Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Appetizer

MarcheMarche’s location is ideal for both catching fresh seafood and harvesting food from the land. While Marche recipes make frequent use of pecorino cheese, olive oil and unsalted bread, they are also influenced by other nearby regions. Marche’s most famous appetizer is Olive Ascolana-olives are stuffed with a bread, cheese and meat filling before being deep-fried. Since it is deep-fried, I don’t serve them, but if you would like to know how to make them click on the recipe link.

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Vincisgrassi is a pasta dish layered with lasagna noodles, chicken livers and giblets, veal brains, ham and mushrooms with béchamel sauce, Parmesan cheese and white truffles, if they are in season. Tender pockets of ravioli pasta are filled with a parsley and ricotta mixture and served with sole cooked with tomatoes and white wine in what is called, Ravioli ai Filetto di Sogliola.

Lumachelle, a cheese flavored egg pasta, is made into a popular soup called Minestra di Lumachelle. Other popular soups in the Marche cuisine include Minestra di Trippa, a tripe soup served with battuto, a herb-flavored pork fat. Brodetto or fish soup, is eaten further along the coast and may contain any number of types of fish that are seasoned with vinegar, garlic or saffron and thickened with flour.

Several classic seafood combinations include a Potacchio sauce seasoned with white wine, tomato, onion. rosemary and lemon juice. Alla Marinara cooks the seafood in tomato sauce and Gratinati al Forno broils the fish in the oven. Porchetta combines cured pork, such as pancetta or prosciutto, wild fennel, rosemary and garlic with seafood and spices.

Mussels are stuffed with ham, bread crumbs and parsley before roasting in tomato sauce to make Muccioli Arrosto. Dried cod, tomatoes and carrots are cooked in a garlic and rosemary flavored sauce made with olive oil, white wine and milk for a dish called Stocco All Anconetana.

Marche cuisine includes a wide range of meats, from beef and lamb, free range poultry and pork, rabbits and game birds. Ground beef and bone marrow are mixed with cheese, spinach, bread crumbs and eggs to make a pasta that is served in broth. Quail, salt pork, peas and tomatoes are braised in white wine.

Marche’s variety of salumi is quite extensive. Ciauscolo,is a sausage that is spread on bread and prosciutto form Carpegna is especially well-known.

Fresh vegetables, such as greens, zucchini and peas, are eaten in season.

Marche cuisine takes advantage of dried lentils and beans to eat all year-long in soup. In the dish, Minestra di ceci, chick peas with pork ribs and tomatoes are simmered in a herb broth. It is served over toast with grated pecorino cheese.

Pecorino from Marche is eaten while relatively young and mild. It is used frequently in focaccia and pizza. Formaggio di fossa is a rare cheese from Talamello, made from sheep and cow milk. It is wrapped in cloth and buried in pits to age.

Marche cuisine also uses cheese in sweet dessert dishes. Calcio are pocket shaped pastries made with fresh pecorino. Piconi are made with ricotta and flavored with cinnamon and rum. Becute, a raisin and nut biscuit and Frustenga, a dried fruit and walnut cake, are both made with cornmeal.

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Dinner Menu

Antipasto

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Slices of fresh Italian bread,  Ciauscolo, Pecorino cheese and olives.

First Course

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce & Béchamel – Vincisgrassi

Ingredients

Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb or pork
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound chopped chicken thighs
  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

White Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

Lasagna:

  • 1 (1-pound) package lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Directions

In a large stockpot, bring several quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside to cool on kitchen towels.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped prosciutto and sauté until almost crisp. Add the carrots and onions and sauté, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add the ground lamb to the mixture and cook until evenly browned. Pour in the white wine and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste until well mixed and add a little salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

In another pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken, mushrooms and a pinch of nutmeg. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add this mixture to the simmering meat sauce, along with 1/3 cup of whole milk. Cover the meat sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes, tasting towards the end for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the white sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a light roux, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of whole milk. Allow the white sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a large rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce topped with white sauce. (Be sparing on bottom layers to avoid a soggy casserole). Add a layer of Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Using a pastry brush, brush the top noodles with the melted butter and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown.

Serve the vincisgrassi piping hot from the oven, cut into squares.

Second Course

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Fish in Spicy Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, such as snapper or cod
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 ounces (200 g) roasted red bell peppers packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces (100 g) pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted or pickled capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • Hot water
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces. Salt and pepper the fillets and flour them lightly. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the fish on both sides, then pour in the wine.Simmer for 1 minute. Remove the fish to a platter and keep warm.

In the same skillet sauté the onion, carrot and celery. When the onions are lightly browned, stir in the tomato paste, roasted red peppers, olives, capers and a half cup of hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Return the fish to the skillet and gently heat. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Zucchini Carpaccio

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 pound piece Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh mint or parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin lengthwise slices. Overlap zucchini in 1 layer on a plate; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and scatter with leeks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices of Parmesan over the leeks. Garnish with mint leaves.

Dessert Course

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Poached Peaches in White Wine

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm peaches 
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • White wine
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Mascarpone cheese or Frozen Yogurt

Directions

With a paring knife cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. If the stone will not come away easily, make a shallow incision around the stone and it will fall away once cooked.

Place the fruit cut side down in a pan or pot that fits the fruit snugly. Add in the herbs, lemon zest and the honey. Add enough wine to reach halfway up the fruit. Cover with baking paper (parchment) and bring the pan up to a medium simmer for 8-12 minutes total depending on the size of the fruit.

Give the peaches a turn on their backs after about 5 minutes and they are done when a knife slips easily into the thickest part of the fruit.

Once the peaches are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on a plate to cool. Return the pan to a low heat and reduce the wine until it becomes a syrup. Be careful not to let the mixture burn. Strain the syrup into a bowl and allow to cool.

To serve: Carefully remove the skins and arrange the peach halves on a serving plate. Drizzle the peaches with the white wine syrup and add tablespoons of mascarpone or yogurt on top of each peach half.

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Summer Drinks

The sky is bright, the days are long and the weather warm: think Iced tea!  Now, with so many delicious loose-leaf tea varieties, you can really experiment to make easy, delicious and, most importantly, healthy iced tea for you and your family to enjoy. Here are some combinations to add some excitement to your cold tea.

Iced Tea Preparation Tips

Here are some guidelines for making iced tea.

As with any tea, you want to brew the tea first, using the correct-temperature hot water and proper steeping time. The only difference with iced tea is that it’s important to add double the amount of tea to strengthen the tea flavor. Once you add ice, the tea is going to dilute.

With green and white tea, the leaves are delicate and, therefore, boiling water will singe them. It’s best to heat the water to 175°F and steep for 2 1/2 minutes.

With black tea, use boiling water and steep for up to 5 minutes. You don’t want to leave the tea for too long or it will become bitter.

Once the tea is done steeping, pour over ice and it is ready.

If you’re making a cup for just yourself, use 2 teaspoons of tea.

Making iced tea for a crowd? Pitcher sizes vary, but generally one cup of loose-leaf tea for a large pitcher will be sufficient. Make the tea in a large pot, sweeten to taste and pour over ice when ready.

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Add Flavor To Iced Tea Drinks

Sencha Green Tea with Rose Petals and Cherry

This combination is naturally sweet, so no sugar is needed. Simply add some dried cherries and rose petals to sencha tea (a Japanese green tea). You receive great metabolism-boosting benefits from the green tea as well as antioxidants and vitamins.

Orange, Apple, Hibiscus Tea Cooler

Another unique, refreshing blend that is surprising in its depth and flavor is orange peel, apple peel, hibiscus and rosehip. They come together to create a caffeine-free fruit combination that’s perfect for kids and adults alike. It does have a hint of tartness to it, so add a bit of honey or agave to give it a slightly sweet taste. This tea is also packed with vitamins, especially vitamin C, which rosehip and hibiscus are rich in. It can be added, as well, to summer coolers and even sangria. Pour it into Popsicle molds to create a refreshing treat.

