Monday, November 25, 2013



It is, in my view, the duty of an apple to be crisp and crunchable, but a pear should have such a texture as leads to silent consumption. - Edward Bunyard, 'The Anatomy of Dessert’

 A conundrum

 Why do we like some things and dislike others? Why do some foods titillate our palates and some foods turn us off? And why do yet others make us shiver with delight or shudder in pure disgust? Taste, smell, texture, memory.

 Memory. I cannot eat white chocolate because of a long ago experience, the young teen that I was gorging on a bagful of white chocolate stars to the point of illness.

 Smell. Coffee is the nectar of the gods, a heavenly fragrance. As a cup of coffee, no matter how bitter, cloyingly sweet from too much sugar, weak and watery as only American hotels can serve, I breathe deeply, consume the odor, devour the heady aroma, and am satisfied. The coffee tastes just that much better as the scent is carried to my nostrils, feeds my brain and my memories.

 Taste. They say that there is a genetic element to taste, whether we love or hate fresh coriander, cooked carrots or anything else. I have one son that always gobbled down plates piled high with vegetables but disliked fruit, while the other son always loved fruit yet clamped his mouth shut when vegetables were carried towards him. My own tastes have changed since I was a kid: I used to love beets and tongue and now the one and the other make me shudder with revulsion.

 Texture. The sugary sweetness of pears, the juiciness of a ripe Comice or Conference drives my men wild, the only fruit all three of them love. Husband buys them half a dozen at a time, pale gold, tinged with green or blushing red, plump and curvaceous. But I just cannot, no matter how hard I try. Oh, the flavor is beautiful, I will admit, but the texture of a pear, the ever-so slight, barely perceptible crunch, the disturbance of the inexplicable grittiness, the flesh too moist, too soft, melting away to nothing rather than offering up resistance, a satisfying bite, only made more apparent when cooked.

 While others call the pear “fondante”, meltingly smooth, I call the pear's pulp weak and lacking personality, a texture that does not live up to its flavor, a promise not kept.

Pears-7 Pears-6

There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Bundled up in sweaters and coats, hands pushed into gloves, gloved fists pushed deep down into pockets, we head briskly to market on a chilly Sunday morning.

 Pears and apples are the season’s harbingers, the first autumn fruit to appear on the market stalls, even before the mounds of grapes in purple (so deep a purple they are almost black) and green (the larger sea-glass green like bunches of playing marbles or the pearl-sized grapes, the skins transparent revealing the seeds hanging in space like tiny flies in amber), before the mushrooms, the common to the uncommon, lying placidly, as mushrooms are wont to do, in piles near the front in elegant, gentle shades of brown and cream and gold while the first clementines are just making their tentative appearance from sunny Spain (and while the citrus is still tart, not yet sweet enough, the pears and apples are sugary and luscious).

 The apple and pear people are back with the first chill, also harbingers of the season, making their rambunctious, rustic appearance, taking up their usual market spot outdoors under the eaves. Two vibrant women, hair hurriedly pushed back into scraggly ponytails, old, worn cardigans tucked under heavy blue cotton aprons, dash back and forth from client to bin and back again, selecting from a seemingly never-ending array of apples and pears fresh off the branches, explaining which are for eating, which baking, which are sweet and which are tart. They unceremoniously dump the fruit in scrubbed, stained plastic basins perched atop one of two scales, expertly translating weight to cost. Their male colleagues, in spite of my own prejudice, are just as informed, just as knowledgeable as to which apples (the reines de reinettes, the fuji, the jonagold) or pears (the comice, williams, or conference) are best for eating, for baking into a tart or a clafoutis or roasting and caramelizing for a savory dish.

 I glance over the crude wooden orchard crates filled with golden green and red fruit (the color of autumn leaves) and breathe in deeply the wonderful fragrance of autumn as we await the "go ahead, you're next what do you want?" nod from one of the vendeuses.

