Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cocktails


Small plate dining is very appealing when it is hot, as it is right now where I live. It is appealing for two and even for a small gathering of friends. This type of dining, often called tapas dining, used to be called a cocktail or appetizer party years ago. Eating lightly in such hot weather also makes sense for health reasons.

Doctors advise that in the summer, light food should be preferred because it can easily be digested. Vegetables with high water content like onions, tomatoes and cucumbers should be regularly eaten as they will not only cool down the body but provide the daily quota of nutrition as well. Foods high in fat and sugar will cause the body to work harder to process these foods. Contrary to conventional thinking, when it is really hot, you are not going to exercise these calories away.

Summer eating should be enjoyable and entertaining should be fun, even if it is hot. Small plates can be the answer and not overwork the host. You can even ask friends to bring a small plate to share with 6 or 8 friends. Here are some ideas for small plate options with an Italian flavor. Just add a few cool drinks and you are all set.


Lambrusco Cooler

Serves 8


  • 1 (750-ml) bottle lemon Italian soda, chilled
  • 8 ounces fresh cherries, pitted and quartered
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Lambrusco


Put 1 cup of lemon soda in a large pitcher with cherries and strawberries and crush the fruit using a wooden spoon to release the juices. Chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, stir in Lambrusco and remaining soda and pour over ice.


Crostini Di Scampi

Serves 4


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 sprig rosemary, plus 1 teaspoon minced
  • 16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4  ½ inch thick slices Italian country bread cut in half or quarters, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted


Heat oil and garlic in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Fry the whole rosemary sprig, turning once, until crisp, 1–2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer rosemary to a paper towel to drain.

Season shrimp with pepper; add to skillet and saute, turning once, until golden about 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Serve shrimp on toasted bread. Sprinkle with minced rosemary and freshly ground black pepper.


Zucchine Ripiene Con Ricotta

Serves 6


  • 6 medium zucchini (about 2 lbs.), halved lengthwise
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Using a small spoon, scoop out the pulp (save pulp for another use) from each zucchini half, leaving a ¼ inch rim around the edges.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the Pecorino cheese, 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs, parsley, oregano and the egg. Fold in the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set the filling aside.

Arrange an oven rack about 7″ from the broiler element and heat. Rub the insides of the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season lightly with salt.

Place zucchini cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes. Remove baking sheet from the oven and fill each zucchini half with enough of the ricotta mixture that it mounds slightly but doesn’t spill over the edges of the zucchini.

Sprinkle each stuffed zucchini with the remaining Pecorino cheese and bread crumbs and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Broil until the zucchini are soft and the tops are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.


Orange Seasoned Dry Cured Black Olives

Serves 8


  • 1 orange
  • 1 lb. dry-cured black olives
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from the orange, taking care to peel as little of the white pith as possible; roughly chop zest and transfer to a medium bowl.

Juice the orange and add the juice to the zest along with the olives, rosemary and pepper; toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour to marinate before serving.


Peperoni Arrostiti Sotto Olio

6 servings


  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 5 leaves fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat and lightly oil the grate. Reduce grill heat to medium.

Grill whole peppers until charred on all sides, turning about every 5 minutes. Place charred peppers in a paper or plastic food storage bag. Allow peppers to cool in the bag.

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a deep serving container.

Remove cooled peppers from the bag and scrape off charred skins. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and stems. Slice peppers into long strips and place in the oil mixture. Mix well. Serve.

Store leftover peppers in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Balsamic Glazed Meatballs

Serves 10-12


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Balsamic Glaze, recipe below


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine beef, bread crumbs and milk. Mix in tomato paste, vinegar and eggs and then add the remaining seasonings. Combine well and form into small, bite sized meatballs.

Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

In a medium bowl, combine ingredients for the glaze and whisk together. Brush glaze over meatballs and bake for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Balsamic Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup water

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk to combine well. Set aside until needed.


Italian Stuffed Mushrooms

Serves 6


  • 12 medium button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a spoon or your fingers, pop out mushroom stems and set aside. Finely dice 1/3 cup of the reserved mushroom stems. Reserve the rest for another use.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add diced mushroom stems, pancetta and onion. Cook until soft and lightly brown; add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add bread crumbs, Parmesan and wine. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Place mushrooms, stem side up in a baking dish. Spoon ricotta inside each mushroom then top with bread crumb mixture.

Drizzle remaining olive oil on top of the bread crumb mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until soft and brown.


Many families go out to dinner on Mother’s Day. However, a home cooked dinner is a better way of honoring the greatest mother in the land-yours!. Let spring produce and warmer weather influence your menu decisions.

A Mother’s Day Menu



Fruit Kabobs

Serves 8


  • 16 each Red and Green Grapes
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar cheese  
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 8 each Strawberries
  • 8 each Wooden Skewers


Cut strawberries in half. If they are extra large you may want to cut them in quarters.

Cut cheese into 1 inch cubes

Thread each skewer with the grapes, cheeses and strawberries alternating between the ingredients.


