Summer Nectarine Buttermilk Cake

Nectarine Cake

Summer shouts at me through the squeals and laughter of the neighborhood children;
Its scent is Barbacoa de Cordero slowing cooking in the neighbor’s backyard
It passes by on wispy clouds riding rapids through cornflower skies;
I run my fingers through summer’s mane of apple green and fragrant grass
I kiss summer in the ripe, juicy nectarines from my straining tree.

Recipe adapted from Gourmet’s Raspberry Buttermilk Cake.




We have a new look.  I’ve lightened and brightened the site a bit, hopefully making it easier to read.  The topics remain the same – cooking and living – and not necessarily doing either one successfully.

I’ve just returned from gelato school in Italy.  I’m overwhelmed with the idea of regurgitating my experience on these pages today so, I’ll just show you a few of my favorite images from my adventure for now.

p.s. “Gelataia” is a female gelato maker, but for whatever reason, it reminds me a little too much as “genitalia”.

IMG-20130618-00268 IMG-20130616-00222 IMG-20130617-00255 IMG-20130618-00266

Surprised by Love at first bite


Raided my refrigerator for a bite to eat…

A dollop of Greek yogurt
smothered with last Summer’s nectarine-vanilla bean preserves
and a splash of orange blossom water.


Kindly keep your assessments to yourself

Last month, I received a comment from a reader named Luka who wanted to “warn” me about the culinary school I will soon be attending.  It seems that her experience was less than ideal – in fact, in her eyes, it was “a disaster.”  My initial reaction was to attempt to brush her assessment off, but, in reality, her review of the school hit me in the pit of all my fears.  Did I just make a huge mistake? I was affected to the point that I considered canceling my trip; forfeiting both my tuition and airline ticket.

I DETEST myself for this reaction – trashing my dream based on one review from a stranger whom I know nothing about.  This school came recommended from a fellow culinary student who currently runs a flourishing restaurant.  Whose opinion, really, should I rely upon?  I write this post tonight as a challenge to my hesitations regarding school and my approaching experience.   It may be that Luka is 100% correct and this will be “a disaster,” but one person’s folly can be another’s life-shaping moment.

So much of  an experience is fashioned from our expectations and perceptions.  I wonder, exactly, what she was imagining when she states the school depicts the accommodations as “a fine hotel overlooking the sea in a popular resort town.”    That is not how the accommodations are described (at least in my reading). To me, they sound “utilitarian,” with the sparse amenities of work desk, telephone, TV with remote control (living large!), in room ironing press and hairdryer.  This is a Mobil 3-star hotel.  Three stars in America equals a Holiday Inn – In Italy, it’s a crap shoot and should be regarded as such.  All I need is a bed (sans bed-bugs).  I spent an amazing week in Tuscany living in a 14th century farmhouse – with spiders the size of my thumb and a wasp’s nest in the old hearth.  I’ve spent fondly-remembered weeks in a yurt without electricity, a reliable lantern, or heat – and with a communal bathroom about a half-mile away.  Everyone else in my group was snuggled cozily in the main house while I gladly chose to make my home in the yurt.  If I had not, I would never have been an arm’s length from deer grazing outside my door nor would I have seen the swath of Milky Way when I had to pee at 3 a.m.  in the cold, brightly lit night.

Luka goes on to say that, on some occasions, she lacked hot water or heat in her room.  I have dealt with both – neither left me with irreparable damage and, in fact, my current home is without heat in the bedrooms (an odd design flaw I didn’t notice until after the mortgage was signed). She talks about the location – “a deserted resort town with not a soul around and the nearest functioning town a $20 taxi ride away.”  The wifi was only available sitting in the unheated lobby and then… “so slow it was almost pointless to use.”  I thank her for that tidbit as it’s good information to have – sounds like I can leave my iPad at home and make room for my “good” camera – there must be plenty to photograph in a deserted, crumbling, sea-side town.

