Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Author Archives: Jovina Coughlin

Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore

This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.

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Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.

 Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Gallardo

Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.

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Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.

Castell’Arquato

Castell’Arquato

Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.

Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara.  Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.

 Verdi Theater in Busseto


Verdi Theater in Busseto

Cesena

Cesena

The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.

Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.

The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna

The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.

Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.

GNOCCO FRITTO WITH PARMA HAM

Gnocco Fritto with Parma Ham

From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.

Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).

Barrels of  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Barrels of traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.

TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA

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PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)

4 servings

FOR THE PASTA

  • 10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 2 oz butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg

For the pasta:

Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.

For the filling:

Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.

Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.

Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.

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BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
  • 1 ½ oounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.

Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.

In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.

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ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)

This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs spinach
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 3 ½ oz lard
  •  1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.

Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.

Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.

Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.

Serve hot or warm.

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CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


vegetarian-food-pyramid

Vegetarian dishes can shine as the main attraction, especially when using fresh and flavorful ingredients. Use spices and herbs often, add lots of flavor with grains and beans, include good fats to carry flavors and salt to bring them together. Roasting vegetables also make them delicious.

It can be challenging to serve healthy meals on a budget. Meatless meals are built around vegetables, beans and grains instead of meat, which is more expensive. You may be able to save money by going meatless once or twice a week. In addition, meatless meals offer health benefits. A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. This kind of healthy eating is the central theme of the Mediterranean diet — which limits red meat and emphasizes fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and healthy fats — and has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Plan some meals that feature entrees you like that are typically meatless, such as lasagna, soup or pasta. Occasionally, try substituting protein-rich foods for meat in your favorite recipes, such as, using beans and legumes in casseroles, salads, burritos and tacos. The following recipes show you that meatless dinners can be good tasting. Give then a try.

Dinner 1: Potato Vegetable Skillet Cake and Green Bean Mushroom Casserole

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Vegetable and Potato Skillet Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 (8-ounce) russet potatoes, peeled, shredded and squeezed of excess moisture
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 parsnips, shredded
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and onion. Sprinkle with flour, salt, Italian seasoning and nutmeg and toss to coat. Stir in the eggs and mix in thoroughly..

Heat a 10 inch skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Pour in the vegetable mixture and press gently. Cook, running a spatula around the edges of the skillet occasionally, until the bottom is very brown, about 12 minutes.

Place a round platter upside down over the top of the skillet. Grasp sides of the skillet and platter with oven mitts and invert the potato cake onto the platter. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet  and slide the potato cake back into the skillet (browned-side up) and continue to cook over medium heat, loosening the edges with a spatula and shaking the pan occasionally to loosen the bottom. Cook until the bottom is browned and crisp and cooked through, about 12 more minutes. Invert the skillet again to remove the potato cake. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.

veggie2

Green Bean Mushroom Casserole

Ingredients

  • 12 oz fresh green beans
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 oz mushroom blend, sliced (such as, shiitake and oyster mushrooms)
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried Italian bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and plunge into a large bowl filled with ice water; set aside for 5 to 8 minutes, then drain. Cut beans into 2-inch pieces.

In a large skillet on medium-high, heat oil. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until mushrooms release their juices. Reduce heat to medium and add shallots, garlic, thyme, pepper and salt.

Cook, stirring constantly, until shallots become translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in flour; stir to coat. Slowly add buttermilk and continue to cook, stirring until buttermilk starts to thicken and mixture is creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in broth and green beans. When broth is absorbed, after 1 to 2 minutes, stir in 1/2 cup cheese.

Transfer mixture to a medium greased baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs and remaining cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes

Dinner 2:  Butternut Squash Pie and Orange Beet Salad

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Butternut Squash Pie with Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 (3-pound) butternut squash, halved lengthwise, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes or 3 cups cubed squash from the supermarket or one 16-oz package of frozen and defrosted cubed squash
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 frozen 9-inch pie crust (in a pie pan)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a large bowl, mix squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange squash in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until squash is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until browned, 7 to 9 minutes. Add wine and cook, scraping up any brown bits, for 1 minute more.

Add onion to the bowl with the squash and add Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, hazelnuts, egg, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Transfer mixture to the pie crust, pat down lightly and bake until crust is golden brown and the filling is hot, about 40 minutes. Set aside to let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Beet, Orange & Burrata Salad

Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.

Burrata Cheese

Burrata Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 beets (about 11 oz), ends trimmed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 tablespoons white or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 cups (5 oz) baby arugula
  • 6 oz fresh burrata or fresh mozzarella cheese, broken into about 8 pieces

Directions

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Wrap beets in foil and roast in a baking pan until tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool. Peel and cut each beet into 12 slices.

Use a sharp knife to slice peel off the oranges. Cut each orange into 6 round slices.

Squeeze pieces of orange peel (there should be some flesh still attached) into a mixing bowl to yield about 2 tablespoons juice. Whisk in garlic, vinegar, 2 teaspoons water, oil, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss arugula with 3 tablespoons orange vinaigrette. Divide among serving plates and top with oranges, beets and cheese. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette.

Dinner 3: Pappardelle with Tomatoes and Almonds and Bibb Radish Salad

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Pappardelle with Tomatoes, Almonds and Parmesan

If your market doesn’t carry fresh basil this time of year, use 2 tablespoons of basil pesto instead.

Plum tomatoes are a good choice during the winter months.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves or 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1 small fresh hot red chile, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound dried pappardelle pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes with the vinegar, olive oil, shallots, oregano, basil and chile and season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture and toss. Mix the almonds and Parmigiano together, sprinkle over the pasta and serve right away.

Bibb and Radish Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

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Ingredients

  • 3 heads of Bibb lettuce, leaves torn
  • 8 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the radishes and chives. Chill until ready to serve.

In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the buttermilk and vinegar.

Gradually whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss well.

