Farro gets dressed up in the wonderful colors of Italy

Farro is a food product consisting of the grains of certain wheat species in whole form. The exact definition is debated.  It is sold dried and is prepared by cooking in water until soft, but still crunchy (many recommend first soaking over night). It may be eaten plain, though it is often used as an ingredient in dishes such as salads and soups. It is sometimes ground into flour and used to make pasta or bread. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

A wonderful way of preparing Farro is to cook as directed in water or chicken stock and then adding it to a medley of sauteed peppers, garlic, and onion. Prepared this way, Farro can be served as an entree for vegetarians or as a side dish to chicken, fish, or pork. The preparation is very easy and takes no time.

To prepare the Farro, bring 3 cups of water or chicken stock to a boil for 1 cup of Farro. Boil for approximately 20 to 25 minutes until al dente. Drain the grain and set aside.

Prepare a medley of vegetables for saute. For this recipe, the following items were selected:

1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cracked pepper
2 pinches of roasted Spanish Paprika
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 pinches of dried basil
1/2 cup of white wine (dry)
1 squeeze of 1/2 lime

Heat the oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add the peppers and saute for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Next add the onions and continue to saute 5 more minutes. Finally, add the garlic and tomato. Stir well and add the wine and all other ingredients. Stir until well mixed. Reduce heat and allow to cook uncovered for about 5 minutes.

As a final step, add the Farro into the sauteed medley and mix well. Check for seasoning and add a bit more salt if needed. Serve hot or allow to cool to room temperature and serve with a drizzle of olive oil. This method of preparing Farro incorporates wonderful rich flavors with the Farro soaking up the juices. It's just simply wonderful.

Banana Coconut Custard Tart --- not just another tart.

Of all the tarts that I have introduced on this blog, none produces such a unique perfume representation of the tropics. Not too sweet, not too heavy, it's almost like eating a slice of a tropical cocktail, if cocktails came in solid form. This dessert is like a pina colada drink. You be the judge, make it at home and discover what I'm talking about.


1 1/4 cup of sifted flour
1 cube (1/4 lb) of cold butter
1/4 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of Pernod (anise liquor)

This is what you want to make first. This crust is very light and is crumbly and flaky like a shortbread cookie. Preheat your oven to 400. Have an 8 or 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom lightly greased with butter of spray.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, add the sugar, liquor, and vanilla extract. Cut the cube of butter into 8 to 10 pieces and add to the flour. With your fingers, begin to break the butter down and mix with the flour. Continue until flour transforms into a crumbly mixture like wet sand. Don't over mix. Add the mixture to the tart pan and lightly spread the dough over the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure every surface is well covered. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes or until the dough begins to turn a light golden color. Remove from oven and allow to completely cook, setting the pan on top of a cooling rack.

While the tart crust is cooling, gather the following:

2 medium bananas, sliced diagonally in 1/2 inch thickness
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of liquor Galiano
1/4 cup of pineapple juice

Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the bananas and saute for about 1 minute or two. Now add the Galiano, stir and turn over your bananas. Finally, add the pineapple juice and lower your heat. Allow liquid to reduce a bit. The pineapple is acidic and will help keep the bananas from turning brown on you. Add the bananas to the bottom of your tart crust and spread them evenly to cover entire bottom.

Now you are ready to make the coconut custard. You can choose to make it from scratch or you can choose to make it with Birds Custard Mix, which is highly recommended and can be found in most supermarkets and specialty stores. Here's what you need:

1 large tablespoon of Birds Custard powder
1 1/4 cup of coconut cream (or coconut milk)
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons of dark rum
1/2 cup of fine coconut flakes
2 pinches of ginger powder
2 pinches of nutmeg

Add the custard powder and sugar into a pan along with a few tablespoons of the coconut milk. Stir under it is well blended, then add the rum and vanilla extract. While heat is at medium, slowly begin to add the milk while constantly stirring.  When you have 1/2 cup of coconut milk left, add the egg yolk to the milk and mix well before starting to add mixture to the pan. Once all mixture is in the pan, continue to stir and bring to a slow boil. As custard gets closer to the boil point, you will notice it start to thicken. Continue to stir, making sure that custard is not sticking to the bottom. Continue on a slow boil, reducing heat to low. Finally, add the coconut flakes, ginger powder, and nutmeg, and mix well. Once custard has been slow boiling for a few minutes, remove from heat and allow to set for 5 minutes or so, until it cools slightly. You may continue to stir to speed up cooling and so that a "skin" doesn't develop on the surface of the custard.

