"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Friday, December 31, 2010

Breakfast Brioche at Cefalicchio

In addition to granola, freshly baked brioche were also a staple at the Cefalicchio breakfast buffet. I was so happy to learn how to make these delightful breakfast rolls from Annie - the CIA student who was visiting Cefalicchio while I was there. I would make a new batch of brioche dough every two to three days and the brioche were rolled and baked fresh daily. Any leftovers can be used to make a superb brioche bread pudding with any seasonal fruit. They are best served warm with a selection of homemade jams. I promise these brioche will be a crowd pleaser and are all the reason to host a brunch pot luck with your friends. I apologize but I forget how many brioche rolls can be made from one recipe...I think thirty rolls. Also,  if you don't want to use all the dough in one sitting you can cover it and keep it chilled for up to three days. If you are planning on making these for a party I recommend making the dough ahead of time and just rolling out and baking the brioche before guests arrive. Before you start to make the dough you should set out the butter at room temperature for at least twenty minutes so that it gets really nice and soft. Finely, you will notice this recipe is in metric weights, I highly recommend purchasing a metric scale as your ingredient measurements will be much more precise.


500 grams Bread flour
200 grams Eggs
13 grams Salt
6 grams Yeast
116 grams Milk
251 grams Butter (very soft)
75 grams Sugar

1. Weigh the ingredients out and set out the butter.
2. Combine the eggs and milk in a kitchen aid bowl and mix lightly.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar and mix with your hands until evenly distributed. Add the yeast to the flour mixture.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and use the mixer with the dough hook to mix until just combined. Add half the butter and mix on low speed until it is completely incorporated.
5. Turn the mixer to medium speed and add the remaining butter.
6. Mix until the dough has reached full gluten development (or the point where the dough forms a small but strong window when stretched). This will get easier with time, the more you practise, the better your brioche will be.
7. Place in a bowl that has been greased with butter, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To Bake:
1. Preheat oven to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line baking trays with parchment paper. In a small bowl beat one egg with a pinch of salt.
3. Shape dough into small balls and place on a tray two inches apart.
4. After shaping the dough, brush the rolls with the egg wash and allow to sit at room temperature until they double in size, about 10-15 minutes. Brush the rolls again with the egg wash and bake until dark brown, about 8 minutes rotating once.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Granola at Cefalicchio

While at Cefalicchio I had the pleasure of working alongside a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) student from New York named Annie. I learned a lot about baking and making scrumptious desserts from Annie and one thing that I really loved was the homemade granola. This was super easy to make and it was a staple at breakfast buffet at Cefalicchio. Many guests even asked if they could buy it! Granola is very forgiving so feel free to add or subtract nuts and dried fruit to your liking. I have adapted the recipe from Annie because I wanted to have less sugar - the original recipe calls for 12 ounces brown sugar but I found 8 to be sufficient. Lastly, all the measurements are in metric weights. If you don't have a metric scale you can easily convert these online however I find the metric measurements to be much more precise. The recipe makes a lot! Enough to give some as gifts to friends and family or to last you a few weeks if you have some every day. I recommend storing the granola in air tight containers and it tastes best if eaten within two weeks of being made.


21 ounces rolled oats
30 ounces assorted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews)
12 ounces dried coconut
6 ounces flour
1 pinch salt
Cinnamon (to taste)
8 ounces brown sugar
7.5 ounces olive oil
12 ounces honey
30 ounces assorted dried fruits, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 305 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, nuts, flour, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, olive oil and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, tossing to coat well.
5. Bake on large flat trays in the oven until browned lighting stirring occasionally to bake evenly.
6. Mix in the dried fruit and store in airtight containers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cefalicchio's Garden and Pesky Hens

