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Breakfast Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly vegetarian

Frittata Florentine

Frittata prepared with fresh spinach and pomodor sauce

Frittata Florentine

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Every morning in Vinci, Italy  I was greeted with lush beauty for the eyes, tranquility for the soul and exquisite food for the taste buds.   Food lovingly prepared by our Chef Ana.

In the sweet quiet of the early morning,  I would hear Chef Ana arrive, softly making her way through the villa to the well stocked kitchen – to begin preparing our morning meal.

My eyes would snap open and I’d lounge in my cozy bed unable to sleep; thinking about all the deliciousness I’d find on the breakfast table.

After meandering around my 14th century room with modern amenities, peeking out the windows, snapping pictures of my breathtaking views, splattering my enthusiasm all over social media, I eventually found my way downstairs.  Following the heavenly scents to a delicious assortment of eggs prepared poached or over easy, frittatas laced with fresh baby zucchini and decadent pomodoro, pastry, cured meats and cheese.  And of course, perfectly brewed fresh coffee served with milk Chef Ana had taken the time to warm.

Casale Leonardo da Vinci in Vinci Italy

Chef Ana and Franco/Morning at the Villa

This lovely Frittata Florentine is an adaption of the delicious frittatas Chef Ana served each morning.  And although this is quite an enticing version, nothing can compare to a frittata Chef Ana creates.

Find this recipe as well as my other seven recipes inspired by this glorious adventure to Tuscany on the DaVinci Wine Facebook Page. You will be able to save and print a copy from their page.  Buon Appetito!

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Frittata Florentine

Serves 4-6


6-8 large eggs (for a 10-12 inch non-stick oven proof skillet)

1 tablespoon water

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Two or three handfuls of fresh baby spinach or chopped spinach from your garden

2-3 tablespoon tomato sauce (I used my leftover Vinci sauce)

½ cup shredded or thinly shaved Pecorino

Pinch or two of dried Oregano, crushed with fingers

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Optional add ins: torn prosciutto, pancetta or coppa, diced bacon and fresh basil leaves


Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

Whisk together the eggs and water.  Heat a tablespoon or two of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of the skillet over medium heat.

When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the eggs and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, crushed oregano and crushed red pepper.  Allow the eggs to slightly set.

Once you see a crust forming on the bottom of the eggs, top the eggs with as much baby spinach as you like.  Then dot with tomato sauce and top with the cheese.

Place the skillet in the pre-heated oven and let it finish cooking for another 5-10 minutes or until the eggs are just set and cooked through.  I like my eggs “wet” so I tend to pull the skillet out a little before the full 10 minutes.

Let the frittata cool slightly then slide it onto a platter, slice and serve.






Karista's Kitchen Pasta vegetarian

Pasta Cortona

linguine with napa cabbage and mixed mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil

Pasta Cortona

How could I travel to Italy and not visit the mountain top village of Cortona?  I resisted.  Truly I did.  I didn’t want to be one of those blurry eyed, dreamy looking tourists on a quest to visit a place they’ve read about in a novel or seen on television in a movie.

With a clever grin and knowing eyes, my darling husband kindly dispelled my silly notion by telling me I’d already been walking around for days like a blurry eyed tourist with eyes the size of saucers.  Hmmm… and I thought I was being rather cool and collected.

Early one morning, my husband, who is a sport, no – he’s a super sport,  kindly obliged my longing to see Cortona. We hopped a train and arrived at the small, more modern town of Camucia Cortona which lies at the bottom of the mountain where Cortona is so beautifully is perched.

Camucia Cortona Train Station

Camucia Cortona Train Station

Once inside the walls of the medieval city I felt myself becoming the blurry eyed tourist, eyes wide with amazement of this ancient city.  The architecture so unique with steep narrow streets and views of the surrounding countryside.  Breathtaking.

Nonni's of Cortona

Nonni’s of Cortona walking home from mass.

Ranger Craig and I spent the day walking the steep and narrow streets, talking to the locals, snapping more pictures than I thought was possible, touring the churches and viewing art of the Renaissance.  A magical day that ended with food.  Actually, I think we ate our way through Cortona.  Pasta, soups, salumi, pastry, wine, more wine and then caffe.

