July 23, 2017


Spicy Corn Fritters

corn fritters

As soon as corn appears at the market this is the first dish that I make. I found the recipe years ago in Gourmet magazine (ah the good old days…) and it’ still a summer favorite. I tend to make the full recipe even if it’s just the two of us as they’re just as tasty reheated the following day. The key is to have your oil really hot ensuring crispy fritters-not hot enough and they’ll be soggy. These are the perfect side to grilled salmon or barbecued chicken or would make a nice addition to a vegetarian menu.

Spicy Corn Fritters

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1-3/4 teaspoons salt

1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup milk

1 large egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

4 cups fresh corn kernels (from 5-6 ears)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons minced scallions

1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper

1-2 medium jalapeños, minced

Vegetable oil for panfrying

In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. In a medium bowl combine the milk, egg and butter and stir into the dry ingredients until well blended. Fold in the corn, scallions, bell pepper and jalapeños until incorporated.

In a large heavy skillet heat 1/4″ of vegetable oil until almost smoking. Add heaping tablespoons of the fritter batter to the skillet and fry over moderately high heat until golden all over, about 4 minutes or longer. Transfer the fritters to a paper towel to drain. Fry the remaining fritters, adding more oil if necessary-be sure the oil is very hot before adding another batch to the pan. Serve immediately. Serves: 6-8

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July 15, 2017

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Condimento Alle Verdure

It may seem like all I’ve been doing for the last seven weeks is reminiscing about my time in Italy and yes, there’s been a lot of that going on, but I’ve also been back in the kitchen.

My first impulse when looking for a summer starter is to grill up some bread for bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes, but I wanted something a little bit lighter. This recipe comes from-Italy in Small Bites (by Carol Field)-a book I’ve had for years and I’ve never been disappointed with anything that I’ve tried. It was everything that I hoped it would be and is the perfect topping for crostini. I loved the surprise of the slight crunch of the cucumber. This would also be delicious tossed with pasta for a summery salad or spooned over grilled fish. The other side of the bowl holds pickled vegetables, a recipe (coming soon) from Cerasa, the farm in the Garfagnana where the Panini Girl Tour spent the day.


Condimento alle Verdure

1/2 small red onion, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 ripe tomatoes
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely shredded basil
Scant 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the diced onion and the cucumber in a bowl. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut an X on the bottom of each tomato and drop into the boiling water for a minute. Remove the tomatoes, place in a bowl of cold water and the skins should slip right off. Slice the tomatoes in half, seed, chop and add to the bowl with the onion and cucumber. Sprinkle with the salt and leave for 2 hours.

Drain any liquid from the vegetables and stir in the oregano, basil, parsley and red pepper flakes. Toss with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Serves: 6 as an appetizer

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July 8, 2017


Doors Of Calitri


One evening I decided to go out and take a stroll around the borgo. We walked the same paths every day on or way to and from the bar or the pasticceria and I knew that I hadn’t seen nearly a quarter of the town. It started as a search for a restaurant that I had seen a sign for and I just kept exploring.


To be honest it appeared that many of the homes that I passed were uninhabited, although every now and then I would hear bits of conversation and the aromas of food being cooked would drift out a window and I wished I would have been invited in.



I walked for some time and then realized I was not sure how to get back to our apartment and it was getting dark. Eventually I would have found our street as our apartment was pretty much up at the top of town. Now that I’m back at home thousands of miles away from Calitri I wish I had kept walking.


door 8

This last photo is the only door that I passed that was open. I peered inside and it was deserted and I’m not exactly sure what stopped me from going  in, but I got a strange feeling and backed away. Maybe next time…

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July 1, 2017


Calitri-What I Discovered


Take a look at this gorgeous town. I remember seeing photos similar to this when doing research on Calitri and there I was taking my own shot from down below the village. On our first full day there (which was a Sunday)  we were looking for a place for lunch when  the friendly woman from the tourist office let us know that many of the restaurants were fully booked due to the fact that it was First Communion (or Confirmation) and families were celebrating with lunch. She directed us down the hill  to Golden Mill, the restaurant where I had my first plate of cingul‘ and after our meal I walked outside and got my own shot of the borgo.