Traditional Iced Tea with Mango

If you’re looking for something more traditional, try organic black tea with some dried mango. The mango infuses the black tea with a fruity flavor.

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Tropical Sangria

Ingredients

  • 3 cups mixed berries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 orange, cut into small wedges
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1/4 cup triple sec
  • 750 ml cold Rose’ wine, chilled
  • 1 cup orange juice, chilled
  • 1 cup pineapple juice, chilled
  • Fresh pineapple chunks for garnish

Directions

Gently mix berries with the honey and let sit to macerate about 20 minutes. Just enough to be slightly softened. Pour into a large pitcher.

Add brandy, triple sec, juices and chilled wine. Stir and chill. Top with ice cubes.and serve in wine glasses. Garnish with fruit.

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Cucumber Mojitos

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 cups agave syrup, honey or natural sugar
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle light (white) rum
  • 2 cups sparkling water or lemon-lime soda
  • Crushed ice

To serve:

  • 1 medium medium cucumber, cut into thin rounds for garnish
  • Fresh mint
  • Lime wedges

Directions

Combine water, cucumbers, mint, agave syrup and lime juice in a blender and pulse until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids.

Combine cucumber mixture and rum in a large pitcher. Stir well. Refrigerate up to 4 hours.

To serve:

Fill glasses with crushed ice. Fill each glass halfway with cucumber mixture and top with sparkling water or soda. Garnish with a slice of cucumber, sprig of mint and a lime wedge.

For a kid-friendly alternative: make a double batch of cucumber mixture (one for adults; one for kids), omitting the rum in half of the mixture. Top with lemon-lime soda.

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Watermelon Lemonade

12 servings

Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar

Lemonade:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • 2 cups diced watermelon
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
  • 1 lime, sliced into rounds

To make sugar syrup:

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and boil for 10 minutes. Place the sugar syrup in the freezer or refrigerator while you do the rest of the preparation.

To serve the lemonade:

Mix the chilled sugar syrup, water, lemon juice and lime juice in a big bowl or pitcher. Add the ice cubes, diced watermelon and other fruit. Stir well and chill until icy cold.

Snacks

With gardens and markets overflowing with ripe fruits and veggies, summer is the easiest season to eat healthfully. These recipes will let you enjoy summer’s bounty and feel good — all season long.

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Green Goddess Dip with Crudites

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an avocado, seeded and peeled
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets, blotted dry with a paper towel
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar or other white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups assorted vegetable pieces for dipping (such as cucumber, celery, carrots, radishes, sugar snap peas, mini sweet peppers, fennel, endive, blanched green beans and/or broccoli)

Directions

In a food processor combine avocado, parsley, tarragon, chives, mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, vinegar, milk. lemon peel and black pepper. Cover and process until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl, if needed.

Transfer dressing to a serving bowl; cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. Serve with assorted vegetable pieces for dipping.

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Grilled Sherry-Garlic Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 fresh large shrimp in the shells (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

For the marinade:

In a large bowl whisk together sherry, parsley, garlic, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper and salt, whisking until salt is dissolved. Set aside.

To butterfly the shrimp in shells:

Using small kitchen shears and starting at the head, cut through the shell along the entire backside of each shrimp (do not remove the shell). Remove and discard the vein. Using a sharp paring knife, make a deep cut from head to tail, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Rinse; pat dry with paper towels.

Add shrimp to the marinade and, using your hands, gently lift and toss the shrimp to work the marinade into the openings, being careful to keep shells intact. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator 1 to 3 hours. Drain shrimp; discarding marinade.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill. Grill shrimp and lemon pieces on the grates directly over medium-high heat, covered, 3 to 5 minutes or until shrimp are opaque and lemon pieces are lightly charred, turning once.

Transfer shrimp and lemon pieces to a large serving bowl. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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Oven-Fried Dill Pickles

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 30 crinkle-cut dill pickle slices (about 1 cup), rinsed, drained and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add drained pickles, stirring to coat evenly.

In a food processor combine panko, cornmeal, paprika, pepper and garlic powder; cover and process about 20 seconds or until evenly fine crumb forms. Transfer mixture to a shallow dish.

Working in batches, add a few buttermilk-coated pickles to the panko mixture, stirring with a fork to coat. Shake off excess crumbs. Arrange pickles in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Lightly coat tops of pickles with cooking spray. Bake 10 minutes. Using a spatula, turn pickles over. Bake 8 to 10 minutes more or until browned and crisp. Serve immediately.

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Smoked Tuna Bites

6 servings

Ingredients

Tuna Spread

  • 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 5 ounce can or pouch chunk white tuna, drained
  • 2 tablespoons diced pimiento, drained

Appetizer

  • 24 thin water crackers
  • 1/2 of an English cucumber (about 8 ounces), cut into 24 slices, each about 1/8 inch thick
  • Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together cream cheese, onion, 1 tablespoon chives, the oil, Old Bay seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke until creamy. Flake tuna with a fork.

Add tuna and the pimiento to the cream cheese mixture; stir until well mixed. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

To assemble:

Spread 1/2 teaspoon of the tuna mixture on each cracker. Top each with a cucumber slice and another 1 1/2 teaspoons of the tuna mixture. Sprinkle with chives.

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Eggplant Bruschetta

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled or unpeeled (your choice)
  • Dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing on eggplant slices, plus 2 teaspoons for the bruschetta
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 16 slices toasted Italian bread

Directions

Slice eggplant in thin circles, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and Italian seasoning.

Bake them on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Finely dice the eggplant and combine with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil, garlic, tomato and basil.

Spread on toasted baguette slices and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a platter and serve.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eggplant Rolls with Pecorino and Prosciutto

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Preheat a grill

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

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

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

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Penne with Zucchini and Ricotta

6 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

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

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

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Beef Fillet with Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Bensone Cake

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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


My Local Farmers' Market

My Local Farmers’ Market

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

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

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

farmersmarket 1

Summer Squash Salad with Arugula, Feta and Herbs

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

farmersmarket 5

Grilled Panzanella Salad

Ingredients

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

Directions

Heat a grill to medium-high heat.

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

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

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

farmersmarket 6

Green Tomatoes with Red Pepper Aioli

Ingredients

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

Directions

Aioli

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

Tomatoes

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

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

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

Heat oven to 200 degrees F.

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

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

farmersmarket 8

Grilled Shrimp and Bean Salad

Serve with cornbread, if desired.

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

farmersmarket 2

 

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

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

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

farmersmarket 7

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

farmersmarket 3

Summer Berry Dessert

Serves 4

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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

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

farmersmarket 4

Plum Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and drizzle over plums.

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


puglia-italy

Puglia is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region in southern Italy which, together with its iron rich soil makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year. Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘oricchiette’ (meaning little ears) which is still made daily by the elder women in most of the small villages.

The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in traditional wood burning bread ovens and some of the villages still have a communal bread oven where the locals go to bake their bread every day.

Vegetables obviously grow well in the warm climate and are used in abundance, always fresh and always seasonal. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and aubergines, peppers and courgettes are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The interior of Puglia is rocky and many sheep and goats are bred there for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Puglia has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta – a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk, Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Puglia and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

In spite of this excess of food, the daily cuisine in Puglia, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and wholesome with most locals growing, rearing and making enough for their individual needs.

Puglia 6

Dinner Party Menu For Six

Antipasto

Puglia 1

Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 10 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place the peppers in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about half an hour or under the broiler until the skins start to blacken. Take them out of the oven, cool and then peel off the skins.
Cut the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide.

