Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

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Italian Fig Cookies

A sweet dough is filled with fruits, nuts and jam, almost like a Fig Newton. Making them is time-consuming, but the dough and filling can be made in stages and refrigerated for several days before the cookies are assembled and baked. Using a stand mixer and food processor takes some of the effort out of the process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Up to 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups dried figs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Make the Dough 

Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the egg, salt and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and then add them to the butter mixture. Mix well. Switch to the dough hook and knead at the low setting for 5 minutes, adding milk as needed to make a slightly sticky, soft textured dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into four pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Make the filling:

Put the figs in the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir in the honey, cinnamon, marmalade and walnuts.

Form and Bake the Cookies

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch square on a floured surface. Cut the dough into 2- by 3-inch rectangles. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of the rectangle.

Fold both of the longer edges toward the center of the cookie and pinch the seam together. Put the cookie, seam side down, on an ungreased baking sheet leaving 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

Make two slits in the cookie with a sharp knife. Start at each open, unpinched side and cut toward the center the cookie, being careful not to cut the cookie in half in the process. The cookie will bake into the shape of an X. (See picture)

Work in batches, keeping dough refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice the cookies after they cool with 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar mixed with just enough milk to make a smooth consistency. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Italian Hazelnut Cookies                    

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see Tip)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape into a large bowl.

3. Beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

4. Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tip: Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Espresso Crinkles                                                                        

Lightly coat your hands with flour to make rolling the dough into balls easier. The dough freezes well. Freeze the dough after step 1, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with step 2. The powdered sugar-coating gives these cookies an appealing cracked finish. Serve with coffee to enhance the espresso.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites

Directions:

1. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat; heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Add espresso granules to pan; stir until blended. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla. Add egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring gently just until combined. Cover; chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350° F.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dredge balls in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar; place balls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops are cracked and almost set. Cool cookies on pan 2 minutes; remove from pan. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Yield: 2 dozen

Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup softened Mascarpone Cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Fig Jam or Jam of Choice

Directions:

  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until light.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  3. Add the mascarpone cheese, and beat until smooth.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients, and fold them into the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Place sheets of parchment paper or silicone baking liners on two cookie pans.
  8. On a lightly floured counter or board, roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls.
  9. Using a blunt round object like the end of a wooden spoon, create an indentation in the center of each cookie.
  10. Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or just as the cookies begin to color.
  11. While still warm, use the spoon to redefine the circle, and then carefully spoon a little jam into each cookie.
  12. Let sit at room temperature until the jam is set.
  13. Store in an airtight container.

Nutmeg Bites                                                                                                   

Cookie Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Rum Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rum

Directions

1) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all ingredients and blend on medium speed until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 2 minutes.

3) Wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour. Towards the end of the chill time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

4) Drop tablespoon-sized dough balls onto the baking sheet. A teaspoon scoop makes this job easier. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The edges will be slightly browned and the cookies will be round and domed.

5) Cool the cookies completely. Prepare the icing by blending the softened butter and confectioners’ sugar. Add rum one tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Top each cookie with a dollop of icing and a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: Approximately 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches                                                     

4 dozen sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Granulated sugar
  • White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling (see recipe below)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can. Stir in any remaining flour mixture and the nuts by hand. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. A level teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets. With the bottom of a glass, flatten balls to about 1-1/4-inch circles.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until tops are just firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
  5. Spread bottoms of half of the cookies with a rounded 1/2 teaspoon White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling. Top with remaining cookies, bottom sides down.

Makes 48 cookie sandwiches.

White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling:

In a small saucepan, heat and stir 6 ounces chopped white chocolate and 3 tablespoons whipping cream over low heat until just melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.

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fingerfoods

How did finger foods come about? Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor. Even before the law took effect in 1920, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, which outlawed the sale of “intoxicating beverages”—defined as any drink containing 0.5 percent or more of alcohol.

Of course, no amount of legislation could transform all Americans into teetotalers; instead, Prohibition simply drove alcohol consumption underground. Millions of people in small towns and large cities imbibed at secret taverns and bars called speakeasies. Many were drab, makeshift saloons in basements or tenements located in shabby parts of town. Some, however, were fine restaurants in their own right, including New York City’s swanky 21 Club, which featured two bars, a dance floor, dining rooms on two levels and underground passageways leading to a secret wine cellar.

To help soak up the booze and drive up sales, some enterprising speakeasy proprietors began offering more than just popular cocktails of the day. Rather than heavy meals, customers were offered assorted bite-sized canapés to snack.

