March 24: World Bruschetta Day

Islander’s former colleague, Luigi M. from Sardinia, would always bring bruschetta to work potlucks. The classic Italian antipasto (appetizer) is relatively easy to make with affordable ingredients. When assembled on a tray, the colors are very appealing. Luigi toasts bread slices and makes the tomato-basil topping at home. Then at the potluck, he puts the bread out on a tray with the topping in a separate bowl so people could help themselves. That way the bread does not get soggy when sitting out for a while.

Not only does Luigi like to share his cultural cuisine. He also likes to give a detailed background to anyone interested in listening to his long stories (Islander does not mind learning about what she is eating—true foodies want to know it all!). He even told her how to make it and how to say the name properly: bruce-KET-tuh (not brew-shetta).

World Bruschetta Day is the perfect time to make these easy Italian appetizers. Try these toasty tidbits with a tomato-basil topping today!


(From Luigi M.)


  • 1 loaf Italian bread or baguette
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1-2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped


Place the oven rack near the top heating unit. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice the bread about ½ inch thick (may be cut diagonally for wider space). Brush a little olive oil on both sides of the slices. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Lay them flat on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 4-6 minutes or until lightly crisped and browned on the edges. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Gently rub the cut garlic cloves over the top of the bread slice. Set aside.

Make the relish topping by chopping the tomatoes and basil leaves. Place them in a bowl. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Let the flavors blend while the bread slices are baking in the oven. Arrange the bread slices on a platter. Spoon the relish on top of each slice. Serve immediately.



(Azerbaijani Cardamom

Walnut Cookies)

March: Spring Equinox

Islander’s cooking club friends are always on the lookout for international recipes to share. For springtime tea, she made a different kind of cookie recipe from Azerbaijan. Mutekke was among her friends’ favorites because it is a beautiful biscuit and tasted unique with the cardamom and walnuts. This cookie is popular in the Caucasus region/Eurasia, especially around this time of the year when spring has sprung in the Northern Hemisphere. Make mutekke to celebrate the arrival of the new season.


(Adapted from

For the cookie dough

  • 2 ¾ cup flour, all-purpose
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 egg yolks

For the filling

  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped 
  • ¼ – ½ cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon cardamom powder

For the topping

  • Powdered sugar


In a large bowl, mix the flour with the butter until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the sour cream and egg yolks. Knead until a dough comes together and is soft, around 5-7 minutes. 

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface and divide into three parts. Form into balls and cover in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes. Chop the nuts until they are almost close to coarsely ground texture.

Add to a bowl with the sugar and cardamom powder. Mix well and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, knead a ball of dough and flatten into a disc. Roll to 10-11 inch circle. 

Slice into 8 wedges. On the wide end of a wedge, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of filling. Roll toward top point of the wedge. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet with the point side down. Repeat the process until 24 mutekke are made. Place each about an inch apart on the baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375-380 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack over another baking pan. Cool completely. Strain powdered sugar over the top. Arrange on platter and serve.


  • Mutekke is often served during Nowruz, the Persian/Iranian New Year, which is around the Spring Equinox. There are many Iranians living in Azerbaijan so this cookie makes an appearance on party platters at this time.

Guinness Beef Stew

March 17: Feast Day of St. Patrick

A basic beef stew becomes an international icon when an Irish stout is added to the broth! Guinness beer makes a deep, dark gravy and provides a richer taste to this hearty dish. Many pubs in the Emerald Isle, Great Britain and abroad offer this on the menu year-round. But when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, Irish culture and cuisine are especially highlighted, and Guinness beef stew is a good alternative to serving corned beef and cabbage.

Try your luck in cooking this Guinness beef stew for the Feast Day of St. Patrick and it will become a family favorite festive food!


(Adapted from


  • 2-3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion, quartered and pieces separated
  • 1/3 cup flour, all purposes
  • 1 (12 ounces) Guinness or Irish stout beer, room temperature
  • 4 cups beef stock or broth
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 2-3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme


Prepare the onion, carrots and potatoes. Season the beef with a salt and pepper. In a large pot over medium high heat, brown the beef in a tablespoon of olive oil in 2-3 batches, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and keep warm.

In the same pot, stir in the garlic and onions and cook till softened. Add the flour to coat the onions, scraping up the other bits in the pan. Then slowly pour the beer into the pot, stirring to thicken. Add the beef stock or broth.

Add the carrots and potatoes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the bay leaf and thyme. Heat till the broth is bubbling then lower the heat to simmer. Cover and cook for about an hour, checking to see if the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked through. Check and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper if necessary. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.


  • Guinness beef stew goes great with soda bread and Irish butter.
  • Sometimes St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Lent Friday. We abstain on meat on this day and eat our beef stew on Saturday. Others get a dispensation or choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and eat meat on Lent Friday and then abstain from it on Saturday/the weekend.
  • Search under the Theme Menus for other St. Patrick’s Day recipes.