Grease the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and place a layer of peppers. Sprinkle a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper on the peppers. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.

When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil. Then place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are brown.

puglia 5

Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)

Ingredients

  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 14 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm water

Directions

Combine the all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until thoroughly combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes. Soften the dough by adding a little warm water, if it seems too dry.

Turn the dough out onto a bread board and roll pieces of the dough into long thin stripes about 4-5 inches long. Loop the ends around to form circles or pretzel shapes and space them out on wax paper to rest for to rise for 15 minutes covered with a clean kitchen cloth.

Heat the oven to 400° F.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and drop a few of the taralli in the boiling water for a minute, turn with and cook another minute. Remove the boiled taralli with a slotted spoon to a wire rack to dry for a minute or two.

Place them on an oiled baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until brown and crispy. Cool completely.

First Course

Puglia 2

Tubettini con le Cozze

(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lb tubettini pasta (little tubes)

Directions

Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell) and place them in a bowl of cold water.

Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the pasta tubes.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a cover and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute and add the cherry tomatoes. Once they soften, add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper and add the mussels. Cover with the lid and cook until all the mussels open.

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the mussels in the skillet, along with the chopped parsley and reserves pasta cooking liquid. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.

Second Course

Puglia 3

Roasted Striped Bass

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds attached, trimmed; bulbs quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise through root end, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 – 1 1/2-pounds whole striped bass or fish that is available in your area, cleaned, gutted, scaled 
  • 1/4 cup (about) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted, halved

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.

Boil wine in a medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Generously brush an 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange fennel slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Top with onion slices in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the vegetables.

Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly dust outside of fish with flour. Pour enough olive oil into extra-large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan; heat over medium-high heat until pan is very hot.

Working with one fish at a time, add fish to the skillet and cook until a golden crust forms on the skin, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining fish. Add more oil, only if necessary.Carefully place fish on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet. Gently stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 crushed garlic cloves and then 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour reserved wine over vegetables on the baking sheet.

Roast fish uncovered until vegetables begin to soften, 35 to 40 minutes. Scatter tomato halves and olives around the fish; bake until fish is just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer fish to large platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Continue to bake vegetables uncovered until tender and tomatoes are very soft and beginning to color in spots, about 15 minutes more.
Arrange vegetable mixture around the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds and serve.

Dessert

puglia 4

Baked Zeppole

Ingredients for the pastry dough

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 large eggs

Ingredients for the custard filling

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Jam

To make the pastry:

In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer.

Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drop 1 1/4-inch portions of dough about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the puffs about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the pastries to cooling racks.

To make the custard:

In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filing. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. Add the 6 eggs to the sugar and the cornstarch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of the warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot with the rest of the milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.

To serve:

Use a small knife to cut each zeppole in half. Fill each zeppole with some custard, replace the top half and put the zeppole on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppole and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.


parfait cover

Parfait (from the French meaning “perfect”) is a type of frozen dessert that dates back to 1894. At that time parfaits tasted like coffee and it was a frozen treat. Eventually, these layered ice cream desserts were laced with fruit syrups or liqueurs.

Modern day parfaits are usually prepared in tall glasses and the visual appeal of these traditional layered desserts makes them a favorite on many party menus. Popular parfait ingredients include fruit, nuts, chocolate, coffee, ice cream and yogurt. Strawberry parfait, mango parfait, apple parfait, peach parfait, yogurt parfait are all different kinds of parfaits that are served chilled as a casual dessert.

PARFAIT

Around the world, parfait can mean many things. In France, parfait refers to a frozen dessert made from a base of sugar syrup, egg and cream. In the UK and Germany, parfait refers to a very smooth meat paste (or pâté), usually made from liver (chicken or duck) and flavored with liqueur. In Italy, Italian ice is a frozen confection somewhat similar to shaved ice or snow cones but should not be confused with gelato, Italian ice cream. Sometimes, parfait-like confections are sold in Italy that layer different flavored Italian ices with gelato. This type of parfait dessert may be called gelati, which may be confusing.

In the United States, parfait refers to a popular dessert made by layering fresh or canned fruit and/or liqueurs with ice cream in a tall, clear glass and topped with whipped cream. In Canada and the northern United States, parfaits may also be made by using yogurt layered with granola, nuts and fresh fruits, such as peaches, strawberries or blueberries and are intended to be a healthier alternative to the ice cream/mascarpone and heavy cream parfaits.

Parfaits may be prepared as comfort food or as a health food, depending on the ingredients used. With ice cream, nuts and whipped cream, parfaits can be pretty high in calories. Yogurt in different forms, such as low-fat yogurt, organic yogurt or Greek yogurt, to name only a few, can be chosen according to suitability for the type of parfait you want to make. Yogurt parfaits make a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

Yogurt Parfaits can be made with unflavored yogurt or flavored varieties. The recipe may be made with a variety of yogurts with different consistencies, depending upon your taste. Full fat yogurt may be preferred by people who do not have to be conscious about losing weight. Those who prefer organic food, can choose to make their parfait with the organic varieties, while others may opt for regular.

Making a yogurt parfait is quite simple. A parfait glass is filled with layers of yogurt, granola and fruit. The layers are repeated and the final topping may be berries. It should be noted that it’s always better to fix a yogurt parfait and serve it immediately, otherwise, the cereal may get soggy and lose its crunchiness, thus making the dish less palatable.

Gelatin Parfaits are prepared by layering different fruit flavored gelatin (jello) in a parfait glass and topping the mixture with whipped cream and nuts. As the gelatin takes time to set, about 4-5 hours, make this parfait only when there is adequate time to prepare the gelatin before the occasion in which it is to be served.

Mixed Fruit parfaits are made with a base of sour cream mixed with sugar, fruit juice of choice and a liqueur. The mixture is placed at the bottom of a parfait glass, fresh fruits are placed as the next layer of the parfait, followed by a final layer of chocolate shavings. The dish is best served after being chilled for a couple of hours.

All parfaits are not desserts, as some are savory dishes made of seafood, vegetables and even foie gras. Savory parfaits are made in the same way as the dessert parfaits, except of course, with different ingredients. The common factor is their method.

Here are a few parfait recipes to suit a variety of tastes. Let your imagination create even more.

parfait 2

Italian Hazelnut Parfait

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup skinned hazelnuts
  • 15 ounces part-skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25 amaretti cookies
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ounce semi-sweet or sweet chocolate, grated (for garnish)

Directions

Set the oven at 375 degrees F.
Use 4 tall glasses.
In a baking pan, toast the hazelnuts, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned; cool. Chop the hazelnuts coarsely; transfer to a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk the ricotta until creamy, then whisk in the yogurt, ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, place cookies in a large zipper-top plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush them to the size of peas.

In a cold bowl with cold beaters, beat the cream and the remaining ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar until it holds soft peaks.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of the ricotta mixture into each glass, sprinkle with amaretti and a few hazelnuts (save 2 tablespoons of the nuts for the top garnish).

Continue to layer in this way, ending with a thin layer of ricotta. Add a spoonful of whipped cream and top with the reserved hazelnuts and grated chocolate.

3J-315251 042

Fresh Fruit Parfait

These parfaits are perfect for breakfast or for dessert.

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 rounded cup (½ dry pint) blackberries, raspberries or hulled strawberries, plus 2 extra berries per person for garnish
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 large, ripe, firm bananas
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 cups melon balls from two or three different types of ripe melon
  • Two 8-ounce containers vanilla yogurt
  • Optional additions: Your favorite granola or some dry-toasted sliced almonds or walnuts and fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions

Place the berries in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade or in a blender. Process the berries until thoroughly pureed.