One the best parts about cooking at Cefalicchio was that you had access to an incredible vegetable, fruit and herb garden! The gardens were thoughtfully planned out and wonderfully maintained. Nothing tastes as good as a salad made from lettuce and tomatoes picked just 5 minutes before. Or a pasta with roasted zucchini collected that day. Some things that Cefalicchio grows include lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, peppers, an assortment of squash, peaches, apples, figs, and blood oranges. The options were endless and the herb garden alone had at least 12 different kinds of herbs including rosemary, lavender, mind, basil, and thyme. Above is a photo of one of the lettuce beds. Here is a close up of a gorgeous head of leafy greens!
Look at this beautiful pumpkin!
And in case I didn't talk about figs enough in yesterday's post, here is a close up of a fig vine just at the beginning of fig season in early August.
And a bowl of freshly picked figs!
Cefalicchio also had a small farm with hens, ducks, sheep and horses. At least every two days I would go and collect the eggs from the hens. A fun and funny task. The first time I was sent to the collect the eggs I came back eggless. The hens were sitting on their eggs and I didn't want to bother them, so I came back empty handed only to be told in a thick Italian accent "Don't come back without any eggs!" So I returned to the small hen coop and spent a few minutes just staring at the hens hoping they would figure out that I was there for their eggs and get up, however I had no such luck. Eventually I worked up the courage to sort of nudge one of the hens off her nest and sure enough she was sitting on 4 lovely light brown eggs. However, I sensed by the way she was staring at me, that she was pissed off with me. I nudged the other hens and collected all the eggs and they followed me out their coop and were squawking away as I closed the gate. With time, these hens warmed up to me and I didn't feel so bad taking their eggs, after all, I had to make brioche!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Olive Trees, Grape Vines and Ewok Huts

In my free time I enjoyed for walks in the country side. Cefalicchio has 80 hectares of rolling grape vines and olive trees sprinkled with wild arugula and huge fig trees. Cefalicchio practices biodynamic farming which essentially treats the farm as an organism in and of itself. Using compost as a way of caring for the soil and limiting the need for external inputs. The photo above is from the Cefalicchio website and is taken from the view point on the tower on top of the villa. The pictures below are all from my walks. Arugula is growing all over the property, just sprouting up along dirt paths and in the hills. It doesn't look like the homogeneous arugula we are used to that comes washed 3x in sealed plastic bags at supermarkets. It is crisp and narrow with a jagged edge. In Puglia, Arugula is mostly used for pastas as opposed to salads but it can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Here is a picture of a bushel of wild arugula on the ground:
As it turns out, I wasn't the only person excited about the wild arugula. I frequently saw locals from the nearby town of Canosa walking around with large plastic bags and picking their week's worth of the fresh greens and any wild herbs like thyme and rosemary that were growing around the area. Here is a photo of a lovely trio who showed me the best spots for arugula.
Around the beginning of August was the start of fig season. I thought I loved figs before I arrived in Italy, but I left Puglia having been completely spoiled with the best figs I've had in my life. Large, fleshy and growing in abundance! I remember when I arrived in Rome, after having had fresh figs every day in Puglia and being so disappointed with the overly priced shriveled and tasteless semi-green figs being sold at markets. Here is a picture of me holding a handful of arugula and a half eaten fig and in the background is a large fig tree which I frequented nearly every day! You can see the beautiful dark salmon color of the fig and how well it holds its round shape. Puglian figs are truly excellent.
Now for the Ewok huts! These are actually called Trulli and they are conical huts made from stone that have an ancient history and are normally built from solid limestone rocks. I've been told different stories regarding their original purpose but from what I gathered, they were used by farmers and laborers who needed to take breaks from the intense heat. Also, it served as a place for them to stay if they lived far away. Now, they seem to serve as sheds for storing tools and I found that some even had clothes inside. I think they look like adorable Ewok huts.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cefalicchio Country Home in Puglia, Italy

