Tag Archives: dinner

Pasta alla Norma: Finding a Good Grocer is Like Finding a Good Friend

Pasta alla Norma

4 Servings

I usually welcome the spring season by cooking pasta alla norma. The reason? Spring brings fresh tomatoes, which are key to the success of this dish. If I close my eyes and dig into my childhood memories, I can still smell the aroma of fresh tomatoes and onions simmering on the stove of my grandmother’s house in Sicily. Actually, this is one of the very few happy memories I have about my vacations in Sicily due to the very… (how do I put this?)… rocky relationship between my grandmother and my mom.

Anyway, whenever I go on a “hunt” for the right ingredients for this recipe, it is one of those moments I miss my country and, especially, my grocer the most. The place where I live is a supermarket kingdom: everything is beautifully displayed in these endless aisles but, when you approach the people who work there and start asking questions about a particular produce you are looking for, they look at you in astonishment. No, it’s not my accent… I’m pretty sure about that. 😉 The point is they have no idea what I am talking about. Such a different experience compared to the great feeling I had when I put my
foot into my grocery store in Italy in contemplation of the wonders expecting me.

Let me be honest here. I truly believe that finding the perfect grocer, as well as finding the perfect butcher, is like finding a good friend. Let me explain my metaphor a little more in detail, will you?

You are looking for someone you can totally trust and that is going to give you the best he can offer. It’s not an easy quest and, inevitably, you will encounter a few disappointments down the road but what a fulfilling feeling when you realize that you have found the one. He starts smiling at you when he sees you coming down the street and when you explain him what you are planning on cooking, he knows exactly what you need. Most of the time, he is even a better cook than you are, so he shares tips and cooking skills with you, little secrets that you are going to treasure forever. He goes out of his way to pamper you and make you happy to make sure that you come back over and over and the friendship endures. Do you see my point now?

I still remember the first time I decided to try out this recipe not long ago in Italy. With the list of ingredients based on my dad’s memory, I went to my grocer. I had no idea what to pick but, of course, he came to my rescue and told me that I needed “sauce tomatoes”, i.e., tomatoes that are so juicy and flavorful that not using them to make a sauce would be tantamount to a crime. Then he directed me toward the right type of eggplant to be used and, finally, he made me try this divine ricotta salata coming directly from his trusted farmer. When I came back home and the tomatoes on the stove started spreading their
aroma all over, I was taken back in time to a vacation at my grandmother’s house in an instant and I took a fidelity oath to him. Something like “until death do us part” but less dramatic and permanent! 😉

Enough with the chit chat. This pasta dish originates in the Sicilian city of Catania and, allegedly, it was named after “Norma”, an opera by famous composer Vincenzo Bellini. The ingredients are few: tomato sauce, fried eggplants, basil and grated ricotta salata (a hard, saltier and drier version of ricotta). The tomato sauce takes about three hours to make, so if you are in hurry to put a meal on the table, maybe this is not the right dish. Everybody knows that perfection takes time and the taste of this pasta is heaven.

Pasta alla NormaIngredients:

1 eggplant
6 lb, fresh tomatoes
half, red onion
10 leaves, fresh basil
1 cup, extravirgin olive oil
1 cup, grated ricotta salata
1 lb rigatoni


Cut the eggplant into slices (about 3/4 inch thick). In order to remove the excess water from the eggplant slices, place a big colander on a plate, put some sliced eggplants in the colander and salt them. Put another layer of slices on top and salt them. Keep going until all the slices have been layered and salted. Then place a plate on top of the eggplant slices in the colander and put some kind of weight on top of the plate (I usually use peeled tomato cans). Let the slices rest for a couple of hours.

In the meanwhile, remove the stem ends of the tomatoes, cut them in halves and cut each half in 4 quarters. Cut the onion into slices.

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

Dice up the eggplant slices. In a non-stick skillet, pour 3/4 cup of olive oil and fry the eggplant cubes. When the cubes are soft and brown, remove them from the olive oil and place them on an oil-absorbing paper tissue.

Run the tomato mixture into a food mill, place the tomato sauce back on the low heat, put the eggplant cubes and the rest of the basil leaves into the sauce and simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour the rest of the olive oil on the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the rigatoni and toss them to coat with 3/4 of the sauce.

