Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

What Kinds Of Salads Can You Make In The Fall?

Food52

There are plenty of fall weather produce that you can make into delicious salads.

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Apples

Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.

Pears

It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful, recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities:  Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.

Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice and place them in a water bath–or serve them immediately after slicing.

Grapes

Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and toss them in your favorite salad.

Fennel

Fennel is available from fall through spring and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic vegetable is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The green tops can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even lighter and softer than in its raw state.

Cabbage

Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild tasting cabbages. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking. I have had great success with wrapping the cauliflower in white paper towels before putting it into a ziplock plastic bag.

When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.

Spinach and Kale

When buying greens, make sure they are very fresh. Look for vibrant dark green leaves that are crisp and full, not wilted or yellowish. Go organic when possible. Non-organic spinach, kale and collards are high in pesticides. Certain vegetables are worth buying organic and greens are one of them.

Spaghetti Squash

Look for spaghetti squash with a firm, dry rind, free of soft spots and cracks. Squash should be heavy for its size  with a firm, dry, rounded stem, which helps keep out bacteria. Store squash in a cool, dry place (preferably 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 3 months. Refrigeration will make the squash spoil quickly, but squash can be stored in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks.

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Spaghetti-Squash Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-pound) spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, 3 ounces
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted green olives, such as Cerignola
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Greek feta cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the spaghetti squash and cook until it is al dente, about 12 minutes; drain. Place the spaghetti squash halves cut side down on a rack and let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread the sliced almonds on a pie plate and toast them in the oven for about 7 minutes, until lightly golden. In a food processor, combine the chopped olives with the sliced scallions, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil and pulse until finely chopped.

Working over a medium bowl and using a fork, scrape the spaghetti squash into the bowl, separating the strands. Add the dressing along with the crumbled feta and toasted almonds and season with salt and white pepper. Toss the spaghetti squash salad and serve warm.

Spinach Salad with Smoked Chicken:: Apple:: Walnuts:: and Bacon

Spinach, Chicken, Apple, Walnut and Bacon Salad

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 pound sliced bacon
  • 4 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound cooked and sliced boneless chicken breast
  • 1 pound spinach, stems removed, leaves washed (about 9 cups)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Directions

Heat the oven to 350F°. Toast the walnuts until golden brown on a cookie sheet, about 8 minutes. Let cool.

In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and then crumble it.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil.

In a large bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of the dressing with the chicken. Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the chicken absorbs the dressing. Add the walnuts, bacon, spinach, onion, apple and about half of the remaining dressing and toss. Pass the remaining dressing to add to the salad, if needed.

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Seafood Cabbage Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 head fresh broccoli
  • 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 pound crabmeat or shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Cut the florets off the head of broccoli and reserve the stalks for another recipe, such as soup. Cut the florets into small pieces

In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, honey, white wine vinegar, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt. black pepper and cayenne.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, and crab. Toss mixture with dressing. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Apple and Zucchini Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large Red Delicious apples, diced
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Leaf lettuce

Directions

Combine oil and next 6 ingredients in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously.

Combine apples, bell pepper, zucchini and cucumber in a salad bowl; toss with dressing. Serve on individual lettuce-lined serving plates.

Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad with Soy Cheese

Fennel, Pear and Walnut Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • Small chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground fennel seeds

Directions

To make the dressing:

Combine the walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice and agave syrup in a small bowl and mix well. Add the fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well. Taste and season according to your preference for salt and pepper

Slice the core off the bottom of the fennel. Cut the fennel bulb in half, and slice very thinly or shave using a mandolin.

If your pears are organic, you can leave the skin on, if desired, otherwise, peel the pears then slice thinly.

Mix the pears and fennel slices together and mix in half of the dressing to coat the ingredients evenly and retard discoloration.

Divide the salad onto four individual plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts and shaved cheese on top of the salad.

Serve the salad with the remaining dressing on the side.

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Cooking With Pumpkin

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Except for a Halloween display and its use in Thanksgiving pies, pumpkin is rarely served in the US. On the other hand, Italians, who grow a great deal of pumpkins, serve it in a number of ways. Cucurbitaceae, the genus that includes pumpkins, squashes and edible gourds, has nourished people for centuries.