The following day we saved for our visit to the Commune, the home to the town offices. We were met there by Emma, our rental agent and Enzo (I think that was his name) the local genealogy  expert. Armed with only my grandparents’ names and birth dates Enzo set to work to find their birth certificates in the the town records. The books were massive and of course all hand written in beautiful script. His first task was to search for their families and after that he moved onto smaller bound books where he looked for their actual birth certificates. My grandfather Lazzaro Capossela was easy to find, but initially he couldn’t locate my grandmother, Maria Maffucci. It turns out that there was a discrepancy with her birth date, but eventually her records turned up.

at commune

Enzo worked tirelessly for quite some time on this task and then moved on to seeing if there was anyone still living in town who I might be related to. It turns out there is a gentleman who is my mother’s first cousin, but unfortunately we didn’t get to meet him.

birth certificate

What I did learn was that my grandfather’s sister Teodora (who was his only sibling not to emigrate to the US) lived in the same apartment that we were renting! We also discovered the location of my grandparents’ births.

grandpa's street

This street is where my grandfather was born and below is the doorway to my grandmother’s home.

grandma's doorway

And finally-Lazzaro and Maria on their wedding day. I don’t believe that my grandfather ever returned to his home town. He did fight in France for the US during WWI, but am not sure that he traveled to Italy. My grandmother returned once after WWII and I remember hearing that she left everything that she had brought with her for her impoverished relatives.


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June 23, 2017


Calitri-Around Town


One of the first things we did when we got to town was walk down and sit on a bench in town in front of this statue commemorating Calitri’s fallen soldiers (I think that’s what it’s dedicated to). Sitting there I glanced up the street toward the borgo and reveled in the knowledge that we were finally there.



On our first morning we set off in search of an open bar to get a cappuccino when I spotted the sign for a pasticceria (pastry shop). Of course I insisted that we stop in and check it out. Coffee would have to wait.

the baker

The shop isn’t very large, but the case was full of tempting baked goods. I’m not sure if the baker is also the owner of the shop, but she was so charming and every time we visited she gave us a little something extra to try. I had to have  the sfogliatella. This isn’t something I would normally seek out back home, but seeing that it is specialty of the Campania region it was my first choice. The pastry was incredibly crispy while the filling was creamy with a hint of citrus. I almost ordered a second one!


Calitri isn’t very large and there aren’t a lot of restaurants.  On our trip here twelve years ago we had lunch at Osteria 3 Rose and knew we wanted to dine there again. Tucked into a street in a residential neighborhood this restaurant seems to be a favorite with the locals.

tre rose

We ate there twice during our stay and now that I’m home I wish had gone a few more times. I’m still dreaming of my plate of cingul, Calitri’s specialty which are a version of cavatelli. This is a dish I grew up eating at my grandmother’s table and of all the meals she prepared for us, this was absolutely my favorite. Hers were melt in your mouth tender and Osteria 3 Rose’s were just as good. In my attempt to recreate my childhood memory I paired it with braciole, rolled veal which had been simmered in a simple tomato sauce. The portion served of cingul was more than I could eat and of course now I wish I had finished it anyway.


Thursday morning the traveling mercato sets up shop on one of the main streets in town.  I loved this display of herbs, but more than that the two men manning the booth were adorable. The older gentleman was thrilled that I wanted to take a photo and made me show him how it turned out. He inquired as to where we were from and when I told him San Diego he just shook his head, so I mentioned Los Angeles, then Hollywood and finally Disneyland. None of it meant a thing to him!


All of the produce looked amazing and it made me want to get in the kitchen and get cooking. Shiny firm eggplants, baby artichokes, tiny pears and what I think is puntarelle which I’ve only ever seen once here in California. Next trip, when I hope to stay for a month, I will be cooking with the stunning local produce.



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June 17, 2017


Calitri Italy


Twelve years ago we made the trek to Calitri traveling by train and bus to reach this town. A day and a half was not nearly long enough to really explore and we vowed to return and so we did. We flew to Bari, picked up a car and set off.  As we left Puglia and traveled into Campania the landscape changed from fields with vines and olive trees to rolling green hills dotted with windmills. After exiting the autostrada the roads narrowed and farm houses popped up here and there. Occasionally a car would drive by, but for the most part we were the only ones on the road. Eventually we started seeing signs for Calitri and I can’t begin to describe my excitement.

into town

It began 110 ten years ago when my great grandparents put their son Lazzaro on a ship leaving Naples heading to New York. You have to wonder how hard their life must have been to send their children thousands of miles away in hope of a better life. Four years later my grandmother’s parents did the same thing. These two young people both came from the small hilltop town of Calitri, but did not meet until some years after their arrival in the New York. I don’t have all the details, but I can only imagine it went something like ” there’s a girl from your town that you should meet” and then they were married.

