Because nothing says Christmas like a little Tiffany

I don’t know about you but, when it comes to presents, I love to give books. I think a book can be a wonderful gift if – of course – you have read it first and your choice is based on the personality of whoever is going to receive it. So, if you are a parent or a relative of a teenager and you are wondering what to buy for her or him, here is my suggestion: give them a copy of Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers. Written by Walter Hoving, former chairman of Tiffany’s of New York, this lovely little book will take the hand of the reader and hold it from the beginning of the meal to the end, teaching how to master the art of good table manners. This book is fun and entertaining and the illustrations are cute and humorous.

I think every teenager should read it. Why? Because bad table manners can be forgiven when kids are toddlers and there is still room for improvement, but the moment they become teenagers (or tweenagers, for that matter), bad manners are in my view just unacceptable.

Sure, I learned them the hard way: my mother used to make me sit at the table with a book under each of my arms to be sure my position was perfectly erect and I didn’t even dream of putting my elbows on the table. Oh well! Thank goodness there are other ways to learn good table manners, including reading this pleasant book. And God knows if some teenagers don’t need this book. I happen to see young people handling a fork or a knife as if they were Jedi knights holding a lightsaber before an epic duel with Darth Vader. Argh! Let’s leave lightsabers where they belong (for the record, we are looking forward to watching the new Star Wars Episode VIII) and let’s help the world by spreading good table manners among teenagers.

Hope you and your teenager will enjoy this book as much as Her Majesty and I did!

Talk to you soon!

Friendship and shoes: is there a better combination?

This year Santa came a little bit earlier for me. A few weeks ago, I received a cute, gift-wrapped box with inside a gorgeous pair of shoes from Suede, one of my favorite stores in Milan.

I love these shoes! They are sleek, timeless, very versatile because you can wear them with literally anything and they are reasonably priced. And the colors? Beautiful and perfect for the season! So what’s not to love? If you happen to be in Milan, I suggest you don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the Suede stores. You can find all the necessary info and take a look at their shoes collection at

I want to dedicate this post to the gift sender: my dearest friend Paola. Not only because she is beautiful, smart, successful at her job and super funny. But, and above all, because she belongs to that teeny tiny magical circle of people who bring a breath of fresh air in every room they enter. It’s a good gift to have, and very few people have it. You just have to be smart enough to recognize it when you see it. I still remember the first time I met her. I was in one of those awkward (to me at least) mothers-toddlers gatherings, one of those that I could not avoid simply because I had miserably failed to come up with a plausible excuse. I was standing in a corner of a room, trying to camouflage myself with the wall and pondering about my momentarily miserable life, when a very sophisticated woman approached me asking if I was Her Majesty’s mom. Now, you know when you are standing on the shore with your legs a bit apart, your body facing the ocean and a huge wave hits and completely submerges you, enveloping you in water? That’s exactly how I felt when she started talking to me. It was impossible for me to resist her charm, positive energy and great sense of humor. It was simply overwhelming! We have been great friends ever since.

On a similar note, I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. On second thought, let me wish you all a great Friendsgiving. For me, family is not only made of blood-related people. Family is also made of those people that we meet during our journey and become part of our lives because we love them and they love us back, making our lives better one day at a time.

And that’s certainly something to be very thankful for!

Enjoy this coming holiday weekend!

The Rebirth

USA, Yosemite National Park (CA)
Dogwood blossom (Cornus nuttallii Audubon)

Welcome to Flora’s Table’s new home!

Please be patient if something still needs to be straightened out: we are working on it ūüôā

Also, sign up to receive new posts in your inbox by entering your email address in the box at the top of the sidebar and stay tuned for more!

Have a wonderful week,

Beyond boundaries: cat's tongue cookies

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

I dedicate this post to Her Majesty and not because she is my daughter but because she is that person in my life who pushes me to step out of my comfort zone and experience situations that otherwise I would never put myself in.

Hope you are ready for another chapter of my “awkward motherhood¬†saga”! ūüėČ Oh well! Here we go.