It was also during this period that the custom of hosting cocktail parties at home became fashionable. The rise of these parties led to the popularization of an increasingly wide array of finger foods. Hosts paraded out such popular foods as lobster canapés, caviar rolls, crab meat cocktails, shrimp patties, oyster toast, jellied anchovy molds, radish roses, devilled eggs and savory cheese balls. Sweet selections included fruit cocktail cups topped with powdered sugar or marshmallows.

Even after the 1933 repeal of the 18th Amendment, the practice of serving finger foods at restaurants, bars and cocktail parties lived on and quickly became a popular American culinary tradition. Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,”  contained many finger food recipes and became widely used in the United States throughout the 1920s.

Care to whip up some Prohibition-era finger foods at your next holiday gathering? Try the easy recipes below.

fingerfoods1

Mini Appetizer Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup jarred or frozen and thawed artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat each of two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. Divide prepared pizza dough into 32 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured work surface, press each piece into a 2-inch round with the palm of your hand. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, turning once to coat lightly in oil.

Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts among rounds. Sprinkle with red-pepper flakes.

Bake until the cheese is bubbling and dough is crisp and golden brown, about 12 minutes.

fingerfoods2

Marinated Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted unpitted olives, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 thin orange slices
  • 3 thin lemon slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • Red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine olives, olive oil, orange slices, lemon slices and fresh thyme. Season to taste with crushed red-pepper flakes.

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer olives, fruit and herbs to a serving dish; reserve oil for salads.

fingerfoods3

Pancetta-Wrapped Figs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
  • 12 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips

Directions

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, and cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Add figs, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer figs to a cutting board using a slotted spoon; cut in half. Wrap a pancetta strip around each half. Transfer, seam side down, to a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Bake until pancetta is browned, about 30 minutes. Secure each with a toothpick. Serve warm.

fingerfoods4

Sausage-Cheddar Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups grated cheddar (1/2 pound)
  • 1 pound bulk pork, chicken or turkey sausage
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, grated on large holes of a box grater
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and baking powder. Add cheddar and toss to coat. Add sausage, onion and butter.

With your hands, mix until well combined and roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls, 1/2 inch apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until balls are golden and cooked through, 25 minutes. Serve warm.

fingerfoods5

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven until the oil is hot, 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cayenne pepper, and cumin seed. Season with salt and toss to combine. Place chickpea mixture on hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer.

Bake until chickpeas are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

fingerfoods6

Artichoke-Parmesan Crostini

Ingredients

  • 8 slices (1/4 inch thick) baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 jar (6 1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make crostini: Brush baguette slices on both sides with a total of 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and bake, turning over once, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, make topping: Finely chop artichokes, and combine in a bowl with Parmesan, parsley, and remaining tablespoon oil.

Dividing evenly, spoon topping on crostini and garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired.

fingerfoods7

Shrimp Salad Canapes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • Thin crackers, for serving

Directions

Bring water, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half the shrimp, and cook until opaque, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a plate, and let cool. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour in oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in creme fraiche. Fold in shallot, chives and shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 4 hours). Serve on crackers.


piemonte8

The Piedmont region stretches across the great Alpine arc: that includes the Pennine Alps and a portion of the Lepontine Alps. It includes two large hilly areas, the Langhe and the Monferrato. The Po River has its source in Piedmont and the region is crossed by several Alpine streams flowing into the Po. Many Alpine lakes dot the region. In the eastern section one can find two larger lakes: Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta. The regional capital is Turin. Other important cities are: Asti, Alessandria, Cuneo, Novara, Vercelli, Biella and Verbania.

Piedmont1

In Turin and in Susa interesting traces of the Roman era can be found. The religious Romanesque-Gothic architecture is remarkable: examples are the Abbey of Vezzolano, the Sacra di San Michele, the Abbey of Staffarda, St. Antonio di Ranverso, St. Andrea in Vercelli and other churches in Saluzzo, Chieri and Ciriè. The Baroque style has greatly influenced the appearance of most Piedmontese cities, especially in Turin.

