Happy Summer

IMG_5730We finally managed to get away as a family and are enjoying a few days of bliss with my sister and her crew to bid farewell to what has been a great summer.

I hope that you are all getting a few more days of R&R before work, school and other commitments start again, particularly our readers from the Napa and Sonoma regions who recently suffered a serious shake-up. Our thoughts are with you.

We hope that you will find some peace and quiet and we look forward to seeing you all next week with a great post on one of my absolute favorite pastimes.

Happy summer,


From Holer to Hugo

photoWhen we stop in for a drink at a restaurant or mountain lodge in my valley, chances are that the most popular non-alcoholic drink offered to us is a “Holer”, or elderflower juice. It’s a staple home-made syrup that any of my friends make as soon as the elder flower blossoms are blooming, which is right about now. To this day, my mother, aunt, cousin, friends and friends of friends, spend a day or two this time of year, making elderflower syrup to drink throughout the year. I believe it is one of the most aromatic, delicate and almost perfect flavors in the world! Come and cook with us!

When you think elder flower plant – genus Sambucus Nigra – you have to distinguish between the flowers and the berries. The flowers of this plant are used to make an aromatic syrup or cordial (e.g., St.Germain), while the berries are used to make wines and marmalades. In my region, the most prominent use of the berries is to make a thick, black syrupy liquid that claims to have effect in treating the flu, alleviate allergies and overall boost respiratory health. We call it “ora sulza”, which means as much as “golden syrup”. It is relatively hard to come by and valued like a prized possession. You can make this syrup at home with store-bought dried elder berries, although I have not tried it myself, and rather rely on my Omi to provide me with some from her trusted sources at home.

As a side note, there is also an Italian liqueur called Sambuca. One would think that it is made from the elder berries, but, alas, this strong, syrupy and aromatic liqueur is actually made of star anise but, as the name suggests, must also contain some elderflowers. It is like the Greek Ouzo or French Pernot, and served as a digestive and, with the addition of water, as a long – cloudy – drink.

The hardest part of making elderflower syrup for most of my readers will be is to come by fresh elder flowers. Which is why I thought that I share with you what you can do once you get your hands on a bottle of it. The flower syrup is usually available in speciality stores or at any supermarket that carries international items. The most popular brand of it in the U.S. is D’Arbo. With bottle in hand, you can offer your kids a delicious elderflower syrup, but with the rest, kick off your summer with a refreshing glass of Hugo. It’s fast and easy and i know your friends will love it! Come and cook with us!

Elderflower Hugo (Alcoholic)

Have You Made Some Basil Pesto Yet?

photo 8Don’t you think that many dishes can be made tastier by adding a dollop of pesto? We certainly do. And with the summer sun high in the sky and basil doing really well in the garden, the large leaves are literally beckoning to be turned into something tasty. What better project, than making a nice batch of basil pesto. Come and cook with us!

Pesto is very easy to make, particularly in the food processor. It is very versatile and can be used on pizzas, soups, risotti, pasta and as a sandwich spread. And because it freezes well, we usually make a large batch and freeze some keeping our summer memories alive for a little longer.

Th classic Italian recipe hails from Genova and is all about basil, but we have seen recent pesto evolutions using cilantro or sage. Be experimental and let us know what you like best.

Basil Pesto

Let Jack Frost Enrich Your Summer Dishes

It’s in the middle of the summer, but that doesn’t meant that we should ignore the freezer as some fruits and vegetables practically thrive on ice without losing their flavor and nutrients. I’ve made it at practice to have at least a few frozen items in the freezer to add a handful of color, texture and nutrients to my dishes. See which ones fair best in the cold. Come and cook with us! Continue reading

Crêpe, Omeletten, Omelet, Pancakes: It’s Confusing…

IMG_1334 2Sometimes things get lost in translations. Take what we call Omelett, for example. It is different from your pancake or “omelet” and goes by the French name of “crêpe” which if pronounced incorrectly, doesn’t sounds like anything you would want on a plate. Whatever you call it though, these light, soft and delicious flimsy delivery devices provide the starting point for one of my kids favorite dinners. This love for crepes dates back generations, as I fondly remember my Omi making paper-thin and aptly-named “OMEletten” for me. Family history puts me at a record 14! Not sure if that says more about my insatiable appetite, or my Omi’s love for cooking and feeding us all delicious food! Come and make some crepes with us! Continue reading


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