Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

bloody mary

Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

Eggs-1

Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

strawberry_drink_vert

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

asparagus-orange-lentil-salad-sl-x

Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

easter_cookies-175x175

Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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3 lentils

Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling and very flavorful. From a nutritional standpoint, they are rich in fiber and in iron and are, consequently, ideal for people suffering from anemia.

Lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times and lentil artifacts have been found on archeological digs dating back 8,000 years. As a plentiful source of protein, lentils were found on the tables of peasants and kings alike and the poor, who could not afford fish during the season of Lent, substituted lentils.

Thought to have originated in the Near East and/or the Mediterranean area, lentils are small disks resembling a flat baby pea. When halved, dried lentils resemble their split pea cousins. They grow two to a pod and are dried after harvesting.

In Italy two major types of lentils are grown: the hiemal strain matures in late summer and produces larger seeds that are more delicate in flavor, whereas the minus strain matures in the spring and has smaller seeds.

Lentil Plants

Lentil Plants

In addition to playing an important role in soups and other first course dishes, lentils are a traditional Italian accompaniment for sausages. Lentils are served on New Year’s Day in Italy because their shape brings to mind tiny coins and people eat them in the hope that they won’t want for cash during the rest of the year.

There are hundreds of varieties of lentils, with as many as fifty or more cultivated for food. They come in a variety of colors with red, brown and green being the most popular. Lentils have an earthy, nutty flavor and some varieties have a slight peppery taste.

Select lentils that are dry, firm, clean and not shriveled. The color of lentils you choose will depend on your usage, but in general, the color should be fairly uniform. Canned lentils are also available, but it is just as easy to cook your own.

If your recipe calls for a lentil that will retain its shape when done, common brown lentils are the usual choice. Brown lentils still have their seed coat and have not been split. Most red, yellow and orange lentils tend to disintegrate with long cooking because the hulls have been removed. Slightly sweet in flavor, these are best reserved for pureed soups or stew thickeners. Other choices include French lentils which are olive-green and slate-colored. These will cook up the firmest. Persian green lentils will turn brown as they cook and become tender while still retaining their shape. Considered the most flavorful (and most expensive) are the French Puy lentils, which also retain their shape.

Lentil Flour, 20 oz

You may be able to find lentil flour in some specialty markets. It is used in India to make a fermented dough for bread.

Dried lentils have an indefinite shelf-life, yet another reason why our ancestors kept them as a staple food. With age, the color may fade a bit, but the flavor will not deteriorate. Store lentils in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry place.

red-lentil-jar

Cooked lentils may be refrigerated up to one week in a sealed container. Cooked lentils may also be frozen up to six months. However, they may fall apart when reheated, if not handled gently.

These measures will help you determine how many lentils you need for your recipe.

• 1 cup dry lentils = 2-1/2 cups cooked
• 1 pound dried lentils = 2-1/4 cups dry
• 1 pound dried lentils = 4 servings
• 1 pound dried lentils = 5 cups cooked

Lentils are a natural in soups and stews and also make a great cold salad. The high protein content in lentils makes them an excellent meat substitute.
Lentils need no pre-soaking and cook much more quickly than other dried legumes. To cook lentils, simply pick over to remove debris or shriveled lentils, rinse and drain. Cover with water or broth and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Depending on the variety and age, cooking time may take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. Add salt once the lentils are completely cooked. Acidic ingredients such as wine or tomatoes can lengthen cooking time. You may wish to add these ingredients after the lentils have become tender. Older lentils will take longer to cook because they have lost more moisture. Do not mix newly purchased lentils with old ones. They will cook unevenly.

lentil-salad-ck-1142011-x

Lentil and Herb Salad

Lentils are popular across Italy, where they are grown in Umbria in the north and Puglia and Sicily in the south. Technically not a “bean,” lentils are legumes. Unlike beans, lentils require no soaking, so this salad is quick and easy to prepare. Serve as a side salad or add a cup of diced mozzarella and it makes a light main dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Place lentils in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

Place lentils in a large bowl. Stir in onion and next 4 ingredients (through pepper). Add vinegar and oil; toss well. Serve at room temperature.

zuppa-lenticchie-e-spinaci

Italian Lentil Soup with Rice and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200 g) short-grained rice
  • 1 cup (200 g) lentils
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and cut into strips
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • One whole onion
  • 1 rib celery, cut in half
  • 1 cup plain tomato sauce
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the lentils and cook them for 30-45 minutes in 2 quarts of water with the onion and celery.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the lentils with a slotted spoon and strain the broth, discarding the celery. Reserve the broth and onion separately.

Slice the onion and sauté it with the oil and the garlic for 3 minutes; add the tomato sauce and cook 2 minutes more. Add the lentils, the spinach and the lentil broth. When the soup comes to a boil add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is done, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning.

lentils sausage

Lentils with Italian Sausage

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry lentils
  • Cold water
  • 2 pounds fresh italian sausage, sweet or hot
  • 3 cups homemade or low sodium canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste, diluted in a little water

Directions

Wash lentils well by soaking them briefly in water and changing the water at least once. Put them in a 2-1/2-quart saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until not quite done, about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, pierce the sausages in several places and then put them in a small saucepan. Add the chicken broth and place over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for about 40 minutes. From time to time, skim off and discard foam and fat that rise to the top. When sausages are done, remove the pot from the heat and let them sit in the broth while you finish the lentils.

Warm the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and sage in the olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent and the vegetables are done.

Drain the sausages, saving their liquid. To the lentil pot, add the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and add the tomato paste. Mix gently using a wooden spoon. Add 3/4 cup of the broth in which you cooked the sausages. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

To serve, arrange the sausages on a platter next to the warm lentils.

lentil pasta

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1- 28 to 32 oz can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (juice reserved)
  • 1 1/4 cups dried green lentils
  • Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound shaped pasta, such as cavatappi or rigatoni
  • Pecorino cheese, grated or shaved
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Directions

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook slowly until the vegetables soften and turn golden, about 20 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste. Cook until the mixture dries out a bit, about 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved juice from the tomatoes and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season with the oregano,crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the lentils. (If the sauce begins to dry out, add additional water as needed.) Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Serve with the lentil sauce, sprinkle with the pecorino and garnish with basil.

seafood_stew_lentils

Seafood Stew with Lentils

Ingredients

For the Fish Stock:

  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stick, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 2 and 1/4 lbs (1 kg) white fish or white fish bones and heads, gills removed
  • Salt

For the Stew:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 and 1/2 oz (100 grams) cooked lentils
  • 9 oz (250 grams) fish and seafood cut into serving pieces, such as sea bass fillets, prepared squid, peeled prawns, peeled langoustines (small lobsters or use lobster claws) and scrubbed clams
  • 28 oz can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 1 fresh basil sprig, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Prepare the Fish Stock:

Pour 3 pints (2 liters) water into a large saucepan, add the herbs, onion, carrot, celery and peppercorns and season with salt.

Gradually bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat, let cool.

Add the fish bones and return to the heat, bring just to the boil;  lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the fish bones cool in the stock for a stronger flavor. Strain the stock.

Prepare the Stew:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet and add 1 tablespoon each of the celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cook for a few minutes more.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a shallow saucepan and add the remaining celery, carrot and onion and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Add the sea bass and the squid. Increase the heat to high and cook for 1 minute, then add the prawns, langoustines, clams and lentil mixture.

Pour in the strained fish stock, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the fish is tender.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the parsley and basil. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil.

beef lentils

Braised Chuck Steak with Savory Lentil Stew

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef chuck blade steaks, cut 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Directions

Heat a large deep skillet with a cover over medium heat until hot. Add the beef to the skillet and brown evenly. Season the beef with salt and pepper to taste.

Add water, onion and bay leaves to the skillet; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 1-1/4 hours.

Add lentils, carrots and Italian seasoning to the skillet; return to a boil. Continue simmering, covered, 30 to 45 minutes or until lentils and beef are fork-tender.