Dinner 4: Tomato Risotto and Broccolini with Lemon Crumbs

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Tomato Vegetable Risotto

Ingredients

  • 32 oz carton lower-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 28 oz container diced Italian tomatoes, drained and liquid reserved
  • 1/2 cup dry white
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen corn kernels, defrosted
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen green beans, defrosted
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Put the reserved tomato juice and the vegetable broth into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over low heat, with a ladle nearby.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a wide, heavy skillet or a wide, heavy saucepan. Add the onion, a generous pinch of salt and cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and garlic and cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate and beginning to crackle. Stir in the drained diced tomatoes and salt to taste and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down slightly and coat the rice, 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated and been absorbed by the rice. Begin adding the simmering stock, a couple of ladlefuls (about 1/2 cup) at a time. The stock should just cover the rice, and should be bubbling, not too slowly but not too quickly. Cook, stirring often, until it is just about absorbed. Add another ladleful or two of the stock and continue to cook in this fashion, adding more stock and stirring when the rice is almost dry.

After the rice has cooked about 15 minutes, stir in the defrosted corn and green beans. Continue adding broth until it is all used.

You do not have to stir constantly, but stir often and when you do, stir vigorously. When the rice is just tender all the way through but still chewy (al dente), in 20 to 25 minutes, it is done.  Stir in the basil and Parmesan and remove from the heat. Serve in wide pasta bowls.

veggie8

Broccolini with Lemon Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of country white bread, torn
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt
  • 2 bunches Broccolini (8 ounces each) or broccoli rabe (rapini), ends trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, very finely chopped
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the broccolini and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well, shaking off the excess water; pat dry with paper towels.

In a food processor, pulse the bread until large crumbs form.

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the breadcrumbs and cook them over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden. Remove from the heat. Stir in the crushed red pepper and lemon zest and season with salt. Transfer the crumbs to a plate to cool.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the broccolini, season lightly with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccolini is lightly browned in spots, about 4 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a serving platter and sprinkle the lemony bread crumbs on top. Serve right away with lemon wedges.

Dinner 5: Stuffed Shells and Green Bean Slaw

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Cheese Stuffed Shells with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients

SAUCE:

  • 3 cups canned Italian tomatoes
  • 12 oz roasted red bell peppers (from a jar packed in water), drained, patted dry and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley sprigs, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish

SHELLS:

  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 30 large pasta shells
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 3 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

Prepare sauce:

In a medium saucepan, combine tomatoes, roasted peppers, garlic, rosemary, oregano, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a blender and add parsley. Remove plastic center from blender lid to allow steam to escape, hold a kitchen towel loosely over the opening and purée.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, prepare pasta shells according to package directions, cooking until just al dente. Drain thoroughly and place on clean kitchen towels.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese, basil, chives, egg and corn. Season with black pepper.

Spread 1 cup sauce on the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish that has been coated with olive oil cooking spray. Fill pasta shells with about 1 rounded tablespoon of ricotta mixture and place in the baking dish, stuffed side up. You may have a few extra shells that do not fit in the baking dish.

Cover shells with remaining sauce and mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling. Let cool for 10 minutes, garnish with additional parsley and serve.

Beekman Boys

Green Bean Slaw

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds thin green beans
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 medium parsnip, cut into fine julienne
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into fine julienne
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse and pat dry. Slice the green beans lengthwise, if they are not thin.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, about 30 seconds. Stir in the vinegar, water, mustard, honey and celery seeds. Add the carrot, parsnip, red pepper and onion and toss until warmed through, about 1 minute.

Transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans and toss well. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


 

groceryFrom the 1940s on, the children of Italian immigrants could be found in all regions of the U.S., in almost every career and in nearly every walk of life. My parents were born in Elizabeth, NJ and my father lived in the Italian section of the city, called Peterstown. This section of the city was home to Italian grocery stores, produce stands, meat markets, fresh fish markets and poultry stores. When he married my mother, they moved to another part of the city.

As a child, I remember my father taking me shopping with him on Saturday mornings, where we would go to many of the Italian shops in Peterstown. He would purchase meat, chicken, cheese, bread and Italian cold cuts. I remember being overwhelmed by all the products that were crowded on to the shelves in those tiny stores. My father would stop and talk to many of his friends along the way and visit his relatives who still lived in Peterstown. On these excursions, he always bought me an Italian Ice at Di Cosmos’ store, a landmark in the area.

groceryelizabeth1

Grocery stores were among the first businesses opened in the early Italian immigrant settlements, providing the staples of Italian cuisine: e.g., olive oil, pasta and canned tomatoes. But traditional Italian markets and delis served more than just the shopping needs for the Italian immigrants. They were also community centers, substitutes for the piazza, that is, places where Italians could meet friends and paesani (fellow townspeople), exchange news and speak some Italian.

Traditional markets were more likely to sell local and Italian American products than imported (cold cuts, cheese, oil) and more likely to sell reasonably priced products than the more exclusive labels at the upscale markets.

grocerylosangeles2grocerylosangeles

However, in the 1980s Italian brands such as, De Cecco pasta from Abruzzo, bottles of Coltibuono Olive Oil from Tuscany and Chianti Ruffino wines began appearing in the Italian markets. Many older markets also diversified their inventories by carrying other ethnic foods as well. “A1″ in San Pedro, for instance, carried many products for Croatians as well as for Italians; “Bay Cities” in Santa Monica carried many Greek and Middle Eastern foods; “Sorrento” also served Italian Argentines and other Latin Americans.

The memorabilia on the walls: family photos, posters of World Cup Italian Teams, Italian or regional maps, a portrait of the Pope and tourist posters of Italy, would often identify a market as a more established Italian immigrant locale.

New York

grocerynewyork

Successive waves of Italian immigration beginning a century and a half ago have blessed New Yorkers with the country’s best collection of Italian markets. While many of these shops can be found right in Manhattan, others are located in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. If you need to find an obscure pasta shape, this is your place. Choose among two dozen types of canned Italian tomatoes to make the sauce. A rainbow of Italian olive oils can also be found, as do seasonal items, like fresh black truffles and fresh porcini mushrooms. Additionally, a cured meat department, usually in the back of the store, offers hard-to-find cold cuts like culatello, a cured ham and other types of salamis.

In 1940, when Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia wanted to get pushcarts off the streets, he created a string of indoor markets, of which the Arthur Avenue Retail Market was one and is one of the few remaining today. Some stalls specialized in veal and variety meats, such as tripe and calf’s liver, while other stalls sold dried pastas and southern Italian prepared foods,that included pizzas, pastas and seafood salads.

