Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Appetizer

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Whether you’re grilling vegetables, poultry, beef, pork or seafood, it only takes a little flavor to make everything taste good.

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs will add depth of flavor to your favorite grilled foods. They are great for tofu, fish, pork chops or ribs, chicken breasts and vegetables.

Prepared dry rubs already contain the right mix of flavors ranging from Asian to Mediterranean styles. Or mix your own rub and store in an airtight glass jar in a cool place.

Three to four tablespoons of spice rub should be enough for two pounds of food.

To apply a rub, sprinkle it over your choice of meat, poultry, fish or vegetable and lightly rub into the surface with your hands. Or place the rub in a large plastic bag with the meat and shake to coat. Then let the food sit in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

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Marinades

Marinades enhance flavor and can increase the tenderness of many types of meat, poultry, seafood and produce.

For best results:

Marinate seafood and vegetables for 20 minutes to develop flavor.

Marinate poultry for up to an hour for best results. For some cuts, longer than 1 hour may be too long and the poultry can either toughen or get mushy.

Beef and pork will benefit from 30-60 minutes of marinating, but can also be left to marinate overnight.

Experiment with flavor: try using wine, beer, fresh juice, spices, herbs or a combination.

Wait to brush on any sugar-based barbecue sauce or other ingredients until the final 5-10 minutes of grilling. This allows the charcoal flavor to penetrate the food first and prevents the sauce from becoming charred.

Check my recipes from last July on Rubs and Marinades For Your Summer Grilling.

GRILLING VEGGIES AND FRUITS

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Grilling intensifies the natural sweetness and flavor of most vegetables and fruits.

To achieve good results:

Use a light brushing of oil on vegetables and fruits to prevent sticking. A non-stick grate, grilling basket or foil packets, lightly coated with oil, can also be helpful.

Some vegetables (including artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips and potatoes) can be precooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly.

To precook: Steam or blanch the vegetable until just barely tender. Pat dry, brush lightly with oil, then grill until completely tender and lightly browned.

Veggies like eggplant, fennel, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash and tomatoes should be raw when placed on the grill.

Ideal fruits for grilling should be firm and barely ripe. Watermelon, pineapple, apples, peaches and pears can all take the heat. Soak them in a marinade or drizzle with honey before grilling for added flavor.

Meaty portabella mushrooms are a great burger substitute, while button mushrooms are excellent for use in kabobs.

Cook all fruits and vegetables directly over moderately hot coals or use the indirect heat method. Rotate or move them to a cooler part of the grill during cooking as necessary to ensure that the outside isn’t cooking too quickly.

Grilled Caprese Appetizer

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Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the grill
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 (12-ounce) container fresh mozzarella, drained and cut into (1-inch) chunks
  • 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into (1-inch) cubes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves

Directions

Brush the grill grates with oil and heat the grill to medium.

Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Alternating ingredients, thread tomatoes, mozzarella and bread onto 8 skewers and brush them all over with oil.

Grill skewers, turning once, just until the cheese starts to melt and the bread shows grill marks, 2 to 3 minutes total.

Transfer the skewers to a platter, drizzle with vinegar and garnish with basil.

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Grilled Zucchini with Olive Dressing

 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or other black olives
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Directions

Oil the grates and prepare a grill for medium-high heat cooking.

In a blender or food processor, combine olives, vinegar, pepper, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt; blend until smooth and set aside.

Place zucchini in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice, garlic, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Grill the zucchini on both sides until well-marked and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

Layer zucchini on a serving platter, drizzle each layer with some vinaigrette and sprinkling with some tomato. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

GRILLING SEAFOOD

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Quick-cooking seafood is a great choice for grilling, especially on busy weeknights. When grilling seafood take extra care not to overcook it.

When it comes to seasoning, it’s best to select lighter marinades and seasonings that do not mask the delicate flavor of the seafood.

Fish

Oil fish well to help keep it moist.

Fish cooks quickly using the direct heat method. Remove it from the grill as soon as it’s done; it will continue to cook once it has been removed from the fire.

Once you place fish on the grill, don’t touch it for at least three minutes. A crust needs to form on the outside, which will allow the fish to naturally pull away from the grates. Once the crust has formed, it can be turned over without sticking or falling apart.

Thin pieces of fish can be wrapped in foil and grilled.

Firm fish, such as swordfish and tuna, are ideal for cooking on the grill.

Placing fish on cedar planks when grilling imparts a subtle woodsy flavor. Try different woods for slightly different flavors. Soak the plank in water for at least an hour prior to grilling to prevent it from catching on fire. Most fish fillets will cook on a plank, without turning, in about 20 minutes.

Fish is naturally tender and should not sit in an acid-based marinade (like lemon juice) for longer than 20 minutes, or it will start to “cook” the fish, turning it mushy.

Shrimp

Choose jumbo varieties, which are easier to handle. These can also be butterflied (leave the tail intact when shelling, then slice along the back of the shrimp without cutting all the way through).

Shrimp should be marinated or brushed lightly with oil.

Cook shrimp just until they turn pink and opaque, about 5-7 minutes. Turn them halfway through cooking. Take care not to overcook shrimp or it will become tough.

Use an oiled grill basket or skewers to contain shrimp so they don’t slip between the grates.

Rosemary Salmon Kabobs

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless wild caught salmon fillet, cut into large chunks
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thick rounds
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (Meyer lemon, if possible)

Directions

Place salmon, zucchini, bell pepper and onion in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk together the garlic, rosemary, oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pour mixture over the salmon and vegetables, toss and marinate for 30 minutes.

