. On my recent visit to the Ferry Building in San Fransisco I made a stop at the Rancho Gordo stand where I purchased a bag of dried cranberry beans and of ayocote blanco (similar to cannellini). I decided to go with the cranberry beans for my soup. Soft and dense with a rich velvety texture, these were the perfect choice.

There are variations to this soup-some use pancetta, others  add carrots and celery. This recipe came from the NY Times where they went with pinto beans. Make sure to plan ahead-if using dried beans they’ll need to be soaked overnight.

Pasta e Fagioli
1 cup simmered beans (cannelloni or cranberry prepared according to directions)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium or large onion, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional but I love a little heat)
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, 1 or 2 Parmesan rinds, and a few sprigs of thyme and parsley
6 ounces elbow macaroni or small shells (1 cup) I used a small tubetti rigati
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)

Make the simmered beans as directed. Drain and save the cooking liquid.
Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole or Dutch oven and add chopped onion. Cook, stirring, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Add rosemary and garlic and stir together for another minute, until garlic is fragrant. Stir in tomatoes, add salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is very fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add broth from the beans, tomato paste, hot pepper, bouquet garni, and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in beans and heat through. Taste and adjust salt.
10 to 15 minutes before serving, stir in pasta. When it is cooked al dente, taste and adjust seasonings, stir in parsley, and serve, passing Parmesan in a bowl.


May 25, 2016


Eating In San Francisco

It was just a few days, but we managed to squeeze a fair amount of great food. Here are some of the highlights.


Since we hadn’t been to San Francisco for some time I thought it best to read up on what restaurants people were taking about. It wasn’t hard to decide that we would have to visit Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. Located in North Beach there’s a reason that this pizzeria is popular with both locals and tourists. It seems that Tony was the first non-Italian to win the Margherita Pizza championship in Naples and so we knew what we’d be ordering. They only make 73 a day so it’s best to go early. Don’t worry if you are too late for a margherita as there’s an entire menu dedicated to other types of pies cooked in various ovens at various temperatures-New York, California, Roman, Sicilian, Napoletana and more.


The pizza was as good as the hype. The crust was chewy, flavorful and held up to the sauce and cheese. My one piece of advice is to start with an order of the meatballs. They were so tasty that I considered going back just to order them again. They reminded me of my grandmother’s, which is certainly saying something.

Tony’s is also known for having a line out the door so be prepared to wait. We arrived around 12:45 (weekday) and were told it was an hour, but it ended up only  being about 25 minutes. I noticed that by 1:30 you could just walk right in. Whatever time you go, it’s worth the wait.

Other places we visited were Delfina in the Mission District for Italian, where I ordered bucatini with guanciale in a puree of fava beans. It reminded me of a dish you would find in a trattoria in Italy. Next morning found us back on the same block for a visit to my favorite bakery-Tartine-with another line out the door. Everything in the pastry case will entice you, but I can’t seem to get away from their famed “morning bun”-a spiral of croissant dough with a bit of orange and cinnamon, dusted in sugar. I did however take a box of other goodies to go.


Seeing that our hotel was a few blocks from Chinatown we decided to dine there one evening. With advice from our hotel we headed to R & G Lounge, known for it’s Cantonese food.  After a fairly long wait we were directed upstairs to a dining room where we were the only non Chinese patrons.  We were seated at the one two top in a room full of Chinese families seated at banquet tables. Our meal was good, but perhaps we should have consulted with someone at a nearby table as to what they were ordering. Trouble was that everyone was speaking Chinese!

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana 1570 Stockton Street

Delfina 3621 18th Street

Tartine 600 Guerrero Street

R & G Lounge 631 Kearny Street

Next up: The Ferry Building




May 11, 2016


I Cornetti

Whenever I have a failure in the kitchen (which thankfully isn’t a frequent occurrence) I feel the need to get right back in there and prove to myself that I can do it. Usually I remake the dish after analyzing where I went wrong. This wasn’t the case last week when I had a baking  mishap. I had the feeling that there was possibly a mistake in the recipe. After throwing the bars in the trash I set the bar fairly high when I decided to tackle cornetti-the Italian version of a croissant.

Go into just about any bar or pasticceria in Italy in the morning and you will find cornetti in the pastry case. You will probably be standing next to a regular who is eating a cornetto while sipping a caffe or a cappuccino. It’s my go to morning  snack, unless I feel the urge for a budino di riso, but that’s another story.


I’ve wanted to make these for years and after getting my new favorite cookbook-Florentine-by blogger Emiko Davies-I decided to dive in and tackle them. This book is gorgeous-from the quality of the paper to the professional photos which made me seriously homesick for Italy. The recipes are classic ones from the city of Florence and like many Italian dishes, they are simple and do not require a lot of ingredients.