Philadelphia

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The Italian Market is the popular name for the South 9th Street Curb Market, an area of South Philadelphia featuring many Italian grocery shops, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, cheese shops, butcher shops, etc. The Italian Market, frequently referred to simply as 9th Street, had its origins as a marketplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This area, outside the original boundaries of Philadelphia, was an area where the immigrants settled. Italian immigrants began to move into the area around 1884, when Antonio Palumbo began receiving Italian immigrants into his boardinghouse. Shops along 9th Street opened up shortly afterward to cater to the new Italian community and they have remained in the area to this day, with many of the present vendors tracing the founding of their businesses back to the first decade of the 20th century.

Cleveland

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In its earliest days, Gallucci’s was as much a neighborhood grocer as it was an “Italian” store. Starting with a wooden cart, founder Gust Gallucci first opened a shop on Cleveland’s West Side — then, during the mid-1920s, the family moved to Cleveland’s Haymarket District. Close to the city’s produce district, Gallucci’s also served the sprawling immigrant neighborhood on Cleveland’s Near East Side, once called Big Italy.

Gallucci’s grew into a gathering place for newcomers from Italy. There, shoppers and clerks spoke the language of the old country, even though the Italian spoken was broken into scores of regional dialects. More importantly, they could find familiar products unavailable in most other stores — fresh or dried pastas, fat links of sausage, imported cheeses, olive oils and vinegars and familiar table wines.

Chicago

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The Graziano grocery business dates back, approximately, to the same year the Italian Superior Bakery opened on Western Avenue, about 1933, but it was part of the Italian community on Grand Avenue. The business was founded by Jim Graziano, who immigrated to the States in 1905 from Bagheria, a town on the northern coast of Sicily.

The first Jim Graziano left the business to his sons, Fred and Paul, and now Fred’s son and grandson, both named Jim, are keeping the business alive and well. J.P. Graziano Grocery Co. has for some time been a wholesaler and an importer specialising in Italian foods and, as such, is well-known in local food industry circles. Specialties include olives, cheese, large sausages and baccalà (dried codfish).

Indianapolis

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Italian immigrants, John Bova Conti and his wife Josie, operated the J. Bova Conti Grocery at 960 S. East Street. According to, Indianapolis Italians, by James J. Divita (Arcadia Publishing, 2006), Josephine Mascari, a widow, and her son, Tommaso, were experiencing hardships in operating their grocery on Virginia Avenue. John Bova Conti moved in to run the store and ended up marrying the widow. It was not until the 1920s that they rented a small, wood-frame grocery with an adjacent residence. Signs on the store and visible goods, included Wonder and Yum Yum bread, fruit, macaroni, olives, cheese, Coca-Cola and East End Dairy products.

The store’s business ledger for 1924 through 1927 (housed at the Indiana Historical Society) indicates that many products were imported from Italy and distributed to other stores around the state. According to author Divita “After visiting relatives in Indianapolis, customers from smaller towns would stop at Bova Conti’s to buy 20 pounds of dry pasta to last them for a month. Among the store’s attractive prices were one gallon Berio olive oil, $3; one bottle, Florio Marsala, $2.25; five pounds, Sicilian caciocavallo cheese, $3.75 and one case Brioschi, 75 cents.”

Hibbing

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Guilio Forti was one of thousands of Italians who immigrated to Minnesota’s Iron Range in the early 1900s hoping for a better life. But Guilio, already 50, was too old to work in the mines as others did. So he put the skills he’d learned as a baker in Rome to work and started Sunrise Bakery in 1913. From their North Hibbing location, the Forti family distributed Italian and Vienna bread by horse-drawn carriages to the mines.

Each generation contributed new ideas and products to the business. Guilio’s son, Vincent, added mechanization and a line of pastries, donuts and cakes. Vincent’s son, Thomas, together with his wife, Mary, created a deli that featured imported delicacies and foods long cherished by the Iron Range’s diverse immigrant population. And now their son, Tom—the fourth generation Forti—is helping Sunrise bring its Italian entrees, pastas, sauces and other ethnic specialties to locations throughout Minnesota.

New Orleans

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Not only had Sicilians established roots in the French Quarter, but those seeking to farm the land moved upriver from the city, to Kenner. These men were called “truck farmers,” because their land was far enough away from the city that they had to haul their crops in by wagon, later trucks. They would sell their produce in the Farmer’s Market, stopping for lunch at one of the groceries along Decatur Street. The groceries would lay out cold antipasti spreads during the day to sell for lunch.

In 1906, Salvatore Lupo opened the Central Grocery at 923 Decatur Street. He began to combine some of the antipasti items, such as mortadella, cheese, ham and olive salad, on loaves of round Italian bread, creating the now-famous Muffuletta sandwich. The truck farmers could pick up a muffuletta and, essentially, eat their antipasti as a sandwich on the return drive to Kenner. Other groceries and restaurants picked up on the muffuletta, which became a New Orleans institution, second only to the po-boy.

Colorado

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in the 1880s, at twenty years of age, Carl L. Stranges immigrated to the United States from Italy. After his arrival in the United States, he moved to Grand Junction and resided there his whole life. Carl Stranges opened his grocery store in the southwestern portion of the downtown area, often referred to as “Little Italy”, due to the concentration of Italian residents and Italian-owned businesses in the area.

Three other grocery stores and an icehouse were located within a two-block area of the Stranges store. Carl Stranges owned and managed the grocery until shortly before his death in 1942. He willed the store to his niece and her husband who continued to operate the store until 1963.

Stockton

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Italian immigrants owned and operated groceries and delis in Stockton, CA just as they did across the country. Genovese immigrants, Joseph & Emilio Silva, operated a grocery store on Main and East Streets from 1890-1925 and a number of their wholesale providers were also Italian. Caesar Gaia, born in 1892 near Torino, left home at the age of seventeen to follow his brother Frank who left for California years earlier.

Gaia first worked on a ranch in Gilroy before moving to Stockton in 1914. He, along with Louis Delucchi, bought E. Fontana’s Ravioli Factory which later became the site of Gaia & Delucchi at 320 East Market St. The grocery featured ravioli, salami and other Italian specialities for their customers in San Joaquin county.

