Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays!

With my son's smile I wish each and one of you, Cucinamore's friends, plenty of good things, inside and outside your kitchens!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

FLAVORS OF WINTER -Tuesday, December 15th - 6:00 pm

(Prosecco and Truffle Risotto)

Are you working on your menus for those special dinners during the Holidays?
Could you use a little help to make them deliciously different but still as simple as they can be?
Join me for this group class where I will share a few ideas with you, according to the usual “Dani-style”: tasty but easy!

This is what we are going to prepare together for our “festive” class.

See you there!

Mortadella and Pistacchi Mousse

Prosecco and Truffle Risotto

Rosa di Parma
(Hand-rolled tenderloin with Prosciutto and Parmigiano )

Sicilian “Fennel and Orange” Salad

(Rosa di Parma)

Friday, December 4, 2009

An Italian Touch to our Thanksgiving

How can you fit lasagne in a Thanksgiving dinner? I found a way!

I made my friend Michele's "Lasagne Zucca e Porri" (Pumkin and Leeks), a classic on the table of my "" circle of italian friends.

Color, aroma and taste were perfectly tuned with the big day: an orange and gold dish, warm and tasty, with a touch of spice from the nutmeg in the béchamel sauce.

I was happy I got a chance to contribute to the meal, remaining in my culinary territory but still without disrupting the traditional atmosphere.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I went home.

Finally back to my beloved Italy after almost two years.

Food wise I will sum it all up by saying I put on about 5 pounds in 20 days. I guess that can crazily be considered a good sign among us weirdoes ;-)
I will have chances in my next posts to talk about this or that dish, this or that ingredient I stumbled upon during this trip, but today I want to share with you a wonderful experience I made, instead, that does not involve cooking for once.

I got to spend a whole long weekend in Tuscany, at my friend Betta's place, harvesting olives for the new oil of the season.

There is something about doing this work, those simple gestures, no mechanic help, just your hands and the tree, that gives you some sort of unnatural inner peace. Why "unnatural"? Well, we all live in a frantic world, we are all running around in our lives hardly ever finding time to stop. So at the beginning it feels strange to be there with your thoughts, busy hands and free mind, in a place and situation where time seems to have stopped and you feel like you have eternity in your hands.

Am I exaggerating? I don't know. I can only say that it's exactly the way I felt.

Figure I wasn't even alone: there were a bunch of funny friends on the hills with me, needless to say. We laughed, talked, sang and had a great time. But then there were those pauses where everyone seemed to be in their own world. I think it was therapeutic for us all. The newbies and the experts. And God only knows we can all use some good therapy sometimes ;-)

It's been great and I defintely recommend it to all of you. If you ever have a chance to go to Italy during the late fall/early winter let me know: I can hook you up with Betta. She always appreciates a couple extra hands for the job. You won't regret the hard work.

So now I'm back, people. See you around, my friends. But before you go, please check this out and let me know what you think: OLIVIADI 2009 - MARCO D'ELIA

Monday, July 27, 2009

For Food Obsessed People Only (Just Like Me)

How many times have I started my posts talking about "a very special dinner"? I bet you can't even count them.
I am sorry, but I really can't help it: food makes my day (and nights too) and the other day I had another of those dinners (lucky, aren't I?) and I have the urge to share!

We had a few friends over as it was my birthday so my husband and I, after fighting over who was going to cook, decided to pretty fairly divide the tasks. He was basically going to be in charge of the entrees while I was going to take care of the appetizers and the side dishes. Dessert, like it often happens at my house, was kindly provided by one of the guests.
I did not complain (for once) because I LOVE appetizers! I could dine on those anytime.

This was my choice for that night.
I decided to have an appetizer buffet for our friends before we were going to sit for the meal, so I toasted some sliced ciabatta bread and prepared a few toppings for it:

- An eggplant and walnut spread
- My "famous" (yeah, right) garbanzo bean and rosemary spread
- Some cherry tomatoes with garlic, basil and olive oil for a traditional bruschetta (PLEASE pronounce it "broos-kaet-ta": there are Italians around here)

Then I made some little spirals with puff pastry and some of that pesto I was telling you about a few days ago that I had frozen. Tasty!

