Give it a try: make a loaf of bread!

Have you ever felt intimidated by baking bread? I feel like it’s one of those foods that worry people. However, fear not! There are some awesome bread recipes out there that make baking a breeze, and this is one of them!

Let me know if you tackle your bread fears by baking this olive bread. It makes the most delicious late afternoon snack. Because this bread recipe can make 4 small loaves, it’s also a great gift for neighbors! Make a batch to kick-off fall which is just around the corner.

Olive Bread
makes 4 small loaves or 1 large one

You will need:
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 tablespoons sugar
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
– 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– 1/2 cup drained and chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil  (available at specialty foods shops and some supermarkets), reserving 2 tablespoons of the oil
– 2 large eggs
– 1 1/2 cups milk
– 1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives
– 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (preferably flat-leaved)
– 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

To prepare:

Into a bowl sift together the flour, the baking powder, the baking soda, the salt, and the sugar.

In a small skillet cook the garlic with the rosemary and the pepper in the reserved oil from the sun-dried tomatoes over moderately low heat, stirring, until it is softened and fragrant but not brown.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, the milk, butter, and the garlic mixture, add the flour mixture, and stir the batter until it is just combined. Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, the olives, the parsley, and the Parmesan. Divide the batter among 4 buttered and floured loaf pans, each 5 3/4 by 3 1/4 by 2 inches, and bake the breads in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Remove the breads from the pans and let them cool, right sides up, on a rack. The bread keeps, wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil, chilled for 1 week or frozen for 1 month.

(Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

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It’s Fig Season:: Let’s make a tart!

Hey everyone! I’m Nicole, Annette’s web manager and friend, and I’m excited to share an end-of-summer recipe with you.

A few years ago, my grandparents gifted my husband and me a fig tree. After nursing it inside during a harsh winter, we eagerly planted it and have watched it grow from a sapling to a fruit-bearing tree. This year is the first year we’ve been able to harvest any figs that the squirrels haven’t eaten which has me on the lookout for all the fig recipes I can get my hands on.

Of course, that meant turning to Annette’s trusty and knowledgeable blog. The funny thing about figs is that their season is very short, and once you’ve plucked them from a tree, you have to eat them pretty quickly. That’s why something like jam or a tart, like I’m sharing today, is such an effective way to use your figs!

Below, find Annette’s fig advice along with her incredible recipe for a fig tart!

Choose your figs by looking for ones that are slightly soft and give to a little pressure, but aren’t mushy. Store them in the fridge, but be sure not to wash them until you’re ready to use them.

Figs are incredibly delicate, so be careful when you wash them. Never scrub figs or use anything harsher than your fingers. Instead, gently rub any dirt you see away from the fig’s surface. Remove the stems by twisting gently until they come off. Pat them to dry.

I have to say, this tart is wonderful; it actually tastes like a gourmet fig newton!

Fig Tart
serves 8

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

For the crust:
– 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar
– 4 tablespoons cold butter cut into 1 inch cubes + 1 tablespoon butter
– 1/4 cup olive oil ( I got mine from a local press, 2 blocks away, gotta love Italy)
– pinch salt
– 1/2 cup ice water

To prepare: 

In a Cuisnart or Kitchenaid, put in flour, sugar, salt and 4 tablespoons butter + oil. mix on medium speed until it becomes a crumby mixture.

Slowly add ice water until the dough pulls together. Place in the fridge and start on the figs.

For the fig filling:

Slice the figs into quarters, roll out the dough, and place into the tart pan, arrange fig quarters on the dough in a fan pattern.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar + 1 tablespoon cubed butter on top of the fig arrangement.

Put into a 400 degree oven for 1 hour, or until the figs and dough are nicely browned, they should be a nice shade of caramel.

Cool and serve.

Enjoy xx

Photos by Annette

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Parmesan Crisps:: Quick Summer Appetizer

These lovely little two-bite parmesan crisps are savory and salty with a crunch—perfect to serve with a chilled glass of prosecco or rose. It’s a quick appetizer that uses parmesan cheese with a combination of tomatoes – tomato jam to be exact.

The tomato jam is the star of the show, but you’ll love the addition of mozzarella and basil too. These bites make a great addition to any menu for a summer soiree.