Place the jam in a 1-quart saucepan. Position a fine-mesh sieve over the pan and pour the berry puree into the sieve. Using a sturdy rubber or wooden spatula, rub the puree through the sieve, leaving the seeds behind (straining is not necessary if using only strawberries). Bring the pureed mixture just to a simmer over low heat, stirring to break up any coagulated jam. Remove the pan from the stove, pour the mixture into a bowl and let it cool.

When you’re almost ready to serve the parfaits, lay each peeled banana on a flat surface and with a melon ball scoop make banana balls. When you’ve measured at least 1 cup, toss them with the lemon juice to prevent discoloring.

Gently fold together the banana and melon balls. Place 1¼ cups of the fruit balls in each parfait glass and ladle 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt over the fruit. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the berry puree on top of the yogurt. Allow the parfait to sit for a few minutes so the toppings can trickle down throughout the fruit.

If desired, top each parfait with a tablespoon or so of your favorite granola or some toasted sliced almonds. Garnish each serving with two plump berries and a sprig of fresh mint.

parfait 3

Healthy Tiramisu Parfaits

Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 4 oz (half of 8-oz package) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), softened
  • 3/4 cup skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 container (6 oz) vanilla yogurt
  • 1/3 cup cold brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
  • 1 package (3 oz) soft ladyfingers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 oz semisweet baking chocolate, grated (1/4 cup)

Directions

In medium bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Beat in ricotta cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until the mixture is creamy. Beat in yogurt until well blended.

In small bowl, mix espresso and coffee liqueur.

In 8 small parfait glasses or clear drinking glasses, layer half of the ladyfingers, half of the espresso mixture and half of the cheese mixture. Sprinkle each with about 3/4 teaspoon grated chocolate. Repeat layers.

Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors but no longer than 4 hours. Store covered in refrigerator.

parfait 4

Tomato Caprese Parfaits

Ingredients

  • A pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • A cup of basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 16 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced and then cut into small wedges
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto 
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 4-6 parfait glasses depending on size

Directions

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the pesto to make it more pourable. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tomatoes.

In attractive parfait glasses, layer tomatoes – mozzarella – basil and then a drizzle of each – pesto and vinegar. Repeat until glasses are full. Top with the basil shreds.

parfait 5

 

Seafood Parfait

This recipe makes a great summer first course.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces crab meat
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Cocktail sauce, homemade or store-bought (homemade recipe below)
  • Boiled shrimp, peeled, shells and tails removed and diced
  • Prepared horseradish sauce, homemade or store-bought 
  • Light sour cream
  • Grape tomatoes

Directions

Combine cream cheese, crabmeat, lemon juice and seafood seasoning until well blended.

Line the bottom of tall parfait glasses with shredded lettuce. Add a layer of the crab spread. Add a drizzle of cocktail sauce. Add a layer of diced boiled shrimp and more cocktail sauce.

For the topping, combine equal amounts of horseradish sauce and sour cream. Spoon a dollop on top of each parfait and add a grape tomato.

Cocktail Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

Combine all ingredients, making sure the sugar has dissolved. Store covered in the refrigerator.

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party time

Springtime is a great reason to throw a fun-filled party full of happy colors and delectable treats. Between graduations, wedding engagements, bridal and baby showers, you’re bound to play hostess at some point. With a little preparation, you can save yourself a lot of headache at the party. Start a few days in advance to ensure you have everything—including time to yourself to relax.

The most important question when hosting any party is how many guests to invite. Plan according to your space limitations and budget. If you’re having a family oriented get-together, be aware of kids’ vacation schedules. For birthday parties, get your invitations out three weeks in advance; two weeks for informal backyard gatherings or picnics. As a rough rule of thumb for other gatherings—graduations, bridal showers, engagement parties—send an invitation six weeks in advance.

The decor of your party sets the tone. Light pastel colors always work for spring—think lavender, yellow, pink, sage green—and soft orange and turquoise are particularly popular. Always stick to two colors: one light/neutral color and one bright shade that pops.

For centerpiece ideas – Fresh fruit is beautiful, simple…and ultimately tasty for the guests! Choose fruit people can eat easily: mounds of cherries, strawberries, apricots and grapes. White unscented candles are classic and affordable. Buy them in different shapes and sizes—tea lights, floating votives, pillars—and crowd them together in groups on tables. Just be sure to avoid scented varieties, as guests may be allergic and the smell will conflict with the food.

Set up a self-serve bar with one signature drink as well as beer, wine and soft drinks. Some people are uncomfortable at parties, especially when they don’t know people. Having a self-serve bar gives them something to do and is a way for them to meet people.

3.2.3_2A_Antipasti Salad

Forgo catering. My favorite appetizer suggestion is to serve antipasto platters, bread and a few simple desserts. Antipasto plates are colorful offerings of marinated vegetables—think artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or pickled radishes—salty olives, rustic artisan breads, natural deli meats, small bites of seafood and rich cheeses. With antipasto, it’s always best to keep things simple and incorporate a few fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables and you’re set. Try these simple ideas:

  • Jarred marinated artichoke hearts served with water crackers and Camembert cheese
  • Sliced tomatoes marinated in Italian dressing, served with slices of havarti cheese and garlic-stuffed green olives
  • Thinly sliced Genoa salami and Cacio de Roma cheese served with crusty bread
  • Shaved prosciutto with chunks of fresh cantaloupe and a bowl of mixed roasted nuts
  • Jarred roasted red and yellow peppers, garlic hummus and pita bread
  • Toasted focaccia bread with sardines and sweet onions
  • Olives, capers, sweet pickles and natural pepperoni or smoked peppered turkey breast
  • Roasted almonds, walnuts and pine nuts served with dried and fresh figs in season
  • Homemade garlic bread served with marinated cubed tomatoes and cold shrimp
  • Grilled vegetables with marinated fresh mozzarella

When planning for a large group or party, set out platters that mix and match an assortment of antipasto or other types of appetizer items, like this:

Meat: Start with a selection of natural deli meats—maybe pepperoni, salami and prosciutto—then add mixed olives, a wheel of creamy brie, deviled eggs, roasted vegetables and crackers.

Vegetarian: Present marinated olives or olive tapenade, sliced semolina bread, fire-roasted peppers, vegetarian stuffed dolmas and roasted garlic hummus.

Seafood: Consider a plate of thin crackers or crostini served with sardines, anchovies, Italian tuna and smoked salmon, then add cream cheese, sliced marinated onions and capers.

Fresh Fruit and Nuts: Serve chunks of fresh cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon alongside natural deli meats, cheese and add toasted walnuts and roasted, salted pistachios.

Roasted Vegetables with Cheese: Pair roasted vegetables with tangy cheeses like feta, Gruyère or aged Manchego. For the roasted veggies, think about eggplant, beets, bell peppers, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, asparagus, onions and garlic. Simply toss raw veggies with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a 450°F oven until tender.

Cheese and More Cheese: Look for out-of-the-ordinary cheeses like cheese made with red peppers or black peppercorns, rosemary coated Manchego, Caciotta cheese with green olives, Gouda with mustard seeds or cumin, goat cheese made with red wine and Sottocenere cheese with truffles and a hint of cinnamon. Then combine them with a few traditional ones like provolone or fresh mozzarella. Serve with slices of fresh crusty country bread.

Here are a few other ideas for appetizers for your next party. What are your favorite party foods?

party appetizer 1

Tortellini Salad Skewers

Any vegetable can be substituted for the sugar snap peas.

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (9-oz.) package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 1 (8-oz.) package frozen sugar snap peas
  • 68 (4-inch) wooden skewers
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half

Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 pressed garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or honey
  • 1 1/4 cups olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Place sugar snap peas in a small bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Let stand, covered, 2 minutes.