Once it has cooled a bit, pour custard over the bananas spreading the custard evenly to cover entire surface. Allow to cool in the fridge for about an hour. Then remove to add the topping.


1/2 cup of sliced toasted almonds
1/2 cup of dry coconut flakes (larger flakes, unsugared)
1/4 cup of coarsely chopping crystallized ginger.

Spread each of the topping ingredients evenly over entire surface of the tart. Return to the fridge and continue to cool for at least 4 hours (overnight is best!).

My long forgotten Strawberry Tart rears its beautiful head!

There have been several requests recently for the recipe to the strawberry tart pictured on the blog title; to be honest, I have no idea why I never posted it until now. Perhaps I must have thought that I already had. So without further delay, here is the recipe. Thanks to Robin for reminding me...


1.25 cups of sifted flour
1 cube of unsalted butter, slightly room temperature
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of brandy
1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 400 (200 c). Grease an 8 or 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom and set aside. Add the flour and butter in a bowl. Be sure to cut the butter in cubes so that it will be easier to mix with the flour. With your hands, begin to mix the two ingredients. Do this for a minute or two.

Next, add the rest of the ingredients and continue to fix with your fingers until the dough becomes crumbly. Do not over mix because you want the crust to remain light and crumbly. Once ready, begin to pour the crust into your tart pan. With your fingers, gently push and spread the crust throughout the bottom of the pan and up the sides until entire surface is covered. Do not pat down too hard or you'll get a hard crust.

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet or foil and bake at 400 for about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Your tart crust is now ready to be filled.


1 package of cream cheese (8 oz.), room temperature
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of brandy
2 tablespoons of flour
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup of cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a bowl and with a hand mixer, blend until velvety smooth. Now pour the mixture over the crust until it reaches halfway up the sides. Smooth out so mixture is evenly spread across the tart. Place in a 325 oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until surface begins to turn a light amber color. Be careful not to allow the crust to burn. You may, if you wish, place a sheet of foil over the top during the final 15 minutes or so.

When ready, remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature over a cooling rack. You are now ready for the final step, the topping.


1.5 quarts of fresh medium sized strawberries
3 tablespoons of strawberry jam or jelly
1 tablespoon of sugar
3 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of Grenadine

Clean and wash the strawberries. Cut off the top 1/3 of the berries and save those tips for placing around the perimeter of the tart (as pictured). At this point, it's important that you purchased enough strawberries so that they will cover and go around the entire edge of the tart. You only need to do one row. Set the tips aside and place the remainder of the strawberries in a pan, along with the rest of the ingredients.

Heat the ingredients over medium heat, all the while stirring and mashing the strawberries so that its juices and sugars are extracted. You will only be using the syrup that will be created by this process. It was at this point that I added a couple of tablespoons of Framboise liquor to the pan. If you have some, add some, otherwise it's OK if you omit it.

Continue to cook strawberries over medium heat until liquid starts bubbling. Now turn the heat to low and continue to cook for 5 or 6 minutes until the strawberries are well broken down and they produce more of a puree texture. Once you have reached that level, using a strainer, strain the mixture into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to help the liquid get fully strained. The solids you have left may be discarded.

Once the syrup has been completely extracted, gently pour it over the tart filling, swirling the tart so that the surface gets completely covered in a nice deep red sheet. Allow to sit for a few minutes and finally arrange the strawberry tips around the edge of the tart until you have made a complete circle. Place tart in the fridge and allow to completely cool before serving. Serve with a spoon or two of half whipped whipping cream, either on the dish before you set a piece or simply pour it over the top. Enjoy! This tart is truly decadent!

If you're not a fish lover, this will change your mind!