through town

The drive into town was easy and we spotted sites that were familiar from our last visit. Finding the meeting point for our rental agent was a little more difficult than we expected, but finally we pulled into the piazza and there she was. I immediately recognized Emma as she had been on an episode of House Hunters International. We unpacked the car and started hauling our bags through the narrow lanes of the borgo. It wasn’t really that far, but by the time we rounded the corner and saw those last uneven steps to the apartment I was ready to hand my suitcase over to J.

last steps

Turns out our neighbors were the couple that we saw on the House Hunters episode and we enjoyed spending time with them and getting the lowdown on living in Calitri. They had relocated from Colorado and were warmly welcomed by the locals. Our apartment, owned by another American couple, was roomy and had a fully equipped kitchen.

la casa

The best part however was the surprise we had when we opened the shutters on the bedroom window and saw the view-green hills as far as the eye could see with Monte Vulture (an extinct volcano) off in the distance. What we were gazing at was the border of Campania and Basilicata. I have to tell you that in our week there I never tired of staring out the window and seeing this landscape.


out the bedroom

more country

The town is actually divided into two areas. After a devastating earthquake in this region in 1980 many of Calitri’s residents moved from the old borgo into new housing that was built. It seems that many thought it would be easier to relocate rather than repair their damaged homes. When we visited twelve years ago there were not many people living in the older section of town, but a lot has changed since then. There’s been quite a bit of redevelopment, both by locals and foreigners who have discovered the charm  of spending time in this quiet town.

new 2

new section

More to come on our week in this magical place.

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June 10, 2017


Di Pietro-Melito Irpino


With the help of Katie Parla’s website and Carla Capalbo’s book The Food and Wine Guide to Naples and Campania we decided to travel to the town of Melito Irpino, located a little over an hour away from Calitri for lunch at Di Pietro. Little did we know when we programmed the information into the gps that we asked for the “slow route” which was a lot slower than we had anticipated. Up and down through hill and dale, we traveled for well over an hour on roads that look liked someone’s rural driveway until we finally saw a sign for Di Pietro.


We arrived in town too early for lunch and so we strolled around and as soon as the restaurant opened we made our way to the dining room. We were warmly greeted by Enzo, the owner, who led us to our table. Being that we were on the early side of lunch we were the only diners in the room and Enzo took us under his wing.


We were asked if we wanted antipasto and of course I replied yes and so began the meal.

First we were served warm focaccia and a few minutes later came the salumi and cheese. Next came a warm slice of pizza reminiscent of my grandmother’s-topped  with tomato sauce and dried oregano. A plate of sautéed baby artichokes followed and they disappeared shortly thereafter.


Enzo then served us bruschetta topped with fresh tomatoes and slices of vegetable tarts-one made with artichokes and the other with ricotta and fresh herbs. I could have eaten a big slice of each of these and been happy to call it a day.  I have to try and recreate these now that I’m at home.


We never did see menu and I’m not sure they even have one but I felt confident putting our faith in Enzo. Of course the next course was pasta-handmade cavatell (traditional in this area) for me and ricotta filled ravioli for J.   This is what pasta is supposed to taste like-a little bit chewy and lightly dressed with a tomato sauce. The ravioli held the creamiest ricotta and were melt in your mouth tender.



As much as I wanted to order a second(typically your meat or fish course), I just couldn’t eat another bite. Even though we declined dessert we were served a platter of biscotti and meringues. Enzo sat with us a bit longer and when we said we had to head out and asked for the check he insisted that we wait while his daughter prepared croccante for us.  I’ve had this crispy nut confection before, but never as delicate and tasty as this one. She brought it to the table shaped in a little dome and proceeded to crack it into pieces and we devoured the entire plate!


As we approached the front of the room to pay our bill Enzo’s daughters joined us to say good bye and present us with a tin of their local olive oil and a bag full of the almond croccante. After three hours it was time to head home and I can say with certainly that next time we visit Calitri we will make the drive to Di Pietro. By the way-we found a much quicker route home!


If you find yourself in the Irpinia area of Campania you must plan on dining at Di Pietro. You will have a meal you’ll dream about later and Enzo will make you feel like an old friend.

Di Pietro

Corso Italia, 8 Melito Irpino

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2018

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