Make the vinaigrette:

Whisk together vinegar, fresh dill, Dijon mustard, garlic and sugar. Add olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. Whisk in kosher salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Thread each skewer with 1 sugar snap pea, 1 tortellini and 1 tomato half. Place skewers in a 13×9 inch baking dish.

Pour Mustard-Dill Vinaigrette over skewers, turning to coat. Cover and chill 4 hours. Transfer skewers to a decorative serving platter.

party appetizer 2

Chicken Salad-Stuffed Eggs

Makes 48 appetizer servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skinned and boned chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 24 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (light works fine)
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Grill on an outdoor grill, covered with the lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 15 minutes; cover and chill at least 30 minutes.

Slice hard-cooked eggs in half lengthwise; carefully remove yolks, keeping egg white halves intact. Arrange them on serving platters. Set yolks aside.

Stir together mayonnaise, the  next 4 ingredients (onion-lemon) and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Pulse cooled chicken and egg yolks, in batches, in a food processor 3 to 4 times or until chunky; stir into mayonnaise mixture.

Spoon chicken mixture evenly into egg white halves. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

party appetizer 3

Basil-Cheese Roulade

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) package light cream cheese, softened
  • 4 ounces Roquefort cheese, softened
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Garnishes: fresh flat-leaf parsley, fresh basil, edible flowers
  • Assorted crackers

Directions

Beat cream cheese and Roquefort cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread cheese mixture into an 11×8 inch rectangle onthe  parchment paper. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Process spinach and the next 4 ingredients (parsley-oil) in a food processor until smooth.

Stir in freshly grated Parmesan cheese, chopped toasted walnuts and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Spread spinach mixture evenly over cheese rectangle on the parchment covered pan. Using the parchment paper as a guide, roll up, jelly roll fashion.

Wrap in parchment paper,twisting the ends to seal and chill at least 2 hours.

Remove paper and garnish, if desired, with parsley and flowers. Serve with assorted crackers.

party appetizer 4

Mushroom and Parmigiano Bruschetta

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped seeded plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar or honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30 thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 cup sliced baby portobello mushroom caps
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 (1/2-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut baguette, toasted
  • 3/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Combine the first 7 ingredients (tomatoes-basil) in a medium bowl; set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, onions and garlic; cook until tender, stirring frequently. Add mushroom mixture tothe  tomato mixture; toss well to combine.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the mushroom mixture onto each bread slice. Sprinkle evenly with cheese. Serve immediately.

party appetizer 5

Shrimp and Boursin Cheese Melts

Makes: 28 melts

Ingredients

  • 2 (150 grams) boursin cheese containers
  • 1/4 cup  light mayonnaise
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 28 (1/2″ thick) slices of baguette, 2½” wide
  • 1 pound small shrimp, cooked and patted dry
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the boursin cheese, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until well combined. Divide and spread the mixture on the baguette slices and set on the baking sheet.

Top the cheese mixture with one whole shrimp. (Can be made to this point several hours in advance; refrigerate until ready to bake.)

Bake the melts in a preheated 425 degrees F oven for 10 minutes or until the bread is lightly toasted on the edges and bottom.

Arrange on a large platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

party appetizer 6

Polenta Cups with Braised Beef

Not a quick dish but all the preparation can be done well in advance.

Servings: 12

ingredients

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck-eye roast, cut into small cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

To make the polenta:

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Whisk in polenta. Cook for 30 minutes or until tender, whisking frequently. Add butter. Line a deep-rimmed cookie sheet with wax paper. Pour polenta onto the baking pan and spread evenly to 1″ thick. Allow to cool at room temperature; transfer to the refrigerator and chill for a minimum of two hours.

Remove polenta from the refrigerator when completely chilled and firm. Cut circles into the polenta using a 2″ cookie cutter. Scoop out the centers of each polenta circle with a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, taking care not to make a hole in the bottom of the circle. Polenta cups may be prepared up to 2 days in advance at this point.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the braised beef:

Season beef with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add meat to pot, searing on all sides until dark brown. Remove meat from pot to a bowl and reserve.

Add shallots and garlic to the Dutch oven. If necessary, add remaining oil. Sweat for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until paste becomes fragrant and dark red, approximately 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and whisk in the flour. Whisk in the beef broth, breaking up any lumps. Add wine, Italian seasoning, thyme and peppercorns. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add the reserved browned beef to the sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and place in the  oven. Cook until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (Sauce should continue to be at a light simmer while in the oven. If the sauce stops simmering bring it back to a simmer on the stove top and return to the oven.) Remove the beef from the sauce, cover and reserve.

Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer and reserve.

Shred beef while warm, discarding any pieces of fat. Toss shredded beef with some of the reserved sauce to coat and keep warm.

Warm polenta cups in a 250 degrees F and fill with shredded beef. Serve.

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National Archeology Museum of Naples

National Archeology Museum of Naples

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, has one of the world’s best collections of Greek and Roman artifacts, including mosaics, sculptures, gems, glass and silver and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii. Many of the objects come from excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum and nearby archaeological sites. The collection includes works of the highest quality produced in Greek, Roman and Renaissance times. It is the most important archaeological museum in Italy. Charles III of Spain founded the museum in the 1750s. The building he used for it had been erected as a cavalry barracks and later was the seat of the University of Naples until it became the site of the museum.

Some of the highlights include:

A major collection of ancient Roman bronzes from the Villa of the Papyri is housed at the museum and includes the Seated Hermes, a sprawling Drunken Satyr and a bust of Thespis.

Mosaics covering the period from two centuries BC until the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD and mosaics that were parts of floors and walls in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae are displayed. Many of the mosaics include figures from Greek paintings. The most well-known are the mosaics from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. The museum’s collection also includes a number of important mosaics recovered from the ruins of  several Vesuvian cities. This includes the Alexander Mosaic, dating circa 100 BC, and depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. Another important mosaic is of the gladiatorial fighter depicted in the mosaic found at the Villa of the Figured Capitals.

mosaic

Dog Mosaic

Secret Cabinet – This room was created in the early 1800’s to house the museum’s many sexual items. It was closed for many years but reopened in 2000. The Secret Cabinet (Gabbinete) or Secret Room is the name the Bourbon Monarchy gave the private rooms in which they held their fairly extensive collection, mostly derived from excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Access was limited to only persons of a mature age. After the revolution of 1848, the government of the monarchy proposed the destruction of these objects, fearful of the implications of their ownership, which would tarnish the monarchy’s reputation. The, then, director of the Royal Bourbon Museum had access to the collection terminated and the entrance door was sealed with three different locks, whose keys were held respectively by the Director of the Museum, the Museum Controller and the Palace Butler. This censorship occurred in 1851 when even nude Venus statues were locked up. The entrance was eventually walled up in the hope that the collection would vanish from memory.

In September 1860, when the forces of Garibaldi occupied Naples, he ordered that the collection be made available for the general public to view. Since the Royal Butler was no longer available, they broke into the collection and restored viewership.  Censorship was again imposed during the era of the Kingdom of Italy and continued into the Fascist period, when visitors to the rooms needed the permission of the Minister of National Education in Rome. Censorship persisted through the postwar period up to 1967, abating only after 1971 when the Ministry was given new rules to regulate requests for visits and access to the section. Completely rebuilt a few years ago with all of the new criteria, the collection was finally opened to the public in April 2000. Visitors under the age of 14 can tour the exhibit only with an adult.

Frescoes come from the walls in Pompeii. Covering a period of about two centuries, the frescoes are excellent examples of Roman painting. They cover a variety of themes, including mythology, landscapes and scenes of daily life.

Temple of Isis  is a special exhibit that holds wall paintings removed from the temple in Pompeii, as well as artifacts from the temple.