Oil the grates and preheat a grill for medium-high heat cooking. Skewer the salmon and vegetables, reserving the marinade. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before assembling.)

Grill kabobs, turning once, until salmon is cooked through and the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. While the kabobs cook, boil the reserved marinade in a small saucepan for 5 minutes. Drizzle over the skewers just before serving.

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Grilled Shellfish and Vegetable Packets

 

Serves 4

Use any combination of shellfish and vegetables that appeal to you.

Ingredients

  • 8 small red potatoes, halved
  • 8 small (mini) bell peppers, cut in quarters
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 ears of corn on the cob, cut in fourths
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt
  • 16 small oysters, scrubbed or 16 shrimp, peeled
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 16 large mussels, scrubbed
  • Chopped chives for garnish
  • Warm crusty bread, for serving

Directions

Heat a gas grill to high.

In a large bowl, drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt.

Tear off eight 16-by-18-inch pieces of heavy-duty foil. Layer the sheets in pairs. Divide the shellfish evenly among the four pairs of foil and drizzle with olive oil.

Arrange the vegetables over the shellfish and drizzle with more olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of water to each. Fold the foil tightly into neat rectangular packets.

Arrange the packets on the grill. Cover and cook over moderately high heat, rotating once or twice, until the packets are puffed and sizzling, about 25 minutes.

Carefully open the packets, watching out for the hot steam and garnish with chopped chives. Serve with the bread on the side.


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Central States

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Minnesota

The Italian Cultural Center

The Italian Cultural Center

The ICC (The Italian Cultural Center) was established as a center in Minneapolis for all things Italian and to serve as a beacon for classic and contemporary Italian culture through language, art, music, design, cinema, architecture and technology. The ICC draws Italian-Americans who want to learn more about the culture and connect with their roots.

Discovering modern Italy is a goal for ICC’s students. Some of the students who come to study language here also enjoy learning about what Italy is like now. The Center’s seven university-trained teachers are from Italy and bring their own diverse heritages into the classroom, giving students a glimpse of life in some of the small towns and villages.

Films are a big part of the Italian cultural experience. Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have enjoyed great international acclaim and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2015, Italian films have won 14 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country.

Every year, the ICC presents a series of outstanding contemporary films in their annual Italian Film Festival. They also offer screenings throughout the year in the CineForum series.

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Through the lens of drama, comedies, documentaries and movies, the view of Italy is broadened and offers a fresh perspective on the country and its people. It is a way to take a journey to Italy without leaving Minnesota.

The desire to show Twin Cities’ residents the real Italy has led them to select films by modern Italian directors for the ICC’s annual free film festival, held in collaboration with the Italian Film Festival USA and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). The Italian film series offers a glimpse into award-winning, post-war Italian films and the high fashion industry they launched.

Antipasti Skewers

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Serves 8

Inspired by her travels and studies in Tuscany, Carmela Tursi Hobbins created Carmela’s Cucina to teach the art of Italian cooking and entertaining. Her experience blends years as co-owner of a successful catering business and her background as a classroom teacher. She has written two cookbooks, Carmela’s Cucina and Celebrations with Carmela’s Cucina.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound package of fresh tri-colored tortellini
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 can quartered artichoke hearts
  • 1 pint fresh bocconcini mozzarella balls
  • 1 pint pitted olives
  • 1/2 pound salami sliced thin
  • 2 envelopes Good Seasons Zesty Italian Salad Dressing mix
  • Bamboo skewers

Directions

Boil the tortellini for about 6 minutes in salted water.  Drain and put the tortellini into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Wash the tomatoes and basil and pat dry.

Thread the tortellini, tomatoes, basil leaves, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, olives and salami (folded into quarters) onto the skewers.

Using one package of the Italian salad dressing mix, make up the dressing following the directions on the package and drizzle the dressing over the prepared skewers.

Sprinkle the contents of the second envelope of dried Italian Salad mix over the skewers and let marinate for several hours.

When ready to serve, assembled skewers can be stuck into a melon or pineapple half or laid on a lettuce lined tray.

Nebraska

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Little Italy is a neighborhood in Omaha, Nebraska that, historically, has been the home to the city’s Italian population. Omaha’s first Italian community developed during the 1890s near the intersection of South 24th Street and Poppleton Street. It was formed by immigrants from southern Italy and Italian immigrants who moved there after living in the eastern states. In 1905, Sicilian immigrants settled along South 6th Street in the hills south of downtown. Additional immigrants from Sicily arrived between 1912 and 1913 and following World War I.

Two brothers, Joseph and Sebastiano Salerno, are credited with creating Omaha’s Little Italy, located near the Union Pacific yards in downtown. When Sebastiano took a job as an agent for a steamship company in 1904, he encouraged friends from Sicily to emigrate. Joseph then secured housing and jobs for the immigrants, particularly in the downtown Omaha’s Union Pacific shops that included grocery stores, clothing and shoe stores and the Bank of Sicily, established by the Salerno brothers in 1908.

Today, the Festival of Santa Lucia is still celebrated throughout Little Italy, as it has been since the arrival of the first immigrants. An annual festival called “La Festa” is held to unite the city’s Italian community and celebrate its heritage. Many other remnants of Little Italy endure, making this area distinct within the city.

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Little Italy has several landmarks, including St. Francis Cabrini Church, built in 1908 at 1335 South 10th Street. Other landmarks include the Santa Lucia Festival Committee Hall at 725 Pierce Street; Marino’s Italian Grocery at 1716 South 13th Street; Sons Of Italy Hall located at 1238 South 10th Street and Orsi’s Bakery at 621 Pacific Street.