Discard bay leaves before serving.

 

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cellini

The self-portrait of master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini was a Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, soldier and writer. He was born in 1500 in Florence, Italy and his parents were Giovanni Cellini and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini was pushed towards music,but when he was fifteen his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to the goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro. However, at the age of sixteen, Benvenuto attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an altercation with his companions. He was banished for six months by the magistrates and went to live in Siena, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro. From Siena he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa and a period of studying sculpture in Florence, he moved to Rome.

His first artistic works were a silver casket, silver candlesticks and a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII. Another celebrated work from his time in Rome is the gold medallion, “Leda and the Swan”, created for Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino that is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. He also took up the flute again and was appointed one of the pope’s court musicians.

In the attack on Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Cellini gained fame as a soldier. According to his own accounts, he shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, Prince of Orange. His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates and he soon returned to his hometown of Florence. Here, he devoted himself to crafting medals in gold, the most famous of which are “Hercules and the Nemean Lion” and “Atlas Supporting the Sphere”, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France.

He returned to Rome and this time he was employed in the craft of making jewelery and in casting dies for medals and the papal mint. In 1529 his brother, Cecchino, killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and, in turn, was wounded. He later died. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother’s killer – an act of blood revenge, but not justice, as Cellini admits that his brother’s killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to escape the consequences. Through the influence of several cardinals, he later obtained a pardon. Cellini next went to Venice, where he was restored with greater honor than before.

At the age of 37, after returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled the gems of the pope’s tiara during the war. He was confined to the Castel Sant’Angelo, escaped, was recaptured and treated severely. The intercession Cardinal d’Este of Ferrara, eventually secured Cellini’s release, in gratitude for which he crafted d’Este a gold cup.

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini created sculptures of a grander scale. One of the main projects of his French period is probably the “Golden Gate” for the Château de Fontainebleau. Only the bronze tympanum of this unfinished work, which represents the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Paris, Louvre), still exists, but the complete spectrum of his work can be known through archives,his preparatory drawings and reproduced casts. His most distinguished sculpture, the bronze group of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” now in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence, was his attempt to surpass Michelangelo’s, “David” and Donatello’s, “Judith and Holofernes”. The casting of this work caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety, but it was called a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. By 1996, centuries of environmental pollution exposure had damaged the statue. In December 1996 it was removed from the Loggia and transferred to the Uffizi for cleaning and restoration. It was a slow, years-long process and the restored statue was returned to its home in June 2000.

The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini was started when he was 58 and ended just before his last trip to Pisa around the year 1563, when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions and enjoyments, that is written in an energetic, direct and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. Despite its exaggerations and its often boastful tone, it is a document of surprising frankness and incomparable authenticity and, thanks to it Cellini’s character, is more intimately known than that of any other figure of his time.

He died in Florence in 1571 at the age of 71 leaving behind a magnificent legacy of work. For all his exploits, Benvenuto Cellini remains a hero of Florence, in the Piazzale Degli Uffizi, outside the famous Uffizi Gallery, a life-size sculptor of him stands alongside the great masters of renaissance art, Da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo.

Still in the news today, Cellini’s gold and enamel masterpiece the “Saltcellar of Francis I” executed in 1540 for the King of France and valued today at $60,000,000, was recovered recently after being stolen from a museum in Vienna. Being chosen as a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno shows the respect he commanded: not just as an artist but as a patron of Florence.

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Some Florentine Specialties

Much of the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine was born out of necessity. Wild herbs and greens were used in simple soups. Every part of the animal was used–cibreo is a popular Florentine chicken stew that features cockscombs. Tuscan bread, a rustic sourdough baked in a wood-fired oven, traditionally was made without expensive salt. That meant it quickly went stale and so ribollita was born, a vegetable soup thickened with bread. Panzanella is a summer salad made from stale bread cubes, fresh tomatoes, basil and Tuscany’s famed olive oil. Wheat flour was another expensive ingredient and so Tuscans created dishes like castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, orange zest and olive oil.
Dishes here have hearty, rustic flavors, well-matched to the area’s famous wines, and Florentines enjoy eating their regional cuisine in friendly, warm, informal settings.

Typically, Florentine people never start a meal from the main course but always have a starter first. Whether eating in a restaurant or at home with friends, you will always find liver crostini (thin sliced toasted bread with liver patè) on the table. Alongside liver crostini the usual antipasto also offers different types of sliced salamis and hams.

Pappardelle (similar to spaghetti, but a thicker pasta made with egg) with boar or hare sauce. It can be seasoned with other classic ingredients: porcini mushrooms, meat sauces, artichokes and sausages, etc. Other first course dishes are the soups: pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, carabaccia and black cabbage. These are all variations of a single base made from vegetables, bread and tomato.

The hills around Florence abound with game, including wild boar which is used in locally made salamis and air-dried hams. Duck and rabbit appear on the table grilled. Fish from the region’s lakes and seafood from the coastal areas appear on the table. Porcini, wild mushrooms, are another favorite served in the fall after foragers have combed the woods around the city.

Bistecca alla fiorentina (a T-bone steak) is served rare with a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and often accompanied by white beans, roasted potatoes or a green salad. Porchetta is a suckling pig, stuffed with garlic and herbs and brushed with a rosemary branch while its roasts. Trippa alla fiorentina, tripe cooked with wine, tomatoes and herbs, is another signature dish.

Florentine desserts: cantucci (small almond biscuits) to eat at the end of a meal dipped in Vinsanto or in the colder seasons the castagnaccio, that takes its name from the nearby mountains , is a thin cake made of chestnut flour and pine nuts. During Carnival or after the Epiphany, you can find schiacciata alla fiorentina, a soft sweet, sponge cake which can be filled with cream or chocolate and covered with powdered sugar.

Sometimes Florentines like eating a sandwich in the street for lunch. In addition to steak, Florence offers other meat specialties such as tripe and lampredotto. These are foods that are eaten in kiosks on the street, even in winter.They can be seasoned with green sauce and enriched with other vegetables, such as leeks.

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Chicken Liver Crostini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • Baguette, sliced thinly and toasted
  • Sea salt, optional

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions, capers and garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, Marsala, anchovies and chicken livers. Season with salt, pepper and chili and cook until the chicken livers are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor. Add the butter and purée until smooth. 

To serve, spread the chicken liver on toasted baguette slices and garnish with sea salt, if desired.

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Pappa al Pomodoro

Many Florentine recipes make use of leftover ingredients. Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick, hearty soup made with dry bread, is one of the city’s classic dishes.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4–8 cloves of garlic, according to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
  • 1 pound of dry, stale (preferably unsalted Tuscan) bread, broken into small pieces
  • 4–6 cups of water or warmed vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch (20 leaves) of basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half teaspoon of crushed and dried chili pepper
  • 1 leek (white flesh only), finely chopped

Directions

Place the bread in a bowl and add water or broth. Cover and put aside for at least an hour.

Sauté the garlic and leek in oil. Add dried chili pepper, the tomatoes, half the basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Squeeze excess broth from the soaked bread and add to the oil and tomatoes. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with remaining basil and a swirl of olive oil.

Minestra

Ribollita

Ribollita means “reboiled,” because to make this rich, thick vegetable soup correctly, it must be cooked and recooked. Ribollita appears with many variations, but the key ingredient is cavolo nero ( winter black cabbage), though kale, chard, or green and Savoy cabbage can also be used. Add zucchini, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables according to taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 leek (white flesh) finely chopped
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 fresh or canned peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups canned white cannellini beans
  • 1 quarter cavolo nero or equivalent
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard and/or spinach
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk and leaves
  • 4 chopped zucchini 
  • 2 peeled and cubed potatoes 
  • 1 pound stale Italian bread 
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano, rosemary and hot chili pepper as desired

Directions

Sauté the onion, leek, and garlic in a Dutch Oven in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots, celery, chili pepper and cook for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, beans, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes.