Put the rigatoni into the serving plates, pour some of the remaining sauce on top of them and dust each dish with the grated ricotta salata. Serve right away and enjoy!

I wish you all a very Happy Easter!

Pasta alla Norma

A catering event and Nemo: what more could you ask for?

A client's 50th birthday party catered by Flora's Table

Tomato BruschettaDo you remember Nemo? No, not the adorable clownfish from the famous Disney movie but the major blizzard (with record amount of snowfall) that hit certain areas of the East Coast (including ours!) the second weekend of February?

Well, needless to say, that weekend, we were supposed to cater a dinner party for 22 guests in Fairfield County, Connecticut… The occasion? The 50th birthday of the husband of the hostess. Everything had to be perfect and the planning was going really smoothly until we saw the weather forecast at the beginning of that week. It was national alert all over the news and the governors of the States and the mayors of the towns on Nemo’s way were urging people to get ready to face the storm and, above all, to stay home. Not exactly the ideal situation to host a party…

Penne alla VodkaYou can only imagine all the phone calls, emails, text messages (along with the emotional distress) that my client and I exchanged before, during and after the storm! Many important decisions had to be made in a short timeframe. To make a long story short, willingness and collaboration made it possible to have the party on Sunday night and everybody seemed to have a really great time!

Now that Spring is around the corner (hopefully at least… it’s been such a long and cold winter!) and Nemo is just a memory, I thought I would share with you photographs of some of the food that we served at that birthday party. Of course, these pictures have not been taken during the actual party because it would not have been appropriate for us to take pictures while on a job, but this is some of the food that got served.

Hope you enjoy it as much as our client and her guests did!  🙂

Francesca's Chicken MarsalaFrancesca's Tiramisu

Sea Scallops as a Valentine? Why Not!

Potato and Olive ScallopsI’m about to say something that, as a cook and a food blogger, I shouldn’t say, but I am who I am and, at my age, changes are small miracles.

So, the ugly truth is… I’m not a fish fan, quite the opposite actually. I haven’t eaten fish during the last two decades and I’m not planning on starting again any time soon.

I know, I know. It’s very healthy. Plus, I have a little one who needs all the nutriens that are in fish and a husband who was born in Genoa which means that sea water runs in his veins as much as blood runs in mine.

Bottom line: cooking fish is both a struggle and a challenge for me but I have a secret weapon… my parents. They are both from the south of Italy and both of them cook fish wonderfully.

As the entire world knows, Valentine’s Day is upon us. Being the least romantic person on the planet, I can honestly say that I have no recollection of me celebrating this day ever and this year is not going to be any different. However, this year I was determined to do a nice thing for the people I love the most and, thus, I asked my mom to share her sea scallop recipe. Et voila’! If I could do it, anyone can do it. 🙂

Potato and Olive ScallopsIngredients:

3/4 of 1 cup, extravirgin olive oil
6 sea scallops
8 grape tomatoes
1/3 cup, capers
1 cup, green pitted olives
1/2 cup, black pitted olives
3 potatoes
1 Tbsp, olive spread
1 Tsp, dry oregano


Put the capers in a small bowl with some water and let them stay for half an hour. Rinse the capers under running water and put them aside.

Cut the tomatoes and the olives in half and put them aside.

In a non-stick medium/large skillet, put the olive oil, the scallops, the tomatoes, the olives, some salt (to taste) and start cooking them on low/medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cut the potatoes into halves or quarters (depending on the size of the potatoes), roughly the same size, and add them to the skillet.

Put the olive spread in a glass, add some hot water and, with the help of a spoon, stir the spread until you obtain a mixture. Pour the olive mixture in the skillet and toss to coat. Finally, add the capers and the oregano and keep cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

*  *  *

I wish everyone who celebrates Valentine’s Day to have a wonderful one!  🙂

Daddy's Sicilian-Style Stracotto

Rigatoni with Sicilian-style stracotto sauce4/6 Servings

I wish I could take credit for this recipe but…nope! Not even a teensy bit. This red, opulent dish comes straight from my dad’s childhood memories.

When he visited us for the holidays (yeah, he left but my mom is still here – Stefano, stop making that face!) he showed me how to make it and he shared his family story behind it. Well, that story was so long and full of details about my grand parents and about certain unkonwn-to-me grand aunts that it was a miracle I didn’t fall asleep. And don’t even get me started on describing my mother’s face during our story-telling session. 😉

Anyway, since today I feel very generous towards the human species (believe me, it does not happen often), I decided I would spare you the torture.

