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passover

The Jewish community of Ferrara is the only one in Emilia-Romagna with a continuous presence from the Middle Ages to the present day. It played an important role while the Duke Ercole I d’Este was in power. The situation of the Jews deteriorated in 1598, after the Este dynasty moved to Modena and the city came under papal control. The Jewish settlement, located on three city streets, formed a triangle near the cathedral and became a ghetto in 1627. Between 1627 and 1859, the Ferrara Jews were restricted to the ghetto, a self-sufficient small town within the larger one. With a population of about 1,800, the ghetto had its own synagogues, schools and old age homes. In 1848, King Carlo Alberto proclaimed the emancipation of the Italian Jews, granting them equal rights. Today, the old ghetto area, with its small attractive stores and refurbished colorful houses, is an essential part of the itinerary of all guided tours.

In 1799, the city was taken over by the Republic of France, which established a small garrison there. Shortly after, Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann von Klenau approached the fortress with his military forces consisting of Austrian cavalry, artillery and infantry men, augmented by Italian peasant rebels, and demanded its capitulation. The commander refused. Klenau blockaded the city. For the next three days, Klenau patrolled the countryside, capturing the surrounding strategic points. The French attempted two rescues of the beleaguered fortress and, finally, a column led by Pierre-Augustin Hulin reached and relieved the fortress. Klenau took possession of the town, though, and garrisoned it with a light battalion. The Jewish residents of Ferrara paid 30,000 ducats to prevent the pillage of the city by Klenau’s forces, thus, saving the city from being sacked.

Although Jews lived in several towns of Emilia-Romagna, including Modena, Bologna, Parma, Reggio and Emilia, the Jewish cuisine that seems to have survived or prevailed is the one from the city of Ferrara. Their influence in the region’s cooking is mainly Sephardi, with dishes such as buricchi, which is reminiscent of Spanish and Portuguese empanadas and can have both sweet and savory fillings.

Jewish Museum

Jewish Museum

An old saying from Ferrara goes, “Dell’oca non si butta via niente”, which translates as “Nothing gets thrown away from a goose”. Inspired by the Italian pork cold cuts, the Ferrara Jews recreated similar cuts using goose. All the parts of the goose were eaten: its fat was widely used in cooking as it was full of protein and calories and was cheap to buy. Its meat was used to make ‘prosciutti’ and goose sausages or salami. For centuries the word ‘sallame’, spelt with two ‘l’s instead of ‘salame’ was used within the Jewish community in order to distinguish the goose salami from the forbidden pork one. Foie gras was made from the goose liver and it was very expensive. Sometimes it was even used for payment in illegal betting and smuggling.

Goose was widely used in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont until modern times, when it was replaced by turkey, as turkey is more tender, less fatty and cheaper. Many recipes from the Jewish community of Ferrara have goose and turkey as their main dish entree and turkey meatloaf is still a popular dish. A well-known and interesting goose dish is the ruota del faraone or Pharaoh’s wheel. It is made with fresh tagliatelle, goose salami, pine nuts and raisins. It’s ingredients represent the Egyptian soldiers and chariots being caught up in the waves of the closing Red Sea, while chasing the Jews who were escaping from Egypt. This dish and many other old traditional recipes are laborious and few people make them today, if at all. Testine di spinaci – the stems of spinach – and guscetti – the husks of green peas were dishes created at the time of the ghettos, when living conditions were particularly poor and creativity was a necessity in the kitchen.

During Passover, foods containing chametz, that is leavened bread or anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are not allowed. The Ashkenazic tradition also places kitniyot in the list of prohibited Passover foods: rice, corn, soy, millet, beans, peas, any other legume or anything derived from those products, such as corn syrup, tofu or soy oil fall under this category. Similarly, seeds, mustard, sesame and fennel are also avoided during Passover. This restriction includes peanuts, even though we think of them as nuts, they really are classified as legumes. People from a Sephardi or Mizrahi background do not have the kitniyot restriction.

Look on products like matzah flour, juices, wine, oil, candy and soda for the “Kosher for Passover” certification. That can help you be sure.

matzah gnocchi

Matzah Gnocchi

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer

Ingredients

  • 11 matzahs, broken into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons of matzah meal, plus more to dust the gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon kosher approved extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions

Soak the matzah in cold water or broth for at least 1 hour or until soft. Drain, squeeze well and place into a clean bowl; add the eggs, salt and pepper, parsley, nutmeg and matzah meal. Mix all the ingredients together.

In a second bowl, place some more matzah meal. With a wet tablespoon or a small scoop, take some of the mixture and place it on top of the matzah meal. Using your hands, roll the mixture evenly over the matzah meal and shape it into a ping-pong size ball. Proceed with the rest of the mix and place the rolled gnocchi on a piece of wax paper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; drop in the gnocchi and scoop them out as they rise to the surface using a slotted skimmer. Place them in with the tomato sauce and serve.

Prepare the sauce:

Heat olive oil and add thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts) and a whole clove of garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, and discard the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon . Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook for about 10-15 minutes uncovered, allowing the sauce to thicken.

passoverrolledturkeys-01

Passover Rolled Turkey Breast With Mushroom-Spinach Stuffing

FOR THE STUFFING:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
  • 1 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste

FOR THE TURKEY:

  • 1 Kosher whole turkey breast, boned, with skin (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium Kosher chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 cup kosher-for-Passover dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

TO PREPARE THE STUFFING:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Saute leeks and mushrooms until leeks are tender and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and spinach and stir until spinach wilts. Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and stir in matzah meal. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

TO PREPARE THE TURKEY:

Lay turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board or wax paper. Trim any excess skin. Holding a knife parallel to the meat, make lengthwise cuts on both breast halves, cutting away from the center, so meat is of a consistent thickness (creating a rectangular shape). Cover with wax paper and pound to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread with the spinach stuffing mixture, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Starting from the left side, roll into a cylinder. Tie at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string and secure open edges with toothpicks.

Place turkey on a rack, seam side down, in a roasting pan. Brush with oil. Combine 2 cups chicken broth with the wine and pour over the turkey. Roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting with stock mixture every 15 minutes (add broth if evaporating too quickly) or until temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear.

Remove from roast the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Skim fat from the roasting pan and pour pan juices into a small saucepan with the remaining stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove toothpicks and string, and slice turkey into 1-inch-thick slices. Serve with sauce.

Latkes
Easy Latkes

These latkes are oven fried.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, about 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Matzah meal
  • Kosher approved vegetable oil for the baking sheets

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray two large cookie sheets with rims with cooking spray.

Grate or shred the potatoes. You can use the fine shredding attachment on a processor or mixer. Wrap the grated potatoes in a cotton dish towel (a flour sack towel works well), and twist the towel closed at the top. Bring the potatoes to the sink and squeeze them, wringing as much liquid as possible from them.

Shred or grate the onion. Don’t use the finest shredding disk of your food processor, as it will turn the onion to mush; the medium shredding disk is preferable.

Combine the drained potatoes, onion, egg, salt and matzah in a bowl, stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Pour a thin layer of oil into each baking pan. It should be deep enough that when you tilt the pan, you can see it move. For easier-to-clean pans and slightly less greasy latkes, heat the pans in the oven briefly, to warm the oil.

Drop the pancake batter onto the sheets by the 1/4 to 1/3-cupful. Space them far enough apart so that you can easily get a spatula between them to flip them over when the time comes.

Bake the pancakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, turn the pancakes over and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and drain the pancakes on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.

rootveg

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • About 3-4 pounds, in any combination: turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery root, shallots, golden beets, butternut or kabocha squash
  • 1/3 cup kosher approved olive oil
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Peel all the vegetables and dice into 1 inch pieces.
Combine al lthe ingredients in a mixing bowl and transfer to two rimmed cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
Roast about 20-30 minutes, until very tender.
Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Serve with the turkey roast.

