October 7, 2017


Easy Tomato Tart




It doesn’t get much easier than this. Before the tomato season is over this is a tart that I encourage you to try. I always have a box of frozen puff pastry in the freezer so there’s no need to feel pressured to make your own dough. If you can find puff pastry that’s made with butter, buy that. I love the Dufour brand, but a less expensive option is Trader Joe’s which is what I used today. They only stock it seasonally (don’t ask me why…) and it’s in their stores right now.


Tomato and Ricotta Tart

I have to admit that the ingredients are similar to the pizza I recently posted. Feel free to use whatever cheese you have on hand. Next time I think I’ll use a soft goat cheese.

1 sheet puff pastry (defrosted)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 onion sliced

Few tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling

1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry into rectangle and place on parchment lined baking sheet.

Slice half of a medium onion and saute in a little olive oil over medium low heat (season with salt and freshly ground pepper). Slice a few tomatoes ( mine was huge so I only used one) and place them on a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture.

Spread about 1/2 cup ricotta cheese over the dough, top with sautéed onions and arrange tomato slices over top. Drizzle with olive oil, add a little salt and pepper and place in oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. The dough should brown and puff up. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh basil.

We had this for lunch with a spinach salad, but it would be a great appetizer too.

Take a look back at some of my other tomato tarts:

Tomato Tart with Gruyere Cheese and Onions

Nicoise Tomato Tart

Slow Roasted Tomato Tart

Tomato Tart with Gorgonzola

Tomato Tart with Savory Crust

Cherry Tomato Tart

It won’t be tomato season but the food will still be amazing:

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018

***Today is the 10th anniversary of the Panini Girl blog!***


September 30, 2017


End Of Summer Pizza


The calendar may say that October is a day away, but the weather here in southern California is definitely still screaming summer. The farmer’s market is in a state of change with one side of the table covered in heirloom tomatoes and the other end piled high with butternut, acorn and kabocha squash. As anxious as I am to begin preparing meals with fall produce I am holding on to summer as long as possible.


There’s a farm not far from our house that usually displays a huge bag of zucchini blossoms for sale at the market, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen them. I’ve been asking the grower about them for the past month and today there they were. I’ve been thinking about this pizza for weeks so here it is-my ode to summer’s end.

Pizza with Zucchini Blossoms

I spread a thin layer of ricotta cheese over the dough, topped it with sauteed onion, spread zucchini blossoms over top and finished with a sprinkling of crispy guanciale and of course a drizzle of olive oil. Ten minutes in a very hot oven and lunch was served. Buon Appetito!

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September 23, 2017

1 comment

Verdure Agrodolce


This recipe comes from the lovely Gemma, cheesemaker and cook extraordinaire at Cerasa, the farm at the top of a mountain in the Garfagnana. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a day on the farm observing Gemma making pecorino and then savoring a home cooked meal in the dining room on three different occasions. Each and every meal has been unforgettable, but this was the first time that verdure agrodolce were served as part of the antipasto.

What I love about this recipe is that you can use whatever vegetables that you have on hand. I added cauliflower (even though it really isn’t a summer veggie) because I  grew up having chow chow, a pickled vegetable mixture that a friend of my mom used to make. It always included cauliflower so I was impelled to include it in the batch I made.

Serve this alongside grilled meat or include with an antipasto platter. You’ll love the slightly sour vegetables, although J. insists that it’s not a great match for the wine you may be drinking. I say then have a bite of cheese too!

Verdure Agrodolce  (Sweet and Sour Vegetables)

3-1/4 lb. seasonal vegetables-zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, carrots, pickling onions, celery

17 oz. white vinegar

8 oz. canola oil (not olive oil)

9 oz. sugar

salt to taste

Combine ingredients in large sauce pan and boil for 8-9 minutes. Allow to cool and place in jar (or jars). Pour thin layer of olive oil on top to seal. Store in refrigerator.


Join the tour and have your own experience on the farm. It’s a day that you’ll remember forever..

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September 2, 2017


Eggplant Rolls With Salsa Verde

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I’ve always been a lover of eggplant, but J., he’s another story. When we first met he proclaimed a dislike for this vegetable and then I introduced him to my eggplant parmigiano. “How can this be eggplant, it tastes too good” he would say. I would smile and serve him up a second portion.

Years later and I’m still looking for ways to win him over to eggplant. These rolls are a nice addition to a summer meal. Make them ahead of time and serve them at room temperature as a side to a meat or fish course.  The little hint of fresh mint is a nice surprise and livens up the cheese mixture.

Eggplant Rolls Stuffed With Feta

1-pound firm eggplant
olive oil for brushing eggplant
3 ounces feta, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup whole-milk ricotta
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, washed well, spun dry, and chopped fine
3 red bell peppers, roasted, or two 7-ounce jars, drained, and patted dry
1 bunch arugula or small bunch spinach, coarse stems discarded and leaves washed well and spun dry

Salsa Verde

1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leafed), washed well and spun dry
1 small garlic clove
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste

In a blender blend salsa ingredients until smooth. (Salsa may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring salsa to room temperature before serving.) This sauce is also perfect drizzled over grilled fish.