Some of the major sites in Turin, include the Royal Armory, the Egyptian Museum, the second most important in the world after the one in Cairo, with historical remains of the ancient civilization. The Sabauda Gallery houses pictorial works of the Piedmontese, Dutch and Flemish schools, as well as some valuable Tuscan works, such as the Beato Angelico and the Pollaiolo. The Borgogna Museum houses the works of the local Renaissance painters and the Civic Museum is dedicated to local history and art.

piemonte2

This northwestern region of Italy, is famous for egg pastas, vitello tonnato, the boiled-meat dish, bollito misto—plus well known red wines like Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. Torino (Turin) is a city of interesting contrasts between old the world and the new. The name of Torino is widely recognized as home to the famous Shroud of Torino, housed in the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (“Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist”), but it is also the center of operations for the automobile manufacturers, Lancia and Fiat. Torino’s appeal is heightened even more by the city’s excellent artisan chocolates, no doubt influenced heavily by their proximity to Switzerland.

The valleys and pasture lands, protected in large part by the Alps, offer the ideal locations for growing grains like wheat, corn and rice. The terraced hills lend themselves well to growing grapes and, subsequently, wine production. Freshwater fish and eels are popular in Piedmontese cooking. Pork and pork products are on the table, as is good beef. Cattle thrive in Piedmont, and the dairy industry is strong, creating a love of cheeses, cream, milk and butter. Locals also have a fondness for game meats hunted in the forests. White truffles grow wild there and their distinctive flavor adds earthiness to many recipes.

piemonte9

The preferred pasta is a narrow handmade noodle called tajarin. They are often simmered in beef broth and topped with butter, grated Grana Padano cheese and shaved truffles. Agnolotti Piemontesi, similar to ravioli, are also popular. These meat and herb filled dumplings are generally served with fresh sage fried in butter and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano.

The flatlands of Piemonte are Europe’s prominent supplier of Carnaroli rice and they are known for their creamy risotto dishes. It is cooked with butter and shaved truffles or made into panissa, a risotto flavored with red borlotti beans, Salam d’la Duja and pork rind. Frogs, meat or vegetables may also be used in rice dishes.

Piemonte produces large numbers of hazelnuts and they are put to good use in cakes and pastries, as well as torrone nougat and chocolates. Candied chestnuts, known as marron glacés, are famous worldwide. Other outstanding desserts include bonèt, a custard cake flavored with coffee or chocolate, panna cotta, a silky custard made with cream and caramel thickened with gelatin and torta gianduia, a decadent hazelnut and chocolate cake made with ground nuts instead of flour. Zabaione is a light custard made with Marsala wine and sweetened egg yolks.

Take a trip through the Piedmont region via the video below.

Piedmont Recipes To Make At Home

piemonte4

Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 16 thin slices baguette
  • 1 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese

Directions

Melt the butter in a heavy, wide pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 25 minutes, or until they are very soft and caramelized; stirring every few minutes to ensure they cook evenly.

Season with the salt and pepper, deglaze with the wine and cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the liquid into the onions.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, uncovered. Cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring once in a while.

Preheat the broiler.

Place 4 slices of baguette in each of 4 oven-proof soup bowls (preferably the sort with a handle). Scatter the Fontina over the bread.

Ladle the soup over the bread and place the dishes under the broiler. Broil the soup for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot. Serves 4.

piemonte5

Maltagliati with Leek Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 6 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup light cream (half & half)
  • ½ cup or more of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Mix the flour and eggs in a mixing bowl or a food processor.

Roll the dough thin by hand or with a pasta machine. Cut the pasta into medium-size diamonds.

In a deep skillet, brown the leeks in the butter.

Cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks quickly in about 2-3 minutes.

Drain and add it to the pan with the  browned leeks.

Add the cream, mix well and finish with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese.

piemonte6

Pan Roasted Meat with Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • Pork or veal tenderloin about 2 lbs.(800 grams)
  • 3 ½ oz (100 grams) hazelnuts, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
  • 2 cups (1 pint) milk
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons (80 grams) Flour
  • Water

Directions

In a large pot, brown the onion in the butter. Push the onions aside and add the meat and let it brown on all sides.

Add the Marsala wine and let it completely evaporate. Season the meat with salt and add the milk and chopped hazelnuts .

Cover the pan and cook the tenderloin for at least 120 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Prepare a roux by mixing the flour with enough water to make a paste, mix well.

Bring the sauce in the pan to a boil, then whisk in the roux and cook until the sauce thickens, whisking the entire time.

Cut the meat into slices and serve coated with the sauce. Garnish with hazelnuts.

Piemonte7

Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina

Ingredients

  • 3 large yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, Italian green olives
  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long strip

Directions

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, on wire racks positioned over the burners of a gas or electric stove, 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F. Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly, about 30 minutes in the oven, but less time by the other methods. Set aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the delicious taste.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

piemonte3

Baci di Dama (Lady Kisses) Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Nutella (or any chocolate hazelnut spread)

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours and the sugar. Cut the butter into small chunks and incorporate it into the flour mixture. It is best to use a wooden spoon or your fingers to completely mix the butter with the flour mixture to make the dough.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then take it out and form small balls the size of a quarter. When placing them on the cookie sheet, press down slightly so that they are flattened on one side. They will form a dome shape: flat on one side, rounded on the other.

