Fig Layer CakeBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterI found this Fig Layer Cake recipe in my father's journal, but I don't remember him ever making it when our family had our bakery. It's full of flavor and the figs are moist and just a bit chewy. I've frosted it with a cream cheese buttercream, but I think it would be just as good if topped with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream that had a touch of Meyers Rum. To insure that the cake is moist, it is important to use soft moist figs that have been soaked in rum, or if you prefer, orange juice. The moister they are they less they will draw moister from the cake batter during baking.White Chocolate Toffee CookiesBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterThese crispy white chocolate cookies with bits of toffee are crunchy, buttery and sweet. They are a favorite of my friends and family. They should, theoretically, stay fresh for at least a week if kept in an airtight container, though in this house, have never lasted long enough to test that. Because of the butter and sugar it is best that the cookies be baked on a heavy baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This keeps them from sticking, and they bake and brown evenly. If you don't want to bake the entire recipe at one time, the dough can be frozen for up to one month. This recipe yields approximately four dozen 2 1/2" cookies.Spinach Semolina GnocchiBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterSemolina Gnocchi is a specialty of Rome, and does go back to ancient Roman times. It was at first a very simple combination of Semolina, and milk or water. Now this classic dish contains eggs and grated cheese. Most of us are familiar with gnocchi made from potatoes, but that version was not until the 16th century when potatoes were introduced to Europe. My version is just a bit different with the addition of spinach and ricotta. Thus combining the ancient Roman dish and add a bit of my Northern Italian heritage. These are simple to make, and one of really great things is that the gnocchi dough can be made several days in advance and baked when needed. This recipe will serve 8 as a side dish or 6 as a main course with a nice green salad.Date Filled Princess BarsBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterPrincess Bars are those jam filled sweet, crumbly, coconutty encased treats that have been around forever. The bars are great for tea, picnics, in lunch boxes or a late night snack. They were a constant at our bakery and my father would cook dates with just a touch of lemon and some sugar for the center filling. This recipe was not in his journal, but I was very fortunate to find that my sister's friend, Carol had gotten a copy from my parents. They are really easy to make and will stay fresh for several days. French Savory Shortbread CookiesBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterI found this recipe for French Shortbread Cookies in my Dad's journal, but do not remember him every making them. The original recipe had a very low ratio of sugar, and I liked that as so many cookie recipes are just loaded with sugar. The rice flour and cornstarch give them that slightly sandy crunch that I find so appealing in shortbreads and sables. I also wanted to make them a bit different, so I added the lavender blossoms, along with the sprinkling of flaky Maldon salt across the tops. You could also try a bit of chopped Rosemary and a sprinkling a Black Lava Salt for an even different twist. These savory shortbread cookies are equally good with a coffee or a glass of wine. Store them in an airtight container or ziplock bag. They are best eaten within 4 to 5 days.Buttery Raisin BreadBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterThis Raisin Bread recipe is rich in flavor, with the addition of butter and egg and the touch of cinnamon and sugar that clings to the raisins. It's great plain, or toasted with or without butter. If after a day or two you have any left over it also makes fabulous French Toast.Broccoli Rabe SautéBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterBroccoli Rabe or Rapini as it is sometimes called is in the broccoli family. The flowerets are smaller than conventional broccoli and the taste tends to be sharper and just a bit bitter. The stems as well as the leaves are all a tender edible part of this vegetable. It's popular throughout Mediterranean countries and served as a very tasty side dish, as part of a hearty soup, or if you add a bit more olive oil and some spicy Italian sausage as a great sauce for a classic pasta dish. Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and SausageBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterOrecchiette shaped pasta (Little Ears) is typical of Apulia in the Southern region of Italy. Many of the traditional recipes include bitter type greens, like this recipe with Broccoli Rabe, but Arugula works well too. The greens are often combined with red pepper flakes, spicy sausage or Anchovy fillets. The thin little shells cradle all the flavors added to any sauce. DeCecco is my favorite brand followed closely by Montebello, and both are generally available in better stores.Braised Fennel – Finocchio BrasatoBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterBraised fennel, and fennel in general is a vegetable that I use on a regular basis. It's great raw in green salads, tossed with olive oil and slices of oranges, part of seafood stews, or braised as it is in this recipe. This super simple, super fast recipe is good served with just about any grilled chicken, pork or fish dish. In addition, fennel, well very low in calories is a good source of vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium. Escarole Sautè with Bacon & PinenutsBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterEscarole is a slightly bitter leafy green vegetable. It's part of the chicory family along with endive, frisée and radicchio. Growing up in an Italian family, leafy green vegetables, especially those of the slightly bitter category were often part of our meal. Escarole can be eaten raw as a salad or, as in this recipe, sautéed with added flavorful enhancements. In Italy one would probably use Pancetta, and it could certainly be used in this recipe. However, I like the slightly smokey taste and the crispy texture that bacon adds. The toasted pine nuts add a nice crunch and a drizzle of a very good extra virgin olive oil at the end is an important finish. Warm Spinach SaladBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterSpinach is such a versatile, healthy, year-round vegetable. It can be steamed, sautéed, put in soups, soufflés, pastas or eaten raw in salads or on sandwiches. This version has it tossed with a warm balsamic dressing that has not only the olive oil, but the added flavor of bacon drippings. The spinach is just slightly wilted, the parsnips and bacon are crunchy, the mushrooms are earthy, the onions add bit of sweetness and the toasted pine nuts are buttery. I think a good rich balsamic (and I really love the Olivier VSOP brand from Napa) adds just the right tartness to the dressing. There is so much going on with this salad that with a slice of a good crusty bread it can easily be the main course. Cara Cara Oranges with Rosewater MeringueBy Marjorie Perotti-BrewsterThis is an easy, light dessert that takes advantage of our Winter/Spring citrus season. I love the juicy citrus flavors of the Cara Cara combined with the crunch and floral flavor of the Rose Water meringues and all topped with the slightly tart cream topping. If you make the meringues a day or several days before, you can put this together in just a few minutes. As the seasons progress, you can use other fruits, and other flavors in the meringues. Try berries with cocoa meringues and chocolate shavings on top of the whipped cream, or peaches with almond extract meringues topped with whipped cream and crumbled candied almonds. The preparation time shown for this recipe includes the two hours to bake the meringues.