I don't even know where to begin with writing about the incredible experience, peace and food at Cefalicchio Country Home.  I spent the month of July until the middle of August working on a dreamy villa, vineyard,  and restaurant in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. I spent most of the days working in the restaurant and learning a lot about Puglian cuisine which is amazing. I fell in love with Southern Italy...actually all of Italy. The Cefalicchio Country Home had a massive garden where all our produce came from. There was a farm with hens providing the eggs too! Every day was a bit of an adventure and I learned so much from all the wonderful people who worked there. I had many INCREDIBLE photos of the area, its surroundings and all the amazing food but unfortunately my little computer was stolen. So whoever stole the computer has many pictures of amazing Italian food and good looking Italian men. The photo above was taken by a lovely lady named Kim who also came to work at Cefalicchio for two weeks. It is a picture of the front entrance to the villa where all the guest rooms are. In addition, I had a couple of photos still on my camera, so I will be able to share those. Below is a photograph of the back side of the country home. Every where you turn is a stunning display of flowers, vines, and brightly colored plants.
Most my time was spent in the kitchen with Head Chef Elena (below center) and her assistant Anca (left of  Elena). I am far right. The guy next to me was a visiting chef for a special event and the guy on the far left was Elena's son and he occasionally came to help out. Elena was wonderful, Anca was a bit moody.
On occasion we would have special events on our outdoor patio. If it wasn't a casual fish grill out, it was a glamed up one year old's birthday or a university graduation party. Behind the kitchen was a gem of a location, it had an uninterrupted view of land and sky. Here is a picture taken before the event of the evening set up:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nonna Cecia and Sicilian Cannoli!

Two of my favorite things about Sicily: Julietta's Nonna Cecia (Grandma Cecia) and the cannoli. Nonna Cecia is one of the kindest and warmest individuals I've ever met. She welcomed me into her home as though I was one of her own family members. Every evening we had dinner with Nonna Cecia at her home and she always prepared a delicious meal of lightly seasoned cooked vegetables, grilled meats, and fresh bread. The meals were simple because the natural flavors of the ingredients spoke for themselves. Here is a picture of me with Nonna Cecia:
On my last evening in Sicily, she bought some traditional Sicilian cannoli from the local pasticceria. After having these cannoli, I feel it would be an injustice to eat another cannolo from anywhere else. I should point out that cannolo is singular for cannoli. I guess we always have referred to them in plural, as cannoli, because it is impossible to eat just one. These were beyond delicious. The crust was perfectly fried to the right crispness without tasting oily. The cheese was delicious thick ricotta with pieces of chopped dark chocolate and chopped pistachio. Each end of the cannoli had a piece of candied dried orange. The blend of the flavors and the mixture of textures made this one of my top three desserts of my life. Here is another close up of these bits of heaven:
Should you find yourself in Siculiana here is all the information you will need to find these cannoli and have them for yourself!
Pastocceria Pinzarrone
Via Puccini, 10
Tel. 0922.815689
Siculiana (AG), Sicily

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sicilia! Beautiful People and Places!

I fell in love with Sicily. It is a truly special place that I hope to return to again and again. To me, Sicily felt almost like a country of its own. The landscape, climate, and cuisine was very different from the rest of Italy, but now I am understanding that every region within Italy stands on its own with a completely separate history and cultural attributes that make traveling through  Italy so exciting. Julietta's family lives in a small town in southern Sicily called Siculiana. It is a situated on a hill with fertile pastures for cattle grazing every morning! We stayed with Julietta's Zia Asunta (Aunt Asunta) who's balcony provided sweeping views of the town on the hill and the cattle during their morning grazing. Here is a picture of Asunta's back  balcony:
It is difficult to convey the sense of peace and tranquility of Siculiana and Sicily through pictures. Something about the fresh air, the ease of the people, the social aspects revolving around meals, and the changing colors of the sky and landscape throughout the day...it was all so peaceful and so different than anything I was used to in my day to day life.
Evert Wednesday there is a traveling market that arrives in Siculiana and all the people meet at the market to purchase goods ranging from nail polish and clothing to local cheeses and fresh fruit. Here is a picture of Julietta with her Aunt Asunta infront of the formaggi truck:
We always had fresh bread with lunch and dinner that was very soft. It all came from the same local baker pictured below:

There is a castle that is perched on top of Siculiana and here Julietta and I are at the top with gorgeous vistas. You cannot see it from the picture but someone had spray painted "Hollywood" in white on the hill in the background.
Here is a picture of Julietta's uncle Giacomo and Aunt Marie Theresa with their youngest son, Flavio.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Adventures in Taormina, Sicily

