Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Frozen Desserts

icecream

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”

A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.

No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

Types of Frozen Treats

  • Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
  • Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
  • Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
  • Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
  • Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
  • Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
  • Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
  • Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
  • Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.

How healthy are these treats?

While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!

Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.

In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.

Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.

If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).

So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.

  • 120 calories or less
  • 4 g of total fat or less
  • 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
  • 10 mg of cholesterol or less
  • 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)

Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.

If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.

Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.

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Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.

Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

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Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

Directions

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.

Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.

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Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut

10 servings

Ingredients

  • One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
  • 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.

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Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.

Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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Sherbet Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • 10 5-ounce paper cups
  • 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 10 flat wooden craft sticks

Directions

Arrange cups on a baking pan.

In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.

Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.

Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops

 

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Make Your Own Condiments

condiments

There are just about as many different types of condiments as there are different types of food, with various cultures having versions that are unique or particularly important to the people of that culture. Common examples of condiments include ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing, soy sauce, barbecue sauce and relish. Often added to a food to introduce new flavors or enhance existing ones, a condiment is seldom served or eaten by itself and does not typically contribute much nutritional value.

Many condiments are culturally connected to different types of foods. French fries are often eaten in America with ketchup, while in Belgium they are often served with mayonnaise and, in the United Kingdom, they are commonly sprinkled with vinegar. Similarly, certain types of foods are often served with specific condiments, such as soy sauce being commonly served with Asian dishes and grated cheese, such as Parmesan, being a staple condiment of Italian cuisine.

Condiments and spreads add that little kick to many dishes and, whether you’re eating hummus as a dip for vegetables or blue cheese sauce on chicken wings, these additions have become essential accompaniments. Sometimes, though, those little additions aren’t doing you any favors. Most of them aren’t very good for you. Most condiments, like ketchup, have a ton of added sugar and very little nutritional value. Even bottled salad dressing usually has a lot of fat and sugar in it!

Not all condiments are dangerous (especially when they’re made at home), but added ingredients can cause problems. While ’50 percent less sodium’ or ‘less fat’ seems appealing, these labels can get confusing. It’s important to understand how to read labels and not just compare them with other products. Light salad dressings, for example, can get tricky, according to Women’s Health Magazine, since most people assume ‘light’ refers to healthier, they often end up using more. Some lowfat condiments add extra sugar or salt to make up for fat and taste.

Sometimes, condiments may be the reason your meals are unhealthy. As far as nutrition goes, most of us already know that adding a few dabs of ketchup on your burger won’t kill you. Getting rid of condiments and sauces altogether isn’t the answer either, instead, look for healthier options and make homemade recipes as alternatives. Try the recipes below for some healthy homemade versions of your favorite condiments.

Homemade Ketchup

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Makes about 3 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 28 ounce can of Italian plum tomatoes with juices
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Place the olive oil in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the spices, stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, paste and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer until reduced by half. This will take about 20 minutes.

Add the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir and cook over very low heat for 10 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes, then run through a food processor until very smooth.

Return to the saucepan. Season to taste with salt. Gently reheat over low heat for 8 minutes.

Pour into a sterilized jar and place in the refrigerator until needed. Use extra ketchup to make some of the sauces below.

Seafood Cocktail Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (or more if you want it hotter)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, recipe below 
  • Large pinch of Kosher salt

Directions

Mix all ingredients together. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or horseradish to taste.

Chill until ready to use – for best results allow sauce to chill at least 1 hour before serving.

Peach Barbecue Sauce

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About 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon onion salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups homemade ketchup (recipe above)
  • 1 cup peach purée (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cubed and well chilled

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

(You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated.

This sauce freezes well.

Peach Puree

Makes 1 cup, enough for the recipe above.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Process peaches, sugar and water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth.

Herbed Honey Mustard

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds 
  • 3 tablespoons dry yellow mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or any herb vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme 

Directions

Put the seeds, dry mustard, and water in a bowl. Let this mixture stand 2 hours or until the seeds become soft. Stir the mixture every 15 minutes.

When the seeds are soft, put the mixture in the food processor and run until the mixture is smooth. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, honey, salt and herbs. Place in a lidded jar and allow to stand at room temperature to mellow (about 1 1/2 hours).

Store the jar in the refrigerator. It will keep for several months.

Olive Oil Mayonnaise

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Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 cup light olive oil (Not extra virgin.)

Directions

Place the egg and lemon juice in a blender or food processor bowl. Let them come to room temperature together, about 30-60 minutes.

Add the dry mustard, salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Blend until well mixed – about 20 to 30 seconds.

Incorporate the remaining 1 cup oil into the mixture. To do this, you must pour very slowly… the skinniest drizzle you can manage and still have movement in the oil. This takes about three minutes.

If you’re using a blender, you’ll hear the pitch change as the liquid starts to form the emulsion. Eventually, the substance inside the blender will start to look like regular mayonnaise.

Store in the refrigerator.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 1/4 cup pickle relish, see recipe below
  • 1/2 teaspoon capers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce or more to taste (recipe below)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill

Makes about ¾ cup of tartar sauce.

Sweet Pickle Relish

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Great sandwich spread.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Pinch crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 medium or 4 small cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds total), peeled, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion

Directions

Combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, chili flakes and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add cucumbers, bell pepper and onion. Return to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Transfer to jars and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. This mixture will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

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Use these pickles to top your burger.

Ingredients

Makes 3 cups

  • 3 cups thinly sliced cucumbers
  • 1 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions

Place cucumbers and onions in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook and stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over cucumber mixture in the bowl; cool.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. You can, then, transfer the mixture to jars with tight fitting lids and store them in the refrigerator.

