Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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

winterproduce5

Winter Vegetable Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

winterproduce3

Seafood with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

8 First Course Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

winterproduce2

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

Servings: 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

winterproduce1

Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

For the polenta:

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

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

To finish the stew:

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

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

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Upside-Down Cranberry-Ginger Cake

Ingredients

Topping:

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

Cake:

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

For the topping:

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

For the cake:

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

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

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

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

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These cooler days are a great time to cook with winter squash. Sweeter, denser and more firm in texture than summer squash or zucchini, winter squashes take well to a wide variety of recipes and can be delicious in soups, casseroles, risotto, lasagna and even desserts.

Winter squash are harvested in the fall and these hardy vegetables will keep well through the cold winter months for which they’re named. Sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti and butternut squash are probably the most common types to find at your local supermarket. The other varieties are worth seeking out at farmers’ markets and specialty markets. Regardless of the type, select winter squash that are blemish and bruise free with an intact stem and a heavy feeling for their size.

Naturally low in fat and calories, winter squash provide significant nutritional benefits. For example, one cup of baked butternut squash contains vitamins A (from beta carotene), B6, C and E, as well as magnesium, potassium and manganese. Flavors are generally mild-to-sweet, so squash won’t overwhelm other ingredients and can easily be incorporated into seasonal recipes. The orange and yellow flesh helps brighten dishes, especially in the colder months, when variety and color can be hard to come by in seasonal produce. Don’t be discouraged by winter squash’s size and tough exterior and you can sometimes find popular varieties, like butternut, in stores already peeled and cubed. See my earlier post on tips for cutting up winter squash.

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/11/26/how-do-i-cook-winter-squash/

See chart above for photos of each of the following winter squashes.

1. Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The squat, green kabocha—the Japanese word for squash—has a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It’s similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in.

2. Butternut Squash
Characteristics: A slim neck and bulbous bottom give the butternut squash its distinctive bell shape. The muted yellow-tan rind hides bright orange-yellow flesh with a slightly sweet taste. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately.

3. Red Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The red kabocha is squat, like its green counterpart, and has faint white stripes running from top to bottom. While the green kabocha is savory, the red kabocha is sweeter.

4. Carnival Squash
Characteristics: Combine an acorn squash with a sweet dumpling squash and you get a carnival squash. While the carnival squash’s exterior resembles both of its relatives, its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Use it wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe.

5. Sugar Pumpkin
Characteristics: Sugar pumpkins are prized for their classic pumpkin flavor, as well as for their thick and fleshy walls. If you’d like to opt out of canned pumpkin for your baking and make your own purée instead, use a sugar pumpkin.

6. Sweet Dumpling Squash
Characteristics: This whitish-yellow and green squash is small and compact, making the whole squash the perfect-size for an individual serving. The flesh tastes very much like a sweet potato and the skin is edible is as well. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.

7. Spaghetti Squash
Characteristics: Take a fork to the inside of a cooked spaghetti squash and you’ll understand how this squash got its name. If you’re in search of a healthy pasta alternative, try this very mild-tasting squash.

8. Blue Hubbard Squash
Characteristics: Most blue Hubbard squash are huge and bumpy and are often sold as pre-cut wedges. Some varieties, like the Blue Ballet, are smaller, making it easier to store and prepare at home. Underneath the gray-blue skin is sweet-tasting orange flesh.

9. Delicata Squash
Characteristics: This particular winter squash, with its pale yellow shading, most closely resembles its summer squash relatives. The thin skin is edible, but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. When cooked, the delicata has a consistency similar to that of a sweet potato—creamy and soft—although the flavoring is more earthy.

10. Red Kuri Squash
Characteristics: Like all Hubbards, the red kuri has an asymmetrical, lopsided look to it. However, the red kuri is smaller and easier to handle. Its yellow flesh is smooth and has a chestnut like flavor.

11. Buttercup Squash
Characteristics: Compact and green with paler green stripes, the buttercup can closely resemble a kabocha squash but it has a distinctive circular ridge on the bottom. On some, the ridge may surround a more pronounced bump, or “turban.” A freshly cut buttercup may smell like a cucumber, but once cooked, its orange flesh becomes dense.

12. Acorn Squash
Characteristics: This mild flavored squash is named for its acorn like shape. Choose one with a dull green rind; an acorn squash that’s turned orange will have tough and fibrous flesh.

