The second Monday in October is designated in the United States as Columbus Day. This day commemorates Christopher Columbus’ first voyage and sighting of the Americas on October 12, 1492. However, Columbus Day as a federal holiday was not officially recognized until 1937.

The first Columbus Day celebration took place in 1792, when New York’s Tammany Hall–held an event to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the historic landing.. Taking pride in Columbus’ birthplace and faith, Italian and Catholic communities in various parts of the country began organizing annual religious ceremonies and parades in his honor. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage with patriotic festivities, writing, “On that day let the people, so far as possible, cease from toil and devote themselves to such exercises as may best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”

President Johnson signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill in 1968, making Columbus Day a federal holiday celebrated annually on the second Monday in October. The bill took effect in January, 1971.

Columbus' boats at Rabida - Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria

Full scale replicas of Columbus’ three ships, Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, moored at Rabida in Andalucia

Some historians have argued that Columbus came from Spain or Portugal, but such theories have been discounted thanks to the discovery of various documents. The Galata Museum of the Sea holds one of the most important documents to demonstrate the navigator’s Genoese origins. Known as the ‘Documento Assereto’ (Documento Assereto) after the man who discovered it in the Genoese state archives in 1904. The document was written in Genoa on 25 August 1479 by a notary. In it, the young Columbus declares that he is a Genoese citizen and about to set off in search of financial backing.

(Sources: http://www.italymagazine.com/ and

http://www.galatamuseodelmare.it/jsp/index.jsp)

The fact that he was an Italian citizen and put America on the map is the reason why Italian Americans are proud to celebrate him. He only sailed for Spain, because they provided the money. In many parts of the United States, Columbus Day has evolved into a celebration of Italian-American heritage. Local groups host parades and street fairs featuring colorful costumes, music and Italian food.

Columbus was born in Genoa in the northwestern region of Liguria in Italy. So when you get home from the parade this afternoon, celebrate Columbus Day with a few authentic Genovese dishes that are easy to do.

Vongole al Forno (Baked Clams)

Ingredients

  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
  • 1 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Italian Parsley, Finely Chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Dozen Cherrystone Clams, Cleaned, Shucked & Half the Shells Reserved
  • 3 tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Melted Butter
  • Lemon Wedges

Directions

Preheat broiler.

Combine the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

For an easy way to open clams, see my post: http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/10/08/pasta-night/

In a small bowl, combine clams with lemon juice. Divide clams one to each half shell and top each half shell with some breadcrumb mixture.

Drizzle melted butter over each clamshell and broil until the top is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with lemon.

Trenette with Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb. Trenette Pasta
  • 1 Cup Fresh Basil
  • 1 Clove Garlic, Smashed
  • 2 Oz. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
  • 1 Oz. Grated Pecorino Cheese
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Oz. Pine Nuts
  • Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Directions

Place basil, garlic and cheeses in a food processor. Pulse while slowly drizzling olive oil into the processor. Once creamy, transfer to a bowl, season with salr and pepper and stir in pine nuts.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and place in a serving bowl. Toss pasta with pesto mixture, Adjust seasoning and sprinkle additional cheese over the dish, if desired.

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Serves 4 to 8

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 generous teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large crusty baguette (whole-wheat preferred)
  • 1 tight-packed cup (5 to 6 ounces) shredded Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients, except the bread and cheese, and set over medium-low heat. When the butter melts, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes to soften the garlic. Take care not to brown it. Once the garlic is soft, uncover the pan and simmer until you hear the mixture sizzling. This is the signal that the water has cooked off. Take the pan off the heat immediately.

Split the baguette in half horizontally. Divide the garlic blend between the two halves. Sprinkle each with half of the cheese. Set them on a foil-covered baking sheet, cheese side up, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Slice, and serve hot.

Mixed Green Salad

Fresh greens are all a salad needs

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 6 cups torn Italian salad greens
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin

Directions

In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and pepper flakes; shake well.

In a salad bowl, combine the greens and onion. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.

Yield: 6 servings.

Tiramisu

Ingredients

SYRUP:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 1/3 cup Kahlua

FILLING:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup light cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup dark or light rum
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta
  • 6 ounces low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages ladyfingers

TOPPING:

  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa for dusting

Directions

To make the syrup, blend the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture for about 5 minutes and set it aside.

To make the filling, combine the sugar, cream cheese, rum, ricotta, yogurt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed to blend well, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually pour in the whipping cream. Partially cover the bowl with plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t splatter while it whips, and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until thickened (about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes).

To assemble, line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform or the bottom of a 9 x 13- inch pan with a layer of the ladyfingers. Drizzle 4 to 6 tablespoons of the syrup over the top. Spread half of the filling over the syrup-soaked ladyfingers. Cover with the remaining ladyfingers and drizzle about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the syrup over the top. Spread the remaining filling over the top and use a spatula to smooth.

Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Before serving, dust the top with cocoa (using a sifter or dusting cup).

Happy Columbus Day Everyone

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