Let me just say that what I love about this dish, beside its richness, is the “2 courses in 1 deal”. When you make it, by going through one cooking process, you’ll end up with both the tomato sauce for a pasta course and a meat course. Don’t get me wrong. Cooking is great. However, if I can manage to cook a great meal in less time and have more time for my other passions (books, movies, myself ;-)), my first reaction is always “where should I sign”?

Now, let’s focus on the important stuff.

Sicilian-style stracotto


3/4 of 1 cup, minced onion
5 Tbsp, extravirgin olive oil
about 11 oz, veal stew
about 13 oz, boneless pork chops
3 pork sausages (about 10 oz)
4 potatoes
1/2 cup, red wine
2 cans, San Marzano peeled tomatoes
1 Tbsp, tomato paste
4 Tbsp, grated Parmigiano cheese (to be used only for the pasta course)


Cut the potatoes into medium-sized pieces and set aside. Cut the pork chops into stew-like pieces and set aside. With the help of a fork, make small holes into the sausages. Process the tomatoes through a food mill and set them aside.

In a large non-stick pot, put the olive oil, the onion, the veal stew, the pork chop pieces, the sausages and the potatoes and start to saute. When the meat is well sauteed, add the red wine and keep stirring until the wine evaporates. Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, some salt (to taste) and keep cooking on a very low heat, stirring often, until the tomato sauce gets thick and is not watery anymore.

If you decide to serve pasta, remember to cook it al dente and to dust the top of each plate with the parmigiano cheese.

Buon Appetito! 🙂

Saffron "Milanese" Risotto

Francesca's Safron Risotto

2 Servings

Every time I make risotto for my American friends they look at me like I’m serving them some kind of magical concoction.  🙂  It is instead a very simple dish to make and these are the reasons why I decided to publish this recipe:

1. Once you master the making process of this risotto (which I personally consider to be the basic one) you will be able to make any risotto. You can unleash your imagination in terms of ingredients and be as creative as you can.

2. I’m very fond of this risotto. My mother used to make it for us when I was a child (although it belongs to the Milan cuisine tradition). During the time that I spent working and living in Milan, I think I ate tons of saffron risotto in restaurants and households. Nowadays, famous master chefs are reinventing this wonderful dish by adding ingredients or changing the process, making you believe that they are revealing you the secret of the Holy Grail (and, of course, asking you an outrageous amount of money for such revelation!) This is something that I personally condemn. What’s wrong about continuing to cook a dish the traditional way, when the original recipe has been perfect for centuries? Thank goodness, there are still old trattorie in Milan that go way back and still serve you the real thing, letting your palate experience something unique.

3. There is a legend about the creation of this dish that is so lovely and amusing that I think it is worth sharing. It was 1574 and the Duomo in Milan was being built. A group of Belgian glass makers, under the direction of their master, Valerio of Fianders, were working on the stain-glass windows representing episodes of the life of St. Elena. One of Valerio’s apprentices was known for his ability to make wonderful colors. His secret? He used to add some saffron to the color mixture creating amazing chromatic effects. On September 8, 1574 the wedding of the daughter of master Valerio was being celebrated. This apprentice (some say as a joke, some say as a gift to the bride) came up with the idea of adding some saffron to the risotto that was going to be served during the nuptial meal. The result? The yellow risotto was a hit among the guests and this classic of the Milan cuisine was created.

Now, I could keep going telling you about the history of rice, how and when rice arrived in Italy and how it was cultivated, but I think I’ll stop here because this post is getting longer than a chapter in a Tolstoy book 😉

Let me just tell you a couple of things before we get down to the recipe.

First, the kind of rice. The best kind of rice to make risotto is carnaroli rice (which along with arborio rice and vialone nano rice are the most common rice varieties that are used in making risotto). The best brand of carnaroli rice is called Acquerello. Easy to find? Not at all! Not even in Milan. I had to go to the “jewellers” (that’s what I call the very expensive grocery stores in Milan like Peck at Via Spadari) to buy the famous Acquerello round metallic box. Bottom line? I usually use the less expensive and easier to find arborio rice.