Pears Pears-3

  The very first time I saw a pruned pear tree was in the Jacques Tati film Mon Oncle. The eccentric, old-fashioned uncle wanders around his sister and brother-in-law’s designer garden in wonder and we see what he sees with the same childlike innocence. Once inside the automatic, electronic gates, one enters into the idealized, architecturally futuristic, geometrical, symmetrical garden. Tati steps gingerly along the cement path, weaving in and out of gravel plots, hops from stepping stone to stepping stone around ultra-modern garden furniture and fountains, wends his way through the impeccably kept yard of the villa, a temple of "good taste" and a shrine to financial and social success.

 At one point in the film, Tati, l’oncle, the uncle, wanders around the garden observing the oddities and comes upon two pear trees pruned and attached flat to the wall of the house, espaliered or trimmed and trained in a classic fan or vase shape, perfectly symmetrical and rather barren, ornamental rather than encouraged to bear fruit. He observes the trees in wonder and accidentally – or on purpose – breaks the branch off of one of the trees. An act of rebellion, a statement of taste.

 Since that time, we have driven by pear orchards and I have observed poiriers, pear trees, pruned and trained in this fashion, strung up on trellises in rows upon rows, perfectly aligned, very sculptural. I am fascinated by the beauty and elegance, so refined, so purposeful compared to the unkept, rustic beauty of an apple orchard.

pear pears-8-2

 We longed for an outing, a bit of culture, a museum or two, a garden to stroll through, a meal to enjoy. We drove an hour east to the city of Angers, the capital of Anjou, the cradle of the Plantagenets, home of the medieval Apocalypse Tapestry and the stunning Château du Roi René, a solid fortress, the chateau of the Dukes of Anjou.

 As we wound our way, camera in hand, towards the Fine Arts Museum, we found ourselves in a tiny garden leading up to the museum. I stopped and turned around, glancing right and left over the well-pruned plants in a gathering of perfect globes of green and I spied a plaque on a stone wall.

Dans ce Jardin 
fut obtenue en 1849 – 1850 
la Poire Célébre ‘Doyenné du Comice” 
par le Jardinier DHommé et Millet de la Turtaudière 
Président du Comice Horticole 
- 12 Octobre 1955 – 

 The birthplace of the Doyenne de Comice Pear in the year 1849 - 1850. Right where I was standing, what was then the Comice Horticulture Fruit Garden. And in 1894, the London Journal of Horticulture names the Doyenné du Comice the Best Pear in the World.

Pear Ricotta Tart

I much prefer apple desserts to anything made with pears, but to please my husband I do make the occasional pastry or cake with ripe Conférence, Comice or tiny tender Williams. This Ricotta Tart is surprisingly light while being creamy, the ricotta giving it that slight hint of nutty, the taste of a ricotta cheesecake without the heaviness. I normally make this in the summer months using plums, but couldn’t resist making it with pears, the sweeter and riper the better. The pears paired so perfectly with the ricotta filling that I even found myself enjoying several slices. Simple to make and a delightful seasonal treat.


Single Sweet Pastry Pie Crust for a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate
Scant ¼ cup (100 ml) heavy or light cream
2 Tbs flour
1 cup (250 g) whole milk ricotta
¼ cup (50 g) granulated white sugar or more to taste
2 large eggs
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla
1 Tbs amber rum or Amaretto
About 21 oz (600 g) small ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 Tbs granulated brown sugar
2 - 3 Tbs slivered almonds or Italian pine nuts

Pre-baked Sweet Pastry Crust:

Lightly but thoroughly butter a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate, line with the dough. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the Pie Shell from the refrigerator. Prick the base all over with a fork and place a piece of ovenproof parchment paper in the shell and pour on pastry weights or dried beans. Bake for 8 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven, lift out the parchment paper with the beans and return the shell to the oven to bake for another 8 - 10 minutes until the bottom is set and golden.

Remove the shell from the oven to a cooling rack and lower the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C).

Prepare the Ricotta Filling:

Place the cream in a small bowl. Sift the 2 tablespoons of flour over the cream and stir or whisk together until blended, smooth and thick.

Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl with the 2 eggs and beat or whisk until blended, smooth and creamy. Add the sugar, the flour-cream paste, the ground cinnamon, vanilla and rum or Amaretto and beat just until blended and smooth. Taste the ricotta filling and add more sugar or flavoring if desired.