Los Angeles

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The first Italian to arrive in Los Angeles was known to be Sardinian-born, Giovanni Leandri, in the 1820s. He operated a shop on Calle de los Negros, an alley situated near Old Chinatown. Many of the first wave of Italian immigrants lived in boarding houses in the area around what is now part of the Arts District and Civic Center. In the 1890s, Italian-Americans bought homes and opened businesses in El Pueblo, Sonora Town, Dogtown, Lincoln Heights, Solano Canyon and Victor Heights.

The corner of College Street and Broadway has been home to Little Joe’s since 1927.  Little Joe’s began as the Italian-American Grocery Company, established at Fifth and Hewitt, by Charley Viotto in 1897. The deli counter evolved into a full-fledged restaurant, named after, then, co-owner Joe Vivalda.

Cooking From The Italian Deli

The hero sandwich is one of the standout achievements of Italian-American cuisine. Taking a French baguette — which became faddish in Italian-American bakeries around 1920 — and loading it up with cold-cuts, produced a final product that was as American as it was Italian, though nothing like it had ever been seen in the Old Country before.

There were also hot versions that often included fried meat cutlets, fried calamari, eggplant parm and the great Italian-American invention –  meatballs. The heroes were aimed at working men who needed thousands of calories to fuel their back-breaking work. The hero/sub/grinder/hoagie is here to stay and will be a main feature at parties on Super Bowl Sunday, next month.

Italian Hero

Sal, Kris, & Charlie's Deli 33-12 23rd Avenue Astoria, NY

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
  • One 12-inch loaf soft Italian bread
  • 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound deli-sliced provolone cheese
  • 1/4 pound deli-sliced Genoa salami
  • 1/4 pound deli-sliced boiled ham
  • 1/4 pound deli-sliced mortadella
  • 1/4 pound deli-sliced capicola
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, finely shredded
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced pickled pepperoncini
  • 3 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Soak the onion slices in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, split the bread lengthwise, then pull out some of the bread from the inside. Drizzle 2 tablespoons each vinegar and olive oil on the bottom half.  Season with salt and pepper.

Layer the cheese and meat on the bottom half of the bread. Drain the onion and pat dry. Top the meat with the onion, lettuce, pepperoncini and tomatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons each vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with the oregano. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the cut side of the bread top with the remaining 1 tablespoon each vinegar and olive oil, then place on top of the sandwich. Cut into 4 pieces.

Antipasto Salad

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Ingredients

  • 1 large head iceberg lettuce, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) deli ham, cut into cubes
  • 1 (1-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) turkey breast, cut into cubes
  • 1 (1-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) deli hard salami, cut into cubes
  • 1 (1/2-inch) slice (about 1/2 pound) provolone cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar peperoncini, drained
  • 1 (6-ounce) can pitted black olives, drained
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup Italian dressing

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the dressing; mix well. Add dressing and toss until well coated. Serve immediately.

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwiches

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Ingredients

The beef
1 boneless beef roast (sirloin or round), about 3 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off

The rub

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

The juice

  • 6 cups of hot water
  • 4 cubes of beef bouillon 

The sandwich

  • 10 soft, hoagie rolls, sliced lengthwise but hinged on one side or a loaf of Italian bread 
  • 3 medium-sized green bell peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup hot giardiniera

Directions

Mix the rub in a bowl. Coat the meat lightly with vegetable oil, sprinkle the rub generously on the meat and massage it in. There will be some left over. Do not discard it; it will be used in the juice.

Put a rack just below the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Pour the 6 cups of water into a pan and heat it to a boil on the stove top. Dissolve the bouillon in the water. Add the remaining rub to the pan.

Pour the water mixture into a 9 x 13″ baking pan. Place a meat rack in the pan. Place the roast on top of the rack above the juice. Roast until the interior temperature is about 130°F for medium rare, about 40 minutes per pound.

While the meat is roasting, cut the bell peppers in half and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse and cut into 1/4″ strips. Cook the peppers in a frying pan over a medium high heat with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, about 1 tablespoon. When they are getting limp and the skins begin to brown, in about 15 minutes, they are done. Set aside at room temperature.

Remove the roast from the oven. Take the meat off the rack and remove the rack. Pour off the juice, put the meat back in the pan, and place it in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Let it cool for a few hours or long enough for the meat to firm up. This will make slicing easier. Chill the juice, too, in a separate container. Slice the meat against the grain as thin as possible.

Taste the juice. If you want, you can thin it with more water or make it richer by cooking it down on top of the stove. In Chicago beef stands, it is rich, but not too concentrated. Then turn the heat to a gentle simmer. Soak the sliced meat in the juice for about 1 minute at a low simmer.

To assemble the sandwich:

Start by spooning some juice directly onto the bun. Then layer on the beef, generously. Spoon on more juice. Top it with bell peppers and giardiniera. Serve with plenty of napkins.

Deli Style Italian Meatball Subs with Peppers

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2 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 large meatballs, cooked (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded provolone
  • 1 (6.7-ounce) jar Italian Sliced Sweet Peppers, drained
  • Loaf of Italian bread or 2 hoagie rolls

Directions

Heat meatballs in the marinara sauce in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Fill rolls with meatballs (3 per sandwich). Top with shredded provolone and peppers. Serve immediately.

Italian Deli Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2 loaves stale Italian bread (at least 2 days old), cubed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 pounds ground veal
  • 2 pounds ground pork

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.

In a large bowl, combine cubed bread, milk and beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly until the bread absorbs the liquid. Add garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, basil and Romano cheese.

Add beef, veal and pork. Mix until fully combined. Roll into balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes.

Makes about 40 meatballs.

Italian Cheese Cake

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Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups of ricotta cheese, drained overnight
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1 orange zested
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of sugar

Directions

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Pour in a 9 inch spring form pan.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until firm. Refrigerate overnight. Remove cake from the pan and cut into serving pieces.


wintersalad

This is not the season for cold potato salad or any other cold salad when you are trying to warm up. Then again, forget any memory of overcooked, withered spinach salads adorned with hard-boiled eggs and greasy bacon dressing. Good warm salads are filled with delicious flavors and appealing textures. The first key to a great warm salad lies in learning to barely wilt the greens, so that the warm vinaigrette brings all the flavors together but doesn’t make the salad soggy. The second key lies in the complementary combination of ingredients.

