Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

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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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hanukkah

The first Jews began arriving in Rome as far back as 160 BC, creating one of the oldest Jewish communities in Western Europe, and with over thirty-thousand Jews calling Italy home, it isn’t surprising that Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is celebrated just as passionately as Christmas. Hanukkah 2014 begins in the evening on Tuesday, December 16.

Hanukkah celebrations last for eight days, with the dates being dictated by the Hebrew calendar. Each night a candle is lit on the nine-branched candle holder called the menorah until all eight candles are burning. The shamash; the ninth candle is raised above the eight others, its purpose being as a flame to light the religious candles below.  On Rome’s via Sacra, near the Coliseum stands the Arch of Titus, built in AD81, shows  a sculpture of a procession following the raid on the Temple of Solomon and, above the heads of the triumphant Romans, a menorah is held aloft. Today, a twenty-foot menorah is erected in Piazza Barberini and this becomes the central focus for Rome’s  lighting ceremony.  In Milan the large public menorah is traditionally set in Piazza San Carlo with the hope that its light will reach the hearts of the people.

While in Venice, following the lighting of the menorah, the Cannaregio neighborhood is brought to life with music and dancing. Once the home of the world’s oldest Jewish ghetto, the five synagogues remain intact and are still used for worship by the local community. Florence’s past is also steeped in Jewish history with the Jewish museum on Via dei Giudei (street of the Jews) where the city’s ghetto once stood. Nearby is Tempio Maggiore, built between 1874 and 1882, and is the  Synagogue of Florence where the city’s Jewish community gather to celebrate and light the Menorah before the feasting begins.

The fried foods that are served during the holiday commemorate the miracle of the one day’s supply of olive oil that burned for eight days after the destruction of the temple. The Jewish communities celebrate with traditional recipes, such as, chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon and nutmeg before being dredged in flour and fried, thin slices of fried eggplant and potato pancakes. Frittelle di Chanukah  (sweet fried dough fritters) are the traditional end to all Italian Hanukkah meals; balls of bread dough are stuffed with raisins and flavored with aniseed, fried and drizzled with hot honey.

hanukkah1

Fennel and Orange­ Scented Challah

By Joan Nathan (New York Times)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus 1/2 cup of the juice, strained
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

Using the paddle attachment, stir orange zest, juice and oil into yeast mixture, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, and remaining sugar and salt. Switch to the dough hook and gradually add 6 cups of flour, kneading for about 5 minutes and adding more flour as needed to make a slightly sticky, smooth and elastic dough.

Grease a large bowl, turn dough into it and then turn the dough over to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, remove it to a lightly floured counter, knead it briefly until smooth and divide it in half.

Roll each piece into a cylinder about 27 inches long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring one end of the dough up to the other and twist to form a spiral. Push both ends together to make a squat 12 ­inch loaf.

Repeat with the other piece of dough and arrange loaves on a parchment ­lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You can also twist the long spirals into a circle if you like; the dough is very malleable.

Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves, reserving the rest. Let the dough rise uncovered another half ­hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and in a small bowl, combine fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. Brush the loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.

hanukkah4

Pollo Fritto

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, cut into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Flour
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, seasoning them well with salt and pepper. Mix the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, nutmeg and the lemon juice in a measuring cup and beating the mixture well with a fork. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces, turn them to coat on all sides and let them marinate for about an hour, turning them several times.

When it comes time to cook, heat the oil in a pot. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them dry.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, then dip them in the egg and slip them into the oil. When they are well browned on all sides, remove them from the pot, drain them well, and serve them.

hanukkah5

Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 6 cups grated butternut squash (1 3-pound squash)
  • 1/4 cup chopped or slivered fresh sage(more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons oat bran
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Place the grated onion in a strainer set over a bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then wrap the onion in a dishtowel and squeeze out excess water. Place in a large bowl and add the squash, sage, baking powder, salt and pepper, oat bran and flour. Add the eggs and stir together.

Begin heating a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Place a wire rack over another sheet pan.

Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill with 3 tablespoons of the mixture. Turn out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining latke mix. You should have enough to make about 30 latkes.

Add the oil to the pan and when it is hot, use a spatula to transfer a ball of latke mixture to the pan. Press down with the spatula to flatten.

Repeat with more mounds. Cook on one side until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath and turn the latkes over. Cook on the other side until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the rack set over a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Serve hot topped with low-fat or regular sour cream.

hanukkah3

Couscous With Olives, Lemon And Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

Servings: 8

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) pareve margarine
  • 6 cups chopped onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted halved brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups couscous (about 13 1/2 ounces)

Directions

Melt margarine in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions; stir to coat. Cover pot and cook onions until very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Mix in ginger and turmeric.

