Roasted Vegetable and Cheese Strudels

This is a great way to use up all those bits of vegetables and small pieces of cheese you have in the fridge and is a nice main for a Meatless Monday. Roast a medley of vegetables that you can toss with your favorite cheese and wrap in some Phyllo pastry.

 An individual flaky pocket served hot with a nice cool salad and dinner is served.

You will need:

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4-5 cauliflower florets
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 1 small fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup medium intense extra virgin olive oil – use your best quality stuff here
  • a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 grated Parmesano Reggiano
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • a handful of your favorite mushrooms
  • broccolini – a few pieces
  • 1 small zucchini
  • a handful of baby spinach
  • more salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp of herbs de provence
  • 2 tbsp great extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1-2 tbsp pesto
  • 1/2 fresh grated Parmesano Reggiano
  • 4-5 sheets of phyllo pastry

This makes 4- 5 large hand pies.

Step 1: slice tomato, red pepper, green pepper, slices of cauliflower, onion, 1/2 leek – green portion (leave the white portion to cook later) sweet potato and fennel. Toss with olive oil and place on a flat baking tray. Add a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 oven for 15 minutes.

 Step 2: with a spatula flip over vegetables and grate a generous sprinkle of Parmesan on top and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Step 3: in a saute pan add a few tbsp of olive oil and saute your more tender veggies like the mushrooms, white portion of the leek, zucchini and I had some broccolini so I tossed it in as well. I added some herbs de provence and some salt and pepper. Saute on high heat until all veggies just start to brown and water evaporates.

Step 4: turn off heat once cooked and add your baby spinach. The residual heat with be enough to wilt the spinach.

Let all vegetables cool completely.

Step 5: rough chop all veggies and place in a large bowl. Add shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan, pesto and mix. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.

Phyllo should be thawed according to box. Take out 5 sheets and cut in half.

Step 6: brush a sheet with a bit of olive oil or butter. Place a second sheet on top and brush the top  with a bit more oil.

Step 7: place 1 cup of mixed vegetables on the bottom of the rectangle. Fold like a spring roll making sure to brush the edges with more oil to have it stick. You can also freeze them at this stage.

Step 8: brush top with more oil, a bit of mozzarella cheese as well as some salt and pepper

Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees F and serve hot.


Imperia and Milan, Italy – Professional Olive Oil Taster Course – Part 1

Imperia, Italy consists of two districts, Porto Maurizio and Oneglia which lie on either side of the River Impero.

Porto Maurizio is to the west of the river and is a beautiful port, an hour from Nice, France.

Even in early February the Italian Riviera shows her beauty and signs of spring are everywhere.

On a warm afternoon everyone is out on the patio enjoying lunch and a glass of Franciacorta. (Prosecco’s elegant cousin)

The ancient olive tree at the water’s edge in Imperia Oneglia is always ready to greet you.

The town square with it’s shooting fountain is the central point to meet.

Imperia Oneglia is located 20 minutes walk away from Oneglia. The area is known for the cultivation of flowers in greenhouses and for their olives. It is once again why I come to Liguria. I am lucky enough  to be here to take another course at O.N.A.O.O. which is the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio Di Oliva. This is an association of unbiased Olive Oil Tasters from around the world.

A visit to Il Melograno Restaurant (the Pomegrante) never fails. Their pizza is great and the restaurant is always busy.

This was the Furbacciona – mozzarella, salty cooked ham, brie and pear!

or would you prefer a great pizza with pomodoro (tomato) sauce! This is what good pizza is meant to taste like and their house wine is affordable and excellent too.

My first day at school.

The people attending this class were from all over the world. I enjoyed the company of people from Taiwan, Switzerland, Italy, Corsica – France, Norway, Japan, Canada, Lithuania and Hong Kong. These are all people passionate about good olive oil in so many different areas.

Olive oil school is mostly about tasting bad olive oil and learning how to identify subtle defects by the nose and the mouth. We tasted over 30 different samples on this day.

 It is not as easy as you may think.

A dinner at Salvo Cacciatori. An elegant restaurant in the heart of the city always makes for a wonderful evening.

Some glorious anti-pasti. Thinly sliced Parma ham, fried squid,  perfectly tender octopus and potato croquette. Everything done to perfection!

Thinly sliced veal in a delicate jus.

I enjoyed the blue potato gnocchi with artichokes, bacon and slices of Parmesan.

A pineapple flower with mango sorbet and a cold semifreddo with a hot dark and bitter chocolate poured over it!! wow. Great wines and wonderful company made for a delightful evening.

You simply must visit the pretty Crema di Gelato shop near the square. This was a killer coconut gelato.

you will have to try a new one every day!

Honestly, DECIDING is the biggest problem you will have at this shop!

On Valentine’s day your selection was even more spectacular than normal!

Perfect little gelato cakes for two!

Piccardo is a beautiful old Pasticceria that serves great coffee, lunches, pastries and gelatos.

Sit down or stand at the bar to enjoy your coffee. There is no take out here!

Carnival is an opportunity to try BUGIE (boo-gee-eh) A fried dessert with powdered sugar.