Orsi’s Bakery and Pizzeria is a gold mine for Italian fare. Their Sicilian style pizza, in particular, has been popular since they first opened in 1919. Passed through the Orsi family for over 90 years, the interior and the owners may have changed, but the recipes have stayed the same. Along with pizza, their Italian deli offers a variety of meats, cheeses, olives, peppers and desserts.

Steakhouse Spaghetti

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Chefs at Omaha’s Piccolo Pete’s flavor the sauce for their spaghetti with beef steak trimmings and pork and beef bones. In the true sense of Italian American cuisine this recipe combines Italian heritage cooking with Omaha’s love of beef.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb. beef shank bones, trimmed
  • 1/4 lb. raw steak trimmings (ask your butcher for this)
  • 1 pork neck bone
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons. celery seeds
  • 4 sprigs basil
  • 3 (28-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. spaghetti
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving

Directions

Heat the oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook bones and steak trimmings until browned, 7–9 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic and onion; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until slightly caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, celery seeds, basil, tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add bones and trimmings. Cook, until the sauce is reduced by a third, about 1 hour. Discard bones, trimmings, basil and bay leaves; shred the meat and add it to the sauce.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and divide among serving bowls; ladle with sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan.

Kansas

Heart of America Bridge

Heart of America Bridge

The Columbus Park area is Kansas City’s Italian neighborhood. Although ethnic lines are less distinctly drawn than in years past, the unique character of the neighborhood remains. Unlike other Little Italys that blur into other neighborhoods, Columbus Park has established boundaries: the Missouri River on one side and the Heart of America Bridge on the other. As one of Kansas City’s oldest immigrant neighborhoods, it has also had a long history of social infrastructure and culture. By 1920 there were about 10,000 Italians living in the area.

The heart of the community is the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. Built in 1895, the Church was the result of petitioning by the local Italian community for a church. Bells still toll on Sunday mornings and services have continued in the building for more than 100 years.

The main business area is found along 5th street, where there are many Italian restaurants and grocery shops. You will find traditional foods and products at Garazzo’s Ristorante, LaSala’s Deli and LaRocca’s Grocery.

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Wish-Bone Salad Dressing originated in Kansas City. In 1945, returning World War II veteran, Phillip Sollomi, opened a family-style chicken restaurant in Kansas City called, The Wish-Bone®. In 1948, Sollomi began serving his mother’s salad dressing made from a recipe she brought with her from her native Sicily. As demand grew, Sollomi began mixing the dressing in a 50-gallon drum and bottling it. The dressing became known as“The Kansas City Wish-Bone® Famous Italian-Style Dressing. Word of this unique salad dressing spread throughout the heartland. In 1957, Sollomi sold the business to Lipton.

Chef Jasper Mirabile grew up in an Italian family. Each year he travels back to Italy and his family’s hometown of Gibellina, Sicily to see family and friends. He also goes to do research on the authenticity of Sicilian cuisine and to learn as much as he can about its rich history.

He writes in The Kansas City Star, “ I like to say my mother is “old school” in her style of cooking. No short cuts, no microwaves, no cheating at all, just respecting traditional recipes and cooking methods. Unlike me, a short order line cook, mama measured everything exactly, never doubling a recipe, never experimenting with different ingredients, just preparing the same tried and true recipes over and over again since she learned to cook as a teenager. Mama learned to prepare her Sunday sauce, meatballs and braciole from her mother, Rosa Cropisi. Grandmother Cropisi brought the recipe over from Corleone, Sicily, never-changing a single ingredient. My mother claims my father only married her for her mother’s meatball recipe.”

Jasper Mirabile’s Recipe for Meatballs

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Makes about  20

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground Pork
  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 cup Freshly Grated Romano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Parsley, (Chopped)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, (Minced)
  • 1/2 cup Onion, (Minced)
  • Salt and Pepper, (To taste)
  • 2 cups Plain Bread Crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Olive Oil

Directions

Place pork & beef in a large bowl. Add the eggs, cheese, parsley, minced garlic, onions and salt and pepper to taste. Mix.

Add the bread crumbs and blend into the meat mixture. Slowly add the water until the mixture is moist. Shape the meat mixture into 2 1/2- to 3-inch balls.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the meatballs and fry in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan.

When the bottom half of the meatballs are well browned and slightly crisp, (usually takes about 5 to 6 minutes), turn them over and cook the other side for 5 minutes more.

Remove the meatballs from the heat and drain them on paper towels. Simmer in your favorite sauce.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, Jasper’s, with his brother. He is the author of The Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook. Chef Mirabile is a culinary instructor, a founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts a weekly radio show, “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM.

Oklahoma

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Krebs began as a small coal-mining camp inhabited by the English, Irish and Italian miners. The commercial exploitation of coal in the Native American Territories began in 1872, with the completion of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway. A few years later, the Osage Coal and Mining Company leased the property on which the town of Krebs emerged. The first mine opened in 1875 and twenty years later, 15 mines were operating in the area.

Krebs, Oklahoma is considered the center of Italian culture in the state of Oklahoma. Most of the immigrants who found their way to Oklahoma settled in the coal-producing communities in Pittsburg County and in the Choctaw Nation. Italian immigrants to Oklahoma were predominantly from northern Italy. They came as families and often established strong ethnic communities. In 1910, there were 2,162 Italians living in Pittsburg, Latimer and Coal counties. Later on the region attracted immigrants from southern Italy.

First-generation Oklahomans learned Italian from their parents. There aren’t many first-generation Italian Americans left in Krebs. The language hasn’t made it down through the generations, but it can still be heard during festivals and community events, especially over a game of bocce ball. The Italian Festival has been running for 40 years and is the community’s biggest single event.

