May 31, 2011

Fresh Fava Beans with Pecorino Romano

Tonight we ate our very own fava beans- and they were delicious! Remember the tiny little plants I was telling you about on the patio about two months ago? They've since grown to about four feet high and have started producing bean pods! I was curious if they would taste differently than fava beans from the store, so I did a taste test. While the fava beans from the store were lovely, I did notice that mine tasted sweeter, and less bitter. This dish is fresh and delicious and you can make it very, very quickly.

Fava beans require a little extra step to remove the outer shell of the individual beans. First, open the bean pods and remove the beans. On the stove, bring some water to a boil. Get a small bowl ready with ice water, that's where you'll put the fava beans after they've boiled for just a minute. Once the water is boiling, add the fava beans and boil for just one minute- remove and place in the ice water. The ice water serves two purposes, actually, the first is that it halts the cooking, the second is that it will make you able to touch them faster. You can just use gentle pressure and your fingernail to pierce the outside of the individual beans, the outer skin will come off easily. The lovely green interior beans are your prize!

Place small portions of the prepared fava beans on a small plate. Serve with small chunks of pecorino romano, top with a grind or two of white or black pepper, and a small drizzle of olive oil. This can be a small appetizer, an accompaniment to wine, or the topping of a salad. You'll probably notice that the fava beans have a lovely peppery aroma and taste. Enjoy!



These fava beans were really, really easy to grow! They didn't seem to mind in April when it was still chilly at night and they seem to be withstanding the 90+ degree weather alright. They do not get full sun, though, more like 6 hours of direct sun.

May 28, 2011

Fantastic Fun in Honolulu, Hawaii!

Baby and Mommy just got back from a delightful trip to Honolulu! (Well, the air travel part was anything but delightful, let's just say that baby wasn't the only one crying on the plane- Mommy had a breakdown and sobbed for an hour- since baby did not go to sleep for 8 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The flight attendants could not believe it. Unfortunately, since I have flown with him before, I COULD believe it. You know, I love my son, and he has so many great qualities, but being a calm and happy flier just doesn't happen to be one of them...)

In any event, we had a lovely time and had the opportunity to attend two lovely dinner parties while we were there! The first dinner party we attended was at Marjon's house- you might remember me describing Marjon in the recent post on Persian cooking, here's the link:

Marjon is just simply the best :) If it wasn't weird to randomly move in with people, I think I'd move in with Marjon! Just to enjoy her excellent homekeeping and hostess skills :) She prepared such a lovely meal, there was a small buffet of appetizers, one of my favorites was the spinach and yogurt dip, and for dinner, the spread was marvelous- grilled filet, grilled and herbed shrimp on skewers, haricot vert, baked fish with roasted potatoes- and for dessert- (can you believe this?!) three types of fresh tropical fruit, three different cakes- and did I mention that the entire time she wore a beautiful dress and looked phenomenal?! Notice the beautiful floral arrangements and table coverings in the pictures- and get this, I think she designed and made her window treatments. I am not kidding. At the beginning of dinner our friend Pam was asking her about her lovely window treatments in the parlor, and Marjon explained how she had designed them and made them. I know, unbelievable! Baby especially enjoyed the party, he was given tennis balls and ran around their yard.

As if one wonderful dinner party wasn't enough, we were treated to a lovely meal at Pam's house- and although she is not of Persian descent, she had made an incredible meal from the cookbook mentioned in the Persian cooking post. Pam is a riot! Love her, she grew up in the South and she was telling me about getting a new hat and outfit every Easter growing up. We lamented that people just do not wear enough hats nowadays! I had a lovely visit with Pam and her daughter, catching up on each other's lives. The meal was delicious- a lamb and vegetable terrine slow cooked to perfection and topped with dried apricots- accompanied by two different salads, one with greek yogurt and flatbread. There were so many people at the dinner party- she had made two terrines- both in elegant cookware that went from the oven to table in a terrific blue. Wine flowed freely, and Pam's daughter showed me some spectacular family china and crystal, including beautiful art deco champagne saucers. What a treat- it was so much fun to be included! Pam could not have been more welcoming and gracious! I love her china pattern, it's so perfect for spring. Notice the gorgeous protea (volcanic flowers) behind her.

It's such a treat to be invited into people's homes for a dinner party. I just love it!

While we were in Honolulu, we went to the Waikiki Aquarium, Sea Life Park, and the Children's Discovery Center- all three were a lot of fun. The touch tank at Sea Life Park was baby's favorite, we touched starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, but not the turtle, he was not sure about that one. Of course we also went to the beach, and, I kid you not, after I took the baby to the beach, he literally slept for 17 hours at night!!!

Some other highlights of our Honolulu trip- Marukai, which is a Japanese store that has groceries and homewares- we got some wonderful sake bottles that I am using as bud vases (they are only 5-6 inches high, so they are perfect), and a carp for Boy's day (Japanese holiday celebrating sons that happens every May 5). Families fly carp / koi made of fabric from poles, one for each son (and some families have koi for daughters also, or for the father).