Last year a mother from Her Majesty’s school approached me at¬†dismissal. She is Japanese – Her Majesty and her daughters are very¬†good friends and we ended up becoming friends too. She explained that¬†she was putting together a group of mothers coming from different¬†countries in order to be able to offer an international language¬†program as an after-school activity. I knew immediately I was about to¬†enter dangerous territory and then – of course – it hit me …¬†inevitably and very hard: she asked me if I would be willing to join¬†them and teach a class about Italian culture and language. Bam!¬†Needless to say, the Evil Queen immediately showed her true self. I¬†simply and firmly said … thank you, but no thank you!¬† Just the¬†thought of me in a classroom teaching a bunch of kids from first grade¬†to fifth grade made me hyperventilate. I knew it was for a good¬†cause but I could clearly feel my temple veins start bulging and¬†pulsing like crazy and my natural instincts telling me to get out of¬†that situation and … get out fast. And so I did! Another mother¬†would have gotten offended by my abrupt refusal but not my friend. I¬†think it is because of the culture she was raised in. Haven’t you¬†noticed that Japanese people are among the most gracious and kind human¬†beings on earth? She sure is. She told me not to worry but gently¬†invited me to think it over. She was going to ask me again the¬†following year hoping I would change my mind. End of the story … or so I thought.

The new year started and there we were again at dismissal.¬†Only this time I wasn’t by myself. Her Majesty was by my side talking¬†with my friend’s daughters. When the fearful question was asked again,¬†my brain was just in the process of looking for the right words of¬†refusal but those few seconds of hesitation kind of stole my moment.¬†The only thing that I could hear was Her Majesty’s voice saying¬†that, yes, of course we were going to do it, that she would be my¬†helper and we were so excited to be part in this program. Yay!!! My¬†wonderfully social daughter! More mature than her mother in so many¬†instances, always entusiastic of socializing and spending time with¬†others!!! What was I supposed to say? There are moments in life when¬†even the Evil Queen must recognize that she has been defeated and that¬†was one of those moments!

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies

I thought about how to teach that class for quite a while. I knew I wanted to cover all the Italian basics (history, art, food and language) but the most difficult thing for me was to come up with a plan to catch and keep the attention span of younger kids for
the whole duration of the class. As always, the solution came to me in my favorite place: lying in bed with a book in my hands. Kids love fairy tales and stories. I just had to connect any subject I wanted to talk about to a legend or an anecdote and only God knows if Italian
history and culture aren’t full of them. My next step was the public¬†library. In my “office career” days, research and due diligence were¬†an essential part of my job. Still today, whatever I’m doing, my first¬†thing is research. It’s just my modus operandi and I¬†wish I could do the same when it comes to human beings! ūüėČ Anyway, I¬†made an outline of my talking points, I created handouts for the¬†kids, I let Her Majesty pick the subjects she wanted to cover and¬†prepped her and I asked Stefano to buy a few memorabilia during his¬†latest trip to Italy to be given to the children at the end of¬†class. I also considered some slides but – on second thought – I¬†realized I would have gone a bit overboard.

Eventually, my teaching day came. I’m not new to meetings and¬†presentations. Back in the old days, I used to spend countless hours¬†in conference rooms talking with people that would have done pretty much anything just to close a deal. So what was all the¬†fuss about? I don’t know but I sure was a nervous wreck. Thank¬†goodness, Her Majesty was by my side giving me the talk and telling me¬†that everything was going to be fine. Wasn’t it supposed to be the other¬†way around?

How did it go? Oh well, only time will tell! All I know is that Her Majesty did a great job, I survived and, most importantly, the children got out of that classroom unharmed and Рhopefully Рwith a few notions about another culture! Sounds pretty good to me for a
first time, total amateur teacher! ūüėČ

As a way to thank my daughter, I made one of her favorite treats:¬†cat’s tongue cookies. These little tongues are pretty popular in¬†Europe and Italians serve them either as cookies accompanying an¬†afternoon tea or as a final touch for fruit salads, creamy desserts and
ice creams. Made with very few basic ingredients (powdered sugar, butter, flour and egg whites), they are super easy to make and you can unleash your creativity in terms of flavor combinations and/or dip them in chocolate ganache for a very decadent effect! The best thing about these babies? There is no magical recipe. You are just required to own a scale and follow a very simple rule: the weight of the egg whites must exactly match the weight of each of the other ingredients. In this case, I used 3 eggs whose whites weighed 98 grams.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Lingue di gatto ("cats' tongues") cookies

Lingue di gatto (“cats’ tongues”) cookies


98 grams, powdered sugar
98 grams, softened butter (at room temperature)
98 grams, flour
98 grams, egg whites
half vanilla bean (optional)
powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Preheat the oven at 325 F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the sugar and the butter and mix until they are perfectly blended. Split the vanilla bean down its length using a knife. With the help of the same knife, scrape out the seed on both halves and add the scraped seeds to the butter mixture. Add the flour and beat until the flour is completely blended. Add the egg white and mix until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Stop and scrape the bowl.