When Kreps’ resident, Joe Prichard, took his family back to the Italian town his grandfather emigrated from, he was surprised by how familiar it felt. “The little village my grandfather left was almost a clone of the village he came to in Oklahoma,” he said. Joe discovered that San Gregorio Magno, in the Campania region, was not only the same size as Krebs, but community life there also centered around the Catholic Church. Even the town’s differences created parallels for him.

Krebs is famous throughout Oklahoma for its many Italian restaurants. Isle of Capri, “Pete’s Place” and Roseanna’s, to name a few, have been there for generations. A specialty of the region is Lamb fries, the name generally given to lamb animelles (testicles) that have been peeled, rolled in cracker meal and fried. Lamb fries are served in many Italian restaurants, particularly in Oklahoma’s “little Italy” and the Cattlemen’s Steakhouse located in the Oklahoma City Stockyards.

Original Pete's Place

Original Pete’s Place

Three years after his arrival, at the age of 11, Pietro began working in the coal mines, changing his name officially to “Pete Prichard.” Through hard work and determination, he managed to make a meager living. However, in 1916, when Pete was 21 years old, a massive cave-in nearly cost him his life. He survived, but the accident crushed his leg in such a way that he couldn’t return to work in the mines.

To help pass the time, Pete took an interest in brewing beer. He found a unique recipe brewed by the local Native American tribe, the Choctaw, which made use of the plentiful supply of golden wheat that grew on the Oklahoma plains. Pete experimented and tested until he perfected his own version, which he named choc® beer.

Before long, other immigrant miners began gathering at his house regularly to relax and enjoy a beer during breaks. Then, it only seemed natural to start fixing the men a hearty lunch to go along with the beer. That’s the Italian way! He served “family-style” helpings of homemade Italian specialties like spaghetti, meatballs, ravioli and sausage. In 1925, Pete officially opened a restaurant in his home and, since everyone had always just called it “Pete’s Place®”, the name stuck.

Caciocavallo Cheese

Caciocavallo Cheese

When Mike Lovera’s Grocery first opened in 1946 in Krebs, it was a regular mom-and-pop general store and meat market. But it was the homemade Italian sausage that made Lovera’s store stand out from the competition. A specialty Italian grocery store would find it hard to survive in most towns of 2,000 people. But Krebs has been largely Italian since immigrant coal miners arrived in the 1870s and the town has no problem supporting a grocery store, three Italian restaurants and a Catholic church.

Along with about 40 imported Italian products, Lovera’s is famous for its caciocavallo, a milky cheese covered in wax. Initially, Lovera bought caciocavallo from local Italians who made it at home, but when the supply started to dry up, Lovera learned how to make it.

Sausage and Peppers

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Source: News OK, Dave Cathey, Food Editor

Ingredients

  • One 16-ounce coil of fresh Lovera’s sausage
  • 1 whole garden-fresh green pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion sliced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 jalapeno cut in thick slices, optional
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush sausage with 1 tablespoon oil and place in a cast-iron skillet or small roasting pan.

Roast sausages 20 minutes.

While the sausages are roasting, toss onions and peppers with remaining oil, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl.

After 20 minutes in the oven, turn the sausages over and top with the onion-pepper-oil mixture. Roast another 20 minutes and remove the pan from the oven.

Remove the sausages from the pan, let sit five minutes, then cut in slices and toss with the onions and peppers in the pan.

Serve with pasta and Italian tomato sauce or with crusty bread.

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shrimpcover

There are Gulf Shrimp, Farm Raised Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp, Imported Shrimp and Coldwater Shrimp. The flavor and texture of each type of shrimp are influenced by the waters they come from or are raised in, plus from what they eat or are fed. Wild shrimp feed on seaweed and crustaceans which gives them a more enriched flavor and thicker shells. The ability to swim freely also makes the meat firmer.

Shrimp are abundant in America, especially off the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards in inshore waters, wherever the bottom is sandy. Shrimp are in season from May to October and 95% of the shrimp caught come from the warm waters of the South Atlantic and Gulf states.

Fresh shrimp are highly perishable and should be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Unless you live in the part of the country where you can actually buy “fresh” shrimp, it is best to buy frozen shrimp. All shrimp are frozen soon after they are caught, usually right on the fishing vessel. Those “fresh” shrimp in the store? They are previously frozen and thawed. The shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days, whereas shrimp stored in the freezer retain their quality for several weeks.

Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it’s a sign they are way past their prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. Do not buy shrimp with black spots or rings (unless it’s black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting to break down.

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In the United States, shrimp are sold by count. This is a rating of the size and weight of the shrimp. The count represents the number of shrimp in a pound for a given size category. If you are grilling or serving the shrimp as a main course, you probably want 21-25 or larger (16-20). If you are stir-frying or adding to a soup or pasta dish, you probably want a smaller shrimp (31-35 or 36-40).

The terms “shrimp” and “prawns” can be confusing. In many restaurants, larger shrimp are referred to as “prawns,” while smaller shrimp are called “shrimp.” However, both shrimp and prawns can come from saltwater or freshwater and there is no absolute standard for measuring their size. Scientists say there are no real differences.

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in America, with close to 1 1/2 billion pounds sold per year. I know it is my first choice and here are some of my favorite recipes:

As An Appetizer

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Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the garlic, Italian seasoning and bell pepper.

In a skillet, sauté the shrimp in the oil over moderately high heat, turning the shrimp once, until just barely pink. Add the lemon juice and parsley and toss gently. Garnish with lemon wedges.

