Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Desserts

fall fruits

Most people think of summer as the time for the best produce, but autumn is the season that gives us great fruit for baking. First of all, fall is apple picking season, and that means lots of muffins, pies, cakes and tarts all filled with sweet and tart apples. Then Bartlett pears arrive, followed by Bosc and Comice pears and Anjou pears in winter. Other fall fruits would be figs and cranberries, which are healthy and delicious.

This time of year the whole world seems to go pumpkin-crazy. Pumpkin ends up in almost every recipe, whether it’s drinks, breakfast, pasta or pastries. Besides pumpkin, other winter squash such as butternut and acorn are available for sweet as well as savory recipes.

There are some spices that are associated with fall recipes. Those spices are warm, nutty, slightly spicy and slightly sweet. They include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, chai, allspice, mace, star anise, cardamom, coriander, fennel and peppercorns.

Make your own Spice Blends

To make pumpkin pie spice blend, combine 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 2 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground allspice and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix thoroughly. Keep the mixture in a tightly sealed jar in your pantry.

To make apple pie spice blend, combine 4 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground allspice, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight container.

All these delicious, healthy fruits are in season now.

  • Apple
  • Bananas
  • Dried Fruit
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pomegranate

apple crisp

Apple and Cranberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • 8 cups thinly sliced, peeled baking apples (8 medium)
  • 1 ½ cups cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon

Topping

  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a 2-quart rectangular baking dish combine apples, cranberries and apple juice.

In a small bowl stir together granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice. Sprinkle over fruit mixture; toss gently to coat.

For the topping:

In a medium bowl stir together oats, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle topping over fruit mixture.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm.

Bread Dough

Use this recipe for the fig rolls.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups warm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2  cups bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Directions

In a 2-quart mixing bowl stir together the warm water and yeast until yeast is dissolved. Stir in flours, sugar, oil, and salt until combined. Cover with lid or plastic wrap; let stand in a warm place for 1 hour. Stir down. Cover and chill overnight. Before baking, let dough stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.

fig rolls

Italian Fig Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried figs
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 pound bread dough, recipe above and made the day before
  • 2 ounces Brie cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

Line a 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil. Grease foil; set aside.

For the filling:

In a small bowl combine figs, snipped sage and honey; set aside.

Cut dough into 12 equal portions. Shape dough portions into balls.

Working with one dough ball at a time, flatten it to a 3-inch circle. Top with a rounded teaspoon of the filling and a few pieces of the cheese. Fold dough over filling; pinch edges to seal.

Place rolls, seam side down, in the prepared baking pan. Cover and let rise until double in size (1 to 1-1/4 hours).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl whisk together egg white and the water; brush lightly over rolls. Gently press small sage leaves onto the tops of the rolls; brush again with the egg white mixture.

Bake about 20 minutes or until golden. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

fall desserts

Mini Cheesecakes with Pear Topping

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 4 cups sliced fresh pears (4 medium)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Garnish

  • 1/4 cup broken walnuts,toasted
  • Crumbled blue cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Line eight 2-1/2-inch muffin cups with foil or paper baking cups or lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

For the crust:

In a small bowl stir together oats, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Spoon about 2 rounded tablespoons of oat mixture into each prepared muffin cup. Using the bottom of a narrow glass, press down lightly. Bake about 8 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat just until combined. Stir in the 1/2 cup blue cheese and the sour cream.

Spoon 1 well-rounded tablespoon of filling into each muffin cup. Bake about 20 minutes or until slightly puffed and set. Cool about 30 minutes.

Remove from muffin cups. Place on a tray, cover, and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

For the pear topping:

In a large skillet melt the 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and the cream. Cook and stir until bubbly; add pears. Cook about 5 minutes or until pears are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Cool slightly.

To serve:

Remove foil or paper liners from cheesecakes. Place cheesecakes in eight deep dessert dishes. Spoon pear mixture around cheesecakes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup toasted walnuts and additional blue cheese, if desired.

donuts

Baked Pumpkin Doughnuts

12 doughnuts

Doughnuts

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (canned pumpkin)
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Coating

  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, optional
  • 2 tablespoons REAL maple syrup, optional

donut pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans (see photo). If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Beat together the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, spices, salt and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flour, stirring just until smooth.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans about 3/4 full; use a scant 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

If you’re making muffins, fill each cup about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean.

If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 23 to 25 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, loosen their edges and transfer them to a rack to cool.

While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently shake them in a bag with the cinnamon-sugar.

If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops with the cinnamon-sugar.

Optional: combine the powdered sugar with the maple syrup and drizzle the cinnamon coated donuts with the glaze.

Cool completely, and store (not wrapped tight) at room temperature for several days.

french toast

Apple French Toast Bake

Make ahead breakfast.

French Toast

  • 1 day old Italian bread, about 18″ to 20″ long (12 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 5 to 6 apples (1 3/4 to 2 pounds fresh apples), peeled and thinly sliced; such as Macoun, Empire, Cortland or Granny Smith
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Optional Garnish

  • Cinnamon-sugar
  • Maple syrup

Directions

Lightly butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or similar-sized casserole dish.

Slice the bread into 1 inch slices; you’ll need about 20 slices to fill the pan. Place the slices of bread into the pan. Be sure the entire bottom of the dish is covered with bread. You may have to cut some slices to fit.

In a medium-sized bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt.

Pour this mixture over the bread and let it soak in while you prepare the topping.

Peel and slice the apples thinly. Mix them with the remaining topping ingredients and spread them over the bread in the pan.

To bake immediately, preheat the oven to 375°F.

To bake up to 48 hours later, cover the pan, and refrigerate.

Bake the French toast in a preheated 375°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft and the eggs set.

If it’s been refrigerated, remove the cover, and bake for 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.

Makes about 10 servings.