(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

vegeta-porrusalda

Squash and Fish Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cod or white fish available in your area, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped in 1/2-inch sections
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
  • 4 potatoes, chopped in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound winter squash, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4-5 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and sauté leeks until they brown slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until they begin to take on a slight tan color, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add potatoes, carrot, squash and cod pieces. Immediately, pour in enough broth to cover and add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Bring soup to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 to 25 minutes or until potatoes and squash are tender. Stir once or twice. Add salt and pepper, if needed.

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Mediterranean Squash with Lemon Sauce

This dish goes very well with baked chicken.

ingredients

  • 1 small kabocha squash or large acorn squash (1 pound), scrubbed,
  • 1 1-pound delicata squash, scrubbed, cut into 1″-thick wedges or rings, seeded
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Arrange two racks in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425°F.

Place kabocha on one rimmed baking sheet and delicata on a second sheet. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the squash on both baking sheets and sprinkle each pan with a 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Season squash with salt and pepper; toss. Roast for 15 minutes.

Combine 1 tablespoon oil and the scallions in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter scallion mixture over the squash, dividing evenly between the two baking sheets, and continue to roast until squash is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer (time may vary depending on squash).

Whisk lemon juice, tahini and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer squash to a serving platter. Drizzle sauce over the squash and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.

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Sweet Squash Turnovers

Makes 24

Ingredients

Squash Filling

  • 4 lb squash, sugar pumpkin or any winter squash of choice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

Pastry Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze

  • Egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • Cinnamon-sugar mixture (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)

Directions

To make the filling:

Rinse off the exterior of the squash. Using a serrated knife cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Scrape out the stringy layer (pulp) with a spoon. Discard seeds and pulp and cut into 4 inch slices leaving the skin on.

In a steamer or large pot, steam the squash over the 2 cups of water, making sure to keep the lid on tight, for 20 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Cool. Once cooled, scrape the flesh off the skins and into a mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Mash with a potato masher and strain the liquid in a colander into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and set squash puree aside.

In the same large pot, put the reserved liquid from the squash (you will have about about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and the add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring liquid to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat. Replace the lid and let steep for 30 minutes.

Remove cinnamon and cloves and add the squash puree to the liquid. Add the brown sugar and over medium-low heat let it melt into the squash puree, stirring occasionally, so it will not burn or stick to the pot. Once the sugar has melted, lower the heat to low and let simmer uncovered until all the water evaporates. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down before refrigerating, about 15 minutes. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

To make the pastry dough:

Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening and add the eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Combine until you have a soft dough. Cut the dough in half, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the turnovers:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven.

Take out half the dough and divide it into 12 equal balls of dough. Keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator until you are finished with the first half.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles, about 4-5 inches. Place a tablespoon of filling on one half of each of the dough circles. Wet the bottom edges of the circles with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover the filling and seal the edges with a fork by pressing down along the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush each turnover with egg white mixture, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Puncture the top of each turnover with a fork.

Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, place turnovers on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack in the oven. After 15 minutes move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown. Follow the same procedure for the remaining turnovers.

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Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna

For the squash filling

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 lb butternut squash or squash of choice, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel and chopped

For the sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling the lasagna

  • 1/2 lb mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
  • 12 lasagna noodles, partially cooked

Directions

To make the filling:

Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley, sage and nuts. Cool filling.

To make the sauce:

Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook mixture, whisking, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of the sauce with wax paper, if not using immediately.)

To assemble the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cook lasagna noodles in boiling salted water, about 6 minutes. Drain and place on kitchen towels, so they do not stick together.

Mix cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in a buttered 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover the sauce with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between the sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one-third of the filling, then sprinkle with a 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered heavy-duty foil and bake the lasagna in the middle of the for oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 20 minutes before serving.

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Kabocha Squash Mini-Cakes

Cakes:

  • 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded kabocha squash (from one 3-pound squash)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored beer
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 2 cups vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

Directions:

Combine squash and milk in a heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean; add the bean pod. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pod. Drain squash. Place in a processor and blend until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray six 3/4 cup ramekins with nonstick spray. Place 1/2 cup squash puree in large bowl (reserve remaining puree for another baking use). Add sugar, oil, beer and egg to puree and beat to blend. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt over; beat to blend. Divide batter among prepared ramekins.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in ramekins. Turn out onto serving plates.