Homemade Hot Sauce

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Makes 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces red jalapenos, stems removed but not the seeds and sliced
  • 7 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Directions

Wear gloves to clean the peppers and don’t touch your eyes.

In a large jar, combine the sliced chiles (and seeds), garlic, kosher salt and cider vinegar. Screw the lid on and give it a few little shakes to mix. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight.

The next day, pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan and add the honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stir a few times, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the stove and let the mixture cool to room temperature.

When cool, pour the mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth (this will take a few minutes). Stop and scrape the sides down a couple of times.

Pour into a jar and store it into the refrigerator for up to one month.

Blue Cheese “Hot Wing” Dip

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Makes about 1/1/2 cups

  • 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened and cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons homemade olive oil mayonnaise (recipe above)
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove (or half a large), minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (recipe above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 2 oz good quality crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Pulse the first the 10 ingredients in a food processor 4 times or just until blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl and gently stir in blue cheese.

Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Italian Treasures -The Redheads of Maranello

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Sleek, fast redheads, the Testa Rossas, created by the late Enzo Ferrari: are displayed in the Museo Ferrari in Maranello, Italy in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Museo Ferrari is a Ferrari company museum dedicated to the Ferrari sports car marque. The museum is not purely for cars. On view are trophies, photographs and other historical objects relating to the Italian motor racing industry and the exhibition, also, includes technological innovations, some of which made the transition from racing cars to road cars.

The museum first opened in February 1990, with a new wing added in October 2004. Ferrari, itself, has run the museum since 1995. The total surface area is now 2,500 square meters and the number of annual visitors to the museum is around 180,000. The car exhibits are mostly a combination of Ferrari road and track cars. Many of Ferrari’s most iconic cars from throughout its history are present in the museum.

redheads

The Testarossa was a 12-cylinder mid-engine sports car manufactured by Ferrari, which went into production in 1984, as the successor to the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer. The Pininfarina-designed car was originally produced from 1984 to 1991. Almost 10,000 Testarossas were produced, making it one of the most-produced Ferrari models, despite its high price and exotic design. In 1995, the F512 M retailed for $220,000.

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The Testarossa name, which means “redhead” in Italian, comes from the red-painted cam covers on the engine. The Testarossa was a two-door coupe with a fixed roof and all versions of the Testarossa had power fed through the wheels from a rear-mounted, five-speed manual transmission. The rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout (engine between the axles but behind the cabin) kept the center of gravity in the middle of the car, which increased stability and improved the car’s cornering ability. The original Testarossa was re-engineered in 1992 and released at the Los Angeles Auto Show as a completely new car. The car dropped the TR initials and added the M, which in Italian, stood for modificata (modified) and was the final version of the Testarossa. The F512 M was Ferrari’s last mid-engine 12-cylinder car.

The Testarossa can trace its roots back to the faults of its predecessor. The problems that the Testarossa was conceived to fix, included a cabin that got increasingly hot between the front-mounted radiator and the engine and a lack of luggage space. To fix these problems Ferrari and Pininfarina designed the Testarossa to be larger than its predecessor, the Berlinetta Boxer. With an increased wheelbase, extra storage space behind the seats in the cabin was created. Headroom was also increased with a roofline half an inch taller than the Boxer.

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The spectacular design came from the Pininfarina team. They were led by design chief, Leonardo Fioravanti, the maestro behind many beautiful Ferraris. Being a trained aerodynamicist, Fioravanti applied his know-how to set the aerodynamics layout of the car. This meant the large side intakes were not only a statement of style but actually functional, since they drew in clean air to cool the side radiators and then went upward and left the car through the ventilation holes located at the engine’s tail.

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Pininfarina’s body was a departure from a traditional one. The side strakes, sometimes referred to as “cheese graters” or “egg slicers,” that spanned from the doors to the rear fenders were needed because rules in several countries outlawed large openings on cars. The Testarossa had twin radiators in the back with the engine, instead of a single radiator up-front. In addition, the strakes provided cool air to the rear-mounted side radiators, thus keeping the engine from overheating. The strakes also made the Testarossa wider at the rear than in the front, thus increasing its stability and handling. One unique feature to the design was a single high-mounted rear view mirror on the driver’s side for better road view. The Testarossa used a double wishbone front and rear suspension system. Ferrari, also, improved traction by adding 10-inch-wide alloy rear wheels and four-valve cylinder heads that were finished in red.

The car won many comparison tests and admirers – it was featured on the cover of Road & Track magazine nine times in just five years. Well known Testarossa owners were the English pop singer, Elton John, the French actor, Alain Delon, and the 1989 Ferrari formula 1 Pilot, Gerhard Berger. Jack Nerad of Driving Today states, the Testarossa “… [was] a car designed and built to cash in on an image. And since cashing in was what the Eighties were all about, it was the perfect vehicle for its time. The saving grace was, it was also a damn good automobile.”

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Although successful on the road, the Testarossa did not appear on race tracks. As Ferrari’s range-topper during the 1980s, the car made appearances in numerous video games, most notably the arcade games OutRun and in the TV series, Miami Vice, as Sonny Crockett’s undercover car from season three.

Food and motors are the two true passions of this area of italy.

Symbol of the local cuisine, zampone (stuffed pig trotters) with lentils is cooked not only during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, but all year-round. Among the typical products that have received the DOP quality recognition are the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena with its more sweet-than-sour taste and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Other renowned products are Vignola cherries and Modena pears.

The legendary tortellini, stuffed with pork meat, ham and Parmigiano cheese and the tigella, a flatbread cooked in a wood oven and served with cotechino and a mix of cheeses, are both even better, if paired with the local Lambrusco wine. Among other specialties are Borlengo, “rice bomb” (a rice mould stuffed with stewed pigeon meat) and Bocconcini. Typical desserts are amaretti cookies of San Geminiano, Bensone Cake and Barozzi Cake.

