Makes 4 to 6 servingsFor the rice pudding:

1/2 cup arborio rice

2 cups milk

1/4 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

6 tablespoons sugar

1 half-pint raspberries

For the lemon vanilla caramel:

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

3/4 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. In a strainer, rinse the rice under cold water for 1 minute, moving it around with your hands to remove some of the starch.

2. To make the rice pudding, in a medium saucepan combine the rice with the milk and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer. Cook until very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the sugar.

3. For the lemon caramel, put the sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean in a medium high-walled saucepan (this will help protect you from the bubbling hot caramel) and bring to a boil. Cook until it turns golden amber. Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir in the lemon juice; the hot caramel will spatter a little at first. Once the caramel is smooth, remove it from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer to a container and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

4. To serve the pudding, divide about half of the lemon caramel among 4 or 6 stemmed glasses, and then divide half of the chilled rice pudding on top. Add the raspberries and cover them with the remaining rice pudding. Finish by covering the surface of the puddings with another layer of caramel, which will ooze down to the bottom.


Serves 3

1 pound spaghetti

1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good-quality bacon

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 large eggs

Black pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook, and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp, they won't meld with the pasta.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much fat to you, discard some, but you're going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta.

When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.


Parma, Italy, is the nexus of the best ham and cheese in the world — Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Join that with tenderloin of beef and turn out an extraordinary dish for entertaining, the Rosa de Parma.

I learned this incredible dish at a cooking class in a small apartment in Parma. Our teacher, Maria Rosa, had a hard time making us understand that the piece of meat she rolled and filled was a tenderloin. It wasn't shaped like a long cylinder: It was nearly rectangular, in so far as meat can be, and about an inch and a half thick.

Once we saw how she did it, however, and tasted it, well, we were won over, even in a city where there is no mediocre food. As the accompanying recipe indicates, it can be made ahead and reheated or served cold.

Parma is the kind of city where at lunch you are planning dinner and at dinner you are planning the next day's lunch. Usually it revolves around the ham and cheese for which it is renowned, products unduplicated anywhere in the world. The cheese might be added to eggs and milk to make a custard by itself, or to hold zucchini, tomatoes or whatever is in season.

Prosciutto di Parma, cured for a minimum of 18 months and sliced so thinly it can be read through, can be wrapped around any fruit — mango, peach, fig, melon or pear, for example — and eaten as an hors d'oeuvre. Or it is served radiating out in spokes from the center of a plate, covered tenderly with plastic wrap until the moment of serving so it will not dry out.

Rosa di Parma is a regal dish that combines a tenderloin of beef with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma.
These ingredients are so important that only they may carry their names. They have PDOs (Protected Designation of Origin) from the European Community certification system, which is designed to protect the names of high-quality foods made according to traditional methods in a defined geographic region.

The concept of "terroir" holds that the taste and other unique qualities of traditionally made foods and wines are influenced directly by soil, plant life, climate and time-honored methods of production that can't be replicated elsewhere.

This is certainly true of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The cheese is made once a day with milk from cows fed special grasses and flowers. Stirred and heated slowly in shining copper vats until the curd separates from the whey, the curd is scooped up in cloth and moved to a brine, then ultimately stored in huge rooms that are strictly temperature controlled. Each of the 75-kilo cheeses are wiped and turned every day, and regularly tested for excellence with a little hammer. After no less than 18 months of aging for a second quality and a minimum of two years for first quality, with four years for the top quality, it is tested yet again and deemed by the Consortio di Parma (a strictly regulated government conglomeration of producers) ready to be stamped with the words Parmigiano-Reggiano.

After further testing and aging, it is pronounced ready to sell. The whey, not discarded, is fed to local pigs.

Those for Prosciutto di Parma are four months older at slaughtering than the average pig at six months, contributing to their tenderness and flavor. The hams they produce are cured a minimum of one year, but usually more than 14 months, with no additives. These salt-cured hams are massaged daily, and aged by a 2,000 year-old process until they, too, pass government inspection. (One leg, aged 14 years, recently sold for $6,000.)


If it weren’t for time and money, home cooked Thanksgiving meals would be a lot easier. Just about every time I got really serious about cooking for Thanksgiving this year something would happen to divert me. For instance, I planned to order a super duper turkey someone told me about – you know, farm raised, fresh, exclusive – but I forgot to order it.

Or there is the shortening on my pumpkin pie. I used an open can of shortening that had been languishing on the shelf unrefrigerated. One little taste of the piecrust informed me that I had to start over with all my pies, and I’ve used up all my gorgeous mammoth pecan halves.