Topping: Combine yogurt and brown sugar. Serve with the mini-cakes.

 


 

 

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

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

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

Ski Trails

Ski Trails

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

Stelvio National Park

Stelvio National Park

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

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

Mountain Vineyards

Mountain Vineyards

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

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

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VALTELLINA PIZZOCHERi

Original recipe of the Pizzocchero Teglio ®

Coded and registered by the Academy of Pizzocchero Teglio

Ingredients (serves 4)

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

Preparation:

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

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

The Cuisine of Valtellina

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Insalata Della Valtellina (Bresaola salad)

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

Ingredients

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

Dressing

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

Directions

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

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

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

Valt0

Polenta Taragna alla Valtellinese

It is generally served with salami and pickles.

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

Valt02

Italian Pork and Vegetable Saute

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Makes 4 servings

Valt01

Bisciola

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palmaria

islandspalmaria

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

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

Tino

islandstino

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

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

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

Tinetto

islandstinetto

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

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

Gallinara

islandsgallinara

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

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

Bergeggi

islandsbergeggi

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

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

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

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

The Cuisine of Liguria

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

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

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

islandtart

Leek and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

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

For the dough:

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

For the filling:

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

islandpasta

Pasta with Mediterranean Herbs

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

islandfish

Ligurian Style Snapper with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

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

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

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

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

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

Italian-hazelnuislandcake

Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake

10 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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apple

Apples are the number one fall fruit. Fall also brings with it a renewed interest in baking. The most difficult part about encountering the appetizing display of apples in the store is deciding which apple is best for which project. All are great for munching out of hand, but texture, flavor and size, all contribute to whether a certain apple is best for apple crisp or applesauce.

Munching

If you’re simply in need of a good snack, apples fit the bill. Here are some favorite varieties for eating out of hand or using raw in salads.

Honeycrisp apples are extra crisp and tangy. They are excellent eaten raw, but will also hold their shape when baked.

With red skin and light green patches, Fuji apples are juicy and fragrant.

Crisp and mildly sweet, Gala apples are a satisfying snack.

Pink Lady apples are pinky red in color with crisp, juicy flesh and a complex flavor.

Baking

Whether stuffed or baked for a side dish or a dessert or chopped up and hidden under a layer of dough or crumble topping, these apples hold their shape during cooking.

Rome apples are very large with green-speckled red skin. This variety makes an impressive dessert when baked whole.

Extra tart with thick, “apple green” skin, Granny Smiths are the perfect opposite to the sweeter baking apples, like Golden Delicious, for balanced pies and crisps.

Braeburn apples are very crisp, sweet and tangy, making them great for baking or eating raw.

Golden Delicious are excellent all-purpose apples that are particularly good in pies and crisps.

Jonagold apples have a honeyed sweetness and crisp yellow flesh. This variety holds its shape during baking or sautéing.

Sauces

These apples break down beautifully with heat, making them perfect for purées and sauces.

Cortland apples are sweet and juicy and their flesh breaks down easily with cooking making them perfect for applesauce. These crisp apples are also great raw as their flesh resists browning.

With shiny, deep red skin and bright white flesh, Empire apples are crisp and a little spicy. Cored and stewed, this variety cooks down into a beautiful rosy pink sauce.

Stout Macoun apples are tender, juicy and sweet, making them also perfect for applesauce.

Tart-sweet McIntosh apples are juicy with a great fragrance, but they don’t stand up to long cooking times.

Apple3

Easy Homemade Apple Cider

The best cider has a balance between sweet and tart. Use half sweet and half tart apples in making the recipe below.

  • Red Delicious: Large, firm red apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Yellow Delicious: Large, firm yellow apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Jonathon: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple, with red near the top, descending to green lower down the fruit.
  • Granny Smith: Medium/small, crisp, tart apple with green color.
  • Gala: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple with yellow skin blushed with orange to red tinge.

Ingredients

  • 10 apples, half sweet and half tart from the list above, quartered
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

Directions

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

Strain apple mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold.

apple1

Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds and the apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

apple6

Sweet Potato Apple Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1 crisp apple (Fuji, Pink Lady or Granny Smith)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Put the sweet potatoes in a microwavable dish, loosely cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

In batches, puree the broth, cider, cooked onion and squash until smooth. Return all the ingredients to the stockpot, stir in the sage and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Right before serving, core and dice the apple. In a small skillet saute the apple, honey and lemon juice until warm. Serve the soup warm and garnish each serving with a spoonful of apple.

apple5

Italian Farro with Apples

Farro, a wheat like grain, makes a delicious alternative to rice or a side-dish for pork, chicken and fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hulled whole-grain farro
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Fuji apple (8 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sort farro, discarding bits of hulls and other debris. Pour farro into a bowl, cover completely with cool water, stir, and skim off and discard any additional hulls that float to the surface. Drain farro.