Add tomato paste, zucchini, potatoes or other vegetables of choice and water to cover the ingredients. Cook gently for 90 minutes, adding water as necessary,

Chill the soup overnight. The next day purée half the mixture, return to the pot. Bring to a boil and reheat.

Ladling the soup over a thick slice of toasted dry bread and add a swirl of olive oil to each serving.

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Pappardelle with Duck

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound duck breast, skin removed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, broken into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound dried pappardelle pasta

Directions

Rub the meat with the orange zest, lemon zest, rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the duck breast from the herbs and dice the meat.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the diced duck meat. Cook until the meat has changed color, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the red wine; cook until the alcohol has reduced and evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and mix with the sauce to serve.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Traditionally, a T-bone from local Chianina beef cattle is preferred, but an ordinary T-bone (or porterhouse) can also be used.

Serves at least four

Ingredients

  • 2-pound T-bone steak, three fingers thick
  • Sea salt (coarse)

Directions

Florentines grill the meat over a very hot wood or coal, but it can also be cooked on a hot skillet or griddle.

Grill the steak, without seasoning, for three to five minutes. Florentines often grill the steak standing up on the bone for a few minutes at the end to cook around the T-bone.

The meat should be seared and crispy on the outside and red, almost raw at its heart. Allow to rest for ten minutes then cut the meat off the bone into large chunks.

Season with coarse sea salt and serve.

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Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Powdered sugar, for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.

In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk and oil and pour into bowl with flour.

Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the batter to the greased pan and bake for about 25 minutes.

Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

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There are some nights you just want a bowl of soup and a sandwich – no fuss. To keep it healthy, I like to prepare these ingredients when I have time and keep them in the freezer for when we want this simple type of dinner.

I bake the bread loaves, cut them in half and store each half in a separate freezer bag. Certainly you can buy bread if you don’t have time to bake, but this recipe makes exceptional tasting sandwich bread.

You can use whatever ingredients you have on hand for a sandwich, but I usually like to have extra cooked chicken breasts, pork tenderloin or meatloaf in the freezer. I slice them in sandwich portions and store them in freezer bags.

Soups are always a good solution after a busy day. I like to keep homemade soups in the freezer because they are healthier than canned soup. Soups that are not too heavy go better with sandwiches. I also freeze these in one or two cup portions.

Now with these in the freezer, you won’t have to ask – what’s for dinner?

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Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

This is a very moist, tender, slightly chewy bread and stays moist for a few days.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup honey, divided
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 5 tablespoons melted butter or butter alternative, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal 
  • 4 tablespoons of powdered vital wheat gluten
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour

Directions

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, mix warm water, yeast and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups bread flour and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes or until big and bubbly.

Mix in the 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey and salt. Stir in the whole wheat flour.

Knead on level 2 for about 10 minutes. Then, take the dough out and knead by hand on a floured surface until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter for about 1 minute. to form a large dough ball.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

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Punch down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in two greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise until the dough has topped the pans by one inch. You may also make 3 smaller loaves (8×4 inch pans) and reduce the baking time to about 25 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30-35 minutes. To be sure check the temperature with a thermometer. Most breads are done when the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F.

Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter when done to prevent the crust from getting hard. Cool completely

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Italian Seasoned Meatloaf for Sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce 
  • 1/2 of a large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs.
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except bread crumbs. Mix well. Gradually add breadcrumbs and lightly mix mixture after each addition. Stop when the beef and breadcrumb mixture begins to feel firm and holds its shape.

Form into a loaf and place in a baking pan.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, about 60-75 minutes.

Let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute.

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Meatloaf Sandwich

Ingredients for each sandwich:

  • 1 slice Italian seasoned meatloaf
  • 1 roasted red pepper from a jar
  • 1 large slice deli provolone cheese
  • 2 slices homemade whole wheat bread

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Butternut Squash-White Bean Soup

The soup ingredients may seem like an unlikely combination, but I have to tell you that the flavor is incredible. Be sure to use a good brand of chicken stock or even better use homemade.

Serves 4-6

For serving:

Cooked bacon, crumbled, and chopped parsley for garnish, if desired.

For soaking the beans:

1 cup dried white beans, such as cannellini, haricot blanc (navy) or Great Northern beans. Soak in 4 cups of water overnight. Drain.

For cooking the beans:

In a large soup pot combine

  • Drained beans
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the beans are tender but not soft. Check after 40-45 minutes. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Reserve.

For the soup:

In the same pot heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add

  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 3 or 4 freah sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf

Cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes and cook for 5 minutes.

Directions

Drain the beans and the garlic and set aside. Add all of the cooking liquid to the squash and onion mixture.

Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cook at a simmer until the squash becomes very tender. Add the drained white beans and garlic and heat thoroughly. Remove the bay leaf.

Purée one-third of the soup and add back into the pot. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Serve in individual bowls sprinkled with chopped parsley and crumbled bacon, if desired.

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BalancedLunch

Eating a healthful lunch can help control blood glucose, hunger and weight. Lunch is a chance to keep you full until dinner and fit in some important food groups. Get more mileage out of your lunch by including fiber from whole grains and protein from low-fat dairy products and other lean protein sources.

Build a Balanced Lunch

Studies show people who tote their meals with them weigh less, eat more healthfully and spend less money.

When compiling your midday meal, remember this simple formula, even at home: whole grain + dairy/protein +vegetables = healthy lunch.

Include whole grains for the starch portion of your meal. You’ll get hearty satisfaction from grains with all their fiber and nutrients intact. This will be your main carbohydrate source.
The dairy/protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates, helping you feel satisfied and adding staying power to your lunch. Vegetables add color, flavor and antioxidants to your meal.

If you love sandwiches, use a variety of whole-grain breads, pitas and wraps. Choose lean fillings like sliced eggs, tuna fish, cheese or lean meats. Then add interest to your sandwiches with assorted greens, fresh basil, sliced cucumbers, onions, pickled peppers and tomatoes.

But sandwiches are far from your only option when you’re brown-bagging it. Last night’s dinner, anything you enjoy at home can, be packed up and eaten for lunch. In fact, you might want to make extra food for dinner, so you’ll have leftovers to bring for lunch. Leftovers are the perfect food to pack and take for lunch because you can control the portions and calories in the meal to ensure it will be nutritious, filling and delicious.

For example, pack the leftovers from last night’s casserole into a reusable container that can be microwaved at the office. Add some carrot, celery and pepper strips for a hearty and satisfying lunch. To take this idea a bit further, try cooking in bulk. On the weekend, make a big pot of chili, chicken noodle soup or rice and beans and freeze into individual portions that are ready to take to work in a flash.

Keep it cold. For safety’s sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack.

Pasta Lover’s Lunch Salad. Make the salad with lean meat or fish, some cubed or shredded cheese (for protein), lots of vegetables to boost fiber and nutrition and usevwhole wheat or whole-grain pasta. Toss everything together with a vinaigrette made with extra virgin olive oil or canola oil. Pack into individual lunch containers.

Mediterranean Pita Pocket. Fill a whole wheat pita with homemade or store-bought hummus, tabouleh and sliced cooked chicken. All you need is a piece of fruit to round out the meal.

Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of cheese and easy-to-eat fruit, such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon. Add some whole-wheat crackers to your lunch.

Everything Is Better on a Mini Bagel. Whole-wheat bagels are a wonderful foundation for sandwiches that stand up to being in a backpack or desk all morning. Start with two mini bagels. Add tuna, smoked salmon, oven baked turkey or roast beef. Top it off with cheese, fresh tomato, onion and Romaine lettuce. Two mini bagels can supply 6 grams of fiber to the meal.

Enjoy Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, shredded cheese, lean ham or turkey. Or toss in the ingredients for a chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion and toasted sliced almonds. Pack the dressing separately and add it to the salad just before eating.

