Florentine Carnival Cake (Orange Cake)

I love Italian food.

I love cooking channel’s Deb and Gabriele

I love the beautiful and simple Italian food in their cookbook Extra Virgin.

New York’s been having some strange weather so far this summer. It’s been 100 and humid and it’s been 65 and a bit chilly.

So to make it feel like summer, no matter what it looks like outside, I though I’d make a bright, citrusy dessert to at least give us some sunshine on our plates.

This recipe is ridiculously easy. You probably already have all of the ingredients. Oh and the bright orange burst in this light and fluffy cake is out of this world.

You will need:

  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • .5 cup warm milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • zest and juice of one orange

Preheat oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. (That’s right. everything into the bowl. No wet and dry ingredients, no separating eggs, no sifting. Just dump it all in.)


Whisk until combined.


Pour into your buttered pan.


Bake for about 30 minutes.


Allow to cool. You can dust with powdered sugar or, you can serve with sliced strawberries and some whipped cream.


Pesto Farro

Lately we’ve been trying to up our lunch game- up the nutrition, up the flavor and up the wow factor- without upping the prep time.

Enter the grain bowl trend.

It’s pretty brilliant actually. Take a grain – think brown rice, quinoa, cousouc- add some vegetables and protein and boom, lunch. Even better? Easy to make in bulk. Boom, lunch for the week.

We discovered farro a few months ago while watching Extra Virgin on Cooking Channel. It’s an ancient grain with a somewhat nutty flavor that you can treat sort of like pasta.

I buy the kind that you cook just by boiling in water for about 20 minutes.

I whipped up some basil pesto


boiled the farro


sliced some tomatoes and black olives


And poured it all into a big bowl



stirring until the pesto coated every grain.


Portioned out in tupperware containers, this was an easy grab and go lunch for the week.

Farro Salad


Last night I took a page out of Deb and Gabriele’s cookbook Extra Virgin.


The hubster plays hockey every Wednesday night, so I try to come up with something that I can make for myself to eat warm that will be equally as good for him cold.

Generally, this means a pasta salad.

But I wanted to try something a little different. And that’s when I hit upon Deb and Gabriele’s farro salad.

Farro is a whole grain the Italians have been eating for years. It has a chewy texture and an almost nutty taste. It’s loaded with fiber and the good kinds of carbohydrates. And it’s as easy to prepare as pasta (Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the farro and cook for 20 minutes. Drain it and add whatever you wish to it)

It almost looks like oats. Or cracked wheat.


I went with Deb and Gabriele’s simple accompaniments of ripe cherry tomatoes, kalamata olive, good olive oil and some fresh mozzarella.

When you have tomatoes that look like this, you don’t need to do anything to them.



Just slice them in half



and toss them in a bowl


Next, chop up some kalamata olives (or buy a jar of sliced ones like I did. Shh don’t tell) and add them to the tomatoes.


Finally, add the warm farro, a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper. Give it all a big stir.


Serve up in bowls and top with some mozzarella cheese. I shredded mine, but you can break up some fresh mozzarella into chunks if you prefer.


I ate mine right away then put the rest in the fridge for the hungry hockey player when he got home.

He gave the cold version a thumbs up.

So much so that we both are taking the leftovers for lunch today.

Tuscan Sausage, Bean, Tomato Stew


So after a glimmer of Spring, we’re back to the arctic blast, or the polar vortex, or Mr. Freeze or whatever.

Just when I was dreaming about lemon cakes and avocado and shrimp salad.

So back to the hearty and warming dishes we go.

This one comes from watching Extra Virgin on Cooking Channel the other day. We saw it and both had the same reaction: when can we have that?

Well the answer is now.

This is a super simple and super rustic Tuscan-style dish that is hearty and filling and warming and oh so yummy.

And simple.

Did I mention simple?

Like 3 ingredients (plus olive oil and salt and pepper) simple.

All you need are

  • Sweet Italian sausages (figure two links/person)
  • 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes (1 can worked for the two of us. multiply as appropriate)
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Drizzle olive oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot and add your sausage. Cook over medium, turning to brown all sides.


You aren’t looking to cook them all the way through, just get a nice crust on the outside. When all sides are brown, remove from the pot and place on a dish for now. We’ll get back to them.


In your pot, you’ve got all this yummy oil that’s been flavored by the sausage. To that, add the can of whole tomatoes.


Let these simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. They will start to break apart.

Help them along with the back of a spoon. Season generously with lots of black pepper. I salt moderately because my mom always did. But I can hear the Chopped judges yelling to salt your food properly.


Add the cannellini beans to the tomatoes and give a big stir.


Let these cook together for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, slice up your sausage.


See how it’s still a touch pink? Well, we’re going to fix that.

Into the pot they go.


Let the sausage simmer in the tomato and cannelli beans for about 20 minutes. The longer it sits, the more the broth becomes infused with the sausage flavor. I actually made this for myself when I got home, then left it on the stove, covered, on low heat for a few hours until my other half got home.


Sprinkle with parmesan if you like.

See that? Sausage, beans, tomato. That’s the perfect forkful right there.


I forgot one important thing to add to your grocery list.

Some crusty bread to mop up all those juices.


Don’t you feel warmer already?

Note: this is making its way into our goto recipe rotation.