In A Sandwich

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Oven Fried Shrimp Sandwich

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 inch lengths of baguette, split in half
  • Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (hot) sauce, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten to mix
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, shelled
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 tomato, cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the bread, cut-side up, on a baking pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco sauce.

To prepare the shrimp:

Oil another baking pan and place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk and the egg. In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Dip the shrimp into the flour, then into the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs. Place on a plate until all the shrimp are breaded.

Transfer the shrimp to the preheated baking pan Bake the shrimp for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned, turning them over halfway through baking.

Place the bread in the oven with the shrimp after you turn the shrimp over and bake the pieces of baguette until they are lightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

Spread the sauce on both sides of the bread and add lettuce, tomato and shrimp.

In A Salad

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Grilled Shrimp Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 small heads Boston lettuce or any tender lettuce (about 1/2 pound in all), torn into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a blender, combine the anchovies, garlic and lemon zest. Pulse to chop. Add the mint, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan. Oil the grill or pan. Cook the shrimp until they just turn pink. Large shrimp will need about three minutes per side.

Transfer the shrimp to a medium glass bowl and toss with half the dressing.

Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl and toss with the remaining dressing.

Put the greens on individual serving plates; top with the grilled shrimp.

As A First Course

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Spaghettini with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Spicy Crumbs

Serves 6-8 as a first course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and scored on the bottoms with an X
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarse bread crumbs (about 2 ounces), made from stale bread
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghettini
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Put the plum tomatoes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Roast for about 20 minutes, just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes are barely softened. Let cool slightly, then peel the tomatoes and finely chop or mash them in the baking dish.

Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon zest, a large pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl.

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and add them to the skillet.

Cook over high heat, tossing once or twice, until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the shrimp, basil and reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing, until the pasta is coated in a light sauce and the shrimp are evenly distributed.

Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls and scatter the cherry tomatoes all around. Top each with tomato sauce and bread crumbs.

As A Main Course

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Stuffed Shrimp Oreganata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp (16-20 per pound) 
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact.

To butterfly them: make a slit along the back side, taking care not to slice all the way through the body.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick olive oil spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until soft and just beginning to turn golden – do not brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.

Spoon even portions of the breadcrumb mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp in the baking pan. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

While the shrimp are cooking, heat the minced garlic and olive oil in a saute pan until the garlic turns light brown, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the white wine and heat until almost dry; add the chicken stock and basil.

Heat the sauce for 3 minutes and place onto the bottom of a large platter. Place Shrimp Oreganata on top of the tomatoes sauce.

Quarter the lemon into 4 pieces and serve with the shrimp.


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Hosting a spring party soon for the mother-to-be//bride-to-be or the graduate or for a special birthday/anniversary? Spring celebrations are a great time of year for gathering with family and friends.

The first flowers of the season make perfect centerpieces. Grocery stores and home improvement stores have bulbs, like crocus, tulips and daffodils, in pots and blooming and these can add a feeling of spring to your party area.

Take advantage of the spring produce in the market. Make dishes ahead of time, if you can. Set up the drinks/cocktails in a special area. Small bites are the easiest and most functional way to serve party foods. Even if you are going to serve a main course, keep the appetizers and desserts simple finger foods. Here are some easy recipes to get you started.

Appetizers

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Antipasto Skewers

24 skewers

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Italian salami, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • One 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces 
  • One 14 -ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • Small wood or bamboo skewers

Directions

Thread 1 small or 1/2 of a large basil leaf onto a small wooden skewer. Add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke and salami, arranging them in that order on the skewer so that it can stand up on the salami end. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.The skewers can be assembled ahead and refrigerated until serving time.

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Crab Salad Rolls

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 large celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds lump crab meat, picked over and lightly broken up
  • Salt
  • 16 mini brioche or mini hamburger rolls, split
  • 16 small Boston lettuce leaves

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the celery and lemon juice and season with cayenne. Gently fold in the crab meat and season with salt. Fill the buns with the lettuce and the crab salad and arrange on a decorative tray. The crab salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fill the rolls just before serving.

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Eggplant Compote

Serve with crostini, flatbread or pita chips.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce, (marinara)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Place the diced eggplant in a steamer basket. Set the basket over 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and steam the eggplant until tender, about 12 minutes; drain well.

In a large skillet, combine the tomatoes with the garlic, oregano and paprika and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, 5 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and the eggplant and simmer, gently stirring a few times, until the eggplant is flavored with the sauce, no more than 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper; add the lemon zest and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The compote can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Desserts

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Chocolate-Zucchini Bites

Makes 24

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 24 walnut or pecan halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup finely grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugar, salt and egg until combined. Add vanilla, zucchini and sour cream and stir until incorporated.

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa powder into another bowl and stir until combined. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Spray two mini muffin pans or one 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup with 2 tablespoons batter and top with a walnut.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes.

Let muffins cool slightly in pans on wire racks before removing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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Strawberry Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • One 4-serving-size package (Jello) instant pudding mix (vanilla or cheesecake flavored)
  • 1 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup strawberry preserves
  • Sliced strawberries and toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Directions

For the tart shells:

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar and ground almonds. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until pieces are pea-size.

In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined.

Gently knead just until smooth and form the dough into a ball. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Divide the dough into 24 pieces.

Shape pieces into balls. Press dough evenly into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 ungreased 1-3/4-inch muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix, evaporated milk, vanilla and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling into each tart shell. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, top each tart with a 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves and a strawberry slice and a few sliced almonds. Makes 24.

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Carrot Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded carrots

Frosting:

  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in another bowl and gradually beat into the sugar mixture until blended. Stir in carrots.