Bake at 350 degrees F, for about 20 minutes, or until they just start to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

After the cookies have cooled spread a thin layer of Nutella on the flat side of the cookie and place another cookie on top, making a sandwich.


colddinner

BEGINNING OF WINTER — By Leonid Afremov

The best winter recipes will warm you up inside and out, will warm your home and make your house smell fantastic.

Soups, stews, casseroles and chili are very versatile dishes. Not really in the mood to cook after a long day at work? Let your crock pot do the work for you. There are lots of crock pot recipes out there for stews, roasts, chicken, chili and more.

Even if your recipe doesn’t call for it, it’s easy to add or substitute any veggie or lean meat that you have in the refrigerator. These types of recipes usually make a lot of servings. You can always freeze leftovers in individual containers, so you’ll have a quick, pre-portioned meal for another day.

Below are five dinners guaranteed to help you warm up.

colddinner1

Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Polenta

This dish is perfect for a cold winter night and is a complete meal all in one bowl.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds hot or mild Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 14-ounce can)
  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/3 cups polenta or coarse/ medium cornmeal
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe for 2 minutes. Drain thoroughly. Cut into 2-inch lengths.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage links and cook, turning, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut into slices.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to moderately low. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; bring to a simmer. Add the sausage slices, tomatoes, broth, thyme and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe, parsley and pepper to the sauce; bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow stream, whisking. Whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until very thick, about 20 minutes. Serve in individual pasta bowls and pour the sausage/broccoli sauce over the top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

colddinner4

Winter Fish Chowder

Serve with some delicious crusty bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed
  • 16 littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 slices of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 celery rib, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 ounces skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces white fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

In a saucepan, cover the potatoes with the water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook over moderate heat until the potatoes are tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered.

In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add half of the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover and cook over moderately high heat until they open, 3 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Add the clams to the saucepan, cover and cook. As the clams open, transfer them to the bowl. Strain and reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the mussels and clams from their shells and coarsely chop them.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the bacon to the pan and cook over moderate heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Add the celery and the remaining onion and garlic. Cover and cook over moderately low heat until softened, 7 minutes. Stir in the flour, then gradually whisk in the potato cooking water. Bring to a boil, whisking, and cook until thickened slightly.

Add the potatoes and the half and half and bring to a simmer. Add the salmon and fish and simmer over moderate heat, stirring a few times, until the fish is just cooked, 3 minutes. Add the mussels and clams and pour in their reserved cooking liquid, stopping before you reach the grit at the bottom; stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley. Serve the chowder in bowls.

colddinner2

Gnocchi-Meatball Bake

A salad is all that is needed to complete this meal.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 16 – ounce package shelf-stable potato gnocchi
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoned  bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (2 ounces)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in marinara sauce; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine ground beef, ¼ cup chopped onion, egg, bread crumbs, oregano, basil, garlic powder and fennel seeds. Shape meat mixture into 24 equal balls, about 1 inch round.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms, bell pepper and the remaining onion; cook about 7 minutes or until tender. Add vegetables to the bowl with the gnocchi.

In the same large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Cook meatballs, half at a time, about 6 minutes or until cooked through (160 degrees F), turning occasionally. Transfer meatballs to the bowl with the gnocchi and vegetables. Gently stir to combine.

Pour gnocchi mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and golden brown.

colddinner5

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Stew

A meatless option.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, quartered (2 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces (8 cups)
  • 1 15.5-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan and the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add mushrooms; increase heat to medium-high. Stir, cover pan, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, or until mushrooms are lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Uncover the pan, add garlic and stir 30 seconds. Add kale, and cook 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Add beans, broth and 3/4 cup water. Cover, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by about three-quarters. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Heat broiler to high. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over stew and broil 3 minutes, or until topping is golden.

colddinners3

Stuffed Chicken Rolls

Serve with a vegetable side dish for a complete meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4 inch
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices prosciutto, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces baby spinach
  • 4 ounces light cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray the bottom of a baking dish with nonstick spray.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, add prosciutto and cook until crisp. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Add spinach to the skillet and stir until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Transfer wilted spinach to the bowl with the prosciutto. Add cream cheese, Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir until thoroughly combined..