Heat oil in a 5-to 6-quart pan over high heat, add celery and onion and cook stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.. Add farro to the pan and stir until the grains are coated, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover pan, and simmer (mixture foams, so check and stir occasionally to keep it from boiling over) until farro is tender to the bite and no longer tastes starchy, about 25 minutes. Stir in parsley, cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apple; cut into about 1/4-inch dice and mix with the lemon juice. Stir into the  farro mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour into a serving bowl.

apple 2

Classic Apple Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Remove thyme leaves from their stems and divide in half. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and half the thyme leaves, pressing lightly so seasonings adhere.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling hot. Add the pork chops and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, turning only once, to brown. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm.

Add butter to the pan and heat until foamy. Add shallot and remaining thyme leaves and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add apples, broth and remaining salt and pepper to the skillet scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until apple is tender and sauce reduces slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Return pork chops to the skillet, along with any juices that have collected at the bottom of the plate, to the skillet and cook just until the pork registers 145 degrees on a meat thermometer.. Transfer the pork chops to a platter and spoon the apple mixture over the chops.

apple4

Ricotta Cheesecake With Apple Topping

Crust

  • 1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs, (20 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (8 ounces) light sour cream, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup apple cider

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix cookie crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Place pan on wire rack.

In a food processor, process ricotta cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla bean until ricotta is smooth. Add cream cheese and sour cream; process just until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk in 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Fold in the remaining cheese mixture in two additions. Pour over the baked  crust.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until the edges rise, and the center is just set, but still jiggly. Place on wire rack to cool completely (cheesecake may crack). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the topping:

In a large skillet, combine the sugar and water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately add the apples and butter. Stir to coat the apples. Return the pan to the heat and cook, turning apples occasionally, until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the apples are tender, add the cider and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the topping into a bowl, cover and let cool.

To serve the cheesecake, remove the pan sides and, with a large spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Spoon the topping over the cake and serve.


molise

Molise is the youngest and second smallest region in Italy and is located in central-southern Italy. The region has only been recognized since 1963. Before this, Molise was an isolated province of Abruzzo. It now borders Abruzzo to the north, Latium to the west and Campania to the south with Puglia (Apulia) to the south-east. Its capital is Campobasso and the city is famous for the exceptional skill of its knife craftsmen, as well as, its delicious pears and scamorza cheese. Molise is home to beautiful abbeys, churches and castles, as well as, impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track. Though beautiful, many of the buildings in the Molise region have been rebuilt over time due to damage by invading forces, as well as, by significant earthquakes which shook the area in 1456, 1805 and again in 2002.

Campobasso

Campobasso

Rain is very frequent and it is heavy during the autumn and spring months. Molise is mostly mountainous with rocky and steep hills, so sheep farming is a major industry. Only the coastline has roads/railways. Because of its mountainous terrain, the economy of the region has for centuries been highly dependent on the transit of shepherds and their flocks from Abruzzo to Puglia.

molise1

Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and much of its agriculture is on a small-scale, reflecting the region’s sparse population. Most people live in rural areas where subsistence farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families fed and healthy. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients.

molise5

Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region and the culinary tradition makes use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise is a polenta variation that is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other traditional polenta dishes are common throughout the region and many recipes reflect the influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani cuisine.

Typical desserts include a jam made with grapes grown in the Molise countryside, pastries filled with chickpeas, wafers made with walnuts and almonds and baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries.

Antipasto Course

molise4

Baked Caciocavallo Cheese

Serves 8

  • 1 pound caciocavallo, wax removed, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary or oregano, sage, thyme, and parsley, chopped fine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the cheese in an even layer in the dish and scatter the herbs on top.

Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately from the oven with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

First Course

molise2

Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 7 ounces anchovies
  • 14 oz container diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Hot pepper to taste
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dice the anchovies. Peel garlic and chop together with the hot pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.

Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves, mix well and remove pan from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.