Lunches at Home

Include more whole foods and choose lunch items with higher amounts of fiber and nutrients (like calcium, protein and vitamin C). Include fewer processed foods such as cookies, chips and snacks, which have higher sodium, added sugar and saturated fat.

spicypoachedegg

Spicy Poached Eggs

5 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5 large eggs

Directions
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and peppers. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion starts to turn translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, paprika, oregano, cayenne and salt. Add the tomato mixture to the skillet with the onions and peppers and stir. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Make 5 hollows in the tomato mixture and carefully crack the eggs into each hole. Cover and cook until the eggs set, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot with a small whole wheat roll.

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Spanakopita Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained well
  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust (homemade or store-bought) 
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried dill 

Directions
Heat oil in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add spinach and stir until spinach is dry, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in a 9-inch quiche dish or pie pan. Press into the pan, sealing any cracks. Crimp the edges.

Mix flour with Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over bottom of the crust, followed by the crumbled feta cheese. Top with spinach mixture.

Beat eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg in large bowl to blend. Pour over spinach.

Place pie pan on a baking sheet and bake about 50 minutes or until the top is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly. Cut in to wedges and serve.

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Chicken Salad with Apple and Basil

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 scallions (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels. Pound it to an even thinness between pieces of plastic wrap.

Place the chicken in a large, wide saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1/2 inch. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until no trace of pink remains, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lime juice, vinegar and brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the scallions and apples and toss.

Drain the chicken and pat it dry. Dice the chicken and add it to the apple mixture along with the peanuts, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Toss and divide among individual plates.

unhealthy lunch

Unhealthy lunch

Lunches For Work

Taking a healthy lunch to work is one of the simplest ways to trim your budget. Most people think nothing of spending $10 or so for a restaurant lunch, but over the course of a month — or a year — the expense can really add up.
Beyond the cost savings, most meals packed at home are healthier than foods from restaurants or fast food counters. When we eat out, we’re often faced with huge portions and fattening extras — like the french fries that routinely come with sandwiches. But when you pack lunch at home, you can control your portions and choose healthier ingredients.

tuna

Tuscan Tuna Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ounces tuna packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 whole-wheat wraps
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach leaves

Directions

Break up the tuna in a mixing bowl and mix in the parsley, lemon, oil, tomatoes, olives, salt and pepper.  Divide the mixture between the wraps, top with spinach leaves and roll up. Wrap the sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

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Pesto Turkey Sandwich

If you would like a little crunch in your sandwich, add a slice of cooked turkey bacon.

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons prepared pesto
  • 2 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 2 ounces sliced turkey
  • 2 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 4 slices tomato

Directions
Spread pesto on the bread. Top 1 bread slice with turkey, lettuce, tomato and top with the remaining bread slice. Place in a large plastic sanwich bag.

corn salad

Corn & Black Bean & Mango Salad

Make ahead salad to pack for lunch. Serve with healthy toasted corn tortillas.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups frozen corn, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (pignoli)
  • Lime wedges for garnish

Directions
Whisk lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the corn, beans, cabbage, tomato, mango, parsley and onion; toss to coat. Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate in lunch containers with a lime wedge.

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676142901_1388825053Whether it’s a partner or a family member with different eating styles and preferences, conflict can arise on various fronts when some people in the house are vegetarians and others are not. The good news: with a little patience and compromise, not to mention good humor, it is possible for everyone to enjoy meals together. Setting ground rules in advance can ward off many disagreements in the kitchen. In particular, deciding who is responsible for what can help prevent resentment and ensure things run more smoothly when it comes time for food preparation.

  • Will a group meal be prepared that everyone will share?
  • How does the vegetarian feel about preparing and cooking meat even if he or she doesn’t eat it?
  • Will the non-vegetarian prepare vegetarian meals?
  • Is it simplest for each person to be responsible for their own cooking?

There is no one correct answer and it may take some time to work out the best system. As far as meals are concerned, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options can be blended without making the division obvious. Here are a few suggestions for minimizing the differences and increasing the joy of eating together:

  • The non-vegetarian partner should agree to expand his/her food horizons and try new vegetables, grains and protein sources.
  • Find as many dishes as possible that also work for your partner.
  • The vegetarian partner should tolerate having the non-vegetarian cook meat, chicken or fish in the family kitchen. Have pots and dishes just for that, if it’s an issue.
  • At the same time, the vegetarian shouldn’t be expected to cook meat, unless he/she doesn’t mind.
  • Freeze individual portions of each partner’s favorite dishes to eat when time is short or you can’t agree.
  • Never make negative remarks about what the other wants to eat. Don’t try to convert the other to your point of view or even think that this would be a good thing. It never is.

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Types of Vegetarians

  • A vegetarian eats no meat, poultry or fish.
  • An ovo-lacto vegetarian eats eggs and milk.
  • A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products, but not eggs.
  • A vegan eats no animal products at all, often including honey. There are strict ethical vegans who don’t wear or use any animal product.
  • Raw food devotees are vegan.
  • A pesco-vegetarian (eats fish) isn’t vegetarian, because fish is considered an animal product.
  • Flexitarian is a made up term for one who flips back and forth from vegetarian to non-vegetarian.

When entertaining think about the likely food preferences of those you’re feeding. Ask about likes and dislikes, as you would with any other guest. Stick with familiar foods, when feeding both vegetarians and non-vegetarians at the same meal.

Here are some suggestions:

Serve egg or cheese based dishes, such as a Spinach Quiche. Good accompanied with baked potato and a salad. Chickpeas and kidney beans are familiar enough to be used in small amounts. Add them to dishes that are well-known – such as three-bean salad, pasta salad, minestrone soup or vegetarian chili. Use familiar comfort foods, such as potatoes, breads or pasta. Familiar ethnic foods work well: Mexican, Indian or Italian. Whenever possible, tell your guests in advance what you’re planning to make and ask them for suggestions, if you feel comfortable with that idea.

Breakfast may be one of the easier meals to accommodate vegetarians and non-vegetarians, so inviting friends for brunch may be an ideal way to entertain. There are many breakfast options that do not contain meat, such as oatmeal, yogurt, granola, fruit, coffee cake, pancakes or waffles that can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. For a larger breakfast, eggs or omelets can be eaten by everyone, except vegans. For the non-vegetarians, bacon or sausage can easily be added to the meal as a side.

For vegetarians, sandwiches made with vegetables and cheese can provide an alternative to deli meats, while non-vegetarians can add sliced turkey, beef or chicken to their sandwiches. Soups can be made with vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth. Cooked chicken, fish or beef can be added to the non-vegetarian soup just before serving. Salads are also lunch options that are easy to make vegetarian by replacing meat or fish with beans or hard-boiled eggs. Dinner pasta or rice recipes made with vegetables are easily prepared dishes where meat or fish can be added for family members that are not vegetarians.

The situation in my family is easy. The vegetarians are not vegan. They just do not eat animal protein and they don’t get upset if it is on the table. My typical approach is that I make the same foods the non-vegetarians are eating minus the animal protein part for the vegetarians. It is a two-in-one system. Two versions of the same dish, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian. Here are some of the recipes that work in our family.

split pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Corn chowder is another great option. Serve crumbled bacon on the side as a garnish.

4-6 servings

Ingredient

  • 2 cups dry split peas, rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion (2 cups), diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 pound cooked ham steak, diced and heated

Directions
Sauté the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a Dutch oven for about 10 minutes, until the onions translucent. Add the potato, garlic and rosemary and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Add the split peas, vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, partially covered, for another 40 minutes or so until the peas are very soft and falling apart.
Serve the warmed ham in a separate bowl for non-vegetarians to add to their soup bowls.

cabbageroll

Stuffed Cabbage

4 servings

Ingredients

Cabbage & Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 large Savoy cabbage (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
  • 6-8 ounces (2 links) sweet turkey or pork Italian sausage, casing removed
  • Olive oil for drizzling over the cabbage rolls
  • Chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

To prepare the rice:

Combine water, rice and 1 teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain the barest simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

To prepare the cabbage:

Half fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and place near the stove.
Using a small, sharp knife, remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage. Add the whole cabbage to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. As the leaves soften, use tongs to gently remove 8 large outer leaves. Transfer the leaves to the toel lined baking sheet and pat with more towels to thoroughly dry. Set aside.
Drain the remaining cabbage in a colander for a few minutes. Finely chop enough to make 1 1/2 cups. (Save any remaining cabbage for another use. I place the remaining cabbage in the freezer to save for a soup recipe.)

