At the Table Together

Why do we work so hard to have regular family meals while our kids are growing up? Because even when they are away from home they are nurtured by the family well-being and togetherness fostered at the kitchen table.  As so many of our children go off to college and beyond, trust that your love will give them a solid foundation from which to learn and grow and thrive.
Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

from Brooke Reynolds blog:

Potatoes or Potato Chips

What are you eating? Potato Chips at $11/lb or Roasted Potatoes for $1/lb…

Paolo de Croce, President of Slow Food International recently addressed members of Central Valley Slow Food.  He brought to our attention the importance of considering what you are eating, how much does it cost and who is preparing your food!

In the mood for that satisfying salty taste sensation?   It takes two minutes to wash and cut some fingerling potatoes. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and pepper.  Then roast for about an hour turning occasionally.  For the complete recipe look at page 189 from Cooking Dinner: Simple Italian Family Recipes Everyone Can Make!

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

Baciccia Beans

What do you do when a good friend       delivers a case of your favorite     vegetable to your doorstep?
Give him a big kiss of course and
follow up with a tasty meal.
A BIG thank you to John Dentoni
for this great surprise!

Many people are not familiar with the wonderful Baciccia Bean.  It is a long green bean that grows on a short bush. Like other fresh beans it is a warm season vegetable and is harvested all summer to early fall. Unlike other fresh beans it is classified as an heirloom plant which means that is has been reproduced for generations without cross-breeding. In fact, the Baciccia Beans that my husband grows in our garden are from seed plants that were brought from Italy by my grandfather!

The wonderful sweet taste and velvet texture make this a very likable bean. Because of our “late” summer you can still find these delectable treasures at your local farmers’ markets. Steam them for just a few minutes and enjoy while bright green and crisp-tender, or incorporate into your favorite green bean recipe or watch the video and try this Italian summer favorite.

Cook, Eat, Laugh..Claudia


Penne with Eggplant and Mozzarella

This morning while on walk with girlfriends I heard them say how tired they were of the same old pasta sauces and wanted something fresh, in season and new. I mentioned that another friend, who is being overwhelmed by the ripening eggplant growing in her vegetable garden, just gave me some. With the eggplant I made a delicious pasta sauce. Everybody loved it so I am making it again tonight! In case you want to try it here is how I made it.

Penne with Eggplant and Mozzarella.

You will need: 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 onion finely chopped, one eggplant peeled (I like it peeled but peeling is optional) and cut in 1/2 inch cubes, 2 ripe tomatoes peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes or 1 small can good tomato sauce, 1 small bunch of fresh basil and 1 fresh mozzarella cut in small cubes.

Directions: In a medium sauce pan sauté onion in half the oil for 3-4 minutes. Add rest if the oil and sauté the eggplant for 5-6 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, the tomato. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add basil and remove it after a minute. Meanwhile boil the Penne. 3 minutes before the pasta is cooked, with a slotted ladle, pick up the penne from the boiling water and add it to the sauce. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Serve in a large serving dish, sprinkle top with mozzarella and serve immediately.   Buon appetito

Cook with your heart. It nourishes more than just the stomach! Rima




Have you ever heard of FARINATA? What about CECINA? Ok then, what about CALDA CALDA? No? Never? I knew it! These are just different names for the same dish. The name changes depending on the region but the dish is the same. Many Italian dishes have  been exported, redone, in some cases abused. Despite this fact, there are still dishes that are well known to the average Italian but remain unknown outside of the Italian borders. This is the case of Cecina.

Cecina takes the name from Ceci, Italian for garbanzo beans. It is one of the many poor man’s dishes that are part of every old civilization. It is made of garbanzo beans flour, water, salt and olive oil. It’s a thin torta baked in a wood oven at high temperature in large round metal trays. It can be traced back to the time of the Etruscans, big lovers of garbanzo beans.

It’s a typical Mediterranean dish, not only Italian, but it is made especially well in the Tuscan and Ligurian regions. In Massa, where I grew up, it is called Calda-Calda (Hot-Hot) and it is sold only in winter time. I ate it many winter afternoons for “merenda” the afternoon snack. It is usually sold in Pizzerias. The only limitation to this delicious, simple delicacy is that it needs to be eaten hot right out of the oven; if it gets cold it loses its soft, chewy consistency and delicious flavor. I always ate it stuffed inside a piece of freshly baked focaccia, but it can be also eaten by itself.

This summer my friend Elena took me to her friend Antonella’s restaurant “Il Timone” in beautiful Portovenere. By the way, let me tell you, I hear so many American people are so impressed by Le Cinque Terre, but if they ever discovered Portovenere, a little seaside village just a stone throw from Le Cinque Terre, they would be blown away from the simple, ancient beauty of this hidden jewel.