All that went perfectly well with a bottle of chilled Prosecco that some of our friends brought!

Of course I wasn't done yet: I still had my last appetizer to serve when finally people sat at the table. I remembered this very simple dish my friend Michele did at my house in Italy once that I absolutely loved: I very quickly sautéed some baby bay scallops with curry and served them hot, over a fresh baby spinach and spring mix salad.

Then came my husband's turn with his spicy grilled shrimp, the lobster, home made mashed potatoes with fresh spring onion from our garden and stuffed portobello mushrooms.

I felt as stuffed as those mushrooms, by the time dinner was over, but I managed to find some room for the wonderful brownies with mocha icing that our friend Teri especially made for the occasion.

I hope I don't sound like I am showing off when I give you my reports of what I consider a great meals, as that is not the intent. It's just that I feel like we, food lovers or food obsessed as many call us, are not any different than any other group of people who share a passion: have you ever listened to how a couple guys who love football can spend hours talking about this or that player, this or that action in a game? Or how some women can talk forever about that new dress that they saw during the latest shopping day name it! I can talk about food non stop and I know among you, my friends, I will always find a ear that is willing to listen!
Feel free to share your own latest special meal, food discover, or even disappointment! You have a friend in me here!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Her Majesty La Pasta: THANK YOU!

Yes, thank you my friends for another great evening in my kitchen. There were a lot of you guys there last night and we had a lot of fun as usual, at least judging from the fact that when I had a look at the clock I saw that we spent 4 hours together and it seemed like it was a much shorter time!
Anyway, this is what we did yesterday and for those who weren't there...YEAH, be jealous: you missed out! ;-)

Her Majesty

Tuesday July 21, 2009


• Penne Pomodoro Fresco e Basilico (Penne with Fresh Tomato and Basil)

• Ruote con Zucchine, Limone e Menta (Wheels with Zucchini, Lemon and Mint)

• Tagliatelle con Salsa di Noci (homemade Tagliatelle with Walnut Sauce)

• Fusilli al Pesto

• Linguine Mari e Monti (“Seas and Mountains” Linguine)

• Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Friday, July 10, 2009

Her Majesty LA PASTA!

Don’t you dare to tell an Italian like me that Pasta is a side dish!

For us it simply is “the Queen of the Meal”!

In fact, in Italy pasta is always served by itself and called “primo piatto” (first course), even when it comes after appetizers or is followed by nothing but a salad or fruits, as it often happens for many informal meals!

Would you like to know how I prepare a few of my pasta dishes?
Remember, though: for my family-cooking philosophy the keywords always are simplicity and fresh ingredients!
If you think you might like that, join me in my kitchen for group class and samples

Tuesday, July 21st @ 6:00 pm

You can contact me at

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Pesto, Made In Texas

People from Liguria (the region in the northwest side of Italy which is Pesto's homeland) are EXTREMELY defensive when it comes to this wonderful sauce.

Yes, basil is the base of it, together with a little garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano (or Pecorino, for some), excellent Olive Oil from that same region.
Still, according to them, not any basil can be used: it has to come from a particular area, a district in the city of Genova named Pra'. The sauce has to be hand made, and by that I mean that no mechanical help is allowed, only mortar and pestle.
And right when you are thinking "Ok, I can put the effort in it. Let me make it in big quantity so that I can save it and enjoy some of this precious sauce later on too..", well that's when you get another dirty look and they roll their eyes at you. You were actually thinking of FREEZING it? Ahahahahah! Foolish thought! Pesto must be prepared and enjoyed right away! Period. No exceptions.

So I already know what you, Marina, are thinking right now about my Texan Pesto.
We tease Marina calling her the "Pesto Taleban" because of her strict intolerance for any exception to the religious pesto rules. ;-)
Yes, Marina, I confess: I made some Texan Pesto and I loved it!

