Google Custom
CivicLifeSportsSchoolsBusinessFoodOur HomesLetters/OpinionsCalendar

Published May 23rd, 2012
La Contessa of the Hen House
By Susie Iventosch
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick in front of her cute little Hen House boutique in Lafayette Photos Susie Iventosch

Following your favorite blog can lead to some very exciting adventures, as Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, owner of Lafayette's vintage Hen House, recently discovered. Kirkpatrick answered a request on food editor and author Fifi O'Neill's blog and as a result is now featured in O'Neill's just released The Romantic Prairie Cookbook as well as Where Women Cook magazine.
O'Neill was searching for homes that had a romantic country appeal for her magazine and Kirkpatrick decided to submit pictures of her own home as an option. After living near Florence, Italy for several years early in their marriage, she and her husband, Giampiero, wanted to infuse their Orinda home with the same Italian charm and style they enjoyed in the Italian countryside. One of their first projects was to create an Italian farmhouse kitchen.
"I informed Fifi that my house has lots of color, which may not be her thing, since romantic decor usually involves lots of white," Kirkpatrick (also fondly known as La Contessa) said.
It took six months to send out the reconnaissance team to take preliminary photos for review, and nearly a year later O'Neill and photographer Mark Lohman arrived for a 12-hour photo shoot where La Contessa served up a lunch of Prosciutto and Figs, Bread and Cheese, and Caprese Salad.
"They were beautiful, humble people," Kirkpatrick said. "It was so enjoyable to spend the day with them."
Kirkpatrick is most definitely at home in the kitchen, the family gathering place where she finds joy in cooking ... but this was not always the case. Because her grandmother, Dorothy B. Rankin, was the food and wine editor for the Oakland Tribune, and her mother collected cookbooks, Kirkpatrick had an appreciation for fine food, but did not really learn to cook until Giampiero shared his passion for food and cooking with her.
"He first taught me to make a sauce with garlic and oil," she said. "Now, some of our favorite recipes are tuna pasta with capers, parsley, tomatoes and lemon (recipe below) and salmon lasagna with bechamel sauce."
Kirkpatrick said she learned to cook as a means of survival, because Giampiero, being a native Italian, loves to eat and enjoys the typical Italian meal beginning with a pasta dish, followed by the entree, fresh fruits and vegetables, salad and perhaps dessert. Meals at the Kirkpatrick's house are never of the "dine and dash" sort, but rather an event topping off each day.
Kirkpatrick's finely honed skills in the kitchen are not lost on her sons, Kristopher, 24, and Nicholas, 22. She was delighted when Nicholas called to request that she write down her recipes for him.
"It doesn't have to be by Christmas," he said. "But by my next birthday would be great!"
And though we won't get the entire collection her sons will receive, we can all find several of La Contessa's recipes published in Where Women Cook and The Romantic Prairie Cookbook, including Gurguglione (literally "bubbling up") pasta, Anchovy-stuffed zucchini blossoms, Savory grilled lamb chops with rosemary, Prosciutto with fresh figs, Grilled Tartine with eggs and peppers, and Tomato mozzarella salad.
Buon appetito!
To purchase a copy of The Romantic Prairie Cookbook or to meet La Contessa in person, please visit the Hen House at 20 Lafayette Circle in Lafayette.
(925) 962-1776

Elizabeth Kirkpatrick of Orinda featured in Where Women Cook Magazine
By Susie Iventosch

(Makes 6 Servings)


3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 Asian eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
3 yellow or red bell peppers, seeded, de-veined and cut into long, narrow strips
10 ounces plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste


In a pot over low heat, warm olive oil. Add garlic and onion, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add eggplants, zucchini and peppers, and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat until flavors are blended, about 40 minutes. If necessary, add a little water to keep vegetables moist.

Spoon into a serving dish and serve while warm.
Tuna Pasta with capers, tomatoes, parsley and lemon
By Susie Iventosch
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick's Tuna, Caper & Olive Pasta

(Serves 4)


1 can chunk light tuna, packed in oil (12-ounce can is fine)
1/2 cup sliced olives
1/4 cup capers
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Juice of one lemon
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes OR 1 to 2 cups diced garden-fresh tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 16-ounce box penne pasta


Drain tuna and put in a bowl with olives, capers, lemon juice and tomatoes. Pour olive oil over the mixture until it covers the top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the parsley over mixture and mix all of the ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit all day on the counter, not in direct sunlight, but not in the refrigerator. Stir occasionally throughout the day.

Make pasta according to directions on box. Drain and pour sauce on top. Serve immediately, while pasta is hot.

Susie's notes: I used sliced green Greek olives and fresh tomatoes. Also, we used tuna packed in water, which worked fine. And finally, although it is excellent with the canned tuna, I think this dish would also be delicious with grilled fresh Ahi in place of the canned tuna.

print story

Before you print this article, please remember that it will remain in our archive for you to visit anytime.
download pdf
(use the pdf document for best printing results!)

Send your comment to:
Reach the reporter at:

Quick Links for LamorindaWeekly.com
send artwork to:
Classified ads
Lamorinda Service Directory
About us and How to Contact us
Letter to the Editor
Send stories or ideas to:
Send sports stories and photos to:
Subscribe to receive a delivered or mailed copy
Subscribe to receive storylinks by email
Our Homes

Copyright Lamorinda Weekly, Moraga CA