Shirokiya, which is a more well known and upscale Japanese department store, had some really elegant and artistic carp, but by the time I got there, they only had koi that were three meters long, that's a little long, I was really looking for more of a one to two meter koi. Shirokiya is also a great place for Japanese sandals, kimonos, and children's clothes (traditional Japanese).

If you enjoy sewing, which I do quite a bit, I'd highly recommend a visit to Kaimuki Dry Goods (in Kaimuki, naturally), they have a wonderful selection of fabrics, I specifically like the different printed cottons they carry. Many are asian, but not all.

To eat, have a leisurely lunch at Mariposa in the Neiman Marcus at Ala Moana, for a quick sandwich, Ba-le Vietnamese sandwich shops, which are all over, have a marvelous croissant sandwich with marinated chicken, cilantro, carrot and daikon, be sure to wash it down with a french mocha (tapioca pearls optional). Now, I know this is 'fast food,' technically, but I cannot get enough Yummy Korean BBQ, and truthfully, neither can baby. It's the second time we've fed him kal bi (korean ribs) and choi sum. The choi sum at Yummy is so out of sight- I get double choi sum on the plate.

Finally, last but certainly not least, The Slipper House at Ala Moana is the place to go for adorable little girl sandals. Seriously, I don't have a daughter (yet, I am hoping the next one is a girl so I can dress her up!) but I cannot stop buying little girl shoes at The Slipper House. We had two little girls to shop for, one celebrating a 2 year birthday when we got back, and another who I just adore and love to send things to- anyhow, I wish they made shoes like this for adult girls :( I would totally wear them!!!

This is one of the little girls we were shopping for, is she not so adorable?!!!

Now, we are back, and the refrigerator works again (hooray!) and I promise to fire up the stove, the big green egg and start harvesting the fava beans, peas, and chili peppers and whip up something delicious for you :) Your patience has been greatly appreciated! As always, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comments. Thank you so much for your continued interest and support. Your enthusiasm for this blog is truly humbling. Thank you!

Jessica at La Dolce Duchessa

May 23, 2011

Fava Beans, Peas and Blackberries, Oh My!

My dear friends, I am so sorry to have neglected you! I would love to write you a wonderful post about cooking- but my refrigerator died last week. We have been living out of the bar's mini fridge, full of vermouth and beer, and now, milk and string cheese... Needless to say, there's not a lot of cooking going on at the old La Dolce Duchessa household... But there is a lot of gardening action!

Check it out, garden beds! My husband made these two really cool garden beds- they are 4' x 8' and on the inside there are posts with pieces of pipe- you can use these pipes to rig up net covers- like to keep out birds. I predict we will be using these to guard the strawberries... The bottom of the beds have hardware cloth (this is actually like wire mesh) and two layers of weed cloth. This will hopefully keep the weeds and grass beneath getting through to a minimum. Hooray! Garden beds!

We don't yet have the dirt in the garden beds, so for now, they are a good place to play! The formal living room has for the last month or so been taken over by seedlings- here's what's growing in there that has been germinated from seeds: sage, plum tomatoes, yellow pear cherry tomatoes, cherokee purple tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes, specked roman tomatoes, sage, sweet orange bell peppers, tomatillos, chives, habanero peppers, de arbol peppers, lavender, mint, chinese lantern, poblano peppers, basil, thai basil (a flavor with hints of licorice), butternut squash, lemon cucumbers (round and yellow with a citrus-y flavor), regular cucumbers, parsley, watermelon, cantaloupe (apparently what's called cantaloupe in the US is actually a musk melon, true cantaloupes are too delicate to ship), guajillo chiles and numex chiles (I think these are actually anaheim or something similar). There's probably others I am leaving out... I take them out into the sun outside for a little longer each day, this is 'hardening them off,' they are so little and new that they can't withstand full sunlight. (Their little leaves would burn!)

I am happy to report the fava beans and peas are going crazy- we've got bean pods and pea pods forming on both! The blackberries have some berries forming and the meyer lemon tree has literally burst to life with leaves, tiny fruits and fragrant gorgeous blossoms- they smell like a really great Sauvingnon Blanc from New Zealand with none of the cat pee... Just kidding, I love New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc, but my husband and I are taking a wine class and we just covered that varietal and there was the observation that it had notes of cat pee...

We're looking forward to harvesting some fava beans and peas soon. Things can't be all peachy all the time- so I'm sorry to report the rose leaves are being devoured by something... Possibly cicadas? Which are EVERYWHERE... When we go outside I am afraid they are going to lift up our little boy and carry him off!

May 18, 2011

Fabulous Fascinators!

A few weeks ago, my sister came for a visit (hooray!) And... she brought her glue gun! After a trip to Michael's, where we bought combs, ribbon, and feathers, the glue gun was fired up- and here's what we made! Fascinators!

And a cocktail hat! How much fun are these? The red white and blue fascinator is for the fourth of July :) With some trial and error, we figured out how to strip the feathers where we wanted just the stems and to bend them a little.

It's easier than you think- why not whip up a fabulous concoction and wear it to your next soiree? And thanks to Kate Middleton, people will say, 'Love your fascinator!'

