Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cake

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Lazio located in central Italy, stretches from the western edges of the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea. The region is mainly flat with small mountainous areas in the most eastern and southern districts. Lazio has four very ancient volcanic districts, where the craters of extinct volcanoes form the lakes of Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano, Albano and Nemi. Lazio is the third most populated region of Italy and has the second largest economy of the nation. Rome is the capital of Italy, as well as the region. Other important cities are Frosinone, Latina, Viterbo and Rieti.

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Until the late 19th century, much of the lowland area of Lazio was marshy and malarial. Major reclamation work in the early 20th century resulted in drainage and repopulation of the plain that transformed the region. Migratory grazing was greatly reduced and wheat, maize, vegetables, fruit and meat and dairy products were able to flourish in the lowlands, while olive groves and vineyards gradually began to cover the slopes.

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Light industry developed with the help of regional development programs, particularly in and around the new satellite towns of Aprilia, Pomezia and Latina, south of Rome. Rome is the region’s commercial and banking center, but it has little industry apart from artisan and specialized industries, such as fashions. Large numbers of persons are employed by the government. In the rest of the region only chemical and pharmaceutical plants, food industries, papermaking and a few small machine industries are of significance.

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Rome, including the Vatican, is Italy’s largest tourist center and tourism is also important at resorts in the Alban Hills, the Apennines and along the coast.

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Lazio’s transportation is also dominated by Rome’s railways and roads and the city has one of Europe’s busiest international airports. Civitavecchia, the only port of importance, is noted chiefly for its trade with Sardinia.

Take a tour of the Lazio region with the video below.

Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes (farmers, miners, craftsmen) have formed the cuisine for all. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish cooking and a variety of flavor combinations emerge.

Hebrew Bakery

Hebrew Bakery

Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (artichokes, deep-fried or simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint) and inexpensive cuts of meat (called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chili pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and zucchini blossoms) and sharp Pecorino cheese (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside).

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The hills in Lazio are rich and fertile making it easy to grow vegetables of all types which in turn makes them an important part of the cuisine. They are cooked with liberal amounts of oil, herbs and garlic and, more often than not, a good portion of anchovies.

Lazio appetizers feature fresh seafood, preserved meats, ripe produce, artisanal breads, olives and olive oils produced within the region. Lazio cuisine may use fresh or dried pasta in many different shapes. Fresh pasta is usually found in lasagne or fettuccine. Lazio recipes for pasta often call for tubes, as this shape is more effective for holding onto hearty sauces. Potato, rice or semolina gnocchi dumplings are also commonly prepared. Suppli al telefono are hand held balls of rice stuffed with mozzarella cheese and sometimes flavored with liver or anchovies.

Chicken is used more here than in other regions and they also eat a fair amount of rabbit. Pork is used to make Guanciale or cured pork cheek, Ventresca or cured belly meat, Mortadella di Amatrice, sausages or salsicce, lard and prosciutto. Often the salumi are spicy and flavorful.

Much of the fish consumed in Lazio comes from the Tiber River and Bolsena Lake, including ciriole, caption and freshwater eels.

Even when it comes to desserts, they keep it simple. Maritozzi, a type of cream-filled pastry, doughnuts, fried rice treats and ricotta tarts are all popular.

Lazio is known for Est Est Est a wine that is produced in the area near Lake Bolsena and Falerno.

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Oven-Baked Gaeta

This deep dish pie is probably named for the town of Gaeta and the pan they used to prepare the pie. It was popular for the farmers and fishermen, so that they had a meal that could keep for a few days. It consists of a rustic pizza round that usually contains olives, fish (such as anchovies and / or sardines, octopus and squid), ricotta cheese or other cheeses and vegetables, such as tomatoes or onion.

Dough Ingredients

  • 10 ½ oz (300 gr) Italian flour (00 flour)
  • 7 oz (200 gr) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water

Ingredients for the filling

  • 1 1/4 lbs (500 gr) octopus
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup (60 gr) black olives
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (200 gr) tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons (20 gr) parsley
  • 1 ½ teaspoons (3 gr) crushed red chilli pepper
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Combine the dough ingredients and let it rise, push the dough down and let it rise again.

Roll out half the dough to fit a 10 inch baking pan.

Put the octopus in a large pot of boiling salted water with the vinegar and boil until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and peel as much of the skin off the octopus as you can while it is still hot. Chop the octopus into bite-size pieces.