Taormina is a dreamy beach town in the northern part of Sicily. We went  on an overnight trip there with Julietta's uncle Giacomo, Aunt Marie Theresa and 3 year old cousin Flavio. The drive there was easy and happy as you can tell by the picture below...unfortunately, the three hour drive home wasn't so easy and Julietta and Flavio ended up fighting over who could sleep on my lap. The fight somehow lasted most of the drive. You wouldn't have thought we were twenty years older than Flavio. This is the three of us on the way there:
As you drive in to Taormina you come from above since the majority of the town is on a cliff above the beach so you have lovely views, like this one, of the town at the edge of the mountain with the water in the background.
We were down at the beach in no time and the water was seriously crystal clear. The beach was all flat stones, which is probably one of the main reasons the water was so perfectly pristine. Taormina is a large cove with a little island in the center that in times of low tide can be reached by walking on a sandbar. It was wonderful to swim so far out and still be able to see the bottom of the ocean.
The actual town of Taormina is very cute and has many long and narrow staircases going up and down the cliffs such as this one:
There are also many cute antique stores:
Here is a picture of Marie Theresa with a seafood salad, insalata de mare, for dinner!

Roma: Purple Shoes, Purple Cars and a Dessert Gone Wrong

Upon arriving in Rome, you can instantly see the differences between Rome and the other main metropolitan cities in Italy. For starters, Rome has a significantly more diverse population. Now that I have been in Italy for about two months, I've had the opportunity to talk to many different people from different regions and there is a special pride that the Romans have. Their meeting points and everyday life is intertwined with an ancient history that is perhaps one of the most magnificent in the world. Romans are proud people. They are open minded, friendly and happy to share that they are from Rome....maybe this is how many New Yorkers feel about New York. I found it wonderful to be in Rome. Strolling the different neighborhoods and getting lost, multiple times, in the cobblestone streets. There is more history and art in Rome than I knew what to do with so I just explored  by foot and took in as much as possible. Above is a photo of Julietta and I in the people's plaza.  Below is a picture of us at the Trevi Fountain. It was beautiful, romantic, and terribly crowded with tourists taking the same exact picture.
While browsing the streets, Julietta found these amazing leather purple shoes that deserve a picture on this blog. While they have nothing to do with food, they are very cute and could be a wonderful cake topper.

Then we came across this matching purple truck which we unfortunatley could not pack up and ship home.
On our last night in Rome we went to a restaurant near the Trevi Fountain and I had the best seafood linguine yet which was followed by the worst dessert yet. Our waiter was excited to have us at his restaurant and so he had the chef bring out a nicely decorated plate with their house dessert specialty. I rarely meet a dessert I don't like. While we definitely appreciated the thought, this was so bad that we had to sneak it into a napkin and into my purse to throw away later - we didn't want to offend the waiter or chef! So I had to squish this thing in a wetwipe in my purse and then toss before getting gelato. Here is the dessert before we tried it:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Florence: Fantastic Risotto and a Psycho Dinner Party

After an all night long dancing and drama event at a disco in Milan we took a morning train to Florence: the land of baby-lamb skin leather jackets and cute cobblestone streets. Yes, I bought a black baby lamb skin leather jacket for those nights when I have to meet up with James Bond and go to the casinos. Julietta knew of adelicious restaurant in Florence called the Golden View Open Bar and it overlooks the Ponte Vecchio. It is a goregous restaurant perched along the river and it has exquisite food. What stood out most from our meal there was the vegetarian risotto. The carrots and zucchini were lightly cooked so that you could still recognize them and the flavors were rich and healthy. This was definitely my favorite meal in Florence. Here is a picture!
Another night we went took a train outside of Florence to have dinner at the home of someone we met the previous night at the disco....it sounded fun but we quickly learned we were in the home of a psycho person which mediocre cooking skills. The highlight was the home itself. It was his parents home and gorgeous and almost seeming as though it were out of  a magazine. Here is a picture of me in the library/study and this was before realizing we were dining with a complete nuthead. Regardless, his home provided Julietta and I with a lot of great scenery to take model pictures.
And he made us a very large and heavy meat and cheese dish that made me throw up the following day.
Normally I wouldn't put pictures up of bad food and bad people but this story is actually rather funny. We thought we were invited to a dinner party. Turns out our little friend from the Disco was setting us up on a double date that went horribly wrong when he turned nuts. After stomaching the horrible food he served us we quickly had to come up with reasons to leave. Because he lived so far outside the city we needed him to drive us 45 minutes back to Florence and the entire drive he sang opera at the top of his lungs. This is just a small small part of his nuthead-ness. Also, the whole night he kept referring to himself as King. Okay, here is a picture, we have King blurred out on the left, his crappy meal is on the table, and his friend is sitting on the counter:
Another night with Julietta in Florence!