Anyway, off we went to Il Timone,  we were seated all snugged on a beautiful old wooden table with ceramic tile and the dishes started pouring out of the kitchen. To my surprise, for appetizers we were served slices of Farinata topped with Gorgonzola cheese,  Stracchino (soft Italian fresh cheese), and more topped with Pesto. Totally unexpected but incredibly fun. That is how I found out that Farinata can also be topped with different flavors!

If your summer plans include a trip in the Tuscan or Ligurian region, I really suggest a trip to Il Timone. Tell the owner, Rima sent you and enjoy!

Ps: for desert order the Crema calda con Nutella. Wow! to die for!

Crema calda con Nutella


If you don’t get to go to Italy this summer don’t despair, guess what? I have not tried it yet but you can now buy Farinata mix at local stores. I even saw it at Podestos in Stockton!

Chocolate & Asparagus

As we say good-bye to a great fresh Asparagus season, I wanted to pay tribute with one last creative recipe.  In honor of the Oakdale Chocolate Festival I spread melted dark chocolate onto roasted asparagus. What a great flavor combination.  I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY but really trust me…it’s delicious. I dare you to try it and let me know what you think! I just oven-roasted some asparagus in a single layer with a little olive oil and sea salt. When they were cool I spread on the chocolate.

Just in case you are wondering why there are none featured in the photo it’s because I ate them all! Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

Seven Minute Cinnamon Rolls

Bake these scrumptious cinnamon rolls for your favorite Mom on her special day.
For my family, cinnamon rolls are a favorite breakfast treat. It’s pretty hard to resist that sweet sugary cinnamon smell as it drifts from the kitchen and scents the entire house.

Our 5 Minute Focaccia Mixtm takes the hassle and guess work out of making the dough! Purchase some at our online SHOP or ask for it at your local market.

Seven Minute Cinnamon Rolls

You will need:

1 package A Tavola Together 5 Minute Focaccia Mixtm – Raisin, Chocolate or Original
½ cup milk
½ cup club soda or sparkling water
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
8” baking pan
¼ cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon milk
½ cup powdered sugar

Prepare the Dough

Pour contents of 5 Minute Focaccia Mix – into a medium sized mixing bowl. Add milk and club soda/sparkling water. Stir with a fork, wooden spoon or with your hands until the liquid is absorbed and you have a ball of dough….about 1 minute.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 3 to 10 hours.
Remove plastic and transfer dough to a lightly floured counter surface.
Roll dough to make a rectangle – about 8 x 12 inches.

Coat baking pan with ¼ cup softened butter.
Spread remaining ¼ cup butter evenly on dough.
Sprinkle brown sugar, then cinnamon evenly on dough.
(If using Original Variety then add ½ cup of raisins or chocolate chips.)
Starting from the long side, roll the dough jelly roll fashion into a log shape.
Slice into 8 to 12 pieces.
Place in greased baking pan and let rise at room temperature 1 hour.
Bake at 400*F. for 12-16 minutes until done.
Frosting: Melt white chocolate chips with milk…stir in powdered sugar…swirl on warm rolls!

Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia


Our March Newsletter features one of the least exported flavors of the Italian cuisine: fennel or finocchio in Italian. Even though pale in color, fennel is packed with vital minerals and nutrients. Fennel, with its depurative, antiseptic, anti-tumoral and antibiotic properties is a good but underutilized addition to our everyday meals. In Italy, it is common to give colicky newborns a light fennel tea to help calm them down.   For women in general, fennel contains the philoestrogen vegetal hormone that helps to balance the feminine hormonal system which makes it good for both hot flashes of menopause and cramps of menstrual cycles. Fennel also alleviates constipation, cleans urinary tracts and even helps with the expulsion of kidney stones. It’s a fantastic vegetable just give it a try!

Fennel Gratin

Did you know, dried fennel seeds are used as an aromatic, anise-flavored spice?

Fennel Gratin: 1 fennel bulb, cleaned, trimmed and sliced thick, 3 tablespoons butter, 2 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350*. Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Add fennel and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain fennel and place in small baking dish. Top evenly with the butter and Gorgonzola. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes.

How to clean fennel:

Cut off and throw away stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulb and cut off any brown layers from the outside of the bulb. Cut the fennel in half, rinse under running water then slice thin.

Pesto for St. Patrick’s Day

Pesto makes a flavorful GREEN sauce for many things on St. Patrick’s Day. Try making a batch and serving on pasta or gnocchi, baked on salmon, or mixed into a light vinaigrette.

For tips on how to make homemade gnocchi watch this TV clip from Sacramento & Co on ABC news10.
Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

Gnocchi with Pesto for St. Patrick’s Day