Combine the filling ingredients.

Place the filling in the dough covered pan.

Roll out the remaining dough and cover the filling. Seal and brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil.

Bake at 350 degrees F (180-200) for about 25-30 minutes.

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Romanesco Broccoli

Spaghetti and Roman Broccoli 

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 head Romanesco broccoli or regular broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 ¼ cups (500 ml) of vegetable broth
  • 8 oz (220 gr) of spaghetti, broken into pieces
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 5 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

For Romanesco broccoli:

Clean and dice in small pieces. Set aside in a bowl.

If using regular broccoli:

Wash the broccoli, clean the tops and cut off the florets. Dice the stalks. Set aside in a bowl.

Fry the garlic in the oil until golden in a large saucepan. Add the broccoli to the pan and stir well.

Add the vegetable broth and the tomato paste, stir and bring to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until the broccoli is tender.

Add salt and pepper according to taste.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water. Drain and add to the broccoli in the saucepan and heat. Serve sprinkled with grated cheese.

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Bucatini Gricia

Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana and Gricia are the four most popular pasta dishes in Rome. Together they form the backbone of Primi courses at every trattoria in the Eternal City, where the locals have strong, vocal opinions on where to find the best execution of each, never all at one place.

4 people

Ingredients

  • 12 oz (320 gr) bucatini pasta
  • 3 ½ oz (100 gr) Pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 3 ½ oz (100 gr) guanciale or pancetta or bacon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Dice the bacon and brown over low heat in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil.

Cook the pasta in plenty of lightly salted boiling water, al dente. Drain well. Add to the skillet with the bacon and sauté for 1 minute.

Sprinkle with the cheese and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

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Salt Cod Fillets Roman Style

4 people

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 lbs (600 gr) salted codfish (baccalà), soaked
  • 3 ½ oz (100 gr) flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) packet dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Olive oil

Directions

Soak the baccalà in cold water for at least 3 days prior to preparing this dish. Change the water each day.

Combine butter, flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

Dry and cut the cod into serving pieces.

Coat each fillet in batter, then fry in a large pan with very hot oil.

Place fillets on paper towels to drain before serving.

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Hazelnut Cake Viterbo

Ingredients

  • Cake pan – 10 inches or 26 cm diameter
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) potato starch
  • 7 1/8 oz (200 gr) 00 Italian flour
  • 1 2/3 cups (350 gr) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (60 gr) milk chocolate, chopped
  • 1 ¼ cups (200 gr) chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup 50 gr raisins softened in a little milk
  • 6 oz (170 gr) milk
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 5 ¼ oz (150 g)  butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Directions

In a  large bowl mix the potato starch, flour, baking powder, sugar, chocolate, chopped hazelnuts and softened butter.

Add one egg at a time and mix it into the mixture before adding the next. Add the drained raisins, lemon zest and milk.

Butter the pan and sprinkle with flour mixed with a little sugar.

Pour the cake mixture into the pan and bake in the oven at 325 degrees F (160-170) for 45-50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.


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Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges) are at their best in the winter and can add a burst of flavor to your recipes. These fruits are a rich source of vitamin C, which helps protect you from infection, can help keep your skin smooth, heals wounds and cuts and assists in red blood cell formation and repair.

A little bit of lemon zest brightens up morning pancakes while some freshly squeezed orange juice can be used to marinate mahi-mahi before grilling it.

Try these suggestions for adding citrus fruit to your menu.

  • Make citrus fruit salad and include all of your favorites Try it with a sprinkling of unsweetened coconut flakes or a bit of raw honey and a sprinkling of nuts.
  • Enjoy citrus for dessert with a square of dark chocolate.
  • Pair with almost any variety of cheese. Hard, salty cheese adds wonderful balance and flavor to the sweet acidity of the fruit.
  • Stir into Greek yogurt, cottage or ricotta cheese and eat as is or with a bit of honey or sliced dates for breakfast or a snack.
  • Bake with citrus fruits.
  • Cut into rounds and serve with a leafy green salad for a beautiful presentation.
  • Add citrus to smoothie blends, such as green apple and parsley.
  • Dip citrus segments into sweetened cream cheese dip or spread with your favorite roasted nut butter.
  • Use citrus zest to add flavor to condiments.
  • Add citrus segments to whole grain salads.