Place some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Prepare a pastry bag with a medium start tip and fill it with the mixture. Create cookies long about 6/7 cm (they must be as thick as a pinkie). Make sure to leave some space between each cookie (they will grow). Cook for about 10 minutes or until the edges get lightly brown. Remove from the oven, let them cool completely on a wire rack and dust them with some powdered sugar before serving them.

I wish all of you who celebrate it a very Happy Easter!

Francesca xo

PS: I think everybody should have a person in their life that encourages them to be a little more adventurous and try out something different, maybe something they are a bit afraid of because it is new to them and out of their comfort zone. As a very wise woman once
said: if you do something, something good can happen or something bad¬†can happen but if you don’t do anything, nothing is going to happen! ūüôā

Because the scale never lies: Farro and Legumes Soup

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

4 Servings

Hello everyone!

The Holiday season is behind us but our Christmas tree is still up and¬†some of Santa’s presents (unwrapped) are still laying under the tree –¬†mostly because they are so ugly I’m not quite sure what to do with¬†them! ūüėú

Anyway, this year Santa decided to surprise me with something totally unexpected. Something you cannot really unwrap but you can see, feel and touch, something that makes your clothes feel tighter and tighter as the day goes by.

A magical gift? Not really! I’m rather talking about 5 pounds of¬†sneaky and vicious fat spread out all over my body!

With my parents over for Christmas, I wholeheartedly embraced the holiday spirit by practically eating non-stop and using any excuse that came to mind to ask Stefano to pop a bottle of bubbly. Considering that my body is not exactly in its twenties and my metabolism gets slower as we speak, it was only a question of time before I was called before my judgmental scale to answer for my culinary and drinking sins!

Facing the scale… what a painful experience! Are you familiar with¬†the feeling? I wake up in the morning and lay in bed for a few minutes¬†staring at the ceiling, without moving a muscle, realizing that I’ll¬†have to face reality sooner or later. I know that I just have to find
the courage to step up on that unfriendly machine that I keep¬†hidden in my closet hoping that that malefic hand – never sympathetic,¬†let alone merciful – won’t confirm what my puffier face and my tight¬†clothes have been whispering to me for days now.

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

Finally, after a couple of days of me being “food cautious”,¬†that decisive day arrives: I step onto that thing with my eyes closed, I¬†take a big breath, I open my eyes and my face involuntarily assumes a¬†horrific expression! It’s even worse than I thought. My emotional
reaction? A bit of depression mixed up with a delusional determination¬†that I’m going to lose those unwanted guests in a couple of weeks.¬†After all, it took me only a month to gain my extra pounds. It’s going¬†to take me much shorter to shed them! I wish, but deep inside I fear I’m totally delusional about that!

And then the “cutting out campaign” begins. It’s time to decide which¬†kind of food is bound to remain on the shelf. I open my imaginary¬†pantry and I start looking. First, the sweets department. No, nothing¬†to cut out there. I don’t have a sweet tooth and I very rarely eat¬†sweets. Relief. I then move my eyes towards the fruit and vegetable¬†department: thank goodness, I don’t have anything to cut out there¬†either. Even more relief. I know this is going to be my best bet and pretty much the only¬†department I will allow myself to access for weeks to come! So I linger in there, pampering¬†myself, with the only aim of procrastinating a painful decision. There¬†won’t be any more relief coming my way. I can see my next department –¬†the carbohydrate department – with the corner of my eye and all my¬†favorite food calling my name for the last time. It is time for me to¬†kiss bread, pizza and pasta goodbye – at least for a while. My heart is bleeding and my¬†tastebuds are getting depressed already. ūüôĀ

To make a long story short, I’m in the middle of soup season. Not¬†those light, watery soups that you usually have as an appetizer and¬†that – after an hour – you feel like they have never been in your¬†tummy. I’m rather talking about those rich, thick and satisfying soups that make you feel full from the end of your dinner until the time¬†you go to bed. I think the soup in this post fits the bill beautifully.

I love legumes for their well-known nutrition benefits and they are¬†perfect for dinner on a freezing winter night. I made this soup for the¬†first time about a year ago (actually the photos that you see here¬†date back to that night ūüôā ) and I found myself making it again¬†during that big snowstorm that hit the East Coast last weekend.