Divide spinach mixture evenly among the chicken breasts and spread over the surface. Roll up chicken, dip in egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Place chicken rolls seam side down in the prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon on marinara sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella. Turn on the broiler and broil the chicken rolls 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese melts.


leftovers

Today is Monday and you may be tired of heating up the turkey leftovers by now. There’s lots of ideas out there for using up the turkey but what about that leftover stuffing, veggies or cranberry sauce? Here are some easy ways to use them up.

Leftover cranberry sauce and turkey make a great lunchtime turnover

leftovers2

Turkey Cranberry Turnovers

Makes 8 turnovers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked turkey breast, diced into small cubes
  • 1 box (15 oz/425 g) frozen puff pastry dough, defrosted
  • 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) chopped onion
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Cranberry Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)

Flour the surface you will be working on. Roll one of the pastry sheets lightly to make the sheet an even thickness. Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

Divide the turkey, cranberry sauce, onion and cheese equally among each pastry dough square.

Fold one corner of the square over to the opposite end (to make a triangle) and seal the edges with your fingers, pressing the pastry to merge the two edges. Use a fork and press the edges to further seal the turnovers.

Place the turnovers on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and puffed.

Leftover mashed potatoes make delicious potato pancakes for breakfast or as a side dish.

leftovers3

Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Combine potatoes, eggs, cornstarch and garlic powder in a bowl. Form into 4 patties (about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture patted into 3 inch circles that are 1/2″ thick).

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the bottom is browned and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully turn the patties over and cook the second side until brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve with sour cream, if desired.

I make bread stuffing with Italian sausage and the leftovers are delicious in a frittata for a quick weeknight dinner.

Leftovers4

Stuffing Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups leftover sausage stuffing
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to  400°F (200°C)

Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat.

Add the stuffing to the pan and warm through.

Sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the  eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon of parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Carefully transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.

Bake until the eggs are set and the sides have puffed up a little bit and the cheese is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Let rest before cutting.

Sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley.

Turn those leftover sweet potatoes into delicious waffles.

leftovers5

Sweet-Potato Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the waffle iron
  • Maple syrup, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place a wire rack on a baking pan and place in the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through allspice).

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sweet potatoes, eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir sweet-potato mixture into flour mixture until combined. Stir in melted butter until just blended – some lumps will remain.

Heat a waffle iron to medium-high and lightly brush the grids with melted butter. Ladle about 1/2 cup batter into the center of the iron (grids should be full but not overflowing), close and cook until the iron stops steaming and waffles are golden brown, about 4 minutes (or make according to your manufacturer’s instructions).

Transfer waffles to the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.

Turn those leftover Thanksgiving vegetables into soup.

leftovers1

Turkey Leftover Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 stalk, minced
  • 1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, divided
  • 2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, diced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables ( Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Directions

Put the broth, turkey bones, carrot halves, celery stalk, onion halves and 1 bay leaf in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, about 1 1/2 hours.

Before straining the broth, remove the large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve covered with wet cheesecloth. Discard the solids and set broth aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced carrots, celery and onions. Cook over medium-low heat until softened, 7 or 8 minutes.

Dice the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables. Add the sage to the soup pot along with the reserved turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add the diced leftover vegetables and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


region1valle_daosta

Valle d’Aosta is the most mountainous region of Italy, entirely surrounded by the peaks of the Alps: Monte Bianco, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. The latter is at the center of a magnificent National Park. Numerous glaciers feed a rich web of streams and the distinctly Alpine character of this region can be seen in the pine forests, up to rather high altitudes, where they give way to large pasture lands. Numerous small Alpine lakes sit in between the majestic mountain landscapes.

region Aosta map

Aosta is the capital of the region, where a special statute is in place that recognizes the Italian and the French languages as official languages. Important traces of the Roman Age can be found on the Aosta city walls, theaters, Augustus’s Arch and the Praetorian Gate. Visitors can admire the Romanesque Cathedral, which dates back to the eleventh century. The Sant’Orso Church is a good example of medieval architecture. There are many fortified castles in the Aosta Valley; most of them are in perfect condition and open to visitors; many have become historical museums. The most famous are the castles of Fénis, Aymavilles, Issogne and Verrés.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley's section of the Italian Alps.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley’s section of the Italian Alps.