Pompeii Model

Pompeii Model

Pompeii Model was made in the 19th century and is a model of the city that helps the visitor visualize what it looked like before the eruption.

Sculptures of Greeks and Romans are housed in a large collection at the museum.

Coins and Metals  are displayed in six  rooms containing more than 200,000 coins and medals from Ancient Greece, Rome, medieval times and the Bourbon era.

Prehistory and Early History rooms cover objects related to the Bay of Naples from paleolithic times to Greek colonization in the 8th century BC. There’s a section on Etruscan occupation of the area.

The museum has the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy, after the Vatican Museum and the Museo Egizio in Turin. It is made up primarily of works from two private collections, assembled by Cardinal Borgia in the second half of the 18th century and Picchianti in the first years of the 19th. In the recent rearrangement of the galleries the two collections have been exhibited separately, while in a connecting room other items are on display, including Egyptian artifacts from Pompeii and other Campanian sites. In its new layout the collection provides both an important record of Egyptian civilization from the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) up to the Ptolemaic-Roman era.

Museo di Capodimonte

Museo di Capodimonte

Museo di Capodimonte is located in the Palace of Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon palazzo in Naples, Italy. The museum is the prime repository of Neapolitan painting and decorative art, with several important works from other Italian schools of painting and some important ancient Roman sculptures This museum has the largest collection in Italy aside from the Uffizi — and yet you don’t have to vie for space in front of its masterpieces. The Capodimonte contains pieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, Bellini, El Greco, Artemisia Gentileschi, even an Andy Warhol painting of Mt. Vesuvius erupting… among others.

Napoli_-_Museo_di_Capodimonte_(salone_da_ballo)

The collection can trace its origins back to 1738, when King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily (later Charles III, king of Spain) decided to build a hunting lodge on the Capodimonte hill, but then decided that he would instead build a grand palace, partly because his existing residence, the Palace of Portici, was too small to accommodate his court and partly because he needed somewhere to house his Farnese art collection, which he had inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, the last descendant of the sovereign ducal family of Parma.

Over the years the palace was enlarged and filled with more art. In 1787, on the advice of Jacob Philipp Hackert, a laboratory for the restoration of paintings was created. After the palace passed in 1861 to the House of Savoy, further pieces were added to the art collections, appointing Domenico Morelli as consultant for new acquisitions. They also added an extensive collection of historic firearms and other weapons. In 1866, the boudoir of Maria Amalia of Saxony was transferred to Capodimonte from the Palace of Portici and in 1877 a Roman era marble floor was brought in from a Roman villa on Capri. After the end of the monarchy, the palace became a national museum in 1950.

Naples museum

Cappella Sansevero

The Cappella Sansevero (also known as the Capella Sansevero de’ Sangri or Pietatella) is a chapel north of the church of San Domenico Maggiore, in the historic center of Naples, Italy. Its origin dates to 1590 when John Francesco di Sangro, Duke of Torremaggiore, after recovering from a serious illness, had a private chapel built in what were then the gardens of the nearby Sansevero family residence, the Palazzo Sansevero. The building was converted into a family burial chapel by Alessandro di Sangro in 1613 (as inscribed on the marble plinth over the entrance to the chapel). The Prince of Sansevero also included Masonic symbols in its reconstruction. Until 1888 a passageway connected the Sansevero palace with the chapel.

Cappella Sansevero Interni Cristo Velato

Christ Veiled under a Shroud

Christ Veiled under a Shroud

The museum contains works of art by some of the leading Italian artists of the 18th century including sculptures of the late Baroque period. The chapel houses almost thirty works of art, among them sculptures made of a marble-like substance that, in whole or in part, was invented by Raimondo, who also participated in the design of the works of art in the chapel. The Veiled Truth was completed by Antonio Corradini in 1750 as a tomb monument dedicated to Cecilia Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona, mother of Raimondo. A Christ Veiled under a Shroud (also called Veiled Christ) was completed in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino. It is a masterpiece of expression — even though there is a veil covering the face.

The ceiling, the Glory of Paradise, was painted by Francesco Maria Russo in 1749. The original floor (most of the present one dates from 1901) was in black and white (said to symbolize good/evil) in the design of a labyrinth.

In the basement there is a painting by the Roman artist, Giuseppe Pesce, Madonna con Bambino, dating from around 1750. It was painted using wax-based paints of Raimondo di Sangro’s own invention. The prince presented this painting to his friend Charles Bourbon, King of Naples.

macchine-anatomiche-cappella-sansevero

There are also “anatomic models” of 18th century people whose skeletons, arteries and veins have all been preserved to this day. However, analysis of the “blood vessels” indicate they are constructed of beeswax, iron wire and silk.

 

naples_1742999c

The Bay of Naples

Neapolitan Cuisine

Ask any Italian where the best pizza in Italy comes from and the answer will be — begrudgingly — the same: “Napoli.” Here’s where pizza was invented and, since the 19th century, the Neapolitans have raised it to a fine art.

Pizza is far from the only food Naples does well. Its fritti (fried offerings), seafood and pastas are top-notch, too. But the one thing you can’t miss are the baked goods. Thanks to Naples’ mixed heritage — from the 12th to 19th centuries, the French, Spanish, Austrians and Bourbons all claimed control at some point — its pastries have picked up the best of all foreign influences, such as baba, zeppola, sfogliatelle or around Easter time – the pastiera.

Neapolitan pizza

 Naples-Style Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sugar (⅞ oz.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (½ oz.)
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 5½ cups “00” flour, (1 lb. 12 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (¾ oz.)

Directions

Combine sugar, oil, yeast and 2 cups cold water in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook; let sit until foamy, 8-10 minutes. Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl.

With motor running, slowly add flour mixture; mix until a smooth dough forms, 8-10 minutes. Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour.

Divide dough into 4 balls; transfer to a greased 9″ x 13″ dish; brush tops with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 48 hours.

Salsa di Pomodoro Fresco

Ingredients

  • 2 (28-oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes, packed in purée
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Remove each whole tomato from the can and reserve 3 cups of the purée. Cut the tomatoes in half and, using your fingers, remove and discard the seeds (don’t rinse).

Place the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until just crushed but not puréed. (Alternatively, crush the tomatoes by hand or pass them through a food mill.)

Transfer the tomato sauce to a bowl and stir in the reserved 3 cups of purée and salt.

Pizza Margherita

4 pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Naples-style pizza dough
  • Fine semolina, for dusting
  • 1 recipe Naples-style pizza sauce
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil

Directions

Place a pizza stone under the broiler; heat for 30 minutes.

Working with the 4 batches of dough, dust 1 ball dough with semolina. Using your fingertips, press dough into a 10″ circle about ¼” thick, leaving a 1″ crust around the edges.

Hold dough straight up, and with fingertips circling crust, slide fingers around crust in a circular motion as you would turn a steering wheel until dough in the center is stretched to about ⅛” thick; transfer to a semolina-dusted pizza peel.

Spread ½ cup sauce over dough and distribute a quarter each of the cheese and basil leaves; drizzle with oil. Slide pizza onto the stone; broil until the  cheese melts and the crust is puffed and charred in spots, 3-4 minutes.

easy-lasagna

Lasagne alla Napoletena

Also known as carnival lasagna, a traditional southern recipe from Naples.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. (gr.170) lasagne (fresh homemade lasagne pasta, if possible)
  • 8 oz. (gr.225) Italian sausage
  • 4 oz. (gr.115) mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz. (gr.225) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 10 oz. (gr.300) ripe tomatoes or whole canned, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (gr.30) butter
  • 4 tablespoons (ml.60) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Small bunch of basil, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a saucepan heat the olive oil and brown the onion. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes at low heat. Add the minced basil.