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gardens

In 1630 the Barbarigo family,  a powerful noble family from the Republic of Venice, owned most of the land in Valsanzibio. They took refuge in this location to escape the black plague outbreak that was spreading throughout Venice and the rest of Europe and that had already killed the wife of Zuane Francesco Barbarigo. Soon after, Zuane Francesco made a solemn vow that, if the rest of his family would be spared from this terrible disease, he would create a spiritual masterwork.

This vow was completed by his son, Gregorio and his grandsons. The garden plans were drawn by Luigi Bernini, a distinguished Vatican architect, and the sculptures were completed by Enrico Merengo (1628 – 1723), who was a well-known sculptor in Venice. The garden contains seventy statues all of which have engraved inscriptions. Symbolism abounds around every corner and down every path, as the gardens were designed to serve as an allegory of man’s progress towards perfection.

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Diane’s Pavilion or ‘Diane’s Doorway’ was the main entrance by water to the Barbarigo estate in the 17th and 18th century and was one of the first works in Bernini’s project. This impressive doorway represents one of the most important areas of the complex, in fact, it was not only the entrance to the Barbarigo estate, but it represented, as it does still today, the beginning of one’s salvation’s itinerary, desired by Gregorio Barbarigo in the plans. Just in front of the doorway, on its outside, on two solid pillars, are the  Barbarigo shields held up by two statues representing angels with a peaceful attitude. Thirteen other statues adorn the area.

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The sculptures depict a world of buildings, streams, waterfalls, fountains, small ponds, game and fish ponds and hundreds of different trees and plants all over an area of more than 10 hectares (over 24 acres).

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The labyrinth paths were created with six thousand boxwood plants, many of which are almost 400 years old, since they were planted between 1664-1669. The pruning work takes fifteen hundred hours of work, with the help of manual and mechanical cutters, ladders, levels and plumbed lines. The maze of labyrinths represent the complex voyage toward achieving human perfectibility. The paths are designed to disorient the visitor by the high boxwood walls, The right path to arrive at the exit is never the shorter one. Every promising shortcut considerably lengthens the walk or ends up in a dead-end. Symbolically teaching: whoever mends his way and finds the right path, will have to avoid repeating errors.

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This symbolic garden was awarded the first prize, as ‘the most beautiful garden in Italy’ in 2003 and as the third most beautiful garden in Europe in 2007.

The gardens are near Padua (Italian: Padova) Italy. The city is sometimes included with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, The city is the home of the University of Padua, almost 800 years old and famous, among other things, for having had Galileo Galilei among its lecturers. Padua is also the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.

Padua Hens

Paduan Hens

The culinary tradition of Padua has its roots in the simple produce of the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard. Farmland products are represented by the well-known Paduan hen. Paduan hens are an ancient breed (a favorite subject of 16th-century European painters) of small crested and bearded chickens from the surrounding province of Padova, in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, The Paduan hen is distinguished by the splendor of its plumage and elegant form. The crest is replaced by a tuft of long feathers on the head, which gives the appearance of a chrysanthemum flower in the male or of a hydrangea in the female.

DOC wines are produced in five areas and Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes exclusively from the area of the Euganean Hills. All varieties of chicory (a bitter green) are cultivated in the countryside of Padua. Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, a specialty of the area, has a festival designated in its honor on the third Sunday of May.

gardens01

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • One-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, about a packed half cup)
  • 1/2 of a small onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil  
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 g) short-grained rice, for example Arborio or Vialone Nano
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained and added to chicken broth to equal 4 cups
  • One bunch parsley, minced
  • 1 cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Steep the porcini in one cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drain and reserve the mushroom water. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.

Strain the mushroom water and add chicken broth to equal 4 cups. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Slice the onion finely and sauté it in oil in another large saucepan. Stir in the rice and cook for several minutes, until it becomes translucent, stirring constantly.

Add the wine and continue stirring until it has evaporated completely. Then stir in the first ladle of the chicken broth.

Add the mushrooms, 3/4 teaspoon salt and continue adding broth, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally.

About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning and add more salt if needed.

As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, a little ground pepper, the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the risotto for two minutes. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.

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Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Since Padua hens are not available everywhere, I offer an alternative.

Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens, about 1 lb each
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 24 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in the cavity of each hen. Place in a large, heavy roasting pan and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over the hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with the pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.

gardens02

Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

SYRUP:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons limoncello
  • 3 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers, split

LEMON CURD: or 1 (10-12 ounce) Jar Lemon Curd

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups cold water
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, plus extra for garnish

FILLING:

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) Mascarpone cheese

Directions

For the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in limoncello; set aside.

For lemon curd: in another saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from the heat.

Stir a small amount of hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Return to the heat and bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat. Stir in butter. Gently stir in lemon juice and peel. Cool to room temperature without stirring.

For the filling: In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold cheese and whipped cream into lemon curd.

Arrange a third of the ladyfingers on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Drizzle with a third of the syrup; spread with a third of the filling. Repeat layers twice.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Carefully run a knife around edge of the pan to loosen. Remove the sides of the pan. Garnish the top with lemon zest and mint, if desired. Yield: 16 servings.

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EPSON DSC picture

Milan is the home of Italy’s stock exchange, the Gothic cathedral – the Duomo, one of Europe’s biggest trade-fair complexes, famous nightclubs, the prestigious opera house, La Scala, A.C. Milan (football) and endless opportunities to eat the best of Lombard’s Italian food. Milan is also the fashion icon of Italy and houses millions of residents in this northern city located south of the Italian Alps. Milan is very close to several other cities, such as Venice and Florence, and attractions, such as the Alpine ski slopes or the seashore villages of Liguria and Cinque Terre. The fashion quarter is not only known for major designers in the industry, such as, Valentino, Gucci, Kenzo and Yves Saint Laurent but, also, for many small boutique stores and fashionable shops.

milan

Milan’s cuisine features many specialties. Pasta dishes, such as “tortelli di zucca”, which is ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, “zuppa pavese” (broth with bread and eggs) and “zuppa di porri e bietole” (soup made with leeks and swiss chard). Polenta topped with mushrooms or meat sauce is typically served during the winter. Risotto alla Milanese, Osso Buco, breaded veal cutlet, pork chops or roast beef are typical main dishes. Cheese is a must on the Milanese table at the end of the meal. The cheeses that are eaten in Milan come from the surrounding countryside and alpine valleys. Among the most popular are Bagoss, Brescia cheese, Caprini, Crescenza or Stracchino, soft cheeses flavored with mountain herbs and, of course, Gorgonzola, eaten alone or served over risotto and polenta. You will notice that the dishes in Milan are based on more high calorie ingredients such as butter and sausages, supposedly due to the fact that the winters are long.

