Pick Your Basil: It’s pesto time!

I often say pesto is my version of peanut butter because I can spread it on anything. Around this time each summer, I am sure to pick the remaining leaves off of my basil plants, mostly so I can make this delicious pesto recipe.

It’s a family favorite that I found in the New York Times while living in NYC. It’s originally a Silver Palate recipe, and it’s been one of my go-to meals ever since. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been cooking it for years. Pesto is a pantry staple in my house, and I almost always make my own because it’s so easy.

Pesto Recipe
serves 6-8

You will need:
– 4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
– ¾ cup olive oil
– ½ cup pine nuts
– 4 garlic cloves
– ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + 4 tablespoons for the garnish
– 1-teaspoon coarse kosher salt

To prepare:
Combine basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil leaves.

After blending, pour oil into the mixture and blend until smooth.

This can be made 1 day ahead. Stored in a sealed jar, it can last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

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Summer Salad Week:: Beets & Goat Cheese


Hi all! It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend. Have you been following Annette in Italy recently? If so, you know that she’s working hard on her La Fortezza cookbook, so I am running things this week. And it’s all about summer salads.

As of yesterday, it’s officially summer. The days are long and hot, and when I find myself searching for great meals, all I want is something to cool me off. Enter the summer salad.

Of course, when I need some inspo, I turn to Annette’s blog archives. I found this recipe for a beet and goat cheese salad, and I’m adding it to this week’s lunch rotation. I just found my tastebuds for beets in recent years, but when paired with acidity and cheese, I can’t get enough of them. There are so many varieties of beets available at groceries and markets these days, and I love the idea of gathering a few to make the salad extra colorful.

Let’s try this salad together, shall we?! Report back and let Annette know what you think!

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad with Thyme/Lime Dressing
Serves 6-8

You will need:
– 6 large red beets, roasted
– 8 tablespoons plain goat cheese
– 6 cups arugula

To prepare beets:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roast beets in skin in the oven for 45 minutes

Let the beets cool, then peel the beets and slice into ½ inch disks

* I use gloves or a knife and fork to peel my beets; it’s much less messy this way.


You will need:
– ¼ cup lime olive oil like O&CO
– ¼ cup lime juice
– ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
– 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
– 3 tablespoons fresh Thyme leaves
– 1 teaspoon lime zest

To prepare salad: 

Place all dressing ingredients in a small lidded jar, close the lid and shake until combined

Assembly of the salad: Arrange beets on platter or a plate on top of arugula, dollop with teaspoons of goat cheese, pour dressing over the salad.

Photo Credit: Helen Norman

xo Nicole

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My love/hate relationship with Venice, Italy

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photo 5 (2) This is a blog post about my love/hate relationship with Venice, Italy…

I swore I would never go to Venice in the summertime, but when my best friend, Forrest Spears, arranged a trip, lodging, and events…how could I say no? Plus there was an Art Restoration Studio tour on the agenda, come on!

After all it was when I was 17 years old I made this oath, so maybe it would not be so bad now.

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First stop was the most amazing restoration studio, owned by Forrest’s good friend Maria Angela. She truly was like her namesake: an angel. Her studio is located in the mountain region right before Venice, in the town of Belluno. I had never heard of it, and it’s definitely not a tourist destination, but this town is popular because of its mountain temperatures, and believe me we needed the reprieve from 100+ temps all around Italy.

We toured the studio which was AMAZING, a dream actually. The studio is surrounded by a beautiful garden, with flowers veggies and fruit trees…absolute heaven. Plus all around the garden strolled chickens with their chicks and a dandy rooster.

We spent the night in the cool mountains before heading to the heat of Venice for Biennale.

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Okay about my love hate with Venice. Here’s a concise list of both:


1. I love the city! It’s beautiful and resembles a Disney set, really.
2. Everyone loves pictures of the canals right? Beautiful.
3. The light in Venice is perfection. Let’s face it: it’s a photo rich environment.
4. I love the architecture; it’s so unique.
5. I love Biennale (the reason for this trip, but more on that next time).
6. Harry’s bar.
7. Cipriani’s pool.
8. The Guggenheim Museum.


1. The canal and garbage smell in July.
2. The crowds of tourists.
3. The food. I’m not crazy about Venetian food. I know, I know, but it’s truly just okay in comparison to the rest of Italy. It rates a C+ grade… believe me.
4. The gondolas. They are cheesy and expensive, and honestly in Vegas they are exactly the same, and you can ride them for free at the Venetian Hotel, and it’s less smelly for sure.
5. The Pigeons, tons of them. Basically rats with wings.
6. The rude staff at Florin, and the 100 euro breakfast. What??
7. The tour guides with hundreds of people following along like ducks.
8. The junky carts at St. Marks Square.

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So as you can see, I have strong feelings both ways. Is it a place I would want to live? Not really, but I would not live in New York City either. If I had to live in a super touristy city in Italy, I think I would choose Florence or Rome where the food is fantastic, and there’s less of a touristy vibe going on.

This is just my opinion, and having said all of this, we had a great time despite the hottest summer I can ever remember! We managed to enjoy the fireworks, the Biennale, and most of the food was pretty good. Venice in July, though? Never again…

Photo credit : Me

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