Of all of Italy’s gastronomically diverse 20 regions, none utilizes the pumpkin the way the city of Venice does. Pumpkin, what the Venetians call zucca  or”suca”, lasts through the cold weather and keeps until spring.

Marina di Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh’-jah),  is Italy’s best known pumpkin. Dense, flavorful and silky, this pumpkin weighs about 4 lbs.  Called “suca baruca” (warty pumpkin) in Venetian dialect, this slightly squashed sphere with gnarled, dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh is rich and sweet after cooking. Once, vendors walked around the streets of Venice balancing wooden planks piled high with roasted pumpkin on their shoulders, hawking, “suca baruc”, to eager schoolchildren or anyone else wanting a sugary snack.

The “suca” criers are gone, replaced by souvenir peddlers, but Chioggia pumpkins have become universally loved in Italy and beyond, and vendors with their big golden wedges of pumpkin still sell in the markets from the Rialto to Sicily. There are other types of pumpkins that are long, such as the Violina from Ferrara (a variety of Butternut squash) with rugged skin. Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. This is the reason why Butternut squash is called “pumpkin” in Italy.

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pumpkin3The Chioggia’s ancient signature dish, suca in saor, is sweet-and-sour pumpkin. Slices of pumpkin are salted in a colander, as for eggplant, to remove excess moisture. Next they are dredged in flour and fried in olive oil until crisp. Then they are layered with sautéed onions, raisins, toasted pine nuts and white wine vinegar. The dish is chilled for several days before serving it as an appetizer.

The US could grow Marina di Chioggia pumpkin, if there was a demand for it, though its sheer size would discourage shipping it to different markets. Widely available, however, are pie pumpkins, butternut squash and Calabaza that can be used in for Italian sweet and savory dishes or pies.

Overall, the Cucurbitaceae family’s bland and its compact flesh makes these squash an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet recipes the Italians cook. The blossoms are prepared in a variety of unusual ways, while the pulp is made into soup, risotto, pasta and gnocchi, to name just a few dishes.

They can also be used for savory pumpkin tarts with prosciutto and sweet versions made with pumpkin-honey-orange filling in a walnut-flour crust.

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Italian Squash Stew

The combination of fresh pumpkin, black dry-cured olives, garlic and tomatoes may sound unusual, but it is a very aromatic dish. Pumpkin or squash alone is bland, but the dry-cured olives and garlic give it great flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato purée, or ½ cup tomato paste mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 medium-sized butternut or Hubbard squash or 1 small pumpkin (about 1½ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 20 black dry-cured olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and garlic together until the garlic is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, stir and bring slowly to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Add the squash, olives, thyme and 3/4 cup water. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.

Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat gently before serving.

This dish can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  onions, chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced into half rounds
  • 1 29-ounce can of pumpkin or 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne to taste
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook and stir until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Mix well. If using fresh pumpkin, cook until it softens slightly.

Add chicken broth , sage and thyme. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the broth thickens.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Stir the sausage into the soup and heat.

Serve the soup with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese on top.

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Pumpkin Pasta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for pasta water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup half & half or whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer. Add salt and the rigatoni and boil until al dente.

Dice the onion and garlic.

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sauté for about five minutes, until the onion and garlic are translucent and just starting to brown.

Combine the salt, Italian seasoning and flour. Add to the onions and garlic and carefully stir to incorporate. Next, add the pumpkin puree to the pan, stirring it together. Add the half & half or milk to the mixture. Give it a gentle stir until incorporated and remove the pan from the heat.

Drain the pasta and place it in a large baking dish. Add the pumpkin sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan cheese over the pasta and place the dish in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is hot in the center of the baking dish and the cheese has melted.

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Pumpkin Bread Stuffing for Roast Chicken or Pork

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups day old country bread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Cut pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, thyme and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.

Meanwhile, crumble the bread into a large bowl and add the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the beaten egg and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.

Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

To serve, cut stuffing into squares and serve with roasted meat.