Monday, July 19, 2010

People, Places and Food in Milano

It's been way toooo long since I have properly updated so I have a lot of catching up to do! I am all settled in Puglia, working at the Cefalicchio Country Home and so  when I can, I will update on my adventures in Italy thus far. When I first arrived in Italy, I met my good friend Julietta in Milan and we stayed with her Zia Franca (Aunt Franca). Franca was so sweet and a great cook making us loads of delicious food every night! One of my favorite things that she prepared were these frittatas that she is pictured above holding. One has proscuitto in it and the over had zucchini. They were seasoned perfectly and we had them with grilled meats and pastas for dinner. Here is a picture of a delicious pasta dinner at Zia Franca's apartment in San Donato, Milano. It had pieces of grilled eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. Freshly grated parmesan and a bit of basil.
And here is some of Julietta's family in Milan! From left to right: Julietta, her cousins Mari Angela and Giacomo and Zia Franca is standing up with two pasta utensils.
And this is just the beginning..... :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Milan, Florence, Rome, Sicily!

Dear Readers,

I apologize for being MIA for a while. I have actually left New York to take up a cooking opportunity in Italy, go on a big adventure, and ultimately, move back to California. Until I am settled and back in San Francisco, my posts will most likely be a bit sporadic however I have already had so much delicious food and experiences here that as soon as I get the time (and internet connection!) I am looking forward to a serious blog update!

I will miss NYC and all the wonderful people there terribly but I know I will be back for visits and that I will never forget everything I learned there and all the incredible people I met.

At the moment, I am getting a crash course in Italy culture, food and landscape with my good friend from CA, Julietta. On July 8th I will start working at a villa/vineyard in Puglia, southern region of Italy.

Thanks for checking out my blog and I hope you return for another visit!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Tie Cakes

It's not very often that I get emails about my blog so when I was recently contacted by Matt, who wanted to put up a guest post. Matt is all about neckties. He loves them as you can tell from his blog Tipedia. Matt did this awesome post that was essentially a collection of cakes he found that were decorated like ties! Here it is!

Not Your Father's Ordinary Day Ties

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Andy & Yihsin's Vietnamese Spring Rolls

I recently made summer rolls for dinner and while they were yummy, they were not even close to Vietnamese spring rolls. My first encounter with Vietnamese spring rolls was when I went to Hanoi, Vietnam while studying abroad in Singapore. Every little nook and alley was jam packed with small plastic tables and colored chairs, the kind you used in Kindergarten while doing art projects. Women were crouched down with large flat pans and mounds of lightly fried Vietnamese spring rolls oozing with delicious aromas and flavors. Throughout the night markets and at little cafes, you would have the option of fried or fresh spring rolls. I loved the crispy outside of the fried ones but in the hot and humid weather I nearly always opted for the fresh spring rolls. On a recent dinner gathering, my good friends Andy and Yihsin teamed up to make and roll  the most delicious spring rolls I've had since the alleys of Vietnam. Here is a picture of Andy and Yihsin, working a filling and rolling assembly line to make their own mound of delicious spring rolls:
They served their spring rolls with a delicious fish sauce pictured here:

Rice papers
Rice noodles
Bean sprouts
Beets, thinly sliced like matchsticks
Peanuts, crushed
Carrots, shredded

For sauce:
Fish sauce
Jalapenos, diced

1. Stir sugar and salt in a pot of boiling water until it dissolves.  Pour it into a large boil filled with ice. Put in the raw shrimp and let it sit in the brine refrigerated for 20-60 minutes. Remove from brine and drain and rinse it thoroughly.
2. Cook the rice noodles according to directions.
3. Mix all the ingredients for the fish sauce, cover and refrigerate.
4. Working with one wrapper at a time, place the wrapper in a shallow pan of room temperature water, about 7-10 seconds per a side. Then place the sheet on a plate, fill it with all  the ingredients and wrap into a summer roll. Enjoy!