Two Bite Parmesan Crisps
Makes about 32

For the Tomato Jam:


You will need:
– 3  tablespoons olive oil
– 1 garlic clove, chopped
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 4 large heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
– 3 tablespoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To prepare:
Place ingredients into a medium pot over medium heat for 15 minutes, set aside to cool. This step may be done a couple of days in advance and placed in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to use.

For the Parmesan Crisps:


You will need:
– 8 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 4 cups)
– Place 2 tablespoons of Parmesan on a cookie sheet fitted with a silpat.
– Arrange the spoonfuls about 3 inches apart as they will spread to form round crisps.

To prepare:
Place in a 350 F degree oven for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before assembling the appetizer.

To assemble:
– 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
– 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Place a dollop of jam on top of the crisp, and add cubes of mozzarella and garnish with a basil leaf.

From my book Picture Perfect Parties RIzzoli NY

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Spaghetti Carbonara

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Full disclosure: this is not my favorite pasta dish, however, it is quick easy, and most people LOVE it.

You most likely have many of the ingredients for spaghetti carbonara on hand, and I believe that it can be a recipe open to interpretation. It basically involves pasta, cured pork, hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino, black pepper, and eggs. To me, it’s similar, in some ways, to the Roman pasta dish pasta cacio e uova.

Supposedly this dish first burst on the scene in 1950, which I believe, because it smacks of the 20th century. It is absent from my favorite Italian cookbook, Ada Boni’s 1930 La Cucina Romana (her regional cookbook is available on Amazon in English, the Romana is in Italian) one of the best cookbooks of all time. I don’t make it often, but it appeared on the internet recently as “Carbonara Day” on instagram which I found rather humorous. Even funnier was that I actually made it. Talk about being influenced! I am embarrassed to say I was.

So here’s my recipe, I am sure you’ll love it. It’s comforting and creamy, like bowl of mac and cheese tossed with a little crispy bacon. It actually reminds me of breakfast: bacon, eggs and cheese with spaghetti. No wonder people love it.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves 4

You will need:
– 1 lb.  dried Spaghetti
– 8 ounces Speck, proscuttio, or bacon. Basically, a cured pork product cut into bite size pieces
– 3 large eggs scrambled
– 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, pecorino, or any hard cheese
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

To prepare:

Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta). In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Salt boiling water generously; add a tablespoon of salt to the water. Once boiling, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs and parmesan. Set aside.

Using a spider, remove pasta from the water and place it into the bowl, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to the egg mixture. Add bacon; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from pasta will cook eggs). Serve immediately, sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Classic Italian Recipe: Torta Pasqualina

Torta Pasqualina 4 Torta Pasqualina 5

A few years ago, when DesignSponge was *the* blog, I contributed a unique classic Italian recipe: the torta pasqualina. This recipe comes from the Liguria region. It will remind you of a decadent quiche. Let me know if you give it a try for Easter.

Torta Pasqualina
Serves 6–8

For the Crust:

You will need:
– 4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 cup olive oil
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 3/4 cups ice water

To prepare:
Make crust in a food processor. Put flour in the bowl and add oil and salt. Pulse until pebble-sized crumbs appear, and as you pulse, add water through the chute until dough comes together.

*Note: You may need to add a little more water to the dough — it should form a soft ball of dough. Set the dough aside and make the filling.

For the Filling:

You will need:
– 1/2 medium red onion sliced thinly
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– 6 cups chopped fresh spinach
– 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
– 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese
– 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
– 1 egg
– salt and pepper to taste
– 4 eggs + 1 for egg wash

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

In a large sauté pan, add olive oil. Slice the red onion into thin slices, sauté with the oil. Once the onions have become transparent, add the spinach. Add salt and pepper.

Sauté mixture until spinach is wilted, about 10 minutes. Cook off as much liquid in the pan as possible. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cheeses, marjoram and 1 egg.

When the spinach mixture has cooled for about 10 minutes, squeeze excess liquid from the mixture and add to the cheese mixture. Combine well and set aside.

Assemble the pie:

Divide crust into two parts, put flour on a board and roll dough out to 1/4 inch disk. Place this disk into a 12” pie form or a ceramic pie dish. Make sure the edges of the dough overlap the side of the dish. Fill with the spinach mixture, smooth the top and make four indentations into the spinach mixture with a spoon. These indentations will hold the eggs. Crack an egg carefully into each indentation.

Roll out the remaining crust and place on top. Pinch all around the edges and finish with egg wash on top.

Bake in a 375ºF oven for 1 hour.

xx Annette

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