Pear and Cranberry Bellini

8 servings


  • 1 cup pear nectar
  • 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 bottle Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine


In a small pitcher or large liquid measuring cup, combine pear nectar and cranberry juice cocktail.

Pour 1/4 cup juice mixture into each of eight champagne glasses. Dividing evenly, top with Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine.

First Course


Spring Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

Serves 8


  • 6 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) bunch asparagus, woody stems snapped off and discarded; spears cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


Heat 1/2 cup of broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add remaining broth, salt, pepper and potatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in asparagus and broccoli and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside to let cool slightly.

Puree soup with an immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to a blender and purée in batches until smooth. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chives.

Second Course


Roasted Chicken with Warm Tuscan Bread Salad

Serves 8


  • Two 3 1/2-pound chickens—cut in half, backbones discarded
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 4 small rosemary sprigs
  • 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 4 oz crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves
  • Romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces, about 6 cups
  • 4 anchovy fillets, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


On a work surface, cut the wings off of the chickens at the second joint, leaving the rest of the wing attached to the breasts.

Season the chickens liberally with salt and pepper and arrange skin side up on two rimmed baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the chickens and top each half with 2 cubes of the butter.

Scatter the thyme, rosemary and garlic over the chickens; let them return to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden but still slightly chewy.

Increase the oven temperature to 425°F.

Fit the fennel, scallions and sage around the chicken on the baking pans. Roast in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 165°F; switch the pans halfway through roasting. Let rest for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the bread with the roasted vegetables, romaine, anchovies, capers, vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fold in 1/4 cup of the cheese shavings and season the bread salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the bread salad to a platter and scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese shavings on top. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and arrange on top of the salad.



Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce


  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 16 oz lower fat cream cheese (2 packages, room temperature)
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 lemon (juiced and zested), reserve 1/4 teaspoon of zest for sauce

Blueberry Sauce

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest


Cook blueberry sauce ingredients in a small saucepan on medium heat about 4 minutes stirring occasionally; cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the crust:

Mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together.

Press the mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 8 or 9-inch springform pan and chill.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, cream together the cream cheese and sugar.

Add the eggs, yogurt, lemon juice and zest and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the crust.

Place the cheesecake on the middle rack of the oven.

Add a pan of water on the lower rack.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes being careful not to open the oven while the cheesecake is baking.

Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool for 30 minutes in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

Remove the cheesecake and continue to cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Serve slices of cheesecake with the blueberry sauce.


A Mother’s Love…

How precious is the love
of a mother’s heart!
Even as a child… It’s there from the start.

A mother’s love knows
no boundary or limit.
It’s often shown by how
much the mother gives it!

Whether her children are
young or growing old…
And whatever circumstances
in life may unfold…

Her love is continually
a solid foundation…
That can’t be removed, torn or shaken.

Her love is what is
a “guiding force…”
Even if her children’s lives
stray “off course.”

I’m thankful for the love
my mother’s given…
It’s surely influenced
the way I’ve been livin’!

To all of our mothers across
our great nation…
May we show them our love
and appreciation!

Their love has stood and
endured the test of time…
I’m so glad that one of them is MINE!

By Jim Pemberton


Summer Drinks

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

Iced Tea Preparation Tips

Here are some guidelines for making iced tea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

drinkssnacks 1

Add Flavor To Iced Tea Drinks

Sencha Green Tea with Rose Petals and Cherry

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

Orange, Apple, Hibiscus Tea Cooler

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

Traditional Iced Tea with Mango

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


Tropical Sangria


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


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

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


Cucumber Mojitos

12 servings


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

To serve:

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


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

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

To serve:

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

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


Watermelon Lemonade

12 servings

Sugar Syrup:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar


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

To make sugar syrup:

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

To serve the lemonade:

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


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


Green Goddess Dip with Crudites

6 servings


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


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

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


Grilled Sherry-Garlic Shrimp

6 servings


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


For the marinade:

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

To butterfly the shrimp in shells:

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

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

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

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


Oven-Fried Dill Pickles

6 servings


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


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

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

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

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

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


Smoked Tuna Bites

6 servings


Tuna Spread

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


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


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

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

To assemble:

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

Eggplant Bruschetta

Serves: 8


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


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

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

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

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


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.


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


Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail


  • 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


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.


  • 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


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


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, and Lentil Salad

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


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


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


  • 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


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.


Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata


  • 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


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.


Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties


  • 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


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.


Italian Easter Cookies


  • 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


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


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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California’s Mediterranean climate is similar to Italy’s, so the Italian immigrants felt at home and were able to bring their food and culture to this new land. The California soil was ideal for planting crops Italians were used to growing, such as eggplant, artichokes, broccoli and Sicilian lemons. Italians also brought with them a love of wine as well as a history of making it.