The moment I poured it on the steaming hot pasta, to me it was the best pesto in the world. I was surrounded by that wonderful aroma and I was in heaven!

I did my usual compromises, of course, but not too many. I still picked the fresh basil leaves from my backyard at the very last moment, when they smell at their best. I did use the blender, but did not mince the pine nuts too fine, because I like the rustic feel that they give when left a little coarse.

I cooked my pasta with potato cubes. I did not have any green beans handy, as the tradition would call for, but I did not miss them too much.

Few things in life smell like a fresh homemade Pesto. I can tell you that much.

Nicholas had two generous servings and kept telling me, with his mouth full (such rude son of mine that he is): "This is good, mamma, this is goooooood..."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Be Back Soon!

My family from Italy will be in town for a couple of weeks and I really want to focus on them for a while!
I therefore will not have any classes while they are here, nor will I probably update the blog during this time, but please feel free to contact me for any information about CUCINAMORE at
See you all on here soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Kid in the Kitchen (and this time it wasn’t my own)

When his mom one day asked me if I was willing to have a special class with her 7-year-old son and that this was going to be her birthday gift to him, I must confess that I was not so confident it was going to be a good idea.
On one side, I was thrilled: I always loved working with children and I have had Nicholas in my way when I cook since he learnt how to climb on a chair to reach the counter, so I guess that gives me some experience on the matter.
On the other hand though, I was telling myself “What if the poor child would rather have a new Transformer for his birthday instead and he is going to be bored and disappointed?". Then I decided to trust his mom when she told me that he really loves being in the kitchen and his dream (for now) is to be a chef one day, so I accepted the challenge and simply did my best to make it as enjoyable as possible for us both.

It turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had. I loved it! I hope he had fun too.

This is what I did with Daniel: I picked a very simple menu that we cooked together for his family and he brought the food home to proudly feed his parents and siblings.


Cheese and Spinach Dip in Fillo Shells

Baked Daniel’s Polpette (Italian meatballs)
Pasta Primavera with Ham, Peas and Cream

Rainbow Chocolate Pralines

We discussed about flavors, ingredients, safety and all the golden rules in the kitchen, like how to not leave a mess for mommy to clean up after you are done (and yes, his mom paid me a little extra for this one ;-) ).

We talked about how to be open to try new foods and how sometimes things that you do not like by themselves turn out to taste better when combined with something else. In short, we worked a lot and cooked a lot! And at the end I can proudly say it was a success, at least based on the hug I received when class was over! From what I heard his family enjoyed the dinner a lot and made him feel like he was a real chef for a day. Mission accomplished!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lamb For Dinner

Following my friend Shylah's advice I finally went to a local farmer's market yesterday morning.

Needless to say I could have bought half of what I saw and even more needless to say I could not afford doing that. So I settled for a jar of strawberry preserve that was probably the best I have ever tasted in my life and a piece or lamb that cost me an arm and a leg.

Lamb is pretty expensive over here and not that common either, from what I see. That was the reason why, when I saw this vendor selling frozen goat and lamb meat I told myself I had to have some. So I bought this lamb rack that turned out to not even be the cut of meat I expected it to be or at least it hadn't been prepared so to have the bones sticking out like a crown as I am used to see. But I did not dare touching it, so I cooked it the way it was.

Let me tell you that lamb is not exactly in my area of expertise, I probably only cooked it a couple times back when I was in Italy and so I was a little nervous. I did not want to waste that money making something that might not come out right.

I went to work that afternoon with that piece of lamb in mind. As soon as I came home I started working on it. I followed a recipe by Michele, a chef friend of mind that I probably mentioned before as he is the person who taught me a lot of what I know about food and cooking.

I was pretty pleased with the result. If nothing else, Nicholas, my 3-year-old son, ate without fussing. That equals to "pretty darn good dinner" on my scale!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Asked For It: Dani's Pizza Is Back!

