Tomato Salad

Insalata di Pomodoro

There’s something about a simple, yet delicious meal that appeals to me. You don’t need fancy or exotic ingredients to enjoy dinner. You’d be surprised what you can do with a few high quality ingredients.


Stock up on good, cold-press olive oil. With fresh garlic and a few dried herbs on hand, you can whip a salad like this up in no time.

Last week, my Zia Concetta shared her Almond cookies, a 3-ingredient treat. She’s back this week with an Italian classic and shares her secret: dried oregano. She gently rubs it before tossing it over the tomatoes, for added flavour.


Oregano is an important herb in the Molise mountain village, where my family grew up. The whole town helps forage for it in the summer, and dries it to be used year-round. Molise oregano is more bold than its Greek and Mexican counterparts. I like to use it with some garlic in my marinade when grilling meats.

*Chef tip*: This tomato salad explodes with flavour if made a few hours before serving. Add all of the seasonings to tomatoes and mix, set aside up to 2 hours beforehand. Just before serving toss, taste again and adjust seasonings if necessary.


Tomato Salad

  • Servings: 1-2
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  • 3 large tomatoes or a variety of different size and type of ripe tomatoes (about 2 cups/500 mL), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 sweet banana pepper, chopped coarsely
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) dried oregano (approx)
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) cold pressed olive oil
  • 2 to 3 fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)
  • 1 loaf of crusty bread, (optional)
  • 2 to 3 bocconcini or 1 Burrata cheese, (optional)


  1. In a large serving bowl add the tomatoes and banana pepper. Sprinkle garlic and oregano, mix well. Add oil and basil. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and herbs if necessary.
  2. Can be served immediately, or, if time allows, cover loosely and set aside in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Just before serving, toss and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the tomato juices.



Almond Cookies

Biscotti alle Mandorle

Italians are fond of celebrating with homemade cookies, especially almond-flavoured. Baptisms, communions, graduations and wedding showers wouldn’t be the same without them. More than just a tasty treat at the end of a huge meal, preparing cookies is a chance for the whole family to come together. Moms, aunts, and grandmothers work together shelling almonds and catching up on family news.


This weekend, I was lucky enough to be a part of my cousin’s child’s  first communion. As a result, my aunt and other relatives made several batches of their best cookies to celebrate. We were all full after dinner, so the cookies were sent home in individual packets with guests.


The following almond cookie recipe is for a slightly crispy almond cookie with a chewy interior, which pairs nicely with a espresso or a glass of almond liqueur. Mostly, I like them because they use only a few, simple ingredients: ground almonds, eggs and sugar. Perfect for your gluten free friends and family.

*Chef’s tip* In this recipe, the skin is kept on the almonds, for flavour and colour. If you wish to shell your own almonds, don’t over grind them, as the processor will bring out the almond’s oil and make for a moister batter. The secret is to grind small batches of almonds at a time and refrigerate almonds beforehand. My aunt’s almonds are of a thicker consistency than the almond meal available at the grocery store. The finer almonds makes for a denser cookie that is equally as flavourful.


Almond Cookies

  • Servings: approx 30 cookies
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    • 2 eggs
    • 3/4 cup (185 mL)granulated sugar
    • 2 3/4 cup (685 mL) ground almonds

Almond and Sugar topping:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) coarsely ground almonds
  • 3 Tbsps (45 mL) granulated sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C)
  2. THE BATTER: In a bowl, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, beat together the eggs and sugar for about 1 or 2 minutes or until pale and sugar is dissolved. Gradually add the ground almonds to the egg batter until combined and soft dough is formed.
  3. THE ALMOND-SUGAR TOPPING: In a separate bowl, blend coarsely ground almonds and sugar
  4. Using well-greased hands, shape approximately 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the batter into logs.
  5. Roll each log into the almond and sugar topping. Place onto a greased baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) between cookies.
  6. Bake on the middle rack at 350F (175C) for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the bottoms and edges of the cookies are golden brown.
  7. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Store in a cookie tin to keep them crisp for up to one week.