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Pasticiotti is an Italian pastry, it is a pastry crust baked in a pustie tin filled with either chocolate or vanilla filling, similar to a pudding. I grew up eating these and always looked forward to my Father bringing home a big box from the local bakery. For years I have gone to Court Street bakery in Brooklyn when I want an Italian pastry, they have been around for over half a century and the pastries are delicious and as close to my childhood memories as I have found. I wanted to try and make my own so I asked my Mother if she had a recipe, she did, it is a very old recipe from my Aunt Dee, Mom said that the recipe was written by my Great Grandmother. It was in Italian and measurements were not exact and I am sure it was not originally written using cups, teaspoons and tablespoons. My Aunt was able to test and re-work this recipe and this is her version of this classic Italian pastry. I was a bit nervous making it, having never tried my hand at anything like this before, it was surprisingly easy and turned out absolutely delicious. For the first batch, pictured above I used tartlet pans as I had not located pustie tins, and they turned out fine. Since then I have purchased them and they come out even better when you use a pustie tin I think its because of the shape of the tin, the pudding is heavy and the crust delicate and pustie tins are smaller at the bottom becoming larger at the top of the tin similar to a brioche mold. You will notice an extract called fiori di sicilia used in this recipe, it has a flowery, citrusy taste and is used in many Italian pastries. You can find it at King Arthur flour and if you decide to make these I found pustie tins here:

Makes: 18- 3 x 1 1/2 or 12 tartlets

The pastry crust:

4 cups Flour (refrigerate your flour it should be cold)

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups light brown Brown Sugar (Not packed)

1 cup very cold leaf lard

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup cold milk

Beat one egg with a teaspoon of sugar to brush on the pastry before baking

  1.  In mixing bowl add the flour, brown sugar,baking powder, and salt, whisk to combine making sure any clumps of brown sugar are incorporated.
  2. In measuring cup add the milk and egg, beat egg and milk together then add the vanilla and stir to incorporate
  3. Measure your lard and add to dry ingredients, use a pastry cutter to cut the lard into the flour mixture it should resemble crumbs. Add the milk, egg and vanilla and with a fork combine. Working quickly gather the dough into a cohesive disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour even overnight. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Flour work surface,Cut dough in half one half will be bottom crust the other top crust, place half of dough back in refrigerator while working. Have your pustie tins or fluted tartlet pans ready.Either roll or press the dough into the pans it should be approximately 1/4 in thick, if dough starts to warm put back in refrigerator. When you have put the dough in the tins, place in refrigerator while you roll out the dough for the tops roll dough about 1/4 in thick and cut into rounds that fit the top of the tin. Take tins from refrigerator fill with the chocolate or vanilla filling just slightly below the top of the tin. Place the top on, press making sure the bottom crust and top crust are joined. Brush with egg wash and place in freezer for a few minutes just to get the pastry cold. Remove from freezer place tins on baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven place on cooling rack and let sit at room temperature for 45 min to an hour or until COMPLETELY COOLED. Gently remove from the tins and refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight.

Pustie Tins



1/3 cup flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

2/3 cups sugar

2 cups milk

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon fiori di sicilia (Optional)

1 tablespoon butter


1 cup flour

2 cups sugar

2/3 cups unsweetened cocoa

pinch of salt

4 cup warm milk

2  egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon fiori di sicilia (optional)

  1. For the chocolate filling in medium saucepan add flour,chocolate, sugar, a pinch of salt and whisk to combine. While whisking add the warm milk and keep whisking until its combined and there are no lumps. Turn flame to medium and whisking constantly cook until mixture thickens, add about 1 cup of hot mixture to beaten egg yolks and add back to saucepan. Continue cooking on medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly until it becomes very thick. It takes a while for the filling to become thick, keep stirring, its a good workout. Once the filling is very thick remove from heat stir in the vanilla and optional fiori di sicilia, pour into a bowl.  Let cool on counter until room temperature or cool using an ice bath, place plastic wrap directly on top of the filling then refrigerate until completely cooled. I like to make the dough and filling a day ahead and refrigerate overnight.
  2. For the Vanilla filling: Place flour, sugar and pinch of salt in saucepan add milk and whisk until smooth and there are no lumps. Turn flame on medium and cook whisking constantly. When hot and slightly thick add approximately half of filling to beaten egg yolks add back to saucepan and continue cooking until mixture is thick. Add vanilla and butter and pour and push through sieve into bowl. let come to room temperature or use an ice bath to cool,place plastic wrap directly on top of filling then refrigerate until completely cooled. If adding fiori di sicilia add at the end when you add the vanilla.