Valle d’Aosta’s unique location and long history of invasion from neighboring lands have combined to make for an interesting and diverse mix of languages and cooking influences that include pockets of Italian, French and German. This diversity makes the numerous local festivals a must-see for any traveler interested in distinctive food and entertainment.

region1park

The best-loved dishes in the area cover as much cultural ground as the languages. Unlike much of Italy, pasta is not a staple food here. Valle dAosta cooking is based on warming soups, bread, rice, potatoes and gnocchi. Polentas hold a place right alongside Swiss-like fondues and creamy butter sauces. Dairy products are important in the region. Overall, food is relatively simple but hearty: stews thickened with bread, game meats or beef braised with chestnuts in wine sauces, smoked pork and sausages, fresh rye breads with local dark and slightly bitter honey, rich and nutty fontina cheeses, strong grappa and creamy panna cottas. Herds of free range pigs are used for the famous prosciutto known as Jambon de Bosses and for making salt pork. Boudins, spicy sausages made from pork blood, and salami are preserved in rendered pork fat.

Mountain streams provide trout and recipes include stuffing the trout fillets with ham and fontina and poaching them in white wine.

The valleys offer a wealth of crops like cabbage, grapes, apples and garlic and, while vintages are small, the wines produced in the area are of excellent quality. The area is most famous for fontina cheese and it is used in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Fruit from the Alps is very sweet and many desserts are prepared with the locally grown apples and pears. These fruits are often cooked with red wine. Sweets include tegole, a cookie named after the roof tiles that they resemble. Torcetti, or ring-shaped cookies, are also flavored with honey before being dusted with powdered sugar.

Take a tour of the area with the video below.

Recipes of the Valle d’Aosta Region

One of the favorite and most representative dishes of the Valle d’Aosta is zuppa di valpelline, a thick fall soup made from fresh cabbage, rye bread and fontina cheese.

region1soup

Zuppa di Valpelline (Valpelline Soup)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • A litre and a half (6 ¼ cups) meat stock
  • 1 savoy cabbage, sliced
  • 400 g (14 oz) fontina cheese
  • 500 g (1 lb.) rye bread cut into slices
  • Cinnamon
  • 150g (5 ¼ oz.) butter, melted

Directions

Layer an oven dish with the bread slices and, then, the fontina cheese.

Boil the savoy cabbage in the meat stock.

Pour the mixture over the bread and wait until it all softens, then pour the melted butter over the top.

Sprinkle on some cinnamon and place in a pre-heated 425 degree F (220°C) oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until a golden crust forms on top. Serve hot.

region1pork

Pork Chops Stuffed with Fontina Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 thick pork chops on the bone
  • Fontina cheese, from Valle d’Aosta
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • 7 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the chops in two, horizontally, leaving them attached along the bone side.

Cut the Fontina cheese into thin slices and insert into the meat and then tap gently with a meat pounder.

Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste and dip the chops first in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Saute in butter until the chops become golden and crunchy. They are traditionally served with sautéed cabbage.

region1Gnocchi

Gnocchi with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. baking potatoes
  • 8 oz. Fontina, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. butter
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water (without peeling). It is best to start with cold water. The potatoes should all be about the same size. Cooking time depends on the type and size.

A rule of thumb for testing if the potatoes are cooked is to stick a fork into one or two potatoes and, if it goes easily, the potatoes are done. When ready, drain, peel and mash them through a potato ricer, (do not use a food mill, as it would make the puree sticky and thus impossible to work with) and place the riced potatoes on a floured pastry board or marble surface. Should the potatoes be too watery, put them back on the stove over moderate heat and let them dry well, stirring constantly.

Add a small amount of salt and as much white flour as necessary to make the dough soft enough not to stick to your fingers. You don’t have to knead the dough for too long, just long enough to bind all the ingredients.

Cut a piece of the dough off, coating your hands with flour and roll the dough into a long cylinder about the thickness of your index finger. Then cut the cylinder into pieces about l-inch long. Press the dough lengthwise toward you and against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. You may also use other utensils, such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork and, In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape, though. They may be simply cut into nuggets of any desired size.

Repeat until all the dough is used, trying to handle the dumplings as little as possible. Finally, place the gnocchi on a flat surface sprinkled with flour without overcrowding. Cook as soon as possible.

Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water. They are cooked when they rise to the top of the water. Drain. Place alternate layers of gnocchi and Fontina in a buttered baking dish, making sure you have at least 3 layers. The top layer should be of cheese. Dot with butter and bake for 5 minutes. Let the gnocchi rest 5 more minutes and serve.

region1cookies3

Valdostana Tegole Dolci

These are delicious cookies that are part of the traditional cuisine of Valle d’Aosta. Their name is due to its shape, which is reminiscent of the typical curved roof tiles. To achieve this effect the hot cookies are pressed over a rolling-pin. The tiles are enjoyed with a cup of coffee at breakfast or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 200g (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 80g (2.8 oz) toasted and ground hazelnuts
  • 80g (2.8 oz)  toasted and ground almonds  
  • 60g (2.1 oz) butter,at room temperature
  • 60g (2.1 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature.