Milanese Dinner

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Appetizer Course

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Polenta e Gorgonzola

Servings 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup gorgonzola blue cheese
  • Chopped herbs, such as rosemary or sage
  • Coarse ground black pepper

For the polenta:

  • 13 oz polenta (not quick cooking)
  • 7 cups water or milk or a combination
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions

Boil the water and/or the milk, add salt and butter.

Pour the polenta into the boiling water, slowly and mixing well with a whisk.

Cover and let simmer over low heat for 60 minutes.

Grease a large baking tray and pour the polenta onto the pan, spreading it with a spatula: it should be around 1/4 inch thick, let it cool.

With a decorative 2 inch cookie or biscuit cutter make 24 circles.

Spread the gorgonzola cheese over half of the circles, cover with the other half and decorate with a walnut on the top, herbs and black pepper.

Serve warm, heating for 5 minutes in the oven

First Course

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Leek and Swiss Chard Soup – Zuppa Di Porri E Bietole

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8 ounces swiss chard, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 cups stock ( vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

In a large saucepan over low heat, cook the leeks in the butter and oil until tender and golden.

Add the Swiss chard and stock and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the chard wilts, about 10 minutes.

Add the rice, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook over low heat about 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked.

Stir in cheese and serve.

Main Course

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Italian Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing

During the autumn season in Italy, turkey is often made with a stuffing of chestnuts and sausage. The wild turkey was brought to Europe from the New World and, once domesticated, became one of the large courtyard fowl animals in Lombardy. With Italy being one of the largest producers of chestnuts, it was natural to use them in a stuffing.

Ingredients

  • Chestnut Stuffing, (recipe below)
  • 1 12-to-14-pound turkey
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Make Chestnut Stuffing.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a large roasting pan and a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Remove the giblets, neck and any visible fat from the turkey. Rub the cavity with lemon halves, squeezing them as you go. Make a few tiny slits in the skin under the wings, where the legs join the body and in the thickest part of the breast. Stuff each slit with a piece of rosemary and sage.

Stuff the cavity and neck pouch with about 5 cups of the stuffing, securing the neck cavity with a skewer. Place remaining stuffing in the prepared baking dish; cover and refrigerate until needed.

Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Place bacon slices across the breast. Tie the drumsticks together.

Place the turkey, breast-side up, in the prepared roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour. Pour the wine over the turkey and baste a few times. Continue to roast for 2 hours more, basting with the pan juices several times and roast until the turkey is done, an additional 30 to 60 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh should register 180°F and 165°F in the stuffing.) Total cooking time will be 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

About 40 minutes before the turkey is ready, cover the reserved stuffing with a lid or foil and bake until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes. If you like a crisp top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking.

When the turkey is ready, place it on a carving board or platter. Scoop stuffing into a serving bowl, cover and keep warm. Tent the turkey with foil.

Place the roasting pan over medium heat and pour in the broth; bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Cook for 5 minutes and transfer to a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl; add to the simmering sauce, whisking until lightly thickened.

Remove string from the drumsticks and carve the turkey. Serve with stuffing and gravy.

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Chestnut Stuffing

Ingredients

  • Two 7 1/2-ounce jars vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts
  • 8 cups cubed country bread, (1 pound)
  • 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, diced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1-1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Break the chestnut meat into chunks. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spread bread on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 15 to 25 minutes. Set aside.

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Wipe out the skillet.

Add oil to the skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add mushrooms and fennel and increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Combine the reserved chestnuts, toasted bread, sausage, onion-mushroom mixture, parsley, thyme, sage, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss until well mixed.

Whisk eggs and 1 cup broth in a small bowl. Drizzle the egg mixture over the bread mixture and toss until evenly moistened. If you like a moist stuffing, add remaining 1/2 cup broth.

Use as directed in Roast Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing or place in a 3-quart baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray, cover with a lid or foil and bake at 325°F until heated through, 35 to 45 minutes. If you like a crisp top, uncover for the last 15 minutes of baking.

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Broccoli with Orange Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • Juice of 1 medium orange
  • 1 teaspoon orange peel, grated
  • 1 medium navel orange, peeled and thinly sliced

Directions

Cook the broccoli in a saucepan in a small amount of salted water for about eight minutes. Drain the broccoli in a colander and place it in a serving bowl.

In the empty saucepan combine the cornstarch, chicken broth, orange juice and orange peel and stir until mixture is blended. Then bring to a boil and stir for two minutes or until it thickens. Drizzle the sauce over the broccoli. Garnish with orange slices before serving.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Pear Crostata

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chopped peeled ripe pears (about 8 medium)
  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, or your favorite pie crust
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. In medium bowl, mix the 1/2 cup sugar and the flour. Gently stir in the pears to coat.

Place the pie crust on a parchment lined 15×10 inch pan with sides.

Spoon the pear mixture onto center of the crust to within 2 inches of the edge. Carefully fold the 2-inch edge of crust up over pear mixture, pleating crust slightly as you go along the circle. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over the crust edge.

Bake 15 minutes and sprinkle almonds over the pear mixture. Continue to bake 5 more minutes until the pears are tender and the crust is golden. Cool 15 minutes. Cut into wedges; serve warm.

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Valt2Valtellina or the Valtelline (occasionally spelled as two words in English: Val Telline) is a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland. Today, it is known for its ski center, hot spring spas, bresaola, cheeses and wines. In past centuries, it was a key alpine pass between northern Italy and Germany and control of the Valtelline was much sought after, particularly during the Thirty Years’ War.