Trattoria in Cortona

Trattoria in Cortona

One of the most delicious meals I dined on in Italy was in Cortona.  A dish of fresh handmade linguine tossed with savoy cabbage in a light wine and butter sauce, topped with shaved truffle and fresh pecorino.  A little heaven in a bowl.

dog in cortona,Italy

A furry friend in Cortona saying hello as we passed by

mountain garden in Cortona, Italy

Mountain garden in Cortona

Piazza Garibaldi in Cortona, Italy

Piazza Garibaldi in Cortona

Now that I’m home, I wanted to create a lovely version of that dish.  Something fresh, simple but flavorful.  We don’t have an abundant of truffles here in the states so I decided to make this an easy dish to prepare with local mushrooms and my favorite Napa cabbage.  And of course, if you wish, a drizzle of black truffle oil over the top.  A tribute to the lovely day in Cortona.

Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


Pasta Cortona

Serving Size: 3-4


  • 12 oz. linguine, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1-2 oz dried porcini mushrooms (I love porcini mushrooms so I use 2 oz)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 leek, white part only, root trimmed, halved and then thinly sliced
  • 1 medium shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups sliced Napa cabbage (about ½ a medium cabbage)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of black truffle oil (optional, but it’s really good!)
  • Shaved aged Pecorino for garnish


  • Prepare the pasta according to package directions. When draining the linguine, reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
  • Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a sauce pan and pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms. Give them a stir, cover and let them sit for about 20 minutes. When they are soft, drain the liquid, let them cool for a moment and then lightly chop the mushrooms.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the butter/oil is hot, add the shallots and leeks and sauté until wilted and fragrant.  Add the garlic and saute one minute longer.
  • Stir in the chopped porcini mushrooms and Italian parsley. Let them cook for about 1 minute and then add the white wine. Let the wine reduce by half and then stir in the heavy cream, grated parmesan and pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Next toss in the sliced Napa cabbage, and gently toss with the mixture, adding the additional olive oil as needed.
  • Take the skillet off the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
  • Add the linguine and ½ cup of pasta water to the cabbage and mushrooms. The sauce will thicken as it cools. However, if the sauce seems a bit thin, place the skillet back over medium heat and let the sauce cook for a few minutes which will thicken the sauce.
  • Transfer the pasta to a platter or individual serving bowls and drizzle with truffle oil if desired and shaved aged pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.
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    Karista's Kitchen Sauces, Salsas and More Seafood Shrimp vegetarian

    Spicy Pomodoro with Creamy Polenta

    spicy tomato sauce with pan seared shrimp over polenta

    Spicy Pomodoro with Pan Seared Gulf Shrimp over Creamy Polenta

    The Autumn fog has settled onto the valley landscape and created a halo of diffused light.  Intensifying the seasons colors and keeping just a little chill in the air.

    This is the time of year I pull out the heavier throw blankets and roam the house in search of the warmer socks and slippers.  Most of them in various unmarked boxes since our move.

    Even the dinner meals become spicier. Rich and flavorful tomato sauces lace the seasons dishes and create a welcome evening reprieve from the shorter and cooler days.

    spicy tomato sauce with pan seared shrimp over polenta

    Italian Inspired Spicy Pomodoro over Creamy Polenta

    This beautiful dish was inspired not only by the season but by my recent visit to Italy.  While pouring through delicious pictures of the loveliest people, mouth-watering food and soul soothing landscape, I knew I needed a spicy pomodoro over creamy polenta this week; and shrimp would make a lovely addition.

    If shrimp isn’t on your list of shellfish love, try serving this rich and satisfying sauce with roasted Autumn veggies.  It pairs well with roasted eggplant and zucchini as well as sautéed seasonal mushrooms.

    Top with plenty of pecorino Toscana and you just might think you were dining in Italy.

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Spicy Pomodoro with Creamy Polenta

    Serves 4


    ¼ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (I use California Olive Ranch Arbosana)

    ½ cup finely chopped onion

    2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced

    Pinch or two of red pepper flakes  (I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon) (also a smoked chipotle powder is a fun substitution)

    1  28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

    1 – 2 teaspoons tomato paste

    1 teaspoon sugar (if needed)

    1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or ½ teaspoon dried basil

    Salt and pepper to taste


    In a sauce pan over medium heat add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot add the onions to the pan and sauté until golden.

    Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté one minute longer.

    Take the pan off the heat (or you’ll be splattered with crushed tomatoes) and stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and basil.  Put the pan back on the heat and then bring the sauce to a very slow simmer.  Let it cook for about 15-30 minutes.  The longer the sauce cooks the richer the flavor.

    Stir in the sugar if the sauce is too “bright”.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil before serving.

    Add pan seared or grilled shrimp directly to the sauce and let the shrimp swim in the sauce for a few minutes to absorb those delicious flavors and then serve over creamy polenta (recipe below).  Garnish with plenty of pecorino Toscana or parmesan.

    Vegetarian:  Add roasted eggplant, red onions, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and anything else you think would be delicious.  Garnish with lots of cheese!

    Creamy Polenta

    3 cups whole or 2% milk

    2/3 cup quick cooking polenta

    ¼ cup grated Pecorino Toscana or Parmesan

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat the milk in a 4-quart saucepan, stirring as you bring it to a boil. While stirring, add the polenta. Reduce the heat to low and continue to keep the polenta at a simmer for about 5 minutes. Once the polenta has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Lightly salt and pepper to taste.




    Karista's Kitchen Salad Sassy Side dishes vegetarian

    Spicy Cabbage Salad



    cabbage salad with Sriracha dressing

    My favorite Spicy Cabbage Salad

    Over a thousand pictures, an enchanting week, the loveliest new friends and more wine and food than one could ever imagine.

    Tuscany.  The DaVinci Wine Storytellers Experience 2013.

    An event that has forever changed the heart of this Chef.  I have so much to tell you, to show you and new recipes to share with you.

    While I’m making my way through the memories and photos, here are just a few snapshots I wanted to share; and my favorite cabbage salad.

    My final post, including eight new enticing and delicious recipes, will be revealed on the DaVinci Wine Facebook page after the 1st of November.  Stay tuned!

    Ciao and Buon Appetito!


    (By choosing to click and read this blog post, you confirm you are of legal drinking age in the country where this site is accessed.  Thank you.)


    Vinci, Italy

    Vinci, Italy


    Streets of Montalcino, Italy

    A visit to the Medieval Tuscan town of Montalcino


    DaVinci Wine Storytellers

    Jenna, Leela (Storyteller) and Lisa. Our first Storytellers dinner


    DaVinci Wine Storytellers

    First evening with 2013 Storytellers Kristina Laurendi Havens and Karista Bennett


    Trattoria in Montalcino

    Trattoria in Montalcino.

    2013 DaVinci Wine Storytellers

    Storytellers Jim O’Donnell and Leela Cyd with Videographer Keston Migdal walking to a vineyard near Montalcino

    2013 DaVinci Wine Storytellers: Karista Bennett, Leela Cyd, Kristina Laurendi-Havens and Jim O’Donnell

    My Favorite Spicy Cabbage Salad

    This is one of those salads that can be tweaked to your tastes.  A little more of this a little less of that and it’s perfect.  I’ve given my basic recipe but feel free to prepare this salad how you wish.  I also love this cabbage salad as a slaw for tacos. I use this one for pork, chicken and grilled fish tacos.  Yum!  Delete cukes and replace with thin sliced apples for fish tacos.


    For the salad:

    1 head of Napa cabbage, halved and thinly sliced

    1 cucumber peeled and thinly sliced

    1 bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

    1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced


    1/2 – 3/4 cup mayonnaise

    1-2 dashes Sriracha (or more to taste)(Sriracha is Asian hot sauce and can be found in most markets)

    1 teaspoon fine ground sugar or dash of agave syrup

    1/2 lime juiced (or more to taste depending how juicy the lime)

    salt and pepper to taste


    Whisk together the mayonnaise, sriracha, sugar and lime juice.  Toss the cabbage in a large bowl with salt and pepper.  Then toss the cabbage with the dressing and plate.  I like to put the salad on a platter and then layer with cucumbers, cilantro and green onions.  It makes a beautiful presentation.