Directions

Toast the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in preheated oven at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let them cool thoroughly and then transfer them in a blender or processor along with half of the granulated sugar. Process until thoroughly ground.

Transfer the ground nut mixture in a large bowl and add the flour, melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until the butter is incorporated and set the bowl aside.

Place the egg whites in the electric mixer bowl and, with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with the spatula.

Cover a baking pan with baking paper and place a small amount of dough (about a scant tablespoon) on the baking pan about 2 inches (3-4 cm) apart. Spread the dough with the back of a spoon to form circles with a diameter of about 7 cm (2 ¾ inches). Wet the back of a spoon to simplify the process.

Bake the tray in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 8 minutes. When they are crisp and lightly browned, remove each cookie from the baking pan and lay them over a rolling-pin to acquire their characteristic curved shape. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough.

region1cookie


grains cover

Grains are made up of three parts: the bran, germ and endosperm. The bran is the high-fiber outer coating. The germ is the protein and nutrient dense portion. The endosperm is a source of carbohydrate, along with some protein. A grain is “whole” if these three parts have been left intact. If it’s processed (e.g., cracked, rolled), it’s still considered a whole grain, if it retains its original balance of nutrients. When grains are refined, the bran and germ are removed (taking many nutrients with them), leaving just the endosperm. An example of a refined whole grain is white rice (though usually white rice is enriched to replace some of the nutrients stripped during processing).

grains wheatberries

Wheat berries

The terms “hard” and “soft” refer to the protein and gluten content of wheat. Hard wheat is made into pasta and bread flour, while soft wheat (lower in protein and gluten) is milled into pastry flour. Wheat berries can be cooked whole for a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Once cooked (simmered in boiling water for up to an hour), they are a great addition to soups, stews, salads and desserts.

grains polenta

Polenta

Polenta is made from ground corn, as is cornmeal. They differ in how they’re ground (in both the method and the fineness of the grind). Polenta makes a delicious base for sauces (ragu, mushroom, gorgonzola) and sausages; it’s also good grilled or layered in casserole dishes.

grains short brown

Short Grain Brown Rice

Short Grain Brown Rice has fat kernels that are plump and round. They have a high starch content, which helps keep it moist and sticky. Short grain rice can be used for risotto if soaked overnight or parboiled before making the risotto.

Warm Farro and Mushroom Salad

Farro

Farro is the Italian name for emmer wheat, an ancient strain of hard wheat from the Fertile Crescent in western Asia. Often confused with spelt due to their similar taste and texture, farro comes in perlato (pearled) and semi-perlato (semi-pearled); opt for semi-perlato as it has more of the fiber-and nutrient-rich bran intact (or buy whole farro if you can find it). It comes in three grades: long, medium or cracked. If you purchase long or medium farro, you will need to crack it yourself in a coffee grinder or blender for maximum freshness.

Farro is beloved in Italy – and more recently in North America and other European countries as well – for its roasted, nutty flavor and distinctive chewy texture. Because farro contains a starch similar to that found in Arborio rice, it behaves much like risotto, releasing a creamy, binding liquid when cooked. But unlike risotto, farro doesn’t become gummy; instead, it retains its tender, distinct bite, even if it sits awhile after cooking.

Farro’s tough husk makes it more difficult to process than other commercially produced grains, but that husk also helps protect the grain’s vital nutrients. With a higher fiber and protein content than common wheat, farro is also rich in magnesium and B vitamins. As a type of wheat, farro is unsuitable for those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance or a wheat sensitivity or allergy.

Note: as with all grains, pearled farro will take less time to cook than semi-pearled, which will take less time to cook than whole.

Cooking time: 25-40 minutes. Liquid per cup of grain: 2 cups

How to cook farro: Combine with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for up to 40 minutes, or until grains are tender and have absorbed all of the liquid.

grain stew

Farro and Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semi pearled farro
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 large)
  • 2 cups chopped zucchini (2 small)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 14 ½ ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • Parmesan cheese (4 ounces), grated

Directions

Rinse farro. In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups water to boiling. Stir in the farro. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain.