Some tips in using citrus fruits

  • Heavy citrus fruits with firm rinds will have the most juice.
  • Citrus fruits will stay freshest when wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
  • Fresh-squeezed juice and citrus zest can be frozen for later use.
  • When a recipe calls for strips of zest, a vegetable peeler works well. But for fluffy, grated zest, try using a microplane zester.

How to cut citrus fruit into segments:

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Cut off the top and bottom of the fruit and stand it up on one end. Slice downward to cut away the skin and pith, moving around until all is removed. Holding the fruit over a bowl, slice along both sides of the membrane to release the segments.

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Italian Kale Salad with Citrus Fruits

Lacinato kale is a variety of kale used in Italian cooking. It is also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, Dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, black kale, flat back cabbage, palm tree kale or black Tuscan palm. Lacinato kale has been grown in Tuscany for centuries. It is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone and ribollita.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups raw lacinato kale, stems removed, cut into strips 1 cm wide (measure after cutting)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese or feta cheese
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into sections, dividing membranes removed
  • 1 orange, peeled and cut into sections, dividing membranes removed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing:

Combine in a bottle or small bowl. Mix well before using.

For the salad:

Mix kale, pine nuts and onion in a large bowl. Season salad with salt and pepper. Cut goat or feta cheese into small pieces and mix into the salad.

Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat the leaves. Arrange grapefruit sections on the salad after it is put on the plate so they do not break.

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Lemon Rice Soup with Tiny Meatballs

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup medium-grain white rice
  • 3 cups water
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 pound lean ground turkey or lamb
  • 1/3 cup sweet onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped mint, plus extra for garnishing
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill, plus dill sprigs for garnish
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover the rice with the 3 cups of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the rice is tender and the water is nearly absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 1/2 cup of the rice to a blender and spread the remaining rice on a plate.

Add the chicken stock to the empty saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Add 1 cup of the hot stock to the blender with the rice, cover and puree until the rice is smooth. With the machine on, add the egg yolks and lemon juice and blend until smooth.

Season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture into the hot stock and keep warm over low heat.

In a medium bowl, mix the meat with the onion, mint, 2 tablespoons of the dill, 1/4 teaspoon of the lemon zest, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Form the mixture into 1-inch balls. Lightly dust the meatballs with flour, tapping off any excess, and drop them into the warm soup.

Increase the heat to moderate and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved rice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of dill and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with dill or mint and serve.

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Lemon Gnocchi with Peas & Spinach

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • Fine Sea Salt
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (1-pound) package Potato Gnocchi
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Directions

In a large skillet, combine peas, cream, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until leaves are wilted. Remove pan from the heat and mix in lemon zest and juice.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 4 minutes. Drain gnocchi, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Mix the drained gnocchi with the cream sauce in the skillet. Add the reserved pasta water and stir to coat. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

Serves 4

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Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 – 4 ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cups arugula, tough stems removed

Directions

Remove the skin and white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice in the bowl before discarding the membranes. Transfer the segments with a slotted spoon to another bowl. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.

Season pork chops on both sides with fennel seeds and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

Add sliced fennel and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add arugula and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the reserved orange segments, then transfer the contents of the pan to a large serving platter. Place the pork chops on top.

Add the reserved orange juice mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Pour over the pork chops and serve.

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Lemon Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

Cake

  • 3/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Icing

  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to thin glaze

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a bundt pan with olive oil, then dust with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. Stir in sugar.

In another bowl, sift baking powder and flour. Once combined, slowly add the flour to the wet ingredients as you mix.

Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. It should come out clean.

Remove cake from the oven and allow to rest. Once it has cooled, turn it onto a plate.

To create the icing, mix sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Drizzle the over the cooled cake.

Serves 8 to 10


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Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Seafood is a major staple of Liguria, as the sea has been part of the region’s culture since its beginning. Another important aspect of the culture is the beach. Tourists have been flocking to the Italian Riviera for decades to experience its calm, deep blue water.

Liguria is the coastal region of north-western Italy, where Genoa is the capital. Liguria is bordered by France to the west, Piedmont to the north and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. This narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Mountains and steep cliffs that rise loftily out of the Ligurian Sea in the most northerly part of the Western Mediterranean.

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region’s economic growth was remarkable: steel mills and shipyards flourished along the coast from Imperia to La Spezia, while the port of Genoa became the main commercial hub of industrializing Northern Italy. During the tragic period of World War II, Liguria experienced heavy bombings, hunger and two years of occupation by the German troops, against whom a liberation struggle was led. When Allied troops eventually entered Genoa, they were welcomed by Italian partisans who, in a successful insurrection, had freed the city and accepted the surrender of the local German command.