Will this soup do the magic helping me losing weight? Only time will tell! In the meantime, here is the recipe!

Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup


1 Cup, chickpeas
1 Cup, white beans
1 Cup, lentils
1/2 Cup, farro
1 Tbsp, baking soda
1/4 Cup, chopped onions
1/4 Cup chopped celery
1/4 Cup chopped carrots
3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
7/8 Cups, vegetable stock
Some leaves of sage
2 rosemary sprigs
Ground black pepper


Farro and legume soup

Farro and legume soup

Put the white beans, the chickpeas and the baking soda into a bowl. Soak the beans and the chickpeas overnight in cold water.

The day after, in a non-stick medium/large pot, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil, add the carrots, the celery, the onion and 1/4 Cup of water and sauté on a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the water has completely evaporated.

Drain the chickpeas and the beans and add them to the vegetables. Add the lentils, 5 Cups of stock, some salt and pepper (to taste) and toss to coat.

Cook on a medium/high heat for about 35/40 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding some of the remaining stock little by little.

Reduce the heat, add the farro and keep cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding the rest of the stock. Taste the soup to check if it is necessary to add some salt.

Wash the sage leaves and the rosemary sprigs under running water thoroughly and dry them with paper towel. Strip the needles off the rosemary sprigs and chop them roughly.

Place the soup into serving bowls or plates, pour a bit of olive oil on top and garnish the soup with some sage leaves and chopped rosemary needles.

I’ll look at my calendar to pick a date for my next hypothetical¬†“encounter” with the scale. Let’s try to think positive. Maybe this¬†time, my enemy will show me some mercy! ūüėČ

Stay warm!

F. xo

Home is where the heart is

Heart-shaped patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Heart-shaped patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Today’s post is not about food or recipes. It is not about one of my¬†silly stories either. Today’s post is about something important¬†that recently happened to me.

You see that little blue book with the golden eagle on the cover? Yup, it¬†is mine and the big news is… I’m¬†proud to say that I’ve recently become an American citizen!

We have¬†called the East Coast of the¬†United States home for many years now and it¬†has been a wonderful, caring and nurturing home to all of us. I’m very¬†excited that I can now fully¬†take part in the country’s political life by exercising¬†my right to vote and give my contribution,¬†no matter how small.

My family and most of my friends are very excited for me. A handful of friends who have never lived here asked me what all the fuss is about since there are so many other beautiful countries (including my native one) where one can live in.

Oh well, let me tell you in a few words what all the fuss is about.

I think that every country is beautiful in its own, unique way.  Every country has wonderful things to offer and each one has its own, peculiar problems and issues that need to be fixed. Italy is not an exception and neither is the US.

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

However, speaking of the US, the following are two of the most important reasons that, in my view, make this such a great country.

Firstly, this is a country where you feel and are truly free to be¬†whoever and whatever you want to be¬†without being judged or categorized.¬†This is a country where freedom in terms of religious beliefs, sexual¬†orientations and race are not just beautiful words on an historical¬†piece of paper preserved behind a sheet of¬†glass! Of course, this is a¬†generalization because for starters the US is a huge country and your mileage may vary depending on where in the US you live. Also, there is no country on earth that is immune¬†to intolerance and ignorance. Those are vicious¬†diseases that afflict the entire humanity and it is up to any decent¬†human being to give their contribution to contain them as much as¬†possible. Let’s just say that, since we moved to the Eastern Coast of the¬†US, we have been¬†lucky enough to live in places and communities where human beings¬†peacefully coexist and respect one another no matter where¬†they come¬†from, what they do¬†for a living, what their religion or¬†shade of¬†skin is and regardless of whether¬†they are straight or gay and – this –¬†my friends,¬†is a true blessing.

Secondly, the US is known as a land of opportunity. This is not just a¬†promotional catchphrase. It is the sacrosanct truth. This is¬†a country that values and fosters¬†talent and skills above all and whose¬†educational system¬†and work environment¬†are based on meritocracy and reward¬†intelligent, honest and¬†hard working individuals. If you are smart and willing to work hard and¬†with integrity, the Star-Spangled Banner’s land will give¬†you an¬†opportunity and then it is up to you to seize it and make the best of it.¬†Of course, this is once again a generalization,¬†but I can talk only¬†from experience and so far ours hasn’t proved me wrong.