Second, the original recipe calls for beef marrow. Again, not easy to find… even in Italy. I used to order it from my butcher in advance. So if you happen to put your lucky hands on some beef marrow, just remember that you have to cut it off into small pieces and cook it along with the shallot before adding the rice.

Francesca's Safron RisottoIngredients:

1/2 shallot
1 and 3/4 of 1 Tbsp, butter
5.5 oz of Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 and 1/2 cups of beef stock
1 sachet of powdered saffron
2 and 1/2 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese


Finely mince the shallot. In a medium-size non-stick pot, put 1 Tbsp of butter and the minced shallot and cook, over low heat, until the shallot softens. Add the rice and toss to coat for 1 to 2 minutes. We say that we “toast” the rice. Pour the wine in and keep stirring until the wine evaporates completely.

Add two ladles of beef stock and cook, constantly stirring, until the stock is absorbed. Bear in mind that the stock must be very hot, otherwise cold stock will prevent the rice from cooking. When the beef stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of hot stock and keep cooking until absorbed, and then repeat the process adding more stock. About 9 minutes after the first addition of stock, separately melt the powdered saffron in a little stock and add it to the cooking rice.

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 18 to 20 minutes from the time the first ladle of stock is added. When you are about to remove the pot from the heat, taste the rice and salt if necessary.

Remove the pot from the heat, add 3/4 of 1 Tbsp of butter and stir until the butter is completely melted. Then, add 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of Parmigiano cheese and stir until you obtain a creamy risotto – we say that the risotto must make “waves” 🙂

Put the risotto into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the Parmigiano cheese.

Just a couple of extra suggestions before I leave you.

You can replace the shallot with onion. The cooking process is exactly the same as described above.

If you are using saffron pistils as opposed to powdered saffron, put the pistils in some hot stock. With the help of a strainer, drain the stock and add it to the rice. Set the pistils aside. When the risotto is ready to be served, add the pistils on top of the plate as a garnishment.


Merry Christmas!

Shrimp CocktailHere we go! Christmas Eve… for my family, it is even more important than Christmas Day. We have been talking about this night for weeks. We have invited friends, my mom and I have decided the table setting and selected the dishes and Stefano has chosen the bubbly and the still wines for tonight.

My parents brought delicious treats from Rome and Stefano brought traditional sweets from Milan and Genoa.

To make you understand how much work and planning went into the preparations for this magical night and to give you a flavor of an Italian Christmas Eve, we decided we would share with you the pictures of some of the food that will be served. We follow the Catholic tradition, so you won’t see any meat around!

Smoked Salmon CrostiniWe’ll start with a shrimp cocktail, some eggs au gratin, a broccoli quiche, a potato frittata, smoked salmon crostini, blue cheese puffs with fontina sauce and cauliflower au gratin. With these, Stefano is going to serve a Ferghettina, Franciacorta Brut DOCG S.A., a Classic Method Italian spumante aged 24 months on its lees.

We’ll continue with spaghetti with clams and a truffle risotto. Afterwards, we’ll serve branzino fillets with vegetables. The wines that Stefano paired with these main courses are an Argiolas, Vermentino di Sardegna Costamolino DOC 2011 and a Vigneti Massa, Colli Tortonesi Timorasso Derthona DOC 2009 for the truffle risotto.

Black TrufflesFor dessert, we’ll have some fruit (grapes and cherries) and lots and lots of sweets: panettone (a traditional Christmas sweet bread loaf originally from Milan), pandolce (a traditional Christmas cake from Genoa), dried figs, chocolate-coated torrone and chocolate torrone with hazelnuts that my mom bought in Vatican City, marrons glacés from Cova (one of the most famous patisseries in Milan), chocolate orangettes, marzipan fruits and chocolates, all hand-made, from Viganotti (one of the oldest and best chocolate stores in Genoa, who make all their chocolate and marzipan masterpieces in the workshop adjoining the store, using only the best, freshest ingredients: if you are ever going to be in Genoa make sure you pay them a visit – you will not regret it). With the dessert, Stefano is going to serve Le Colture, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry DOCG, a Charmat-Martinotti Method spumante, and for the chocolate a Lustau, Pedro Ximenez Sherry San Emilio – Solera Reserva DO.