To prepare the filling:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the pan is fairly dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Add the mushroom mixture to the cooked rice along with currants and pine nuts.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high. Add the chopped cabbage, the remaining salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Add the sausage to the empty skillet and brown. Set aside in a separate bowl.

To prepare the sauce:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and wine; bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Coat two 8-inch baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Place a ½ cup of tomato sauce in each baking dish.

To stuff the cabbage:

Divide the rice mixture in half. To one half add the sautéed cabbage and to the other half add the browned sausage.

For the vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the cabbage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in one baking dish.

For the non-vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the sausage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in the other baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the rolls in both pans. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the cabbage rolls in each pan. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the tops of the vegetarian rolls, so you will know they are the vegetarian rolls when serving. Bake, uncovered, basting twice with the sauce, until hot, about 45 minutes.

pasta-primavera-ay-1875565-l

Pasta Primavera with Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into quarters
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into quarters
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Small bunch of each – parsley, thyme and rosemary – tied together with kitchen twine

For the Primavera:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle, washed and dried
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose of instant flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Water
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 10 oz box frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • A handful of parsley, thyme leaves and rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

To poach the chicken:

Place chicken, onion, lemon, carrot, celery, bay and herb bundle in a medium saucepan, cover chicken with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Strain and reserve a 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid. Save remaining broth for another use. Cool chicken and remove the skin and bones. Slice the chicken into serving pieces, place in a serving bowl, cover and keep warm

For the pasta sauce:

Heat oil with the butter over medium heat in the same pan. Add carrots, zucchini, leeks and garlic, season with salt and white pepper and sauté until tender, 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir a minute more. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then stir in 2 cups of the vegetable broth. Cook until the sauce thickens. Stir in the peas and reduce the heat to low.

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add salt and cook the pasta to the al dente stage and drain. Add the Primavera sauce to the pasta along with the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth.

Gremolata-zest the lemon and combine it with the finely chopped herbs.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls topped with some of the gremolata and some grated cheese.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken poaching broth and pour it over the sliced chicken. Serve the chicken to non-vegetarians to add to their pasta bowl.

beef skewers

vegetable skewers

shrimp skewers

Grilled Beef Sirloin & Shrimp & Farmer’s Market Skewers

I like to serve this dish with a brown and wild rice mix and a tomato salad. You can use any combination of vegetables that you like and that your vegetarian friends or family like.

Ingredients

Mustard-Thyme Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Skewers

  • 1 lb top sirloin steak, grass-fed if possible, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 thin eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch thick wedges
  • 12 medium mushrooms

Directions

Combine glaze ingredients in a large glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 45-60 seconds, stirring once until bubbly.

Place the vegetables on one platter, the shrimp on another platter and the beef on another platter.

Lightly brush some of the glaze on all sides of the vegetables. Wash or change to another pastry brush and lightly brush the steak and shrimp with the remaining glaze.

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Thread vegetables, beef and shrimp, separately, onto 12-inch metal skewers.

Place beef skewers on the grill over medium heat. Grill steak, 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium, turning occasionally.

Grill vegetables skewers for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are until tender. Grill the shrimp just until they turn pink, turn and grill until the second side is pink.

Serve the grilled vegetables on one platter and the shrimp and beef on another platter.

veggie-cartoon

 

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San Sperate has a very ancient history. Recent archaeological excavations have dated the first settlements to the Bronze Age. Following the period of Punic rule in Sardinia, the villages in the San Sperate basin came under Carthaginian rule and four cemeteries from this period have been found. Roman occupation in 238 BC can be documented and the parish church dates to the XVI century. This small village in Sardinia, not far from Cagliari, is known for the “Paese Museo” (Museum Village) and its artistic features. It is a village of murals with more than 300 large wall paintings. Painting the walls of its houses was begun by a local artist, Pinuccio Sciola. In 1968, in the wake of a youth protest movement, Sciola had the idea of turning the village into an open-air “museum village”.  The idea was taken up by other artists such as Foiso Fois, Liliana Canu, Primo Pantoli, Giorgio Princivalle, Gaetano Brundu, Nando Pintus, Giovanni Thermes and Franco Putzolu. They came to San Sperate to add their own different styles and techniques. The result ranged from trompe l’oeil windows, balconies and lines of washing hung out to dry to historic scenes and copies of famous works of art.

Pino-Sciola-in-his-open-air-museum-CU

Pinuccio Sciola

Sciola is also Sardinia’s best known sculptor and there are examples of his work carved from the local stone. His stone sculptures are the living testimony of the art of San Sperate. Limestones and basalts are the materials mainly used by Sciola. He makes a “kind of wound” in each stone, so that the energy of the stone is taken out. His large sculptures resonate when rubbed by human hands or small rocks. However, you can’t image how amazing it is listening to Sciola’s stones, so instead of imagining, you can hear these stones in a documentary about this fascinating artist and his work by playing the video link below:

The murals depict how life was in San Sperate one hundred years ago. They are creations of a changing farming culture with themes of rural life (work in the fields and scenes from the village) in an urban space made more significant by the display of traditional implements, such as olive oil mills, wheat grinding mills, stone tubs, basins and by rows of orange and lemon trees. A Picasso-esque house wall of colorful images and a wall painted to resemble a space for hanging agricultural tools (painted so realistically with shadows that they look ready to be unhooked and used) are just two of the vivid images depicted in the town. There are also curiosities, like a house which appears to be wrapped in paper with a corner torn off or painted groups of people chatting in front of arcades or abstract patterns. Here are a few photos of the murals:

004 Living art gallery san_sperate (21) san_sperate (49) sansperate sansperate1 sansperate2 sansperate3 Sardinia_SanSperate_Murales2-736009

One artist from the Renaissance period, Piero della Francesca, must have been popular because there are several copies of his most famous paintings scattered throughout the village, including one next to a bakery that has an image of a single oven on its wall.

The murals covering the brick walls of the village houses brought this small village into the limelight, attracting Italian and foreign artists wishing to experiment with mural painting and other forms of art expression. This attraction also created a platform for local artists: in sculpture – Sergio Caddeo, Giuseppe Lasio, Gianfranco Pinna, Romano Porcu, Eva Schirru and Lucio Schirru; in painting –  Monica Corda, Erminluca Maccioni and Raffaele Muscas; in miniature art –  Ignazio Casti; in ceramics –  Giampaolo Mameli; in murals –  Angelo Pilloni and in street art –  Manu Invisible. (Source: Italy Magazine)

Sardinian Recipes

xSardinia

Sardinian food ranges from soups and stews, seafood, freshly baked breads, olives and wine to roasted lamb, sheep’s milk cheeses and pastries.

BEAN-FENNEL-AND-POTATOES-SOUPM-RECIPE

Bean, Fennel and Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2/3 pound (300 g) fresh fava beans or dried cannellini beans
  • 2 fennel bulbs, fronds (feathery tops) only
  • 1/2 pound (250 g) potatoes
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) plum tomatoes or canned italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 pound (150 g) dry short pasta (ditalini)
  • A ham bone
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Freshly grated Pecorino Sardo (in its absence use Pecorino Toscano or a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Rinse the fennel fronds, pat them dry and chop them. Save the fennel bulbs for another recipe. Peel and dice the potatoes. Blanch, peel, seed, chop and drain the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a soup pot, sauté the tomatoes for a minute and as soon as they begin to wilt add the beans, fennel, potatoes and ham. Add 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) of water, cover, and simmer for at least two hours.