Add broth, olives, basil, mint and lemon juice. Bring to simmer. Mix in couscous.

Cover pot, turn off heat and let stand until couscous is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour couscous into a bowl and serve.

hanukkah2

Honey-Glazed Doughnuts With Raisins And Pine Nuts

Ingredients

MAKES ABOUT 32

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is foamy, about 6 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Make a well in the center. Add raisins, pine nuts, egg and 1 tablespoon oil to well. Pour remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water over, then pour yeast mixture over. Stir until a smooth dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; cover bowl with plastic, then a towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Pour enough oil into large deep saucepan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan and heat oil to 360°F to 370°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6 doughnuts, dip a metal tablespoon into the hot oil to coat and, without deflating dough, gently scoop up a rounded tablespoonful. Drop dough into the oil. Fry until deep golden, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to prepared sheet and drain.

DO AHEAD Doughnuts can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm on the same sheet in a 350°F oven about 15 minutes.

Whisk honey, 3/4 cup water and cinnamon in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until syrup comes to boil. Remove pan from the heat. Dip warm doughnuts into honey syrup and pile onto a serving platter. Pour remaining syrup into bowl. Serve doughnuts with remaining syrup.


winterproduce
Just because the farmers’ markets are closed for winter doesn’t mean you have to do without fresh veggies at the dinner table. Unfortunately, in the winter months, we often retreat from fresh produce, thinking it’s not as available or as tasty. From hearty root vegetables to bright, sweet citrus, winter produce delivers a surprising range of flavorful fruits and vegetables for you to cook. You may be surprised by how many locally grown root vegetables and cabbages are available from cold storage and how many greens are coming out of local cold frames and greenhouses at this time of year. Here are some recipes from appetizers through dessert that use winter fruits and vegetables.

winterproduce5

Winter Vegetable Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the barley. Add the vegetable broth, water, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

Add the celery root and parsnips and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over moderately low heat until the barley and root vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and nutmeg and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve in deep bowls.

winterproduce3

Seafood with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

8 First Course Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 small ruby red grapefruits (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons pickled cocktail onions
  • 2 tablespoons packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 24 sea scallops or medium shrimp (about 2 pounds) or a combination of both
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Directions

Using a very sharp paring knife to peel the grapefruits, carefully removing all of the bitter white pith. Over a mixing bowl, carefully cut in between the membranes of the  grapefruit sections and let them drop into the bowl. Stir in the pickled cocktail onions and parsley leaves and season with pepper.

Pat the sea scallops or shrimp dry and season them all over with salt. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil until it is shimmering. Cook the scallops over moderately high heat, turning once, until they are browned and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Spoon the pickled onion and grapefruit salad onto small serving plates and arrange the scallops around the salad. Drizzle with additional olive oil and serve at once.

winterproduce2

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 4 acorn squash (about 1 pound each), halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 10 ounces day-old rustic bread—crusts removed, bread cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 6 cups)
  • 7 ounces vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock or chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and season the cavities with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on two baking sheets covered with parchment paper and roast for about 25 minutes, until just tender.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the celery, leeks and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the apples and thyme and cook over moderately high heat until the apples just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Add the bread, chestnuts, parsley, cream and stock and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the squash cut side up. Spoon the stuffing into the cavities and bake until the squash are tender and the stuffing is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.

winterproduce1

Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons browning and seasoning sauce, such as Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup butternut squash, fresh cooked or frozen and thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Trim fat from beef. Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch pieces.

In an ovenproof 4-quart Dutch oven heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Cook meat, half at a time, until browned, stirring frequently. Remove meat from the Dutch oven.

In the same Dutch oven cook celery, carrots, parsnips and onion in the remaining oil for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables start to brown. Stir in wine and rosemary.

Add the 1 1/2 cups water, beef broth and Kitchen Bouquet; cook and stir over medium heat until boiling, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Place pan, covered, in the oven and bake about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

For the polenta:

In a medium saucepan combine milk and 1/4 cup water; bring to boiling. In a medium bowl stir together the 1 cup cold water and polenta or cornmeal. Slowly add the polenta mixture to the boiling milk mixture. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in squash, salt and pepper.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture is very thick, stirring frequently, and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a slow boil.

To finish the stew:

Stir together the 1/4 cup cold water and flour. Add to the meat mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 1 minute more.

Spoon soft polenta into shallow serving bowls. Top with braised meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley leaves.

winterproduce6

Upside-Down Cranberry-Ginger Cake

Ingredients

Topping:

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

For the topping:

Heat a 9-inch round cake pan over medium heat and coat the pan with cooking spray. Add brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons butter to pan, stirring until melted. Stir in ginger; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; arrange cranberries on top of the brown sugar mixture.