When a dressing is warm, it has a more pronounced flavor than when it’s cold, plus the heat really brings out all the flavors of the salad. You have to be careful when you dress the greens, though, because you want them to be just slightly wilted.

You can accomplish this in several ways.

Heat the dressing in a pan. Then pour the warm vinaigrette over the bowl of greens, add the garnishes and toss. This method work well with hardier greens like spinach, escarole and kale. You can wilt mesclun this way, too; just dress the greens a little more lightly and serve them immediately.

Or you can arrange the raw greens on serving plates, top with just cooked shrimp or chicken and then drizzle the hot dressing over all. This method is better when the greens are particularly tender, like mizuna or mesclun. Whichever wilting method you choose, just remember you don’t want to fully cook the greens, so don’t put them directly into a hot sauté pan. Don’t wilt the greens until you’re ready to serve them; this type of salad looks and tastes best when freshly dressed.

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Warm Spinach Salad with Cannellini Beans and Shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound baby spinach (7 cups)
  • 3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Directions

Spread the spinach on a large platter. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and cook it in the pan with the bacon fat over moderately high heat until barely pink, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss until heated through, about 1 minute. Pour the shrimp and beans onto the bed of spinach.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 1 minute. Add the mustard to the skillet and whisk in the red wine vinegar, then whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, pour it over the salad and garnish with the bacon. Serve immediately.

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Warm Winter-Vegetable Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 small sweet potato (about 8 ounces), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 small beet, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 ounce feta, crumbled (1/4 cup)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a medium roasting pan, toss the onion, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery root and beet with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots.

Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast until golden, about 6 minutes. Transfer the walnuts to a work surface and coarsely chop.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the lemon juice, mustard and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fold in the parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the vegetables and walnuts to the dressing and toss. Top the salad with the feta and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Warm Chicken Salad with Green Beans, Almonds and Dried Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast cutlets (about 6)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 1 head radicchio, cored and shredded
  • 1/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over high; season chicken with salt and pepper. In two batches, cook chicken until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. When cool enough to handle, slice chicken crosswise.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches salted water to a boil. Add green beans; cover and cook until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold water until cool; drain well.

Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, jam, mustard and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss arugula and radicchio with half the dressing. Divide salad among four plates; arrange chicken, green beans, cherries and almonds on top. Drizzle with remaining dressing; serve immediately.

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Spinach Salad with Salmon

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 skinless salmon fillets, (6 ounces each)
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

Balsamic-Rosemary Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

For the Vinaigrette

In a blender combine vinegar, mustard, garlic, rosemary, water, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. With machine running, add oil in a thin stream; blend until creamy.

For the Salmon

Heat broiler, with rack set 4 inches from the heat. Place salmon on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Broil, without turning, until opaque throughout, 7 to 9 minutes. Let cool briefly, then flake.

Divide spinach and tomatoes among serving plates. Top with salmon, blue cheese and pecans. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette. Pass the remaining dressing with the salad.

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Steak and Potato Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds small potatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 heart romaine lettuce, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 5 ounces baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
  • 1/3 cup shaved Parmesan (1 ounce)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over high. Pat steak dry; season steak with salt and pepper and cook until browned and medium-rare, 3 to 5 minutes per side (reduce heat if skillet begins to scorch). Transfer to a cutting board; let rest 5 minutes, then thinly slice against the grain.

In a large bowl, combine romaine and arugula. Add potatoes, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons oil and toss to combine.

Top salad with steak and Parmesan and serve with lemon wedges.


veneto cover

Veneto includes the eastern part of the Po Valley and, to the north, a part of the Dolomites. Venice ruled for centuries over one of the largest and richest maritime republics and trade empires in the world. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it was ceded to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence. Besides Italian, most inhabitants also speak Venetian. Veneto is, today, one of the greatest immigrant-receiving regions in the country, the most recent of whom are Romanian, Moroccan and Albanian.

The regional capital is Venice. Other important cities are: Verona, Padua, Vicenza, Treviso, Rovigo and Belluno.

Treviso Piazza

Treviso Piazza

Numerous and important Roman traces can be found in this region: the best known example is the Arena of Verona. In the area around Venice, Byzantine influences are visible (St. Mark and the Cathedral of Torcello) and there are many outstanding examples of Romanesque and Gothic art. The Renaissance palaces are still numerous. In Venice, the Academy Galleries house the major collections of Venetian paintings from the years 1300 to 1700; while the Guggenheim collection exhibits international works of contemporary art, as does the National Gallery of Modern Art.  The Correr Museum is reserved for the Renaissance masterpieces.

Venice Canals

Venice Canals

In Verona, the Civic Museum of Art, is devoted to Verona painters. Padua has the famous Scrovegni Chapel with its Giotto’s frescoes, the Civic Museum and the Botanic Garden, the oldest in Europe. In Treviso, there is the Museum of the Casa Trevigiana with its modern furniture and sculptures.

Take a tour of Veneto via the video below.

Cuisine is a very integral part of the culture of Veneto and the region is home to some of the most recognizable dishes, desserts and wines in Italian, European and World cuisine.

Veneto is an important wine-growing area and produces: Soave, Bardolino, Recioto, Amarone, Torcolato, Prosecco, Tocai Rosso, Garganega, Valpolicella, Verduzzo, Raboso, Moscato, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Nero, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot varietals. Homemade wine making is widespread. After making wine, the alcohol of the pressed grapes is distilled to produce grappa or graspa, as it is called in the local language.

Veneto Vineyards

Veneto Vineyards

Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine. It is made from a variety of white grapes of the same name, which is traditionally grown in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. The name, Prosecco, is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco, where this grape variety is believed to have originated. Around the holidays, I like to make pre-dinner drinks with Prosecco and different fruit flavors. My family looks forward to this special drink.

Spritz, in the Venetian language also called “spriss” or “spriseto” depending on the area, usually consists of 1/3 sparkling wine and 2/3 Aperol. Campari or gin may also be used.

The cheeses of Veneto include: Asiago (PDO), Piave (PDO), Monte Veronese (PDO), Morlacco and Grana Padano (PDO). The sopressa vicentina (PDO) is an aged salami, cylindrical in shape and prepared with raw, quality pork meat. It may or may not include garlic in its ingredients and comes in medium and large sizes. Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo (PDO) is obtained from the fresh meat of a top breed of adult hogs. The aroma is delicate, sweet and fragrant.