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Eggplant Rolls with Pecorino and Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds
  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Chives to taste
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Slice the eggplant about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle the slices with a pinch of salt and place in a colander. Place the colander on a plate and weight down the eggplant (with a bowl of water, for example). Allow to drain for 15 minutes.

Preheat a grill

Meanwhile, brush both sides of each slice of eggplant with extra virgin olive oil. Grill each slice for no more than two minutes.

Sprinkle the slices with grated Pecorino as they are removed from the grill.

Cover each slice of eggplant with a slice of Prosciutto di Parma and gently roll up. Secure each roll by tying with a chive leaf. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

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Penne with Zucchini and Ricotta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound zucchini, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 pound penne
  • 9 ounces fresh ricotta cheese (1 1/4 cup)
  • Freshly ground black pepper 

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot, reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and basil; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and season with salt.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl. Add zucchini mixture and ricotta; stir to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking liquid and sprinkle generously with pepper.

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Beef Fillet with Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 pounds beef fillet
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Cut the fillet in four slices, 1 – 2 inches thick, depending on the size. Coat with flour, shaking off any excess flour.

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add fillets and season with salt and pepper. Cook on both sides as desired, remove fillets and keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar. Add broth to the pan and cook until the sauce is thick. Pour the sauce over the fillets and serve.

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Bensone Cake

The Bensone Cake (also called Balsone or Bensoun in the local dialect) is like a sponge cake with a crunchy surface and it is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon treat, dipped in milk or tea. But the real “connoisseurs” in the region usually eat it at the end of a meal dipped in Lambrusco wine.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 pounds flour (about 6 ⅓ cups)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (8 oz) butter
  • Grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten for the topping
  • 1/4 cup coarse white sprinkles
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

Directions

In a food processor, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and milk in a stream with the motor running.

Sift flour with baking powder and add grated lemon zest Incorporate flour into the butter mixture.

Turn dough out onto a floured board. Knead well. Shape into an oval loaf with your hands.

Line a baking sheet with oiled parchment paper and place the loaf of dough on the pan.

Brush the surface of the dough with the beaten egg yolk and dust with sugar sprinkles and confectioner’s sugar.

Bake in a preheated 375°F for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Cooking From The Farmers’ Market

My Local Farmers' Market

My Local Farmers’ Market

A farmers’ market is a place where farmers sell their products directly to consumers. Ultra-fresh produce, pastured meat and eggs, artisan cheeses, hand-harvested honey and other fresh, small-batch foods are the hallmark of the best farmers’ markets. With farmers’ markets overflowing with the best of the season’s produce—corn on the cob, tomatoes, squash, stone fruit and more, all at the absolute peak of their ripeness—it’s easy to pull together an elegant, satisfying dinner menu that showcases the summer’s bounty.

If you know a bit of what to expect when you get to the farmers’ market, making decisions at each stall is much easier. Learn what grows in your area and talk to the growers about what will be coming to market in upcoming weeks. In the US, find your local farmers’ markets from United States Department of Agriculture 

  • Markets tend to be less crowded right when they open or just before they close.  For the best selection, go to the farmers’ market early in the day. The best goods go first. Popular-but-limited items may even sell out before the day is done. For the best deals, go to the farmers’ market late in the day. Farmers and other vendors often prefer to discount products instead of loading them back up and taking them home.
  • Some farmers’ market vendors offer bags, but they tend to be thin and flimsy plastic ones that can break under the pressure of any substantial produce purchase. Make sure everything gets home from the farmers’ market by bringing your own sturdy canvas or nylon bags.
  • Although vendors will make change, purchases will go easier and faster if you have small bills with you. Most farmers only take cash at the market.
  • If you find a vegetable that’s new to you and want to give it a try, ask the farmer how to prepare it. For the best tips specifically ask how they like to eat it.

farmersmarket 1

Summer Squash Salad with Arugula, Feta and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 summer squash (medium-sized yellow or green, about 3-4 cups sliced squash)
  • 6 ozs arugula leaves (baby, 3-4 handfuls)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint and parsley)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled

Directions

Zest the lemon and place the zest in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Squeeze the juice from the zested lemon to measure 3 tablespoons. Add lemon juice to the zest, then whisk in the olive oil.

Cut off the ends of the squash and cut in half lengthwise; then cut into very thin slices. Layer the sliced squash into a flat dish and pour 2/3 of the dressing over the squash and season with a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Let squash marinate 15-30 minutes.

Wash baby arugula leaves and spin dry or dry with paper towels. Wash herbs of your choice and spin dry or dry with paper towels and coarsely chop them.

Combine arugula and herbs in bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients. Add marinated squash slices, toss to combine and taste to see if you want to add more dressing, salt or fresh ground black pepper. Arrange salad on individual salad plates, sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese and serve.

farmersmarket 5

Grilled Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • One 14 ounce loaf Italian bread
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 medium tomatoes (1-1/2 lbs total), diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cut bread loaf in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1-inch-thick slices, for a total of 8 slices. Brush slices lightly with olive oil. Grill 2 minutes per side; set aside. Lightly brush onion quarters with olive oil. Grill 5 minutes; rotate and grill another 5 minutes. Cut bread slices into 1-inch cubes.

Cut onion quarters into thin slices. Toss bread, onion, tomatoes, cucumber, garlic and basil in the reserved dressing. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

farmersmarket 6

Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aioli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 pounds firm green tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 6 tablespoons canola oil, for sauteing 

Directions

Aioli

Combine mayonnaise, red peppers and garlic in a processor or blender. Process until well combined and fairly smooth, scraping down sides of the processor halfway through. Transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate until serving.