Caponata and Tomato Balsamic Jam

Caponata is a Sicilian dish which is used as a side dish or condiment. I can remember my Mother serving on toasted Italian bread as a starter or appetizer. This is my version of my Mothers recipe, its less sweet and the vegetables are soft but still retain their shape. It makes a wonderful sandwich with a sharp cheese, like aged provolone. I used peppadew peppers but you can use a red bell pepper instead, my Mother also sauteed the eggplant but I like to brush with olive oil and roast in the oven. I suggest having this on a thick slice of rustic Italian bread from the Solitary Cook. Tomato balsamic Jam is so simple to make and absolutely delicious. All you need are good tomatoes, olive oil, shallot or onion and balsamic vinegar, and you will have a tomato condiment that can be used in so many dishes. I spread on bread and top with a poached egg, or make a quick pizza, there are so many uses. Keep in a jar in the fridge it will last for at least a week or more refrigerated.

4 Italian eggplant washed and cut in half lengthwise. Skin on.

1 Medium size onion chopped

2 Stalks celery (Use the tender inner stalks) chopped

3 cloves garlic minced

4 Peppadew peppers chopped (If you do not have these use red bell pepper)

1/2 Red bell pepper chopped (if using instead of peppadew increase to 1 cup)

4  Fresh tomato’s peeled and seeds removed, or 1cup canned tomatoes diced or 1 cup tomato balsamic jam

3 tablespoons capers rinsed, rough chop

1/4 cup Olives Kalamata or green (I use a little of each) Rough chop the olives

2 teaspoons Sugar (add 1 tsp taste and add another if needed)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)

  1. Pre-heat oven to 450, clean the eggplant cut the tops off and cut in half lengthwise. On baking sheet lined with aluminum foil brush a little olive oil  on each half, both sides, place your eggplant cut side down and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Chop the eggplant into bite size pieces.
  2. In fry pan on med/high flame coated with olive oil add your chopped onion, cook until translucent. Add chopped celery and red bell pepper, continue cooking until they are soft and have started to caramelize. Add your minced garlic, cook for a minute or so don’t let garlic brown. Add your eggplant,tomato,peppers, capers, olives,crushed red pepper, sugar and vinegar continue cooking until mixture is thick. Eggplant will break down but thats ok this will take about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit overnight. It tastes incredible when it has rested and all the flavors have blended together.


2 cups fresh tomatoes cut into pieces

1 shallot minced

1 tps sugar

1 tbs balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil to coat pan

Coat your fry pan with olive oil, heat should be med/high. Add shallots and saute until translucent, add tomato, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and cook until tomato starts to caramelize but there should still be some of the juices from the tomato you don’t want it too dry. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue to cook stirring frequently for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat,let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.


Pasta Fagioli

This week I am going to feature Italian recipes.  My first entry is my Mothers Pasta Fagioli or as my family said “pasta fazool”.  This recipe took my Mom a while to perfect, there were many attempts before she got it exactly how she wanted it,  the broth is thin and contains beans that are cooked with salt pork and garlic, (I did not have nor could I find salt pork locally so I used what I had, which was a very fatty lightly smoked ham steak that I got from my CSA) you then make a very thin tomato based sauce, put the beans and sauce together and at the end add home made pasta. Grate some Parmigiano or Romano cheese on top and you have a hearty delicious soup. I like to make the soup the day before serving, refrigerate over night and add the pasta the next day before serving. This dish was pretty much my Mom’s signature dish and was requested often by family and friends. It’s very easy to make, I hope you will give it a try. The salt pork can be optional for a vegetarian soup and if you omit the pork add an additional clove of garlic and some onion to the beans. The home made pasta is also optional feel free to use commercially prepared pasta, be sure to cook it first before adding to the soup.