Nearly 200 members of the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society and the Folsom Historical Society attended the opening reception for the exhibit “Nostra Storia” on January 28, 2000. This is a unique story about that wave of people from Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, who settled in the foothills of the Mother Lode region (Sierra Nevada Mountains) of Northern California in the Mid-19th century. This is the first time that an exhibit has been created to tell the story of these enterprising people who contributed so much to the economic and cultural fabric of California. The history of the Italian Americans is often relegated to the margins of American history despite the fact that the Italians are the 4th largest ancestry group in America with more than 25 million Americans and two million Californians of Italian descent (based on the 2000 Census).This exhibit is part of the determination of this current generation of Italians, to see that the Italian immigrant story is told and included in the history of the nation.

California’s gold country has been profoundly influenced by Italian culture for the last 160 years. Immigrants from Italy’s northern provinces were drawn here by the lure of gold, but it was the allure of the California foothills where they found the terrain and climate similar to that of Italy, that convinced them to stay. California’s fledgling economy provided unparalleled opportunities for Italian businessmen and unclaimed land was available for agriculturalists. Settlement soon brought women and children and, within a decade, Italians represented a significant portion of the population in the region, numbering among the gold country’s leading farmers, merchants and tradesmen. The Mother Lode also offered women unique advantages and Italian women proved wonderfully resourceful when necessity demanded. The 1870s saw a second wave of immigration, as Italian laborers arrived to work in the large, corporate-owned gold mines. Descendents of many of these Italian pioneers remain in the gold country to this day.

Del Monte

Across the state, the Italians also settled on the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the fruit and vegetable industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini, who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy in the Italian neighborhoods across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America, which became the largest bank in the world.

The California wine industry also owes much to the Italian founders of the industry. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei, planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson. The founding of the Italian Swiss Colony at Asti in 1881 as a cooperative of Italian immigrants from the wine growing regions of Italy, promoted the widespread participation and success of the Italians in the California wine industry and the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Largest wine vat in the world, Asti, about 1900. The vat is still there, but today it contains water for fire protection instead of wine. (Cloverdale Historical Society collection)

Oakland, the other city by the bay, was a magnet for Italian immigrants in the early decades of the 20th century. Some relocated from San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire; many more came to Oakland predominantly from Italy’s northern regions. As they established new roots and adopted new ways, they congregated largely in north Oakland’s bustling Temescal neighborhood and these Italian Americans nurtured their old country customs and traditions for generations–giving us a rare glimpse of bygone days.

Los Angeles’, “Little Italy”, presents a history of the city’s vibrant Italian enclave during the 100-year period following the arrival of the city’s first Italian pioneers in 1827. While Los Angeles possesses the nation’s fifth-largest Italian population today, little is known about its Italian history which has been examined by only a handful of historians over the past 50 years. Much of LA’s historic Little Italy has been masked by subsequent ethnic settlements, however, the community’s memory lives on. From pioneer agriculturalists and winemakers to philanthropists and entertainment personalities, Italian Americans left a lasting impression on the city’s social, economic and cultural fabric and contributed to Los Angeles’ development as one of the world’s major metropolises.

San Pedro Port

While the downtown cluster (St. Peter’s Italian Church, Casa Italiana and the Italian Hall) may loosely be construed a Little Italy, San Pedro today represents one of the few visible local nuclei of Italians. This clustering on the Los Angeles landscape has arisen for a unique reason. Until recently, San Pedro was geographically and occupationally compact due to its function as Los Angeles’ port and due to what was, formerly, a significant fishing industry. San Pedro Italians came from two Italian island fishing communities: Ischia and Sicily. Although they arrived with the migrations of the early 20th. century (the Sicilians later), the independent nature of this group’s trade and the relative geographic compactness of San Pedro, fostered the preservation of ethnic loyalty.

Attracted by the mild climate and abundance of fertile land, Italians came to the Santa Clara Valley from all regions of Italy. Beginning in the 1880s, Italian men, women and children filled the numerous canneries and packing houses, supplying the rest of the nation with fresh produce. Once the largest ethnic group in the valley, the Italians’ impact on the region has been profound. Here are some of their stories:

Rodolfo Mussi was born in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania in 1914 to an Italian immigrant father, who worked in the coalmines. Rodolfo’s mother died at a young age forcing the family to return to Italy. The village of Riccione in Northern Italy did not offer much hope to young Rodolfo, who at age sixteen returned with his father’s permission to the United States. His father let him leave Italy on one condition: that he head to California not Pennsylvania. At sixteen with little money, no family or friends or command of the English language, Rodolfo went to work in the mud baths in Calistoga. He later moved to Stockton and went to work on a farm. He noticed a plot of land that was not being farmed and inquired about the property. He had no money to purchase the land or equipment to farm it, but his determination impressed the landowner, Mr. Lucas, who leased the land to Mussi. After thirty years, Mussi secured a twenty-five year lease and his sons still lease and farm the same land today

Joseph Solari II’s great grandfather arrived in Stockton in 1877 and his family was among the first to grow cherries in the area. Four generations of the Solari family farmed in Stockton and their products are sold around the country through the California Fruit Exchange, founded in 1901. The cherries and plums are packed on the Solari Ranch and then sent to the east coast. The Solari family was also involved with the founding of two additional organizations: the San Joaquin Marketing Association (1922) and the San Joaquin Cherry Growers (1935).