Tomatoes

Core tomatoes and cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of each and discard. Cut each tomato into three or four 1/4-inch-thick slices and dry on paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

Combine flour and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a shallow dish. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow dish. Whisk together cornmeal, Parmesan, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the black pepper and cayenne in a third shallow dish.

Coat 1/3 of the tomato slices in the seasoned flour, followed by egg, then cornmeal mixture.

Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the coated tomato slices and saute for 2 minutes. Carefully turn over the slices and saute an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack and keep warm in the oven.

Repeat, coating 1/3 of the tomato slices with seasoned flour, egg and cornmeal mixture. Add 2 more tablespoons of the oil to skillet and saute as directed above. Repeat with the last batch of tomatoes and oil. Serve tomatoes warm with the aioli on the side.

farmersmarket 8

Grilled Shrimp and Bean Salad

Serve with cornbread, if desired.

Ingredients

  • 8 (12-inch) skewers
  • 2 pounds peeled, medium-size raw shrimp (21/25 count)
  • Basil Vinaigrette, divided (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 6 cooked bacon slices, crumbled
  • 1 1/3 cups (5 1/2 oz.) shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted almonds

Directions

Soak wooden skewers in water to cover 30 minutes or use metal skewers.

Meanwhile, combine shrimp and 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and chill 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Preheat outdoor grill to 350°F to 400°F (medium-high) heat.

Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain, pat dry, and place in a large bowl.
Remove shrimp from the marinade, discarding marinade. Thread shrimp onto skewers.

Grill shrimp, covered with grill lid, 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from the skewers and toss with green beans, crumbled bacon, Parmesan cheese, roasted almonds and remaining 3/4 cup Basil Vinaigrette.

Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup olive oil

Directions

Whisk together basil, balsamic vinegar, shallots, garlic, brown sugar, pepper and salt until blended. Gradually add olive oil, whisking constantly, until blended.

farmersmarket 2

 

Torta Salata di Zucchine e Cipolle (Zucchini, Onion and Ricotta Pie)

A savory summer pie from Italy’s Piedmont region is made with zucchini and onions, but feel free to substitute with peppers, eggplant, squash—even tomatoes.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 6 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and shallot until golden, 4–6 minutes. Add zucchini; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; let cool. Stir in pecorino, ricotta, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10″ pie plate with butter; coat with bread crumbs. Spread zucchini mixture evenly over the top and bake until golden on the top and slightly puffed, 40–45 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

farmersmarket 7

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved lengthwise, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar

Directions

Preheat outdoor grill to medium-high. Combine oil, basil, marjoram and salt in a small bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the mixture in another small bowl; set aside.

Coat both sides of bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, tomato and onion pieces with olive oil cooking spray. Grill the vegetables, turning once, until soft and lightly charred in spots, about 5 minutes per side for the pepper, 4 minutes per side for the eggplant and zucchini and 3 minutes per side for the tomatoes and onion.

Rub the tablespoon of reserved herb mixture on both sides of the chicken and sprinkle with pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, transfer the grilled vegetables to a cutting board and chop into 1-inch pieces. Return to the bowl and toss with the vinegar and the remaining herb mixture. Serve the grilled chicken over the vegetables.

farmersmarket 3

Summer Berry Dessert

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 (16-ounce) container organic strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic blackberries
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic blueberries
  • 1 (6-ounce) container organic raspberries

Directions

Crush mint and sugar in a mortar and pestle until well-blended (or place sugar and mint in a blender or food processor and pulse until well-blended). Place mint-sugar in a large bowl and add strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Gently toss until evenly combined.

Let the fruit sit for an hour. The berries will release some of their juices and soften.

farmersmarket 4

Plum Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes, divided
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for baking dish
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb Italian plums or other firm plums, pitted and cut into eighths
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°F . Coat an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with cooking spray and dust with flour; set aside.

Whisk the together the 1 cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add 4 tablespoons chilled butter and rub into flour mixture until pea-size pieces form.

Mix together milk, vanilla and egg in a small bowl; add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.

Transfer dough to the prepared baking dish and spread over the bottom of the dish; arrange plum slices in rows on top of the dough.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over plums.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and drizzle over plums.

Bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Healthy Summer Dinner Menus

summerdinner

Being outside, we need to be aware of dehydration, skin sensitivities and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that may happen to our bodies during the peak of summer. Nature has a bounty of different fruits and vegetables that are just right for the summer. These vegetables and fruits are high in water content and are light on the stomach and easy to digest.

Easy to digest food items are best for the summer, as they do not stay in the stomach for long and do not make you feel heavy or lethargic. Junk food, fries, fried foods and other foods that are high in fat content will make you feel excessively hot after a short period of time. This is because fat in the body acts like an insulator for body heat. On top of drinking water, fresh juices and smoothies, eating fresh fruit can also help your body stay energized and hydrated.

Foods that are especially good for you in the summer are:

Beverages – Potassium rich water with lemon and coconut water
Fruits – Mango, watermelon, melons, cherries, berries and banana
Vegetables – Squash, cucumber, corn and tomatoes

For summer dinners forget about processed foods. Instead, use fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a balanced meal that includes vegetables, salad, proteins and healthy snacks like hummus.

  • Use legumes — beans, peas or lentils — to make salads or side dishes. They are high in fiber and vitamins and are much healthier than sugar-loaded baked beans or calorie-laden mayo-based potato or macaroni salads.
  • Use healthy oils and vinegars to add flavor to salads. For example, blend olive with different types of vinegar or citrus juices.
  • For snacks, try raw unsalted nuts, marinated olives, guacamole and sliced vegetables.
  • For grilling, choose lean cuts of meat and trim away excess fat. Don’t forget fish – it is wonderful on the grill. Be sure to add vegetables and fruit to the grill. Good choices include red, yellow and green peppers, green or yellow squash, mushrooms, red onions and peaches.