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Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 2 whole graham crackers, enough to make a scant 1/3 cup crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or hazelnuts
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery:

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling

Beat together with a mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch. Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving

Italian Treasures – The Ligurian Islands

There are five islands in the Ligurian Sea and all are protected nature reserves or part of the collection of Italian national parks. The Ligurian Islands are characterised by their small or even tiny size and by their vicinity to the coast. These islands share two common features: their well-preserved Mediterranean vegetation with rare surviving species and the presence of ruined abbeys and monasteries dating back to the late Roman times.

Palmaria

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A ferry service takes visitors to the island of Palmaria, which is a regional park: a protected area which is rich in natural beaches, cliffs, vegetation and caves that can only be reached by boat. From a tourist point of view, the island of Palmaria is the biggest and the most popular of the La Spezia Archipelago and every year thousands of tourists choose to visit its beautiful, uncontaminated beaches and crystalline waters.

It is close to the town of Portovenere, separated only by a narrow strait called Le bocche. The Palmaria island probably takes its name from the term “balma” which means cave, rather than from the presence of dwarf palms. The island offers many different landscapes: the eastern part is densely covered with Mediterranean scrub and the western side is characterized by steep sea cliffs that reach (188 m) over 600 feet high.The island also contains many interesting sights, such as the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave) in the western side which can be reached only by boat and the Grotta dei Colombi (Cave of Pigeons) accessible only with climbing ropes. Another noteworthy site is an abandoned quarry situated in the southern part of the island called Pozzale, which was used for mining black marble with gold streaks.

Tino

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The island of Tino lies beyond Palmaria. It is a military zone and is only open to visitors once a year on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio, the hermit who lived on the island in the tenth century.The area measures about 127,000 square meters and presents a triangular and rocky shape, with dense vegetation made up of maritime pines, live oaks, myrtles, mastics and strawberry trees.

A military lighthouse is located on a 400 foot (122 m) high cliff and has been a guide for thousands of boats, ships and vessels. On the eastern side there’s also a small port, the only landing-place for visitors. Nearby, there’s an archaeological area with ruins dating back to the Roman Age which prove the presence of ancient monastic settlements. In addition, on the northern coast, are the ruins of a monastery, whose construction probably dates back to 11th century.

Although the island is a military area, every year on September 13th the day of the patron St. Venerio, the island can be visited by tourists and, in addition, it is also possible to visit it with excursions organized by the Park. On the other days of the year it is strictly forbidden to land there.

Tinetto

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The island of Tinetto is the smallest one in the La Spezia Archipelago and is separated from Tino by just a few submerged rocks. The area is about half a hectare and doesn’t exceed 55 feet (17 meters) in height. Tino island lacks vegetation, with the exception of some Mediterranean shrubs and it hosts a rare subspecies of wall lizard, which is not present in any other corner of the world.

Tinetto had the first monastic settlement that was built in the 6th century. but it was destroyed by the Saracens. On the southern side, a small oratory remains intact along with a church with two naves to which a second oratory and the monks’ cells were linked.

Gallinara

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The island of Gallinara takes its name from the wild hens (Gallina = hen in Italian) which once lived there.The island has a surface of 0.23 sq. miles and lies less than a mile from the coast, near Albenga. It is a small Island and sheltered St. Martin of Tours between 356 and 360, who was escaping from Milan in order to avoid the Aryan persecutions. It became a center for monks and subsequently, the Benedictines. The monastery extended its influence into the Riviera di Ponente in 11th century but, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the abbey gradually fell into decay. Today, the island preserves the monastery ruins, the 16th century tower and the little neo-gothic church.

The Island, with its rare Mediterranean vegetation and its uncontaminated environment has become a Regional Natural Park. The Herring Gulls chose this place to nest without being disturbed, creating one of the largest colonies in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. The less steep northern coast used to be a landing-place for the Roman ships, whose important discoveries are safeguarded in the Albenga Museum. Visitors can find Mediterranean Paleolithic flower species, rare reptiles and an unpolluted sea environment. Sea beds host several interesting and, in some cases, rare species of animal and vegetative life. The island’s vertical rock is characterized by formations of Coralligeno, whereas the northern area shows a wide area of oceanic Posidonia, a genus of flowering plants. The area surrounding the whole island is a marine conservation area. The only mooring place is on the north-western side. Its 1.86 miles coastline is steep, but the seabed is beautiful and famous for the presence of very rare black coral.

