for those who burn to learn


Sep 2015

Prune Plum and Pistachio Cake

Posted by / in Into the Fire Blog, Recipes, WCSH6 /

Italian Prune Plums have a unique flavor when eaten raw, but they are most spectacular when baked. That’s when the color becomes brilliant and the fruit becomes jammy and the flavor intensifies. The small egg-shaped purple plums are hard to find in Maine and are only available in my neck of the woods for a few weeks in September. I usually find them at the Farmer’s Market and at the local grocery story. I love to turn them into prune plum sorbet or caramelize them and serve them in prune plum tart. I also love to add them to a simple coffee cake. There is one coffee cake recipe for prune plums that almost everyone knows and loves. You can find it In The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It is Marian Burros’ Purple Plum Torte recipe first published in 1983. The recipe is so simple and so good that many chefs have tweaked it slightly and then called the cake by a different name. Jody Adams, in her book: In the Hands of a Chef added a few twists to the recipe. She marinated the prune plums in brandy and sugar and she added lemon rind to the dough. She also added chopped, toasted walnuts. I like Jody’s enhancements but I wanted to add my own twist and substituted pistachios for walnuts. I think just about any toasted nut will work in this recipe so choose the one that most delights you. I also want to put in a plug for the Goldtouch non-stick spring form pan that I use whenever I make this recipe. The Goldtouch pan (which you can buy at Williams-Sonoma) is sturdy, beautifully made and you will never have to bother prepping the pan with butter and flour.  

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Apr 2015

Our Trip to the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School

Posted by / in Garden of Delight, Into the Fire Blog, Italy /

My curiosity about the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School was really piqued when I sat by the fire reading Fabrizia Lanza’s fascinating book, Coming Home To Sicily, during this past insufferable New England winter. Published in 2012, the book explains that at Fabrizia’s family’s Regaleali estate where the cooking school is located, December through February is all about pruning grapevines, harvesting citrus and making marmalade. Springtime in Sicily, I read, is green and lush, dotted with brilliant wild flowers, little lambs, rugged farm workers and sunshine.

I had heard about Anna Tasca Lanza’s Cooking School for years and I knew that the school was started by Anna, Fabrizia’s mother. As a young woman, Anna married Venceslao Lanza di Mazzarino, son of a great Sicilian noble family. Since 1830, the family has proudly owned a 1,200-acre-property halfway between Palermo and Caltanisetta, Italy. Venceslao did not expect his wife to set foot in the kitchen, especially since he, like his father Count Fabrizio, was fond of the international cuisine prepared by cooks of the family. However, later in life, Anna decided to learn to cook traditional Sicilian fare and the more she learned, the more passionate she became.

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