Preheat broiler.
Cut eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange 6 center slices on an oiled baking sheet in one layer, reserving remaining eggplant for another use. Brush eggplant with oil and season with salt.

Broil eggplant about 3 inches from heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Carefully turn eggplant with a metal spatula and broil until golden, about 4 minutes more. Transfer eggplant to a platter large enough to hold slices in one layer and cool. (Eggplant may be prepared up to this point 3 hours ahead and kept, covered loosely, at room temperature.)

In a small bowl with a fork mash together feta, ricotta, mint, and salt and pepper to taste. Cut peppers lengthwise into pieces about same width as eggplant slices.

Assemble rolls:
Top eggplant slices with pepper pieces, arranging them in one layer. Put 1 tablespoon cheese mixture near narrow end of each slice and into it gently press 2 arugula leaves so that they stick out on both sides. Beginning with cheese end, roll up each slice to enclose cheese mixture and leaves. (Rolls may be made 2 hours ahead and kept, covered loosely, at room temperature.)

***You can also cook the eggplant on the grill, which I usually prefer to do.

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018 questions or to reserve a spot

August 18, 2017


Sweet Corn Polenta


When I think of making polenta it’s usually a wintry evening and I’m craving a heartwarming dish. I always have a bag of  cornmeal in the freezer that I’ve brought back from Italy with plans for a dinner. The Panini Girl Tour  usually visits a miller on one of our day excursions and what a treat it is to see the corn being ground by a method that’s been used for centuries. With every bite of our supper I relive our visit to the miller.

Now it’s summer and here I am talking about “polenta”. This a a dish made with fresh corn and it is every bit as delectable as the wintry version. The recipe comes from the Ottolenghi cookbook Plentywhich is a vegetarian book from the famed London restauranteur. His version includes an eggplant topping and since I didn’t have an eggplant in the house I topped mine with a combination of olives, golden raisins, celery, tomatoes and pine nuts that I had prepared for grilled swordfish earlier in the week.

This is more like a creamy porridge rather than the thicker wintry dish. There’s no cream involved, but feel free to add whatever cheese you might have on hand. I added some grated parmesan and fontina rather than the feta.

I have to add that our great friends L & B make a similar corn dish and unfortunately we don’t have the nifty “corn scraper” that they use nor did we have the incredible homemade chile topping that they serve. Until we  are invited to their house during corn season this will have to make do!


Sweet Corn Polenta

ears of corn

2 1/4 cups water

tablespoons butter, diced

ounces feta, crumbled

1/4  teaspoon salt

Black pepper

Remove the leaves and “silk” from each ear of corn, then chop off the pointed top and stalk. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels — either stand each ear upright on its base and shave downward, or lay each ear on its side on a cutting board to slice off the kernels. You want to have 1- 1/4 pounds kernels.

Place the kernels in a medium saucepan and barely cover them with the water. Cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Use a slotted spoon to lift the kernels from the water and into a food processor; reserve the cooking liquid.

Process them for quite a few minutes, to break as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes too dry to process.

Now return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to mashed potato consistency. Be aware that if you have a lot of liquid left in the pan, it can take a while to cook down the polenta, and it will sputter. Consider holding back some or all of the liquid. I held most of it back and added it a little at a time.

Fold in the butter, the feta, salt and some pepper and optionally cook for a further 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed.


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August 5, 2017




For years we grew tomatoes in our small yard. What a thrill it was to go out every day and pick whatever we needed for our supper. Some days it was actually a bit overwhelming as there might be thirty or forty tomatoes covering the kitchen counter. I spent hours making sauce with our lovely San Marzanos . Bruschetta was on the menu most evenings. Salsa, tomato jam, platters of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella, tomato tarts-we were in tomato heaven!

Last year we planted more tomatoes than in previous years. We patiently waited for our tomatoes to ripen, but unfortunately the squirrels in our neighborhood got the better part of our crop. At first they helped themselves to whatever was ripe, but in time they grabbed even the green tomatoes.

This year we decided to forego planting and decided to rely on the locally grown tomatoes from the farmers market. The selection is amazing and we no longer cringe every time we spy a squirrel in our yard.

One of my favorite summer salads is panzanella-an Italian tomato and bread salad. The key here is to use a good crusty bread in addition to vine ripened tomatoes. I love this particular recipe as it incorporates other vegetables. Bell peppers, celery cucumber and onion add a nice crunchy counterpoint to the softer tomatoes and bread.



2 thick cut slices of Italian country bread

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 pound ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks

1/2 cup red bell pepper. sliced

1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/2 cup peeled and thinly sliced carrot

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

1/2 English cucumber, sliced

1/2 cup shredded fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread slices on baking sheet and toast for about 10  minutes. Cut bread into 1″ cubes. Place in a medium bowl. Add warm water to cover bread and let stand for one minute. Squeeze bread gently to release excess water and then transfer  bread to a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar and the onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour.

Mix tomatoes, bell pepper, carrots, celery, cucumber and basil into bread mixture. Whisk remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and 3 tablespoons vinegar in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and pour dressing over salad and toss to blend. Serves: 4

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018  (April 28-May 5)