Bergeggi

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The little island of Bergeggi is a mile from the small promontory of Punta Predani. It is part of a regional protected area and it has a medium high rocky coast which is a little over 170 feet (53 meters) high. The natural environment includes the Mediterranean scrub and other species named campanula sabatia and euphorbia dendroides.The surrounding marine area was included among the conservation areas for the presence of important biological species in its sea beds.

The island has several signs which prove human settlement occurred on the island during the Roman age. One can find a very ancient circular sighting tower and the ruins of a Roman church dedicated to St. Eugenio, which dates back to the fourth century. In 992, the bishop of Savona ordered the construction of a monastery on the island to pay homage to the saint and it was given as a gift to the Colombian monks of Lérins. Today, the ruins of the monastery remain intact. Recently, a private villa was built on the island, but now it is empty and abandoned.

On the western part of the island, a pifferaio (Pied piper), a metal statue which represents a sitting human figure playing a wind instrument can be seen. According to reports, the statue represents a shepherd who’s calling a little goat from the gardens of the promontory, Torre del mare.

In all the areas, it is strictly forbidden to do any activity that might disturb the animal and plant life, such as bathing, navigation, anchorage, mooring, use of water motors, water skiing, underwater fishing, fishing or aquaculture.

The Cuisine of Liguria

The Mediterranean diet combines certain ingredients with the climate, traditions and cultures of the Mediterranean countries. Olive oil, pasta, fruit, vegetables, fish, some meat, legumes and wine are the basis of the Mediterranean diet. The word “diet” come from the Greek “diaita” that means “way of living”. Since the 1960’s, scientific research has proved that the Mediterranean people enjoy better health conditions than much of the western world.

Italy is one of the major consumers of olive oil and pasta in the world. Moreover every region can boast different types of pasta produced locally and olive oil is produced throughout much of the country. Liguria produces extra virgin olive oil that bears the certification of “origine protetta” (i.e., protected origin) and is characterised by precise qualities according to its production areas. Extra virgin olive oil that is produced in Western Liguria is characterised by a fruity aroma with hints of almond and apple and a low acidity. The oil of Western Liguria is extracted from the Taggiasca olives that are small and dark whose cultivation was introduced into Liguria by the Benedictine monks many centuries ago.

Typical foods of the Ligurian cuisine include stuffed vegetables, salads and home-made pasta (e.g., ravioli and trofie) with pesto sauce. One can also find “rabbit with Vermentino”, “dried cod brand de cujun”, “torta verde” (rice and vegetables cooked in a thin sheet of pastry) or pizzas – such as “Sardenara” with tomatoes, anchovies, olives and extra virgin olive oil.

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Leek and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

This Ligurian tart is prepared by chef Fausto Oneto at Ristorante U’ Giancu in Rapallo.

For the dough:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick)unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 ounces smoked Mozzarella or smoked Scamorza, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a round 16-inch pizza pan with low sides with olive oil.

Make the dough: Combine the flour, salt, milk, and olive oil on a counter. Add a little more milk if the dough is dry, or a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Knead 30 seconds, or until smooth, and wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the leeks and milk, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and the milk has evaporated. Add the Parmigiano, smoked Mozzarella and salt, and cool to room temperature. Adjust the salt, if needed.

Roll out the dough until it is very thin on a lightly floured counter (it should measure about 22 inches in diameter) and line the prepared pan with it, letting excess dough hang over the sides of the pan. Spoon in the leek filling. Use the overhanging dough to create a pretty border around the tart.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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Pasta with Mediterranean Herbs

Maria Rosa Costa owns the renowned Ristorante Rosa overlooking the fishing town of Camogli. Here is her recipe for pasta with Mediterranean herbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 4 sage leaves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep saute pan over a high heat. Add the rosemary, sage and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and cook 10 minutes, adding a little water, if needed.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shells and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir the pasta into the rosemary sauce and add the Parmigiano. Add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to dilute the sauce and saute until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Adjust the salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve hot.