Treviso Radicchio

Treviso Radicchio

Radicchio rosso di Treviso (PGI) is a vegetable with a faintly bitter taste and a crunchy texture. The production area encompasses many town districts in the provinces of Treviso, Padua and Venice. The radicchio, Variegata di Castelfranco (PGI, has a delicate and slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture. Veronese Vialone Nano Rice from Verona (PGI) is a type of rice with short, plump grains, which have a creamy consistency when cooked. They are commonly used in risotto dishes and have a high starch content. The Bean of Lamon (PGI) is particularly prized for its delicate flavor and extremely tender skin. The White Asparagus of Cimadolmo (PGI) has a characteristic scent and a very delicate taste. The White Asparagus of Bassano is a typical product of the northern part of the province of Vicenza. The San Zeno di Montagna (Verona) chestnut has Protected Geographical Status.

Tiramisù (a dessert made from mascarpone, coffee, Marsala wine, savoiardi and chocolate) originates from Veneto. Veneto is also home to a golden sweet bread, called Pandoro. This bread is produced in and around Verona according to an ancient recipe. Scalete, Pàndolo and Baicoli are all traditional sweets of the city.

Venetian Specialties

Veneto

Fritto Misto di Mare

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The Italian phrase “fritto misto” roughly translates as “mixed fry,” and it encompasses all sorts of fried foods: meats such as sweetbreads, vegetables and even desserts. But in Venice the term almost always applies to the city’s famous frutti di mare—fruits of the sea. The chefs of Venice’s restaurants and cafés feel that frying is one of the best ways to showcase the impeccably fresh fish and seafood from the Adriatic Sea.

In Italy, fritto misto is nearly always served as a first course. In Veneto, bite-size pieces of fish, fried and served with a squirt of lemon juice are a very popular antipasto. A  Venetian fritto is rarely vegetarian, given the city’s available fish. Consequently, you can sample all manner of fresh tiny fish, miniature soft-shell crabs, shrimp and many more. Natives stop by a trattoria at sunset for a plateful; then stroll for a while before dinner.

To serve 6, you will need about 4 pounds of fish. Here are some suggestions: fresh sardines, anchovies, baby squid, baby cuttlefish, small crabs, shrimp and other assorted shellfish, tiny whiting, sole or whatever else you would like to include.

For the Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup seltzer or club soda

For Dredging:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Fritto Misto:

  • 4 cups vegetable oil, or a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1 pound cleaned squid, cut in 1/2 ­inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1 pound mussels, steamed and shucked
  • 1 pound smelts or sardines
  • Sea salt
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper for garnish, optional
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Make the batter: Put the flour and salt in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the wine to obtain a smooth, lump free mixture. Rest 30 minutes. Add seltzer just before frying.

Near the stove, put the seasoned dredging flour in a shallow bowl. Place the finished batter next to it and an empty plate next to that. Put fish and other ingredients for frying and a paper towel lined baking sheet nearby.

Put oil in a large wide, deep pot and fasten a candy thermometer to the side. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

Working in small batches, dip a few pieces of fish, first into the seasoned flour to coat lightly, then into the batter. Put battered pieces on the empty plate.

Slip a few pieces into the hot oil and fry 3 to 4 minutes, until golden. Remove with tongs or a wire spider and drain on the paper towel ­lined baking sheet. Hold the fried food in a warm oven while continuing to fry additional fish. Make sure to regulate the heat below the pan to keep oil at the correct temperature (adding too many pieces to the oil will cause it to cool.)

Remove pieces of batter from the oil between batches with a fine meshed skimmer.

As soon as you have enough to serve, pile it onto a warmed platter. Sprinkle with sea salt (and crushed red pepper, if desired). Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Continue to fry in small batches until all the fish is used. (Recipe adapted from the New York Times.)

Crespelle with Treviso Radicchio

veneto7

The delicate flavor of the béchamel contrasts with the bitter taste of the radicchio, making a balanced and delicious dish.

4 Servings

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 4 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 oz butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 pinch salt

Filling

  • 1 ¾ lb radicchio from Treviso
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • White wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7 oz diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

For the Bechamel Sauce

  • 4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 oz butter
  • 3 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Prepare the crepes:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter without letting it brown. Then remove it from the heat and let cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing the pan and add the remainder to the bowl where you will mix the crepe batter.

Add the flour, eggs and a pinch of salt in  the bowl with the melted butter. Whisk together until you have a smooth, fairly dense batter. Add the milk, slowly, while whisking. You should have a smooth batter without lumps. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan or crepe griddle. Once hot, brush the pan with the reserved melted butter. Use a ladle to add enough batter to cover the entire pan. Try to make the thickness even across the pan.

When the crepe begins to separate itself from the pan, flip the crepe quickly using a spatula and cook the other side. Once you have cooked both sides, place the crepe on a kitchen towel or on paper towels. Continue making crepes until you have finished the batter. Let cool slightly before filling.

Prepare the béchamel sauce:

Put a fairly large pot over low heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Be careful not to burn or brown it.

Sift the flour and add it to the butter with the salt. Mix using a whisk to make a smooth, uniform mixture, known as a roux. Continue cooking the roux until it is slightly golden, while whisking.

Add the milk and broth to the roux, a little at a time, and mix with a whisk. Be careful not to let any lumps form. Bring the sauce to a boil and continue cooking to thicken it. Remove the pot from the heat.

Prepare the filling:

In the meantime, wash and cut the radicchio into very small pieces. Add the oil to a sauté pan and heat.

Once hot, add the radicchio, salt, pepper, garlic and a little bit of white wine. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Then add the egg yolks, Fontina cheese and the sautéed radicchio.

Assemble for baking:

Place a layer of crepes in a baking dish and cover with some of the radicchio sauce; repeat the layers ending with a layer of crepes. Sprinkle the top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.

Marinated Grilled Tuna with Anchovy Sauce

veneto4

 

This is an old Venetian recipe for grilled tuna.

Tuna Ingredients

  • 6 slices fresh tuna steaks, about 3/8 inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for basting
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 onion, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges

Anchovy Sauce Ingredients – Makes 1/4 cup

  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions for the tuna:

Place the tuna steaks in a 9 x 12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan and add the olive oil, white wine, onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 hours, turning once. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high. You may also use a stovetop grill pan.