Passover basic_sponge

Italian Almond Passover Cake

Servings: 12

Dress this simple cake up by dusting the top with confectioners’ sugar and topping it with fresh fruit.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal, plus more for coating the cake pan
  • 2 cups whole blanched almonds or 2 cups packaged finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup kosher approved extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and grease the paper. Evenly coat the bottom and sides with matzah meal, tapping out any excess.

If you are using whole blanched almonds, pulse the whole blanched almonds in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of matzah meal and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until very finely ground. If using packaged finely ground almonds, mix by hand: packaged ground almonds with the matzah meal and the 1/4 cup sugar.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar at high-speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. At low-speed, gradually add the ground almond mixture, the extracts, the olive oil and the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Beat 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it; then quickly fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Run a small, sharp knife around the side of the cake, transfer it to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the base of the pan, then carefully peel off the paper. Garnish according to taste.

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cellini

The self-portrait of master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini

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

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

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

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

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

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

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

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

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

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

florence

Some Florentine Specialties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chicken-liver-crostini-Bourgeois

Chicken Liver Crostini

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

pappa

Pappa al Pomodoro

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

Serves four

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Minestra

Ribollita

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

ganugi-pappardelle-gross

Pappardelle with Duck

4 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

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

Serves at least four

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Season with coarse sea salt and serve.

cake

Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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005

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

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

Pinuccio Sciola

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

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

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

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

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

Sardinian Recipes

xSardinia

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

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Bean, Fennel and Potato Soup

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Sardinian Stuffed Leg of Lamb

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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Saffron Ring Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

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

Antipasto

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

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

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

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

Filling

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

Topping

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Course

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

Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

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

Directions

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

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

Second Course

fish and potatoes

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

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

Dessert Course

Olive_Oil_Cake-2

Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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You can find berries and melons in the supermarket in the winter, but these fruits do not have much taste. So instead, spend your money on fruit that actually tastes good now. We all know the winter holiday season is prime time for cranberries and yams, but have you considered persimmons, kiwi, citrus or pears? Winter is when most citrus fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest. Winter fruits are also excellent for baking. Here’s how to choose the best fruit, why it’s good for you and how to save money.

Oranges

How to buy:

In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season wears on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Try them! Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.

Why it’s good:

Oranges are loaded with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value of vitamin C), which may help smooth your skin. If you bite into a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks. If you stumble across a few fruits with a grainy texture, use them for juicing or cooking.

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still far from ripe. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.

Why it’s good:

Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

How to save:

Though bananas are relatively economical—ripening bananas cost about 70 to 90 cents per pound—overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet, ripe and unblemished. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before sticking them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread, pancakes and smoothies.

Pineapples

How to buy:

Avoid green pineapples—they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present—starting at the base—and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.

Why it’s good:

Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation.

How to save:

Cutting into a pineapple for the first time may be intimidating. But where your wallet is concerned, it may be worth learning how to do. Prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section cost more per pound—about 50 cents an ounce more—than a whole pineapple. Check your market for whole, peeled and decored pineapples. My market sells these pineapples at the same price as an unpeeled pineapple.

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.

Why it’s good:

Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful compounds that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get a bit of fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.

How to save:

Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores, and buy the cheapest you can find.

Grapefruit

How to buy:

Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying ripe grapefruit can be tricky—the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness.

Why it’s good:

Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories. One exception: if you take statins to lower cholesterol levels, consuming grapefruit juice or the fruit may prevent the statins from breaking down in your system, causing the drug to accumulate in high amounts in the body.

How to save:

If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

Tangerines

How to buy:

Choose tangerines with a deep orange color that are firm to semi-soft and heavy for their size. Avoid tangerines that have dull or brown coloring or soft spots.

Why it’s good:

One tangerine contains 2.3 grams fiber, 13% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 40% of vitamin C. Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. They are great for eating and you can also juice tangerines. Tangerines are less acidic than most citrus fruits. Use them as you would oranges in salads, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese or as a topping for dessert.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim or lowfat milk
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pudding cakes can be refrigerated for 2 days.

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water

Orange Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest from 2 oranges, cut into very thin strips

Filling: 1 cup frozen yogurt (vanilla or flavor of choice)

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon oil and water in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

To make orange syrup:

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add orange zest, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened and the zest is tender. Several times during the cooking, brush the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to keep sugar crystals from forming on the sides. Remove from heat and let cool.

To cook and assemble crepes:

Heat a small nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when sprinkled on the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush pan with a little of the remaining 1 teaspoon oil as needed to prevent sticking. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter on the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Cook 30 to 40 seconds until the top of the crepe has a dull surface and the edges begin to curl. Flip and cook for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the crepe is firm. Remove to a plate and cover with a dry cloth. Repeat with remaining crepes. (The crepes may be stacked between wax paper sheets until serving time.)

Place a crepe on a dessert plate. Spread 2 tablespoons of frozen yogurt across the middle. Fold in half and spoon 1 tablespoon Chocolate Sauce over the top or beside it. Spoon 2 teaspoons orange syrup and zest over the folded crepe. Repeat with remaining crepes.

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 1 1/2 tablespoons agave necter
  • 1/4 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Sift together cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in honey. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in oil and vanilla.

Garcia Studio, Inc. 933 Fielder Avenue NW Atlanta, GA 30318 404-892-2334

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup smooth, unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in pecans and dried cranberries.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, applesauce, oil, orange zest and juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Roll the dough with floured hands (it will be very moist) into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies until barely golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

The cream cheese in the batter makes the cake quite moist. Because it’s so tender, use a serrated knife for cutting.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces block style low fat cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped, peeled baking apples (about 2-3 apples)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons or the cinnamon mixture to the apples and mix. Fold apple mixture into the batter.

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

NOTE: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 8 fresh pears (about 2-1/2 lb.), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Frozen yogurt, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

Grate enough lemon peel to measure 1/2 teaspoon zest. Squeeze enough juice to measure 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in large bowl. Add pears, lemon zest and juice; toss until pears are evenly coated.

Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Mix brown sugar and remaining flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and sprinkle over the pears.

Bake 40 to 45 min. or until topping is golden brown and pears are hot and bubbly. Serve warm topped frozen yogurt, if desired.

NOTE: You can also bake this dessert in 9-inch square baking dish or shallow 2-qt. casserole instead of the 8-inch square baking dish.

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                           La Lingua Della Cucina

The passion that Italians bring to the kitchen is reflected in the language that they use to describe techniques and individual ingredients or recipes. Since Americans first started cooking spaghetti and tomato sauce in their homes in the early part of the twentieth century, they have expanded their preparation of Italian foods within the home. Lasagna, risotto, chicken cacciatore, minestrone, tiramisu –  just to name a few; all came to be commonly prepared in the homes of Americans over the last century.

At the time when Julia Child caused a sensation by convincing American cooks that they could create the wonders of classic French cuisine in their own kitchens, Italian food was already a loved and accepted mainstay of the American diet. Today, it seems more popular than ever. America’s steady love of Italian food, in recent years fueled by a host of cookbooks and television shows, has thrust Italian home cooking once again into the spotlight. Attracted to “authentic” Italian food’s simplicity and affordability, Americans have taken to cooking Italian food at home.

Here are some of the culinary terms, you will most often come in contact with in your Italian cooking.

Aioli – A garlic mayonnaise is a delicious accompaniment to cold or hot grilled vegetables, steamed or boiled artichokes, boiled potatoes and grilled or baked fish and shellfish.

Al dente – “To the teeth.” The expression is used to describe pasta that is still firm and chewy when bitten into. When pasta is al dente, it is considered fully cooked and ready to eat.