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Ligurian Style Snapper with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 (6-ounce) pieces snapper fillet
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lightly toasted and ground fennel seeds
  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 3/4 pounds ripe but firm tomatoes, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in each of 2 baking dishes, each large enough to hold 4 pieces of fish with space in between. Put the dishes in the oven to heat the oil, but don’t let it get to the smoking point.

With a sharp utility or boning knife, make a few shallow slices through the skin of each snapper fillet to keep them from curling in the hot oil. Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel. Place the fish in the hot oil, skin side down, to coat with the oil, then immediately turn with a fish spatula so that the skin side is up. The oil is the correct temperature, if you hear a light sizzle when the fish is added.

Divide the olives between the dishes, scattering them around the fish, then splash equal amounts of wine into each dish.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fish is slightly firm and starts to flake when the tip of a knife is inserted into the flesh. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then divide them between the baking dishes, making sure they fall between the pieces of fish and into the hot pan juices. The tomatoes just need to get slightly wilted in the hot pans.

With a fish spatula, transfer the fish to warmed plates or a serving platter. Toss the basil in the olives and tomatoes and when the leaves are coated with the pan juices, spoon the mixture over the fish.

Italian-hazelnuislandcake

Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with oil.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then rub in a clean dish towel to remove the skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in a food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and lemon zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

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Time To Get The Soup Pot Out

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Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

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Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

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Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

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Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.

The Fall Farmers’ Market

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Look for these fall fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and in produce departments for the best flavor (and greatest value) in season. Specific crops and harvest dates of fall produce will depend, of course, on your region’s climate.

Apples are one of those fruits people have forgotten have a season. But they do, and in the Northern Hemisphere they’re harvested late summer through fall.

Artichokes produce a second, smaller crop in the fall that tends to produce small to medium artichokes.

Arugula is a cool weather peppery green harvested at different times in different places (winter in warm climates, summer in cool ones) but grows in many places during autumn.

Beets are in season in temperate climates fall through spring. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached.

Broccoli can be grown year-round but is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli rabe, rapini is a more bitter, a leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk and, if you see them for sale that way, snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer than once they’re cut.

Cabbage – the cooler the weather when it’s harvested, the sweeter it tends to taste.

Carrots are harvested year-round in temperate areas. Unusual varieties are harvested during the carrot’s natural season, which is late summer and fall.

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter.

Chard like all greens, turns bitter when it gets too hot. Chard is best harvested in late summer or early fall in colder areas, and fall through spring in warmer regions.

Fennel’s natural season is from fall through early spring.

Figs have a short second season in late fall (the first harvest comes in summer) just in time for Thanksgiving.

Grapes (early fall) ripen towards the end of summer and the harvest continues into fall.

Green beans tend to be sweetest and most tender during their natural season, from mid-summer into fall in most regions.

Kohlrabi (late fall) comes into season by the end of fall, but stays at its sweet best into winter.

Mushrooms, other than morels, are in-season in summer through fall.

Okra (early fall) needs heat to grow, so a nice long, hot summer in warmer climates brings out its best. Look for firm, plump pods in late summer and early fall.

Onions come from storage all year round but most onions are harvested in late summer through the fall.

Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Pears have a season that runs from mid-summer well into winter, depending on the variety and region.

Peppers (early fall) – both sweet and spicy- are harvested in late summer and early fall.

Persimmons are available for a short window in the fall and early winter – look for bright, heavy-feeling fruits.

Pomegranates only ripen in warmer climates. They are in season starting in October and are usually available fresh through December.

Pumpkins are the most common winter squash and come into season in September in most areas.

Quinces are an under-appreciated fruit. Bright and tart, quince jellies and desserts are a fall and early winter favorite.

Radicchio, like all chicories, is more sweet and less bitter when the weather is cool.

