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Pittsburgh native returns with new Sicilian cookbook

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
Food writer and editor Kate Winslow with her husband, photographer Guy Ambrosino. Guy Ambrosino
Food writer and editor Kate Winslow with her husband, photographer Guy Ambrosino. Guy Ambrosino
Eggplant Caponata Guy Ambrosino
Profiteroles with Chocolate and Whipped Cream Guy Ambrosino
Grilled Sweet and Sour Squash Guy Ambrosino
Fabrizia Lanza of Anna Tasca Lanza School of Sicilian Cooking at Case Vecchie in Italy. Guy Ambrosino

Not many people get an opportunity to chase a dream to travel to an exotic place for an extended stay, where they spend their time doing what they love.

For food editor Kate Winslow — who grew up in Edgewood and graduated from Woodland Hills High School before leaving the Pittsburgh area for the University of Virginia — her dream came true when she and husband Guy Ambrosino left friends, family and their home in New York City in 2009 with their son, Elio, age 3 at the time, to work at the famous Anna Tasca Lanza School of Sicilian Cooking at Case Vecchie in Italy.

Located in the heart of Sicily, the culinary school started by Lanza in 1989 attracts students year-round to learn her cooking techniques and the culture of the region. The country estate is surrounded by the Tasca d'Almerita vineyards, a working farm and winery.

Winslow and Ambrosino documented their experiences for “Coming Home to Sicily” ($30, Sterling Epicure, NY), a cookbook and memoir that Winslow co-authored with the school's director, Fabrizia Lanza, daughter of Anna Tasca Lanza, who died in 2010. Ambrosino, a professional photographer, shot the photos featured in the book.

Winslow and Ambrosino will share some of those experiences in an appearance Saturday at Settlers Ridge Market District, Robinson.

Winslow says they intended to stay for only about six weeks when they decided to visit the cooking school and work with Fabrizia, who had recently returned to the area to run her mother's school. A colleague at Gourmet magazine, where she was employed as an editor for nearly six years, had gone to Italy on vacation and told her about the school. The colleague eventually moved to Sicily and married a Sicilian man.

The couple already was considering a move from their New York apartment, which they were outgrowing, when, a few weeks into their visit, Winslow received word that Gourmet was shutting down. They stayed in Italy for nearly three months in 2009. After coming home for the holidays, they returned to work on the book project with Fabrizia.

Winslow and Lanza worked to compile “a year in the life” of Case Vecchie through recollections and seasonal recipes and Ambrosino's photos of the Italian countryside.

The beauty of the region is in the simple lifestyle of the people and their respect for the land, Winslow says. All of the foods prepared at Case Vecchie are sustainably grown or wild.

“We got there in the fall and saw them making their own olive oil and cheese and harvesting grapes,” she says. “Winter was tough — much chillier and more damp than we thought — but so green in ways I didn't expect. When spring came, wildflowers, wild greens, fava beans, artichokes and lentils dotted the fields.”

The family now lives in Lambertville, N.J., where Winslow and Ambrosino are working on another cookbook and he takes photos for Applegate Farms, a nearby organic meat and cheese producer. In their Market District appearance, they plan to demonstrate four recipes from “Coming Home to Sicily” — Eggplant Caponata, Blood Orange Salad with Red Onion and Black Olives, Grilled Sweet and Sour Squash and Pan-Roasted Potatoes with Oregano.

Winslow says their time abroad was a valuable experience and that leaving home for nearly a year in Sicily “was a good chance to take.”

For Ambrosino, “it was such a gift to have the opportunity to live where people have such an interest in food and everyone is involved in its production. It was a dream come true.”

Eggplant Caponata

From “Coming Home to Sicily” by Fabrizia Lanza with Kate Winslow.

1 small bunch celery, tough outer stalks discarded, strings removed, and coarsely sliced


Vegetable oil, for frying

2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

Fine sea salt

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1 cup green olives, pitted and cut lengthwise into thirds

¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained

1½ cups good-quality tomato sauce

¼ cup red or white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste

5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered lengthwise, for garnish

¼ cup chopped ,fresh flatleaf parsley, for garnish

Cook the celery in a small pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, for about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold, running water until cooled. Drain well and set aside.

Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the eggplant in batches and fry until well browned all over, for about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt.

Combine the olive oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until just golden, for about 5 minutes. Add the reserved celery, olives, capers, tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. Gently stir in the eggplant, being careful not to break up the pieces. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl or platter and cool.

Garnish the caponata with the hard-boiled eggs and chopped parsley, and serve cold or at room temperature.

Makes 8-10 servings


Grilled Sweet and Sour Squash

From “Coming Home to Sicily” by Fabrizia Lanza with Kate Winslow.

2 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, peeled and sliced crosswise 13 inch thick

Fine sea salt

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

Cook the sliced squash in batches on a dry grill pan (or on a grill) over medium heat, flipping when grill marks appear. Remove from heat and arrange in a shallow baking dish. Season with salt, then cover loosely to keep warm.

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and onion in a medium-size skillet and cook over medium heat until softened, for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the vinegar and sugar and cook until slightly reduced and caramelized, for about 5 minutes.

Spoon the onion and cooking liquid over the grilled squash, then cover the dish and let stand for 5 minutes. Carefully stir to combine ithe ngredients and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Profiteroles With Chocolate and Whipped Cream

From “Coming Home to Sicily” by Fabrizia Lanza with Kate Winslow.

For the Pate a Choux:

½ cup water

4 tablespoons butter

Pinch of fine sea salt

23 cup flour

2 large eggs

For the chocolate sauce:

1¼ cups sugar

1¾ cups good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder

23 cup cornstarch or wheat starch

4 cups whole milk

For the filling:

1 cup heavy cream

1 ½ teaspoons sugar

To prepare the Pate a Choux: Combine the water, butter and salt in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the flour all at once and stir rapidly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the dough to a bowl to cool completely, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Fit a pastry bag with a large tip and fill the bag with dough. Pipe the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in 1-inch-high mounds, about 1½ inches apart. Bake until the puffs have doubled in size and are golden, for about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.

To prepare the chocolate sauce: Whisk together the sugar, cocoa and cornstarch in a large saucepan, then whisk in the milk and cook over medium heat, whisking often, until the sauce is smooth and thickened, for about 20 minutes.

To prepare the filling and assemble: Whisk the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form. Fill the puffs with the cream and drizzle with the chocolate sauce.

Makes 8 servings.

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