This is a third recipe creation on this blog using Swai fish and from what I can tell you, I think it's my best. I call it Pan Fried Swai Mediterrane. The marriage of the ingredients used produced an incredible bouquet of flavors so refreshing and yet low in saturated fat and cholesterol not to mention very reasonable in calories. I was so excited about this creation that I had to share it with all of you without delay. Without further ado, here are the ingredients you'll need:

These quantities will serve a party of 2

2 Swai fish fillets, rinsed and patted dry
1 medium avocado, diced
1/2 cup of chopped Spanish olives
1/4 cup of chopped roasted garlic
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Cracked black pepper
2 pinches of salt
Olive oil

Begin by combining the avocado, olives, and garlic in a bowl and stir gently. Add some cracked black pepper, the lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. Continue to stir gently, cover, and set in the fridge.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick pan over medium high heat. Salt your fish on each side and saute until golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Once turned, add a bit of cracked black pepper, remove from pan and set fish on paper towels.

Slice each fillet across and place one half on your plate, add a couple of tablespoons of the avocado preparation on top of the fish and add the second half above that. You may add another spoon of avocado around the sides. Finish the dish off with a squeeze of lemon and enjoy. As a side dish, you may want to serve boiled baby Yukon Gold potatoes. Finish off with a chilled glass of dry white wine of your choice.

Your fruits and vegetables are dirtier than your hands! What to do.

In light of the current E-Coli scare currently taking place in Germany, it seems poignant to discuss the cleanliness or lack thereof of the produce we purchase. This could have happened anywhere in the world and it does. To date, there are about 18 deaths in this latest outbreak and approximately 1800 very sick individuals. The outbreak of illness is concentrated mainly in the northern half of Germany; however, there is fear that the outbreak may spread, because there is no clear evidence as to the origin of the contaminated vegetables.

If you really think about it, the vegetables and fruits we see at the stores, produce stands, and out door farmer's markets are dirtier than our very own hands. They can contain pesticides, bacteria, germs, and contaminated water and soil. Think of this, imagine how many people have touched that head of lettuce or tomato you purchased at the store today. Some may have been fighting a cold or the flu. Others may not have properly washed their hands. Something to ponder.

With the global economy becoming more and more intertwined, it's difficult to know the origins of the fruits and vegetables we eat, unless of course we ask. The safest assumption we can make is that no matter if it's locally grown or imported, it's probably got some contaminants. We need to know how to wash them and thereby minimizing the exposure.

Although we can't completely protect ourselves from every last microbe that hitches a ride home with us, there are simple things that we can do to make sure they know they're not welcomed. Vegetables and fruits with a skin that you will peel should be thoroughly washed before peeling - even oranges. Let's face it, if you touched it with your hands and then peel, you've just transferred any contaminants to the edible part. Wash the fruit or vegetable before peeling. That melon you love and are going to slice a wedge out, WASH IT before you cut into it. How about the avocado? Wash it before you slice it in half. Whatever you are going to prepare to eat, peeled or unpeeled, just wash it first. Doing so will minimize your exposure.

There are a number of different products on the market today that helps sterilize your fruits and vegetables. The only thing you're going to get generally is a product that will not work any better than a simple teaspoon of bleach to a quart of water. So keeping it simple, just soak what you're going to eat in the bleach/water solution in a large bowl for about 15 minutes. Once done, be sure to rinse thoroughly. While you're at the sink, don't forget to wash your hands very well. I've also heard that adding a fine grain salt to water will help kill some bacteria.

With all that said, washing or rinsing will only get rid of surface contaminants. Any internal contaminants will not be affected unless of course you are going to cook it. In that case, there's really no need to go through the steps above. Above all, there is no need to become a fanatic about all this. Some of you may simply rinse (as I do), while others will purchase food cleaning solutions or bleach. Just use your common sense, rinse items once you get them home, don't let vegetables and fruits sit around for an extended period, keep your fridge temperature at the recommended level, separate and throw away any that are spoiling or rotting, and always use clean hands. Spending more of your time enjoying your purchase than worrying about it is the ultimate goal.