julie's blog

Happy Valentine's Day! Spring is on its way and I can't wait!

Italian Culinary Tours
We begin our Sicilian adventure in the island's western-most port town of Trapani, bounded by two seas and snuggled at the foot of Mount Erice. You'll enjoy some of the world's most beautiful sunsets with an aperitivo here on the portico. Trapani's unique position on the sea route to the Mediterranean busiest ports makes it the perfect place to taste the soul of Sicily's distinctive cuisine. With our hands-on classes, you'll learn to make traditional Sicilian dishes just like nonna. (more please)

Bûche de Noël, Sicily Culinary Tour

Buche de Noel

December 2018

At this time of year my thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made it possible for me to do what I love. Your enthusiasm, love of exploring, cooking and sharing around the table inspires me. Thank you, may your holidays and New Year be filled with joy, love and sharing around the table.

Bûche de Noël

Culinary Tour
May 19-26, 2019

Cherry Clafouti

cherry clafouti

In France they leave the cherry pits in; remove them to save on dental bills! Clafouti is effortless to make and quite versatile you can use whatever fruit is in season. I've used peaches, apricots, plums, pears, and figs to make clafouti and they are all delicious.

Clafouti is as easy as making pancakes! It will puff up quite a bit when it is baking and then collapses as it begins to cool down, so don't be disappointed; it's science! You can serve it warm or at room temperature; I like it best the day it’s made.

Garden to Plate

Spring has gone along with the local cherries. Now I'm happy to welcome in the local peaches. It's easy to go crazy for luscious peaches at the farmers markets. I want to buy every peach variety I taste. We had the most wonderful White Strawberry peaches. This heirloom variety is the most beautiful shade of light chartreuse inside. I can't bring myself to do anything with them other than eat them out of my hand. Bera Farms had these little beauties, and now the Red heaven and June Pride peaches are taking their place at the market.

Mom approved Lamb Shanks cooked in Parchment Paper

The evenings are still cool in Napa. For a special meal at this time of year I turn to my favorite meat—lamb. This winter I worked on creating a lamb dish that was delicious and nearly effortless. Lamb shank an underrated hero, has thankfully risen from a lowly peasant meal. In an Italian cookbook I found a recipe for cooking lamb in parchment paper. The recipe used lamb shoulder which I changed to lamb shanks making it more unctuous and deepened the flavors by making a moist rub with lots of fresh herbs to marinate the shanks in for a couple of days before cooking.

Who needs reservations for Valentine's Day when you can flambé?

Excitement and drama fill the room when the cognac is ignited and the flames dance in mid-air. Steak Diane is a romantic retro dinner. For Valentine's Day cook and serve it in a candle-lit room with “It Had Better Be Tonight” by Henri Mancini playing the background. To make it really extraordinary splurge for a black truffle and shave it over the top. Yukon Gold potatoes, that have been boiled and then sautéed in clarified butter until crisp work with the Diane Sauce. Sautéed spinach or a salad is all you need for a romantic dinner.


We've been coming to Maine since I was a kid for our summer holidays. There is no better season to experience the coast of Maine than late summer and early fall. There are plenty of fresh vegetables, blueberries, and of course lobster. Specifically we come to Moose Island (Eastport). It's as far north and east as you can go in the US. We can see Campobello and Deer Island, Canada from our deck. We've come here for nearly forty years.

Learning to cook from dad

June rings in summer with the end of school for some, and celebrations of dads and grads. As a tribute to those dads and grads I attached a recipe for a wonderful olive oil cake flavored with almond and lemon. This is the kind of moist cake my dad loves served with fresh-picked fruit and tangy cream. Dad being a farm boy, he knows his fresh fruits and vegetables. He taught me how to pick the best ones when I was quite young. We foraged for berries in Maine and New Hampshire in the summers when we weren't digging up clams for our lunch. Sweet, hot summer memories....

Mon Dieu, it's Spring

Everywhere I look in Napa it is beautiful and green with punches of color everywhere. California poppies are blooming and the fruit trees are in blossom. Walking through the Napa Valley vineyards in the spring is invigorating and the visual contrast of the dark gnarly vines against bright emerald grass and yellow mustard flowers. Some mornings are still quite cold and I awake to the sounds of the fans blowing in the vineyards to keep the frost at bay. The fans sound like a 747 is landing in my garden. Hopefully it will warm up soon and the fans can sleep for the summer.

Buddha’s Hand Challenge

My nephew was the first to challenge me with this bizarre-looking fruit. We were at Berkeley Bowl, and to keep him and his brother occupied while my sister and I shopped, I presented them with a challenge―go to the produce department and choose something for us to cook that they had never eaten before. Interestingly enough, both came back with fruit from the citrus family. Tommy, the youngest and least adventurous (foodwise only!) in the family chose grapefruit. Really? Could this be true? Well of course it was―I doubt he’d even eaten an orange at that point!


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