30 July 2007

Tuna-stuffed tomatoes

I made these for a nice, light lunch last Sunday in Milan. They are really quick and easy and yummy.

1. Make a tuna salad out of your favorite tuna-salad stuff (I used tuna, dill, capers, lemon and some red onion. It was a little dry, but I was out of mayo, so i improvised with cottage cheese. Not a bad combo, I must say!)
2. Cut a circular hole in the top of a few tomatoes and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
3. Fill with tuna salad.
4. Eat!

I served them with some fresh, crusty bread, home-made hummus, and a greek salad. Perfect on a hot steamy Sunday in the city (or the country for that matter)!

24 July 2007

An Italian BBQ

For Andrea's birthday last week, we celebrated with an Italian barbecue party in Moneglia. We couldn't help but to add a Texan touch, however, with a big bottle of very-well-received Rudy's barbecue sauce that Emi insisted on bringing back from Boerne. I also introduced grilled pineapple, which no one had ever heard of, and it turned out being a huge hit.



-Bresaola and Goat Cheese rolls on a bed of arugula.

-Tuna salad

-Bruschetta with bread toasted on the grill

-Vegetable quiche

First Course:

-Spaghetti with zucchini

-Spaghetti using the remaining bruschetta as sauce

Second Course:

-grilled pork chops and chicken breasts

-grilled veggies (eggplant, bell peppers and onions marinaded in rosemary and olive oil, salt and pepper)

-grilled pineapple

-fresh salad from the garden


-White cake with home-made pastry cream and fresh berries.


13 July 2007


This recipe is world famous. It was brought to Italy in 2004 by a red-headed Texan named Linaya (or "Leah" for those who know her by her pre-stage name). While it may look like a simple brownie recipe, it is so so much more. It is countless nights of midnight (and 4 a.m.) baking sprees. It is the wide-eyed surprise of Italians when they discover with that first choclately bite that perhaps the best food in the world is not, in fact, made only by their mothers. It is eating them out of the baking sheet with sticky fingers, or masterfully arranging them on plates with swirls of freshly whipped cream and ripe strawberries. Yes, these are "browneries" which get their name from the awkward English of some enthusiastically drunk Italian acquaintance. They get their sweet charm, however, from the all fun memories of our first, hilarious cultural exchanges so lovingly prepared with each batch.

* 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 2 cold large eggs
* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
* Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

You may also serve as above, with fresh fruit and melted chocolate drizzled all over. Drives the Italians wild.

11 July 2007

Only in the Summer Salad

This is a new Mason Family favorite for a better-than-average salad course. It's from Eating Well magazine (I take no credit). Enjoy it now when (at least here in TX) raspberries don't break the bank and mangoes are mangolicious. This salad breaks all my usual salad rules...I'm not usually a fan of fresh fruit in salad unless it's citrus, but this was so good I'm now open to all kinds of fruity combinations. I also usually detest raspberry vinaigrette on salad, but this one is great because it's fresh. I wouldn't suggest cheating with a bottled dressing. Get to munching!

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups mixed salad greens
1 ripe mango, diced
1 small ripe avocado, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (we leave this out)
1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts or sliced almonds (we used almonds- very good!)

This makes about 5 generous servings.

1. Puree 1/2 cup raspberries, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender until combined.
2. Combine greens, mango, avocado and onion in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top and gently toss to coat. Divide the salad among 5 salad plates. Top each with the remaining raspberries and sprinkle with nuts, if using.

Food of the gods

I haven't posted anything recently because I haven't spent much time in the kitchen, and when I do I inevitably make this same dish over and over again. I crave it, it's all I want to eat, and I haven't yet gotten sick of it. That's right, the lettuce-free GREEK SALAD. Talk about food of the gods.
This is a painfully simple recipe and I apologize to everyone who has been making this for years and is disappointed by the banality of this entry. It's just so good though, and it's my most recent obsession!

Godly Greek Salad:

  • tomatoes (I use cherry tomatoes)
  • cucumber, peeled and sliced or chopped
  • red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • pitted kalamata olives or other black olives, halved
  • chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • loads of feta cheese, cubed
  • chick peas (optional)
For the dressing:
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • oregano
  • one glug of soy sauce
  • one blob of yogurt
  • half of one red onion, finely diced
  • one half of a clove of garlic, crushed (or a sprinkling of garlic powder if you're lazy)
Chop and toss together all the veggies, but not the feta.
Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing and pour over the salad. Mix well. Add the feta cubes last, since they break apart easily when you mix the salad.

04 July 2007

Fig and Venison Stew

OK - this is an example of a high protein, low fat, locally harvested, all natural, meal-in-one-pot dish that requires only a few extra bottles of wine!

First "Go Feed The Chickens"
Use a large roasting pot
Salt and pepper the venison roast
Heat oven to 325
Heat some olive oil and sear the roast on all sides - a la Emilio
If no Venison, try this using a cat! Not OK with fish.
Slice a few onions widely and several cloves of garlic -the more the merrier and saute till clear; Remove onions/garlic. Lick spoon
Slice fresh figs in half and brown cut and round sides in the oil a few minutes - don't cook them mushy! Remove figs.
Deglaze the pot with white wine (scrape up any stuck delicious stuff). Lick again
Put roast back in pot with onions, a few bay leaves, some red pepper, fresh herbs, maybe an anchovy or three, some ginger, brown sugar.
OK, now you know all my secret ingredients for 'fattening' up the sauce (remember venison is lean and doesn't make a deeply flavored stew by itself).
You could add root veggies at this point (potatoes, carrots, turnip, watermelon)
Cover the meat with more wine and cook at 325 for at least 4 hours - till meat comes apart easily with fork. Break up into reasonable sized meat chunks
If lots of juices, take meat out and cook down over stove till it thickens some; if not wet enough, add wine.
Cook some fresh, wide egg noodles.
Serve with robust red wine (also goes well with dark beer, Martini, Scotch, Whiskey)
Serve over noodles with garnish of green stuff from the garden.

01 July 2007

Farm to table ideas...

We (the folks at the Cibolo Nature Center) are buying a farm in Boerne, Texas! Dreams are flying high these days and we even image a way to go full circle from garden to kitchen. Nisa found this dreamy place...could we do it too?
Dreaming, Carolyn

Blue Hill at Stone Barns is a platform, an exhibit, a classroom, a conservatory, a laboratory, and a garden. The restaurant will reflect the spirit of the farm, the territory, and the market. The kitchen will express the humanity and the fervor of the educators, preservationists, farmers, cooks, and servers who learn and work at the Center. The road ingredients travel from harvest to the dinner table becomes a part of their "character". Simplifying this path changes the taste, often enhancing it. Actively reconnecting the farm and the table creates a distinct consciousness. Through our choices of food and ingredients, we - chefs, waiters, diners - are inescapably active participants in not just eating, but in agriculture. This awareness adds to the pleasure of eating.