Sweet potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They are available from local sources year-round in warmer areas; from late summer through winter other places.

Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter squash come into season in early fall and usually last well into winter.

Zucchini have a harvest season from summer into fall in most climates.

Cooking From The Fall Market

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Roasted Fennel Soup with Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

  • 1 fennel bulb (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped white onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 – 14 1/2 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup half-and-half, light cream or evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Ground white pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 recipe Homemade Croutons (optional), recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut off and discard fennel stalks, reserving some of the feathery tops. Remove any wilted outer layers from the bulb; cut a thin slice from the  base of bulb. Cut bulb into 1/2-inch slices, removing the core. Snip feathery tops; set aside.

In a 13x9x2-inch baking pan combine fennel slices and onion. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast, uncovered, about 25 minutes or just until vegetables are tender.

Transfer roasted vegetables to a large saucepan. Stir in broth and potato. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until potato is tender. Cool slightly.

Transfer vegetable mixture, one-third at a time, to a blender, food processor or use a hand immersion blender. Process until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half, lemon juice, and cumin. Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with white pepper and additional salt.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet cook fennel seeds over medium-high heat about 3 minutes or until light brown and fragrant, stirring frequently.

Top each serving with fennel tops, toasted fennel seeds and, if desired, Homemade Croutons.

To Make Ahead:

Prepare as directed and cool soup slightly. Transfer soup to an airtight container. Cover and chill for up to 2 days. Place fennel tops and toasted fennel seeds in separate resealable plastic bags. Chill fennel tops for up to 2 days and store fennel seeds at room temperature for up to 2 days. To serve, transfer soup to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve as directed above.

Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cubed Italian  bread
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt

Directions

Spread cubed bread in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Stir together olive oil, black pepper and kosher salt; pour over bread cubes, tossing to coat. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Stir; bake for 8 to 10 minutes more or until crisp and brown. Makes 2 cups.

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Beet and Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large beets (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/3 cup salted pistachios, chopped
  • 1 green apple, thinly sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a baking dish, lightly drizzle the beets and thyme with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast until the beets are tender, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Let cool, then peel the beets and cut them into thin slices.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil until emulsified. Add the horseradish and season with salt and pepper; toss with the beets and pistachios. Transfer the beets to a platter, top with the apple and serve.

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Healthy Chicken and Mushroom Fricassee

Serve with the roasted carrots below.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 oz white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 cup leeks, split into quarters, then sliced into small squares and rinsed well
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, rinsed and diced
  • 1 cup pearl onions, raw or frozen
  • 3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb skinless chicken legs or thighs (4 whole legs, split, or 8 thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh herbs (such as parsley and chives), rinsed, dried and minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lowfat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 º F.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed roasting or braising pan (a large sauté pan with a metal handle).

Add mushrooms to the pan and cook until golden brown, about 3–5 minutes. Add leeks, potatoes, celery and pearl onions and continue to cook until the vegetables become soft, about 3–5 additional minutes. Add chicken broth to the pan and bring to a boil.

Add chicken to the pan, cover, and place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender when pierced with a fork (or a meat thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 165 ºF).

When the chicken is cooked, remove them from the pan to serving bowl and keep warm. Return the pan to the stove top and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the lemon juice.

In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with the sour cream and add to the pan. Bring back to a boil, stir until mixed and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and pour sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

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Spice & Honey Roasted Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds regular or rainbow carrots, scrubbed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Trim carrots and peel. Halve any large carrots lengthwise.

Line a shallow roasting pan with foil. Evenly spread carrots in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast carrots, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the seasoning mix, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts; cook and stir 3 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Transfer to a small bowl.

Add coriander, sesame and cumin seed to the hot skillet. Cook on medium-high heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Remove spices from heat and transfer to another bowl; cool for 10 minutes.

Using a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle, grind or crush toasted spices until coarsely ground. Add the hazelnuts and salt and pepper, crushing nuts slightly.

Remove carrots from the oven. Drizzle with honey; toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle carrots with the seasoning mixture. Return to the oven; roast 5 to 10 minutes more.

