Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking


July 4, 2015

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Sformato Di Ricotta


I’m not sure that this qualifies as an actual “sformato” but it is a dish that I could sit down, grab a spoon and devour. Some of you may be asking “what actually is a sformato“? I know that was my question when I first encountered it on a menu in Acqui Terme in Piemonte. You can read about my first experience here.

Anyway, after doing some research it seemed to me that a traditional sformato involves cream and eggs and is somewhat akin to a souffle, but I dare say that it is easier. There’s no whipping of egg whites and the urgency of getting it on the table asap is not there either. Usually the sformati are cooked in a water bath, whereas this re-creation from London’s famed River Cafe does not require this step. You also don’t have to cook and puree any vegetables for this rendition.

What I love about this recipe is that you need not wait for summer tomatoes to make it. Cherry tomatoes are available at the market year long and once roasted they will pop with flavor. Since it is summer and tomatoes are at their peak, why not try this now? Each and every bite bursts with the perfect combination of the sweet roasted tomatoes and creamy ricotta cheese. Serve alongside roasted meat or fish.


Sformato di Ricotta

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
10 ounces cherry tomatoes
1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6 eggs
2 ¼ cups fresh ricotta
1 cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (no stems)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add the tomatoes and garlic; drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Shake dish to coat tomatoes with cheese. Bake 15 minutes, until tomatoes are hot and start to split, shaking dish occasionally. Remove tomatoes from oven; cool in dish. Spoon tomatoes and their juices into a bowl; reserve the baking dish but do not wash it out.

When baking dish is cool enough to touch, grease bottom and sides with the remaining butter. Mix the eggs and ricotta in a food processor until smooth.Add the crème fraíche and half the thyme and process until mixed. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the ricotta mixture in the baking dish; scatter the tomatoes and their juices and remaining thyme on top. Sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.

June 26, 2015


Almond Praline Ice Cream Cake


The year was 1997. I saw this recipe in Gourmet magazine and planned on making it for an upcoming dinner party. I read the recipe over and over, counted the steps involved, placed it back in my file box and decided on something a little simpler.

Time passed, another dinner party in the works and out came the recipe. Once again back into the file. This went on a few more times until last week when I decided to get over my hesitation and make it. Yes, it took eighteen years for me to just do it. In the end it wasn’t as hard as I had thought it would be. This is a dessert that works best if you make it over a few days.. The almond brittle can be done a week ahead. You can turn the brittle into almond butter a few days ahead, the meringue layers the day before.

I’m sending you over to the Epicurious site for the recipe. Don’t wait as long as I did to try it. I will say that it is a rather sweet dessert and can easily serve 12. Leftovers are pretty good too!

June 21, 2015


Green Goddess Pistachio Cheese Ball

nut ball

First an upside down cake, now a cheese ball. What’s next-tuna noodle casserole? You will never see tuna noodle casserole on this blog. I never liked it, not even as a kid. Does it seem like I have a retro thing going on here?

Bon Appetit featured three “cheese balls” back in October and from the moment that I saw them I knew I would try at least one of them. They all looked appealing, but when I saw “Green Goddess” my decision was made.

There may be more than a few ingredients, but you can see from the directions that this comes together with a few pulses of the food processor. Roll your ball in chopped nuts (you could certainly choose another type, maybe toasted pine nuts), open a box of crackers and you have one easy appetizer. Oh, and don’t forget that cocktail…


Green Goddess Pistachio Cheese Ball
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup watercress leaves
¼ cup mixed tender herb leaves (such as mint, parsley, tarragon and/or cilantro)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Kosher salt
¾ cup pistachios, toasted, chopped

Process cream cheese, goat cheese, and butter in a food processor until smooth. Pulse in anchovies, watercress, herbs, and chives; season with salt. Scrape mixture into a small plastic wrap–lined bowl; gather plastic around cheese, using your hands to shape into a ball. Chill until firm, 3–12 hours.
Just before serving, unwrap cheese ball and roll in pistachios. Serve with crackers.