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Patriotic cheesecake with raspberries, blueberries and mini marshmallows

Now, bear with me a little longer, if you will, and let me give you a brief account of the oath ceremony, which is the last step in the process to become a United States citizen at the end of which a judge of the competent local court hands you your certificate of naturalization. It is a very beautiful and touching ceremony.

That morning Stefano, Her Majesty and I along with 55 other people and¬†their respective families showed up in court in a state of excitement¬†mixed with mild apprehension since we didn’t know exactly what to¬†expect.

The court staff was professional and courteous and the “check-in”¬†formalities were carried out in an organized way.¬†Once we were all accounted for, the judge showed up and gave us a¬†beautiful speech about this country which made me feel proud to¬†be about to become one of its citizens. After reciting the pledge of¬†allegiance and being sworn in, each of us was called and delivered¬†their certificate of naturalization. The judge was cheerful and patient¬†and at the end of the ceremony he took the time to pose with each family for¬†multiple photographs.

During the ceremony, I kept looking around me and I saw people of I don’t even¬†know how many nationalities. At the beginning, I thought I had¬†absolutely nothing in common with most of them.¬†However, by the end of the ceremony, I realized I was¬†wrong. All the people in that court room had something in¬†common with one another. Not just something, but a dream¬†that was about to come true for all of us and our families at the very same¬†time.

Later that morning, I grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend. She is relatively new to my life (even though letting new people into my world is not exactly my forte) and she had been supportive all the way Рshe is the one who gave me the beautiful white, red and blue flower bouquet to celebrate the outcome of my English/History interview that I previously published photographs of.

That morning she surprised me with the work of art that you see in¬†the last photograph of this post. It’s a heart-shaped map representing the three¬†places on earth that I love the most: Rome, my hometown, New York,¬†where it all began, and Fairfield, the place I now call home. It was so unexpected. And¬†so thoughtful that it left me speechless and, believe me, it doesn’t¬†happen often. I love this present more than I can say and I will¬†always treasure it – along with the heartwarming thought of the friend who gave it to me.

I wish you and your families a wonderful and happy holiday season.

Francesca Xx

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

Doing it my way: Strawberry and Pastry Cream Puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

I have a set of rules I try to live by every day. One of them is never to judge others and stay away from judgmental people as much as I try to avoid contagious diseases.

I like to live my life the way I¬†please¬†without having my choices as a person, woman or mother judged by anyone. By the same token, I don’t judge anyone and I think that ¬†anyone should be allowed to do or say whatever they want as long as everything happens in a¬†polite and respectful way. I don’t think there is always one right way or answer when it comes to big themes of life such as marriage or parenthood: what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for others and vice versa,¬†but that doesn’t mean that one way¬†is better than the other one.

Today I’m once again sharing my experience and feelings with you about something that happened to me without any further agenda. Today it is just me being me.

As you know, I don’t have a sweet tooth but Her Majesty does. A big one! Since she was in kindergarten, she has been¬†asking¬†me to make cookies and cakes for school¬†parties and home¬†playdates. To be honest with you, I wasn’t that keen to do it, mainly because of the various food allergies that¬†Her Majesty’s schoolmates and friends suffer from. God forbids any kid gets an allergic reaction to something I have made!¬†Just the¬†thought makes me hyperventilate! Anyway, one day¬†I decided to put aside my anxiety and fears and make her happy.¬†

The cookies and cakes I make come from¬†the most traditional Italian cuisine: they are made from¬†very few basic ingredients and lots of fruit or¬†jam. I’m not against the general concept of kids eating a treat. I just believe that some treats are healthier than others and I try not to let¬†Her Majesty eat¬†super-sugary and super-rich sweets. Less is more doesn’t work only in fashion!

False modesty aside, my food usually gets some pretty enthusiastic reactions and I had no reason to believe that it would be any different this time. To my huge disappointment, most of the kids simply ignored my treats and went for the more colorful, sprinkled, super-sweet and most of the times store-bought cakes and cookies.