For the cake:

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine 1/4 cup butter and granulated sugar in an electric mixer bowl; beat at high speed until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; mix well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer at medium speed until stiff peaks form in another bowl. Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter over cranberries in the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 15 minutes; run a knife around outside edge. Place a plate upside down on top of the cake pan; invert cake onto plate.


homemadegifts

When it comes to giving this holiday season, be creative and make a truly personal gift for your friends and family. Homemade mixes are also one of the best Christmas gifts. There’s nothing like a homemade food gift, beautifully packaged along with recipe cards, to add warmth to the holidays.

homemadegifts1

Almond Granola

Makes about 8 cups

  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3 cups raw almonds, sliced

Directions

Adjust the oven rack to an upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon in large bowl. Whisk in oil. Fold in oats and almonds until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet, spread across sheet into a thin, even layer (about 3/8-inch thick). Using a stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

Bake until lightly browned, 50 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break into pieces of desired size and package in decorative containers for gifts.

homemadegifts2

Apple Tea Mix

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons loose green tea
  • 2 tablespoons snipped crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 6 dried apple slices
  • 6 3-inch cinnamon sticks

Directions
In a small bowl combine tea, crystallized ginger, allspice and cloves. Divide tea mixture and dried apple slices among six paper tea filters. Tie the tops of the filters with kitchen string, tying a cinnamon stick at the top of each. Place filled tea filters inside six decorative heat-proof mugs.

Attach the following directions for serving:

To Make Spiced Apple Tea: Add 6 to 8 ounces of hot water to one mug. Add a tea bag and let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bag. Place cinnamon stick in the mug and serve.

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Hazelnut Brownie Mix

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces milk or dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/3 cup mini marshmallows

Directions

In a 1-quart decorative  jar layer sugar, cocoa powder and chopped chocolate. In a small bowl stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Spoon over chocolate in the jar. Top with hazelnuts and marshmallows; fasten lid.

Attach the following directions for making brownies.

To Make Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan. Grease the foil; set pan aside.

In a large bowl whisk together 2/3 cup melted butter and 3 eggs until well combined. Add the contents of the jar to the butter mixture; stir until well combined. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes. (Moist crumbs will remain attached to wooden toothpick inserted near center of brownies). Cool brownies in the pan on a wire rack. Use foil to lift uncut brownies out of the pan. Place on a cutting board. Cut into bars.

homemadegifts4

Coconut-Pecan Muffin Mix

Makes: 1 gift (4½ cups)

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • One 7-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut (2 2/3 cups)
  • 3/4 cup pecans (chopped)
  • 12 muffin paper cup liners

Directions
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugars and salt. Mix in the coconut and pecans.
Transfer the mix to a resealable decorative paper bag.  Wrap with ribbon and affix with a label and a gift tag with the baking instructions.

Copy the following instructions on a gift tag or label to include with your gift:

“Heat oven to 350º F. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 large eggs and ¾ cup canola oil. Add the muffin mix and stir just until combined. Divide among the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin lined with the paper liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.”

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Chocolate Truffles

4 dozen truffles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Coarsely chop both chocolates and set aside.

Heat the cream and instant coffee in a saucepan, stirring to blend. When bubbles start to form along the edge of the pan, remove from the heat. Scatter the chocolate over the cream, stirring gently until melted. Set aside for 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the liqueur and vanilla. Stir gently, just until evenly blended. Scrape the chocolate into a shallow bowl. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Using a teaspoon or a melon baller, scoop up enough chocolate to make balls 1 inch in diameter. Place the balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Thoroughly combine the cocoa and powdered sugar in a bowl, making sure all the lumps are removed. Roll the balls in the cocoa mixture, shaking off the excess, then transfer to wax paper. Place each truffle in a candy paper cup and package in a decorative gift boxes.


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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.

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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.

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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.


Thanksgiving-pies

They’re simple, they’re American and, come Thanksgiving, everybody saves room for them. The recipes below for apple, pumpkin and pecan pie have been a tradition in my family for many, many years. It would not be Thanksgiving without them. I share these recipes with you and you can make them even if you do not celebrate Thanksgiving in your country.

Pie Crust for Apple and Pecan Pies

You will need three pie crusts for the Apple and Pecan Pies. You can double the recipe below and freeze the extra crust for another day or make one double and half of a double for the apple and pecan pies. I use a different crust for the Pumpkin Pie because my recipe needs a larger, deeper crust.