Ingredients and Directions:

1 1/4  cup great northern beans
1 clove garlic smashed
salt pork (about the size of a deck of cards)
8 cups water
Bring beans, garlic. pork and water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for approximately 2 hours until beans are tender. I did not soak the beans overnight but if you do reduce cooking time by at least half.
1 28 oz can whole italian plum tomatoes (Blended until smooth)
1 can (28 oz) water – just fill the tomato can with water
1 clove garlic minced
1 shallot minced
salt and pepper to taste
4-5 fresh basil leaves
In dutch oven or large saucepan heat some olive oil, add garlic and shallot cook until they are soft and cooked through, add tomatoes, 3 basil leaves and water and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat.
When beans are done add to the tomato sauce (add beans and water they cooked in). Simmer on low for 20 minutes, the sauce will be thin, that is the way its supposed to be,adjust seasoning. Remove salt pork and add the cooked pasta, add 2 or 3 torn basil leaves and simmer for about 5 minutes and serve with grated parmigiano or romano cheese. NOTE: You can judge how much pasta to add I like about 2-3 cups of cooked pasta, it expands in the soup and you want to retain most of the broth.
2 1/2 cups AP flour
4 large eggs
1 tbs water
2 tsp olive oil
On work surface dump flour and make a well in the middle, add the eggs, water and olive oil and beat with a fork, working in a circle incorporate the flour until you have a cohesive dough, add more flour if your dough is too sticky. Knead until dough is smooth, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
Or by food processor (which I did)  place flour in bowl then add the eggs, oil and water and pulse until it comes together into a ball. Turn onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
If rolling by hand roll dough with rolling pin as thin as you can, the dough should be almost translucent. Fold and cut into thin strips like linguine. If using a pasta machine follow manufacturers directions. NOTE: You will only need half of the pasta for this, wrap the other half of the dough well and freeze for later use).
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, when water is boiling add salt (the water should be salty like sea water) Add the pasta stirring to make sure each piece is separated and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and add to the bean and tomato sauce.

Dough Resting

Rolling paper thin ready to become linguine

One Week of Italian Food

Starting tomorrow I am getting touch with my Italian roots and posting an Italian recipe a day for the whole week. I am so excited to be doing this, I really love the food of Italy and my Mom has been a great help by sending me some her recipes that I ate throughout my childhood, I will do my best to do these great recipes justice. I dusted off the pasta machine, got my ingredients together and I am ready to cook. First up, Pasta Fagioli with home made pasta.

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Muffins

These muffins are tender and moist, flavored with lemon and chock full of blueberries. The batter has both whole milk ricotta and whole milk buttermilk. I love the combination of lemon and blueberries and the ricotta and buttermilk give these muffins a slight tang that is delicious. I also used some cake flour to give them a more tender crumb. The muffins are only slightly sweet and to add a little more sweetness, after you remove them from the oven brush with some melted butter and dust with granulated sugar.  When you just have to have a muffin I hope you will give these a try, they are simple to make, and you can whip them up in a flash. They also freeze beautifully. NOTE: If you use lowfat buttermilk and part skim ricotta increase butter to 6 tbs +4 tbs vegetable oil, and if you use lowfat buttermilk with whole milk ricotta just increase the butter to 6 tbs+ the 2 tbs vegetable oil.


4 tbs melted butter
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour +2 tsp for blueberries
1/2 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk (whole milk buttermilk if you can find it)
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
2 large eggs at room temperature lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries frozen (use fresh when in season)
1 1/2 tbs lemon zest
2 tbs butter melted  (to brush on top of muffins)
2 tbs granulated sugar (to dust tops of muffins)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin
Melt butter and add the oil, sift flour,baking powder, baking soda,salt and sugar into large mixing bowl, add the wet ingredients and lemon zest and stir only to mix, it may be a bit lumpy but thats ok. Sprinkle the blueberries with the flour and toss, add to the batter and gently stir. Place into lined muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tops are lightly browned. Let muffins sit for 10 minutes in pan, then place on rack to cool, brush top of the muffin with melted butter and dust with granulated sugar.  Makes 12 muffins

Featured Recipe – Mediterranean Poppers

Photo by Lapadia

I wanted to feature another delicious, quick and easy salad for the featured recipe this week. This has Mediterranean flavors and comes in its own little edible cup. Crisp cucumber, olives, tomatoes, feta and herbs dressed simply with olive oil and placed in crisped wonton wrappers is the perfect little salad bite. This recipe comes from Linda of Lapadia’s Kitchen. She is a fantastic multi talented cook. Visit her website and you will find recipes for bread (her pita is to die for), sweets (her pie crust is amazing) and some Italian favorites like Bracciole you can also find her recipes on Food52.  Linda’s recipe for Himalayan Blackberry Pie will be featured in the second food 52 cookbook coming out October 2012. Give these poppers a try, perfect party fare, I can guarantee you won’t be able to eat just one! I like mine with a little fresh lemon squeezed on top!