Al forno - an expression used for baked or roasted in the forno (oven). Pasta al forno is a layered pasta, much like lasagna, but made with a shorter shaped pasta, such as penne or ziti.

Antipasto – Translates as before the meal, i.e. pasto, and not before the pasta, as some mistakenly believe. A selection of antipasti can be modest or extravagant, but in all aspects of Italian food, quality is always more important than quantity.

Arancine – ‘little oranges” are rice croquettes, perhaps stuffed with veal or a soft cheese such as caciocavallo or a cow’s milk mozzarella. Their orange hue originates from the addition of saffron to the rice and the subsequent frying in vegetable oil.

Arrabbiata – “Angry.” A tomato-based pasta sauce spiced with chilis and Amatriciano is a similar spicy sauce with the addition of pancetta.

Bagna Cauda - a warm anchovy–olive oil sauce served as a dip for vegetables.

Battuto – The action of the knife striking ingredients against the cutting board, in short, the first stage of the preparation of any dish, which requires basic and efficient skills with a sharp blade.

Besciamella - More commonly referred to in the French form, béchamel, this cooked sauce of butter, flour, milk and some nutmeg is often used in baked pasta dishes and as a sauce for vegetable side dishes, such as cauliflower.

Bolognese – A pasta sauce native to the Bologna area of Italy. It traditionally features finely chopped meats and a soffrito of onions, celery and carrots with a small amount of tomato paste.

Bufala – The water buffalo of the southern region of Campania produce the milk for the softest, creamiest form of mozzarella cheese. So very delicate in flavor that it is better used in a salad (Caprese Salad) instead of on a cooked dish, such as pizza.

Burro – Butter is traditionally viewed as the favored fat in northern italy where it is used for sautéing.

Capelli d’agelo – “Angel hair.” Long, thin strands of pasta that are thinner than capellini.

Carbonara – a spaghetti sauce based on eggs, cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), bacon (guanciale or pancetta) and black pepper.

Contorni - Accompaniment to the meat or fish course of the meal, usually consisting of prepared vegetables such, as green beans, spinach or braised fennel.

Crostini – toasted bread, but usually topped with chopped tomatoes or porcini mushrooms or roasted peppers or chicken livers – called crostini in Tuscany and bruschetta in Rome.

Dolce -or the plural form, i dolci, on restaurant menus, refers to the sweet or dessert course of the meal, such as zabaglione, tiramisu and gelato (ice cream).

Fiorentina -a substantial slab of meat roughly equating to an American T bone steak. Not to be tackled without a hearty appetite.

Formaggio - cheese.

Insalata – The salad course, usually positioned between the main (meat or fish) course and the dessert, can consist of a simple bowl of greens or something more elaborate. Olive oil combined with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little seasoning, or perhaps balsamic vinegar used sparingly, is all that is required to make the perfect dressing.

Polpette – meatballs.

Pomodoro – a meatless tomato sauce. The name means “golden apple” and refers to tomatoes that are yellow in color. Yes, I know – tomatoes are red. Here is the story:

David Gentilcore, professor of early modern history at the University of Leicester, writes, “ When explorers first brought tomatoes to Europe from the New World, they also brought over tomatillos. Tomatoes and tomatillos were considered interchangeable (they are botanical and culinary cousins) and many tomatillos are yellow. Italy and most of the rest of Europe soon took a pass on the tomatillo, but the name stuck. “Pomodoro” it was.”

Primavera – “Spring.” A pasta sauce traditionally made in the spring that features fresh vegetables as the main ingredient.

Primo - The first course (after the antipasto), hence the name, it usually involves a risotto or pasta dish.

Puttanesca - (literally “a la whore” in Italian) is a tangy, somewhat salty pasta sauce containing tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers and garlic.

Saltimbocca -( literally “jump into the mouth”). In Rome this dish is prepared with veal and prosciutto crudo, or cured meat, and sage, all held together by a skewer in a sauce of  white wine or marsala. Chicken and pork cutlets work just as well.

Secondo – the main dish of the menu that usually consists of meat or fish.

Semolina – A coarse flour made from durum wheat: a hard wheat with a high protein/low moisture content and a long shelf life.

Soffritto – the foundation of many Italian recipes, especially a pasta sauce or a braise of beef or lamb. It consists of finely diced carrots, onion, garlic and celery, or any combination of them depending on the recipe.

Below are a few sample courses to get you started.

Antipasto

Flatbreads w/Onion Raita, Grilled Pumpernickel w/Avocado, Charred Corn & Tomato Salad & Bruschetta w/Straccitatella, favas, mint & Lemon. A110526 Food & Wine Fast Sept 2011

Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Favas Beans

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups canned fava beans (Progresso is a good brand), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 16 grilled baguette slices
  • 1/4 pound buffalo mozzarella, torn into thin strips
  • Aged balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves

Directions

Transfer the favas to a food processor and add the oil, lemon juice and zest and pulse to a coarse puree. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the fava-bean puree on the toasts and top with the mozzarella strips. Drizzle the toasts with the balsamic vinegar and scatter the basil on top.

Primo

primavera

Pasta Primavera

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 red or orange bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti or linguine
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Shaved Parmesan

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add asparagus and green beans; cook 4 minutes. Add peppers and cook 1 more minute. Scoop out vegetables with a large slotted spoon and place in a colander.

Add pasta to boiling water and cook to the al dente stage, about 7-8 minutes. Drain; return to the pot.

In a mixing bowl, combine half-and-half, chicken broth, cornstarch, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the half-and-half mixture and simmer for a few minutes, stirring until slightly thickened.

Add cooked vegetables and tomatoes. Cook, stirring a few times, for about 2 minutes.

Pour into the pot with the pasta and stir gently. Add grated Parmesan and parsley. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve in pasta bowls with shaved Parmesan on top.

Secondo

chicken-scarpariello

Chicken Scarpariello

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small skinless, boneless chicken thighs (2 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly smashed
  • 4 large rosemary sprigs, broken into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup spicy Italian pickled peppers, sliced

Directions

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned and crusty on both sides, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Transfer the chicken to a platter, leaving the rosemary and garlic in the skillet.

Add the stock to the skillet and cook over high heat, scraping up any browned bits, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and butter and swirl until emulsified.

Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet. Add the peppers and cook, turning the chicken until coated in the sauce, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and sauce to a platter and serve.

Food & Wine, American Express Publishing

Spinach Salad with Bagna Cauda Dressing

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarse dry bread crumbs (see tip below)
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Directions

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat until foaming. Add the anchovies and cook until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Add the thyme sprigs and let steep for 20 minutes. Discard the thyme and season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a small dry skillet, toast the bread crumbs over moderate heat, tossing, until golden, about 4 minutes. Let the bread crumbs cool.

In a large bowl, toss the spinach with half of the dressing and half of the bread crumbs and season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the salad to plates or a platter and top with the remaining bread crumbs and the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pass the remaining dressing at the table and serve with lemon wedges.

MAKE AHEAD

The bagna cauda dressing can be refrigerated overnight. Warm gently before using.

To make bread crumbs, tear 2 slices of day-old white bread into pieces, spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 300°F oven until dried but not browned, about 10 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times until coarse crumbs form.

Dolce

cake

Almond Crusted Limoncello Pound Cake

16 servings

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 3/4 cups sliced almonds
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • Grated zest & juice of 2 large lemons, divided
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons Limoncello
  • Oil for coating the pan

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup Limoncello
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Use a pastry brush to thoroughly oil a 12 cup bundt pan, then sprinkle almonds evenly in the pan and set aside.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest, reserving the lemon juice for later use, with the mixer on low speed until creamy, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.

Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 cup of cake flour, blending well, then add the salt and remaining eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Add the remaining flour with 3 tablespoons Limoncello, beating just until mixture is well blended.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, gently tapping the filled pan on the counter a few times.

Bake in the preheated oven until a wooden skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.

Just before the cake is done, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, blend Limoncello, reserved lemon juice, sugar and butter. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 2 minutes.

Remove cake from oven after it tests done, then pour the glaze mixture over the top of the hot cake while still in the pan.

Let cake cool in the pan, placed on a wire rack. The glaze will be absorbed into the cake as it cools.

When the cake is cooled, invert it onto a serving plate and serve.

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film-directing-master-grant-by-euxtraA good director makes sure that all parts of a film are creatively produced and brought together in a single totality. A director interprets the script, coaches the performers, works together with the montagist, etc., interrelating them all to create a work of art. The director begins with a vague idea of the entire film and uses this to help him determine what is to be done. The position of the director in the traditional filmmaking process varies greatly and is extremely complex. The film director is seen as a leader of others, as providing a kind of guiding force.

Judging from the comments of most professional directors, there is very little agreement as to what exactly their function is. There are some directors who say that they must concentrate primarily on the structures of the script. If their films are to be works of art, it will be because of the inherent beauty in the narrative and dialogue patterns in the script. Other directors are occupied primarily with the performance of actors. To them, the beauty of the film will be correlative with the quality of acting. These directors attend not only to the performance as a whole, but to endless minor nuances and gestures throughout.

Some directors attend primarily to the camerawork, their chief concern being for a pictorial beauty and smoothness of execution. There are still other directors who say that the art of film resides in the editing process. For them, all steps prior to editing yield crude material, which will be finally shaped and lent an artistic worth through their imaginative juxtaposition. The point is that there have evolved nearly as many theories of film directing as there are directors.

Since the development of the Italian film industry in the early 1900s, Italian filmmakers and performers have, at times, experienced both domestic and international success and have influenced film movements throughout the world. As of 2013, Italian films have won 13 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, the most of any country, as well as 12 Palmes d’Or, the second-most of any country.

Federico Fellini

Fellini is well known for his distinct style and is considered to be one of the most influential and widely revered film-makers of the 20th century. Fellini’s works garnered numerous awards, including four Oscars, two Silver Lions, a Palme d’Or and a grand prize at the Moscow International Film Festival. 8 1/2 is frequently cited as one of the finest films ever made.

Federico had fairly humble beginnings. He was born in the small town of Rimini on January 20th, 1920 to Urbano, a travelling salesman and vendor, and Ida, whose family were merchants. He had two siblings, a brother Riccardo, and a sister, Maria Maddalena, both younger than him. He was a creative child and spent time drawing, creating puppet shows and reading the comic “Il corriere dei piccoli,” whose characters may have influenced his films later. The friends he made along the way often became the subjects upon which his movie characters were based, such as Luigi “Titta” Benzi, whose character he used as the model for young Titta in Amarcord (1973).

La Strada (The Road, 1954) with Anthony Quinn won an Academy Award for best foreign film. The films depicts the painful emotions endured by Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) when sold to a circus strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) who shows no compassion and treats her cruelly. The harsh environment of the landscape adds to the emptiness and distance experienced as a result of Zampano’s indifference. In the end there is remorse, but too late. Il Bidone (The Swindlers, 1955) reflects on the pious and the poor and how advantage is taken when morality is sidelined. Next was Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria, 1957) again starring Masina.

Fellini considered himself to be an artist as opposed to a “normal” person, as he said in his interview with the BBC in 1965. He felt that as an artist he was entitled “to explore the dreams and visions, the surreal and the spiritual and to dance with his imagination wherever it took him”. He certainly had a curiosity and sense of humor when it came to exploring human emotions and observing the human behavior, directing the camera to enlarge and exaggerate the quirkiness of human actions so that they became incredibly funny or indeed profoundly sad. La Dolce Vita was released in 1960 and it starred the handsome, Marcello Mastroianni, who continued to feature in Fellini’s films for the next twenty years. The film was judged immoral by some critics and was subsequently banned, yet it went on to break box office records. The film took the Palme d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Fellini is admired by many contemporary filmmakers, directors and actors and his audience. He has left a legacy of fascinating films to remind us to think and feel and above all imagine and dream.

Roberto Rossellini

Rossellini was one of the most important directors of Italian neorealist cinema, a style of film characterized by stories set amongst the poor and working class and filmed on location with nonprofessional actors.

Rossellini was born in Rome. His mother, Elettra (née Bellan), was a housewife and his father, Angiolo Giuseppe “Beppino” Rossellini, owned a construction firm. Rossellini’s father built the first cinema in Rome (Barberini’s). Granting his son an unlimited free pass, the young Rossellini started frequenting the cinema at an early age. When his father died, he worked as a sound maker for films and for a certain time he experienced all the accessory jobs related to the creation of a film, gaining competence in each field. Rossellini had a brother, Renzo, who later scored many of his films.

Some authors describe the first part of his career as a sequence of trilogies. His first feature film, La nave bianca (1942) was sponsored by the Navy Department and is the first work in Rossellini’s “Fascist Trilogy”, together with Un pilota ritorna (1942) and Uomo dalla Croce (1943). Just two months after the liberation of Rome (June 4, 1944), Rossellini was preparing the anti-fascist film, Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City 1945). This dramatic film was an immediate success and Rossellini started work on his, so-called, Neo-realistic Trilogy, the second title was Paisà (1946) and the third, Germany, Year Zero (1948), was filmed in Berlin. One of the reasons for his success is credited to Rossellini’s ability to rewrite scripts that would utilize regional accents, dialects, costumes in real life situations.

After his Neorealist Trilogy, Rossellini produced two films now classified as his transitional films: L’Amore (1948) (with Anna Magnani) and La macchina ammazzacattivi (1952). In 1948, Rossellini received a letter from a famous foreign actress proposing a collaboration:

Dear Mr. Rossellini,

I saw your films, Open City and Paisan, and enjoyed them very much. If you need a Swedish actress who speaks English very well, who has not forgotten her German, who is not very understandable in French, and who in Italian knows only “ti amo”, I am ready to come and make a film with you.

Ingrid Bergman

With this letter began one of the best known love stories in film history, with Bergman and Rossellini both at the peak of their careers. Their first collaboration was Stromboli terra di Dio (1950) (filmed on the Island of Stromboli, whose volcano quite conveniently erupted during filming). This affair caused a great scandal in some countries (Bergman and Rossellini were both married to other people); the scandal intensified when Bergman became pregnant. Rossellini and Bergman later married and had two more children. Europa ’51 (1952), Siamo Donne (1953), Journey to Italy (1953), La paura (1954) and Giovanna d’Arco al rogo (1954) were the other films on which they worked together until they divorced in 1957.

Lina Wertmüller

Wertmuller was born Arcangela Felice Assunta Wertmüller von Elgg Español von Braueich in Rome to a devoutly Roman Catholic family of aristocratic descent. She was a rebellious child and was expelled from more than a dozen Catholic schools. Though her father wanted her to become a lawyer, she enrolled in theatre school.,After graduating, her first job was touring Europe in a puppet show. For the next ten years she worked as an actress, director and playwright in legitimate theater.

Through her acquaintance with Marcello Mastroianni, she met Federico Fellini and in 1962 Fellini offered her the assistant director position on the film. The following year, Wertmüller made her directorial debut with The Lizards (I Basilischi). The film’s subject matter—the lives of impoverished people in southern Italy—became a recurring theme in her later work. Several moderately successful films followed, but not until 1972 did Wertmüller achieve lasting international acclaim with a series of four movies starring Giancarlo Giannini. The last and best-received of these, Seven Beauties (Pasqualino Sette Bellezze) in 1975, earned 4 Academy Award nominations and was an international hit. Wertmüller was the first woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director. Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are the only other female directors nominated (with Bigelow the first to win for The Hurt Locker).