Lay the pear slices in the pre-baked pastry shell in concentric circles, pressed together or slightly overlapping. Pour the ricotta filling in the shell over the pears and spread to smooth. Sprinkle the tablespoon of granulated brown sugar all over the filling then sprinkle a tablespoon or two of slivered almonds or pine nuts on top.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the piecrust is a deep golden brown and the ricotta filling is set in the center. The fruit should be tender. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving. The tart can be eaten at room temperature or chilled, but store any leftover tart in the refrigerator;  chilling the tart in the refrigerator will set the filling if you prefer it that way.

Monday, November 18, 2013


“The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.” – D.H. Lawrence

 Roots were a part of my diet for as long as I can remember, a part of my heritage. Feet slogging through mud or kicking up dirt, my ancestors carried baskets filled with grime-covered potatoes, beets, onions and other things of the earth, cheap, filling, nutritious, through the shtetl and home to cook. A poor man’s feast.

 Eventually, the family was uprooted, yes, pulling up roots and flitting across lands and over oceans to start anew, plant their roots in a new country, feed and nurture those roots until they created a firm and steady base and had sprouted tall and fine, branches reaching high up into the stars. The branches spread and we moved apart, climbed the social ladder, moved far away from who we were in so many ways.

 Yet we still dine on those roots, partly in remembrance, partly in order to maintain our connection to that past, of who we are, what we are. We thrive on those roots, the foodstuff, yes, but the strong sense of family, of heritage and history. Dining on those roots, the potatoes, beets, onions, carrots, radishes, the knishes, kugels, soups, cholent, tsimmis, we remain solidly rooted.


 There were two trees in our front yard, the white-barked paper tree and the one with the forked sitting branches closer to the house in front of my parents’ bedroom window. Both grew and grew as the years passed, grew in tandem with four little children, branches, arms and legs growing long and lanky yet strong and certain. As the years flew past, the children’s roots pushed deep into the earth, attaching them steadfastly to this spot, this home and they would wend their way back constantly even as they moved farther and farther away. Roots run deep.

 The trees' roots grew long and thick, hardy and rugged. But in the Florida dirt, all sand, sitting just atop the water, those roots grew outwards rather than down, creating bumpy, gnarly hillocks and craters spread out star-like around the trunk of those two trees, splayed out towards house, sidewalk, driveway, lamp post. Bare feet and sneakers stepped gingerly around and over those roots, walked them like tightrope walkers or stood balanced, arms stretched out, wavering slightly back and forth. Those roots were stools for young readers, a mysterious storybook forest for picnics, the perfect spot for a jimmyrigged tent.

 But over time, the roots began pushing under the house, lifting it up, cracking the support. Over time the roots edged too far under the sidewalks and made it impossible to mow the lawn, keep the tough, prickly Florida grass and weeds at bay. And so dad had those two trees, branches, roots and all, pulled up and they disappeared. The grass grew in, the shade disappeared, the mystery and beguilement of that extensive map of roots ceased to exist, and a part of our childhood faded into memory.


 Carrot and Leek Soup 

 Ever since I married my Frenchman, ever since I remember, my mother-in-law has prepared and served the exact same thing every single evening for every single dinner without fail. Le souper, she called it, the old-fashioned term for supper. But also to sup… on soup (la soupe). And soup it was: carrot and leek soup. Carrots fresh from the earth, brushed off of excess soil, peeled and chunked and tossed into that ancient aluminum soup pot. She would swipe down the leeks, trim and slice thickly and add to the carrots. Water, salt and pepper, truly a poor man’s soup straight from the country, her own family’s roots. Boil, boil, boil and simmer until the leeks have disintegrated and fallen into paper-thin, translucent layers and long strands floating elegantly in the liquid somewhat like Ophelia’s hair waving on the surface of the lake. It was cooked until the carrots were more than tender, quite near mush on the tenderness scale, and the cooking liquid dull and murky yet fragrant, smelling of the garden, redolent of roots. And purée; she would stand at the stove, in front of the pot and stick her emulsion mixer straight into the soup and whir and buzz until all that remained was a watery orange liquid. 

