Fragrant Warm Olive appetizer

Recently a friend served these fragrant olives and other appetizers before dinner. Olive oil, herbs, and seasonings combined to give these olives a decadent punch of flavour. The dinner was great, but I would have been happy to eat these olives and bread all night!

The olives pair nicely with a variety of cheeses, charcuterie and other simple appetizers like roasted sweet peppers or tomato salad. It’s a simple, quick and delicious recipe that can be made ahead and reheated before guests arrive. Just don’t tell them it was so easy to make 😉


You can increase the olive oil used in this recipe and serve with a few pieces of crusty bread that you can dip in the fragrant olive oil.

*Carla’s tip*: For a boost of flavour and colour use a wide variety of olives, found at your local grocery store.


Warm Olives Appetizer

  • Servings: 4-6
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    • 1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 3 to 4 twigs of rosemary, loosely broken up
    • 3 to 4 twigs of thyme, loosely chopped
    • Peel from one orange
    • Peel from one lemon
    • 3 cups (750 mL) variety of olives
    • 2 to 3 chopped hot peppers


  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) each of orange and lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) each chopped rosemary and thyme



  1. In a skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the garlic for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the garlic begins to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the rosemary, thyme, orange and lemon peel, continuing to cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until flavours are well combined.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and add olives, stirring to distribute the flavourings with the olives. Return the pan to the stove and cook over medium-low heat for 10  minutes or until olives are warmed through.
  4. If you have time, cover the olives and set aside until ready to serve.
  5. Just before serving (heat olives if they have cooled) place olives in a serving dish and garnish with orange and lemon zest and chopped rosemary and thyme.



Sweet Ricotta Cheesecake

Pezza Dolce

Pezza Dolce means a piece of sweetness in Italian and is a tasty treat that comes from the Southern Italian city of Bari. This flour-less, gluten free ricotta cheesecake is a light and wholesome sweet snack that you can feel good about feeding family or friends. It’s a celebration of spring with simple ingredients: eggs and ricotta cheese. I like to serve it with fresh cherries or seasonal berries.


This recipe came to Canada over 50 years ago with my friend Sarah’s mother. Sarah loves cooking and baking, and has been working to preserve her family’s recipes to share with a new generation.


This ricotta cake is easy to make and works well with many flavours. I like to combine lemon peel and citric liqueur, such as Limoncello or Cointreau. If you’re going old school Italian, Sambuca and lemon peel are for you.


Once you remove the cake from the oven, the puffy cheesecake will deflate while it cools. This is normal and will not affect the flavour.The cake tastes best slightly warm and on the same day you bake it.

*Carla’s Tip*: Bring all of the ingredients to room temperature to allow them to more easily mix uniformly and blend in to a creamy texture. Also, if you are unable to find extra smooth ricotta, press the ricotta through a ricer to make a creamy ricotta best suited for this recipe. Adjust the sugar to your taste.


Ricotta Cheesecake

  • Servings: 6
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  • 1 lb (450 g) ricotta cheese, extra smooth
  • 2/3 cup (160 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) milk or cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) Flavoured Liqueur, such as Sambuca or Cointreau
  • Finely grated zest from a small lemon
  • 1 Tbsp (15mL) ground cinnamon


  1. Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) pie plate or baking dish and set aside. Preheat oven at 350F.
  2. In a large bowl combine the ricotta with sugar and milk, until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and ensuring that eggs are well incorporated into ricotta. Add the Liqueur and lemon zest to batter; mix well until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the cake (as desired).
  4. Place foil loosely over top the dish (tent style) and place in the centre of the oven for approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.  The cake is ready when it no longer jiggles in the centre.
  5. Begin checking cake after 75 minutes of baking time, as each oven varies slightly. Remove cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. If desired serve with a variety of sliced berries.


Stuffed Artichokes

Carciofi Ripieni

Stuffed artichokes were an early Spring staple in my house growing up. My mom cooked them in a flavourful broth with seasonal peas or fava beans. They’re stuffed with my egg and cheese recipe, an old favourite (see Pallotte cacio e uova).


The hardest part of this recipe is preparing the artichokes. The recipe below provides helpful, straightforward instructions. Don’t be afraid to pull back as many of the other leaves of the artichokes and cut off any prickly leaf tips. You will be rewarded with beautiful green/yellow tender artichokes that can be cooked stuffed in this recipe or plain if you prefer. Buy a few extra, while they are in season, and cook and store them in your refrigeration ready to accompany any meal as a side dish or add them to your salad.


The large and medium size artichokes you are seeing in the markets at this time are arriving from California. Ontario artichokes will arrive later in the year, closer to the fall.

*Carla’s tip: Artichoke leaves brown quickly once you start trimming them. Rub artichokes with half of a cut lemon periodically and place them in water with lemon juice while preparing them for this recipe. Also, prepare the stuffing and broth before cleaning the artichokes, to reduce the time that the artichokes might be sitting around and browning.


Stuffed Artichokes

  • Servings: 4
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  • 1/2 slice French or Italian bread, (about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick) torn into  pieces
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL)  whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup ( 125 mL) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh or lightly toasted, breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups (1 L) vegetable, chicken stock or water
  • 2 Tbsps (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1/4 bunch of fresh parsley sprigs
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 2 Tbsps (30 mL) white wine (optional)
  • 4 medium artichokes, rinsed
  • 1 large lemon, cut in half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • IMG_9919


  1. In a small bowl toss the torn bread with the milk and set aside for about 5 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze some of the milk from the bread (the bread should be somewhat soggy), reserve the milk. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs in a large bowl with a fork.  Add the cheese, breadcrumbs and milk bread to eggs, one at a time, stirring between additions.  Batter should be light and creamy, add about 1 to 2 Tbsps (15 to 30 mL) reserved milk to make a moist, but not soupy, batter (the mixture should stick together when you form a ball). Stir in the  parsley, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Loosely cover and set aside for 20 minutes in refrigerator or until ready to stuff artichokes.
  3. In a 2 or 3 quart saucepan, or a saucepan that will tightly fit 4 stuffed artichokes sitting upright (you would like them to remain upright so that the stuffing does not fall out), place stock, oil, parsley, garlic, white wine (if using) and salt and pepper to taste, cover, and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low maintaining a low boil.
  4. Using a serrated knife, cut about 1-inch from top of artichoke and remove the stem so that artichoke will stand up. With cooking scissors, remove pointy thorns/spikes of artichokes. Remove and discard as much of the outer tough leaves of artichokes until you get to the thin, yellow-green inner leaves.
  5. Gently spread out the outer leaves of the artichokes until you get to the centre, remove the centre leaves from the artichokes in addition to silky layer at the bottom of artichoke, where it meets the heart. This should make a space to place stuffing.
  6. Using a spoon, press about 1/4 of the breadcrumb stuffing into each artichoke. Off of the heat, place artichokes with stuffing facing upwards, in saucepan with stock. If stock has reduced, add up to an additional 1 cup (250 mL) of water or add enough water so that liquids reach 3/4 way up artichokes (this will help reduce darkening of outer leaves and tenderize artichokes further). Return saucepan to heat and partially cover, simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until hearts are fork-tender. Transfer artichokes to a serving dish, ladle broth over top.