My Morning Ride

morning view It seems that many people view my living in South Florida as all beach, sand and palm trees.  Sipping frozen daiquiris and mojitos!  Okay, well I do love all that and Ft. Lauderdale is just minutes east of me and Miami is just a drive south.  And that is how I like it, a drive away when I want that type of getaway and fun, but where I live is more like me. Continue reading “My Morning Ride”

We Are Our Choices

Do you ever long for a get away weekend, one of these “escape from it all” trips?  The kind that allows you to pause for a few days, take inventory of your life, celebrate your gifts and put your worries to rest?  And where would you go??

I took such an escape a week ago.  Life was crashing all around and I just decided to take off!  Fortunate for me, I have a very dear friend who lives in the most charming country home, lovingly furnished through the years with treasured finds, handmade furniture, curtains and needlework. Continue reading “We Are Our Choices”

Lemon Foccacia

My father would share many of his memories and stories growing up in Sicily.  His parents had moved to America before he was born but soon realized they missed their home and lifestyle too much.  My grandmother was then pregnant with my father so they waited for his birth and when he was a few months old, returned to Sicily.  At the age of 17 and on his own, he left Sicily to come back to his birthplace.  My father was always proud to say his was born an American and never returned back to Sicily, not even to visit. 

There were many things he missed and spoke of; his family, brothers and sisters, the abundance of fresh seafood and freshly prepared dishes and the ocean he swam in almost every day.  And the lemon trees growing in his family’s orchard!  I could tell what was most precious to him by his raised interest and excitement, and well, from a child’s perspective, his repeating of the same stories over and over again! 

His meals included lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and lemons were used quite frequently in his cooking.  He prepared simple food taking what he had and turning it into delicious meals.  Sitting around his table for a visit, you had better arrive hungry, as the food constantly appeared covering the table with quite an assortment.  There really was no excuse for being full or not tasting all that he offered!

I know he would love this lemon focaccia bread to dip in herbed oil or slice in half for a sandwich.  The recipe evolved from a mix of different recipes and notes.  There is no olive oil in this but is drizzled on at the end.  I like to use olive oil that I have gently heated in strips of lemon rinds and cooled.   It’s lightly lemon flavor is balanced with sharp pecorino cheese, thinly sliced red onion, Kalamata olives and fresh oregano.  A sprinkling of citrus sea salt and a drizzle of the lemon infused olive oil at the end finalizes the amazing flavor!   

And back to you Lisa, this focaccia bread would go fabulously with your Cannellini Bean Dip at Smart Food and Fit !! 

Lemon Focaccia

5 cups unbleached all purpose flour

¼ ounce (1 packet) instant yeast

2 cups water, room temperature

2 ½ teaspoons sea salt or Kosher salt

1 lemon, very thinly sliced

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

½ cup chopped Kalamata olives

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh oregano Or 1 tablespoon dried

½ cup pecorino cheese, shaved thinly

Freshly ground black pepper

Citrus sea salt, optional

Lemon infused olive oil or good quality olive oil

Using a KitchenAid mixer, combine the yeast, 2 ½ cups flour and water.  Whisk to combine well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Add in the remaining 2 ½ cups flour and salt.  Knead with dough hook for about 8-10 minutes.  Dough will be quite soft and sticky, but not overly sticky that it sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Add additional flour as needed.  Turn dough into a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 3 ½ – 4 hours until doubled in size.  (The dough can also be made up to 3 days ahead; refrigerate the dough after it is kneaded and on the baking day, remove from the refrigerator and allow to double in size on the counter, about 4 hours).  Remove the dough to a large baking sheet, about 17 x 22 and gently press dough into shape using your fingers to dimple the dough.  Allow to rest for another hour.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lay the lemon slices on the dough, onion, olives, oregano and freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle on some olive oil.  Reduce the oven to 450 degrees and place in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove and add the pecorino cheese, rotate the pan and return to the oven.  Continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until lemons and crust is golden brown.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.  Sprinkle on citrus sea salt and a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Where I Write

I’ve been absent from my posting for a week having taken a mini vacation back home to Ohio.   It’s been 11 years since I’ve seen fall leaves and felt crisp air.  Swaying palm trees, blue skies and ocean views compete in my affection for fall leaves of beautiful russet, gold, and deep red coloring the landscapes and covering the ground.   And my love for pumpkin, well they were everywhere!  The markets were filled with pumpkins for sale; huge pumpkins, mini pumpkins; homes were decorated with pumpkins on door steps and lawns.

It wasn’t just to see fall leaves but to see my family and dear friends.  I’ve missed a lot of years and it was bittersweet in seeing them all.  I returned with a longing for family around me and quite the funk in getting back into my groove.  Thankfully, Cecelia at The Kitchens Garden  wrote a post that sparked my interest.  She shared photos of where she writes and encouraged others to share their writing/creative areas.

My little Villa, as they call it, has a wonderful view of a lake in my backyard and a feel of openness which is not common in most of Florida’s zero lot line homes.   Inside, my living quarters are small, just enough for peaceful, happy living.  I don’t have a formal desk and actually prefer to be right where all the action is….in my kitchen!  So I sit at my kitchen table, laptop open, espresso in the am, a glass of wine in the evening.  The view of the lake is to my left and my kitchen right behind me allowing me to keep on baking and writing all at the same time!!

Where I Read

When the cooler months approach I will move to my screened in patio, but for now this is my chair.  Big enough to sit two people, my Chihuahuas can easily sit on either side of me or on my lap as the fight to get there first takes place before everyone settles in.  Behind the chair are my cookbooks.  Not all as I have another narrow bookcase next to the couch, more in the kitchen and some in the bedroom.  I have my books arranged by theme, or maybe it’s mood, as Italian / Latin books have their own space in the kitchen, veggie/healthy cooking above the frig, more healthy recipes next to the couch and celebrity chefs/destination cookbooks are behind that big chair.  I love to read cookbooks that not only have recipes, but history and stories about their country.  Whenever I travel my souvenir will be a cookbook from that area.

My bedroom holds my “romantic” cookbooks; okay I can’t be the only one with those.  Like Fork Me, Spoon MeIntercourses, and A Taste for Love among others.  A corner bookcase holds spa cookbooks and actually reading novels and inspiration books.  I do actually read books other than cookbooks!

My Mother’s Recipes

The pages are tattered and yellow.  The binding is loose and if you are not careful in picking it up, some pages will fall out.  Her recipes did not come from a cookbook, but from her mother’s cooking.  Written in ways only she could understand.   Many do not include the exact amounts and instructions are vague.  But I can look at these recipes and recall the smell and taste of each one.

She passed away when I was 16.  I had spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen baking cookies, stirring the sauce, prepping the vegetables, setting the table…   I could have learned so much more from her;  I could have asked her so many questions. 

It’s been over 30 years now.. I won’t give away my age 🙂  I have made her recipes and tweaked the ingredients to get the right taste.  Baking is more difficult as it requires exact amounts she rarely wrote down, but I have managed to recreate these as well.  While the years with her were not as long as I would have liked, memories of her stay close to me through these recipes.