Serve carrots with lemon wedges. Makes 6 servings.

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Fig and Pear Cobbler with Cornmeal-Amaretti Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole amaretti cookies
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups dried Mission figs, halved
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh pears, cored and sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice and finely shredded peel from 1 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups port wine or cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place amaretti cookies in a food processor. Cover and process until finely ground. Add flour, cornmeal, the 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder and salt; cover and pulse with on/off turns to combine. Add butter; cover and pulse with on/off turns until pieces are the size of small peas.

In a large bowl combine butter mixture and the 1-1/4 cups whipping cream, stirring with a fork until the dough comes together. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead gently two or three times until it holds together. Press dough into a 12×8-inch rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the dough into eight rectangles

In a 3-quart rectangular baking dish combine figs and pears. Place the 3/4 cup sugar in a small bowl; add the finely shredded orange peel and use your fingers to rub the peel into the sugar. Stir in cinnamon, coriander and kosher salt. Pour sugar mixture over the fig mixture; gently toss with your hands to combine.

In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Stir in the port and the remaining orange juice; pour evenly over the fruit mixture in the baking dish.

Place dough rectangles on top of the fruit mixture; brush with the 2 tablespoons whipping cream and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the top is browned and juices are bubbly around the edges of the pan. If necessary to prevent over browning, cover loosely with foil for the last 10 to 20 minutes of baking. Remove foil, if using, and cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

A Rosh Hashanah Dinner With An Italian Accent

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The Jewish New Year is one of the most important occasions on the Jewish calendar. A central part of its observance is the Rosh Hashanah dinner, which emphasizes sweet foods in hopeful anticipation of a sweet year. These special foods are incorporated into menus in different ways. Frequently, each is prepared on its own as a cold appetizer. Leeks are often braised with a touch of tomato. Chard is sautéed with garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Italian Jews might include beets among the sweet vegetables and make them into a salad or combine them with potatoes and green beans. Some Moroccan Jews poach the vegetables with raisins or other dried fruit and serve them sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar as a sweet topping for the hearty holiday entrée known as, Couscous with Seven Vegetables. Rosh Hashanah is about traditional symbolic  foods.

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Italy is one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. Jews have been living in Rome, for more than 2,000 years. Italian Jewish cuisine has been inspired by traditional Italian cooking but modified to conform to kosher rules. Italian cuisine has been influenced by Jewish cuisine. Every region in Italy has its own traditions. For example, in Venice, they eat Sarde in Saor, a sweet and sour sardine dish with pine nuts and raisins.

Roman Jews say the blessing over 10 foods and each blessing is a symbol for something or a wish. These include pomegranate (fulfilment), pumpkin (to remove bad judgement), fish (fertility), figs (wish for a sweet New Year), dates (to banish enemies and bring sweetness) and a few others.

It is customary to wish people a sweet New Year on Rosh Hashanah. At the dinner table, these friendly wishes translate into the custom of dipping apple slices into golden honey. It is also customary to eat foods that feature one or both of these foods, including apple cake, honey cake, tzimmes,a root vegetable and dried fruit stew sweetened with honey, and teiglach, a sticky, Old World confection made from bits of dough boiled in honey.

As the Jewish calendar’s New Year’s equivalent, Rosh Hashanah is a great time to hope for a full, round year ahead. That is why one tends to see round or spiral-shaped challahs, instead of the typical braided bread loaves on the Rosh Hashanah dinner table. As an added bonus, challah often comes studded with raisins for an extra dose of sweetness. Pomegranates, the globe shaped fruits packed with overlapping layers of ruby-colored seeds, are commonly incorporated into Rosh Hashanah menus. In addition to being one of the fruits mentioned in the Old Testament, the pomegranate’s many seeds are said to represent both the 613 commandments the Jewish people received from God and their wish to do many good deeds in the coming year.

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, the custom of eating a “new fruit,” is common. A new fruit is a fruit that one has not been eaten in the last year, or that has recently come into season. This custom offers a way to physically taste the newness of the year and is accompanied by a blessing of thanks for reaching the New Year. Pomegranates are often used for this purpose, as are star fruits, ugli fruits, lychees and other less common fruits.

