This is Us!

We are here to bring you our life through food. Especially Italian food. You can learn more about us here.


Something Simple – Candy Cane Beets

This is a photo I really like. I never meant to take it. It wasn't on the "agenda" for the day's photos. It wasn't even a real recipe I had in the hopper. 

It was just a result of some very pretty candy cane beets, a cracked silver plate and a rich slate counter top. That's really all. I threw some Gorgonzola cheese, fennel tops, salt and olive oil on there for "effect." Whatever that means.

I shaved the beets with a potato peeler (that happened to be polka-dotted).

A while ago, I wrote a post about cooking with what you have instead of always running to the store in a frenzy to pick up more ingredients. You can read about the resulting "Kitchen Sink Granola" here. But I feel like this is a valuable point in cooking and in life.

Often, with this blog, I am thinking of new exciting projects to post. "I KNOW!," I'll shout (to myself), "I'll make a layer cake and label each layer as something different and use some kind of wack-a-doodle metaphor about the frosting!!!"

Wouldn't that be GREAT?

Sure it would. And it would also take me about 47 hours of work. And maybe, just maybe, I already have some pretty cool stuff already in the "pantry."

So these days, when I'm thinking about cooking or doing or even getting something new, I pause to think about what I already have. Because what I already have is a lot.

A lot of cool photos.

A lot of spices.

A lot of pasta and olive oil (thanks, Colavita!).

And a lot of resources (people, family, friends, weird personal habits all included, bikes) that are useful in the present circumstances.

The pantry is well-stocked.

Because of this, I'm going to make an effort to show you things that I already have. They could be old. They could be silly. They could be completely non-edible. And I promise not to run out to the store for just one more ingredient for them.

Happy Friday!


I'd like you to meet someone

I'd like for you to meet Zaza. Zaza is me and she's you...if you love pizza. I'd love for you to follow Zaza around as she bikes around with her little dog Pecorino in seach of THE PERFECT PIE.

You can follow Zaza and 'Ino HERE.


(Re)Framing (Im)Perfection

I visit a lot of food blogs that have beautiful food photography. Blogs that would have you believe every morsel they make is perfectly moist and flavorful and then expertly poised on the tips of antiqued forks.

My morsels usually fall off said fork. And what ensues is a not-so-eloquent stream of longshoreman-like language that usually has even the food blushing (or wilting), the tripod falling over and the reflectors ricocheting away from their supports directly on top of said misbehaving morsels.

Sigh. Let's try this again. And so I do. And what results is sometimes a halfway decent representation of a mostly edible subject. But it's not perfect. And it's not meant to be.

This blog is a reflection of my life. And—NEWS FLASH—my life is not perfect. My life isn't styled like those food photos. Trust me, it could use it. I occasionally look around, shout, "STYLIST!" as if someone will come running from the anon toward the offending life region with a dustbuster and a polisher. And maybe some concealer. 

Concealer. Interesting concept. What am I trying to hide? Who cares if my life isn't perfect all the time? And for that matter, who cares if the food I make (and present to you on this blog) isn't either?

Imperfect food...sometimes you just have to eat it anyway. And even if it looks terrible, it often tastes really good. It's more disappointing when something looks fantastic and tastes like wood. I'd rather be pleasantly surprised.

The star photograph at the top of this post is an example of imperfection. I tried to make a cashew-based tart crust. I blended what I thought was an appropriate amount of nuts, flour, eggs and olive oil. I even pre-baked it. Then I loaded it up with tiny heirloom tomatoes, roasted butternut squash, parsley pesto and gorgonzola cheese. The first knife slice dissolved the crust into a heap of un-stick-togetherable nutty debris. 

It was delicious though.

Perfection, in life, and in food is unattainable. Is this another news flash for you? Sometimes it is for me, I'll be honest. I can often make myself crazy trying to get it just right, or do just the right thing all the time. There's really no where to go from there but's much better if you can ride the ups and downs like gentle rolling waves.

I'm not here to give you life advice. Or am I? If you wanted perfect food (or a perfect life) there are a number of other blogs that would serve this purpose. But perhaps you come here for something different...the bike crashes? Those ARE entertaining.

But in terms of FOOD (this is, after all, a food blog), I want to give you something attainable. And relatable. I don't want to make food that you couldn't yourself, nor do I want to convince you that I am somehow super powered in that I can overcome the natural limitations of human nature and reach perfection....if only in cooking.