Classic Double Pie Crust

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup trans-free vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum
  • 10 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 10 tablespoons ice water

Directions

Whisk together the flour and salt. Add the shortening, working it in until the mixture is crumbly.

Cut the butter into small (about ½”) cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work it in with your fingers, a pastry cutter or a mixer. Don’t be too thorough; the mixture should be very uneven, with big chunks of butter in among the smaller ones.

Add 4 tablespoons of water and toss to combine. Add enough additional water to make a chunky, fairly cohesive mixture. It should hold together when you gather it up and squeeze it in your hand.

Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk. Smooth the disks and the edges with floured hands. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes, or even overnight.

When you’re ready to make the pie, remove the crust from the refrigerator, leaving it wrapped. Allow it to warm a bit until it’s softened enough to roll, but still feels cold to the touch.

Next, measure the bottom diameter and up the sides of your pie pan. For example, if your pan is 7 inches across the bottom and 1 ½ inches up each side, that’s a total of 10 inches. This means you should roll your bottom crust to a diameter between 11 and 12 inches, which gives you enough extra pastry for crimping the edges.

Place the crust on a floured work surface and roll it to the desired width.

Place the crust in the pan by folding in quarters and placing it in the pan. Unfold the pastry and center it in the pan.

For a single-crust pie:

Fold the edges of the crust under and gently squeeze them together. Crimp, as desired. It’s good to make a tall crimped edge for a single-crust pie that is fairly liquid, such as pumpkin or custard.

For a double-crust pie:

Leave the edges of the bottom crust as is (no crimping). Once you’ve added the pie filling, roll out the top crust to the outside diameter of your pan and place it on top of the filling. Trim the excess crust with a pair of scissors; then press the two edges together.

Crimp, as desired. A simple fork crimp is fast and easy. At this point, it helps to return the pie to the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes; this chills the fat, which ultimately increases the crust’s flakiness. Cut a hole in the center of the crust for steam to escape or slash the pie’s top surface several times. Brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired.

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Pecan Pie

Single Crust, recipe above. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

For the filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl to blend. Mix in 3/4 cup pecans.

Pour into the prepared crust. Sprinkle with remaining 1 ¼ cups of pecans. Bake the pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

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Apple Pie

Double Crust, recipe above.

For the Filling

  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled McIntosh apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 6 cups thinly sliced peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

To prepare filling:

Combine apples, brown sugar, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, flour and salt in a large bowl.

To assemble & bake the pie:

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 425°F.

Roll out half of the dough as directed in the recipe above and invert the dough into a 9 1/2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Pour the filling into the crust, mounding it higher in the center than on the sides of the pan.

Roll out the second crust and invert the dough onto the top of fruit. Tuck the top crust under the bottom crust, sealing the two together and making a rolled edge. Flute the edge with your fingers.

Combine the coarse sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl. Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar. Cut 6 steam vents in the top crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes; reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes more.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 1 1/2 hours before serving.

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Pumpkin Pie

Pie Crust Ingredients

This recipe makes enough for a single deep dish crust.

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) olive or vegetable oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons (1 1/2 to 2 ounces) water

Directions

You will need a 9 inch pie pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep.

Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. This can be done right in the pie pan, if you like.

Whisk together the oil and water in a measuring cup; then pour over the dry ingredients.

Stir with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened. Pat the dough across the bottom of the pie pan and up the sides. A flat-bottomed measuring cup can help you make the bottom even.

Press the dough up the sides of the pan with your fingers and flute the top. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Pumpkin Pie Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups fresh cooked pumpkin
  • 1 cup half & half

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugars, flour, salt and spices.

In a large measuring cup, beat together the eggs, pumpkin and half & half. Whisk into the dry ingredients.

For best flavor, cover and refrigerate the filling overnight before baking.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

When the oven is hot, place the pie pan with the chilled crust on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell and place the baking sheet in the oven on the center rack.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling is set 2 inches in from the edge. The center should still be wobbly. Remove the pie from the oven and cool on a rack; the center will finish cooking through as the pie sits.

Tips

  • This recipe makes enough filling to generously fill a 9 inch pan that’s at least 1 1/2 inches deep. If your pan isn’t quite that big, you can bake any leftover filling in custard cups; they will take 25 to 30 minutes to cook.
  • Pumpkin pie filling is basically a custard; the eggs in the filling will continue cooking as the heat from the edge of the pie moves toward the center, which is why it’s important to remove the pie from the oven before the center is completely set. Leaving it in the oven too long will cause the eggs to overcook, tightening the proteins and causing the pie to crack in the center.
  • Mixing the filling a day in advance (refrigerate until using) will improve the flavor of this pie by giving the spices’ flavors a chance to blend.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.


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.

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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.

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