 We would pull up chairs to the table, the news blaring from the television, as she placed serving platters of cold meats leftover from lunch, cheeses and fruit on the table. She would bring in a box of biscottes, those typically French dry toasts usually smeared with butter and jelly and dunked into our morning coffee until softened and then slurped up before the soaked biscuit dropped, plopped into the café au lait. She would serve each of us a large bowl of the carrot and leek soup. In the wintertime, we would cup the bowl, curl our chilled fingers around the ceramic or glass for warmth. And we would place a biscotte in our bowl of soup and watch it float atop the surface, slowing soaking up the carrot and leek liquid, the carrot and leek essence before pushing our spoon into the bowl. 

 She peeled potatoes, turnips, carrots, all root vegetables, with the same old paring knife, tip long broken off, the wooden handle worn, faded and cracked from time and years of use. She would grip the handle and begin her short, sharp, vigorous movements, the flick-flick-flick of the knife against the outside of the tough roots, bits of peel in orange, browns, or creamy whites smattering in a large glass mixing bowl or a spread of day-old newspaper or onto the cheap vinyl tablecloth, the pattern long scratched and faded from constant scrubbing. 

 Roots were a common food in that working class house ; potatoes boiled or cubed and sautéed, potatoes hand cut and double fried in oil for crispy frites; potatoes mashed with plenty of milk and butter, the leftovers pressed and rolled into balls and fried in margarine until blackened and crunchy on the outside, boulettes, the children’s favorite. Carrots cooked in pot au feu, blanquette de veau, poule au pot. Radishes, pretty little red and white-tipped French Breakfast just barely trimmed and crunched on raw, eaten dipped in a bit of salt, eaten with fresh bread and butter. Turnips tossed in stews, leeks, garlic, onions, cheap, hardy, kept in crates in the garage or out in the shed all year round.


 The root of all evil. Those damn silver roots veritably glowing against the blackness of my hair, age twining her crooked fingers through my tresses. 

 A cutting placed in a clear glass filled halfway up with water from the tap. Visit it daily, top off the water, peer into the glass and watch, wait for something to happen, a sign of life. Toss out the murky water and add fresh, carefully holding the tiny plant away from harm. Roots push downward and grow like children, long and lazy and self-absorbed. Roots swishing elegantly in slow motion through the water like medusa tentacles. 

 For five years husband and I searched for our roots, dug deep, getting our fingers dirty, breaking our backs. Each tiny sprout, each root exposed excited us, inciting us to dig faster, farther, deeper. And we threw ourselves into it more furiously, more intensely, body and soul. Like searching for buried treasure. He exposed his roots to understand what he was running from, trying to detach himself at least to a certain extent, and recreate his future, not bound to the earth of his ancestors yet replanting himself, sowing new seeds, cultivating new roots a step away from the old, a new growth. I uncovered my own roots to more firmly hold onto what I came from, follow those roots to the source, strengthen the foundation, grow closer to the past in order to reinforce my present.


4 servings

1 large celery root, try to get a heavy one when you buy it
fresh rosemary
juice of one lemon
400 ml/ 1,7 cup uncooked quinoa
400 ml/ 1,7 cup water
1 pinch of saffron powder
chopped chivessalt
extra-virgin olive oil

   Peel the celery root and cut it into thin sticks.

   Braise the celeriac with the rosemary in some olive oil. Squeeze as much lemon juice over as you like and add salt. Go on braising until the celeriac is soft and golden, if needed add a little water.

  While the celeriac is braising you prepare the couscous: put water and a tbs olive oil in a pan, add salt and the saffron and bring to boil. Add the couscous, stir and leave to absorb the water under a lid. Add the chopped chives and stir now and then.

   Either make couscous 'pucks' and top these with the celeriac or mix both together and serve thus.