    If making this for one or two, I place dressed cabbage in salad bowls or plates and layer with cucumbers, cilantro and green onion.  I have a friend who doesn’t like cilantro,  This salad is just as delish without the cilantro.  To substitute cilantro, toss in some sliced radishes or shredded carrots.




    Karista's Kitchen Kid Friendly Salmon Seafood

    Wild Salmon with Caramelized Fennel and Roasted Potatoes

    wild salmon with caramelized fennel and roasted potatoes

    Wild Salmon with Caramelized Fennel and Roasted Potatoes

    Although my reality is not winning an Oscar or a Golden Globe, it feels that momentous.  I’ve been honored.  As some of you know, I’ve been awarded the Culinary Arts winner of the 2013 DaVinci Wine Storyteller’s Experience.

    Very soon, I’ll be traveling to Vinci, Italy, courtesy of DaVinci Wine – home to the historic Cantine Leonardo Da Vinci, where DaVinci Wines are produced.  I will have the opportunity to visit and experience the rich history of the region and experience the culture of generations of wine growers, local chefs and artists.

    DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

    Winner 2013 DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience

    I’m thrilled to join three other winners on this extraordinary adventure, Kristina Havens, Leela Cyd and Jim O’Donnell.  They will also be writing about this experience from their professional perspectives, which should prove to be lovely beyond words and art.

    Follow along with me on my DaVinci Wine Storyteller Experience via DaVinci Wine Facebook Page and Karista’s Kitchen blog, Facebook page, PinterestInstagram and Twitter.  If  you happen to stop by the blog, check out the most recent social media activity on the Social Stream page.

    I bid you Bon Voyage with this enticing little feast.  Italian inspired, farm fresh, seasonal and somewhat effortless.  Ahh… I like that word.  Effortless  🙂

    Delicious Wishes and Loads of Love,


    Wild Salmon with Caramelized Fennel and Roasted Potatoes

    Serves 4


    For the fish:

    1 1/2 – 2lbs wild salmon (preferably fresh if you can find it) Or the traditional Italian recipe uses Red Mullet

    Salt and Pepper

    1-2 tablespoons Healthy oil of your choice or Ghee (clarified butter)

    For the remaining dish:

    1 – 2 medium fennel bulbs, ends trimmed (save the stalks for soups and stews) and 1/2 inch thick sliced.

    1 1/2lbs baby potatoes (I adore fingerlings for their creamy texture), cleaned and halved or quartered to create uniform size for roasting.

    Handful of capers, drained

    Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

    1/4 -1/2 cup white wine

    1-2 tablespoons Olive oil

    1-2 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter) or butter

    Salt and Pepper


    Pre-heat the oven to 375F and toss the cubed or quartered potatoes with a few tablespoons olive oil and then dust with salt and pepper.  Place the potatoes on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet and roast until golden brown and soft.  About 10-15 minutes depending on size.

    While the potatoes are roasting heat a tablespoon or two of ghee (clarified butter) in a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  When the butter is melted and frothy, add the sliced fennel and toss in the butter.  Turn the heat to medium and allow the fennel to cook and caramelize for about 10-15 minutes.  Continue tossing the fennel every few minutes or so.  Watch the temperature and adjust as necessary.

    Cut the salmon into 4-6 pieces. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and either place the salmon in a baking dish and roast in the oven at 375F or pan sear in a large skillet over medium high heat with a tablespoon or two of oil or ghee (clarified butter).  This dish is also delicious with grilled salmon.   Click here for pan sear techniques.

    When the fennel begins to brown, take the pan off the heat and add the wine.  Place the pan back on the heat and let the wine reduce until almost completely dissipated, stirring just a bit.  Then add the capers, Italian parsley, roasted potatoes and a drizzle of oil or ghee if needed.  Combine and then remove from the heat.  Taste for salt and pepper.

    Place a portion of fennel and potatoes on four plates and then top with the wild salmon.  Garnish with Italian parsley and a squeeze of lemon.   Serve with DaVinci Pinot Grigio.

    Buon Appetito!

    This recipe is adapted from a Traditional Italian Red Mullet and Fennel dish.