That just seems, well...tasteless.


I'd rather talk about how it doesn't always work out according to plan. About how my crusts don't always stick together, about how I sometimes over (or under) salt food, and how I occasionally drop (oh yes, DROP) the main entree on the floor. Or, conversely, how I can create the most inventive and fabulous meal...for only myself to witness and eat. Or even how even though I can make a dish 3249723094 different times, it will turn out differently that many times (for better or worse - usually worse if you have guests).

What's to be done? I would say nothing, but that doesn't quite cover it. What's to be done, is to grab a fork and dive right in. Literally and figuratively. 

I do, however, have ONE fool-proof dish. Something that doesn't need to stick together. In fact, it's better falling apart. This is something that can't go wrong. Really. I've tried (unintentionally, of course). And it's seasonal for fall too! What is this magical dish? Apple Crisp!

Now you could troll the internet and find a bajillion different Apple Crisp recipes (accompanied by as many fabulous photos), but I'm going to give you my UNrecipe.

Yes, an UNrecipe. An unrecipe is a recipe that's not. Because it doesn't need to be. What doesn't it need to be? Anything other than it is, of course (which way to the Queen,Catepillar?).

What it can be is unlimited, and so this unrecipe that includes any number of substitutions, rough measurement estimates and un-exact baking times.

I am sure of one thing: follow this recipe loosely and you will have a masterpiece of imperfection. And that's what we're after, right?


4 medium apples 
Substitutions: use berries (any combo), stone fruit (nectarines and peaches) or even whipped sweet potatoes.

1 cup golden raisins
Substitutions: regular raisins, cranberries, chopped dates or figs, NOTHING at all!

Butter, at room temperature. Let's just say to reserve 1 stick for this purpose. I'll let you know how much(ish) as we go along.

Light Brown Sugar: about a cup
Substitutions: regular sugar works too. Coconut sugar is lovely.

1 cup rolled oats

1 1/2 cups Flour
I use a mix of flours. Here, I used 1/2 cup Almond Flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour. White flour will work, as will rice flour, or any mix of gluten free flours, should you feel so inclined (or dietetically limited).

Chopped Candied Pecans: About a cup, maybe a little more.
You can use this recipe or buy pre-made versions.
Substitutions: Walnuts work nicely as well.

Ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom
(I love cardamom, so if you have it, use it. If not, go buy some. Buy it later, it's not really necessary for this recipe, but it's just so good): any amount. I usually like to use about 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg and 1 tsp ground cardamom. You can go heavy on either the cinnamon or the cardamom, though.

Pinch of salt


Chop the apples into small cubes. How small? Go for 1/4" inch, but really do whatever you like. No need to peel off the skins, unless you like that. If you do, knock yourself out. I'm too lazy. I want crisp, people, not peeling!

Grease a 10" round baking dish with a little butter. Don't have round? How about square, rectangle or hexagonal? Place the chopped apples into said greased dish of undetermined shape. Now place in the raisins (or acceptable substitute and 1/4 cup of the chopped candied pecans.

Mix everything around in this baking dish so it's not just sitting piled on top of each other.

Now create some butter dots. I love butter dots! Take about a half stick of butter and cube it with a knife into tiny blobs—like dots! Place these dots amongst the apple, raisin and pecan mixture, spacing them evenly. You may not need to use the entire 1/2 stick. Now sprinkle the top with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and smattering of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom (if you have it).

Set this aside and create the topping.

In a small bowl, mix the flours and oats. Add in the rest of the chopped nuts, 3 more tablespoons of sugar, more cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and the pinch of salt. Mix this all together.

Now cube 1/4 stick of butter and place the butter cubes into the bowl with the topping mixture. Get your hands in there and mix it until it starts to group together in little blobs. This is good! Mix, mix, mix until some of it is holding together, and some of it seems to be doing it's own thing. All of this is ok.

Pour it on top of the apples in a nice, even layer, like a blanket.

Bake it in the oven at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until golden brown. This is a rough estimate. Sometimes I leave it in there for longer. If the top starts to get too brown, you can place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Or don't. Got that fork handy? How about some ice cream? The remnants (if there are any) can be stored in the fridge and re-heated for up to a week. Sometimes I eat mine cold, right out of the dish. With a spoon. For breakfast.


Creating Space

Food photo props in my apartment.Lately, I've been struggling with space. Finding enough.

Apartment space.

Work space.

Physical space.