Fill 20 paper-lined muffin cups half full.

Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients and beat until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until serving time.


campaniacover

Campania  faces the Tyrrhenian Sea and includes one of the finest coastlines in Italy. Naples is the regional capital. Other important cities are Caserta, Benevento, Salerno and Avellino. The region has a population of around 5.8 million people, making it the second-most-populous region in Italy. Campania is rich in culture, music, architecture and archaeological sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum and Vesuvius.

Campania

Campania, mainly, produces fruit and vegetables, but has also expanded its production of flowers grown in greenhouses to become one of the leading producers in Italy. Campania produces over 50% of Italy’s nuts and is also a leader in the production of tomatoes. Animal breeding is widespread and the milk produced is used to make dairy products, such as mozzarella cheese. Olive and fruit trees cover a good portion of the agricultural land and wine production has increased, as well as, the quality of the wine.

The region has a dense network of roads and motorways, a system of maritime connections and an airport (Naples Airport), which connect the region to the rest of the country. The port connects the region with the entire Mediterranean basin and brings tourists to the archaeological sites, the cities, the beautiful coastal areas and the well-known islands.

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Capri

Campania is home to several national football, water polo, volleyball, basketball and tennis clubs. The fencing school in Naples is the oldest in the country and the only school in Italy in which a swordsman can acquire the title, “master of swords”, which allows a graduate to teach the art of fencing. The “Circolo Savoia” and “Canottieri Napoli” sailing clubs are among the oldest in Italy and are famous for their regattas. The region is also home to water polo teams. Many sailors from Naples and Campania participate as crew in the America’s Cup sailing competition.

Campanian cuisine varies within the region. While Neapolitan dishes center on seafood, Casertan and Aversan dishes rely more on fresh vegetables and cheeses. The cuisine from Sorrento combines the culinary traditions from both Naples and Salerno.

Neapolitan Pizza

Neapolitan Pizza

Pizza was conceived in Naples. Historical and original pizzas from Naples are pizza fritta (fried pizza); calzone (literally “trouser leg”), which is pizza  stuffed with ricotta cheese; pizza marinara, with just olive oil, tomato sauce and garlic and pizza Margherita, with olive oil, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Neapolitans were among the first Europeans to use tomatoes not only as an ornamental plant but also as a food ingredient.

The cheeses of Campania consist of Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) a mozzarella made from buffalo milk, fiordilatte (“flower of milk”) a mozzarella made from cow’s milk, ricotta from sheep or buffalo milk, provolone made from cow milk and caciotta made from goat milk. Buffalo are bred in Salerno and Caserta.

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Spaghetti Puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca, a spicy pasta dish made with a sauce of tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers is a dish that originated in Campania. Ravioli di ricotta di pecora, also called “ravaiuoli” or “slim ravioloni”, are an ancient traditional specialty of Campania: handmade ravioli filled with fresh sheep ricotta.

Campania is home to seafood-based dishes, such as “insalata di mare” (seafood salad), “zuppa di polpo” (octopus soup) and “zuppa di cozze” (mussel soup), that are very popular. Other regional seafood dishes include “frittelle di mare” (fritters with seaweed), made with edible algae, “triglie al cartoccio” (red mullet) and “alici marinate” (fresh anchovies in olive oil). The island of Ischia is famous for its fish dishes, as well as, for cooked rabbit.

Campania is also home to the lemons of Sorrento. Rapini (or broccoli rabe), known locally as friarielli, are often used in the regional cooking.

Sfogliatella

Sfogliatella

Several different cakes and pies are made in Campania. Pastiera pie is made during Easter. Casatiello and tortano are Easter breads made by adding oil and various types of cheese to the bread dough and garnishing them with slices of salami. Babà cake is a Neapolitan delicacy, best served with rum or limoncello (a liqueur invented in the Sorrento peninsula). Sfogliatella is another cake from the Amalfi Coast, as is zeppole, traditionally eaten on Saint Joseph’s day. Struffoli, little balls of fried dough, are dipped in honey and enjoyed during the Christmas holidays.

Traditional Recipes From Campania

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Dried Red Peppers and Lemons

Mozzarella in Carrozza (Mozzarella in a “Carriage”)

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This is a classic recipe from Naples served as an appetizer.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 8 slices white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 pound fresh Mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

Place 4 slices of bread on the counter. Top with the mozzarella, trimmed to fit the bread.  Cover with the 4 remaining slices of bread, making 4 sandwiches in all.

Spread the flour on a plate. Dip the four edges of each sandwich in the flour. Then coat the sides lightly in the flour. Place them in a baking dish or on a plate with sides..

In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the salt. Pour the mixture over the sandwiches and set aside for 10 minutes.

Delicately flip the sandwiches over and set aside for another 10 minutes. The purpose is to allow the bread to soak in the egg as much as possible.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and pour enough olive oil in to cover the bottom of the pan.

Add the sandwiches and cook until brown; turn and brown the second side. Remove the sandwiches to serving plates, cut in half and serve with hot marinara sauce.

Paccheri con Ricotta e Salsa di Pomodoro (Macaroni with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce)

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Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or pecorino or a combination of both, plus extra for serving
  • 1 pound paccheri or other large tubular pasta, such as rigatoni
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • A few leaves of finely cut or torn fresh basil

Directions

Heat the marinara  sauce.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water until al dente. Before draining it, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and reserve it.

In a pasta serving bowl, combine the ricotta and the grated cheese. Mix them together with a spoon or fork until well blended.

Pour about half of the hot tomato sauce into the cheese mixture in the bowl. Stir well.