Brown the Italian sausages in a skillet on all sides. Set aside to cool. After cooling, remove the casing and thinly slice the sausage.

Dice  the mozzarella cheese. Slice the hard-boiled eggs.

In a mixing slightly beat the egg together with the Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Oil the bottom of a lasagna pan and lay 3 noodles crosswise. Spread with some of the tomato sauce, some diced mozzarella, some ricotta, a few tablespoons of the eggs and cheese mixture, some slices of the hard-boiled eggs and some pieces of the Italian sausages. Repeat the layering procedure until all ingredients are used.

For the last layer cover with just the noodles and spread the top with softened butter. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and bake the lasagna for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let lasagna rest for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

zuppapesce28plated29_edited-11

Neapolitan Zuppa di Pesce 

The Neapolitan version will almost always include one or more kinds of mollusks such as squid, baby cuttlefish or octopus, clams or mussels or both, and a variety fish with fins. The fish was usually the local catch, so many local varieties of fish, most of them small and some quite bony but flavorful, can be added to the pot. Larger fish can be cut into serving or even bite-sized pieces. The most typical fish of all is scorfano, called ‘scorpion fish’ in English. (Scorfano is also typical of the Tuscan cacciucco and some of the Adriatic brodetti.) Triglie—red mullet—is also a common addition. But any firm-fleshed fish that lends itself to simmering will do: monkfish, snapper, catfish, sole. Less typical of this kind of fish soup are sea scallops and shellfish but they are nice additions.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

For the tomato base:

  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 peperoncino (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • Olive oil
  • A can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash of white wine
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped

For the seafood (in the order they should be added to the pot):

  • An assortment of mollusks, such as squid, baby cuttlefish or octopus, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • An assortment of firm-fleshed fish of your choice, such as monkfish cut into large chunks
  • Shrimp, crayfish and/or sea scallops
  • Clams and/or mussels

Directions

Sauté the garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the peperoncino.  When the garlic is just barely beginning to brown; add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper (going light on the salt since the shellfish will be salty) and add some of the chopped parsley. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, or until the  sauce begins to reduce. Add a splash of white wine.

Add the seafood starting with the varieties that take the longest to cook, then progressing to those that take less time. Begin with the mollusks, since they will take some time to cook. With baby cuttlefish, let them simmer about 10 minutes before adding any other fish. Octopus or mature squid (cut up into bite-sized pieces) will take much longer, usually about 30 minutes. Then add the fish and let that cook for another five minutes. Finally, add the clams and mussels and simmer them just until they open. Sprinkle with a bit more finely chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread.

pasteria

Ricotta Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pasteria)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • Unsalted butter, for the pan
  • All-purpose flour, for pan
  • 3 lbs fresh ricotta cheese, drained 3 hours or preferably overnight
  • 3 large whole eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Directions

Boil milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, cinnamon, salt and the vanilla bean. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 30 minutes or until rice is very tender and has absorbed all the liquid.

Remove pan from the heat. Stir in ¾ cups granulated sugar. Cover. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Discard vanilla bean.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform  pan.

In a large bowl, mix the rice mixture, ricotta, whole eggs, egg yolks and remaining ½ cup sugar. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until golden on top and almost set in the center. Cover with foil if starting to brown too much.

Transfer pan to a cooling rack. When cake has completely cooled, run a knife around edge to loosen. Gently remove ring.

Transfer cake to a serving platter. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

 

 

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ravanelligal

Although the radish was a well-established crop in Greek and Roman times, one might assume that it was brought into cultivation at an earlier time, however, there are almost no archeological records available to help determine the radish’s history and domestication. Wild forms of the radish and its relatives, mustard greens and turnips, can be found over western Asia and Europe, suggesting that their domestication took place somewhere in that area. They are certainly revered and highly appreciated in Asia, particularly in Japan where the long, white daikon radish is a major food. The ancient Greeks prized radishes above all root crops, even making replicas of them in gold. The radish was a common food in Egypt long before the pyramids were built and was popular in ancient Rome as well. Columbus and the early settlers brought radishes to America where they are a favorite spring crop for home gardeners because they’re so easy to plant and they grow quickly.

Radish_3371103037_4ab07db0bf_o

There are two basic types of radishes- spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties are ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Champion’, ‘Burpee White’ and ‘Crimson Giant’. Winter radishes such as ‘China Rose’ and ‘Long Black Spanish’ store better and have a more distinctive flavor than the spring varieties. The Bunny Tail is an Italian radish that is slightly oblong in shape. It is mostly red and has a white tip. The Sicily Giant radish is a large heirloom variety originating from Sicily. It has a smooth, bright red skin and tastes hotter than some other radishes. It can grow up to 2 inches across the widest part. White Icicle radishes are completely white and are carrot-shaped. These radishes come from an Italian heirloom variety. Sometimes, they are simply called Icicle radishes.

Radishes are more versatile in the kitchen than many cooks realize. Besides adding crisp radishes to salads, try them sliced into stir-fries, stews and soups. Sauté them in butter for a minute and then serve with salt, pepper and herbs (especially chervil) for a different and unusual side dish. Long radishes are particularly good for sautéing. Slice them diagonally to obtain larger pieces and cook quickly to retain crispness. Grate radishes into your favorite slaws or dice them for egg and potato salads. Radishes can even be pickled!

 Appetizers

prosiutto

Prosciutto-Wrapped Radishes

Serves 2

ingredients

  • 6 long, red Italian radishes (or any radish)
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil

Directions

Wash and peel radishes, leaving stems intact.
Carefully wrap each radish in a slice of prosciutto.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

dip

Fresh Radish Dip

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces large radishes (about 12), cut into very thin bite-size strips, chopped or grated
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Fresh dill sprigs
  • Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Belgian endive leaves and/or fresh snow pea pods for dipping

Directions

In a large bowl stir together radish strips, sour cream, feta cheese, dill, lemon peel and lemon juice. Garnish with dill sprigs. Serve with fresh vegetables for dipping.

Salads

RavanelliOlive

Radish and Olive Salad Recipe – Ravanelli con Insalata di Olive

While radishes are not the most common salad vegetable in Italy, you will find them in well stocked markets. Valeriana (Valerian) is a popular salad green belonging to the Valerianella family. It has a number of local names in Italy, including soncino and is also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad in the English speaking world. Substitute mache, arugula or wild baby lettuce for the valeriana.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound (100 g) medium red radishes
  • 2/3 pound (300 g) valeriana or other spring lettuce
  • 10 pitted black olives
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Wash the radishes, pat them dry, remove the leaves and roots and thinly slice them. Put them in a bowl with the lemon juice and let them steep for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, wash and drain the valeriana. Drain the olives and slice them. Add the valeriana and olives to the radishes.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season to taste with salt (Italians rarely add pepper to salads) and toss. Let the salad rest for a minute or two before serving it.

bresaola-Mottram-515x438

Bresaola with Radishes, White Asparagus and Baby Greens

Bresaola is air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months until it becomes hard and turns a dark red color. It is made from top round and is lean and tender with a sweet, musty smell. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italy’s Lombardy region.
6 servings

Ingredients

  • 25 white asparagus stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated or high quality jarred horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 42 slices bresaola, sliced paper thin
  • 2 cups baby greens
  • 1/2 cup baby frisée
  • 1/2 cup shaved radishes
  • Sea salt for garnish
  • Marcona almonds for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and Champagne vinegar. Cook until very tender, about 12-15 minutes, dependign on thickness. Prepare an ice bath while the asparagus cooks. When the asparagus are cooked, transfer to the ice bath. Drain the asparagus and purée in a food processor. Add the horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a second ice bath. Add the basil, oregano and parsley to the water. Boil for 20 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Drain the herbs and squeeze out excess water. Combine the herbs and olive oil in a blender and blend on high. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To serve, lay 7 slices of bresaola on each plate, overlapping the slices slightly. Spoon some asparagus purée on the bresaola slices. Toss the greens, frisée and radishes with the herb oil. Top each serving of bresaola with some salad and almonds. Season with sea salt and serve.