Steel, once a major industry during the booming 1950s and 1960s, phased out after the late 1980s, as Italy moved away from heavy industry to pursue more technologically advanced and less polluting productions. Ligurian businesses turned towards a widely diversified range of high-quality and high-tech products (food, electrical engineering, electronics, petrochemicals, aerospace etc.). Despite this new direction, the region still maintains a flourishing shipbuilding industry (yacht construction and maintenance, cruise liners and military shipyards).

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A good motorways network (376 km, 234 mi) makes communications with the border regions relatively easy. The main motorway is located along the coastline, connecting the main ports of Nice (in France), Savona, Genoa and La Spezia.

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San Remo

The capital, Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state in the Middle Ages. Today, one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions and churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past and which blend in perfectly with the modern city. Numerous historical treasures and be found throughout Liguria. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place. Other important cities in Liguria are: Imperia, Savona and La Spezia.

Genoa Port

Genoa Port

Visit Liguria in the video below:

The forests are covered with pine trees, providing the fresh pine nuts (pignoli) for Ligurian dishes. Mushrooms and chestnuts abound in the hills, as do rabbits and other wild game, making the region ideal for producing hearty and rustic country dishes. The warm Mediterranean air helps create good conditions for growing olives, wine grapes, corn, herbs (particularly basil), garlic, chickpeas, zucchini, potatoes, onions and artichokes. Because of its wide coastline, fish and shellfish are the predominant proteins used in Ligurian cooking, though the region shares its love of pork and pork products with both its Italian and French neighbors.

Pasta is important to the region’s cuisine. A small lasagna noodle originated here, made from chestnut flour, is still popular today. The innovative Ligurians were skilled in making do with locally grown ingredients, like chestnuts and chickpeas, to produce flours to use in pasta, polenta and bread. Today, wheat is fairly easy to import to the region, so it is now the primary ingredient in pastas and breads.

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Pesto sauce is popular as a topping for pastas and is widely consumed, since basil and pine nuts are so readily available. Fidelini, a local favorite pasta, cut long and thin, is the perfect base for light sauces. Other favorites include, trenette a form of flat, thin pasta similar to linguine and hearty gnocchi, both of which can be found on almost every menu.

High on the list of Ligurian specialties is the bread known as focaccia. This flatbread is not meant to be stored for any length of time, but rather is best eaten straight from the oven. Though usually baked plain, the region’s abundance of herbs are often combined and sprinkled on top. Cheeses, meats and fresh vegetables are other regional additions to focaccia. Ligurian focaccias have a dense texture, perfect for sopping up rich sauces or simply a great tasting olive oil.

Regional Favorites To Make At Home

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Ligurian-Style Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup  extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
  • 1 cup  warm water
  • One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 3 cups  flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 2 tablespoons  rosemary or thyme leaves

Directions

Oil a large bowl and set it aside. Pour the water into a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.

Mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, then stir the yeast mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon until a slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Coat your hands with flour, then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, 2-3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into the oiled bowl and roll it in the bowl to coat it lightly with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it in a warm spot until the dough roughly doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Lightly oil a 7-by-11-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle to fit the baking pan. Put it in the oiled pan and pat the top down gently so it is even. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, make regular rows of slight indentations across the entire surface, spacing the indentations about 2 inches apart. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise for another hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the top of the dough lightly with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (If desired, sprinkle 2 tablespoons rosemary or thyme leaves over the top of the focaccia after it has been in the oven for about 10 minutes.)

Serve warm or at room temperature and cut into wedges or squares.

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Cozze alla Maggiorana ed Aglio alla Ligure (Steamed Mussels with Marjoram and Garlic Ligurian-Style)

Serves 4

Mussels are plentiful along the rugged Ligurian coastline. Marjoram, a favorite herb in Liguria, is usually added to seafood dishes. Toss the mussels with 1 pound of cooked linguine for a first course.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

Directions

Soak the mussels in cool water to cover with 1 tablespoon of the salt for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly a few times. This step is essential for ridding the mussels of any dirt or sediment.

Place the garlic, marjoram, parsley and olive oil in a 4-quart pot. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, mussels and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed and serve hot, with the cooking juices.