Monday, November 11, 2013



City Leaves, Country Leaves 

The falling leaves 
Drift by my window 
The falling leaves 
Of red and gold 

But I miss you most of all 
My darling 
When autumn leaves 
Start to fall 
- Johnny Mercer 

 Country leaves. I have a handful of polaroids of the two boys surrounded by autumn leaves. Lying on their backs in piles of crisp gold and brown with hints of the last green of the summer, arms spread out like angels in the snow. Or tossing armloads of leaves high in the air, at each other, their big dog in camouflage, her gold and brown coat dissimulated in the autumn wallpaper. The spread of meadow stretching away from and around the house in the middle of the woods and the cornfields welcomed a stunning carpet of leaves every autumn. The boys would snuggle into down coats or layers of sweaters, tug caps or plop pirate hats atop their heads, knot cowboy bandanas around their necks, carefully draw elegant curlicues of a moustache or thin cat whiskers between lips and nose and bounce excitedly out of the house and knee deep into the leaves. 

 Wheelbarrows pushed through the piles of autumn leaves, raking into mountains and tossing armloads into the cart. When the two little boys weren’t jumping feet first, joyfully, ecstatically into the mountains of leaves splashing them everywhere, their screeches of delight frozen in midair, captured in time with the snap of the camera. 

 City leaves, years later, the same beautiful golds and browns, splashes of red and subtly tinged with blue, lie in gutters, murky and wet, plastered up against the fences surrounding forbidden plots of ground in the grand cement squares that dot the city. Clumps of matted leaves collected atop the metal grills of drains, the dog delicately, deliberately stepping around them. Memories of kicking through heaps of leaves fade into sadness as our shoes now slosh through the dampness, pulling off sticky leaves from our shoes like peeling price stickers off the backs of books. No joy in the city autumn leaves.

  autumn salad-2

Cook, Cook, drink your tea,
But save some in the pot for me.
We’ll watch the tea leaves in our cup
When our drink is all sipped up.
Happiness or fortune great,
What will our future be?
- Afternoon Tea at Pittock Mansion

 A friend once offered to read my tea leaves, the same friend who believed in the healing powers of massage and proved it to my doubting mind. She did. We sipped tea from flea market cups, delicate and feminine, in the quiet of the house. When the tea had been drunk and the leaves settled into the bottom black and moist, she wiggled the cup back and forth before peering into the leaves where she saw my future.

  autumn salad leaves-2

 I learned to wash spinach leaves from my brother. He purchased large sacks of dark green leaves, their huge thick stalks poking through the plastic. He would carry them home and dump them into the sink. He would yank up the faucet and let a powerful rush of water wash over the leaves, filling up the plugged sink. He would push the leaves, which had the stubborn tendency of floating back up to the top, bouncing up above the water level like excited children in the ocean, he would push them back down into the ice cold water. Up and down, up and down even as his fingers numbed. Swishing the leaves around in the sink, he would loosen the clumps of black earth clinging to the spinach. Grabbing bunches of leaves with both hands, he would lift the spinach out of the water and give a hearty shake. Drain the sink and start all over again, once, twice, thrice, until the dirt was gone, giving each single leave a final quick dash under running water just in case.

 Without patting the leaves dry, he would toss them one by one into a large pot, pinching and snapping off the stems on their way. Fitting the lid tightly atop the pot, he would cook the spinach simply in the water left clinging to the leaves until they were shrunken to a mere shadow of themselves. He would lift the lid off the pot and we would peer through the steam to the heap of bright jade shimmering in the bottom. He would scoop out the leaves and put them aside in a bowl and pour off the liquid tinged with green, a lightly metallic scent curling up on the heat, and drink it like tea. “We don’t want to dump all the vitamins down the sink!” he would laugh.

 It was almost a ritual, done with a bit of reverence.

 Spinach leaves steamed and squeezed dry or at times sautéed in olive oil and finely chopped would be turned into spanikopita or turnovers; raw layered between cheeses and pasta and tomato sauce becoming lasagna; cooked into spinach soup with a splash of cream.


 Sunday walks in the vineyards well outside the city, the vines lush with leaves. The end of the summer when it is still warm, the sun high in the sky, we pack a picnic of cold roasted chicken that we pull apart with greasy fingers, bags of potato chips, fruit and a bottle of chilled white wine (the glass slippery with condensation). We sit half in the sun, half in the shade on a red and white checked cloth and listen to the leaves flutter in the breeze, breaking the perfect silence. In the autumn, as the days grow shorter, the breeze just a bit cooler, the ground a bit damper and the leaves darker, gathered together into a dense wall through which the deep purple clumps of grapes peep, we walk briskly side by side as the dog trots back and forth. Hands pushed deep into pockets, we listen to the rustle of the leaves in the wind.