Look how pretty my machiato espresso is for Valentine’s day.

This is how we ate every day at lunch! Prosciutto and mozzarella.

The typical oil found in Liguria is Taggiasca a mild and buttery oil.

This is also where Pesto is from and this is a typical dish of Trofie (tro-fee-yeh) which is pasta, potatoes and green beans.

Hey, this is a cute Italian boy I fell in love with at lunch. His name is Milo.

Pesto Lagagna which is out of this world.

Orecchiette with broccoli.

A medley of vegetables, eggplant, frittata and mozzarella and tomatoes.

Un cafe to finish…or do you prefer un doppio (a double!)

Breakfast at the Hotel Rossini is always fresh and delicious!

So much to learn.

This is the typical set up for tasting oil. Samples, sparkling water, a spit cup and some apple to cleanse the palette.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

When I wake up early I watch Italian cartoons to learn more Italian. Peppa Pig, Olivia or my favorite Calimero la pulcino tutto nero! (Calimero a little black chicken)

This is a great little place on the boardwalk that makes some really excellent pastas

They bring you the pasta right in the pan. This was spaghetti, tomato, parsley, mozzarella and hot chili flakes done to perfect and it is also a  really good value.

My friends said the pasta vongole…do you think they liked it? YES they did!

A quick stop in Milano demands you see the Duomo.

Right next to the Duomo you need to see the Galleria which is an exquisite building housing some of the finest designer stores and coffee shops.

 Eataly is simply a must for anyone who loves good food!!

 Cacio & Pepe, a Roman dish that is made with 5 ingredients. Pasta, Pecorino cheese, water and pepper (sometimes a bit of butter) makes a great pasta. Although it is a simple dish, it shows the mark of the chef like the simplicity of making a perfect omelette.

 This is the after photo! Do you think I liked it? YES I DID!!

Eataly has people making fresh pasta of every shape and style.

The finest selection of meats and fish.

An entire case of Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses.

Salumi and cheese.

Some really really excellent breads.

One last gelato. Nocciola (hazelnut) or a nice Mandarin sorbetto?(which I had)

Milano International Airport


Even the Milan airport has fantastic food and shopping. You can buy gorgeous designer clothes, premium chocolate, foods like oil, pastas or wine.

 One final stop on my way home at London Heathrow.


A stop at Fortnum & Mason means a great cup of tea.

and a Blueberry Eton Mess. A dessert of blueberries, chantilly cream and meringues. YUM!

A glass of house champagne at Caviar House & Prunier and my first taste of caviar.

A shrimp salad.

Fish and Chips with mushy peas and of course they are served with salt and malt vinegar.

Bye Europe see you soon!!


Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Sheila asked me if I had ever used sweet potatoes to make gnocchi yesterday. I had always thought of sweet potatoes as being too wet for making gnocchi but, then I thought if you bake them or cook them in the microwave it could work. I found a few other recipes on the web and most used ricotta with the sweet potato or they were a paleo version using flours other than wheat. I wanted to try to make them just replacing the potato and here is my result. I am quite happy with how they came out. I prepared them with a bit of lemon zest, cooked in some buttery mild olive oil (you could use butter if you like) and a bit of parsley but I think fried sage leaves would work well too.

Thanks Sheila for asking me the question…YES you can use sweet potatoes.

You will need:

  • 350gr. or 2 small sweet potatoes – once cooked = 1 cup of mashed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup finely grates Parmesano Reggiano
  • 10-15 scrapes of whole nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour (a bit more for dusting)
  • a few tbsp of great Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used Temecula Estate a mild and buttery Californian
  • some fresh sage leaves or parsley leaves
  • more grated Parmesano

Step 1: wash and poke a couple of small sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave for 2 minutes. Flip over and cook 2 more and if still not completely soft cook another 1 minute and check until done. I suggest you place the sweet potatoes on a plate so that you get catch any leaks.

Step 2: slice open and scrape out hot flesh with a spoon into a bowl.

Step 3: you can mash with a potato masher or run them through a ricer. I always use a ricer for the regular russet potatoes but, this method worked fine because the sweet potato is not as dry as the potato.

Step 4: you should have a nice mash that is not too wet. Add a bit of fresh nutmeg.

Step 5: add an egg, freshly grated Parmesano Reggiano, salt and pepper. At this stage your mix will be rather wet. Add 1/2 cup of flour and gently fold in for a few seconds then turn out onto a counter or board. I basically use a scraper to fold over and incorporated the flour. Gnocchi can be tough if you work the dough too much.

I add the last 1/4 cup of flour by gently kneading the dough. You want it to hold together when you boil them but, you don’t want to overwork the gluten and make them hard.

Step 6: I divide the dough into 4 pieces and form into logs. I cut with a floured knife into pieces around 1 inch in size. I have a cute little gnocchi board to create some ridges but, you can form them on the back of a fork or just cook as is. Some people just press the tops to form a little dent. Place them on a floured sheet. You can cook them right away or freeze them.

Step 7: place some in a pot of boiling, salted water. Place them in the water and gently stir once so they don’t stick to the bottom. Wait until they float and cook 1 more minute. This will probably take 2 – 3 minutes in total. I remove them with a spyder and place them directly from the water to a heated pan.