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

What did I do as a result? Oh well, another mother – a better mother – would probably¬†have found some sort of common ground by both changing the recipes of¬†her treats to make them more appealing to the toddlers and trying to educate them to a healthier taste at the same time. The point is that I’m not that kind of¬†mother. I’m the kind of¬†mother that,¬†on the night of the school¬†open house,¬†reading the letter that her daughter¬†left for her mommy¬†on her¬†school¬†desk¬†noticed that her nine-year old daughter misspelled one¬†word and wrote her back saying¬†that she made a mistake,¬†while her father watched the whole thing in disbelief,¬†thinking about¬†how many therapy sessions his daughter¬†would need to go through in order to¬†cope with a mother like that and overcome the trauma… ūüėČ

So back to what I did. I quit! I decided I didn’t need the aggravation (and yes, my pride had been¬†hurt!) and I stopped cooking for school¬†parties and playdates altogether. Every time Her Majesty had a playdate, I made sure I had plenty of fruit so I could¬†offer fruit shakes and fruit salads as a snack. And the Evil Queen kept¬†dismissing the never ending requests of Her Majesty for her¬†to change her mind and¬†lived happily ever after! Or at least she thought so!

Recently things have started changing, mainly for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, Her Majesty and her girlfriends have been paying more attention to what they eat lately. They are reaching that age when¬†they get more¬†body-conscious because they see their body changing and they start¬†realizing¬†that the lucky time when¬†they can eat whatever they want to¬†without gaining an ounce of weight¬†is unfortunately coming to an end. Mothers play a big role too. Her Majesty’s best friend is the only kid I know that doesn’t eat burgers. Her mother is a very well-educated woman and she had the intelligence to teach her daughter over the years how to eat healthy and how to eat¬†everything (except burgers, that is!)¬†in moderation.

Secondly, some of Her Majesty’s girlfriends have Italian ancestors and are fascinated by¬†Italian lifestyle and customs. When they come over, they ask me if this or that is authentic Italian food and they are eager to taste the real thing.

Soooo, making a¬†long story short, I’m still not volunteering for any school event,¬†but I’m willing to make treats¬†for playdates when Her Majesty begs me to!

For our last playdate, the begging had been going on and on for over two weeks and, taken by exhaustion, I yielded!

Her Majesty adores pastry cream,¬†so I decided to make these¬†very simple and¬†yet delicious puffs: puff pastry, vanilla pastry cream, fresh strawberries, some powder sugar, a bit of your time and… voila’! Les jeux sont faits! Can’t get any¬†better than this! ūüėČ

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs

Strawberry and pastry cream puffs


2 sheets, frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 lb box of strawberries
3 Cups, whole milk
3 Tbsp, sugar
2 yolks
4 Tbsp, flour
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean
Powdered sugar for dusting


Wash the strawberries under running water and let them dry completely. Slice the strawberries and put them aside.

Lay the sheets of pastry on a floured surface. If there is any crack in the pastry, press together to seal and roll over the sealed part so that you have a smooth sheet.

Cut each pastry sheet into rectangles of the same size. Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet, place the pastry rectangles on the parchment paper and bake them according to the directions on the puff pastry box. When ready, remove the pastry rectangles from the oven and let them cool completely.

In the meanwhile, in a small pot, pour the milk and add the lemon zest. Cut the quarter vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the help of a knife, gently scrape the seeds out of the bean and add the seeds to the milk.

Start warming the milk on a very low heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg and the sugar. Add the flour and whisk until you obtain a smooth mixture.

When the milk is hot, remove it from the stove and, with the help of a colander, filter the milk in order to eliminate the lemon zest. Put the milk back on the stove on a very low heat, add the egg mixture to the milk and keep whisking for 10/15 minutes or until you obtain a smooth cream.

Take one pastry rectangle, place some pastry cream on top of it and add the strawberry slices on top of the pastry cream, placing them into two adjacent rows. Take another pastry rectangle and put it on top of the strawberries. Dust with some powdered sugar. Repeat the same process for the rest of the pastry rectangles.

As I said: easy peasy lemon squeezy! ūüėČ

Have a wonderful week!

F. Xx

When the kitchen calls your name: Ricotta and Edamame Flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

4 Servings

Hello there!

Hope you had a great summer. We had a lovely time in Italy and Corsica (France).

This year I decided it was time for Her Majesty (who is 9) to start getting to know my hometown like a true Roman. It does not happen to every child to get to spend part of¬†their summers in Italy and I want her to understand and appreciate how privileged she is. So I decided to prolong our stay in the eternal city a little longer than usual before going to my parents’ beach house in Sardinia.

Rome offered Her Majesty its well known treasures as well as lots and lots of hidden ones – those only known to people who live there. The weather was simply gorgeous and our cultural tours were interrupted by lunches and aperitifs at my favorite restaurants and bars.