In addition to cherries, Stockton was also known for its tomatoes. Two families cornered the market for quality tomatoes and tomato products. The Cortopassi family business began in 1942 with fresh-packed canned tomato products. Today, their products are available only through food service distributors in the United States and Canada. George Lagorio began farming in 1945 on thirty acres. Today the Lagorio family farms over 10,000 acres. The ACE Tomato Company founded in 1968 ships worldwide today. Their Specialty Products include olive oil, walnuts, cherries and wine grapes. George’s daughter, Kathleen Lagorio Janssen and her husband Dean expanded the family business a few years ago with the purchase of olive orchards. Now the company also produces extra virgin olive oil.

Italian immigrants to San Jose, located south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley, came from many Italian regions, but a majority of them arrived from villages in southern Italy and Sicily. There were two primary Italian neighborhoods in San Jose,  as its population grew in the early to mid twentieth century. The Goosetown neighborhood included Auzarias Avenue and North 1st. Street. This neighborhood bordered Willow Glen, where many Italian Americans still reside. The second neighborhood was around North 13th. Street and it included Holy Cross Church and Backesto Park. One Italian immigrant who eventually made his home in San Jose was Mario Marchese, who was born in 1878 in Palermo Sicily. He left home for New York in 1903 with other family members and, when he arrived in NY, he took a job moving furniture. In 1907 he married his boss’s daughter, Domenica Pavia. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they took the train west to California in search of a better opportunity. Mario and Domenica had ten children and lived in the Italian neighborhood known as Goosetown. Mario initially worked as a prune picker and was eventually hired by Navelete’s Nursery to oversee the orchards.


Brothers Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo were born in Messina, Sicily and emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and 1911 respectfully. They eventually settled in Boston, went to college and fought for the U.S. in World War I. They started D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of Massachusetts in 1923. Stefano travelled to California in 1925 on a wine grape buying trip. He observed the fertile farmland in San Jose and, soon after, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California was launched and they were growing vegetables in San Jose. The broccoli seeds arrived from Italy and were planted over twenty-eight acres, making them the first to introduce broccoli to the public under their brand, Andy Boy, trademarked in 1927. They remain one of the largest fresh produce growers in the country and the company is still family run.

Women Cannery Workers 

The Bisceglia Brother’s Canning Company employed many Italian immigrant women and was located on South First Street close to the Goosetown neighborhood. They earned less pay than the men but worked less hours. The women worked on the assembly line peeling, cutting, pitting and slicing by hand. By the 1930s and 1940s women were promoted to supervisors, better known to the employees as floor ladies. These women supervised thirty-five to forty-five women on the production line and they typically supervised their own ethnic group.

More than most people realize, the Italian Americans helped to shape the cultural landscape of California and the modern West. The enterprise and success of these Italian pioneers is a unique legacy – one shared by all of us. 

(Sources: We Are California: Stories of Immigration and Change A California Stories Project of the California Council for the Humanities.  The California Italian American Project is designed to make available to students and researchers basic information and resources about California’s original Italian communities.)                       

California is where pizza became “boutique” food, starting in the 1980s, as part of a larger attraction to the Mediterranean cuisine. Alice Waters put a wood-burning oven into her café at Chéz Panisse and Wolfgang Puck became famous by feeding Hollywood stars $100 caviar pies. Puck’s pizza man, Ed LaDou, went on to found the California Pizza Kitchen chain. The chain is widely known for its innovative and non traditional pizzas, such as the “Original BBQ Chicken Pizza”, BLT, Thai Chicken and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizzas. They also serve various kinds of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. The chain has over 230 locations in 32 US states and eleven other countries, including 26 California Pizza Kitchen ASAP kiosks designed to serve passengers at airports and shopping malls. The company licensed its name to Kraft Foods to distribute a line of premium frozen pizzas in 2000 and Nestlé purchased Kraft’s pizza lines in 2010.

Chéz Panisse’s wood-burning oven

Italian Recipes That Make Use of California’s Bounties

Sweet Pepper Martini

Makes 2 Drinks

Giuseppe Luigi Mezzetta, founder of G. L. Mezzetta, immigrated to America from Italy to start a new life. He eventually saved enough money to bring his new wife, Columba, to California where their son, Daniel, was born in 1918. Giuseppe continued to work hard and was soon able to earn a better wage as a janitor for two large import/export firms. In 1935, father and son decided to open a small storefront business and the new company began importing Italian peppers, olives and other staples of the Mediterranean table.


  • 1/4 cup Mezzetta Roasted Bell Pepper Strips, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves, cut into strips
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vodka or gin
  • 4 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, to garnish


In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker add and mix all of the ingredients except the vodka. Fill the skaker with ice and add the vodka. Shake vigorously.