In a large skillet bring the 3 cups of chicken broth to boiling. Add the chicken breasts, salt and pepper. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink (165 degrees F). Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a cutting board. Cool slightly. Coarsely chop or shred chicken. Set aside. Reserve broth.

In a 4-quart Dutch oven heat the olive oil and add the onions, zucchini, celery and carrots. Cook for 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in oregano and crushed red pepper. Stir in reserved broth, tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in cooked farro and chopped or shredded chicken. Cook and stir until heated through. Top with grated cheese.

grains casserole

Breakfast Polenta Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup red onion (1 small), diced small
  • 1 1/4 cups unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (1 large), diced small
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup coarse polenta
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

The night before serving:

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and sauté the onions over medium-low heat until golden brown. While the onions are cooking, steam the potatoes in a small amount of water in a covered pot until they are tender.

Add the steamed potatoes to the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook the potato/onion mixture until the potatoes are browned. Set aside in a covered bowl.

Cook the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks, until it is no longer pink. Drain and cool. Refrigerate the onion-potato mixture and the sausage separately overnight.

The next morning:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To prepare the polenta,

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Whisk in the polenta, Italian seasoning and a ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and smooth (approximately 7 minutes).

Pour the polenta into an ungreased 9×13-inch baking dish. It will firm up as you scramble the eggs.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Pour in the eggs and scramble them until slightly firm but still wet. Remove from the heat. (The eggs will finish cooking in the oven.)

Spread the potato mixture, sausage, Parmesan and cheddar over the polenta. Pour the eggs on top of the entire dish. Bake until heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve.

grains peppers

Farro-Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 1 (14 ½) ounce can vegetable broth
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 ½ cups corn
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 4 large red sweet peppers

Directions

In a medium saucepan combine broth, farro and water. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes or until farro is tender. Drain farro, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid; set both the farro and cooking liquid aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in the Italian seasoning. Add corn and green onions. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in reserved farro, salt and black pepper; cool slightly. Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and 1/2 of the basil.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes from the peppers. Fill pepper halves with the farro mixture. Place stuffed peppers in a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Pour the reserved cooking liquid into the dish around the peppers. Cover dish with foil.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes more or untilthe  peppers are crisp-tender and cheese is melted. Sprinkle with remaining basil.

grains risotto

Brown Rice Risotto

Add your favorite ingredients, if you wish.

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 1 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or large shallot, chopped
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups any chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, optional
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley

Directions

Bring medium pot of water to a boil and add salt to taste. Stir in brown rice, adjust heat so that water bubbles steadily, and cook without stirring, until rice is swollen and half-tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain. (Alternate, soak rice in water to cover overnight. Drain)

Put oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion or shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; add the wine. Stir and let liquid come to a boil. Reduce heat slightly.

Begin to add the stock, about ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

When rice is just about tender and mixture is creamy, add the Parmesan, then taste and add more salt or pepper (or both) if necessary. Garnish with basil or parsley and serve.

grain oie

Italian Pastiera (Wheat Berry Pie)

Pastry

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Directions

Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them in through the feed tube along with the lemon zest and pulse the machine in short bursts, about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.

Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until the dough holds together.

Scrape the dough onto a floured board and knead to form a smooth, tight dough.

Press into a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange flower water (or orange flower oil)
  • 1/2 cup minced candied citron, lemon peel and orange peel
  • 1/3 cup hulled wheat berries soaked overnight and boiled in lightly salted water for about 30 minutes or until tender. (Use pearl barley or cooked rice if you can’t get the wheat berries.)

Directions

Put the ricotta, eggs, sugar and orange flower water in a large bowl and mix the ingredients well.

Mix in the candied fruit and wheat berries.

To Assemble the Pastiera

Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan.

Cut off about 1/3 of dough and set aside.

With a rolling-pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inch thick. Flour the board and top of the dough to avoid the dough sticking to either the board or the rolling-pin.

Place the dough in the pan to fully cover the bottom and sides.

Cut off any excess dough from the pan rim. If the dough breaks just patch it.

Pour in the ricotta mixture.

Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling is well settled.

Roll out the reserved dough into a 9×12 inch rectangle (the pastry should be about an 1/8 inch thick) and cut 1/2 inch lattice strips on a diagonal.

Loosely place the lattice on top of the ricotta mixture. (You can brush a beaten egg wash on the lattice and rim crust to get a more golden color.)

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the ricotta filling is well set and a skewer place in the center comes out dry. Rotate the pastiera once to ensure even baking.

Dust the top with confectioners sugar. Serve at room temperature.



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