Should I go on?  She comments that the chef required the students to address him as “Chef”. He was condescending, treated the students badly, threw tantrums, and served family meals of poor quality.  The students were worked hard and sometimes didn’t taste the results of their labors.  Welcome to the culinary world!  This school isn’t a “cooking vacation” – nor does it profess to be.  This is a school for “advanced culinary professionals” which means most of us have attended culinary school where our Chef (yes, you DO call the instructor “Chef”) most likely was condescending and threw tantrums.  I’m not saying this behavior is appropriate or professional, but it is fairly standard.  Wait until you’re working the line in a kitchen – one needs to grow thick skin (or balls), ignore the dreadful behavior and cull the education you need from the presented material.  Cooking isn’t for sissies.

Luka goes on to say that this Chef “is not the teacher for young impressionable kids. Like the 20 somethings that attended.”  Maybe that’s just it! It probably isn’t the school for coddled, 20-something kids whose parents paid for them to go to Italy and play at “cooking” in between partying at the Italian disco and lazy afternoons on the Calabria coast, never far from their iPhone and wifi.  I’m neither 20-something nor am I looking for an Ibiza experience in Calabria – I want to learn how to make gelato, in Italy.

I don’t mean to be hard on Ms. Luka.  She expected one experience and decidedly found herself with something quite different.  I’m not even annoyed that she felt a need to press her experience on me – I’m sure she believed she was doing me a good turn.  I am, however, furious at myself for allowing her slant to darken my expectations. I will love it or hate it,  and, even if she is accurate and I do hate it,  it will not kill nor scar me – and it will be a wellspring of splendid stories that I can share with you here…once I’m back home, where there’s wifi (grin).

Fishing upstream from the internal sensor

“My boyfriend…he goes in this trance when he starts to photograph some things.

 What do you mean?

 Well, once we were in New Delhi and we pass a bum, that was lying down the sidewalk…Anyway, like, he looked like he needed help, but his first reaction was to photograph him!  He went, like, really close to his face, fixing his collar, to make it look better. He was like totally detached from the person.

 Yeah, but you have to be like that… to be good at that job.

 Yeah, I mean, I’m not…you know, I’m not…I’m not judging him for it, you know, what he does is essential and incredible. All I’m saying is that I could never do it.”

I did it.  I bought a digital SLR camera today.  I spent over $800 on something I may or may not use (not unlike my laptop, bought six months ago, used exactly twice). I bought the camera on a whim…..well, a whim that’s been in the back of my head for years.  Today, I acted on it.

When I was 18, I loved playing with photography.  I would get lost in the hours I spent in the dark room, nurturing my images, but that passion died somewhere along the way.  I could never find the time to take photos.  I hated lugging my heavy camera bag with me everywhere.  I felt disassociated from the events taking place on the other side of the lens.  I didn’t want to continue being an observer, but a participant.    As the years slipped by, my camera traveled out with me less and less.

These are just excuses.  I stopped taking photos because I didn’t feel I was good enough.  I wasn’t good enough to warrant lugging a huge camera case around.  I wasn’t good enough to feel confident pulling my camera out on a busy urban street to take a photo.  I wasn’t good enough to call myself a photographer. So, I put my camera away and thought to myself, “silly me that I thought I could do this well”.

My boyfriend taught me how to fly fish this weekend.  He took me to a little stream stocked full with blue gill, taught me how to cast, then showed me how to watch and feel for a nibble, then taught me how to bring in a fish and, finally, how to unhook it and release it back into the stream.  Throughout the process, he encouraged and gently corrected and gave me praise when I did something right.  It was a “no lose” situation – I probably could have thrown a rock and got a fish, but the environment he built for me made me want to try.  Sure, I was nervous I would fail or look stupid, but I was willing.  The experience made me want to try again.  It made me want to see what’s possible, where else can I fish, what else can I catch, how much better can I become at fishing.

I need to photograph like I fished – in an environment of nurturing (which may mean not showing a soul), away from my internal censor (who sounds just like my sister) – and pick up my camera like I picked up the fishing rod – without any preconceptions of my abilities and no attachment to the outcome.  Today, I bought a camera.