Try these dinner menus to get you started.

Dinner One: 6 servings

  • Tuna Zucchini Cakes
  • Remoulade Sauce 
  • Grilled Corn Salad

Tuna Zucchini Cakes

summerdinner1

Yield: 6 servings: 2 patties each.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 12 ounces fresh cooked tuna or canned tuna in water, chopped
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten or 1 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 2/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons seafood seasoning (Old Bay)

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook and stir until tender. Remove from heat.

Add tuna, 1 cup bread crumbs, zucchini, eggs, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper to onion mixture; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape into twelve 1/2-inch thick patties; coat with remaining bread crumbs.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add 6 patties; cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and heated through. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. Serve with Remoulade Sauce.

Healthy Remoulade Sauce

Makes 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons drained capers, rinsed
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions
Whisk mayonnaise, yogurt, mustard, lemon juice, anchovy paste and cayenne in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in capers and parsley.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Grilled-Corn Salad

summerdinner5

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
  • 6 fresh ears corn (with husks)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 medium sweet bell peppers, seeded and halved
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
  • Romaine leaves

Directions

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the hot pepper sauce. Cover and shake well; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Peel back the corn husks but do not remove them. Gently rinse corn and scrub with a stiff brush to remove silks. Spread butter over corn. Sprinkle with rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Fold husks back around corn and tie with kitchen string or strips of husk.

For a charcoal grill, grill corn on the grate of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 20 to 25 minutes or until corn kernels are tender, turning and rearranging ears occasionally. Add sweet peppers to the grill the last 8 to 10 minutes of grilling, turning often to brown evenly.

(For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place corn and sweet peppers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed.). Cool corn for 30 minutes.

Remove string; peel back husks. Cut kernels from the cobs. Remove stems from sweet peppers and cut peppers into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl combine corn, peppers, cheese and dressing; toss lightly to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature over a bed of romaine leaves.

Dinner Two: 4 servings

  • Grilled Garlic Shrimp
  • Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil
  • Sliced Tomatoes Drizzled with Italian Dressing

Grilled Garlic Shrimp

summerdinner 3

Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
Combine the oil, shrimp and garlic in a plastic ziplock bag. Let the shrimp marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Turn it from time to time to let the marinade cover all of the shrimp.

Heat an outdoor grill to medium and remove the shrimp from the refrigerator. Place the shrimp on metal or soaked wooden skewers and brush with the marinade from the bag. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the skewers on the grill and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Make sure the heat isn’t too high. Turn the shrimp over, brush with the marinade and cook for another minute.

Spaghetti with Fresh Lemon & Basil

summerdinner 2

4 servings

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest from the juiced lemons
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper freshly ground
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

Whisk the oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large pasta serving bowl to blend. Set the lemon sauce aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce and toss with the basil and lemon zest. Add enough of the reserved cooking liquid, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well to moisten the pasta.

Transfer to individual bowls and serve with extra Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Dinner Three: 2 servings

  • Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
  • Baby Lettuces with Tomato Dressing 
  • Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

 

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

summerdinner 10

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet red bell peppers
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cooked rice (white or brown)
  • 3/4 cup canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cut peppers in half lengthwise; remove seeds. Place peppers in an ungreased shallow microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until tender. (You may also boil the peppers.)

Combine the tomatoes, rice, beans, corn, onions, Italian seasoning and pepper flakes in a mixing bowl; spoon into the pepper halves. Place in a baking pan just large enough to hold the peppers. Sprinkle with cheeses.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the peppers uncovered for 30 minutes.

Baby Lettuces and Green Beans with Tomato Dressing

summerdinner 4

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, cut into eighths

Salad

  • 2 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 2 cups mixed baby lettuces
  • 1/2 cup baby arugula

Directions

In a blender or processor combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and shallot just until combined. Add chopped tomato and process or blend just until the tomato is chopped into small pieces. Set aside. This dressing recipe makes more than you need for this salad.

Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add green beans and cook 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain; run under cold water.

In a serving bowl, combine green beans, lettuce and arugula. Toss with some of the dressing and serve immediately.

Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

summerdinner8

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain coconut water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 small mango (about 10 ounces), peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

Directions

In a small saucepan, combine the coconut water and sugar and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Let the sugar syrup cool.

In a blender or food processor, puree the diced mango with 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup.

Transfer 1/4 cup of the puree to a bowl and whisk in the Greek yogurt, coconut milk, lemon juice and the remaining sugar syrup.

Pour the mixture into a glass baking dish and freeze for 1 hour, until frozen around the edges. Whisk the mixture to break up the clumps and return to the freezer. Freeze for about 2 hours longer, whisking frequently, until the mixture is nearly frozen. Spread the remaining mango puree on top and, using a butter knife, swirl it into the yogurt. Freeze until nearly solid.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the shredded coconut over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until it’s golden, about 3 minutes. Transfer the coconut to a plate and let it cool.

To serve, scoop the frozen yogurt into bowls and top with the toasted coconut. Alternatively, in a tall glass, layer the coconut between small scoops of the frozen yogurt, like a parfait.

Dinner Four: 8 servings

  • Orange Marinated Flank Steak
  • Chopped Salad
  • Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks

Orange Marinated Flank Steak

100_0760

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
  • 2 lb flank steak, fat trimmed
  • 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs mint, for garnish

Directions

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and mint. Add steak to the marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in marinade.

Remove steak from the marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl.

Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.

Lightly grease the grill rack and preheat a charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ash color or preheat a gas grill to high heat.