Drain, toss with prepared sauce, adding the rest of the oil and chopped parsley. Serve.

Second Course

molise6

Breaded  Rib Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 8 rib lamb chops
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 ½ oz Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip the lamb chops in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the ribs on both sides.

Place the browned chops in a baking dish. Cover each chop with a one tablespoon of marinara sauce.

Sprinkle each chop with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve.

molise8

Braised Peas with Onion

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.

When the peas are tender, uncover and stir frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Taste for seasoning, Add the cheese and serve the peas in a heated bowl.

Dessert Course

molise7

Italian Almond Orange Cake 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at  room temperature, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 1/3 cups almond flour, packed
  • 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure all the ingredients and separate eggs.

In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.

Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters.  Beat until they reach a firm peak.  Put aside.

Beat the sugar into the egg yolks. Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy.  Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in the orange juice in between additions.  Then carefully fold in the orange zest. Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure a fluffy batter.

Turn into a parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.


cherries

Cherries are in season and you can use them to create sweet or savory recipes.  There’s no need to limit cherries just to desserts. Use them in muffins, coffee cakes or pancakes for breakfast or add them to salads, salsas, sauces and shakes.

Traverse City, Michigan and Vignola, Italy, both claim to be the cherry capital of the world. Traverse City grows more cherries but Vignola’s been growing them longer. It’s the Pacific Northwest, however, that accounts for 70 percent of the sweet cherry production, while Michigan produces about three-quarters of the tart variety.

Nutritionally, cherries are very much like most fruit in that they contain fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta carotene.

Choosing Cherries

Rain is the industry’s biggest problem. Ripe berries will split open if they get wet at the wrong time, making the crop sometimes unpredictable. The most popular Northwest sweet cherry is the Bing. These large cherries will be a dark burgundy color when fully ripened. The smaller, heart-shaped Lambert cherry is similar in taste to the Bing. A yellowish colored cherry is an extra-sweet hybrid called the Rainier.

In the Midwest, the Schmidt is a variety similar to the Bing. Other sweet cherry varieties of that region are the Emperor Francis and the Rainier. Tart cherries can sometimes be found at local farm stands for use in pies and jams. When picking out fresh cherries, make sure they’re firm (but not hard) and without soft spots or bruises. The stems should be green and not darkened with age.

Wash the cherries and pat dry and then store them in a plastic container for up to two weeks. Cherries deteriorate rapidly if they’re not kept refrigerated.

cherries1

If you want to take advantage of the in season prices, you can freeze cherries. The only equipment you’ll need beforehand is a cherry pitter and surgical gloves (unless you want red hands for days). A cherry pitter works very well.

To freeze, lay the washed cherries, pitted, on a jelly roll pan in a single layer and place in the freezer. When they’re solid, place them in labeled Zip-Lock freezer bags and they should keep for up to a year. Never defrost cherries, however, before using in your cooking or baking because they become mushy.

You can also make dried cherries that are great for baking or for use in granola and salads. This is a great way to use up overripe or crushed fruit. Arrange cherries skin side down on foil-covered cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Place in a 200 degrees F oven for four to five hours or until the cherries are shriveled. They should be leathery and slightly sticky, but not hard.

Cool, then store in Zip-Lock bags or plastic containers. It is best to store homemade dried fruit in the refrigerator or freezer because the moisture that is still present in the fruit may cause some bacterial growth. Dried fruit will also taste fresher longer, if kept in a cool place.

cherries7

Tomato Bruschetta with Sweet Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf good, crusty Italian bread
  • 1 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced to 1/4″ chunks
  • 1 cup bing cherries
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, plus one whole clove for the bread
  • 2 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bread
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

Directions

Place the diced tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. Pit and quarter the cherries. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, cherries, parsley, minced garlic and onion. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar into the olive oil.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1/2″ thick slices, rub with the whole clove of garlic and brush with olive oil. Toast the slices of bread in a toaster oven or under the broiler until golden and crisp. Drizzle each slice with a 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil/vinegar mixture and then carefully spoon on the bruschetta. Garnish with a few parsley leaves and serve.

cherries4

Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette

Next time you are grilling, add a few extra chicken breasts for a summer salad the following day.