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Ligurian Style Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Pesto, recipe follows
  • Besciamella, recipe follows
  • Butter, for baking dish, plus 2 tablespoons cut into small pieces for the topping
  • 1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

BESCIAMELLA

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

PESTO

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (about 4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of pignoli
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano Cheese
  • Salt and pepper

BESCIAMELLA

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, while bringing the mixture to a boil; simmer for about 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

PESTO

Rinse the basil and separate the leaves from the stems.

Grate the cheeses and peel the garlic.

Combine the basil, the garlic, the pignoli and the olive oil in a blender and process until a paste forms. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

MAKING THE LASAGNA

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a 13″ × 9″ x 4″ pan layer the ingredients as follows:

– a thin layer of besciamella

– cover with a layer of pasta

– a thin layer of besciamella

– 4 tablespoons of pesto, gently spread across the surface

– sprinkle the layer with 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan

– cover with a layer of pasta

– repeat the layering until you use all the pasta

– top with a very thin layer of besciamella and remaining pesto, parmesan cheese and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter

Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and serve with extra parmesan cheese.

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Italian Plum Cake

10-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unblanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds Italian plums, pitted and sliced thickly

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 10-inch tart pan or springform pan.

Put the almonds and the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse once more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Beat the eggs with the milk in another bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk for a minute or two until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the plum slices on top on a circular pattern. Sprinkle the 1/ 3 cup sugar over the plums.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore

This Italian region comprises the historical areas of Emilia and Romagna. Half the territory is formed by the Apennines and the other half is a large plain, which reaches east to the Adriatic Sea. The coastline is flat and sandy with lagoons and marshy areas.

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Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, with the third highest GDP per capita in Italy. Bologna, its capital, has one of Italy’s highest quality of life standards. Emilia-Romagna is also a cultural and tourist center, being the home of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Its cuisine is renowned and it is home to the automotive companies of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, De Tomaso and Ducati.

 Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Gallardo

Popular coastal resorts such as Rimini and Riccione are located in this region. Other important cities include Parma, Ferrara, Modena, Piacenza, Ravenna, Forlì and Reggio Emilia.

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Despite being an industrial power, Emilia-Romagna is also a leading region in agriculture, with farming contributing 5.8% of the region’s agricultural products. Cereals, potatoes, corn, tomatoes and onions are the most important products, along with fruit and grapes for the production of wine (of which the best known are Emilia’s Lambrusco, Bologna’s Pignoletto, Romagna’s Sangiovese and white Albana). Cattle and hog breeding are also highly developed.

Castell’Arquato

Castell’Arquato

Tourism is increasingly important, especially along the Adriatic coastline and the art museum cities. Since 187 B.C., when the Romans built the 125-Mile Roman Road/Via Emilia, this thoroughfare has taken travelers throughout the region and connected them with the major trading centers of Venice, Genoa and central/northern Europe. This main roadway crosses the region from north-west (Piacenza) to the south-east (Adriatic coast), connecting the main cities of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and the Adriatic coast.

Emilia-Romagna gave birth to two great musicians, one of the most important composers of music, Giuseppe Verdi and Toscanini, the famous conductor. Marcella Hazan, one of the foremost authorities on Italian cuisine, was born in 1924 in the village of Cesenatico in Emilia-Romagna. She earned a doctorate in natural sciences and biology from the University of Ferrara.  Her cookbooks are credited with introducing the public in the United States and Britain to the techniques of traditional Italian cooking. She moved to New York City following her marriage to Victor Hazan and published her first book, The Classic Italian Cook Book, in 1973.

 Verdi Theater in Busseto


Verdi Theater in Busseto

Cesena

Cesena

The most popular sport in Emilia-Romagna is football. Several famous clubs from Emilia-Romagna compete at a high level on the national stage: Cesena, Parma and Sassuolo. With 13 professional clubs in 2013, the region is only bettered in terms of a number of professional clubs by Lombardy. It also has 747 amateur clubs, 1,522 football pitches and 75,328 registered players. Another sport which is very popular in this region is basketball and teams from Emilia-Romagna compete in the Lega Basket Serie A. Zebre rugby club competes professionally in the Guinness Pro 12 league. The club’s home ground is located in Parma.

Take a tour of Emilia-Romagna with the video below.