Step 8: with a bit of great extra virgin olive oil or a bit of butter. Saute the gnocchi for a minute on each side to get a touch of browning. I grated a bit of lemon zest and tossed in some chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a few scrapes of Parmesano Reggiano.

Chocolate, Beet and Olive Oil Cake – Naturally Red Velvet!

This cake is good for your HEART and your SWEETHEART!! 

Make it with buttery extra virgin olive oil and beets to replace a bottle of red food colouring and it tastes like…..chocolate cake!! Crazy I know!

 You can top it simply with powdered sugar or a drizzle or even make it fancy with chocolate ganache (which is really just melted chocolate and whipping cream)

It can go from everyday to Valentine’s Day with a bit of chocolate icing.

You will need:

  • 225 grams/8 oz beetroot – cooked and grated/processed
  • 100 grams – good quality dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla (pure never artificial cause that stuff is made from wood! look it up!)
  • 1/4 cup hot coffee
  • 4 eggs (separated)
  • 1/2 cup good Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I used a mild and buttery Oltremonti from France
  • 1 cup flour (all purpose)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 1: Use an 8 inch spring form pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and lock. Butter and flour pan and tap out any excess. Set aside.

Step 2: Boil or roast beets. I used 2 small beets and cooked for approximately 1 hour until tender. Run the beets under cold water until you can handle them and cut off tops and bottoms and  rub off the skins.(PS. if you are lazy they actually sell cooked beets in grocery stores now!) Weigh beets and grate them by hand or just put them in a food processor for a few seconds until they are coarsely pureed.

Step 3: Take a bowl and place over a pot with a few inches of water. Chop chocolate into pieces and place in bowl. Heat pot on medium heat until chocolate starts to melt.Add butter and stir once melted enough to combine.

 Step 4: Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla and combine.

Step 5: Add hot coffee to chocolate and mix. Separate yolks and whites into 2 bowls. Add the yolks to the cooled chocolate and whisk in. (put the whites in another bowl and set aside) Add olive oil to chocolate and whisk until incorporated. Finally add beets and mix then set aside the wet ingredients.

Step 6: Whip egg whites until light and fluffy (few minutes) and they form stiff peaks.

Step 7: In another bowl  add dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. You can sift if your cocoa has lots of clumps or use a whisk to mix all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to chocolate (wet ingredients) and stir to just combine with a wooden spoon.

Step 8: Fold in the egg whites until just incorporated and then pour into prepared pan.

Step 9: Bake 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean. Let cool 10 minutes then un-latch spring form pan and let cool completely.


You can just top with a dusting of sugar or mix the powdered sugar with a few drops of juice or water to create a glaze or make a chocolate ganache icing (which is the simplest icing in my opinion and only has heated whipping cream poured over chocolate chunks and stir…TA DA!!)

and guess what!! it tastes like CHOCOLATE CAKE!!

Shut the front door!!

Asparagus and Pepper Soba Noodle Salad

Sometimes you just need something fresh and nourishing. Soba noodles are available in the Asian section of your grocery store and are made from Buckwheat which also happen to be a gluten-free option if made from 100% buckwheat flour. This salad is made with loads of fresh vegetables, all tossed with some Soba noodles and a tasty dressing.

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup mild olive oil (a bit more for sauteing your veg) – I used Temecula Olive Le Caprice de Nature
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp flaked sea salt (if you don’t have it use regular sea salt)
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger (I always freeze mine and grate it frozen. Keeps forever!)
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • 1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 tsp finely minced red chili – mine is a medium spicy
  • 1 pkg of Soba Noodles – 250 gram pkg
  • 2-3 sliced scallions/spring onions
  • 10 spears of asparagus – sliced into stripped with a peeler then the rest chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper – sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 apple – sliced into strips
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • fresh sprouts or baby shoots or different greens

These noodles are easily found in your favorite Asian market or even in the Asian section of most grocery stores.

Step 1: I like to gather all my ingredients and chop, peel or measure all things so that when I am ready to cook everything goes quickly and more importantly you don’t accidentally forget something! Get your water boiling -add a good pinch of salt and cook your noodles according to the package. Drain and toss with a bit of your dressing or plain olive oil so they remain separated or these noodles will stick together like glue.

Step 2: take some washed Asparagus and peel long strips with a potato peeler. You will make strips along one side and then get to a point where the peeler no longer works properly. I flip it over at this stage and peel strips from the outer edge towards the center. I do this with each spear, then I take those centre pieces and chop them finely for another texture in my salad.

Step 3: chop some apple, red pepper and whatever other vegetables you love.

Step 4: in a saute pan add some of your favorite extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper and saute on high heat for a minute or two.

Step 5: in a small bowl create a dressing by adding  1/4 cup olive oil, sesame oil, soy, honey, salt, ginger, garlic, Sriracha and red chili for a bit of kick. Mix well.

Finally, toss all your briefly cooked vegetables, along with your noodles in the dressing. You can eat this salad warm or room temperature. I garnish with some cilantro leaves and some baby greens.

Fresh and rejuvenating!!!