Her 1978 film, A Night Full of Rain, was entered into the 28th Berlin International Film Festival. Eight years later, her film, Camorra (A Story of Streets, Women and Crime) was entered into the 36th Berlin International Film Festival. In 1985, she received the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.

She is known for her whimsically movie titles. For instance, the full title of Swept Away is Swept away by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August. These titles were invariably shortened for international release. She is entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest film title: Un fatto di sangue nel comune di Siculiana fra due uomini per causa di una vedova. Si sospettano moventi politici with 179 characters is better known under the international titles, Blood Feud or Revenge. Her 1983 film, A Joke of Destiny, was entered into the 14th Moscow International Film Festival.

Although Wertmüller has had a prolific career and still actively directs, none of her later films have had the same impact as her mid-1970s collaborations with Giannini. Wertmüller was married to Enrico Job (who died 4 March 2008), an art and set designer.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Bertolucci is an Italian film director and screenwriter, whose films include The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900, The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and The Dreamers. In recognition of his work, he was presented with the inaugural Honorary Palme d’Or Award at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Bertolucci was born in the Italian city of Parma, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. He is the elder son of Ninetta, a teacher, and Attilio Bertolucci, who was a poet, an art historian, anthologist and film critic. Having been raised in such an environment, Bertolucci began writing at the age of fifteen, and soon after received several prestigious literary prizes including the Premio Viareggio for his first book. Bertolucci initially wished to become a poet like his father and, with this goal in mind, he attended the Faculty of Modern Literature of the University of Rome from 1958 to 1961. However, Bertolucci left the University without graduating to work as an assistant director. In 1962, at the age of 22, he directed his first feature film, La commare secca (1962). The film is a murder mystery and Bertolucci uses flashbacks to piece together the crime and the person who committed it. The film which shortly followed was his acclaimed, Before the Revolution (Prima della rivoluzione, 1964).

Bertolucci’s personal idea about cinema is based on the individuality of people who are forced to deal with sudden changes in their lives.This theme is present in almost all of Bertolucci’s works and starting with his second film, Prima della rivoluzione (1964), this theme becomes very clear in the story of a young upper-middle agrarian class boy from Parma (Francesco Barilli), who is incapable of dealing with his best friend’s suicide. Bertolucci became infamous in 1972, with the controversial film, Last Tango in Paris, with Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Massimo Girotti, because certain scenes were thought to be exploitative and serious concerns emerged about how women were represented in the film.

Bertolucci increased his fame with his next few films, from Novecento (1976), an epic depiction of the struggles of farmers in Emilia-Romagna from the beginning of the 20th century up to World War II with an impressive international cast (Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu, Donald Sutherland, Sterling Hayden, Burt Lancaster, Dominique Sanda) to La Luna, set in Rome and in Emilia-Romagna and La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (1981), with Ugo Tognazzi. In 1987, Bertolucci directed the epic, The Last Emperor, a biographical film about the life story of Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the last Emperor of China and was the first feature film ever authorized by the government of the People’s Republic of China.

After The Last Emperor, the director went back to Italy to film with varying results from both critics and the public. In 2007 he received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival for his life’s work and, in 2011, he received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He was the President of the Jury at the 70th Venice International Film Festival held in September 2013. Bertolucci is working on his next film, a historical romance centering on 16th-century classical musician (and murderer) Carlo Gesualdo.

Vittorio De Sica

De Sica was yet another neorealist director who radically reshaped the cinematic landscape in Europe and elsewhere. De Sica’s early films defined the meaning of neorealism by transforming film projects with small budgets into aesthetic art, making a commitment to working with nonprofessional actors, filming on location using available lighting and encouraging intense character exploration and improvisation. Guided by intelligent and rigorously structured screenplays by his frequent and most important collaborator, Cesare Zavattini, De Sica’s major films – The Children Are Watching Us, Shoeshine, Miracle in Milan, Umberto D. and The Bicycle Thieves – are preoccupied with critical social and political topics facing post war Italy – poverty, hard life on the streets, intergenerational estrangement and a sense of general moral decay.

Born into poverty in Sora, Lazio (1901), he began his career as a theater actor in the early 1920s and joined Tatiana Pavlova’s theatre company in 1923. In 1933 he founded his own company with his wife Giuditta Rissone and Sergio Tofano. The company performed mostly light comedies, but they also staged playsand worked with several famous directors. De Sica turned to directing during WWII, with his first efforts typical of the light entertainments of the time. It was with The Children are Watching Us (1942) that he began to use non-professional actors and socially conscious subject matters. The film was also his first of many collaborations with scenarist, Cesare Zavattini, a combination which shaped the postwar Italian Neorealist movement. With the end of the war, De Sica’s films began to express the personal, as well as, the collective struggle to deal with the social problems of a post-Mussolini Italy.

De Sica and Zavattini created some of the most celebrated films of the neo-realistic age, such as Sciuscià (Shoeshine) and Bicycle Thieves (released as The Bicycle Thief in America). These are heartbreaking studies of poverty in postwar Italy. His later directorial career was highlighted by his work with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni in Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (1963), which won the Oscar as best foreign film. His film, Two Women, starring Sophia Loren is probably his greatest. It tells the story of a woman trying to protect her young daughter from the horrors of war.

Four of the films De Sica directed won Academy Awards. Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves were awarded honorary Oscars, while Ieri, oggi, domani and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Oscar. Bicycle Thieves was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.

The New Generation

In recent years, Italian cinema has experienced a quiet revolution: the proliferation of films by women. However, their thought-provoking work has not yet received the attention it deserves.

Laura Morante

Morante was born in Santa Fiora, province of Grosseto (Tuscany) in 1956. Morante came from a large family of nine siblings. Her father was a magistrate and her aunt was acclaimed novelist Elsa Morante. Formerly a dancer, Morante started her acting career in the theater before her film debut in Oggetti Smarriti (Lost Belongings). Oggetti Smarriti was directed by Giuseppe Bertolucci, whose brother would direct the second film in which Morante would appear, La Tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (The Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man). Under the auspices of the Bertolucci brothers, Morante’s career had a successful beginning.

Morante’s acting roles include La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo (1981), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Bianca (1984) and The Son’s Room (2001), both directed by Nanni Moretti. She also starred alongside Javier Bardem in The Dancer Upstairs (2002) and in Remember Me, My Love (2003).

One of the country’s most famous actresses, Morante, who could be described as a kind of Italian Catherine Deneuve, is as well known for her intense roles, the high calibre of her films  and for her remarkable beauty. Now she is hoping to exploit the changing times in her country by playing her own part in promoting a different, more powerful role for women in cinema.

For the first time, the actress is stepping into the director’s role for a film, in which, she also stars and takes a co-writing credit. “I hope more films get made in Italy by women, as well about women, which is rare,” said Morante, who played a grieving mother in the Palme d’Or winning film, The Son’s Room in 2001. Morante said she was one of a number of Italian women film directors breaking into a traditionally male-dominated profession, along with Valeria Golino and Francesca Comencini.

In Ciliegine, Morante plays a woman with high expectations of men, who dumps her partner after he selfishly eats the lone cherry on the top of their anniversary cake. Morante claims she was inspired to write the script by a 1907 essay by Sigmund Freud that her father had told her about, in which Freud states that people throw up obstacles to stop themselves from declaring their true love. Morena is currently working on a stage play, called The Country.