Side Dishes

roasted radishes

Roasted Radishes

If you want a more substantial side dish add 12 baby carrots to the radishes in the recipe below and increase the cooking time to 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches fresh radishes, washed, dried, stems and tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking pan in the oven until hot.
In a bowl, mix the radishes with the oil, salt, pepper and thyme.
Place the radishes on the hot pan and put the pan back in the oven.
Every 5 minutes stir the radishes. Total cooking time should be 15 minutes, depending on the size of the radishes.
When ready, they’ll be blistered and pink with just a little bite left to the texture.
Serve as a side dish with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

pan-roasted_radishes_with_italian-style_greens-458x326

Pan-Roasted Radishes with Italian-Style Greens

Cooked radishes taste a lot like turnips, their Brassicaceae cousins, but with a milder flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced dried Mission figs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups trimmed radishes, halved or quartered (10 oz.)
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 4 cups radish greens or arugula
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped black oil-cured olives
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste

Directions

Place figs in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Plump 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until browned on one side (do not stir). Shake pan and cook, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes more or until radishes are just tender. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt. Set aside.

Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add spinach and radish greens and cook 2 minutes or until barely wilted, turning with tongs. Add pine nuts, figs, olives and radishes. Cover and cook 3 minutes more or until greens are tender and radishes are heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

snap peas

Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 medium radishes, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add snap peas; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain snap peas; run under cold water until cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, tarragon and salt until well combined. Toss snap peas and radishes in the dressing. Season with freshly cracked pepper.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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crostini-mistakes-646

Crostini is just another name for slices of bread that have been brushed with oil and baked until golden brown. Crostini make for an endless variety of near-instant hors d’oeuvres. Just spoon on your pick of toppings and watch the crostini disappear!

Crostini is the Italian word for “little toasts”. Crostini are believed to be a kind of Italian peasant food that originated in medieval times. The Italians, too poor to possess ceramic plates, preferred to eat their food by keeping it on the surface of slices of bread. The Italians, not a group to waste anything, often ate stale bread which had to be soaked in juices or wine in order to chew it properly.

Bruschetta and crostini are both bread preparations used in antipasti – but what is the difference?

The difference between bruschettas and crostini is the type of bread used. Bruschetta, from the Italian word “bruscare” meaning “to roast over coals”, is made by toasting whole, wide slices of a rustic Italian or sourdough type bread. Crostini are sliced from a smaller, round, finer-textured bread, more like a white bread baguette. In Italy you might find yourself offered an antipasto of four or five different crostini, no more than a couple of mouthfuls each, accompanied by some olives, but only one or two of the larger bruschetta would be plenty.

crostini_vert

Some do’s and don’t I picked up from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen to ensure successful crostini.

Not starting with good bread

The bread you use should be high quality; look for fresh baguettes, boules and hearty country bread, preferably from a local bakery (as opposed to supermarket brands). Texture is very important–it shouldn’t be too dense.

Slicing the bread too thick or thin

The bread needs to be thin enough to bite, but thick enough to support toppings -1/2-inch thick is just right.

Skipping the oil

Brush olive oil on each piece before toasting it. Why? It makes the surface of the bread less dry. And it just tastes better.

Over-toasting the bread

If the crostini are too hard, they will hurt your guests’ mouths and flake all over their clothes. The ideal texture: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. To achieve it, bake, grill or broil bread over high heat, making sure to toast both sides. (If you cook on too low a heat, the bread will dehydrate and crumble upon first bite.) You’ll know it’s finished when the edges are browned but the center is lighter in color and still has a little spring to it.

Forgetting the flavor

Flavor your crostini right after toasting. Things you can rub on the bread: a raw garlic clove, a tomato half – cut side-down or a whole lemon or orange–rind. The crispy bread will pick up the fruit’s essential oils.

Going overboard with your topping

If you pile on the topping, it’s going to fall off when you bite into the crostini. You should be able to take bites without worrying about staining your shirt or dress.

Overdressing your topping

Wet topping = soggy bread. Use a slotted spoon when working with a wet topping (tomatoes, etc.) so that extra liquid is left behind. If using greens, dress them lightly.

How To Make Crostini Toasts

Using a serrated knife, cut one 8 ounce baguette diagonally into ½ inch slices. Makes about 20 slices.

Baked Crostini

Baked Crostini

Bake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the bread on 2 large baking sheets and brush each slice on both sides with olive oil. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the bread are golden brown. Turn the slices over half way through the baking time. Let cool completely. Store at room temperature.

toast_on_the_grill

Grilled Crostini

Broiled Crostini

Broiled Crostini

Grill or Broil

Brush bread slices lightly on both sides with olive oil.

Grill for 15 to 20 seconds on each side, until lightly brown, then remove with tongs and set aside.

For broiling, position the rack so the slices are 2 inches from the flame and turn them over when the crostini start to brown at the edges.

Here are some of my favorite combinations. They are easy to prepare and are always a big hit when I entertain. The recipes are based on 20 slices of crostini.

Shrimp and Pesto

Cut 10 medium peeled and deveined shrimp in half lengthwise.

In a skillet saute 1 minced garlic clove and the shrimp in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the shrimp turn pink.

Spread each crostini with homemade or store bought basil pesto. Place one shrimp half on each crostini and sprinkle each with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Mediterranean Spread

Drain two 6 ounce jars of marinated artichoke hearts, reserving 2 tablespoons of the marinade.

Finely chop the artichokes and place in a mixing bowl with the reserved marinade.

Stir in ½ cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil and drained, 2 tablespoons pitted and chopped Kalamata olives and 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.

Mix well and spread mixture on the crostini slices and sprinkle the top with feta cheese.

Caprese

Rub crostini with a garlic clove or two as soon as they come out of the oven. Sprinkle each with a little balsamic vinegar.

Top each with the following

  • 1 slice of plum (Roma) tomato
  • 1 thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 fresh basil leaf

Grind fresh black pepper over each crostini.

Olive Orange Spread

In a food processor combine:

  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Pulse until coarsely chopped.

Spread on the crostini, top each with an orange segment and a small piece of arugula.

Roasted Red Pepper and Prosciutto

In a food processor combine one 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained, with a large pinch of cayenne pepper. Process until almost smooth.

Spread pepper mixture on the crostini.

Top with a piece of prosciutto and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake crostini until the cheese melts. Serve warm.

Cannellini Bean Spread

In a food processor coarsely process one drained 15 oz. can cannellini beans. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Stir in ¼ cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and ½ teaspoon coarse grained mustard.

Spread on crostini slices. Top each with a half of a grape tomato and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.

Cremini Mushroom Spread

Thinly slice 12 oz cremini mushrooms. In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook 3 minced garlic cloves for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in 1/3 cup white wine. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until wine evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread crostini with a thin layer of mascarpone cheese. Top with mushrooms and sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.

Caramelized Sweet Onions and Gorgonzola

Halve and thinly slice 3 sweet onions. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add onions and cook, covered, on medium low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the onions turn golden. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon onions on the crostini and sprinkle with crumbled gorgonzola cheese.

Lemon Ricotta with Fruit and Honey

Stir together 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon shredded lemon peel and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spread mixture on crostini.

Top each with thinly sliced fresh strawberries or figs.

Drizzle with honey and top each with a mint leaf.

What Are Your Favorite Toppings For Crostini?

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