Remove the ham bone and stir in the pasta. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked. Serve with grated pecorino on the side.bonelessleglamb

Sardinian Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Ingredients:

  • A boneless leg of lamb, weighing about 4 1/2 pounds (2 k)
  • 3/4 pound (110 g) Italian mild sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) dry bread crumbs
  • 1 2/3 pounds (750 g) plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped — canned tomatoes will also work
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A large bunch parsley, minced
  • A medium onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butcher’s twine

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to contain the leg of lamb and sauté the minced garlic, parsley and onion until the onion is translucent. Remove the mixture from the saucepan to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the pan drippings behind. When the onion mixture has cooled, mix it with the sausage, eggs and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the inside of the leg of lamb. Roll the leg up tightly and tie it with twine.

Reheat the pan drippings in the saucepan and brown the meat, turning it to brown all sides. Add the tomatoes, crumbling them between your fingers, add enough water to reach part-way up the sides of the pot and simmer gently for an hour or until the meat is quite tender.

When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Remove and discard the string, slice the meat and arrange the pieces on a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.

ciambellone-ok

Saffron Ring Cake

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (300 g) ricotta
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 g) flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
  • 3 eggs
  • The grated zest of an orange
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • A big pinch of saffron

Directions

Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F (190 C).

Squeeze the orange, warm the juice slightly and dissolve the saffron in it.

Mash the ricotta with the tines of a fork, mixing until it is creamy in texture and combine it with the sugar, grated orange and lemon zest, eggs and half the orange juice mixed with saffron. Mix well, fold in the flour and baking powder and then pour the batter into a floured ring mold baking pan.

Brush the surface of the cake with the remaining orange juice, sprinkle with sugar and bake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, about 40 minutes, but check before then.

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Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.

olivengrosshimmel

On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.

pesto (480x640)

Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.

Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.

Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.

Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made ​​from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).

Antipasto

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature

Filling

  • Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.

Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).

When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.

Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.

focaccia-al-formaggio1

Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.

First Course

zuppa-di-riso-e-verdure-L-K_HkNj

Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
  • 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
  • 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.

After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.

Second Course

fish and potatoes

Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).

Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.

Dessert Course

Olive_Oil_Cake-2

Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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saute-pan-demonstration

Skillets were originally deep, much like the sauce pans we use today. A frying pan, often referred to as skillet these days, is a shallow, long-handled pan used for frying food. Frying pans are not for slow cooking or braising. Often they do not have lids because they do not have the need to seal in juices as a pan for braising must do. The sides of these pans flare out while the height remains shallow. A frying pan should not be too heavy to lift or move around easily. It should have a long handle that stays cool, so that you feel safe when cooking. The frying pan is the one to turn to when you want to sear and brown something fast and then bring the heat down quickly. These pans are what you need to use when you want to cook foods like pork chops, potato pancakes or soft-shell crabs, as well as peppers and onions.

You may also use a frying pan to sauté, which involves rapid frying in a small amount of fat followed by the addition of other ingredients to the pan, but that technique is better left to a true sauté pan with high straight sides.

saute._V192549726_

Sauté pans have straight sides and a lid. They are also very versatile. The added height on the sides allows for cooking with more liquid or keeping moisture in the dish. This type of pan is well-suited for braising, pan-frying, sautéing, searing, or even making small amounts of sauce.

A 7-8 inch skillet is appropriate for cooking an omelet or scrambled eggs, sautéing garlic or your favorite vegetables. A 10-12 inch skillet can be used for frying greater volumes of the same items and for stir-frying, if the pan is made from heavy material that conducts heat well so there are no hot spots.

A French Skillet is a saute pan with sloped sides. An omelette pan has sides that are more flared than an ordinary frying pan to enable the omelette to slide easily out of the pan.

copper

copper

A copper pan that is lined with tin or stainless steel is the first choice for delicate items that needs precise timing. Copper is the quickest responsive metal; it picks up heat immediately, but it will also lose heat as soon as the pan is removed from the burner.

Nonstick Omelet

Nonstick Omelet

If you purchase any non-stick aluminum pans, you should make certain they are anodized. Inexpensive non-stick pans will not wear well nor will they hold up to high heat. The editors of Cook’s Illustrated warn that even the best nonstick skillet will eventually become scratched and roughened from use, voiding its nonstick properties. Treating your skillet gently can delay this deterioration, but not prevent it. For this reason, they recommend choosing a lower-priced nonstick skillet, provided you can find one that performs well.

cast iron skillet

cast iron

For everyday cooking, whether sautéing mushrooms, hamburgers or chicken cutlets, pans made from stainless steel-wrapped aluminum and anodized aluminum are excellent choices.

Some foods require steady, even heat to brown. An old-fashioned cast iron skillet that doesn’t cool down when you take it off the heat would be a good choice for hash browned potatoes, bacon or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Although it is better to use a potholder when you are cooking, it is also important that the frying pan handle stay as cool as possible. You can look for metal handles that are hollowed in some way or that are made of a different metal than the pan itself. If you place your pan in the oven to finish cooking a dish, then you want handles that are oven proof.

fingerlings

Lemon-Thyme Chicken with Fingerlings

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise, or tiny new red or white potatoes, halved
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 pounds total)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions

In a very large saute pan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, the salt and pepper into the oil. Add potatoes; toss to coat. Cover and cook for 12 minutes, stirring twice.

Stir potatoes and push them to one side of the pan. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the other side of the pan. Add chicken breast halves to the side with the oil. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Turn chicken. Spread garlic over chicken breast halves; sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Arrange lemon slices on top of chicken. Cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F) and potatoes are tender.

beef skillet

Italian Beef Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beef round steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Hot cooked spaghetti for 4, optional

Directions

Trim fat from round steak, then cut meat into 4 serving-size pieces. Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add meat pieces and brown both sides of each piece. Remove meat to a platter.

Add mushrooms, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic to the pan. Cook until vegetables are nearly tender. Then, stir in undrained tomatoes, herbs and red pepper. Return meat to the pan, spooning vegetable mixture over the meat. Cover and simmer about 1-1/4 hours or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer meat to a serving platter. Spoon vegetable mixture over the meat and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve over pasta, if desired.

sausage

Sausage and Pepper Skillet

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage links
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can low-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a 12-inch saute pan, cook sausage links over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until browned, turning frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook about 10 minutes more or until juices run clear. Transfer sausage links to a cutting board; thinly slice sausage links. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to the same pan and increase heat to medium. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and onion; cook about 5 minutes or until crisp tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage slices, undrained tomatoes, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper to the pan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

italian-three-bean-and-rice-skillet-12243-ss

Italian Three-Bean and Rice Vegetarian Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 – 15 ½ ounce can small red beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 – 14 ½ ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking brown rice
  • 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen baby lima beans (1 cup)
  • 1/2 of a 9 ounce package frozen cut green beans (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed or dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 cup meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large saute pan combine beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, rice, lima beans, green beans and basil or Italian seasoning. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until rice is tender.

Stir in spaghetti sauce. Heat through. Top with mozzarella. Place lid on pan just until cheese melts. Serve.

Fast-Fish-Skillet-45308

Fish and Vegetable Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tilapia or any white fish fillets (1 lb.)
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite Italian Vinaigrette made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon homemade or prepared pesto sauce
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise, then crosswise into slices
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Brush fish with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette; cook in a frying pan (skillet) on medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with fork. Transfer fish to a serving plate; cover to keep warm.

Add remaining dressing, pesto, vegetables and tomatoes to the skillet; cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Spoon over fish and top with basil and Parmesan cheese.

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Crooners

Crooner is an epithet given to a male singer of a certain style of popular songs. The singer is normally backed by a full orchestra or big band. Crooning is a style that has its roots in the Bel Canto of Italian opera, but with the emphasis on subtle vocal nuances and phrasing found in jazz as opposed to elaborate drama and acoustic volume found in opera houses. Before the advent of the microphone, popular singers, like Al Jolson, had to project to the rear seats of a theater, which made for a very loud vocal style. The microphone made possible a more personal style. Crooning is not so much a style of music as it is a technique in which to sing.