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half to make four pieces (about 1/4 pound each)
  • Olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary, chopped fine
  • 8 cups assorted garden lettuce or greens, such as baby romaine, leaf, red oak, endive, arugula, spinach (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 10-15 radishes, sliced thin
  • Toasted pecans, optional

Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 cup cherry juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger root (peeled first),
  • Dash salt, cayenne pepper and/or freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a blender, combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

Chill in a covered container until ready to use. (The dressing can be strained for a smoother appearance.)

Brush the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt, ground black pepper and the chopped fresh herbs.

Grill the chicken and refrigerate until needed.

Wash and dry the salad greens. Toss with the onions, pecans, if using, and radishes. Slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips.

Just before serving, toss the lettuce mixture with the vinaigrette. Lay the salad on the plates and top with the sliced chicken. Garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs.

cherries6

Maple Cherry Sauce

Makes 1 cup.

This sauce  can be used hot or cold as a topping for grilled meats, yogurt, ice cream or cheesecake. Tart cherries may be used, but you’ll need to adjust the amount of sweetener.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cherry juice or juice blend
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 cups pitted fresh or frozen sweet cherries, halved

Directions

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the juice and flour or cornstarch.

In a medium saucepan, pour in the juice mixture and the maple syrup. Stir over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken.

Add the cherries and simmer until they soften, crushing them a bit. Don’t overcook.

Cool or serve hot. The sauce will thicken a little as it cools.

Option: add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind or 1 tablespoon brandy.

cherries5

Cherry Cheesecake Bars

These healthy bars are an easy dessert to take to a family barbecue.

Ingredients

2 cups Maple Cherry Sauce (double the recipe above)

Crust

  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers (for gluten-free, use almond flour)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Filling

  • 1-1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt. (Brands that contain modified food starch and/or gelatin won’t work in this recipe.)
  • 2 eight-ounce packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking pan ready.

Place the crackers in the processor and process until fine crumbs form.  mix in the oil and sugar. Pour into the baking pan and press onto the bottom of the pan.

In the processor or using a mixer, beat the yogurt and cream cheese together. Beat in the maple syrup and vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Pour the mixture over the crumb crust in the baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the center has puffed up. (It will fall somewhat when cooled.) Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least three hours.

Just before serving, spread with the cherry sauce and cut into bars.

cherries2

Italian Old Fashioned Cherry Cake or Dolce Di Ciliegie

Servings: 6-8

This historical family recipe has been published by the famous Italian cook, Artusi, in his book, “L’arte la scienza in cucina e l’ arte di mangiar bene” in 1891.

Frozen cherries are too juicy to use in this recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 lb fresh cherries, pitted

For the Baking Pan

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 ounces almonds ( ground)
  • 1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs (finely grated)

For the Filling

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 4 ounces powdered sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
  • 2 ounces plain bread crumbs, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur (Amaretto or Maraschino cherry juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Butter a 10 inch pie pan or baking pan. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200°C).

Distribute the almonds and the one tablespoon bread crumbs to completely coat the bottom of thebaking pan.

Blend the egg yolks with the powdered sugar until creamy and soft. Incorporate the bread crumbs, liqueur or juice and vanilla.

Beat egg whites separately in another bowl until soft peaks form and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into the baking pan.

Drop the cherries on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or untilthe top is brown and the cake is cooked through.

Dust the top with powdered sugar.

Serve hot or cold.

cherries3

Duck With Cherries In Chianti

This dish was developed for a banquet to be served at the Castello di Gabbiano, south of Florence. Italian cherries were in season and the cherries were cooked in Castello’s Chianti.

The sauce was served with locally caught duck. Culinary instructor and cookbook author, Katie Caldesi, The Italian Cookery Course, is the creator of this recipe.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 3 1/2 ounces cherries, halved, pits removed
  • 2/3 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups red wine, such as Gabbiano Chianti

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the sauce,

Put the cherries in a ovenproof dish, pour in the orange juice, then sprinkle with half the sugar. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the cherries have softened and browned a little. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour the wine into a saucepan with the remaining sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow it to reduce to about a third of its volume (you want about 2/3 cup).

Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick frying pan and, when hot, fry the breasts, skin-side down, for about 6 minutes, then turn them over and fry for another 4 minutes.

This will give you medium-rare meat. If you prefer it well cooked, transfer the duck breasts to a baking pan and roast in the oven for about 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the cherries and the wine into a large frying pan and bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange them on warmed serving dishes. Pour the cherry wine sauce over and serve with plenty of creamy polenta.



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