Strain the drink, using a fine mesh strainer, and pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sweet cherry peppers.

(Note: to prepare simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. Boil until the sugar has dissolved. Cool the syrup before using.)

Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

During his 25 years as a chef/restaurateur, Michael Chiarello has been acknowledged by the Culinary Institute of America, IACP, Food & Wine Magazine and many more for his success as both a Chef and restaurant professional. He has developed over 10 restaurants, including his hugely popular Bottega Restaurant in Yountville, California (Napa Valley), his new Spanish restaurant Coqueta on Pier 5 in San Francisco and his first in California, Tra Vigne, of which he was executive chef/partner until 2000. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

I visited Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega, two years ago when I was in California, and the food was outstanding. Restaurants don’t come any better than this one.

Recipe from Bottega by Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Makes 16 arancini; serves 4

Arancini, or rice-balls filled with a melting cheese, are for leftover-risotto days. I never make the rice from scratch when I’m making arancini at home. If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can make these balls from cooked Arborio rice but be sure to add a teaspoon or two of salt while the rice cooks. (Honestly, you’re better off making a big pot of risotto and then making arancini the next day.)

Arancini always remind me of my friend Mariano Orlando. He always made arancini the Sicilian way, his rice balls the size of oranges. We talked once about arancini and he kept saying in Italian, “telephone wire,” making a motion with his hands as if to stretch a length of cord. “What are you saying?” I asked him. “Why are you talking about telephone wire?” The cheese, Mariano said, should stretch like a telephone wire when you take a bite from a perfect arancini and pull it away from your lips.

Our arancini don’t have that same telephone wire of cheese; we use a little less cheese in the middle and a lot more cheese in the risotto. You can add more cheese to the middle if you want to go for the telefono filo effect. If you want to make these a few hours ahead, pour panko crumbs into a baking dish and rest the arancini on the panko before covering the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerating.


  • 3 cups leftover risotto or cooked Arborio rice, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups Blanched Basil Pesto, double recipe below
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini
  • Peanut oil, corn oil, or canola oil for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)


Line a platter with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir the risotto and pesto together until blended. Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.

Cut off about 1/2 teaspoon of mozzarella and then with your hands ball up one serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini. Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm up.

Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl; the eggs into another shallow bowl; and the panko into a third shallow bowl.

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer. While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and then in the panko. Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook them or the cheese will leak out into your oil. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.

Blanched-Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Powdered vitamin C- also called ascorbic acid-is my secret for keeping pesto a fresh, appetizing green. The herbs go in boiling water and then straight into an ice bath, so I like to use a large sieve or colander to transfer all the herbs in one smooth move.


  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Set up a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Place the basil and parsley leaves in a sieve or colander that fits inside the pan. Lower the sieve full of herbs into the boiling water, and use a spoon to push the leaves under so the herbs cook evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, and then transfer the sieve to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let the herbs cool in the ice bath for 10 seconds. Remove the sieve, let drain, and then squeeze any water that you can from the herbs. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

In a blender, puree the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and ascorbic acid until well blended and somewhat smooth. Add the cheese and whir for a second or two to mix. Transfer the pesto to a bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning.

Press plastic wrap directly top of the pesto to keep it from turning brown and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month.

Chef’s Note: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat for just a minute or two; as soon as you smell the fragrance of the pine nuts, slide the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate so they don’t burn.

Chicken in Tomato & Olive Braise

Chef David Katz, owner of Panevino, and faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America created this recipe to specifically pair with Mirassou wine. Chef Katz has spent nine years in the Napa Valley as a working chef and instructor at CIA Greystone focusing on the business of cooking and on food and wine education.

Serves 6.


  • 6 chicken thighs, 5-6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8th inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup Mirassou Pinot Noir
  • 1 large can (1 pound 12 ounces) excellent quality diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole pitted green olives, rinsed
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 loose cup whole parsley leaves, plucked from the stem


Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F.  Select a 3 to 4 quart oven-safe baking dish, and set it aside. Heat a large, heavy skillet over a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating, season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat through, then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes, then turn and brown equally on the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, and return it to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir often for 3 minutes, or until it smells sweet. Stir in the pepper flakes and fennel. Deglaze with the wine, stirring against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the browned juices. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives, and bring the skillet to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then pour the tomato mixture into the oven-safe baking dish. Arrange the chicken pieces over the tomato mixture, skin-side up, and sprinkle the shaved cheese over the chicken. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center of the largest piece of chicken.

Garnish the dish with parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with soft polenta or your favorite short pasta and a crisp green salad.

Italian Padella

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

“Padella” is Italian for skillet, as “paella” is in Spanish.