Add the drained, hot pasta to the sauce, then add black pepper to taste. Toss well, adding hot pasta cooking water by the tablespoon if a looser, creamier texture is desired. The sauce tends to thicken as it cools in the plate, so 2 or 3 tablespoons are usually a good idea.

Serve immediately, preferably in hot bowls, each portion topped with a little more tomato sauce and with additional finely cut basil, if desired. Pass grated cheese and the peppermill.

Braciole Alla Napoletana (Pork Loin Braciole)

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless pork loin
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 oz. capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or one 14-1/2-ounce can of Italian tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Slice the pork loin into ¼ inch thick slices and flatten slightly with a wooden mallet.

Chop 2 cloves of garlic very finely and mix with the sundried tomatoes, pine nuts and capers. Place a small amount of this mix on each slice of pork and roll up the slices of pork. Tie with kitchen string.

Brown the remaining garlic in the olive oil and then remove it. Add the pork braciola, brown on all sides and add the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste, cover the pan and cook for 25 minutes over a low flame. Sprinkle with parsley, remove from heat and serve.

Casatiello (Neapolitan Stuffed Bread)

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This version is made without the whole eggs added to the dough prior to baking. At Easter time, whole eggs are added to the dough and baked.

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound chunk provolone or scamorza cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 pound chunk mortadella, salami or boiled ham cut into cubes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a 10 inch tube pan with a removable bottom and set aside.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and let rest until foamy.

Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix it into the flour with the paddle attachment; add the cheese and enough additional warm water to make a soft ball of dough. Cover and let it rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place or until it doubles in size.

Knead the dough on a floured surface and roll out into a large 18 by 14-inch rectangle. Scatter the cheese and mortadella over the surface to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Starting at the longest side, roll the dough up as for a jellyroll, making sure to tuck in the ends and place it in the tube pan. Tuck the two ends together.

Cover and allow to rise for about 1 hour or until the dough is 3/4 of the way up the sides of the pan.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown. Let cool on a rack then run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan, loosen the bottom and remove it.

Turn the bread out. Serve warm; cut into wedges.


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For an easy and economical alternative to fresh fish, consider canned fish. There are advantages in using canned fish:  safety, hygiene, nutrition and flavor. Moreover, in the kitchen, canned fish is ideal for making salads, pasta and rice dishes and appetizers

Tuna

Skipjack and albacore are good varieties to buy. Wild Planet brand is sustainably pole-and-line-caught. Mix it into a salad with fresh chard and white beans; use it for fish tacos; stuff it in tomatoes.

Salmon

Look for sockeye or the milder pink variety. The small pin bones are often cooked with the fish, adding extra calcium. Make salmon burgers or fish cakes; put it in a creamy chowder; try it smoked—Patagonia sells pouches that are perfect for hiking and camping.

Sardines

These tiny fish have a bold taste and are dense with omega-3 oils. Bela brand offers them smoked in different flavors. Add to an antipasto platter; top crostini; delicious grilled.

Anchovies

Small and salty, they’re not just for Caesar dressing—toss on Puttanesca pasta sauce; stir into fish stew; wrap around olives.

Crabmeat

While there are many subcategories and fine distinctions in the area of canned crabmeat, there are a few main categories. Knowing these will help you save money when deciding what type of crab meat to purchase for the meal you’re planning.

Lump crabmeat is best for fancy, impressive-looking dishes where appearance matters, like Butter-poached Crab, Crab Cakes or Crab Louis, where you want big chunks that will hold together with minimal binders.

Backfin grade is made up of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat mixed in with flakes of white body meat. It’s less expensive than lump crab meat. Good for salads and pasta dishes.

Claw Crabmeat is the least expensive and most flavorful grade. It is pinkish-brown rather than white and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. Great for soups, crab meat stuffing, tacos, stir-frys, etc.

Clams

While overfishing has been an issue for some species that find their way to the market, that’s not the case with clams. Harvesting of both the Atlantic surf clam, also called the sea clam, and the ocean quahog have been well within the quotas, according to statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Minced and chopped clams are good in chowders and pasta dishes.

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Crabmeat Artichoke Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 can(6 oz) Lump Crabmeat, drained
  • 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • ½ cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese

Directions

Place the drained crabmeat in a glass bowl and cover with cold milk. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain well. (This technique gives canned fish a fresh taste.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, combine crab, artichoke, mayonnaise, yogurt and seasoning.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

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Artichokes with Bagna Cauda

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed

Directions

Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from their peels and place cloves in a small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and olive oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).

Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size. Drain.

For serving:

Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda. Pull a leaf off the artichoke and dip it into the sauce.

Tips:

To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand.

Use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.

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Spinach Salad with Sardines and Crispy Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, zested, plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 cups baby spinach (6 oz)
  • 1 can (4.25 ounces) sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives

Directions

Whisk the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in raisins.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange prosciutto in a single layer and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes.

Arrange spinach on a platter and top with sardines, prosciutto, lemon zest and chives. Drizzle with dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary.

cannedfish1

Tuna Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 3 cans or pouches (5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth plus water to equal 4 cups
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) ready-cut Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15-1/4 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian dried herb seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry small shell pasta
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, etc.)
  • 3 cups fresh romaine lettuce cut crosswise in 1-inch strips
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine chicken broth mixture, tomatoes with liquid, kidney beans, tomato paste, herb seasoning, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and frozen vegetables; simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tuna and romaine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

cannedfish3

Salmon and Potato Gratin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound canned salmon, boneless, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Grease a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter.

Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Sprinkle with salmon and thyme. Layer remaining potatoes on top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

In a medium bowl combine cornstarch, milk, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes.