FILLING: ingredients make 12 to 15 poppers

  • 2 Persian cucumbers or pickling size, sliced – 1 cup (give or take)
  • 12 Cherry tomatoes
  • 12 Kalamata olives
  • 12 Feta cheese cubes – a little smaller than the olive
  • Olive oil – a good extra virgin
  • Herbes De Provence (I prefer it to oregano)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Mini tart pan
  • 15 Wonton Wrappers
  1. Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence and fresh ground pepper. Let the ingredients sit and infuse, give it a stir now and then.
  2. Spray the wonton wrappers with a buttery spray (such as Pam) on both sides; line the mini tart pan with them pressing lightly into the middle to form a cup.
  3. Bake at 350° until the edges are crispy and brown, about 10-12 minutes.
  4. Let cool – for a make ahead see the note below.
  5. Cut the filling ingredients into at least – thirds; toss with drizzles of the olive oil mixture and let sit in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
  6. About an hour before serving add filling to each wonton cup.
  7. Serve.

NOTE: make it ahead

  • Prepare to the end of step 4 (up to 2 days ahead), store in an airtight container.
  • Next day, continue with step 5 up to three hours ahead.

Getting back to my roots- Italian Food

I love Italian food, was brought up on it, I come from a large Italian family and food was the center of every celebration or holiday. My earliest memories are of my Grandfather, who spoke no English and his vineyard. It was small but adequate to produce several barrels of wine every year. The cellar of his home was where he made and stored the wine. Even though memories are somewhat vague I recall family gatherings, meals around a big dining room table with my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins, this was every Sunday. We started with a soup usually chicken with homemade noodles and escarole, then came the meat, pasta, salad and sometimes dessert, always in that order. I would watch my Mother and Aunts in the kitchen making the pasta, it was a a real labor of love by these three great cooks. My Mother is not Italian, she became an Italian by marriage and mastered the food in no time at all. Growing up we had Italian food of some sort at least 3 or 4 times a week. My Father had a vegetable garden and every year my Mother canned tomatoes and vegetables from the garden. She made home made pasta, and made her own sausage. I guess that is where I developed my love of everything home made, sometimes it’s just easier to buy prepared foods and with a busy schedule I always have pantry items for a quick meal but there is nothing like taking the time (if you can) to prepare your food from scratch. I travelled and lived in Italy for a few years and learned much about the culture and food of this beautiful country. My family is from Caserta and came to the United States via Ellis Island and settled in New York.

Next week I am going to feature a different Italian recipe every day, some will be mine but I am going to include recipes from my Mother and Aunt Dee. There will be recipes for home made pasta, my Aunt Dee’s Pasti Ciotti and several other Italian favorites. Stay tuned!!

Birthday Party at Granpa's Home My Mom is holding me.

My Aunt Dee and Great Aunt and Cousins

Himalayan Red Rice and Lentils with Spiced Vegetables

Himalayan Red Rice

Himalayan Red Rice

I am trying to incorporate more vegetables and whole grain foods into my diet, truth be told I have never been a fan of brown rice. I saw this himalayan red rice at a specialty store and it intrigued me. I looks like Basmati rice only red, very delicate grains long and slender, so I bought it wondering what I can make with it. This recipe came to me from my desire to use my red rice but also I had some veggies in the crisper that I really needed to use. I wanted the rice to be a meal so added some lentils that cooked in with the rice, I had some tri color carrots and scallions begging to be used right away so I shaved the carrots into strips and sliced the light part of the the scallion and sauteed in olive oil with some cumin and coriander. I topped it with some plain greek yogurt mixed with some dried mint and put a generous amount of crispy fried shallots on top. You can use whatever vegetables you like, but the carrots and onions in the spices are a wonderful combination and the yogurt makes it creamy and tangy. The rice has a lot of character, its toothsome yet still delicate. By all means use whatever rice you have or want, the red rice is a suggestion.

Serves: 4


1 cup himalayan red rice

2 cups water


1/3 cup lentils

2 medium size carrots shaved

4 scallions

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp coriander

1 shallot thinly sliced

plain greek yogurt

dried mint

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

In medium saucepan add the water, rice and lentils and some salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for 5 minutes covered, then fluff with a fork.

