Archive | June 2012

Food Memories – Summer Italian Fare

Caprese salad by Mary Susan

June 26, 2012

If I were to ask you about some of your favorite food memories, what would you fondly remember? For me, I would have to go back to 1972 when I was with my family in the Lake District of Italy where I tasted a Caprese salad for the very first time. The combination of virgin olive oil with perfectly ripened tomatoes, homemade buffalo mozzarella cheese, fresh basil with sea salt and pepper made me swoon. Even now, when I enjoy this salad it takes me back to an afternoon on a hotel terrace in Lago Maggiore with my family.

Since then, I have been serving up versions of this delicious dish, sometimes adding black olives and red onions to the mix or freshly sliced oranges or arugula. This Fourth of July holiday, consider pairing this dish with grilled chicken, corn on the cob and Italian potato salad. In your Caprese salad, you may want to try some different tomato varieties. Along with roma or heirlooms, check out green zebra or Cherokee Purple for a change of pace. You can be creative!

Sometimes living beautifully is recreating your favorite food memories and sharing them with the special people in your life.

Mary Susan’s recipe for Caprese Salad 

  • Sliced tomatoes of any variety
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Virgin Olive Oil, room temperature
  • Black olives, pitted (optional)
  • Red onions (optional)


Slice tomatoes and layer with mozzarella cheese.

Add fresh basil leaves tucked in-between the two or cut with scissors and sprinkle all over.

Add your favorite black pitted olives (optional), red onions (optional), sea salt and black pepper. Drizzle olive oil.

*Mary Susan’s version of Italian Potato Salad

*Note: Add quantity of ingredients to your liking.

  • Small red potatoes
  • Vert green beans (the small, narrow green bean)
  • Black Greek olives (pitted)
  • Red onion
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Virgin Olive Oil, room temperature


Cut potatoes in half and steam (I use the microwave for this); set aside

Steam the green beans; set aside

Slice the onion

Mix in all remaining ingredients with the potatoes, beans and onions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve at room temperature.


Design Tip: A Touch of Glass Adds Glamour to Your Interior Space

This glass-top nightstand features a blown-glass lamp.

Be creative and use glass as a backsplash!

Inlaid glass tiles can look exquisite in an aggregate floor.

Another example of a glass mosaic tile from the same project …

June 11, 2012

My love affair with glass began when I was a young girl. When setting the table for family holidays, I couldn’t wait to place each piece of stemware and watch how they captured the light. Being in Venice recently reminded of just how versatile, beautiful and exciting glass can be. It wasn’t until the first century B.C. that the technique of glassblowing was used. This technique spread and made Venice one of the leading cities for glassmakers today.

I am fortunate as an interior designer to be able to use glass in many different applications. Glass is a very creative and fashionable medium in design. Usually transparent, it can be translucent or opaque. Bisazza glass mosaics have been used in areas such as pools, kitchen and baths. I recently inlaid 12” x 12” richly colored opaque glass mosaics in an aggregate floor. The end result was stunning!

If you want to be creative and practical at the same time, use glass as a backsplash! Glass can be back-painted and carved in subtle or even outrageous, colorful ways. Back-painting and carving can also be used to create beautiful tables. You can select from standard green glass or star fire, which has a colorless edge.

When renovating your bathroom, there are innumerable glass tiles from which to select, whether for the floors, walls or countertops. Instead of the traditional shower door, consider a carved glass panel. These are usually 32” to 36” wide and can be stationary or pivoted.

Mirror is simply glass that has been coated on one side with a reflective material. For a show house in which I was a participating designer, I had the border of a vanity mirror carved to mimic the hearts and flowers quilting pattern on the bedding and cornices. I also back-painted the mirrored vanity top for an eye-catching, complementary look.

Glass can give you an opportunity to personalize your home. This amorphous substance that has been around since the third millennium B.C. is found from the windows in our homes to fashionable jewelry and many things in between. Whether your taste is Tiffany, Lalique or Chihuly, add some glass to your interior and enjoy this gorgeous, timeless medium!

Recipe: Mary Susan’s Version of Pasta alla Puttanesca


Running on empty? Here’s a last-minute meal!

This is done from the heart and exact measurements are not necessary. The type of pasta can vary and it is all about what is in the cupboard!

One night, I came home from work and looked in the refrigerator and … well nothing … at least I thought that. I was determined to make a meal and I remembered a famous Italian dish called “Pasta alla Puttanesca.” There are many interpretations of how the famous name of this sauce evolved, but here is one. Some believe that it was a sauce created by a restaurant owner who had many guests come to his restaurant to eat late one night as he was about to close. He didn’t have enough of any one ingredient to make a meal for all the guests so he took everything out of his kitchen and put it together to make this legendary Italian pasta sauce. So, I went through my refrigerator and pantry and this is what I decided to put together:

  • (1) 12-ounce can white albacore tuna packed in water … or (2) 5-ounce cans Genova Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • All the zest of 1 large lemon, minced (I use a potato peeler, but remember no pith, which is bitter)
  • A large handful of fresh Italian parsley, minced (minimize stalk of parsley and use mostly leaves)
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons of capers
  • Approximately ¾ cup Parmesan cheese (I always keep Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand)
  • 2 cans of white Cannellini beans heated in microwave for 2 minutes, then drained before adding
  • ¾ cup of virgin olive oil — or fix to your liking
  • Sea salt to taste and fresh ground black pepper (or whatever is on hand)
  • 1 lb. of your favorite pasta cooked al dente

Note: When mincing a small amount of herbs, I like to use a Mezzaluna, which can be found at Crate & Barrel.


After draining the pasta, add all of the above and toss! Add a glass of white wine and a salad and you’re good to go!

This dish literally takes less than a half-hour to make. My husband loves it and I have since made it for other family members.