Asia Argento

Aria Asia Maria Vittoria Rossa Argento (born 20 September 1975) is an Italian actress, singer, model and director. Her mother is actress Daria Nicolodi and her father is Dario Argento, an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter, well known for his work in modern horror and slasher movies. Her maternal great-grandfather was composer Alfredo Casella. When Asia Argento was born in Rome, the city registry office refused to acknowledge Asia as an appropriate name and instead officially inscribed her as Aria Argento. She nonetheless uses the name Asia Argento professionally. Argento has said that as a child she was lonely and depressed, owing in part to her parents’ work. Her father used to read her his scripts as bedtime stories. At age eight, Argento published a book of poems.

Asia Argento started acting at the age of nine, playing a small role in a film by Sergio Citti. At the age of 10, she had a small part in Demons 2, a 1986 film written and produced by her father as well as in its unofficial sequel, La Chiesa (The Church), when she was 14 and in Trauma (1993), when she was 18. She received the David di Donatello (Italy’s version of the Academy Award) for Best Actress in 1994 for her performance in Perdiamoci di vista!, and again in 1996 for Compagna di viaggio, which also earned her a Grolla d’oro award. In 1998, Argento began appearing in English-language movies, such as B. Monkey and New Rose Hotel.

In 1994 she moved into directing, calling the shots behind the short films, Prospettive and A ritroso. In 1996 she directed a documentary on her father and in 1998 a second one on Abel Ferrara, which won her the Rome Film Festival Award. Argento directed and wrote her first movie, Scarlet Diva (2000), which her father co-produced. Four years later she directed her second movie, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), based on a book by JT LeRoy.

She is currently working on a number of film projects. In November, Argento wrote the storyline for the music video and short film “Phoenix” along with director, Francesco Carrozzini, taken from the ASAP Rocky album, “Long Live”. She is married to Michele Civetta, a filmmaker and multimedia artist. He is also the founder of Quintessence Films.

La Dolce Vita Recipes

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Bucatini all'amatriciana

Ingredients

  • 8 oz bucatini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 100 g or 3.5 oz guanciale or pancetta (about 3/4 cup)
  • 100 g grated pecorino romano cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • One 14 oz can Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, or more to taste

Directions

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to boil. Put in a small handful of large-grain salt.

Dice the guanciale into medium pieces, cubes of about 1/2 inch. Be wary of dicing the meat too small, if so it will be easier to overcook and you’re aiming for tender rather than crispy.

Saute the guanciale and hot pepper in the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. As soon as the fat becomes translucent, remove the meat and drain on a paper towel.

Add onions to the rendered fat and saute, stirring constantly, until translucent. Add the tomatoes and the guanciale. Simmer on low heat about 5-10 minutes.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta. Cook the pasta 1 minute less than the package states.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss with the sauce and add the pecorino romano cheese, stirring constantly, so that the melted cheese coats the pasta.

Remove from the heat and serve immediately with additional grated pecorino for sprinkling on top.

Abbacchio alla Romana (Roman-Style Pan-Roasted Lamb)

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lamb shoulder or shoulder chops, cut into 3-inch pieces with some bone attached
  • All-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
  • 1 rosemary sprig, plus extra for garnishing
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 salted anchovies, soaked in water for 10 minutes

Directions

Dust the pieces of lamb with flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the lamb and brown on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add sage, rosemary and garlic, and turn lamb pieces over several times to soak up the flavor. Add vinegar, bring to a boil and simmer until it almost evaporates. Add the water, bring to a boil, adjust heat to a simmer, and cover pot.

Turn the meat from time to time until tender and beginning to come away from the bone, which could take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes; the younger the lamb, the quicker it will cook.

When the lamb is done, remove from the heat, add the anchovies to the pan and mash them with a wooden spoon to dissolve them. Turn the lamb pieces around in the sauce before serving and garnish with rosemary.

Torta della Nonna (Grandmother’s cake)

For the pastry

  • 7 oz all purpose flour, plus extra
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 oz unsalted butter, chilled and chopped
  • 3 oz granulated sugar
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

For the filling

  • 12 fl oz skimmed milk
  • Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ½ oz granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 oz all purpose flour

For the topping

  • 1 oz pinenuts
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Put all the pastry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture comes together.

If you don’t have a processor, mix together the flour and baking powder, then rub in the butter with your fingers. Next, stir in the sugar and zest, then mix in the vanilla and whole egg with a blunt-ended kitchen knife and bring the pastry together.

Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Next, make the filling. Heat the milk and lemon zest until nearly boiling (there should be bubbles around the inside edge of the pan). Meanwhile, put the two eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and flour into a medium heatproof bowl. Whisk together to combine.

Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture, then scrape contents back into the empty pan. Return pan to the heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick (it will need to boil before it thickens). Take off the heat and let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180°C). Lightly flour a work surface and roll out two-thirds of the pastry. Use it to line a deep 8 inch round tart pan with a removeable bottom.

Whisk the filling to break it up any lumps that have formed while cooling, then spoon into the pastry base and spread to level. Trim the lining pastry so it comes about 3/4 inch above the filling, then gently fold the pastry edge on to the filling.

Next, roll out the remaining pastry on a lightly-floured surface into an 8 inch round. Lay on top of the filling and press edges lightly to seal. Sprinkle the pinenuts on top and press them down gently.

Bake for 50 minutes until nicely golden. Let cool for 10 minute, then carefully remove the outside ring and cool completely on a wire rack. To serve, liberally dust the cake with powdered sugar.

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The most common Valentine’s Day symbols are the heart, particularly in reds and pinks, and pictures or models of Cupid. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged figure with a bow and arrow. In mythology, he uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who have fallen in love are sometimes said to be “struck by Cupid’s arrow”. Other symbols of Valentine’s Day are couples in loving embraces and the gifts of flowers, chocolate, red roses and lingerie that couples often give each other.

To celebrate this lovers’ holiday Italians give each other flowers, plan romantic dinners and present each other with chocolates, much like in the United States. The renowned Italian chocolate maker, Perugina celebrates this day by making a special edition of the Baci chocolate candies with a shiny red wrapper and a sweet red cherry and liquid center rather than the traditional hazelnut one. These chocolates are always a favorite and inside the foil wrapper there is a “love note” with a romantic phrase.

In some countries like Vietnam, there is a different way to celebrate it. Couples wear the same style and/or color of clothes.

Japan has its own interesting way, too. For them, there are two Valentine’s Days. On February 14th, girls give dark chocolate to the boys they like. On March 14th, boys give cookies or white chocolate to the girls they like.

In some parts of the Dominican Republic and El Salvador friends and family play games.

In Spain only people in love get and give presents. Friends or family don’t exchange notes or presents.

All over the world people celebrate Valentine’s Day by expressing love to sweethearts, spouses and special ones. However, customs and traditions of celebrating the festival vary in different countries due to social and cultural differences.

So where did the idea of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day come from? From the moment chocolate was discovered it was considered valuable, divine and decadent, so what better gift to give a woman? The first chocolate candies (as we know them today) were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, who was also the first to market them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day.

The brilliance of marketers have certainly helped sales and popularity, but its aphrodisiac effect is surely one of the dominating factors underlying its status as a gift of choice. In addition to the aphrodisiac effects, research suggests that there are many more health related benefits. A healthy component of chocolate is its high level of antioxidant polyphenols. These are the same compounds found in red wine, fruits and vegetables that are touted for their heart-healthy and disease preventing qualities.

A chocolate’s taste, its smoothness and its aroma takes over one’s senses. As a matter of fact, there are few foods that people feel as passionate about as chocolate, a passion that goes beyond a plain old sweet tooth. For the true chocoholic, just thinking about chocolate can evoke a sensation of pleasure. Chocolate is mood-enhancing and, when eaten in moderate amounts, it is harmless to your health.

tiramisu

Chocolate Tiramisu

Ingredients

Serves 10.