Remove the tuna from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, basting with olive oil and turning only once, until deep black grid marks appear, about 3 1/2 minutes on each side.

Directions for the anchovy sauce:

In a mortar, pound the anchovy fillets, garlic and parsley with a pestle until a pest . Slowly pound in the olive oil and lemon juice.

Pour the sauce over the grilled tuna and serve with additional lemon wedges.

Zalti (Cornmeal, Pine Nut and Raisin Cookies)

Veneto2

Zaleti” means “little yellow things” in the Veneto dialect. Zaleti are a traditional cookie from the Veneto region. They are often enjoyed together with a glass of sparkling, aromatic wine like Prosecco della Valdobbiadene.

Zaleti, a rustic type of cookie once served only during the Carnival season, are now available year round. Like all rustic, farmhouse recipes, zaleti can be prepared in many ways. Each home cook had her own recipe and would prepare the cookies using the ingredients she had available. The peculiar characteristic of these cookies is their yellow color, which comes from the corn flour – an ingredient present in all of the farmhouses in centuries past – that is used in the batter. Carlo Goldoni mentions the cookies in his 1749 book “La Buona Moglie”.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb cornmeal
  • 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ oz sugar
    5 oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz raisins, soaked in warm water
  • 2 ½ oz pine nuts
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Lemon zest, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder together.

With an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the drained raisins, pine nuts, milk, grated lemon zest and vanilla and mix well.

With your hands, shape the mixture into small oval cakes about 3.2 inches long. Place them onto a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minute. The baking time can vary according to the size of the “zaleti”.


 

hotsandwiches

Winter is the time of year when we crave warm, home-cooked food. We love getting cozy with a variety of winter comfort food recipes, from mashed potatoes and gratins to mac n’ cheese.

Comforting or not, though, those classics are typically loaded with butter, milk, heavy cream and refined carbohydrates, piling on pounds that can stick around long past the winter thaw. But you don’t have to give up on comfort food just yet.

Hot and hearty sandwiches are the best of all worlds on chilly days: filling, warming and easy to eat. They can be delicious, yet healthy. Whether you grab a bite as you’re rushing around or fix yourself a dinner plate, the following Italian sandwich recipes will give you comfort.

hotsandwiches5

Tuna Panini

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split
  • Dijon mustard
  • Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Mozzarella or Fontina cheese (6 ounces)
  • Sliced bread and butter pickles, optional
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a panini press or griddle.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard and top each roll half with a slice of cheese. Spread the tuna mixture on the bottoms and add a few pickles slices, if desired.

Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the rolls with the butter.

Place the sandwiches in the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese is melted, about 6 minutes. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve.

hotsandwiches1

 

Grilled Chicken, Tomato and Onion Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces pitted mixed olives (1 cup)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
  • 1 Vidalia onion (or any sweet onion), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 4 crusty rolls, such as ciabatta, sourdough or hero, split horizontally
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2  pounds thin chicken cutlets
  • Directions

Heat a stove top grill pan.

In a mini food processor, pulse the pitted olives with the crushed garlic and oregano until chopped. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and pulse until finely chopped. Season with pepper.

Brush the, chicken, tomatoes, onion and cut sides of the rolls with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Grill the tomatoes and onion over high heat until they are softened and lightly charred, about 2 minutes for the tomatoes and 6 minutes for the onion. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes Remove to a plate.

Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper and grill them, turning occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut the chicken cutlets to fit the toasted rolls and top with the sliced tomatoes, sliced onion and olive relish. Close the sandwiches, cut them in half and serve.

"Party Primer" August 09

Sausage-and-Pepper Heros

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 pound red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 Italian chicken sausages, about 5 ounces each
  • 3 long hero rolls, split lengthwise

Directions

Heat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Heat a large skillet and add the oil, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened and just beginning to brown, 6 minutes. Place the vegetables in a heatproof bowl, cover with foil and keep warm in the oven while you cook the sausages.

Prick the sausages with a knife and cook over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until no trace of pink remains, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausages to the vegetables and keep warm.

Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler. Fill the rolls with the sausages and peppers, cut each one in half and serve.

hotsandwiches3

Eggplant Parm Sandwiches

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • One 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing the baking pan
  • Salt
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups Italian seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2-pounds of eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 4 long hero rolls, cut in half and split lengthwise

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a blender or food processor, puree the tomatoes with their juices, garlic and the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the sauce with salt. Set aside.

Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil.

Put the eggs and bread crumbs in 2 separate shallow bowls. Working with 1 slice of eggplant at a time, dip the slice in the egg, letting any excess drip back into the bowl, then coat with the bread crumbs. Place the slice of eggplant on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. You may need a third baking sheet.

Bake the eggplant slices until lightly brown, about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Lightly oil a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a single layer of eggplant. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the eggplant. Top with a few mozzarella slices and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of the parmesan. Tear one-third of the basil leaves and place over the cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients for a total of 4 layers, ending with a layer of eggplant and a thick layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan on top.

Wrap the entire pan in foil and set it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 1 hour, until heated through.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°. Remove the foil from the top of the pan and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until lightly browned on top.

Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes before unmolding.

Cut wedges of eggplant to fit the rolls and serve.

FOOD WINE PULLED PORK SANDWICH POMPANELLA FENNEL SALAD

Pepper Pork and Fennel Sandwiches

Aleppo chili pepper comes from Syrian town of Aleppo, just east of the Turkish border. These red chilies are also known in the Mediterranean region as halaby peppers. Moderately hot, the crushed, dried peppers are celebrated for their rich, fruity flavor that’s sometimes described as a cross between cumin and cayenne. It has a moderate heat level with a hint of a vinegar, salty taste. Aleppo pepper offers a nice variation from your usual crushed red pepper flakes.