Cut butter into pieces and dot over the top.

Bake until potatoes are tender and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

cannedfish4

Linguine with Clam Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams with liquid drained – reserve the liquid. I like the Bar Harbor brand.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

In a large deep skillet add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and the drained clams. Cook on low about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to very low and stir in the reserved clam liquid and the parsley.

Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.


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Millions of people flock each year to New Orleans to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city: Mardi Gras. This holiday revolves around parades, costumes and lots of traditional food. The problem, however, is that many of us don’t have the time to fly down to the Big Easy for this special event. While you may not be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday fun, you can bring the fun to your living room or backyard.

Make your Mardi Gras party a masquerade and ask people to wear masks and costumes. You can pick a theme like a 17th century ball (the attire of choice for many of the Mardi Gras balls in New Orleans), a favorite celebrity or even characters from comic books or movies. Or, you can simply ask that your guests come in their favorite costume without giving the dress a specific theme.

Traditional food during Mardi Gras includes slow-cooked dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice, chili or jambalaya. Finger food is always welcome, as well as any food that is purple, green or gold. A King Cake is traditional.

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Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor You can hang purple, green and gold streamers and beads along fences or the stairs. A fun idea is to get enough beads for everyone coming to the party that you can hand to them to wear as they walk in the door.

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The other most frequently tossed items from floats are doubloons, aluminum coin-like objects bearing the insignia of the float krewes. Decorate your table with an assortment of colorful doubloons and encourage your guests to take some home as souvenirs. Scatter confetti on the tabletop and light some votive candles.

I have lived for some years near New Orleans, but I have not developed a taste for their traditional seasoned dishes. So here is my suggested dinner party menu for 8 for some great food that is somewhat close to the New Orleans style.

Don’t forget to play New Orleans jazz or Zydeco music and, then, there are the drinks.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Hurricane became popular at Pat O’Brien’s bar in 1940’s New Orleans, after it debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped glasses the first drinks were served in. It’s said that O’Brien created this rum drink as a means to get rid of the large stock of rum his Southern distributors forced him to buy.

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Hurricane Cocktail

1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • Juice of a half a lime
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grenadine
  • Orange slice and cherry for garnish

Directions

Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.

Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.

Shake well.

Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.

Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

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Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce

Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings

Ingredients

Shrimp

  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
  • 2 cups fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups grapefruit juice
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 grapefruit, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Garnish: citrus fruit slices

Louis Sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Make the Louis Sauce:

Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Make the Shrimp

Combine the lemon, lime and orange halves, crushed red pepper and salted water to cover in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.

Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein.

Combine orange juice with the remaining ingredients, except the garnishes in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp, cover or seal and chill 25 minutes.

Drain off liquid. Serve shrimp with Louis Sauce and garnishes.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 8-12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups cornflake crumbs
  • 8 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Louis Sauce, recipe above

Directions

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Place cornflake crumbs in a third bowl. Pat green tomato slices dry with paper towels. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg mixture and then coat with crumbs.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry tomato slices, four at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.

Place fried tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Serve along side shrimp and Louis sauce.

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Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes

Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.

8 Servings

STEAKS

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 3 lbs boneless grilling steaks (such as ribeye, top sirloin, or strip)
  • 4 tablespoons blackening seasoning
  • 8 oz whipped cream cheese spread
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish

POTATOES

  • 8 medium white baking potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons herb-seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 8 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces

Directions

For the potatoes

Preheat the oven to 475ºF.

Cut potatoes into quarters; place in microwave-safe bowl. Top with butter and cover; microwave on HIGH 5 minutes.

Stir potatoes to evenly coat with butter; microwave 5 more minutes or until potatoes are hot and just beginning to soften.

Transfer potatoes to 2-quart baking dish and arrange in single layer. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.

Arrange onions evenly over potatoes; top, evenly, with bacon pieces. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is browned and semi-crisp.

For the steaks

Coat grill rack with cooking spray; preheat an outdoor grill.

Season both sides of steaks with blackening seasoning. Place steaks on grill; close lid (or cover loosely with foil). Grill 4-6 minutes on each side or until 145°F (for medium-rare).

Whisk remaining ingredients until blended and smooth. Serve horseradish cream with steaks.

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Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 navel oranges
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 (5-ounce) bag arugula, washed, stemmed, and spun dry
  • 2 medium fennel bulb, quartered and sliced very thin 
  • 2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin
  • Black or green olives, slivered

Directions

Slice off top and bottom of each orange with a serrated fruit knife or sharp paring knife, removing some flesh with the peel and reserve. With the flat end of an orange on a cutting board, cut off peel with a sawing motion from top to bottom, working all the way around the orange. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut between membranes to separate orange segments and set aside. Repeat with the three other oranges.

Squeeze juice from orange tops, bottoms and membranes into bowl (you should have about 1 cup) and strain into a sauté pan. Add vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Pour hot liquid into a bowl and whisk in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in salt and pepper.

Toss arugula with fennel, onion and 1/2 cup of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates and add reserved orange segments to each plate. Drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing and top with olives. Serve immediately.

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Country Corn Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.

Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into small squares and serve warm

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King Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110°)
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 4 teaspoons
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • Purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles

Directions

Combine milk, yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir well and set in a warm place for about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients; stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice.

Combine flours, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and kosher salt in an electric mixing bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and butter mixture, and beat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, until dough is smooth and forms a shaggy mass. (It should remain soft.)

Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to the grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle evenly over dough. Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Places pieces into paper baking cups in a muffin pan; let rest 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush cupcake tops with beaten egg and bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.

Combine powdered sugar, water and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.

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