Place steak on the grill directly over the heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil), for approximately 4 minutes, turning once and brushing frequently with marinade.

Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing. Arrange orange slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.

Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.

Chopped Salad

summerdinner 6

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Salad

  • 4 small new potatoes or fingerling potatoes (6 ounces), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 3/4 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (1 medium)

Directions

For vinaigrette: in a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano , honey, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Set aside.

In a covered medium saucepan cook potatoes and green beans in enough boiling water to cover for 5 to 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking; drain again.

In a large bowl combine potatoes, green beans, lettuce, eggs, cucumber, olives, radishes and shallot. Add about half the vinaigrette; toss gently to coat

Easy Black-Pepper Breadsticks

summerdinner 7

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pizza dough
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic,crushed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Coat a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into an 8 × 4-inch rectangle.

Cook olive oil and crushed garlic cloves in a small skillet over low heat for 5 minutes. Discard garlic.

Brush half the oil over the rolled out dough; sprinkle with ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cut dough into 4 (4 × 2-inch) rectangles and roll into thin sticks.

Repeat with the second half of the dough and remaining ingredients. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8- 10 minutes.

What Kind Of Pesto Do You Like?

pesto (480x640)

Making the classic Ligurian pesto of basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil, is really just a start. Play with the formula to create your own pesto version for tossing with pasta or spooning over just about anything from the grill.

Here are a few ideas.

  • Vary the herbs. Tender leaves, like parsley, oregano and mint also work well. Or skip the herbs and try baby kale, baby spinach or arugula.
  • Switch up the nuts. Try almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts, which make a heartier pesto. Or add pistachios or Brazil nuts, which both have a natural buttery flavor that’s delicious in a sauce.
  • Add vegetables. For an especially chunky pesto, add your farmers’ market finds, from asparagus to red peppers to tomatoes.
  • Mix and match. After you get comfortable with varying the formula, you can come up with creative combos, like oregano-pistachio or olive-hazelnut.

Carrot Top Pesto

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A new cookbook, Root to Stalk Cooking by Tara Duggan, inspired me to think about how I could use the carrot tops that came with my CSA share. The spread I created is delicious over grilled chicken breasts and grilled fish fillets.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup packed carrot leaves (washed well and stems removed)
  • 6 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon each fine sea salt and black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons roasted pistachio nuts (see below)
  • 1/2 of a lemon, squeezed

Directions

If you did not purchase roasted nuts then spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350-degree F oven and toast the nuts until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, nuts can be browned in a microwave. Spread in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power, stopping to stir once or twice, until lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes.

To Make the Pesto:
In a food processor, combine the carrot leaves, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Process until finely minced. Add the nuts and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and pulse just until combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Traditional Handmade Basil Pesto

pesto 9

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup pine nuts (6 ounces)
  • 5 cups basil leaves, chilled and very dry
  • 6 small garlic cloves, quartered
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sealing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned. Coarsely chop the basil leaves.

In a large mortar, combine the basil and garlic and pound to a coarse paste. Add the nuts and pound until a smooth paste forms. Stir in the Parmesan, then 3/4 cup of the olive oil.

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal.

Cavatappi with Basil Pesto and Eggplant 

pesto 6

Modern method for making pesto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta or short pasta of choice
  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant, diced in small cubes
  • 1 bunch fresh basil chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Mix eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until light, golden brown. Remove from the oven.

Combine basil, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a blender, pulse for 5 seconds. With processor running add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and puree. Remove the pesto from the blender and transfer to a large pasta serving bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt. Cook pasta 1 minute less than packaged directions. Drain pasta and place in the bowl with the pesto.

Add lemon juice and eggplant and toss to combine. Top with shredded Parmigiano cheese before serving.

Spinach Pesto

pesto 3

This pesto does incredible things for grilled chicken.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse.

With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.

Olive-Mint Pesto

Olive-Mint Pesto

Stir this pesto into mixed ground meats to make meatloaf, serve it on bruschetta with shaved Parmesan cheese, stir it into soups or whisk it into vinaigrettes.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons tightly packed mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, drained
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted mixed olives, such as Kalamata and Cerignola
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a food processor, pulse the mint with the capers, garlic, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. With the machine on, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Add the olives and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season the pesto with pepper.

Olive-Mint Pesto Meatballs

pesto 2

Ingredients

  • 3 slices good quality packaged white bread, crusts removed, bread torn
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup Olive-Mint Pesto, recipe above
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 pound ground turkey
  • 3/4 pound ground beef (or use all turkey)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

In a large bowl, soak the bread in the milk for 1 minute, mashing it. Using your hand, press out the milk and drain it off.

Add 1/3 cup of the olive-mint pesto, the scallion and the egg to the soaked bread and mash to a paste. Add the ground turkey and beef and season with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Mix until well blended.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the meat mixture into twenty-four 1 1/2-inch balls and transfer to the baking sheet.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve over pasta, if desired.

Mixed-Herb Pesto

pesto 7

Whisk the pesto with a little vinegar to create a delicious herb dressing for a salad, sliced tomatoes or grilled fish.

Makes 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

  • 1 large garlic cloves
  • 4 lightly packed cups basil leaves
  • 2 lightly packed cups flat-leaf Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup roasted nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, pine nuts or pistachios
  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • Salt

Directions

In a food processor, chop the garlic. Add the basil, parsley and mint and pulse until chopped. Add the nuts and oil and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add the cheese and pulse until incorporated. Season with salt to taste.

Spoon the pesto into 1/2-pint freezer containers. Smooth the surface and pour a little olive oil on top to seal. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

Mix this pesto with cooked tortellini or roasted vegetables, spread it on thickly sliced tomatoes and broil, or stuff it under the skin of a chicken  before roasting.

Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves (6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Cool the walnuts and finely chop.

In a processor, combine the garlic with a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt. Process until a paste forms.

Add the walnuts, parsley and slowly add the olive oil until blended. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with additional salt, if needed.

Sun-Dried-Tomato Pesto

Pesto 8

Use this pesto on top of grilled chicken, lamb or vegetables; as a sandwich spread; or mixed with cream cheese on a bagel. It is quite delicious on whole wheat spaghetti, also.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or
  • 15 drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

Directions

In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; remove from the pan. Or toast the pine nuts in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, put the pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, water, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

6. Fusilli with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

To Make a Pasta Salad:

Cook 1 lb fusilli pasta according to directions. Drain.
Toss the pasta with a 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the sun-dried tomato pesto, 1/2 cup of roughly chopped pitted black olives, 2 cups baby spinach leaves, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Serve at room temperature.

Italian Treasures – Lake Nemi

Nemi

Lake Nemi, Diana’s Sacred Grove, is a small circular volcanic lake in the Lazio region of Italy, 30 km (19 miles) south of Rome. The shores of the lake were the setting for one of the cruellest religious rites in honor of a local divinity, Diana of Nemi also known as “Diana of the Woods”, an Italian version of the Hellenic goddess, Artemis. Her sanctuary was found on the northern shore of the lake, beneath the cliffs of the town of Nemi. The lake has often been referred to by poets and scholars as, “Diana’s Mirror.” Diana is one of the more complex goddesses of mythology and her cult at Nemi was especially violent.

The “Rex Nemorensis” or king of the sacred grove, was the high-priest of Diana’s temple. The legend says that in her sacred grove there grew a large oak tree from which it was absolutely forbidden to break off a branch. Only a runaway slave could break off a branch, thus earning the right to fight the presiding high priest of the temple to the death. If the slave won, he could take the place of the priest and adopt his title of “rex nemorensis”. This violent rite of succession was based on the premise that the High Priest of Nemi always had to be at the height of his powers. He could never be ill nor could he die of old age.

Diana

Diana

This ritual continued up until the Imperial era, according to the ancient Roman historian, Suetonius. Emperor Caligula, angered by the fact that the high priest of Nemi had been in his role for too long, ordered him to be killed by an opponent of greater strength. In the II century AD the fight to preside over the sacred altar became symbolic in nature and the cult of Diana itself began to wane, almost completely disappearing after the advent of Christianity. The origins of the cult of Diana are mixed with legend and it is probable that this ancient myth on the Italian peninsula had Greek origins.

The locals will tell you that the spirit of the “rex nemorensis” still wanders in the woods around the lake and that you should take special care when walking in these parts. However, the lake is most famous for its sunken Roman ships, discovered there in the XV century. These ships were very large and technologically advanced for their time.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, acquired the nickname Caligula when he was still a little boy, playing in soldier’s boots several sizes too big for his feet. People started calling him Caligula which means “Little Boots” and they still called him that when he became the Roman Emperor in 37 A.D.

Caligula

As one of his royal passions, Emperor Caligula ordered several large barges to be built to use on Lake Nemi. For centuries scholars and historians debated Caligula’s reason for building the barges. Some contend that Caligula built the barges to show the rulers of Syracuse, Sicily and Egypt that Rome could match any luxurious pleasure barges that they built. Caligula bragged that his ships were the most luxurious in the world. Other scholars argue that Caligula designed one of his ships as a floating temple to Diana and some say that the other ship may have been used as a floating palace where Caligula and his court could indulge in the depravities that history has credited to him.

Suetonius, the Roman historian, described the two biggest barges as being built of cedar wood adorned with jeweled prows, rich sculptures, vessels of gold and silver, sails of purple silk and bathrooms of alabaster and bronze. The floors were paved with glass mosaic, the windows and door frames were made of bronze and many of the decorations were costly.

The flat-bottomed Nemi barges were not self-propelled. Instead, they were attached to the shore by chains and bridges stretching across the water so people and commerce could travel back and forth. The two largest ships were about 250 feet long and 70 feet wide, nearly covering Lake Nemi.

nemi 3

Nemi 2

Caligula had no suspicions that officers of the Praetorian Guard and members of the Roman Senate and of the Imperial Court were conspiring to assassinate him. Although they successfully assassinated Caligula on January 21, 41 AD., the assassins were unsuccessful in their goal of restoring the Roman Republic. After Caligula’s assassination, the Roman Senate and the Praetorian Guard attempted to destroy everything connected with him, including his barges, which they pillaged and sank.

Fishermen handed down memories of Caligula’s palatial Nemi ships to their descendants, some swearing that they could see the shadowy outlines of the ships in the waters of Lake Nemi. The ships were actually buried in the mud 200 yards distant from each other in five fathoms of water; one 150 feet from the bank and the other 250 feet from the bank.

Legends of Caligula’s sunken ships filled with fabulous treasures were passed down through generations of Lake Nemi citizens. For centuries local fisherman considered Caligula’s sunken barges local landmarks and some explored the wrecks and took small treasures from them, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that anyone tried to explore and raise Caligula’s legendary ships.

In 1446 Cardinal Prospero Colonna, an Italian humanist, and Leon Battista Alberti, a  renowned engineer, followed the clues in the local legends about the Nemi barges, but the wrecks lay too deep to be salvaged effectively at the time. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini worked to recover Caligula’s ships for about five years – from October 1928 to October 1932. Mussolini ordered the Italian Navy engineers to drain Lake Nemi. A London Times story reported that everyone on the site cheered as the waters receded to reveal the first Nemi ship.