Perhaps you don't have time to whip up your own fascinator. Fear not!  We have an Etsy store- visit this link to see what fascinators we have available for you to buy!  (Availability and stock will vary.  Don't see exactly what you want?  Feel free to email me at

May 3, 2011

Have a Wonderful Meal of Homemade Pizza and Sangria!

What a lovely way to spend the day! This past Saturday, I held a pizza themed cooking class- we made our own dough, four different kinds of pizza and enjoyed a lovely rose champagne while we cooked and a delightful citrus sangria with our lunch! It was too much fun! Why not get together with friends on a lovely day and have a pizza party of your own? Pizza is great for your little ones, too!

Rosé Citrus Sangria

1 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc

1 bottle of red wine, such as Bonarda (an Italian grape variety now grown in South America)

Rind of 4 lemons

Rind of 2 limes

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lime

1 cup sugar


Water or sparkling lemonade (1 liter)

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel of the lemons and limes, leaving the white pith. Place in the bottom of a pitcher. Add the lemon and lime juice and the sugar. Add the white and red wine. Stir, cover the pitcher, and refrigerate overnight. Before serving, add ice and either water or sparkling lemonade. If using lemonade, add immediately before serving.

Pizza Dough (makes 3 pizza crusts or 4 small crusts)

1 tsp. honey

¼ cup warm water

1 envelope yeast

1 tsp. sea salt

3 cups flour

3 Tbsp. warm water

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup cool water

In a bowl, combine the ¼ cup warm water, honey and yeast. Allow to sit for at least 8 minutes. This will bubble. In a larger bowl, stir together flour and salt. Add the remaining water and olive oil to the yeast mixture. Form a well in the center of the flour and salt, pour in the liquid. With a utensil, stir until a wet dough forms. Oil your hands with olive oil, knead for a few minutes and add more flour as needed to form a smooth and elastic dough. Place in a bowl oiled with olive oil, also oil the top of the dough ball (that is exposed to the air). Either use immediately for pizza, or place in the refrigerator (covered) overnight and use the next day. When using after rising, knead to remove air pockets. Once toppings have been added, bake at 425 for roughly 20 minutes for a crispy crust. Less time for a less crispy result.

Basic Sauce for Pizza

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic

½ tsp. sea salt

½ tsp. dried oregano

¼ tsp. chili flakes

26 oz. container Pomi tomatoes (chopped)

Heat the oil on the stove over medium low heat. Add the garlic, cook until fragrant, only a few minutes. Add the salt, oregano and chili flakes, cook for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes, simmer for roughly 15 minutes. If too liquid, press in a sieve to remove liquid before applying to the pizza dough.

Asparagus and Sun Dried Tomatoes

½ cup loosely packed sun dried tomatoes (julienned)

½ cup loosely packed asparagus, cut into ¾” pieces, tough lower stem discarded



Olive oil

In a small ball jar, combine the sun dried tomatoes and asparagus. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Close the jar and shake to coat. To assemble the pizza, spread tomato sauce on a pizza crust, arrange the sun dried tomatoes and asparagus, it’s ok if there’s additional olive oil that comes out of the jar also. Using a fine grater, grate both parmesan and mozzarella over the pizza. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Grate additional parmesan over the pizza before serving.

Artichoke Hearts and Anaheim Chilies

Artichoke hearts in water

Anaheim chilies


Fresh Mozzarella

Olive oil


Cut the artichoke hearts into halves or fourths. Cut the chilies (stems and seeds discarded) into thin strips (roughly ¼” wide and 2-3” long). Cut the mozzarella into small pieces. On a prepared pizza crust, arrange the artichoke hearts and the chilies. Using a garlic press, press a garlic clove and distribute over the pizza. Use roughly 1 garlic clove per 3 pieces of pizza. Drizzle with olive oil. Distribute freshly cracked pepper over the pizza. Arrange the mozzarella pieces, but not too heavily. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Margherita Pizza

Fresh mozzarella

Fresh basil

Olive oil

On a prepared pizza crust, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce. Arrange fresh mozzarella. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil before serving.

Quattro Stagioni


Artichoke hearts

Cooked ham

Pitted kalamata olives

Fresh mozzarella

The mushrooms, artichoke hearts and ham should be cut into pieces. On a prepared pizza crust, arrange the toppings in four quadrants. The olives in one, the mushrooms in another, the ham in another and the artichoke hearts in the last. Distribute the mozzarella. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Dessert Pizza with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Balsamic Strawberries

1 cup heavy cream

½ cup mascarpone cheese

2 cups sliced strawberries (about 8 ounces)

1 Tbsp. sugar

½ Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Allow to sit until the sugar dissolves. Marinating overnight is good, too. In a standing mixer, whip the 1 cup of whipped cream until slightly firm, add the mascarpone cheese, whip until more firm, like regular whipped cream.
Bake a prepared pizza crust at 425 for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven, dust with powdered sugar. Allow to cool slightly. Spread the whipped mascarpone over the crust, top with strawberries, top again with powdered sugar.

And for entertainment we had a dashing young soccer player :)