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Cook In Italy With Ciao Chow Linda and cookbook winner

  • October 15, 2011

Want to join me for one week in Italy at this beautiful villa next May, when you’ll also visit lots of sights in the “Castelli Romani” – as the towns southeast of Rome are known? Here’s your chance – not only to see places that are a little off the beaten tourist path, but to live like a real Italian – learning techniques and secrets of Italian cooking – in a real Italian home – from me, Ciao Chow Linda!

You can read all the details by clicking here. The group will be small, so don’t wait too long to decide or you may be left out.

Life is short – don’t delay something you’ve always dreamed of doing. You could be spending the day touring a castle, visiting a baroque church, shopping for and cooking fresh zucchini blossoms, and returning home to a view like this:

Hope to see you there!

On a different subject – “Imbottito” was the winner of the cookbook “Cucina Povera” on my last post, but left no email address for me to contact. If you’re reading this, “Imbottito” please contact me via email at, or I will choose another winner.

Involtini di Maiale and A Giveaway

  • October 10, 2011

I’m becoming obsessed with this cookbook – Cucina Povera. I already posted a recipe for sfratti from it that will now become part of my permanent cookie repertoire. Having read all the first-hand stories in this book about Tuscan people who struggled to make ends meet and used every scrap of food available, whether grown in their gardens or foraged in the wild, I am working my way through the recipes, some of which I grew up eating in my parents’ home. I have childhood memories of hunting for wild asparagus and wild greens, of my mother canning tomatoes for the winter, of my parents making soppressata and of course home-made wine.  Maybe that’s why these recipes and stories are so resonant with me. Because food was – is – sacred and should not be wasted. Because you can make a delicious and nutritious meal out of the simplest ingredients.

If you haven’t already purchased this cookbook (or if you have and want to gift one), here’s your chance to own a copy. Leave a comment at the bottom of the blog (Not in email) and you’ll be entered to win a copy, selected by a random number generator. That’s it. You don’t have to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter – everybody gets the same odds. But if you did, I’d be grateful.
But so you don’t have to wait to make this recipe, here’s the step-by-step. Start with a one-pound pork tenderloin and divide it into eight pieces, then pound each piece flat between parchment paper until it’s pretty thin.
Spread the ricotta and spinach mixture on top. I added a sage leaf, not called for in the cookbook recipe.
Wrap with a slice of pancetta and secure with a toothpick.
Saute for a few minutes with some wine.
Sit down to a great meal.
Involtini di Maiale
From the cookbook “Cucina Povera” by Pamela Sheldon Johns
  • 8 ounces spinach, steamed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, sliced into 8 pieces
  • 8 thin slices pancetta
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  1. In a medium, bowl, combine the spinach and ricotta and stir to blend. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Set aside.
  2. Place a slice of pork between 2 pieces of parchment paper, and roll with a rolling pin until flattened to an even thickness, about 1/8 inch. Repeat to flatten the remaining slices.
  3. Spread a think layer of the spinach mixture on top of a slice of pork, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Roll it and wrap with a slice of pancetta, then fasten with a toothpick. Repeat with the remaining pork, filling and pancetta.
  4. In a large, heavy saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and sear the rolls for about 2 minutes on each side. Add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer briskly for 7 to 8 minutes, turning the rolls once or twice to heat them through. Serve at once.


  • September 26, 2011
 When I received a copy of Cucina Povera, a new cookbook by Pamela Sheldon Johns, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Not because it has glossy pages with slick copy – it doesn’t. I was drawn to it because of the rustic, matte feel of the paper, the jagged, deckle edges of each page and most of all, the beautiful photos, recipes and stories of the people whose very lives and traditions are outlined in this book.

For these people, cucina povera (peasant cooking) was a necessity. And even though most of us can afford to indulge in small culinary luxuries nowadays, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respect the bounty that’s available or waste food either. Eating what’s in season, making simple dishes from the freshest ingredients, and preserving foods for the lean days of winter are lessons we can all benefit from in order to live healthier lives and preserve resources.

Cucina Povera contains delicious recipes – from soups to pastas, meats and vegetables to desserts like this cookie called “sfratti,” plural of the word “sfratto,” which means eviction. These cookies are one of the old recipes from Pitigliano, a Tuscan town that once housed a large Jewish population. Sadly, many of the Jews were forced to flee during World War II, following Mussolini’s racial laws. This recipe is a traditional Rosh Hashanah treat from Pitigliano’s Jewish heritage.

Sfratti may be considered “cucina povera” but there’s no feeling of deprivation once you’ve tried these. Here’s a visual guide on how to make them, followed by the recipe.

After you’ve madethe filling, spread it out on the rolled-out dough.


Roll the dough over the filling.
Continue rolling until you have something that looks like a large cigar. The shape is meant to evoke the batons that officials used to bang on the doors of Jews to evict them.
Brush with beaten egg yolk and bake.
Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Betcha’ can’t eat just one.

From Pamela Sheldon Johns’ “Cucina Povera”
Printable Recipe Here


  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of slat
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup sweet white wine
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 cups walnuts, chopped
  • 2 tsps. grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 egg yolk, beaten
  1. For the pastry: In a large bowl, combine, the flour, sugar and salt. Stir with a whisk to blend. Stir in the olive oil and wine to make a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. For the filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the honey over medium heat. Add the walnuts, orange zest, cinnamon and cloves, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  4. Divide the chilled dough into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, roll a piece of dough into a 4 x 10-inch rectangle. Spoon 1/2 cup of the filling along the center of the length of the dough and roll it up. Place on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk, and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Transfer the pastries from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. To serve, cut each pastry into 1-inch thick slices and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Makes about 6 dozen slices