The earliest settlements date back to prehistoric times: prior to the Roman conquest, the area was inhabited by Rhaetians and Celts.Thanks to its strategic position at a crossroads on one of the main routes connecting northern Italy with the trans alpine regions (the Via Imperiale d’Alemagna), it was already being fought over in the 10th century by various potentates, passing from one ruling power to the next (the bishops of Cosmo and Chur, the Visconti and Sforza families, France and Spain), although it maintained its municipal independence thanks to a 14th – century statute that gave its residents special rights and privileges and helped it become a commercial center.

Valt

Valtellina is also an area of great natural beauty. Nature lovers and sports enthusiasts come here to enjoy a whole range of outdoor pursuits all year round, in a valley dominated by some of the most beautiful and best-known mountains in the Alps. Its internationally renowned tourist resorts have been attracting skiers and mountaineers from Italy and abroad since the 19th century. The best skiing resorts are Bormio, Santa Caterina Valfurva, Livigno, Aprica and Madesimo, the venue of such international events as the 1985 and 2005 World Alpine Skiing Championships.

Ski Trails

Ski Trails

The Stelvio National Park, one of Europe’s largest protected areas covering 134.620 hectares of central Alpine territory, straddles two italian regions: Lombardy and Trentino Alto Adige. The idea to protect this area in the Italian alps was first proposed at the beginning of the 20th century, although the law creating the park was not approved until 1935, and only as recently as 1977 were its present borders defined. The scenery of the park, which ranges in altitude from 650 to 3905 meters (over 12,000 feet), includes glaciers, alpine pasture, extensive woodland, agricultural holdings with farmsteads inhabited all year round, glacial lakes and mountain streams.

Stelvio National Park

Stelvio National Park

Other areas of natural interest include: the Valtellina Orobian Alps Regional Park, the Acqua Fraggia Waterfalls and several nature reserves (Marmitte dei Giganti, Pian di Spagna and Lake Mezzola, the Postalesio Pyramids, the Bordighi Forest, Pian di Gembro and Paluaccio di Oga.

Valtellina’s grapes are grown on the mountain slopes in an east-west direction, which means maximum light exposure:, so the vineyards enjoy similar sunshine hours to those in Sicily. Vines are almost all planted on terraces carved into the granite and slate rock. All grape picking is by hand, as is the heavy work of hauling grapes up and down the slopes – around three-times more man-hours are required to work these vines than the gentler slopes of Piedmont. A few growers have invested in funicular transporters and even helicopters to aid in this back-breaking work. Nebbiolo has always been the only grape variety bottled in the region’s red wines, though recently some experimental plantings of Merlot and Pinot Noir are being watched with interest.

Mountain Vineyards

Mountain Vineyards

A number of ingredients make up pizzocheri; a local pasta made with a grain known as grano saraceno. This is a medium-width pasta much like fettuccine that is cooked with casera, a local cow’s milk cheese and a cabbage known as verza, which has a blend of sweet and slightly bitter flavors.

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Valt6Other famous foods of Valtellina include bresaola, a cured meat served in an antipasti. This is usually made from beef, but sometimes a restaurant will serve bresaola made from deer, written on the menu as cerva. The most famous food from here is Bitto, a D.O.P. cheese that is aged for various periods ranging from 70 days to 10 years. Primarily a cow’s milk cheese (up to 10 percent goat’s milk may be added) and is made only during the summer in the area’s mountain dairies.

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VALTELLINA PIZZOCHERi

Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®

Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 400 g of buckwheat flour
  • 100 g white flour
  • 200 g of butter
  • 250 g of cheese Valtellina Casera DOP (protected origin den.ne)
  • 150 g of grated parmesan cheese in
  • 200 g of cabbage
  • 250 g of potatoes
  • a clove of garlic, pepper

Preparation:

Mix the two flours, mix with water and work for about 5 minutes.

With a rolling-pin roll the dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm which are derived from the bands 7 -8 cm. Overlap the strips and cut widthwise, tagliatelle getting about 5 millimeters wide. Bake the vegetables in salted water, the cabbage into small pieces and potatoes into chunks, add the pizzocheri after 5 minutes ( the potatoes are always present, while cabbage can be replaced, according to the seasons, with ribbed or green beans.)After about ten minutes to collect pizzocheri with a slotted spoon and pour a part in a very hot pan, sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and Valtellina Casera dop flakes Continue alternating pizzocheri and cheese. Fry the butter with the garlic color leaving for good, before pouring it on pizzocheri. pizzocheri. Without stirring serve hot with a sprinkling of pepper.

The Cuisine of Valtellina

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Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)

Bresaola is cured, air-dried beef typically made in the Valtellina area of Lombardy. Lean and tender with a little added salt, it is perfect in salads. It is readily available in Italian delis and larger supermarkets.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices bread
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-5 Romaine lettuce leaves, separated
  • A small handful arugula
  • 4 oz radishes, sliced
  • 20 black olives
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled and quartered
  • 3 oz bresaola, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons finely shaved fresh
  • Parmesan, shaved

Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, left whole

Directions

Remove the crusts from the bread and slice into small triangles. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the bread and fry on both sides until golden. Remove and place on a plate.

Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk together until the dressing is creamy. Remove the garlic clove from the dressing.

Arrange the lettuce leaves, arugula, radishes and olives on a serving dish, drizzle with the dressing and toss well. Arrange the eggs, bresaola and fried bread on top and scatter the Parmesan shavings over all.

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Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese

It is generally served with salami and pickles.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups polenta mixed with 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup butter plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1/4 pound casera cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter an oven proof dish with 3 tablespoons butter and set aside. In a 6 quart sauce pan, heat 8 cups water to a boil. Whisking furiously, slowly drizzle in mixed flours until all are incorporated. Switch to a wooden spoon.and cook until the texture is thickened. Add the butter and cheese. Stir through and pour into baking dish. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, remove and serve immediately.

