Friday, March 30, 2012

Palm Sunday: Blessing Palms, Olive Branches, and…Cheese?

This Sunday or Palm Sunday as it is known in the Catholic Church marks the beginning of Holy Week. It honors the day when Jesus arrived to Jerusalem. According to the story, the people laid down their cloaks or branches as he entered the city on a donkey.
Typically churches will distribute a piece of palms or olive branches to the congregation so they may be blessed during the service. However in Sorrento, there is a little something extra dangling down. The men typically attach a small piece of Caciocavallo cheese to the branches, while the women adorn theirs with sugarcoated almonds known as confetti.
The story goes that in 1551 Saracens ships were preparing to invade Sorrento. However the rough seas shipwrecked the ships before reaching shore. The lone survivor was a young girl who carried with her a small bag of confetti. From then on, the people of Sorrento celebrated their good fortune with the benediction of the candied nut.  While there is no legendary story for the Caciocavallo, the cheese is considered one of the oldest and most appreciated of the region.
Caciocavallo is a pasta-filata or stretched-curd cheese, whereby the curd is cooked, stretched and kneaded contributing to its dense and stringy texture. The flavors vary among producers but should have some saltiness and be slightly sharp. No wonder the people of Sorrento continue to seek blessing for this cheese, something this tasty could always use more good graces.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Cosmopolitan Magazine Features Cooking Vacations!

Making the news is our Cooking Vacations ( & Wedding Vacations Italy (  

Amazing photos & coverage.  Read all about it!  Happy Cooking!!!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bring Vinitaly To You!

“Hmm I’m getting lots of aggressive tannins in the mouthfeel.”
“Oh, I see what you mean…it’s a bit hard, practically no spice in the midpalate.”

Not sure what it all means? Well this might be just the type of comments that can be overheard in this weekend’s 46th annual ViniItaly wine event in Verona. It is one of the most important exhibitions of wine and spirits in the world. Nearly 150,000 professionals and 4,000 exhibitors will travel from more than 100 different countries. It is four days of conferences, workshops and of course tastings to help establish new business opportunities.  

Can’t make it out to Verona with the other wine enthusiasts? Well you can still sound like one. Our resident wine expert, Melody can show you how. Below are a few wine tasting terms you can consider while swirling your next glass!

Want further tips? Just email us at and we can help match all your recipes with the perfect wine. Why not try these notable reds, a 2000 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Giuseppe Quintarelli from Veneto or a 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Asinone Poliziano from Tuscany.  

Tannic- describes wines with lots of tannins, which are natural organic compounds that are found in the grape’s skins, seeds, and stems. They contribute to a feeling of “cotton-ball” or rough/dryness common in strong tea.
Hard vs. Soft- describes the degree of tannins, hard being overly tannic while soft being less tannic.
Acidic or Freshness- acidity in a wine comes from the acids tartaric and citric found in the grape juice. It is felt on the sides of the mouth like with lemons or any sour fruit.
Supple- wines that seem softer and almost milky may have undergone a second fermentation called malolactic fermentation where the acids are converted into lactic acid.
Mouthfeel or Midpalate- the way the wine feels when held in the mouth
Tears or Legs- the colorless streams left inside of the glass after it is swirled, often more noticeable in more alcoholic wines.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Saint Giuseppe's Day!

 Happy Saint Joseph's Day from Cooking Vacations
Check out Mamma Marie Lucia's Zeppole recipe, and click here Newsletter

 While in the States & Ireland the leprechaun hats and three-leaf-clover pins are being packed away, here in Italy the festivities are just getting started for San Giuseppe, or Saint Joseph's Day. 

March 19th is not only the feast day of St. Joseph the honored Saint, but also Father’s Day.  He is the patron of Sicily, Florence & Turin, and has a special kin with fathers, carpenters, fishermen, and even pastry chefs.

How do Italians celebrate-with ZeppoleZeppole, sweet bites filled with cream and made by mammas and pastry chefs in the Boot, are delicate golden fried or baked puffs.  Their smell is heavenly their taste-well you try! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Julius Caesar and the Roman Lunar Calendar

Et tu, Brute? Yes, it was in fact Marcus Brutus and 60 other conspirators that masterminded the assassination of Julius Caesar today in 44 B.C. Before this fateful event, it was better known to the inhabitants of Ancient Rome as the first day of the lunar calendar or New Years. It marked the division of the year based on the phases of the moon. Anna Perenna is the goddess of the new year and March 15 was a general holiday for the people of Rome. They celebrated by spending the day on the riverbank picnicking on wine and foods such as bread, cheese, eggs, and meats such as fowl and game. Desserts often included honey. It was custom that one should drink for every year they wished to continue living. So while you may have trouble tracking down local game, nor have the tolerance for so many drinks, why not try a classic Roman dish to commemorate the day instead?

Cavolfiore Alla Romana ~ Cauliflower Roman-Style

1 head Cauliflower
3/4 cup fine Bread Crumbs
1 tsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp of Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup Milk
1/4 cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375º F.
Prepare cauliflower by breaking into small pieces and cook in salted boiling water until half done (about 5 minutes).  Mix eggs, cheese, salt, pepper and milk together. Roll each floret in batter and then dip in bread crumbs.
Place on well-greased cookie sheet and drizzle oil over the top.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown, toss flower over to brown all sides.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mamma Marie Lucia Cooks At Eataly April 3 NYC

Join Mamma Marie Lucia Cooking At Eataly, April 3 in New York City. My mom and everyone’s mom, hosts a cooking class and shares family recipes with dinner to follow. The menu includes Spinach and olive pizza rustica, Paccheri & Zucchini, Aqua Pazza, and her famous wine biscotti! Wine included. Call to register.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Women’s Day in Italy: Celebrating with a Flower

Along the steep cliffs of Positano, the mimosa flower stands out like specks of bright yellow paint on a canvas. They’re the first sign of spring’s arrival and tomorrow they hold a special significance for women. March 8th is Festa della Donna or International Women’s Day in Italy. Women receive sprigs of the fragrant flower from their loved ones and friends.
Its origins are tragic, on this day in 1908, 129 garment factory workers in New York died in a fire. While protesting to improve their work conditions, the factory’s owner locked them inside. The day was established as a holiday in Italy in 1944 as well as many other nations worldwide. It recognized women’s overall contributions to society and efforts in achieving equal rights. The flower was chosen the following year to mark the holiday after World War II.
Today women celebrate by taking the day or evening off. Perhaps to enjoy a meal or drinks out with friends. Aside from flowers, women can indulge on treats such as the Torta Mimosa or Mimosa Cake made of orange juice, whipped cream and orange liqueur. So whether or not you have a mimosa to give or receive, remember how far women have come and those who still continue to strive for equality today.
Questa mimosa è bella come te che splendi e profumi nel giorno della tua festa! ~ This mimosa is as beautiful as you that shine and are fragrant on your special day.