(pizza with eggplants, cherry tomatoes, smoked muenster cheese)

For all those who missed the previous ones, here is another chance to learn how to make delicious pizza at home.

Let me show you how I make my dough and how I get my thin crust.
Let me share with you a few ideas for different toppings, always made with fresh ingredients and herbs.

Thursday, June 11th, 6:00 pm

Confirm your participation before june 9th!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

SIMPLY Italian!

Who said that making a whole, tasty Italian dinner from scratch for your friends and family is a difficult task?

I definitely believe the opposite!

Come to my house on

Thursday May 21st at 6pm

Learn how to put one on the table (appetizer, pasta plate, entrée and side dish)
with very little effort and great enjoyment!

RSVP required by May 19th.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


I don't know why it took me so long to start making calzone for my family. It must be because I tend to do what I like myself and I have never been a calzone fan.

Vince, my husband, loves it instead, so I have started to make this more often. Does not take much to make people happy, sometimes :)

I made this one for him with his fav stuffing: tomato and cheese of course, to which I added some mushrooms, bell peppers and sausage.

Not bad, not bad at all...even if I made my usual flat pizza with cherry tomatoes and good mozzarella for myself instead! Old habits are hard to break ;-)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bread and Cheese: Back to the Roots of "Good"

I like most foods. There is not much that is edible and that normally appears on our table that I cannot eat with enjoyment. Sometimes, though, food can send me to heaven and this was the case with this marvellous, delicius goat cheese that we found almost by chance at Central Market. Whoever the company which produces it is (it's called Cypress Grove Chevre and I must admit that I had never heard of them, I had to look them up), thank you for your work! Together with a slice of crusty bread and a glass of wine this cheese was a moment of serious pleasure to me.

The cheese is called Humboldt Fog® and it's a creamy and tangy cheese, to which I did not add any honey, fruit or anything. I am minimalist when it comes to flavors, semplicity is the golden rule, especially if I am the only one enjoying it.

All this has little to do with cooking, but it has lots to do with the pleasure of eating something good and my personal appreciation for hard work and attention for quality in the food market, so I thought I would share it nevertheless.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Like many people (at least Italians) my age, I was brought up with a dogma: you NEVER throw away food, unless of course it's not edible for health reasons.

I guess I used to be a good girl back then and listened carefully, because I learned my lesson so well that it now feels like there is an invisible hand stopping me from going anywhere near the trashcan whenever I have some food left from a meal, even if the thought of eating it again really does not appeal to me.

I actually have a problem to begin with: to be completely honest with you, the princess in me hates leftovers in general. I really do not like to reheat food that had been prepared for another occasion. With very few exceptions like some slow cooked stews or similar that I must admit actually taste better the next days or so.
Therefore I have developed a skill which I call the art of recycling. I always try to cook just as much as it is needed for the meal but whenever even that is not enough and the leftovers are unavoidable, I come up with all kinds of ways to hide the origin of the new dish.
Remember the "fegato alla veneziana" I told you we had the other night? I added a couple anchovies and some capers to what was left of that and made a tasty pate' for crostini. Yummy antipasto, right?

I am not saying whatever the new creation is, it is always going to be better than the original recipe, but at least it's different! And in certain case I get appreciable results.

So, be welcome pate', polpette, flans, stuffed vegetables, sauces and anything that can multiply ways of eating whatever we bought. In these hard times it makes a lot of sense to me on the wallet side too!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back To The Kitchen

It's been a lifetime, I know. Not only have I been away from this blog: I must say that I have not spent a lot of time in my own kitchen either, lately.

There are a few reasons for this, some more practical (got a job!), others basically mood-related (I had a few issues going on, not all of them pleasant).

But I guess you know you are healing from being sick when you start being hungry again, right? Well, I'm really hungry for this blog and for some real food too, now, so be warned: I am back! :-)

P.S.: fegato alla veneziana con polenta for dinner last night. Shouldn't this be considered a good sign?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Polenta: It Smells Like Home

One of the terms used to define people from Northern Italy (not really intended to be nice) is “polentoni” (“those who eat a lot of polenta”) and I, oh, so much take pride in it!