  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/4 pound sliced ham
  • 1/4 pound salt pork
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 pounds squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups cooked peas
  • 24 mussels, scrubbed
  • 24 clams, scrubbed
  • 8 large prawns, shelled, deveined and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons pimientos


Combine 2 tablespoons oil, oregano, peppercorns, garlic, salt and vinegar; mix with mortar and pestle to make a paste. Rub chicken with oregano paste.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; brown. Add sausage, ham, salt pork, onion, green pepper, capers and coriander. Reduce heat to low; cook 10 minutes.

Add rice and tomato sauce; cook 5 minutes. Add medium shrimp, squid, broth and saffron; mix well and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas.

Steam mussels and clams in water until open; add large prawns and pimientos. Transfer rice mixture to large serving platter; top with mussel mixture.

Basil is undoubtedly the most loved and popular herb in Italy. Although we tend to associate the herb with Italy and other Mediterranean countries, it actually originated in India and was brought to the Mediterranean via the spice routes in ancient times. Tulsi, as the herb is known in Hindi, means “Sacred Basil,” and some of the many varieties of the plant were incorporated into Indian cooking centuries ago. From India, basil traveled not only to Europe and Africa, but spread to other parts of Asia as well, most notably to Thailand. Today, there are at least a dozen varieties grown for culinary use.

Sweet Basil (Ocimum bacilicum) and, its close relative, basilico genovese are the only varieties used in Italian cooking. Its flavor has been described as spicy and peppery, with a hint of clove and mint – but of course this doesn’t come close to capturing its unique essence. Perhaps it’s more helpful to talk about what it pairs with best: olive oil, garlic, lemon, rosemary and thyme – and, of course, tomatoes. Basil and tomatoes seem to have been made for each other – as in the famous, insalata caprese – tomato mozzarella salad, as well as, tomato sauces. But, this herb also enhances other vegetables – such as zucchini and eggplant, to name just a few, and is widely used in many pasta dishes.

If you’re growing basil in your garden or on a window sill,  cut the basil leaves, often, from the top of each stem. The leaves grow back quickly and stronger. Basil preserves well in oil and can also be frozen. It is rich in antioxidants and, some claim , it has anticancer and antiviral properties. In Italy, basil is believed to help along the after-lunch nap that millions of Italians still enjoy on hot summer afternoons.

Basil is one herb in particular that really shines when it’s fresh. Just think of a homemade marinara sauce using fresh basil — would it be the same using dried? But beyond those familiar dishes we most associate with basil (tomato sauce, pizza, meatballs, pesto), the herb can actually work wonderfully well in many more dishes, including cocktails and desserts.

Basil is my favorite herb and I grow quite a bit of it every year – at least 4 containers worth, Naturally, I cannot let it go to waste. As a result I have become very creative in using this herb in any number of ways. I also freeze it for use in winter time tomato sauces. Not quite as good as the fresh leaves, but way better than dried.

Emerald Gimlet

1 Serving


  • 3 big basil leaves
  • Ice Cubes
  • 1/2 ounce Lemon Simple Syrup
  • 3/4 ounce lime juice
  • 2 ounces good Vodka

Lemon Simple Syrup:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice


Mix the basil leaves with ice in a cocktail shaker. Add lemon simple syrup, lime juice and vodka. Shake and strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lime slice or a basil leaf.

To make lemon simple syrup: 

Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring regularly until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let it rest until it cools to room temperature.

Add the lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon or disposable stirrer.

Transfer the lemon simple syrup to a sterilized glass bottle. Store the simple syrup in the refrigerator between uses.


Fresh Basil Vinaigrette

Fresh basil and a bit of garlic are whirled into a simple fresh basil vinaigrette for your next salad.


  • 2 cups basil leaves (about 1 large bunch)
  • 1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


In a blender or food processor, whirl the basil, oil, vinegar and garlic until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 1 cup.

Corn, Tomato & Basil Salad

Use only the freshest, sweetest corn for this recipe – corn that’s so tender and sweet you can eat it raw! This salad is wonderful as a side with any grilled meal or as part of any no-cook summer dinner.


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 ears sweet corn
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs basil


In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix oil, vinegar and salt. Add onion to the dressing. Set dressing aside.

Husk corn and cut off kernels. Core, seed and chop tomatoes. Cut basil into thin strips (chiffonade).

Toss corn and tomatoes with the dressing. Let marinate for a few hours at room temperature.

Sprinkle with basil and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Chilled Summer Squash and Basil Soup

4 Serving


  • 2 pounds mixed summer squash
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups homemade or store-bought vegetable stock
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Lemon quarters for serving


Roughly chop the squash, onion and garlic.

In a large saucepan heat oil; add squash and garlic. Cook vegetables gently to soften, partly covered, in the heated oil, stirring now and again.

Pour in 4 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Add 3/4 cups of the basil leaves, then blend together with an immulsion blender until smooth with tiny flecks of basil visible. Season to taste.

Allow to cool, then chill for four hours or overnight. The soup may be a little thick, but the basil ice and lemon juice addition will thin it.

Meanwhile, place the remaining basil leaves and the remaining stock in a shallow container. Push the basil into a single layer and freeze the mixture until set.