I will not mislead you by saying this is a recipe that comes together quickly. I started the dough on Friday, let it sit overnight and began anew  at 9:00 on Saturday morning. Making the dough is not difficult, but it is time consuming as it requires a  lot of “resting”. I was in for the long haul and not at all discouraged when it wasn’t until 6 pm that I took the finished product from the oven. Not exactly my morning snack but I ate one anyway!


Delicious-just like in Lucca, except I’m in California. I’m not posting the recipe,which is lengthy. I encourage you to buy Emiko’s book. You will love it, especially if you’ve ever been to Florence. At the very least take a look at her blog-Emiko Davies.




May 7, 2016


Chicken With Lemon & Herbs




I haven’t had a lot of time to blog recently, but I have been in the kitchen. Yesterday I tried a recipe for chocolate caramel walnut bars which I saw on line. They looked like a blondie topped with chocolate frosting. I couldn’t wait to bite into one and planned on sharing with our neighbors. Even though following the directions to a tee, they were saturated with butter and I wasn’t able to slice them. Into the trash it went. I suppose I could have spooned some into a bowl and topped it with ice cream, but I was too disappointed and didn’t want to be reminded of my baking failure.

On the other hand this chicken dish from our Lucca cooking class is a recipe I will turn to again and again. It’s the perfect do ahead dish and if you have leftovers it’s just as tasty reheated the next day. I prefer chicken thighs, but if you like white meat better go ahead and use breasts. I  usually serve this dish with a small pasta such as orzo or acini di pepe topped with a little bit of the lemony sauce. Buon appetito!

Chicken with Lemon, Olives and Aromatic Herbs

10 bone in chicken thighs, skin removed
3 lemons, rind cut off
5 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh sage, about 20 leaves
Fresh rosemary, 5 large sprigs
Extra-virgin olive oil
White wine, about 3/4 cup
Chicken broth, about 3/4 cup
Black olives-a handful (Italian or Nicoise)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Place chicken thighs in a bowl. Slice lemons into thin slices and add to bowl with chicken pieces and toss together. Let marinate together for about 1/2 hour.

Finely chop rosemary and sage leaves together. Cover bottom of a large saute pan with olive oil over low heat. Add chopped herbs and saute for a few minutes. Add minced garlic and saute until softened. Turn the heat up and add chicken thighs (reserve lemon slices) and brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Add the wine and reduce until it’s almost evaporated. Add chicken broth to the pan, season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium low and add lemon slices and olives. Cover pan and cook for about 30-40 minutes.

Uncover and if there’s a lot of liquid left, reduce to thicken sauce.

April 24, 2016


Salmon Chowder


As you may have guessed, I am no longer in Lucca.  I always come home trying to hold on to Italy in any way that I can. I went out for gelato this afternoon made by an Italian who went to some “gelato university” in Italy.  I’ve made pasta, recreated the dishes from our cooking class in Lucca and have savored my cappuccino every morning, even though it is not at all comparable to one from the neighborhood “bar” I frequented every morning. At some point I have to bite the bullet and get back into my everyday life away from Italy.

I’ve had more than a bit of jet lag and a few evenings I didn’t even make dinner. When I did cook I was looking for meals that didn’t require a lot of work, but were none the less delicious. This salmon chowder more than fit the bill. Some time back while going through my big basket of recipes I found this recipe torn out from a magazine. I then realized that it was the same recipe that I had earmarked in the Epicurious Cookbook which is a collection of four star recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines.

We’ve sort of become addicted to this chowder. You have to believe me when I tell you it comes together very quickly and would be the perfect meal on an evening when you are rushed to get dinner on the table. I always have salmon pieces in the freezer leftover from trimming a filet and they work perfectly in this dish. There’s a bit of smokiness from the bacon, a hint of spice from the pepper flakes and a fresh herbal flavor from the chives. I could eat this seafood stew once a week and never tire of it.

Salmon Chowder

1/2 pound red potatoes
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
2 cups chopped scallions (from 2 bunches)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn (I use Trader Joes frozen white corn)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (3 cloves)
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
3 cups whole milk
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 (1 1/2-pound) piece salmon fillet (preferably wild), skin discarded and fish cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Garnish: chopped fresh chives

Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes, then cook in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Cook bacon in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot, then cook scallions, corn, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and red-pepper flakes in fat in pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add milk and cream and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to moderately low, then add potatoes, salmon, bacon, salt, and pepper and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf before serving. Top with oyster crackers if you like.

Serves: 4


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