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Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless sirloin pork chops, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in scallions and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate.

Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet and heat. Add pork and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and meat is slightly pink when pierced in the center with the tip of a sharp knife, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with flour and stir with a wooden spoon to coat the pork.

Add wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits in pan with wooden spoon. Return the vegetables to the pan and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.

Makes 4 servings

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Bisciola

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup Grappa, Port or Marsala (dessert wine)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of whole milk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 packet (¼-ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt, rye or whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • A pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (about 15) dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg yolk plus 1 teaspoon water, for brushing dough top

Directions

Combine raisins and grappa or dessert wine in a bowl. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium until just warm. Transfer to a mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

While yeast is foaming, put flour, salt and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. With mixer at medium-low, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture.

Mix until well blended, then add the remaining flour mixture along with the butter and egg yolk. Mix for five minutes on low.

Drain raisins, discarding the liquid. Add raisins, figs and all the nuts to the dough. Mix on low until just incorporated.

Remove the bowl from mixer and knead dough with your hands to finish incorporating ingredients and forming a stiff, wet dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out on the prepared pan and form the dough into an 8-inch oval loaf. Cover with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened towel.

Let rest at room temperature until double in size, about 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of oven.

In a small bowl, beat 1 egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Brush dough with the egg mixture then bake, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove and cool on wire rack. Will last 4 to 5 days wrapped in plastic.

Related Articles


Pumpkin1

Except for a Halloween display and its use in Thanksgiving pies, pumpkin is rarely served in the US. On the other hand, Italians, who grow a great deal of pumpkins, serve it in a number of ways. Cucurbitaceae, the genus that includes pumpkins, squashes and edible gourds, has nourished people for centuries.

Of all of Italy’s gastronomically diverse 20 regions, none utilizes the pumpkin the way the city of Venice does. Pumpkin, what the Venetians call zucca  or”suca”, lasts through the cold weather and keeps until spring.

Marina di Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh’-jah),  is Italy’s best known pumpkin. Dense, flavorful and silky, this pumpkin weighs about 4 lbs.  Called “suca baruca” (warty pumpkin) in Venetian dialect, this slightly squashed sphere with gnarled, dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh is rich and sweet after cooking. Once, vendors walked around the streets of Venice balancing wooden planks piled high with roasted pumpkin on their shoulders, hawking, “suca baruc”, to eager schoolchildren or anyone else wanting a sugary snack.

The “suca” criers are gone, replaced by souvenir peddlers, but Chioggia pumpkins have become universally loved in Italy and beyond, and vendors with their big golden wedges of pumpkin still sell in the markets from the Rialto to Sicily. There are other types of pumpkins that are long, such as the Violina from Ferrara (a variety of Butternut squash) with rugged skin. Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. This is the reason why Butternut squash is called “pumpkin” in Italy.

pumpkin

pumpkin3The Chioggia’s ancient signature dish, suca in saor, is sweet-and-sour pumpkin. Slices of pumpkin are salted in a colander, as for eggplant, to remove excess moisture. Next they are dredged in flour and fried in olive oil until crisp. Then they are layered with sautéed onions, raisins, toasted pine nuts and white wine vinegar. The dish is chilled for several days before serving it as an appetizer.

The US could grow Marina di Chioggia pumpkin, if there was a demand for it, though its sheer size would discourage shipping it to different markets. Widely available, however, are pie pumpkins, butternut squash and Calabaza that can be used in for Italian sweet and savory dishes or pies.

Overall, the Cucurbitaceae family’s bland and its compact flesh makes these squash an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet recipes the Italians cook. The blossoms are prepared in a variety of unusual ways, while the pulp is made into soup, risotto, pasta and gnocchi, to name just a few dishes.

They can also be used for savory pumpkin tarts with prosciutto and sweet versions made with pumpkin-honey-orange filling in a walnut-flour crust.

Pumpkin2

Italian Squash Stew

The combination of fresh pumpkin, black dry-cured olives, garlic and tomatoes may sound unusual, but it is a very aromatic dish. Pumpkin or squash alone is bland, but the dry-cured olives and garlic give it great flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato purée, or ½ cup tomato paste mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 medium-sized butternut or Hubbard squash or 1 small pumpkin (about 1½ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 20 black dry-cured olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and garlic together until the garlic is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, stir and bring slowly to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Add the squash, olives, thyme and 3/4 cup water. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.

Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat gently before serving.

This dish can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  onions, chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced into half rounds
  • 1 29-ounce can of pumpkin or 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne to taste
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook and stir until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Mix well. If using fresh pumpkin, cook until it softens slightly.

Add chicken broth , sage and thyme. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the broth thickens.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Stir the sausage into the soup and heat.

Serve the soup with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese on top.

pumpkin4

Pumpkin Pasta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for pasta water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup half & half or whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer. Add salt and the rigatoni and boil until al dente.

Dice the onion and garlic.

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sauté for about five minutes, until the onion and garlic are translucent and just starting to brown.

Combine the salt, Italian seasoning and flour. Add to the onions and garlic and carefully stir to incorporate. Next, add the pumpkin puree to the pan, stirring it together. Add the half & half or milk to the mixture. Give it a gentle stir until incorporated and remove the pan from the heat.

Drain the pasta and place it in a large baking dish. Add the pumpkin sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan cheese over the pasta and place the dish in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is hot in the center of the baking dish and the cheese has melted.

pumpkin6

Pumpkin Bread Stuffing for Roast Chicken or Pork

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups day old country bread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Cut pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, thyme and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.

Meanwhile, crumble the bread into a large bowl and add the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the beaten egg and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.

Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

To serve, cut stuffing into squares and serve with roasted meat.

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Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 2 whole graham crackers, enough to make a scant 1/3 cup crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or hazelnuts
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery:

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling

Beat together with a mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch. Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving


There are five islands in the Ligurian Sea and all are protected nature reserves or part of the collection of Italian national parks. The Ligurian Islands are characterised by their small or even tiny size and by their vicinity to the coast. These islands share two common features: their well-preserved Mediterranean vegetation with rare surviving species and the presence of ruined abbeys and monasteries dating back to the late Roman times.