During our cultural sessions, we were lucky enough to catch a Chagall exhibition held not just at¬†any place¬†but at the Bramante Cloister: Raffaello’s and Chagall’s artwork coming together¬†under the same roof,¬†in a magical embrace between¬†one of the most brilliant architects of the Renaissance and one of the most influential European¬†painters of the XX century. Can it get more fascinating¬†than that?

We dined out every night with family members and friends and Her Majesty got to know some of my closest friends and spend time with my best friend’s children. She was excited and eager to try and see anything new and I was very proud of her accentless Italian pronunciation.

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan

Since she has recently started¬†moving her first steps in the fashion world, I thought it was time to spend a few hours downtown Rome and visit some Italian and French designers’ stores to show her what fashion really means, teach her some basic rules and explain her the basics of¬†how to build a timeless closet. Of course, we couldn’t resist spoiling ourselves by buying a few items,¬†but better not¬†go into too much detail there¬†because I like Stefano to remain in the dark¬†when it comes to my purchases. ūüėČ

Sardinia and Corsica were gorgeous as always. Countless hours on the beach sun-bathing, swimming, eating, relaxing and reading. As amazing as it can sound, this year I even managed to make a few new lovely acquaintances… thanks – of course – to that 9-year old social butterfly of mine. She definitely didn’t take after me! ūüėČ

And the food? Oh well! I’m proud to admit that I haven’t really cooked for the past two months!!! ūüėČ I have spent¬†my days outdoors, enjoying gorgeous weather, people and places and devoted many hours at night¬†to reading thousands of pages. I think I can start working as an editor! ūüėČ That doesn’t mean however¬†that I starved myself for two months. Actually, I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy and appreciate the creations of¬†other chefs¬†and cooks¬†who introduced me to new ingredient¬†combinations and new dishes that I will be sharing with you in the upcoming fall and winter¬†months.

This is my first attempt to get back to some¬†kind of kitchen routine. Her Majesty is back in school and Stefano longs for¬†his meals the way they used to be before¬†my rebellious summer. Can you believe the nerve? ūüėČ

A flan that I had in Italy contained fava beans. I thought edamame would be a great variant. I love edamame: they are low in calories and high in proteins, fibers and vitamins, and they pair beautifully both with proteins and carbohydrates.

The real key to this flan is the quality of the ricotta cheese. There is a lot a bad ricotta around. A lot! And I know that by experience. Fresh ricotta is such a delicate and yet distinctively flavorful cheese that¬†must melt in your mouth. You should pick a ricotta that tastes¬†delicious by itself to the point that it delights¬†your tastebuds even¬†without adding any seasoning to it. A poor-quality ricotta will make a mediocre flan and the flavors¬†of the other ingredients are not going to be able to compensate that of a “faulty” ricotta.

This is a very delicate dish which¬†can be served both as an appetizer or as a light lunch, if you do lunch – I simply don’t! Maybe because mid-day is when my brain really starts functioning! ūüėČ It is very easy to make and it requires very little time. So, what’s not to love?

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan


1/2 lb, fresh Ricotta
3 eggs
4 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 Cup, boiled and peeled Edamame
Ground black pepper

Edamame and ricotta flan

Edamame and ricotta flan


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a blender or food processor place the ricotta, the Parmigiano cheese, the yolks, some salt and pepper (to taste). Blend until you obtain a smooth mixture. Taste it to check whether you need to add more salt and blend again.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until they get fluffy. With the help of a spatula, incorporate the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture and, then, incorporate the edamame with the help of the same spatula.

Coat the ramekins with butter and fill them with the mixture. Place the ramekins inside a large, shallow pan. Add warm water to the large pan such that the lower half of the height of the ramekins is under water.

Bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and let them cool.

Invert onto a serving plate, add a salad of your choice on the side and serve right away.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

F. Xx

When celebrations are in order: an epochal ruling and a tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

The saying goes that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not completely agree. I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion as long as it is respectful and mindful of the fact that other people’s opinion may be different and – still – totally worthy to be expressed and listened to. Of course, the following opinion is on a subject that has been controversial for more that half century and it is mine (and Stefano’s) only. Feel free to agree or disagree and express your opinion in the comment section, but please do it respectfully.

This post is dedicated to those five revolutionary and extraordinary judges sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court that last week didn’t simply made same-sex marriage legal, they upheld its constitutionality. Their ruling which is now the law of the land is an epic point of no return and, at the same time, a dream-come-true for millions of people.