I assume most of you know what Polenta is, but for those who might not, it’s a dish made with cornmeal (yellow or white, finely or coarsely grounded depending on the taste and on the area where it’s prepared and consumed). Where I come from it is more about white, fine polenta, almost creamy. But I love it any way, any style.

Polenta has saved my people from starvation back in the days where there wasn’t much else to eat in the farms around Treviso and it was present every single evening on the dinner table, sometimes with a piece of cheese to go with it or eggs or whatever was available, very rarely meat, and it was meant to fill the hungry stomachs (and that, trust me, it does!) of those who had been working in the fields since dawn. Children loved to eat the crust that remained on the pot after polenta was cooked. It came off in pieces once the pot cooled down and I guess it tastes like your corn chips.
The leftovers were good for breakfast the next morning instead, with some milk, kind of what Americans do with grits. All that corn and very little else to go with it was not exactly healthy and it even brought a disease caused by the lack of other nutrients, “pellagra”, but, like I said, it still saved from starvation and led my people out of a time that was very hard on them.

Now Polenta is served even in very fine restaurants but to me it will always taste like home. Even if in my youth days, thank God, it was not as essential in our survival as it was in my grandparents’ time, it was still very popular and I ate (and loved) a lot of it. Of course I still love it but I don't eat it as much.

A friend of mine recently brought me a package of cornmeal from Storo, a little village in Trentino, a region close to the one I come from. Let me tell you: there is a reason why they call it “l’Oro di Storo” (Storo’s gold). It makes a wonderful polenta! Yellow and thicker than the one I am used to, but still delicious!
It takes between 30 and 40 minutes to cook a real polenta and I must say that last night I enjoyed all of them while making it. The little familiar gestures of stirring it that I hadn’t done in such long time, the scent of cooked corn, the sound (*plof!*) that a well cooked polenta makes when you pour it on a wooden board before portioning it…all of that almost got me emotional, last night!

I also treated my good polenta as it deserved, though: I made some beef ossobuco to go with it. Slowly cooked for 3 hours, till the meat was so tender it fell apart just by looking at it! I even opened a bottle of cabernet and I rarely drink wine by myself (I am married to a green tea kind of guy, figure that ;-) ). It was worth it: I went to bed very happy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Interview

Yeah, believe it or not, we had a journalist attending our dessert class with Betta!
Stefania, another Italian friend living in San Antonio, put together this radio interview to present the class. I think she did an amazing job, if you put up with our terrible English, but feel free to let me know your comments. As always they are highly appreciated.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Taste of Tuscany 2 - The Desserts

Second of the two special classes with Betta. Thank you so much, my wonderful friend, for the privilege of having you with us sharing your amazing knowledge and talent! We all loved you!

28 Jan. 09
“A taste of Tuscany”
The Desserts

(Almond Biscotti)

Budino di Casa Mia con Noci e Uvetta
(Home-style Pudding with Walnuts and Raisins)

Capriccio di Cioccolato di Zia Memi con Gelato
(Chocolate Fudge with Ice Cream)

Crostata di Pesche al Rosmarino
(Peach and Rosemary Crostata)

Frittelle con le Mele
(Apple Fritters)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Taste Of Tuscany 1 - The Meal

Here is what we did last night with a group of 12 wonderful people who attended the first class with our special guest star Betta:

Crostini con pesto di pomodori secchi e crema di cannellini all’aglio e rosmarino
(Toasted bread with sundried tomato pesto and cannellini bean spread with garlic and rosemary)

Primo piatto:
Pici al sugo finto
(Homemade pasta with vegetable ragu’)

Secondo piatto:
Filetto di maiale con salsa contadina e padellata di verdure all’aceto balsamico
(Pork sirloin with country-style sauce and sautéed vegetables with balsamic vinegar)

Thank you everybody for sharing the fun and see you next week for dessert night!