Break the ice into cubes and add pieces of the basil ice to each serving of soup. Garnish with lemon quarters.


Orange-Basil Grilled Mahi-Mahi

2 Servings


  • 3/4 pound filleted Mahi-Mahi, skin on (or fish of choice)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 orange, zest and juice
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons shredded basil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steamed green beans, for serving


Make the sauce by combining and mixing the ingredients together. Set aside.

Oil and lightly salt the fish. Place fish on a greased grill pan, skin side up, then slide the pan under a hot broiler until the skin is blistered.

Turn the fish over with a wide spatula and spoon on some of the sauce.

Cook for a minute or two. Lift fish onto plates (or shallow bowls) and pour over the rest of the sauce.

Serve with green beans.

Tip: Take care not to overcook the fish; – it must stay moist to be at its best.

Basil Stuffed Zucchini

Zucchini stuffed with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil make a fresh summer side dish. For the nicest presentation, use long, relatively skinny zucchini.

4 servings


  • 2 medium 2-inch-wide zucchini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup quartered grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced mozzarella cheese, preferably fresh
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil


Trim both ends off the zucchini and cut each in half lengthwise. Cut a thin slice off the underside of each zucchini, so each half sits flat. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Finely chop the pulp; set aside.

Place the zucchini halves in a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cover and microwave on High until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, steam in a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a large skillet or pot.)

Whisk oil, vinegar, shallot and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes, cheese, basil and the reserved zucchini pulp; toss to combine. Divide the filling among the zucchini. Serve.


Grilled Beef Braciole with Tomato-Basil Sauce

Serves: 4 servings


For the sauce:

  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves

For the beef:

  • 1 (1 1/2-pound) flank steak, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

3 (8-inch) pieces butcher’s twine, soaked in cold water

Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish


Heat the grill to high and oil the grill grates.

For the sauce:

Cut the tomatoes in half, brush them with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the tomatoes on all sides until slightly charred and soft. Remove the tomatoes from the grill, chop and place in a serving bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, onion, vinegar, basil and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Set aside while the beef cooks.

For the beef:

Place the steak on a flat surface.

Combine the cheese, basil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush the steak on the side facing up with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the cheese mixture evenly over the steak, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides.

Starting with the long end, tightly roll the meat up like a jelly roll and tightly tie with the butcher’s twine on the ends and in the center. Brush the entire outside of the steak with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place on the grill, seam-side up and cook until golden brown on all sides, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest 10 minutes before slicing into 1/2-inch thick slices. Serve several slices per person topped with some of the tomato sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.


Green Apple and Basil Granita

8 Servings

Guests will welcome this refreshing granita after a heavy meal.


  • 1 (1,000-mg) tablet vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

Equipment: cheesecloth


Crush the vitamin C tablet in a large bowl with the back of a spoon. (Vitamin C will keep the basil bright and green.)

Line a sieve with a dampened triple-layer of cheesecloth and set it over the bowl with the vitamin C.

Puree apples with the water in a food processor (do not use a blender) until almost smooth, then pour into the cheesecloth lined sieve. (Do not clean processor bowl.)

Squeeze as much clear juice as possible through the cloth and discard solids remaining in the cheesecloth.

Puree basil with sugar until it is deep green, then add apple juice mixture and puree until combined.

Freeze mixture in an 8-inch square baking dish, scraping and stirring with a fork every 30 minutes, until frozen, at least 3 hours. (It will be too hard to scrape once fully frozen.)

Make ahead: Granita can be made 2 days ahead (cover once frozen). Let stand at room temperature about 10 minutes and re-scrape before serving in glass dishes.

Memorial Day is the gateway to summer and it conjures up images of picnics, barbecues and parades. Originally the holiday was charged with deeper meaning and it was called Decoration Day – a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is about reconciliation and about coming together to honor those who gave their lives.

Memorial Day is the time to wear poppies, fly the flag and place flowers on the graves of military personnel. Many volunteers and volunteer organizations march in patriotic parades. Frequently there is a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Patriotic speeches are made and declarations by The President and Heads of the Armed Services are also read. We all take time on this special day to remember the human sacrifice it has taken to establish and maintain our great country. Later in the day, time is set aside for picnics, BBQ parties and other outdoor activities.

Instead of spending money on store bought pasta salads, meat trays, fruit and dessert, save money by making these simple dishes yourself. Here is a suggested menu with beverage ideas to help you get you started.

What Drinks Go Well With BBQ?

Soda, beer and iced tea are a good start. Provide pitchers of punch or lemonade or mix up a few sensational summer cocktails. Put a twist on some old classics or try some fresh new blends to quench that thirst.

Try this Italian Cocktail Punch                                                                                                                                         

  • One 750-milliliter bottle Aperol or Compari (Italian Liqueurs)
  • One 750-milliliter bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
  • 750 milliliters chilled seltzer
  • Ice
  • Fruit slices, for garnish

In a pitcher combine the Aperol,  the Prosecco and the seltzer. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish each drink with fruit.