June 18, 2015


Rhubarb Upside Down Cake


I didn’t grow up eating rhubarb. I think the first time I tried it was a few years ago when I picked up a lovely looking bunch at the farmers’ market and came home and made a rhubarb crisp. My mother warned me that I better use a lot of sugar. This advice came from a woman who I’m quite sure never handled a stalk of rhubarb, but I think she was right. I was pleased with my crisp and some time later paired rhubarb with strawberries for a summery crostata.

I recently had a request for a pineapple upside down cake at my job. The following day I spied this recipe on the Food 52 website. Having had success with flipping a much larger rectangular cake out on to a platter, I decided to give this recipe a go.

The batter for this cake was similar to the topping for a cobbler. It’s not really spreadable-simply drop spoonfuls over the stewed rhubarb. I didn’t have a 9″ cast iron skillet, but did have a heavy stainless lined skillet which worked perfectly.

I found this cake best served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream. If you bake it earlier in the day, warm it slightly before serving.

Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 stick and 6 tablespoons cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Scant 1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Heat oven to 375° F. Melt 1 cup of the sugar, 4 tablespoons butter, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a 9-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. When the butter and sugar have melted together, add the rhubarb pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender and slightly caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the thickness of your rhubarb stalks.

Meanwhile, whisk together remaining sugar and salt, plus flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add remaining butter, and using your fingers, rub into flour mixture to form coarse pea-size pieces. Like Phyllis Grant would say, make like you’re snapping your fingers. Add milk and eggs and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms. If your eggs are on the small side, you may need an extra splash of milk for the dough to come together. Place pieces of dough over the hot rhubarb mixture, trying to cover the entire surface. It will feel a little like you’re making a cobbler, but the dough will rise up and fill in any holes you’ve left.

Bake on a baking sheet until the cake is golden and cooked through, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let the cake rest for about 10 minutes. Place a large, flat serving platter on top of the skillet and invert quickly and carefully. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream.

May 31, 2015



pizza uncooked

I should be in Italy right now. I suppose I that on any given day I could make that statement, but I really was supposed to be in Italy this week. Unfortunately sometimes everyday life seems to get in the way. Heavy sigh..

So in the spirit of being obsessed with all things Italian, we had pizza for lunch. I made the dough, but if you’re not up to the task feel free to use a store bought one.


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!

May 28, 2015


Brown Sugar Pound Cake


You may be starting to think that I don’t cook anymore. I just looked back at the blog and the last four recipes that I posted were for baked goods. I do cook, in fact I cook dinner every night and not too long ago I began cooking for work too. It seems that for whatever reason, I can’t seem to get photos taken before sitting down to supper. Note to self: make an effort to photograph some savory creations…

At any rate, friends were coming for lunch and I had planned on making panna cotta with a raspberry sauce for dessert until I saw this recipe. The idea of a pound cake using dark brown sugar appealed to me and once in the oven the kitchen was filled with the sweet scent of molasses. The finished product was a dense loaf cake topped with a sugar glaze. It was love at first bite and we enjoyed it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of raspberry sauce. It’s just as tasty eaten out of hand with your morning coffee.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake (from Food 52)

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


1 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk (I used 2)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract (original recipe called for 1 teaspoon)

Preheat your oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9-inch loaf pan. In a stand mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until very light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each one. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, beating until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smooth the top, and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

While the cake cools, whisk together all of the glaze ingredients (add more milk, depending on how thin you want the glaze to be). Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack, and drizzle the glaze over the top. Wait for the glaze to set before slicing and serving the cake.

May 25, 2015


Thank You


Happy Memorial Day and a big thank you to all the men and women who have fought to keep us free. Somehow thank you just isn’t quite enough…

That’s my Dad somewhere in Italy sleeping in the front of his tank.


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