 Husband had planted pots of grape vines on our terrace in Milan. He draped them up and over, in and out the wires he laced from one edge of terrace to the other. Each year as the summer arrived in the city, the leaves would appear and reappear pushing themselves along the wires determined to reach the other side. Each year the leaves would grow in thicker, more lush, a deeper color of verdant. The third year, the first small bunches of grapes appeared, at once silly in their meagerness and fabulous in the magic of fruit created out of these city vines. And all summer long we lived out on that terrace under a canopy of leaves.
  Olive branch-2 olive leaves

 She had a mess of pretty little pale green leaves in a basket. The leaves were covered with a fine down, matching the feathery soft mauve-hued blooms dotted throughout. I asked her what it was and she said “borage” and explained how it is cooked. She scooped up a handful of the herbs and I saw that her nail polish, chipped in places, was the same vivid blue as the flowers.

 There were piles of raw beets dressed in dusty deep magenta, which threaded its bright, colorful way up into the leaves creating an intriguing contrast against the grass green of the leaves.

 There were piles and piles, mountains of lettuces, a jumble of leaves. Tough and tender, curly, frizzy, straight or gently curved, gently curled. Some frilly as a princess' gown. In all shades of green.

 A jumble of leaves in a box, bundles of fresh leafy herbs knotted with thin rubber bands. Pretty feminine little leaves of chervil; voluptuously plump basil, the leaves as smooth as a woman’s skin; a fan of chives, more stalks than leaves but how I love the burst of long, thin twig-like greenery and I am urged to bring it to my face and brush it across my cheek. Sprays of parsley, the leaves dancing much more gaily than the others. The fresh coriander, my favorite, its leaves teasing me, fooling me into thinking just maybe it is plain, ordinary parsley except when pinched, the leaves emit an exciting citrusy odor, something exotic, inviting me to cook. The poor leaves of sage are shoved willy-nilly in a plastic sack, their beautiful silvery shimmer, their soft downy veil smothered in plastic, forbidden to charm.

cavolo nero

 Black and white photographs found in a cabinet hidden away for so many years, so many decades. Black and white photographs, some pale grey and grainy, others so inky black they become hard to decipher. My father in the navy, in the Pacific, on board his ship with his flying buddies. His lanky body, a “long tall drink of water” my mom would say, so like my brother’s, so like my son’s, his grin boyish and innocent even in a time of war.

 Photographs of a gathering of men in sailor’s whites under a tremendous pagoda, a gate in some Asian city. My father on leave.

  Spinach and Feta Filled Puff Pastry Leaves 

I first tasted the marvelous combination that is a spinach and feta when my brother made me a Spanikopita when I was in college. I fell in love. Over the years, I began making this filled pastry for my own family, yet in a burst of ingenuity I decided one day that it would make individual packets rather than one large pie. I prepare them when we have company as part of an apératif served with glasses of white wine or as a great lunch served with a salad. This, I must point out, is the only way my younger, most persnickety son will eat spinach, which is no small feat and certainly proof of how delicious it is. My original recipe calls for the filling to be wrapped in filo dough but Ilva turned it into something even more special by wrapping this tasty filling in puff pastry. 


25 – 27 oz (700 - 750 g) fresh spinach, well-cleaned and coarsely chopped
3.5 - 7 oz (100 – 200 g) feta cheese, drained and crumbled *
1/2 cup (60 g) grated parmesan cheese, fresh when possible
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (if you make this in pie form, use 3 eggs)
2 Tbs chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg freshly ground pepper and a salt to taste
1 lb (500 g) excellent quality ready-made or homemade puff pastry
1 – 2 egg whites only to brush the outside of the pastry leaves

* the amount of feta added is quite variable and depends upon how much you want - we like more, Ilva's family less; do not forget that it is a salty cheese so you may want to adjust the amount of salt in the recipe in correlation with how much feta you use.