At one time all this would be a disaster. But now rescue comes in many forms. There are cookbooks for doctoring shelf ingredients to make them seem homemade, plenty of canned goods to accommodate, precooked turkey breasts in the grocery stores and the specialty stores are crammed full of goodies if we can spend the money.

Just in case you are feeling as desperate as I am one day before Thanksgiving, I’ve come up with some tips to get us through the day.

The first thing is to make a time chart of what has to be done – or redone. After determining what is possible to cook from scratch and still enjoy the children, the money part comes in. In addition to bakeries, the two major choices are grocery stores and specialty stores. We are all familiar with grocery store stuffing and gravy mixes, canned pumpkin and chicken stock. And who doesn’t bless Pillsbury for their refrigerator piecrusts that are so easy to roll out that it is easy to chuck the can of shortening away? I’ve gone the way of the grocery store many a time, with varied success.

I do like, at least, to assemble the ingredients and being able to answer the “Who made the pie, gravy, and stuffing” question with a smug “I did,” so pre-baked pies are out for me.

I sidled into the Williams-Sonoma and sniffed around to see what they could offer in the way of easing my burden. They know us Thanksgiving cooks all too well. I left, much poorer, with turkey stock for the Foccacia Stuffing (which will really be a dressing cooked independently of the bird), gravy mix to which only milk needs be added, Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter that turns magically into a pumpkin pie filling with the aid of a few eggs and whipping cream, and a twenty dollar jar of Williams-Sonoma Pecan Pie Filling chock full of mammoth pecans.

I was able to get the two pies and the dressing made and in the oven all at the same time, and it relieved me enough that I am now ready to make my own mashed potatoes, unless, of course, something happens and I run short and have to add some of the dried kind to what I’ve got cooked to stretch mine a little further.


I’ve never heard of a man divorcing his wife because she didn’t cook onions, but I’ve heard of plenty of marriages it saved. I once had a cooking student who attended only one cooking lesson, making it clear when she arrived that the only reason she was there was because her husband wanted her to be a good cook, and had a fantasy of her staying home and cooking all day. She believed her hands were meant to hold charge cards, not a knife.

When I ran into her several months after her solo class, I asked her why she had not returned. She looked at me, stunned. “Well,” she said, “I learned everything I needed to know – I learned that if I cooked onions and garlic the second I hit the house he thought I had been home cooking all day.”

In fact, men eat 40% more onions than women do, according to the sweet onion website. I’ve never measured my consumption of onions in poundage, but they have always been a necessity of mine for cooking. They would be my first choice for the “what would you take to a dessert island” question. I decided this long ago when I found out they prevented scurvy and I wanted to be a pirate. Now it turns out they have many more anti-oxidant and medicinal uses, which the website boasts about.

Peeling an onion is almost a metaphysical act. Each layer is a different size, as it grows ever smaller. The outer layer is crisper, from its exposure to the sun after being pulled from the ground. The older the onion is, the more “crisp” layers there may be. These additional crisp layers may, like the skin, be used for stock or discarded.

There seems to be an endless variety of uses for the onion – from chopped white ones in tacos to caramelized yellow ones for tarts, soups, and adornment for steaks, not to mention crispy fried rings or arcs. Each way they taste a little different, bringing something else to the table.

But some definitions are in order, which apply to home cooking rather than the rigid definitions one might learn in culinary school. It is important to know that every one of these will yield a different measure of onion to start, although once the water is extruded they will wind up roughly the same. Always use a sharp knife.

Chopped – Chopping is preferred when small pieces are desired, as in a soup, or when they are to be combined, as with tomatoes for a salsa. Chopping is to enable a small amount to nestle on a spoon without drooping over. Usually chopped onions are served raw, or cooked until they are opaque. Roughly chopped is larger than chopped.

Dicing – Smaller than chopped, dicing is preferred when absolutely uniform product is required. Dicing is used for garnishing, as well as the uses for chopping. Other words may be “minced” or “very finely chopped” to describe a very similar product.

Sliced thinly – Sliced until transparent, about 1/8 inch, these onions are usually served raw, as on a hamburger, in a salad, or as a garnish. It is difficult to cook very thin onions, as they may burn quickly, losing all the juice from the onion and becoming dry and hard.

Sliced – Sliced somewhere around 1/4 inch thick, this onion is best cooked over low heat until it is translucent. Caramelizing is tricky, but can be done if a low heat is used, along with a great deal of patience.

Sliced 1/3-1/2 inch thick. This is an ideal size for caramelizing, cooking long and slow until all the natural sugars come out. Also called “sliced roughly” or “sliced thickly”, it may take up to an hour to caramelize a thick onion ring, but it is well worth it.

Sliced 1/2 or more thick – Some prefer this thickness for fried onion rings and raw onions for hamburgers.