Social space.

Creative space.

Mental space.

Everything seems to be lying on top of each other—all around and in my head. If I shift something over to make room for something else, I'll knock over a bike or step (yes, step) on a plate. Or, more dangerously,  all my ideas will come loose and bounce all over my brain like one of the 70's toy poppers:

Not good.

I had a biking accident a few weeks ago in the New York City Triathlon. One minute I was pedaling my heart out, pushing as hard as I could downhill in the pouring rain. No fear.

In an instant, I was on my side, skidding down yards of badly paved Henry Hudson Parkway and coming to an unspectacular (asp)halt in a puddle somewhere in the Bronx, my bike skittering sadly a few feet ahead of me.

I stood up and immediately began to cry. And not the owy-I-have-a-boo-boo type of crying. The kind when you're gasping for breath and practically screaming or coughing or dry-heaving or all three because your poor brain can't process what's come before. Or what will happen after.

Snap. A pure break in time.


And in that space, there's a regrouping. An honest mental assessment of what's going on and what needs to happen next.

I was asked my roadside assistance if I needed an ambulance. I said yes. When none showed up, I got back on my bike (which is fine, as I broke it's fall), and pedaled back to transition at 79th street.

I decided in that instant that I got back on my bike that what I really wanted to do was finish the race. In whatever fashion I could manage, even if it meant — GASP! — walking.

My original plan was not going to pan out.

I got to transition, put on my running shoes and walked up the steep hill to 72nd street. On 72nd I started to jog and met cheering friends, family member and teammates. I heard my dad shout, "We love you!"

I started to run faster and I finished the race running. It wasn't glamorous. In fact, it was a little gross. And slow. It made me think about every step I took and if I really wanted to take another.

No one would have questioned my decision to get into an ambulance (should one have showed up). Or stop running. But in the new plan (made somewhere around 250th Street), I was just dealing with the moment. The intention changed from running to the finish line (which is always moving, folks, not to get too philosophical on you but...) to running here. Now. And being ok with where I am, which at the time was a little banged up and bloody.

Vertical running!Since then, I've been trying to slow down. If only in my head. I fight it a lot. I'm a doer—I like getting things done. Races, work, food shopping, whatever, it feels good to cross things off the list. But the thing is, there will always be more things on the list.

I've been trying to shift those things over and create space for...

...dinosaur moments.

You read about them first here. For me, these little Paleolithic plastic toys create little moments in which I can creatively play. And as my photographer friend Steve says, these little moments are where the big ideas come from.

Sometimes there are tacos involved.

So I'm trying to create space for more dinosaur moments, and reframe this mental headspace a bit.

There are risks we take every day — and not just the ones that potentially involve falling off self-propelled vehicles. You can put your whole heart and mind and energy into a single effort only to fail spectacularly and literally in front of an audience.

And that's ok. But if you can pick yourself up, reframe it, and keep going after that, you've already won. 


Best Coffee This Side of the Park. And That Side, Too. Parkside Coffee Roasters


If you make coffee, I'd be willing to drink some of it graphic

A long time ago in a land far, far away, I didn't drink coffee. I'm not sure I was every properly awake during that time. Now, the above graphic (which I created back in my stationery design days) seems to be my mantra. But instead of having other people make it for me, I'm starting to make it for myself.

I have a French press (apartment of 1, people!) and I fire up the grinder and grind my beans fresh every morning. And then over-caffeinate to the point of delirium. And that's how I likes it, folks.

Now, in the world of coffee beans, I certainly have my favorites. Right now, I am singing the praises of Parkside Coffee Roasters, owned, operated and roasted by my good friend Tim Tate.

Tim is an entrepreneur. He's established Parkside as a micro roaster that carefully selects exquisite beans that are guaranteed to caffeinate you in the most delicious way possible. Tim studied and researched coffee bean roasting and has created Parkside to offer you the fruits (or beans) of his labor. 

Parkside offers various blends, including a cold brew option (which I like to chug first thing in the morning before workouts) and you can buy them all here.

It would delight the bujeezes out of me if you would wander over to Parkside and show those beans some love. I have sampled all the varieties and am a huge fan. Tim's not paying me to say that — Parkside is a start-up, folks. START UP. 

Want to learn more about how a cup of Parkside coffee is brewed at my place? Check out the informative video below (Note: note to scale)

Parkside2WithSound from on Vimeo.

How do I take my coffee? With a little half and half.

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