The Cuisine of Emilia-Romagna

The celebrated balsamic vinegar is made in the Emilian cities of Modena and Reggio Emilia, following legally binding traditional procedures. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese) is produced in Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and Bologna, while Grana Padano is produced in the rest of the region. Prosciutto di Parma is Italy’s most popular ham, especially beyond Italy where it’s widely exported. With its roots going back to 100 BC, when a salt-cured ham was mentioned in the writings of Cato, Prosciutto has a long and hallowed history in the Parma province.

Prosciutto di Parma

Prosciutto di Parma

Antipasto is optional before the first course of a traditional meal and may feature anything from greens with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar to pears with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar. Pasta is often the first course and Emilia-Romagna is known for its egg and filled pastas, such as tortellini, lasagna and tagliatelle. In some areas of Romagna rice is eaten, with risotto taking the place of pasta. Polenta, a cornmeal-based dish, is common both in Emilia and Romagna.

Seafood, poultry and meats comprise the second course. Although the Adriatic coast is a major fishing area (well-known for its eels and clams), the region is more famous for its meat products, especially pork-based, that include: Parma’s prosciutto, culatello and Felino salami, Piacenza’s pancetta, coppa and salami, Bologna’s mortadella and salame rosa, Modena’s zampone, cotechino and cappello del prete and Ferrara’s salama da sugo. Reggio Emilia is famous for erbazzone, a spinach and Parmigiano Reggiano pie and Gnocco Fritto, flour strips fried in boiling oil and eaten in combination with ham or salami.

GNOCCO FRITTO WITH PARMA HAM

Gnocco Fritto with Parma Ham

From grilled asparagus with Parma ham to basil/onion mashed potatoes or roasted beets and onions, vegetables play a major role in Emilia-Romagna side dishes. Residents boil, sauté, braise, bake or grill radicchio and other tart greens. They also serve a cornucopia of other vegetables, including sweet fennel, wild mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, beets, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, sweet squashes, cabbage, eggplant, green beans and asparagus.

Sweet pastas may be a dessert or a side dish. Rich tortes, almond and apple cream tarts, sweet ravioli with winter fruit and strawberries & red wine often find their way to the table. Regional desserts include zuppa inglese (custard-based dessert made with sponge cake and Alchermes liqueur) and panpepato (Christmas cake made with pepper, chocolate, spices, and almonds).

Barrels of  Traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Barrels of traditional Balsamic Vinegar

Some differences do exist in the cuisines of Emilia and Romagna. Located between Florence and Venice and south of Milan, Emilia has lush plains, gentle hills and a cuisine that demonstrates more Northern Italian influences and capitalizes on the region’s ample supply of butter, cream and meat that is usually poached or braised. The Romagna area includes the Adriatic coast, part of the Ferrara province and the rugged mountain ranges. Food preferences follow those found in central Italy, with olive oil used as a base for many dishes, plenty of herbs and a preference for spit roasting and griddle baking.

TRADITIONAL RECIPES OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA

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PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (CAPPELLACCI)

4 servings

FOR THE PASTA

  • 10 oz all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 2 lbs pumpkin, baked and the flesh scooped out
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 2 oz butter
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 egg

For the pasta:

Mix the eggs, flour and a pinch of salt until thoroughly combined.

Roll out into thin sheets on a pasta machine and cut into squares, about 2.5 inches a side.

For the filling:

Mix the baked pumpkin pulp with the egg, the grated cheese and the nutmeg.

Put the filling on half the squares of pasta and top with another square. Press the edges with a fork to seal.

Cook them in abundant salted water and season with melted butter, sage and grated cheese.

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BEEF FILLET WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR SAUCE

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb beef fillet
  • 1 ½ oounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating the meat
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the fillet into four equal slices and flatten slightly with a meat pounder. Coat the meat in flour and shake to remove any excess. Put the fillets on a greased plate, then salt them.

Heat a large skillet and cook the fillets on both sides over very high heat, sprinkling each with some of the balsamic vinegar.

In a separate saucepan, combine the remaining vinegar, the beef broth and the flour. Heat, stirring constantly, until thickened.

When the fillets are cooked, cover them with the sauce and garnish with parsley.

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ERBAZZONE (SAVORY GREENS PIE)

This pie is often served with slices of prosciutto.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs spinach
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 oz pancetta, chopped fine
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 3 ½ oz lard
  •  1/2 onion, about 2/3 cup
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Box frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), defrosted overnight in the refrigerator

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cook the spinach in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and chop the spinach. Squeeze well to dry.

