Ad occhio, cooking by eye

Ad occhio, Italian for “by eye”. It’s a very natural way to cook, measuring by eye and cooking not by the clock but by the way something looks (or smells or feels). It’s the way I first learned to cook – standing on a stool so I could look over my grandmother’s electric stove top, learning to scramble eggs. Or making pancakes dotted with banana slices or fried rice with eggs (still my go-to comfort food) with my mother. These... Read More

Peach and amaretti tart

Most of the time I buy fresh produce based on what looks good — and then I decide what to prepare with it at home. I really do feel like it’s the best way to shop and eat because more often than not the things you come home with are the freshest, the most in season, the most delicious ingredients to start out with. Right now the tomatoes look good, the firm, small, ribbed zucchini with bright yellow blooms still attached do too, and... Read More

Fagioli del Purgatorio: a summery bean salad

Summer in Italy means one main thing for me — trying to keep cool, which includes staying away from the stove. Luckily, it’s also the time of year when fresh produce is so ripe and sweet, you barely need to do anything to it anyway — I practically live off tomatoes in the summer, dousing them in olive oil and eating with thickly torn pieces of buffalo mozzarella, usually. Or chopping or squeezing juicy ones raw into a sauce to... Read More

Easter Adventures in Tuscany and tackling Carol Field’s Colomba

Surely the best thing about colomba, the Easter equivalent to panettone, is the sugared, toasted almond topping that covers the whole thing and crumbles when you cut it, so you sort of have no choice but just to pick up the crusty sugary bits and eat those on their own. I’d always thought that colomba would make a very good baking project but was somewhat intimated by getting the right shape  — it’s vaguely in the shape of a dove,... Read More

A crateful of clementines

What would you do – you’re driving past hundreds of citrus trees. With a better look, they’re mandarins, or, more precisely clementines. On the roadside is a truck selling crates of them for 1 euro a kilo. You stop, right? And buy a crate of 10 kilos. Even though you have to get on a plane the next day. I couldn’t help myself. Marco, who I had already made turn 180 degrees to drive back to the truck, gave me that look of disapproval... Read More

Ricotta gnocchi, a recipe from Ostro

I have known, and admired, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, for many years now and always felt connected through our love of Italian food, Tuscany (Julia lived in Florence and in Orbetello, just 10 minutes away from where we lived in Porto Ercole while I was writing Acquacotta) and Japan. So I have been eagerly awaiting her debut cookbook, Ostro: The Pleasure that Comes From Slowing Down and Cooking with Simple Ingredients, and it is a beauty — it... Read More

Ricotta and spinach ‘gnudi’ video recipe

When I was writing the manuscript for Florentine, I enlisted the help of an army of recipe testers — about 80 people from all over the world — to test every recipe thoroughly. Only one came back to me consistently with problems. From Minnesota to Melbourne, three testers wrote to me that their very first attempt at making Tuscan gnudi (ricotta and spinach balls that, rather than be encased in pasta like for ravioli, are simply dusted... Read More

Eggs and anchovies

My first memory of cooking was with my grandmother, Rosemary, in Sydney. She taught me how to make scrambled eggs on her electric stovetop, the kind with the coiled heating elements, in her small, linoleum-lined kitchen with cupboards that stuck a little when they closed. She was not an exceptional cook — I can remember plenty of bland and overcooked vegetables and custard made with powder to pour into pre-bought pie cases with tinned pineapple,... Read More

Crostata di Susine Selvatiche (Wild Plum Tart)

This is not a very practical recipe unless you chance upon a basket of wild plums at your local farmgate, like I did, while picking out some enormous, gnarled tomatoes, sunny zucchini flowers and purple and white eggplants the size of my fist. Or, even better, find yourself a wild plum tree that no one else (birds and bugs included) has noticed. In years of scouring farmers markets, I have never once come across wild plums, even though they are well-used... Read More

Rose petal and ricotta tartlets

When a friend tells you she has wild roses blooming everywhere, it’s not hard to imagine where the conversation headed to next… to turning them into rose petal jam, of course. My friend Simona Quirini and her family run the beautiful Canto del Maggio, a B&B, restaurant and garden, about one hour’s drive from Florence. We arrived to catch Simona with a wooden crate in her hands, already half full of blush pink flower heads,... Read More