Palmaria

islandspalmaria

A ferry service takes visitors to the island of Palmaria, which is a regional park: a protected area which is rich in natural beaches, cliffs, vegetation and caves that can only be reached by boat. From a tourist point of view, the island of Palmaria is the biggest and the most popular of the La Spezia Archipelago and every year thousands of tourists choose to visit its beautiful, uncontaminated beaches and crystalline waters.

It is close to the town of Portovenere, separated only by a narrow strait called Le bocche. The Palmaria island probably takes its name from the term “balma” which means cave, rather than from the presence of dwarf palms. The island offers many different landscapes: the eastern part is densely covered with Mediterranean scrub and the western side is characterized by steep sea cliffs that reach (188 m) over 600 feet high.The island also contains many interesting sights, such as the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave) in the western side which can be reached only by boat and the Grotta dei Colombi (Cave of Pigeons) accessible only with climbing ropes. Another noteworthy site is an abandoned quarry situated in the southern part of the island called Pozzale, which was used for mining black marble with gold streaks.

Tino

islandstino

The island of Tino lies beyond Palmaria. It is a military zone and is only open to visitors once a year on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio, the hermit who lived on the island in the tenth century.The area measures about 127,000 square meters and presents a triangular and rocky shape, with dense vegetation made up of maritime pines, live oaks, myrtles, mastics and strawberry trees.

A military lighthouse is located on a 400 foot (122 m) high cliff and has been a guide for thousands of boats, ships and vessels. On the eastern side there’s also a small port, the only landing-place for visitors. Nearby, there’s an archaeological area with ruins dating back to the Roman Age which prove the presence of ancient monastic settlements. In addition, on the northern coast, are the ruins of a monastery, whose construction probably dates back to 11th century.

Although the island is a military area, every year on September 13th the day of the patron St. Venerio, the island can be visited by tourists and, in addition, it is also possible to visit it with excursions organized by the Park. On the other days of the year it is strictly forbidden to land there.

Tinetto

islandstinetto

The island of Tinetto is the smallest one in the La Spezia Archipelago and is separated from Tino by just a few submerged rocks. The area is about half a hectare and doesn’t exceed 55 feet (17 meters) in height. Tino island lacks vegetation, with the exception of some Mediterranean shrubs and it hosts a rare subspecies of wall lizard, which is not present in any other corner of the world.

Tinetto had the first monastic settlement that was built in the 6th century. but it was destroyed by the Saracens. On the southern side, a small oratory remains intact along with a church with two naves to which a second oratory and the monks’ cells were linked.

Gallinara

islandsgallinara

The island of Gallinara takes its name from the wild hens (Gallina = hen in Italian) which once lived there.The island has a surface of 0.23 sq. miles and lies less than a mile from the coast, near Albenga. It is a small Island and sheltered St. Martin of Tours between 356 and 360, who was escaping from Milan in order to avoid the Aryan persecutions. It became a center for monks and subsequently, the Benedictines. The monastery extended its influence into the Riviera di Ponente in 11th century but, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the abbey gradually fell into decay. Today, the island preserves the monastery ruins, the 16th century tower and the little neo-gothic church.

The Island, with its rare Mediterranean vegetation and its uncontaminated environment has become a Regional Natural Park. The Herring Gulls chose this place to nest without being disturbed, creating one of the largest colonies in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. The less steep northern coast used to be a landing-place for the Roman ships, whose important discoveries are safeguarded in the Albenga Museum. Visitors can find Mediterranean Paleolithic flower species, rare reptiles and an unpolluted sea environment. Sea beds host several interesting and, in some cases, rare species of animal and vegetative life. The island’s vertical rock is characterized by formations of Coralligeno, whereas the northern area shows a wide area of oceanic Posidonia, a genus of flowering plants. The area surrounding the whole island is a marine conservation area. The only mooring place is on the north-western side. Its 1.86 miles coastline is steep, but the seabed is beautiful and famous for the presence of very rare black coral.

Bergeggi

islandsbergeggi

The little island of Bergeggi is a mile from the small promontory of Punta Predani. It is part of a regional protected area and it has a medium high rocky coast which is a little over 170 feet (53 meters) high. The natural environment includes the Mediterranean scrub and other species named campanula sabatia and euphorbia dendroides.The surrounding marine area was included among the conservation areas for the presence of important biological species in its sea beds.

The island has several signs which prove human settlement occurred on the island during the Roman age. One can find a very ancient circular sighting tower and the ruins of a Roman church dedicated to St. Eugenio, which dates back to the fourth century. In 992, the bishop of Savona ordered the construction of a monastery on the island to pay homage to the saint and it was given as a gift to the Colombian monks of Lérins. Today, the ruins of the monastery remain intact. Recently, a private villa was built on the island, but now it is empty and abandoned.

On the western part of the island, a pifferaio (Pied piper), a metal statue which represents a sitting human figure playing a wind instrument can be seen. According to reports, the statue represents a shepherd who’s calling a little goat from the gardens of the promontory, Torre del mare.

In all the areas, it is strictly forbidden to do any activity that might disturb the animal and plant life, such as bathing, navigation, anchorage, mooring, use of water motors, water skiing, underwater fishing, fishing or aquaculture.

The Cuisine of Liguria

The Mediterranean diet combines certain ingredients with the climate, traditions and cultures of the Mediterranean countries. Olive oil, pasta, fruit, vegetables, fish, some meat, legumes and wine are the basis of the Mediterranean diet. The word “diet” come from the Greek “diaita” that means “way of living”. Since the 1960’s, scientific research has proved that the Mediterranean people enjoy better health conditions than much of the western world.