With all of the water removed, the level of Lake Nemi dropped 66 feet and a mud shower occurred as a result of the sinking of the lake floor. Work stopped while the government and the archaeologists debated the future of the project and Lake Nemi began refilling with water. The second ship had already begun to dry out and re-submerging caused a great deal of damage to it. The Italian Minister of Public Works ordered the project and all of the research related to it to be abandoned on November 10, 1931. The Navy Ministry, which had participated in the original recovery, petitioned the Italian Prime Minister to resume the project on February 19, 1932 and the government granted permission. Pumping out the waters of Lake Nemi resumed on March 28, 1932 and the second ship was recovered in October 1932.

The hulls of the Nemi ships and their contents were recovered, as well as items scattered around the ships, including bronze and marble ornaments, tiles and utensils. The recovery of the Nemi ships settled a prolonged and contentious scholarly argument. Before the ships were recovered, many scholars scoffed at the idea that the Romans were capable of building large enough ships to carry grain, despite ancient sources that said they had built such ships. The size of the Nemi Ships proved that the ancient sources were correct.

Over the centuries, scholars have also debated whether or not the lead bars found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea were from anchors used on Roman ships. The Nemi ships were built during the transition between the use of wooden and iron anchors and they were the first Romans ships found with intact anchors. The Nemi ships confirmed that the lead bars were from the anchors. Additionally, the Romans made ball bearings out of lead and they probably used the ball bearings on the Nemi ships to make the statues of the gods rotate.

Both of Caligula’s Nemi ships contained several hand-operated bilge pumps working like modern bucket dredges, the oldest example of this type of pump ever found. Piston pumps on the two Nemi ships supplied hot and cold running water through lead pipes. The Romans used the hot water for baths and the cold water for fountains and drinking water. This piston pump technology later was lost to history and not rediscovered until the Middle Ages.

The Italian government built a museum called the Lake Nemi Museum over both ships in 1935 and it opened in January 1936.

Source: History Because It’s Here

The Cuisine of the Roman Empire

Food, like the weather, seems to be a universal topic of conversation, endlessly fascinating and a constant part of our lives. In addition to art and archaeology, we have information on Roman food from a variety of written sources. Here are two ancient recipes for porridge written by Cato the Elder from De Agricultura.

Recipe for Punic porridge:

Soak a pound of groats in water until it is quite soft. Pour it into a clean bowl, add 3 pounds of fresh cheese, 1/2 pound of honey, and 1 egg, and mix the whole thoroughly; turn into a new pot.

Recipe for wheat pap:

Pour 1/2 pound of clean wheat into a clean bowl, wash well, remove the husk thoroughly, and clean well. Pour into a pot with pure water and boil. When done, add milk slowly until it makes a thick cream.

For those who could afford it, breakfast, eaten very early, would consist of salted bread, milk or wine and perhaps dried fruit, eggs or cheese. The Roman lunch, a quick meal, eaten around noon could include salted bread or be more elaborate with fruit, salad, eggs, meat or fish, vegetables and cheese. Dinner, the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered. An ordinary upper class dinner would include meat, vegetable, egg and fruit.

An Ancient Roman Meal

Nemi 4

 

Roman Egg Drop Soup – Stracciatella

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts (liters) mixed meat broth
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons semolina
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

In a bowl, combine the eggs, semolina, grated cheese, nutmeg and parsley. Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil. Add the egg mixture all at once, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork to break up the egg, which will form fine, light flakes or small rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name.

Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.

SAMSUNG CSC

Aliter Lenticulam (Lentils)

Ingredients

  • 750 ml sweet white wine
  • 250 g green lentils
  • 3 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • Pinch of asafoetida (an ancient spice similar to garlic with an onion flavor)
  • Dash of bitters
  • Generous handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 225 g honey (This amount used in the recipe’s translation is excessive, as a reader kindly pointed out. After researching amounts of honey used in the Roman days, I would say no more than a half a cup should be used, if that. A couple of tablespoons would probably suit our current tastes. That was all I used when I tested the recipe.)
  • Generous splash of wine vinegar
  • Generous splash of must (grape juice boiled until it’s reduced to 3/4 of its volume)
  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a little oil to a pan and, when hot, stir-in the asafoetida and coriander seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to splutter, then grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the rosemary leaves and pound to crush them. Add just enough vinegar to bring the mixture together as a paste and add a dash of bitters.

Combine the sweet wine and lentils in a pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are tender (about 60 minutes). When the lentils are almost done add the leeks, honey, coriander and mint along with the spice and vinegar blend. Flavor with a little more wine vinegar and must.

Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Garnish with extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper, then serve.

Nemi 6

Aliter Sepias

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a classic dish of cooked squid or cuttlefish served in a spiced and herb white wine sauce thickened with an egg yolk.

1 kg cooked squid or cuttlefish

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lovage seeds (or celery seeds) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled 
  • 1 raw egg yolk 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 60 ml fish stock 
  • 60 ml white wine 
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Pound together the pepper, lovage (or celery) seeds, coriander and mint in a mortar. Work in the honey, stock, wine, vinegar and olive oil then pour into a pan.

Heat slowly and, when warm, gently whisk in the beaten egg yolk. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and cook on low heat until thickened.

Arrange boiled or fried squid (cuttlefish) on a warmed serving dish, pour the sauce over the squid.

Nemi 7

Honeyed Quinces

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a dessert of quinces boiled in a sauce of white wine and honey. Pears can be substituted but quinces are more tart. If using pears reduce the honey by 1/3 and add the juice of half a lime.

Ingredients

  • 10 quinces 
  • 100 ml honey 
  • Cinnamon 
  • 250 ml sweet white wine

Directions

Peel, core and dice the quinces and put them in a saucepan. Add the wine and honey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until they are soft (reduce the cooking time for pears). Chill before serving. Pour into individual bowls.

 


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