Collection of Christmas sweetsHopefully, after all this food and wine, we are still going to function!  😉

Chocolate-coated torrone, chocolate torrone with hazelnuts and marrons glacésAll of us at Flora’s Table wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas! May Santa make your dreams come true tonight!!!Milanese panettone with chocolate-dipped orange wedges

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Francesca's Spaghetti alla Carbonara

4 Servings

I’ll be honest with you: I was not planning to publish this recipe for at least six months since I posted the recipe for spaghetti all’amatriciana quite recently and the two recipes share some key ingredients. However, things do not always go as planned. Last month, I “met” a new friend, Kimberly of WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot4, which was kind of an unexpected event for me because I’m not very social…to say the least 😉 Kimberly and her husband happened to be in Rome in the past months and her husband fell in love with spaghetti alla carbonara, one of the most famous dishes in the Roman culinary tradition.

She asked me to give her my recipe and her request was just sooooo lovely that I could not possibly say no. So, this recipe is my Christmas (or whatever different kind of festivity they may be celebrating!) present to Kimberly and her husband. I wish Roman Santa would go down their chimney and leave a warm dish under the tree, ready for them to eat in the morning (admittedly, not the perfect time of the day to eat carbonara, but who am I to judge?)… Since, however, this sounds just a little unlikely, I guess Kimberly and her husband will have to work something out in the kitchen on their own 🙂

Before we get to the “technicalities” of this wonderful culinary creation, let’s talk a bit about its origins. There are several theories about it.

Many believe that the carbonai (i.e., men who used to make charcoal) created the dish a long time ago. They used to work in the Apennine mountains and carry with them the necessary ingredients (cured pork, eggs, pasta, cheese and black pepper) to be cooked on an outdoor campfire.

According to a second theory, carbonara was created by a cook belonging to the Carbonari, an Italian secret society fighting for the independence of Italy from the Austrians at the beginning of the 19th century.

Under yet another theory, the origins of this recipe must be traced back to the Neapolitan cuisine. The XIX century cookbook “Cucina Teorico Pratica” by Ippolito Cavalcanti, Duke of Buonvicino, includes a recipe that, although far from the actual carbonara, presents a strong similarity to a dish that some consider to be the predecessor of carbonara.

A fourth theory is also known as the American theory: at the end of World War II, the Allied troops arrived in Rome bringing bacon with them. According to this theory, the American soldiers used to cook, or ask Italians to cook for them, scrambled eggs and bacon and combine them with pasta. Such combination reportedly gave Italian cooks the idea to create this classic of the Roman cuisine.

I cannot tell you which one of the above theories is accurate, since historians and chefs still debate about them. So, just embrace the theory that best satisfies your imagination and let’s start cooking, shall we? 😉

Francesca's Spaghetti alla CarbonaraLet’s talk about ingredients first.

One of the key ingredients of carbonara is “guanciale”, a cured meat deriving from the pork’s jowl or cheek. Unfortunately, no grocery store located in my neck of the woods knows what it is and whenever I tried to explain what I was looking for, they looked at me like I’m totally crazy (yeah, my Italian accent does not help either!) So, I had to go for a substitute which, in this case, would be pancetta, a cured meat deriving from the pork’s belly.

The other key ingredient are the eggs. In terms of number of eggs per person, every cook has their own “rule”. Moreover, some cooks use whole eggs, some cooks only yolks and some others a combination of whole eggs and yolks. Personally, I use 1 whole egg and 1 yolk for two people. When you make this dish, there is one fundamental rule to remember: under no circumstance whatsoever, should you let the eggs cook. If you let that happen, you will end up with some scrambled eggs of sort, your carbonara will be ruined and you will have no choice but to start all over.

During the years, I have heard and seen people add heavy creamy (gasp!!! May the Roman gods be lenient!) in order to make the sauce creamier: just picture me right now pushing a big red button that says WROOOOONG 😉 There is no heavy cream in the original recipe. There should be no heavy cream in your carbonara. The creaminess of the sauce is *exclusively* due to the proper use of the eggs.

As to the cheese to be used, this is an easy one: only Roman pecorino cheese.

Finally, let’s talk about seasoning. I think I have seen them all: onions, garlic, parsley, green peas and whatever the human imagination can come up with. Sorry guys. Believe me when I say that I do not mean any disrespect but once again I’m reaching for my big red button which says WRONG! The original recipe does not provide for any kind of seasoning or extra ingredients and, trust me, carbonara is just perfect the way it is – if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it kinda thing 😉

The key to the success of this very humble dish is to use top notch quality, fresh ingredients that, cooked properly, speak for themselves in a combination of flavors that creates a unique culinary masterpiece.