Italy is one of the major consumers of olive oil and pasta in the world. Moreover every region can boast different types of pasta produced locally and olive oil is produced throughout much of the country. Liguria produces extra virgin olive oil that bears the certification of “origine protetta” (i.e., protected origin) and is characterised by precise qualities according to its production areas. Extra virgin olive oil that is produced in Western Liguria is characterised by a fruity aroma with hints of almond and apple and a low acidity. The oil of Western Liguria is extracted from the Taggiasca olives that are small and dark whose cultivation was introduced into Liguria by the Benedictine monks many centuries ago.

Typical foods of the Ligurian cuisine include stuffed vegetables, salads and home-made pasta (e.g., ravioli and trofie) with pesto sauce. One can also find “rabbit with Vermentino”, “dried cod brand de cujun”, “torta verde” (rice and vegetables cooked in a thin sheet of pastry) or pizzas – such as “Sardenara” with tomatoes, anchovies, olives and extra virgin olive oil.

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Leek and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

This Ligurian tart is prepared by chef Fausto Oneto at Ristorante U’ Giancu in Rapallo.

For the dough:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick)unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 ounces smoked Mozzarella or smoked Scamorza, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a round 16-inch pizza pan with low sides with olive oil.

Make the dough: Combine the flour, salt, milk, and olive oil on a counter. Add a little more milk if the dough is dry, or a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Knead 30 seconds, or until smooth, and wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the leeks and milk, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and the milk has evaporated. Add the Parmigiano, smoked Mozzarella and salt, and cool to room temperature. Adjust the salt, if needed.

Roll out the dough until it is very thin on a lightly floured counter (it should measure about 22 inches in diameter) and line the prepared pan with it, letting excess dough hang over the sides of the pan. Spoon in the leek filling. Use the overhanging dough to create a pretty border around the tart.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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Pasta with Mediterranean Herbs

Maria Rosa Costa owns the renowned Ristorante Rosa overlooking the fishing town of Camogli. Here is her recipe for pasta with Mediterranean herbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 4 sage leaves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep saute pan over a high heat. Add the rosemary, sage and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and cook 10 minutes, adding a little water, if needed.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shells and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir the pasta into the rosemary sauce and add the Parmigiano. Add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to dilute the sauce and saute until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Adjust the salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve hot.

islandfish

Ligurian Style Snapper with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 (6-ounce) pieces snapper fillet
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lightly toasted and ground fennel seeds
  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 3/4 pounds ripe but firm tomatoes, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in each of 2 baking dishes, each large enough to hold 4 pieces of fish with space in between. Put the dishes in the oven to heat the oil, but don’t let it get to the smoking point.

With a sharp utility or boning knife, make a few shallow slices through the skin of each snapper fillet to keep them from curling in the hot oil. Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel. Place the fish in the hot oil, skin side down, to coat with the oil, then immediately turn with a fish spatula so that the skin side is up. The oil is the correct temperature, if you hear a light sizzle when the fish is added.

Divide the olives between the dishes, scattering them around the fish, then splash equal amounts of wine into each dish.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fish is slightly firm and starts to flake when the tip of a knife is inserted into the flesh. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then divide them between the baking dishes, making sure they fall between the pieces of fish and into the hot pan juices. The tomatoes just need to get slightly wilted in the hot pans.

With a fish spatula, transfer the fish to warmed plates or a serving platter. Toss the basil in the olives and tomatoes and when the leaves are coated with the pan juices, spoon the mixture over the fish.

Italian-hazelnuislandcake

Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with oil.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then rub in a clean dish towel to remove the skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in a food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and lemon zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

Related articles


fallmarket

Look for these fall fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets and in produce departments for the best flavor (and greatest value) in season. Specific crops and harvest dates of fall produce will depend, of course, on your region’s climate.

Apples are one of those fruits people have forgotten have a season. But they do, and in the Northern Hemisphere they’re harvested late summer through fall.

Artichokes produce a second, smaller crop in the fall that tends to produce small to medium artichokes.

Arugula is a cool weather peppery green harvested at different times in different places (winter in warm climates, summer in cool ones) but grows in many places during autumn.

Beets are in season in temperate climates fall through spring. Fresh beets are often sold with their greens still attached.

Broccoli can be grown year-round but is more sweet, less bitter and sharp when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates.

Broccoli rabe, rapini is a more bitter, a leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.

Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk and, if you see them for sale that way, snap them up – they’ll last quite a bit longer than once they’re cut.

Cabbage – the cooler the weather when it’s harvested, the sweeter it tends to taste.

Carrots are harvested year-round in temperate areas. Unusual varieties are harvested during the carrot’s natural season, which is late summer and fall.

Cauliflower may be grown, harvested and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter.

Chard like all greens, turns bitter when it gets too hot. Chard is best harvested in late summer or early fall in colder areas, and fall through spring in warmer regions.

Fennel’s natural season is from fall through early spring.

Figs have a short second season in late fall (the first harvest comes in summer) just in time for Thanksgiving.

Grapes (early fall) ripen towards the end of summer and the harvest continues into fall.

Green beans tend to be sweetest and most tender during their natural season, from mid-summer into fall in most regions.

Kohlrabi (late fall) comes into season by the end of fall, but stays at its sweet best into winter.

Mushrooms, other than morels, are in-season in summer through fall.

Okra (early fall) needs heat to grow, so a nice long, hot summer in warmer climates brings out its best. Look for firm, plump pods in late summer and early fall.

Onions come from storage all year round but most onions are harvested in late summer through the fall.

Parsnips look like white carrots and have a great nutty flavor. Look for thinner parsnips, since fatter ones tend to have a thick, woody core you need to cut out.

Pears have a season that runs from mid-summer well into winter, depending on the variety and region.

Peppers (early fall) – both sweet and spicy- are harvested in late summer and early fall.

Persimmons are available for a short window in the fall and early winter – look for bright, heavy-feeling fruits.

Pomegranates only ripen in warmer climates. They are in season starting in October and are usually available fresh through December.

Pumpkins are the most common winter squash and come into season in September in most areas.

Quinces are an under-appreciated fruit. Bright and tart, quince jellies and desserts are a fall and early winter favorite.