Keeping it simple with wine:

The grill serves up such a wide range of foods that pairing them with beverages can be seen as either a challenge or the result of your imagination. Luckily, the spirit of outdoor dining—including the tendency to serve lighter beverages—simplifies the choice.

Sparkling wines beat the heat and play well with almost any grilled food. Stick with wines like Prosecco, Cava or a light California sparkling wine.

White wines are clearly suited to grilled fish and chicken and some pork recipes, even those that call for blackened preparations or spice rubs. The high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc or a cool Sancerre (made from the same grape)—pairs perfectly with such meats. Choose a white Burgundy or Chardonnay for richer fish, like tuna, trout or salmon. Chardonnay is also the best pick for veggie burgers and sometimes regular hamburgers that have a mushroom sauce.

There’s no question that rosés are a perfect fit for casual outdoor dining. Served cool, these wines have a bit more acidity than white wines and can handle grilled flavors. Among the favorites in this category are Bandol from Provence, Tavel from the Rhône Valley and a number of rosés from California made from the Sangiovese grape.

When pork, smoked meats or shellfish are on the menu, a Pinot Noir from Oregon or the Russian River Valley or a Burgundy is best. 

If you’re serving hamburgers, steaks or barbecued ribs, only the big red wines will do. Bordeaux, California Cabernet and Barolo are perfect matches, but if the meat has a spicy rub, try Zinfandel or an Australian Shiraz or Argentine Malbec.


Pimento Ricotta Spread                                                                 

Serve with toasted baguette slices or flatbread and cut up vegetables.


  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 15 ounces fresh ricotta (1 1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup well-chopped drained pimentos (from one 8-ounce jar)
  • 3 ounces light cream cheese


In a food processor, puree the ricotta and cream cheese. Add the pimentos and crushed red pepper and pulse until the pimentos are minced. Season with salt.

Iced Mint Green Tea Punch                                         


  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 6 green tea bags
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 4 cups Limoncello
  • Lemon slices, for garnish


Combine mint leaves, tea bags, honey and boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes; remove tea bags. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until chilled.

Stir in Limoncello, ice cubes and lemon slices just before serving.

Main Dishes

Rosemary-Skewered Artichoke Chicken

6 Servings


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 fresh rosemary stems (18 inches)
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and halved
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 6 cherry tomatoes


In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the oil, dill, oregano, lemon peel, garlic, salt and pepper; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel bark from the bottom half of each rosemary stem and make a point at each end; soak in water until ready to use.

Drain and discard marinade. On soaked rosemary stems, alternately thread the chicken, artichokes, squash and tomatoes. Position the leaf parts of the rosemary stems so that they will be on the outside of the grill cover. Pointed ends toward the back of the grill.

Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Place skewers on the grill. 

Grill, with the cover slighly ajar, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak


  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated zest of a navel orange
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak, trimmed
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs mint — for garnish


In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and chopped mint. Add steak to marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in the marinade.

Remove steak from marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl. Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.

Lightly grease grill rack with vegetable cooking spray or oil.

Preheat charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ashy color or preheat gas grill according to manufacturer’s suggested time on high heat.

Place steak on grill 4 inches from heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil on a charcoal grill), for approximately 4 minutes, brushing frequently with marinade.

Place onion slices on the grill and baste with some of the marinade. Cook until lightly brown about 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing.

Arrange orange slices and onion slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.

Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.

Side Dishes

Grilled Peach Salad with Pecans


  • 4 large peaches
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry flavored vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce


Preheat grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut peaches into six slices each; discard pits. Cook peach slices until grill marks appear (no need to completely cook peaches). Remove from grill and let cool at room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add butter, pecans, sugar and cayenne pepper. Cook while stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and turns golden brown.

Remove pan from heat and cool to room temperature.

Slice both heads of romaine into six sections. Place lettuce and peaches on a plate and top with dressing and pecans. 

Green Beans and Tomatoes                                       


  • 2 pounds green string beans (or a mixture of yellow and green)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved


In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them on a large baking sheet to cool. Pat dry.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the shallots and basil and season with salt and pepper. Place the beans and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the oil mixture and toss well.

Transfer to a platter for serving. Can be made early in the day and served room temperature.



Strawberry Layer Cake

16 servings


  • 1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
  • Cooking spray


  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 12 whole strawberries


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.

To prepare cake:

Place sliced strawberries in a food processor and process until smooth.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk. Set aside.

Place granulated sugar and the 1/2 cup butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in egg whites.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Add pureed strawberries and food coloring and beat just until blended.

Divide batter between the twp pans.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake layers comes out clean.

Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting:

Place cream cheese, 1/3 cup butter and liqueur in a medium bowl; beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat just until blended.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Cut 1 whole strawberry into thin slices, cutting to, but not through, the stem end. Fan strawberry on top of cake.  Cut remaining 11 strawberries in half. Garnish the sides of the cake with the strawberry halves.


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