Some crooners, most notably Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby incorporated other popular styles into their music, such as blues, dixieland and even Hawaiian music. Crooning became the dominant form of popular vocal music from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, coinciding with the advent of radio broadcasting and electrical recording.

After 1954 popular music became dominated by other styles, especially rock ‘n’ roll, while the music of latter-day crooners, such as Perry Como and Matt Monro, were categorized as “easy listening”. Crooners have remained popular among fans of traditional pop music, with contemporary performers such as Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Michael Bublé and Engelbert Humperdinck keeping the form alive.

Frankie Laine

frankie-laine38096

Francesco Paolo LoVecchio (1913-2007) was born to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (née Salerno) in Cook County, IL. His parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicily, to Chicago’s Near West Side, in “Little Italy,” where his father worked as a barber. The eldest of eight children, Laine grew up in the Old Town neighborhood (first at 1446 N. North Park Avenue and later at 331 W. Schiller Street) and got his first taste of singing as a member of the choir in the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s elementary school across the street from his North Park Avenue home. He later attended Lane Technical High School, where he helped to develop his lung power and breath control by joining the track and field and basketball teams. He realized he wanted to be a singer when he went to see Al Jolson’s talking picture, The Singing Fool. Even in the 1920s, his vocal abilities were enough to get him noticed by a slightly older “in crowd” at his school, who invited him to parties and to local dance clubs. At 17, he sang before a crowd of 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such applause that he ended up performing five encores on his first night.

Laine was giving dance lessons for a charity ball at the Merry Garden when he was called to the bandstand to sing: “Soon I found myself on the main bandstand before this enormous crowd”, Laine recalled. ”I was really nervous, but I started singing ‘Beside an Open Fireplace,’ a popular song of the day. It was a sentimental tune and the lyrics choked me up. When I got done, the tears were streaming down my cheeks and the ballroom became quiet. I was very nearsighted and couldn’t see the audience. I thought that the people didn’t like me.”

Laine was the first and largest of a new breed of singers who rose to prominence in the post–World War II era. This new, emotionally charged style seemed at the time to signal the end of the previous era’s singing styles and was a forerunner of the rock ‘n’ roll performers that were to come. As music historian, Jonny Whiteside, wrote: “In the Hollywood clubs, a new breed of performers laid down an array of new sounds … Most important of all these, though, was Frankie Laine, a big lad with ‘steel tonsils’ who belted out torch blues while stomping his size twelve-foot.”

Laine began recording for Columbia Records in 1951, where he immediately scored a double-sided hit with the single “Jezebel” /”Rose, Rose, I Love You”. Other Laine hits from this period include “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)”, “Jealousy”, “The Girl in the Wood”, “When You’re in Love”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (with Jo Stafford), “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Granada and “Hey Joe!”.  Laine scored a total of 39 hit records on the charts while at Columbia.

Laine had become more popular in the United Kingdom than in the USA, as many of his hit records in the UK were only minor hits in the US. Songs like “The Gandy Dancer’s Ball”, “The Rock of Gibraltar” and “Answer Me, O Lord” were much bigger hits for him abroad. “Answer Me” would later provide the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s composition, “Yesterday”.  It was also there that he broke attendance records when appearing at the Palladium and where he launched his first successful television series with singer, Connie Haines.

He was a frequent guest star on various other television shows of the time, including Shower of Stars, The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, What’s My Line?, This is Your Life, Bachelor Father, The Sinatra Show, The Walter Winchell Show, The Perry Como Show, The Garry Moore Show, Masquerade Party, The Mike Douglas Show and American Bandstand.

Along with opening the door for many R&B performers, Laine played a significant role in the civil rights movements of the 1950s and ’60s. When Nat King Cole’s television show was unable to get a sponsor, Laine crossed the color line, becoming the first white artist to appear as a guest (forgoing his usual salary of $10,000.00 as Cole’s show only paid scale). Many other top white singers followed suit, including Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney. In the following decade, Laine joined several African-American artists, who gave a free concert for Martin Luther King’s supporters during their Selma to Montgomery marches. In 2005, he appeared on the PBS special, My Music, despite a recent stroke, performing “That’s My Desire”, and received a standing ovation. It proved to be his swan song to the world of popular music. Laine died of heart failure on February 6, 2007.

Tony Bennett

Anthony Dominick Benedetto (1926) was born in Astoria, Queens, New York City, to grocer, John Benedetto and seamstress, Anna Suraci. In 1906, John had emigrated from Podàrgoni, a rural eastern district of the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. Anna had been born in the U.S., shortly after her parents also emigrated from the Calabria region in 1899. Tony has an older sister, Mary, and an older brother, John Jr. With a father who was ailing and unable to work, the children grew up in poverty. John Sr. instilled in his son a love of art and literature and a compassion for human suffering, but died when Tony was 10 years old.

Young Tony grew up listening to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, as well as jazz artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and Joe Venuti. His Uncle Dick was a tap dancer in vaudeville, giving him an early window into show business. Drawing was another early passion of his and he became known as the class caricaturist at P.S. 141. He anticipated a career in commercial art. However, he began singing for money at age 13 and performing as a singing waiter in several Italian restaurants around his native Queens.

He attended New York’s School of Industrial Art, where he studied painting and music and, would later, appreciate their emphasis on proper technique. To help support his family, he dropped out of school at age 16 and worked as a copy boy and runner for the Associated Press in Manhattan and in several other low-skilled, low-paying jobs. However, he set his sights on a professional singing career and returned to performing as a singing waiter, winning amateur nights all around the city and having a successful engagement at a Paramus, New Jersey, nightclub.

He fought in the final stages of World War II as an infantryman with the U.S. Army in Europe. Afterwards, he developed his singing technique, signed with Columbia Records and had his first number-one popular song with “Because of You” in 1951. Several top hits, such as “Rags to Riches” followed in the early 1950s. Bennett then further refined his approach to encompass jazz. He reached an artistic peak in the late 1950s with albums, such as The Beat of My Heart, Basie Swings and Bennett Sings. In 1962, Bennett recorded his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. His career suffered an extended downturn during the height of the rock music era.

Bennett staged a comeback in the late 1980s and 1990s, putting out gold record albums again and expanding his audience to the MTV Generation, while keeping his musical style intact. He remains a popular recording artist and concert performer in the 2010s. Bennett has won 17 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 2001), two Emmy Awards and has been named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold over 50 million records worldwide. Bennett is also an accomplished painter, having created works—under the name Anthony Benedetto—that are on permanent public display in several art institutions.

Frank Sinatra

Frank-Sinatra-Enterprises

Francis Albert Sinatra (1915 –1998) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was the only child of Italian immigrants, Natalina Garaventa and Antonino Martino Sinatra. Sinatra’s father was a lightweight boxer who fought under the name Marty O’Brien and served with the Hoboken Fire Department as a Captain. Sinatra left high school without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. In 1938 he worked as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper and later as a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard, but music was Sinatra’s main interest and he listened carefully to big band jazz. He began singing for tips at the age of eight, standing on top of the bar at a local nightclub in Hoboken. Sinatra sang professionally as a teenager in the 1930s, although he never learned how to read music.

Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra the group became known as the Hoboken Four and they appeared on the show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They attracted 40,000 votes and won first prize – a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.

After Sinatra left the Hoboken Four and returned home in late 1935, his mother helped him get a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week. The following June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one-year contract of $75 a week. It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record, “From the Bottom of My Heart”, in July, 1939.

Sinatra found success as a solo artist from the early to mid-1940s, after being signed by Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the “bobby soxers”, he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra in 1946. His professional career stalled in the early 1950s, but it was reborn in 1953 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity. He signed with Capitol Records in 1953 and released several successful albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records in 1961.