Sauté butter, lard and onion in a skillet. Add the spinach and garlic and cook for five minutes. Cool. Then, mix with some grated Parmesan, the olive oil, pepper and salt.

Lay one sheet of pastry in a rectangular oven-dish (about the size of the pastry sheet; cut to fit, if needed). Spread the filling over the dough. Dot the top of the filling with the pancetta. Cover with the second pastry sheet. Press down lightly.

Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden, about 30 minutes.

Serve hot or warm.

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CIAMBELLA (RING CAKE)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • Grated zest of 1/2 a medium orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch ring mold or a springform pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt to thoroughly combine them and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl and whisk them lightly to break up the yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk it in thoroughly in both directions for about 30 seconds. Add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is a bit lighter in color and has thickened slightly, about 45 seconds. Whisk in the extracts and zest, followed by the orange juice.

Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk until they are thoroughly combined; continue whisking until you have a smooth, emulsified batter, about 30 more seconds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the cake for 30 to 45 minutes, rotating the cake pan halfway through the cooking time to ensure even browning.

The cake is done when it has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, springs back lightly when touched and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently remove it from the pan and allow it cool completely on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.


Fireworks cluster

Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different parts of the world for a new year. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, here are the lucky foods to include:

Grapes
New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal, as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.

Cooked Greens
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.

Legumes
Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, its customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.

Pork
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish
Cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages because it could be preserved and transported, allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes, such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize the rice fields).

Cakes
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped sweets. Italy has chiacchiere, which are crispy fritters dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands also eat donuts and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.

In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the finder will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.

Make your New Year’s Day dinner lucky with these recipes.

Salt Cod in Tomato Garlic Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound center-cut skinless boneless salt cod (bacala), rinsed well and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 8 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Soak and poach cod:

Cover the cod pieces with 2 inches of cold water in a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator and soak, changing the water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below).

Drain the cod, transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and add 6 cups water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat. (Cod will just begin to flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spatula to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cover with a dampened paper towel and chill while making the sauce.

Cook whole garlic cloves in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, turning occasionally until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down into a very thick sauce, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Mash thebgarlic cloves into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the sauce into a 3-quart gratin dish or other flameproof shallow baking dish and arrange fish over the sauce.

Preheat the broiler.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and water and spread over each piece of fish. Place the dish under the broiler and broil the fish 5 to 6 inches from the heat just until the mayonnaise mixture is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.

Note: Brands of salt cod differ in their degree of saltiness: A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelming.

Sausage and Lentils with Fennel

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserve fronds
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage links
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Bring lentils, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes.

While lentils simmer, cut fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice and chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onion, carrot, fennel bulb, fennel seeds and remaining teaspoon salt. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly prick sausages in a couple of places with tip of a sharp knife, then cook sausages in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

Drain the cooked lentils in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve the cooking water. Stir lentils into vegetables with enough cooking water to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook over moderate heat until heated through. Stir in parsley, pepper, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Season with additional vinegar and salt, if needed.

Cut sausages diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve lentils topped with sausage slices and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Creamy Winter Greens

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens and kale
  • 6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste

Directions

Make béchamel sauce:

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Strain béchamel sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.

Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add béchamel sauce, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Almond Good Luck Cake

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The person who finds the whole almond inside the cake will have good luck during the upcoming year.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 whole almond

APRICOT GLAZE:

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the chopped almonds and 1 tablespoon flour; sprinkle into a well-greased 10-inch fluted tube pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and 1 cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, peel and extracts.

Combine the baking powder, salt, baking soda and remaining flour; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour into prepared pan. Insert whole almond into batter.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan to a wire rack.

For the glaze:

Melt preserves in the microwave or saucepan and stir in orange juice; drizzle over warm cake. Yield: 12 servings.

 


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

winterproduce5

Winter Vegetable Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

winterproduce3

Seafood with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

8 First Course Servings

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

winterproduce2

Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

Servings: 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

winterproduce1

Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

For the polenta:

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

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

To finish the stew:

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

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

winterproduce6

Upside-Down Cranberry-Ginger Cake

Ingredients

Topping:

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

Cake:

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

For the topping:

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

For the cake:

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

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

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

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


visual-guide-winter-squash_612

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.

51134000

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.

Empanadas6

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.

20060615_0002

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.

239812

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.

 



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