4 slices of pancetta, ¼ inch thick
1 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 whole eggs
2 yolks
14 oz spaghetti (a little less than a pack)
6 Tbsp grated Roman pecorino cheese
Ground black pepper


Cut up the pancetta into bits (about ½ of 1 inch in size).

Cutting pancettaIn a non-stick large skillet, heat the oil, add the pancetta and fry, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta gets golden and crispy. Set aside.

Put a large pot of salted water over the stove to boil. While the water is warming up, place the whole eggs and the yolks in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt (be careful not to put too much because pancetta is already salty), 1 Tbsp of pecorino cheese, some black pepper (to taste) and whisk until you obtain a smooth mixture.

When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain the spaghetti, put them in the skillet with the pancetta and toss to coat.

Transfer the spaghetti back in the large pot where you cooked them. Add the egg mixture and toss to coat (being careful not to let the eggs cook!) Add 4 Tbsp of pecorino cheese and toss to coat.

Put the spaghetti into the serving plates and dust the top of each plate with the rest of the pecorino cheese and some black pepper.

Et voilà! Simple, quick and absolutely perfect the way it is!  😉

Melba Sauce

Yup! Nicole is right. I like to finish my meals with fruit. However, I allow myself to indulge in something sweet once in a while and her rich, creamy and delicious cheesecake is my exception to the rule. Just to keep the fruit in the equation, I like to complement her cheesecake with some Melba Sauce.

Now, I know I’m going straight to the guillottine with this recipe 😉 but what’s life without taking a little risk? The Melba sauce is indeed a French masterpiece. It was created by the famous French chef August Escoffier to honor the Australian soprano Nellie Melba at the end of the 19th century. I can totally see the frowning foreheads of our French readers (led by my French teacher) asking themselves: has she lost her mind?

Well, I tell you what: of course I do not have Escoffier’s recipe nor has any French ever taught me how to make this gorgeous sauce, but I’m a huge believer in constructive criticism. Therefore, I invite you all (regardless of your citizenship) to comment, correct and/or complete my recipe as you see fit!

After all, what are bloggers for? 😉


1 cup fresh raspberries
1 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
1/8 Tsp lemon juice


Rinse the raspberries with water, put them in a strainer over a bowl and let them drain fully.

Transfer the raspberries, the sugar and the lemon juice in a blender or a food processor and blend until you obtain a creamy mixture.

Place a small strainer over a soup bowl. Pour some of the raspberry mixture in the strainer and, with the back of a spoon, push the mixture through the strainer so that the seeds remain in the strainer. Repeat the same procedure with the rest of the raspberry mixture.

Pour the sauce in a little pitcher and serve it.

Et voilà, simple et délicieuse! Vive la France! 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you from all of us!

As Nicole aptly pointed out in her post yesterday, there are people who grew up eating differently from you, and Stefano and I certainly fit the bill as where we grew up Thanksgiving was not (and still is not) a holiday, let alone such an important tradition as it is in the United States. So, maybe you all can send some empathy and good karma my way today because, while I am all set with the appetizers for our Thanksgiving dinner (we have included a couple of images to give you an idea of what we are going to eat tonight), I am very much scratching my head at how the huge turkey that is still sitting in our fridge is going to turn out since it is my first time cooking it!!! Oh well, you gotta start somewhere, right? 🙂

Anyways, each of us at Flora’s Table has her or his own things (and people!) to be thankful for, but in this post we all just want to say that we are very thankful to all of you: our followers, our “likers” and more in general all of our readers and fellow bloggers, who really are the building blocks of the wonderful community that is steadily growing around Flora’s Table – our ideal communal table around which we all congregate to sit and eat and toast and chat and laugh, very much the Italian way! 😉

By all means we are still neophytes at this blogging thing, with just less than two months worth of experience under our belts, but we sure are excited at what we have accomplished so far, impressed and humbled by your reaction and support and definitely enthusiastic about all the good things that we have in mind and are yet to come!

So, enjoy your holiday, eat and drink well, and spend some deserved quality time with the people you love. Cheers!

