chicken in red wine vinegar sauce

One of dozens of things I’ve learned from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, possibly my favorite food book of all time, is the method of pre-seasoning meat (and fish) with salt. Generously, and often well in advance of cooking.

The thought of not only planning next day’s dinner in advance – and actually starting to prepare it too – seems like one more good intention gone astray. BUT, in this case the “preparation” involves taking chicken out of the package, sprinkling it with salt, putting it back into the refrigerator and forgetting about it for 24 hours. Yup. Trust me, it’s totally doable. And that simple step has a big impact on the outcome.  [Read more…]

chocolate birthday cake

Short and sweet today. I baked myself a chocolate cake because milestones should always be accompanied by chocolate. And cake.

Yes, it’s a big birthday!  [Read more…]

pomegranate panna cotta

The pomegranates were ripening, falling to the ancient staircase below with a thump. The heavy fruit split apart on impact, exposing crimson seeds and fleshy insides.  There was a tree laden with fruit just outside the casale in Tuscany – the magical place where I was staying almost exactly one month ago.

The skin of these fruits wasn’t the familiar mottled, deeply red color of the ones I buy in late fall from produce bins in the grocery store; these were yellow tinged with green, looking more like extra-large Golden Delicious apples than what I’ve come to recognize as pomegranates. Pomegranates are melograno in Italian, derived from the Latin word for apple.

When I first noticed the tree I didn’t recognize the fruits; it wasn’t until I saw them cracked open on the ground that I saw what they were. The property, surrounded by vineyards, was outlined with hedges of bay laurel, rosemary and oleander. All plants that love the Mediterranean climate as much as pomegranates do. [Read more…]