From his youth, Sinatra displayed sympathy for African-Americans and worked both publicly and privately all his life to help them achieve equal rights. He played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and led his fellow “Rat Pack” members (a group of entertainers led by Sinatra who worked together on a loose basis in films and casino shows featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop) and Reprise label colleagues in boycotting hotels and casinos that refused entry to black patrons and performers. He often spoke from the stage on desegregation and repeatedly played benefits on behalf of Dr. King and his movement.

On November 2, 1970 Sinatra recorded the last songs for Reprise Records before his self-imposed retirement. The final song recorded at the session was written by John Denver and titled “The Game is Over”. However, this song was not released officially until The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings suitcase box-set went on sale in 1995 to commemorate his 80th birthday. He was selected as one of the five recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors and President Reagan said, in honoring his old friend, that “art was the shadow of humanity” and that Sinatra had “spent his life casting a magnificent and powerful shadow”.

Perry Como

Perry_Como_1956

Pierino Ronald Como (1912 – 2001) was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He was the seventh of 13 children of Pietro Como and Lucia Travaglini, who both emigrated to the US in 1910 from the Abruzzo town of Palena, Italy. Perry was the first of their children born in the United States. He did not speak English until he entered school, since the Comos only spoke Italian at home. His father, a mill hand and an amateur baritone, had all his children attend music lessons, even if he could barely afford them. In a rare 1957 interview, Como’s mother, Lucia, described how her young son took on other jobs to pay for more music lessons. Como learned to play many different instruments, but never had a voice lesson. Perry showed additional musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town’s Italian Brass Band, by playing guitar and singing at weddings and as an organist at church.

At the age of 10, Como helped his family by working before and after school in a barber shop for 50¢ a week. By age 13, he had graduated to having his own chair in the barber shop, although he stood on a box to tend to his customers. When Perry was 14, his father was unable to work because of a severe heart condition, so Como and his brothers supported the household.

In 1932, Como left Canonsburg, moving about 100 miles away to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his uncle had a barber shop in the Hotel Conneaut that was about 80 miles from Cleveland. It was also the stop on the itinerary for dance bands who worked up and down the Ohio Valley. Como went to the Silver Slipper Ballroom where Freddy Carlone and his orchestra were playing one evening and Carlone invited anyone, who thought he might have singing talent, to come up and sing with his band. Young Como was terrified, but his friends urged him onto the stage. Carlone was so impressed with his performance that he offered him a job. Three years after joining the Carlone band, Como moved to Ted Weems’ Orchestra and his first recording dates. It was with Ted Weems as a mentor that the young Como acquired polish and his own unique style.

“Mr. C.”, as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show, which set the standards for the genre and proved to be one of the most successful in television history. Como was seen weekly on television from 1949 to 1963, then continued hosting the Kraft Music Hall variety program monthly until 1967. His television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world. Also a popular recording artist, Perry Como produced numerous hit records and his combined success on television and popular recordings was not matched by any other artist of the time.

Como’s appeal spanned generations and he was widely respected for both his professional standards and the conduct of his personal life. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: “50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all.” One of the many factors in his success was Como’s insistence on his principles of good taste; if he considered something to be in bad or poor taste, it was not in the broadcast. Another was his naturalness; the man viewers saw on the screen was the same person who could be encountered behind a supermarket shopping cart, at a bowling alley or in a kitchen making breakfast.

Como received the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance; five Emmys from 1955 to 1959; a Christopher Award (1956) and shared a Peabody Award with his good friend, Jackie Gleason in 1956. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1987. Posthumously, Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Como has the distinction of having three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, television and music.

Vic Damone

Vic_Damone_1959

Vito Rocco Farinola 1928) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Italian immigrants from Bari, Italy—Rocco and Mamie (Damone) Farinola. His father was an electrician and his mother taught piano. Inspired by his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, Damone took voice lessons. He sang in the choir at St. Finbar’s Church in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. When his father was injured at work, Damone had to drop out of high school. He worked as an usher and elevator operator in the Paramount Theater in Manhattan where he met Perry Como. Vic stopped the elevator between floors, sang for him and asked his advice if he should continue voice lessons. Impressed, Como said, “Keep singing!” and referred him to a local bandleader. Vito Farinola decided to call himself Vic Damone, using his mother’s maiden name for his new-found career.

Damone entered the talent search on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and won in April 1947. This led to his becoming a regular on Godfrey’s show. He met Milton Berle at the studio and Berle got him work at two night clubs. By mid-1947, Damone had signed a contract with Mercury Records. His first release, “I Have But One Heart”, reached #7 on the Billboard chart. “You Do” reached the same peak. These were followed by a number of other hits, such as “You’re Breaking My Heart”, based on a turn-of-the-century ballad by Leoncavallo, the opera composer. Damone was also a sought after television guest performer. By the early fifties Vic was a successful recording star, however, it was his recording of “On the Street Where You Live” from the Broadway show, My Fair Lady, that put Damone into super-star status. His version of “An Affair to Remember”, one of the last songs written by Harry Warren, was a huge success.

Damone toured Las Vegas casinos as a performer and, although, he had to declare bankruptcy in the early 1970s, he earned enough as a casino performer to clear up his financial difficulties. He extended his geographical range, touring through the United States and the United Kingdom and, as a result of his popularity, decided to record albums again, releasing them on the RCA label. His final album was issued in 2002 with older albums being re-packaged and re-released. He recorded over 2,000 songs during his entire career. On June 12, 2009, Vic Damone released his autobiography titled, Singing Was the Easy Part, from St. Martin’s Press.

His final public performance was on January 19, 2002 at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. Damone did however step out of retirement on January 22, 2011, when he once again performed at the Kravis Performing Arts Center in Palm Beach, Florida to a sold out crowd. Damone dedicated this performance to his six grandchildren who had never seen him perform. In December 2, 2011, at the age of 83, Damone launched an official Facebook profile dedicated to his fans. In addition to posting recent photos, Damone writes that “besides spending time with his family he spends his retirement enjoying golf and football”.

Italian American Cuisine

As Italian-Americans moved to various regions of the United States, their recipes encorporated regional flavors into the classic recipes they brought with them from Italy.

Northeast US

NY Pizza

New York Style Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups marinara or pizza sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough is too thick to stir, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk. (You can also prepare the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes. Transfer the pizza to the baking stone.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Southeast US

herb-roasted-pork-loin-sl-x

Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb.) boneless pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs, cut in half

Directions

Combine first 10 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub over pork. Chill, uncovered, 8 to 12 hours.

Let pork stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Bringing it to room temperature will help it cook faster and more evenly.)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Brown pork in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes on each side. Lightly grease a wire rack with cooking spray. Place pork on the rack in a roasting pan. Add the garlic halves.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 135°F.

Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve with the roasted garlic.

Northwest US

salmon burger

Salmon Rosemary Burgers

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds king salmon fillet, skinned and de-boned
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 8 onion rolls
  • Lettuce and sliced tomatoes

Directions

Prepare the salmon by cutting into strips, cutting the strips crosswise and chopping the fish until well minced. Be sure to remove any remaining bones.

In a large bowl, mix the minced salmon with the bread crumbs, red onion, Dijon mustard, horseradish and eggs. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper.

Chill at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.

Form the salmon mixture into 8 burger patties. Lightly coat each patty with olive oil.

Place salmon patties on the grill and cook 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Serve in onion rolls with lettuce and tomato slices.

Southwest US

braised chicken

Italian-Style Braised Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

4 servings

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Generous pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chicken broth, homemade or 
store-bought
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and mixed with a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of salt
  • 1 pkg thawed frozen artichoke hearts, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro

Directions

Pat the chicken dry and season salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, working in batches if necessary, and cook until well browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Decrease the heat to medium. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until soft and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/4 cup of the broth to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the pot. Stir in a pinch of salt and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the remaining 1 3/4 cups of broth, the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and olives and stir gently to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Garnish with the mint.

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