While the rice is cooking shave the carrots and cut the scallions, heat some olive oil in a saute pan and add the vegetables, sprinkle with cumin and coriander and saute until the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside, add a little more olive oil and the shallots and fry until they are browned and crisp.

Mix some yogurt with the dried mint.

To serve just spoon some rice and lentils on a plate top with the vegetables, a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with the shallots.

Featured Recipe- Kale and Apple Salad

For this weeks Featured Recipe I wanted a fresh and delicious salad. We all need our fresh vegetables and fruits every day and I am always searching for a tasty recipe. I love salads and my new best friend is Kale, it’s packed full of vital nutrients and whether you eat it cooked or raw your body will thank you for it. This salad is a meal in itself, think about it, kale, apples, cabbage,fennel, wild rice a delicious citrusy dressing, your taste buds will do the dance of joy. I love this salad on it’s own, but it can accompany a protein also, there are so many different things you can add to this if you want, some grilled chicken or tofu would be fantastic. I am making this salad again with some Himalayan Red Rice instead of wild rice, quinoa would also be a wonderful addition. Try it in pita bread and take it to work or school.  The possibilities are endless. Check out Hannah’s beautiful blog Blue Kale Road, its packed full of healthful delicious recipes that are family friendly and in my opinion are a celebration of fresh, natural foods.

Photo by Blue Kale Road

Kale and Apple Salad
Inspired by PCC’s Emerald City Salad
Serves 4-6

1/4 – 1/2 cup lemon juice (depending upon taste and amount of kale)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 large crisp apple, diced (my favorite variety is honeycrisp)
3/4 cup fennel, thinly sliced and chopped
1 cup red cabbage, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 bunch organic kale (lacinato or curly green – I like to use a combination of both), ribs removed and finely chopped
1 cup cooked wild rice

Whisk 1/2 cup lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss (use your hands – it’s fun and will distribute the dressing more evenly). Taste for additional lemon juice, salt or pepper and add as desired.

The salad can be made a couple of hours ahead and chilled.

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks with Lime,Tarragon Aioli

Making fish sticks is simple and really so much better than buying commercially prepared frozen ones from the supermarket. They take almost no time to prepare. I know its easier to buy pre-made foods, but why not make your own, you have control over the amount of salt and know exactly what is in them. Ketchup is always great for dipping but I made an aioli that is slightly more sophisticated, don’t get me wrong, I love ketchup but sometimes you just need or want something a little different. You can make the fish sticks and freeze them all you need to do is heat them in the oven and you have a quick and delicious meal in a snap.

The Aioli:

2 large Cloves garlic (Give the garlic a quick crush to release the flavor) Don’t pulverize

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 2 tsp dried)

2 egg yolks

1/4 cup +2 tbs garlic infused olive oil

1/2 cup minus 2 tbs vegetable oil (canola)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon Lime zest (the zest of one whole lime)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

black pepper (3 turns of the pepper mill)

  1. To make the garlic olive oil. You will need a small sauce pan add the 2 peeled garlic cloves to the olive oil and simmer on very low heat until garlic is soft be very careful not to let the garlic get brown turn off the flame after just a few minutes and let the garlic sit in the oil until it softens.. Let cool before making the aioli. I like to make this infused oil ahead of time, sitting overnight gives a more profound garlic flavor.
  2. Add to blender the 2 egg yolks, the cooled cooked garlic cloves, lime juice, lime zest,tarragon salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  3. With blender running slowly add the vegetable oil and garlic infused olive oil. The aioli will be thick and creamy and a lovely light green. Adjust seasoning and citrus to your taste.

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks:

1 pound Firm to semi firm fish (I use cod or wild chilean sea bass)

1 cup Panko

2 large eggs beaten

salt and pepper to taste

Oil for deep frying

  1. Heat your oil I like to deep fry the fish sticks, approximately 4 inches of oil in a heavy fry pan.
  2. Cut your fish into pieces, dip in egg and then in panko.
  3. Carefully drop your fish sticks into hot oil and fry until golden brown, Remove and place on paper towel to absorb any extra oil. Add additional salt if you like directly after they come out of the oil
  4. Serve with the aioli or whatever dipping sauce you like.