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese), room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 24 ladyfinger cookies (from a 7-ounce package)

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with 1 1/2 cups very hot water until dissolved; set cocoa mixture aside.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, place 1/4 cup cream and chocolate; microwave in 1-minute increments and stir until melted. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer cooled chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl; add cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until blended. Add remaining cream; beat filling until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread 1 cup of chocolate filling in the bottom of a 2-quart serving dish. One at a time, dip 6 ladyfingers in cocoa mixture, then arrange in a single layer in the bottom of the dish; spread with 1 cup of chocolate filling. Repeat with three more layers, ending with filling.

Cover tiramisu and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days). Dust with cocoa powder or shaved chocolate before serving.

warm cakes

Chocolate Cakes with Apricot-Amaretto Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line 4 muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate chips with the butter, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly. Whisk in the whole eggs and the egg yolks.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, until set around the edges and soft in the center. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the apricot jam with the Amaretto until smooth.

Invert the cakes onto plates and remove the paper liners. Spoon the apricot sauce around the cakes and serve.

Chocolate bark w/nuts & seeds. A101201 Food & Wine Chef's Diet March 2011

Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao)
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife, finely chop the chocolate. In a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, heat the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it is about two-thirds melted; do not let the bowl touch the water.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and the temperature registers 90° on a candy thermometer. If the chocolate has not melted completely and is still too cool, set it back over the saucepa of simmering water for 1 or 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly; do not overheat.

Stir the almonds and seeds into the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet in a 1/2-inch-thick layer, making sure the nuts and seeds are completely covered in chocolate. Refrigerate the bark for about 10 minutes, until hardened. Invert the bark onto a work surface. Remove the parchment paper, break into 25 pieces.

MAKE AHEAD The broken bark can be stored in an airtight bag or container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days.

68565-cocoa-cookies-h-2

Chocolate Oat Cookies

Yield: 2 dozens

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup ground almonds (or nuts of choice)
  • 1 1/4 cups ground oats (grind in a blender)
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ground almonds, ground oats, flour, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl.

Combine maple syrup and oil and mix with the dried ingredients until well combined and forms a dough.

Scoop out heaping teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes; cookies should be just set. Remove to a cooling rack.

sherbet

Chocolate Sherbet

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces 60-percent-cacao chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan stir together chopped chocolate, sugar, water and cream. Bring to boiling, whisking constantly. Boil gently for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and chill overnight.

Freeze mixture in a 1-quart ice cream freezer according to manufacturers directions. Store in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

To serve, scoop into small glasses or dishes and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

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Sometimes it seems that there are as many types of coffee in Italy as there are pastas. And just like pasta, Italian coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. Whether it’s a caffè corretto thrown back like a shot, a cappuccino and brioche for breakfast or a granita di caffè con panna to cool off from the hot midday sun, in Italy there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood. It would be fair to say that Italians are passionate about coffee. So much so, you would think they had discovered it. They didn’t.

Around 600 CE Ethiopian goat herders noticed their hyperactive goats were eating leaves and berries from a strange tree with glossy green leaves. Coffee was discovered and cultivation soon spread to Yemen. Around 900, Arab physician, Rhazes, first mentions coffee in print but as a medicine. Around 1400 Ethiopians were roasting, grinding and brewing coffee beans. Coffee as we know it was born.

When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a uproar and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began in the 16th century. Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black drink, which was until now solely consumed as medicine, achieved status and it became a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society. However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and, as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it’s popularity increased.

With over two hundred coffee houses along its canals, the reputation of this new drink soon spread to the neighboring cities of Verona, Milan and Turin. Coffee consumption soon spread to Rome, Naples, Bari and Sicily. The spread nationwide escalated and it wasn’t long before every household in Italy became familiar with the drink, eventually evolving in a culture that is still relevant today.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable images that depicts the importance of coffee in Italian society is the ‘macchinetta’. The famous aluminum stovetop percolator, designed and produced by Bialetti in 1933, can be found in most Italian kitchens. However, times change and now electric coffee machines stand on bar counters that force scalding water over ground coffee beans to create a rich, frothy drink.

In Trentino ask for a ‘Cappuccino Viennese’ and you’ll be served a creamy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, stop for a ‘Caffè Anisette’, an aniseed-flavored espresso, in Naples enjoy coffee flavored with hazelnut cream and in Sicily, a ‘caffè d’u parrinu’, is coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder.

The Italian Coffee

Like many hot coffee drinks, The Italian Coffee is defined by a single liqueur. In this case – Strega, an Italian digestif. Strega brings a distinct herbal blend to coffee with hints of juniper, saffron and mint. When made with dark roasted beans this drink makes an excellent after dinner cup of coffee.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Strega liqueur
  • Hot black espresso coffee
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Nutmeg for garnish

Directions

Pour the Strega into a glass coffee mug.

Fill with hot coffee.

Top with whipped cream

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Handmade Cappuccino

Makes 1 large mug

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/4 cup espresso ground coffee
  • 8 ounces milk
  • Sugar (optional)

Directions

Pour the water into the bottom chamber of a stovetop espresso pot. Fill the filter basket that fits over the water with the coffee, tamping down gently. Place on the stovetop burner over medium-low heat. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as all the water has boiled through the filter into the top part of the pot.

Meanwhile place the milk in a 16-ounce coffee mug. Heat in the microwave until hot but not starting to bubble on the sides. (Alternatively, you may heat the milk on the stovetop in a small pan, then transfer to a mug.)

Hold the handle of a small 4-inch whisk between the palms of both hands. Put the whisk in the hot milk and twirl rapidly back and forth until foam appears on the top, about 20 seconds. Pour the coffee into the mug. Sweeten if desired and serve immediately.

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup brewed espresso coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add buttermilk, eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes with the mixer at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the baking pan on wire rack.

This plain chocolate cake is very moist.

Optional: Frost it with sweetened whipped cream with a teaspoon of cinnamon added to the cream or use your favorite chocolate frosting.

Coffee Granita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) freshly brewed espresso coffee
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions

Put espresso and sugar into a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves completely. Let rest until room temperature.

Pour coffee mixture into a medium baking dish and transfer to the freezer. Using the tines of a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping edges and breaking up any chunks as the mixture freezes, until granita is slushy and frozen, about 4 hours.

Divide granita into individual serving glasses or transfer into a plastic container, cover, and freeze until ready to serve.

Espresso Souffle

If you want your soufflé to rise above the dish, you can make this in a 4-cup soufflé dish. Make a collar by wrapping a strip of buttered parchment paper around the outside of the dish and securing it with a string. Serve this soufflé with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Ingredients

  • Butter to coat baking dish
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons espresso brewed coffee
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4 egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Thoroughly butter a 2-quart soufflé dish or 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

Combine espresso and chocolate in a glass bowl. Microwave about 1 minute; stir until chocolate melts.

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with a mixer until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Stir about 1 cup egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold remaining egg white mixture into chocolate mixture.

Spoon into the prepared souffle dish. Place on a baking sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes (soufflé dish) or 20 to 25 minutes (ramekins), until soufflé rises. Serve immediately.

Espresso Pudding Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups hot brewed espresso coffee
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Coat a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Whisk all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Mix hot coffee and brown sugar in the measuring cup and pour over the batter. (It may look strange at this point, but during baking, cake forms on top with sauce underneath.)

Bake the pudding cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm.


Wine has a long, rich history as a cooking liquid. One of the early “cookbooks,” compiled in the first century, “De re Coquinaria” (“On Cooking”), included dozens of recipes that used wine. Since the beginning of recorded history, wine has been considered one of the essential ingredients in cooking. The ancient Greeks used wine and there are numerous references to its use in their meal preparation. When the Romans came along, they spread the practice of cooking with wine throughout Europe and developed special varietals, such as Marsala. The Romans also prepared a concentrate of grape must (unfermented grape juice) called defrutum, which was kept around the hearth and used both to color and sweeten foods. In the East, centuries of Japanese and Chinese cooks have made wine from fruits or rice and used these liquids in cooking.