Radicchio, like all chicories, is more sweet and less bitter when the weather is cool.

Sweet potatoes are often sold as “yams.” They are available from local sources year-round in warmer areas; from late summer through winter other places.

Turnips have a sharp but bright and sweet flavor. Look for turnips that feel heavy for their size.

Winter squash come into season in early fall and usually last well into winter.

Zucchini have a harvest season from summer into fall in most climates.

Cooking From The Fall Market

fallmarket2

Roasted Fennel Soup with Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

  • 1 fennel bulb (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped white onion (1 large)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 – 14 1/2 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup half-and-half, light cream or evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Ground white pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 recipe Homemade Croutons (optional), recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut off and discard fennel stalks, reserving some of the feathery tops. Remove any wilted outer layers from the bulb; cut a thin slice from the  base of bulb. Cut bulb into 1/2-inch slices, removing the core. Snip feathery tops; set aside.

In a 13x9x2-inch baking pan combine fennel slices and onion. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast, uncovered, about 25 minutes or just until vegetables are tender.

Transfer roasted vegetables to a large saucepan. Stir in broth and potato. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 10 minutes or until potato is tender. Cool slightly.

Transfer vegetable mixture, one-third at a time, to a blender, food processor or use a hand immersion blender. Process until smooth. Return mixture to saucepan. Stir in half-and-half, lemon juice, and cumin. Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with white pepper and additional salt.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet cook fennel seeds over medium-high heat about 3 minutes or until light brown and fragrant, stirring frequently.

Top each serving with fennel tops, toasted fennel seeds and, if desired, Homemade Croutons.

To Make Ahead:

Prepare as directed and cool soup slightly. Transfer soup to an airtight container. Cover and chill for up to 2 days. Place fennel tops and toasted fennel seeds in separate resealable plastic bags. Chill fennel tops for up to 2 days and store fennel seeds at room temperature for up to 2 days. To serve, transfer soup to a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Serve as directed above.

Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of cubed Italian  bread
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt

Directions

Spread cubed bread in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Stir together olive oil, black pepper and kosher salt; pour over bread cubes, tossing to coat. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes. Stir; bake for 8 to 10 minutes more or until crisp and brown. Makes 2 cups.

fallmarket4

Beet and Apple Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large beets (2 1/2 pounds)
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • 1/3 cup salted pistachios, chopped
  • 1 green apple, thinly sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a baking dish, lightly drizzle the beets and thyme with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and roast until the beets are tender, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Let cool, then peel the beets and cut them into thin slices.

In a large bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of oil until emulsified. Add the horseradish and season with salt and pepper; toss with the beets and pistachios. Transfer the beets to a platter, top with the apple and serve.

fallmarket5

Healthy Chicken and Mushroom Fricassee

Serve with the roasted carrots below.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 10 oz white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 cup leeks, split into quarters, then sliced into small squares and rinsed well
  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, rinsed and diced
  • 1 cup pearl onions, raw or frozen
  • 3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lb skinless chicken legs or thighs (4 whole legs, split, or 8 thighs)
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh herbs (such as parsley and chives), rinsed, dried and minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lowfat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 º F.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed roasting or braising pan (a large sauté pan with a metal handle).

Add mushrooms to the pan and cook until golden brown, about 3–5 minutes. Add leeks, potatoes, celery and pearl onions and continue to cook until the vegetables become soft, about 3–5 additional minutes. Add chicken broth to the pan and bring to a boil.

Add chicken to the pan, cover, and place in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender when pierced with a fork (or a meat thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 165 ºF).

When the chicken is cooked, remove them from the pan to serving bowl and keep warm. Return the pan to the stove top and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the lemon juice.

In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with the sour cream and add to the pan. Bring back to a boil, stir until mixed and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and pour sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with herbs and serve.

fallmarket1

Spice & Honey Roasted Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds regular or rainbow carrots, scrubbed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Trim carrots and peel. Halve any large carrots lengthwise.

Line a shallow roasting pan with foil. Evenly spread carrots in the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast carrots, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the seasoning mix, heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts; cook and stir 3 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Transfer to a small bowl.

Add coriander, sesame and cumin seed to the hot skillet. Cook on medium-high heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Remove spices from heat and transfer to another bowl; cool for 10 minutes.

Using a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle, grind or crush toasted spices until coarsely ground. Add the hazelnuts and salt and pepper, crushing nuts slightly.

Remove carrots from the oven. Drizzle with honey; toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle carrots with the seasoning mixture. Return to the oven; roast 5 to 10 minutes more.

Serve carrots with lemon wedges. Makes 6 servings.

fallmarket3

Fig and Pear Cobbler with Cornmeal-Amaretti Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole amaretti cookies
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups dried Mission figs, halved
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh pears, cored and sliced
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice and finely shredded peel from 1 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups port wine or cranberry juice
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place amaretti cookies in a food processor. Cover and process until finely ground. Add flour, cornmeal, the 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder and salt; cover and pulse with on/off turns to combine. Add butter; cover and pulse with on/off turns until pieces are the size of small peas.

In a large bowl combine butter mixture and the 1-1/4 cups whipping cream, stirring with a fork until the dough comes together. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead gently two or three times until it holds together. Press dough into a 12×8-inch rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the dough into eight rectangles

In a 3-quart rectangular baking dish combine figs and pears. Place the 3/4 cup sugar in a small bowl; add the finely shredded orange peel and use your fingers to rub the peel into the sugar. Stir in cinnamon, coriander and kosher salt. Pour sugar mixture over the fig mixture; gently toss with your hands to combine.

In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons of orange juice and the cornstarch, stirring until smooth. Stir in the port and the remaining orange juice; pour evenly over the fruit mixture in the baking dish.

Place dough rectangles on top of the fruit mixture; brush with the 2 tablespoons whipping cream and sprinkle with almonds.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the top is browned and juices are bubbly around the edges of the pan. If necessary to prevent over browning, cover loosely with foil for the last 10 to 20 minutes of baking. Remove foil, if using, and cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.



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