6 servings

Ingredients

Pork

  • 3 1/2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Sandwiches

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large fennel bulb—trimmed, cored and very thinly sliced
  • 4 cups (packed) arugula
  • 6 toasted ciabatta rolls, split, for serving

Directions

Make 6 cuts in the pork, 1 inch apart, cutting most of the way through the meat. Rub the pork all over with the salt. Rub the pork with the garlic and then with the Aleppo pepper, covering the meat completely. Wrap the pork in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set the pork in a baking dish just large enough to hold it and add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pork with parchment paper and then cover tightly with foil. Bake for about 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Pour all but 1/4 cup of the roasting juices into a bowl and reserve. Drizzle the pork with the vinegar, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest, covered in the pan, for 10 minutes. Remove the pork to a cutting board.

Combine the pan juices with the reserved juices in a microwave safe bowl.

In a large bowl, stir the olive oil with the lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Add the fennel and arugula and toss.

Brush the rolls with oil and toast under the broiler.

Discard any fat and gristle from the pork. Reheat the juices in the microwave or in a pan.

Shred the meat and toss with the hot pan juices.

Pile the meat on the rolls, top with the fennel salad and serve.


Umbrian dinner

Umbria is a region of both historic and modern central Italy. It is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The regional capital is Perugia. Umbria is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and influence on Italian culture. The region is characterized by hills and historical towns such as Assisi, Norcia and Orvieto. Umbria is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south.

Despite being landlocked and somewhat economically depressed — or perhaps because of these things — Umbria is the quintessential embodiment of all things Italian. This is certainly true of its cuisine, which emphasizes the virtues of Italian cooking: simplicity, tradition and respect for fresh, local ingredients. Any list of the products for which Umbria is famous would include farro, a grain; prosciutto and other pork or wild boar products from the town of Norcia and the well-known black truffle.

Umbrian pigs live on the land and eat acorns and chestnuts that give the meat its characteristic flavor and texture. Umbrians take special pride in how their pigs are raised and treated, especially in the mountainous area of Norcia. Over the centuries, the word norcino, or person from Norcia, became synonymous with butcher. The most important cured meat in Umbria is, without a doubt, Prosciutto di Norcia IGP, followed by pork sausages and mazzafegati, a pork and liver sausage that can be traced back to Renaissance tables.

The best of Umbria’s cheeses are mature pecorino sheep’s cheese and fresh or ripe goat’s milk cheese. The lentils of Castelluccio di Norcia are utilized for soups, main courses and side dishes. Everything is seasoned with the golden and fruity olive oil produced in this region. Umbrian oil of high quality is awarded with a PDO quality mark (Protected Designation of Origin).

Umbria is particularly suitable for wine growing and its mild climate gives this land top-quality white and red wines, including among the many well-known labels, Assisi Grechetto and Sagrantino di Montefalco. The wines of Montefalco have an interesting history, having been identified as important local products. In the 1400s, a city council made it illegal for people who owned grapevines in the area to neglect them and the fruits they produced. As a result, Montefalco wines are some of Italy’s finest wines. Each year, around Easter, the town holds a wine festival celebrating the fruits of its winemaking labors.

Pretend you are in Umbria this weekend and make this dinner for your friends:

Umbrian dinner 1

Arugula, Pecorino, Pine Nut and Pear Salad (Rucola con Pecorino, Pignoli e Pere)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 5 oz. baby arugula
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. Pecorino Romano
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine water and raisins in a bowl; let sit 20 minutes and drain. Toss lemon juice with the pears in a bowl. Arrange arugula on four separate salad plates; season with salt and pepper.

Top each plate with some of the pears and shave pecorino over the top of each salad; sprinkle with raisins and the pine nuts.

Whisk balsamic, salt and pepper in a bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in oil until emulsified; drizzle dressing over each salad plate.

Umbrian dinner3

Tagliatelle with Goose Ragù (Tagliatelle al Ragù d’Oca)

If goose is difficult to find, you can certainly substitute duck.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 oz boneless, skinless goose breast, diced
  • 3 oz goose liver, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
  • 3/4 tablespoon minced sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 carrot, minced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (14 ­oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 lb fresh tagliatelle pasta
  • Grated parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium ­high. Cook goose breast until browned, 5–7 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Cook liver until browned, 4–6 minutes; transfer to bowl with the breast.

Add remaining oil to the skillet; cook rosemary, sage, chili flakes, celery, carrot and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; cook until evaporated, 5–7 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper; cook until thickened, about 20–22 minutes.

Stir in reserved goose breast and liver.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water; toss pasta and reserved water in skillet with the sauce. Garnish with parmesan.

Umbrian dinner 2

Pork with Juniper Berries (Filetto di Maiale con Bacche di Ginepro)

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Potatoes:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 10 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1½ tablespoons minced sage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pork:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 oz guanciale or pancetta, minced
  • 1 (1 ­lb) pork tenderloin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Directions

To make the potatoes:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium ­high. Cook potatoes until golden, 10–12 minutes.

Stir in green beans, sage, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, until potatoes and green beans are tender, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; keep warm.

To make the pork:

Wipe the skillet clean and heat the oil over medium ­high. Cook guanciale until crisp, 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer guanciale to a plate.

Season pork with salt and pepper; add to the skillet and cook, turning as needed, until browned on all sides, 8–10 minutes. Add juniper berries, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves and garlic and cook 1–2 minutes. Add wine; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until evaporated, 12–15 minutes. Add stock; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, slightly covered, until an instant ­read thermometer inserted into the pork reads 145° F.

Let pork rest 5 minutes, then slice ½” thick; divide between plates. Simmer sauce until thickened, 10–12 minutes. Discard herbs and stir in reserved guanciale, salt and pepper; spoon over pork. Serve with potatoes and green beans.

Umbrian dinner 4

Umbrian Snowflake Cookies (Biscotti ai Cereali)

Corn flakes—both mixed into the batter and coating the cookies’ exterior—give these crumbly chocolate chip treats a crunchy, nutty flavor. Served at festivals, wineries and charity bake sales, they’re a favorite of the residents of the Umbrian hill town of Montefalco.

Makes 28 Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups corn flakes cereal (2 cups lightly crushed, 4 cups whole)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 350° F.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric  mixer, cream granulated sugar and butter until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add dry ingredients; mix until dough forms.

Fold in crushed corn flakes and the chocolate chips. Divide dough into 28 balls; roll in the whole corn flakes. Space 1″ apart on parchment paper—lined baking sheets.

Bake until golden and crisp, 20–22 minutes. Let cookies cool; dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.



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