Slowly braised dishes embrace the meditative nature of the holiday. Jewish-style brisket is simple, familiar and always braised. It is Jewish comfort food at its finest. Jewish home cooks tend to keep a tried and true brisket recipe in their back pocket. Some people prefer it flavored with tomato sauce, while others like it sweetened with brown sugar or a cranberry sauce glaze. Still others prefer to take a minimalist approach, using little more than garlic, onion and bay leaves to perfume the meat.

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Risotto with Raisins

The combination of sweet and savory one encounters in many Italian Jewish recipes is quite old and suggests it originated from the first Jewish communities to arrive in Italy — well before the birth of Christ.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (500 g) rice
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) raisins
  • 5 cups (1 1/4 liters) steaming low sodium chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Minced parsley
  • 1 whole clove garlic, smashed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

Sauté the garlic and the parsley in a deep pot in the oil, until the garlic begins to color, then remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard it. Return the pot to the fire.

Sauté the raisins for about a minute, then add the rice and continue sautéing, stirring briskly, for about 5 minutes more.

Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. Continue adding broth and stirring over medium low heat until all the broth has been added.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is done, about 20-25 minutes.

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Italian Beef Brisket

Use a leaner, flat-cut, or first-cut brisket with a layer of fat that’s about 1/8 inch thick. If you can’t find a 6-pound piece, buy 2 smaller pieces. Like most braised dishes, this brisket is best made a day or two ahead.

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • One 6-pound flat-cut brisket
  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (1/2 ounce)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic

Directions

In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper with the thyme, oregano and paprika. Rub the seasonings all over the brisket.

In a medium heatproof bowl, cover the porcini with the hot water and set aside until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid; rinse and coarsely chop them. Reserve the soaking liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat the oil in a large oven proof pan until shimmering. Add the brisket, fat side down, and cook over moderately high heat until well-browned on both sides, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the brisket to a platter and pour off any excess fat from the pan.

Add the wine and chicken stock, then pour in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and stir in the tomatoes, porcini and bay leaves.

Return the brisket to the pan, fat side up. Scatter the onions and garlic over the meat and into the liquid and bring to a boil. Cover, place the pan in the oven and cook for 1 hour.

Uncover and cook for 30 minutes. Spoon the onions on top of the brisket and cook for about 30 minutes longer to brown the onions. Push some of the onions back into the liquid, cover and braise for another 2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender.

Transfer the brisket to a carving board and cover loosely with foil.

Simmer the sauce for a few minutes and season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves.

Carve the brisket across the grain into thin slices and arrange on a large, warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The seasoned brisket can be refrigerated overnight before cooking.

If cooking the brisket a day ahead, let the meat cool in the sauce before refrigerating. When ready to serve, skim the fat from the surface and slice the brisket; then rewarm the meat in the sauce.

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Basil and Balsamic Beets

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beets
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In 13″ by 9″ roasting pan, toss beets with olive oil. Roast in a preheated 450 degree F. oven 1 hour or until tender. Cool beets; peel and discard the skins.

Dice beets; toss with basil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and salt. This dish may be served at room temperature.

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Mashed Pumpkin (Zucca Disfatta)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, very finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley, for ganish

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onion in it. Add the diced pumpkin, parsley, salt and cook over low heat, covered, stirring often, until it’s so soft that it can be mashed easily. Mash the squash with a fork or potato masher and turn into a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley..

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Italian-Jewish Pastries (Precipizi)

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white rum or other clear spirits
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions

Mix together the eggs, flour, sugar, olive oil and rum and lightly knead until a smooth, soft dough forms.

Shape the dough into one inch balls.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan over high heat.

Add the dough balls and fry until golden on all sides, working in batches. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

When the dough balls have all finished cooking, wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and add the honey.

When the honey is hot, add the dough balls back into the pan and stir to coat.

Pour onto a greased baking sheet and allow to cool.

Place in a round serving bowl and top with powdered sugar, if you wish.

Italian Treasures – Frasassi Caves

Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.


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