Veal Skewers

2 Servings (2 Skewers Each)

I guess by now you know that Rome is my hometown. However, it’s not my father’s. He was born and raised in Messina, a town in Sicily, and moved to Rome in his late twenties. Every summer, we used to go to my grandparents’ beach house in Sicily and spend some time with them. Oh, I know what you are thinking: here we go – another story about Italian happy families and fairy-tale memories. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you – or is that a sigh of relief? The simple truth is… my mother and my grandmother hated each other. Have you ever read a novel called “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles”? Not an intellectual masterpiece but very entertaining: the feud between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law in the book reminds me a little the one that was going on in that Sicilian beach house. I say a little because, luckily, my story (as opposed to the one in the book) did not end with a murder 😉 Ah, I know once again what you are thinking: what has this got to do with food? Bear with me just a tad longer, will you?

So, my grandmother happened to be a very good cook and… no, she didn’t teach me how to cook. Growing up, I was a bitchy, moody, ambitious, career-focused girl who couldn’t care less about learning how to cook. The good food kept coming and that was more than enough for me. No questions asked. When my grandmother died, the only thing that I was able to make on the stove was… boiling water.

But then, time went by and my priorities changed. One day, while I was cooking, I suddenly realized that I could not recreate any of my grandmother’s tasty dishes.I felt such a deep sadness, you know, the same you feel when you lose something precious that cannot be replaced. What to do? Not ask my mom. Even now, after all these years, when my grandmother’s name is mentioned, her face turns blue. I knew she was not going to be of any help. Much to my surprise, my father was the one who came to the rescue. I say that because we are talking about an old-fashioned man who thinks that little elves live in his house and take care of cleaning it, cooking his meals and ironing his clothes. He is so spoiled and used to being “attended to” that he doesn’t even make the effort to put his dirty plate in the sink. Well, not only did he remember my grandmother’s recipes, but he even knew the right quantities for the various ingredients and the directions to make them. Who would have thought!

So to make a long story short, the following recipe (as well as all other Sicilian recipes that are yet to come) derive from my father.


1 lb veal cutlets
½ cup plain bread crumbs
3 Tbsp grated Parmigiano cheese
½ cup parsley leaves
½ white scamorza cheese or plastic-wrapped mozzarella cheese
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 big garlic clove, finely minced (optional)
ground black pepper


On a cutting board, place one cutlet between two pieces of parchment paper. With the smooth side of a tenderizer, start pounding the meat until it gets thin and the meat fibers have softened (be careful not to break the meat). Remove the parchment paper from the meat. Make sure that the cutlet has been evenly flattened and, if some part of it is still too thick, pound it more with the tenderizer. Cut the cutlet into strips, about 3-inch wide and 5-inch long. Repeat the same procedure for the other cutlets.

Rinse the parsley leaves with water, dry them with a paper towel and chop them roughly.

The original recipe requires the use of white scamorza cheese. However, if you cannot find it, you can use mozzarella instead – just choose the type that comes in plastic wrap, not the moister type that sits in water. Cut off the scamorza cheese or the mozzarella into cubes (between ½ and ¾ of 1 inch thick). In case you are using moist mozzarella, put the cubes into a strainer, place the strainer above a large bowl and let the mozzarella cubes drain fully.

In a large plate, place the bread crumbs, the parmigiano cheese, the parsley, a pinch of salt, the pepper (to taste), the garlic (if you choose to go for it) and mix thoroughly.

Pour the olive oil into another plate.

Spread a veal strip out onto a cutting board. Season only one side of the strip with a pinch of salt (not too much, because you put some salt in the crumb mixture already).

Dip only the salted side of the strip into the olive oil and hold it over the oil to let any excess fall back into the plate. Next, dip the same side of the strip into the crumb mixture to evenly coat it.

Return the strip to the cutting board with the breaded side facing up. Take a cheese cube and place it on one of the short sides of the strip. Roll the strip into a small roll (pardon the pun).

Repeat the same procedure for the other strips.

Using 8-inch metal skewers, spear 4 veal rolls onto each skewer being careful not to place them too close to each other, otherwise the rolls will not cook evenly.

Brush the rolls with extra virgin olive oil and cook them over a preheated grill or a non-stick grill pan. Cook the rolls until tender and golden brown on both sides.

The original recipe calls for a fennel salad with a vinaigrette dressing as a side dish.

Enjoy and let me know how it turned out if you give it a go!