Italians take wine very seriously and, just as they eat regionally, Italians drink regionally. Go to Tuscany where you will find Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Brunello di Montalcino. Head to Abruzzo and you will find Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo on the table. The characteristics of a given wine are reflective of the culture in which it is made. Each of Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions proudly claim their own sub-cultures and cuisines, leading to many variations of wine. Piedmont and Tuscany are the Italian leaders in quality wines. Italy is respected as a wine-producing country and no other country can boast as many varieties. They use their 350+ varieties of domestic grapes, along with international varieties to produce wines in a class of their own. Approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine comes directly from Italy’s vineyards and there are over one million throughout the entire country.

The Major Types of Italian Red Wines

Amarone is made from air-dried Corvina grapes and is produced in the northern Veneto region near Venice, using the “recioto” method. This technique involves picking the grapes that grow on the outside of a cluster and have the most exposure to the sun. The result is a full-bodied wine in a style more common to warm growing areas. Amarones are aged for five years or more before bottling. Some, but not all, are aged in oak barrels. Amarone (the name means big, bitter one) has a powerful, concentrated, almost Port-like texture with hints of mocha. Amarone is ideal with roasted beef or pork and also with cheese.

Barolo is a powerful and full-bodied wine with a complex mixture of tastes and textures – wild strawberry, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla. Barolo gets better with age and is frequently referred to as “the king of wines”. Barolo requires many years (three years minimum by law) of aging to soften it and it is improved by decanting. Barolo is made in the Langhe Hills region of Piedmont, entirely of Nebbiolo grapes. Nebbiolo is a difficult grape to grow well. It thrives in the region’s clay, limestone and sandy soil, preferring to be planted on sunny, south-facing hillsides. Barolo is a perfect accompaniment to meat, rich pastas and creamy risottos.

Chianti has come a long way from its image of wicker-wrapped bottles with candle drippings alongside a plate of spaghetti. Today’s Chiantis are produced in Tuscany, in central Italy near Florence and Chianti has a government-controlled wine designation. That means all of the wine called Chianti has to be made within the Chianti area. Chianti is produced from primarily Sangiovese grapes, sometimes combined with Cabernet Franc, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It has high acidity with hints of plum and wild cherry. Chianti and any tomato-based sauce are a classic wine and food pairing, but Chianti also goes well with steak or other grilled meat.

Barbaresco is also produced from Nebbiolo grapes, but tends to be a more softer wine than Barolo. There are just three, small growing regions for Barbaresco compared to Barolo’s eleven regions, so there is less Barbaresco available each year. Barbaresco, too, requires aging – a minimum of two years and up to twenty years – to meet its full potential. It also pairs well with red meat and the rich food of Piedmont.

Bardolino is a light, fruit-filled wine made in the Veneto region of Italy. Named after the town of Bardolino on Lake Garda, this wine has faint cherry flavors with a hint of spiciness. Like Amarone, Bardolino is crafted, primarily from Corvina grapes. Sometimes made into a dry, rose or sparkling wine called “chiaretto,” Bardolino is best served chilled and goes nicely with fish, seafood, light meat entrees, pasta and pizza.

Montalcino is Tuscany’s second most famous wine zone, after Chianti. Montalcino is a small, medieval town just outside of Siena. The wine district there is a warm, sunny, hilly area with few extremes in temperature. The cool evenings  insure high acidity. Brunello di Montalcino is created entirely from Sangiovese grapes. By Italian wine law, Brunello must be aged longer than any other wine – a minimum of four years. Brunello is subtle with overtones of blackberry, black cherry, chocolate and sweet vanilla. Drink it with the hearty dishes of Tuscany.

Cooking with Wine

Using wine in cooking is so natural, it probably would have occurred anywhere grapes could be grown and turned into wine. Wine can accent, enhance and intensify the flavors and aromas of food. The ways of using wine in cooking are numerous: marinate, saute, poach, boil, braise, stew or deglaze. Some cooks use wine for stir-fries, steaming or blanching. A splash of it straight out of the bottle is an added flavor in vinaigrettes or sauces.

Cooks use wine instead of water because wine adds flavor. But just as the four vinegars made from cider, sherry, red wine or white wine differ from each other, so do wines differ in what they add to a recipe. “Wine adds acidity to sauces,” says Jeff Mosher, chef for the Robert Mondavi Winery. “Food that has a level of acidity goes better with wine than food that is flat.” A careful cook, however, needs to consider the cooking preparation when utilizing wine. For example, wine could concentrate and become too tart after boiling down a marinade into a sauce. So, likewise, would any sweetness in wine; too much can be cloying. “It’s best to use red wines that don’t have huge tannins,” says Mosher. “When reduced, they leave a bitter flavor. I usually cook with merlot or pinot noir … never all cabernet sauvignon. Avoid wines labeled “cooking wine.” Not only are such wines often oxidized, but they are also packed with salt.

Finally, it isn’t necessary, as the old adage has it, to cook with the same wine that you will serve. According to Mosher, the flavor compounds and nuances of a very fine wine simply don’t survive the heat of most cooking. For example, preparing boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin doesn’t require an expensive red Burgundy. For these dishes, any of well-made, balanced, medium- to full-bodied red wine will do.

Red Wine Bagna Cauda

Ingredients

  • One 750-milliliter bottle Italian dry red wine, such as Nebbiolo
  • 1/4 cup marinated anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Assorted crudités, such as carrots, radishes, fennel and bell peppers, for serving

Directions

In a large saucepan, boil the wine over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

In a blender, combine the reduced wine with the anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend until smooth. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the bagna cauda to a medium saucepan and rewarm over low heat. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with the crudités.

Red Wine Glazed Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • Chopped basil for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a medium oval baking dish with oil.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the milk and mash to a paste. Add the egg, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt, black pepper and cayenne and stir until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and dry bread crumbs and stir until thoroughly combined.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Let cool, then transfer to the bowl with the bread mixture. Add the meat and knead in until evenly combined.

Transfer the meat loaf mixture to the prepared baking dish and pat it into a 4-by-12-inch oval loaf. Bake for about 50 minutes or until firm but not quite cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the red wine with the honey, chopped tomato and molasses and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the all the ingredients. Boil until the glaze is thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes.

Brush half of the glaze over the parially cooked meat loaf. Continue baking for about 20 minutes longer until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°F; brush once more with the remaining glaze. Let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes, garnish with chopped basil, slice and serve.

Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh porcini or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice (6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Amarone
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • One 2-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mixed herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley, etc.

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until browned. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer; cover and keep warm over low heat.

In the skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated.

Pour in 1 cup of the hot stock, or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Repeat, adding 1 cup of stock at a time and stirring until all of the stock has been absorbed.

The risotto is done when the rice is cooked al dente, about 25 minutes. Stir in the butter and mushrooms and heat until the butter is melted and the mushrooms are heated. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon the risotto into serving bowls and shred Parmigiano-Reggiano over the risotto, sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Chicken Parmesan with Red-Wine Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Large pich of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought pasta sauce
  • 4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped Basil, optional

Directions

Sprinkle chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and the salt. Combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs.

Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add wine to the pan and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and red pepper, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute. Add pasta sauce; cook 1 minute or until bubbly.

Combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Arrange chicken over sauce; top each breast with a portion of the cheese and a spoonful of sauce.

Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked and cheese has melted.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Chocolate-Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or butter alternative, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar or the equivalent of a sugar alternative
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Italian dry red wine
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer.

Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, just until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve.



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