From now on no State will be able not to recognize to two people of the same sex their right to get married. It may seem natural and maybe even obvious to heterosexuals, but the Supreme Court’s ruling constitutes the dawn of a new era where homosexuals and heterosexuals have exactly the same right to marriage.

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

But that ruling is also the final coronation of a dream that has moved the heart of millions of people for several decades. People who have suffered and fought only to be granted the right to be considered equal to others.

For different reasons, today is considered the birthday of the United States. We think it is so special that the Supreme Court’s decision came out only a week before Independence Day.

A day of celebration of freedom in a country that has shown to be capable of listening to the voice of gay couples that have fought so long and so hard for their basic rights. A day of celebration of freedom in a country whose President has greeted this judicial decision by declaring that “love is love” and “this ruling is a victory for America”. A day of celebration of freedom in a country that has built its traditions and grandiosity on the basic yet fundamental concept that “all men are created equal” with certain unalienable rights such as “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness”.

I know that the Catholic raising of those who write this post should prevent us from feeling joyful for this epochal change, but we believe that respect for any human being and their basic civil rights is more important than any religious belief. We live supporting the simple concept that we are all created equal, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation and that’s the main teaching according to which we are raising Her Majesty.

Today we applaud those five courageous judges and this great country that we are proud to have been calling our home for the last ten years, hoping that other countries (including – shamefully – the one we were born and raised in) will follow suit.

Now, since today is a day of celebration and there cannot be a proper celebration without good food, let’s talk about it.

I served this delicious risotto for the first time three weeks ago to a couple that Stefano and I barely knew, despite their being the parents of Her Majesty’s best friend. I was a little bit nervous because the “She” of this couple is vegetarian and tries to avoid to eat gluten as much as she can, although on that special occasion she was willing to make a “gluten exception” because she thought that my cooking was worth it! ūüėŹ

Since I didn’t want her exception to be too big, I decided to make a risotto. ūüėĚ
I was lucky enough to put my greedy hands on some super juicy and super good-smelling tomatoes and I knew that I had to make a gorgeous sauce out of them.
The sauce pairs beautifully with the rice and the melted provolone, while parmigiano makes the risotto creamy and even more flavorful.

Tomato and provolone risotto

Tomato and provolone risotto

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:
20 oz, fresh tomatoes
1/2 Cup, chopped red onion
5/6 leaves, fresh basil
2/3 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil

Ingredients for the risotto:
1/4 cup, chopped white onions
1 Tbsp, butter
7 oz, Arborio rice
1/3 Cup, dry white wine
4 Cups, vegetable stock
2 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 Cup, shredded Provolone cheese
1 Tsp, dry oregano (optional)

Directions for the tomato sauce:
Wash the tomatoes under running water. Remove the stem ends, cut them in halves and cut each half in 4 quarters.

In a medium non-stick pot, put the tomatoes, the onions, the basil leaves and some salt (to taste) and cook on a low heat for a couple of hours, stirring often, or until you obtain a sort of tomato mixture (the water from the tomatoes must almost completely evaporate).

Run the tomato mixture into a foodmill, place the tomato sauce back on the low heat and simmer for about 10/15 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the olive oil on the sauce.

Directions for the risotto:
In a medium-size non-stick pot, put the butter and the chopped onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add two ladles of stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. When the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock.

About 10 minutes after the first addition of stock, add the tomato sauce.

Keep cooking, constantly stirring, and add the rest of the stock little by little until the rice is creamy and cooked al dente. This will take about 18/20 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. Taste the rice to check if it is necessary to add some salt.

Remove the pot from the heat, add three quarters of the Provolone cheese and the Parmigiano cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted and you obtain a creamy risotto.

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Provolone cheese and, if you like so, some oregano.

We wish you all a glorious 4th of July weekend! ūüôā

Francesca Xx

P.S. “She” didn’t say a word about the risotto during the dinner but I must have done something right that night because a few days later – to celebrate an exciting event that is happening right now in my life – she left a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the bench in front of our house. ūüôā

Unexpected acts of kindness do not happen to me very often and I think they should be treasured, rewarded and immortalized somehow. That’s why I asked Stefano to make those flowers last forever. Curious enough – or maybe not – the colors of the flowers are those of the Star Spangled Banner – the American flag! ūüėć

Red, Blue and White flowers

Red, Blue and White flowers