 Wash the spinach leaves, shake off excess water and put into a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Steam the spinach until wilted, then pour into a colander to drain. Allow to cool until easy to handle. Press out all the excess water you can with your hands, then gather up the cooked spinach and place in the center of a clean but old cloth dishtowel. Wrap or roll up the spinach in the towel and squeeze for all you are worth, squeezing out as much water as possible. Place the spinach on a cutting board and chop.

 Put the chopped spinach in a mixing bowl; add the crumbled feta and parmesan cheese, the chopped mint, nutmeg, salt and a good grinding of pepper (when adding salt, do so sparingly; remember that the feta is salty). Blend well. Now beat the eggs until well blended and stir them into the spinach-cheese mixture.

 Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

 Cut out an even number of shapes from the puff pastry, in single serving sizes (we came up with about 12 leave shapes to make 6 pastries). Divide the spinach-feta mixture evenly between half of the shapes – the bottom piece of puff pastry – and carefully spread it evenly allowing at least ½ inch to ¾ - inch all around the filling free for sealing the top to the bottom. One by one, place a top puff pastry shape on top of a bottom piece with the filling, gently pulling so the edges meet all the way around. Press and pinch to seal well. Continue until all 6 are done and sealed. Brush the top of each pastry with egg white. Using a sharp knife, carefully create a leaf design in the top without cutting all through the layer of puff pastry.

 Place the Puff Pastry Leaves on a baking sheet (this can be lined with ovenproof parchment paper) and bake in the preheated oven until puffed and the top is a nice golden brown, about 15 – 20 minutes. 

 Remove from the oven and serve.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Plated Stories: The Workshop

We have such exciting news to share with you! We are hosting a Plated Stories workshop May 22 - June 1, 2014 in the heart of beautiful Tuscany. Partnering with Tuscan Muse, the workshop is part of an extraordinary 10-day Italian experience and will be dedicated to food writing (with Jamie teaching) and food photography and styling (with Ilva teaching).

We would like to invite you to click over to the website and discover our newest workshop. The first five days will include intensive, hands-on exercises in both writing and styling/photography, heady discussion and lively exchange. The workshop will include a cooking class with chef Enrico Casini, photowalks in stunning Tuscany and the city of Pienza, fabulous Italian food and all in a divine and inspiring setting. The following five days will have us exploring some of the most gorgeous, iconic cities of this beautiful region of Italy, and will give you the chance to put into practice everything learned in the workshop sessions.

The Plated Stories workshop will be held at Le Casacce agriturismo among the olive trees in the heart of the Val d’Orcia. Once the workshop is over, take your camera and your imagination and continue on the voyage with Tuscan Muse, discovering  gems of Tuscany, check out the full itinerary here.

Plated Stories the blog is all about finding inspiration and tapping into our creativity, pushing ourselves beyond our own limits. This is exactly what we will help you do at Plated Stories the workshop: you will be inspired to take that step beyond and you will learn how to channel your creativity in new ways for your own purpose, be it for your blog, professional work or a hobby.

Be a part of our very first Plated Stories workshop!

* What: The Plated Stories Workshop on food writing & food photography

* When: 22 May - 1 June, 2014

* Where: Le Casacce in the heart of the Val d’Orcia in Tuscany, Italy

* What to bring: your camera and a knowledge of aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance, laptop with post-processing software installed as well, a notebook with pens or pencils, adapters, chargers and your imagination, creativity and enthusiasm!

* Cost: The costs vary for those attending the workshop and those accompanying workshop participants but who would like to enjoy all of the visits and travel (bring your spouse or partner!). There is also the choice of single or double occupancy and even an apartment. Pricing can be found here.

Nota bene: The Plated Stories workshop is organized and managed by Tuscan Muse so any questions about the workshop week, travel, location, cost, meals, etc should be addressed to Tuscan Muse (find the link here).

Jamie and Ilva are teaching the workshop, so any question about the workshop program itself feel free to leave in a comment below. Please let us know if you would like to be put on the Plated Stories email list to receive further information as well as the Plated Stories newsletter by contacting us at platedstories (at) gmail (dot) com

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