Did you know that 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day in America?
Mother’s Day is next Sunday, May 11 and what better time to take a look at the origins of this special day. Mother’s Day is observed in different countries around the world. The day is most often recognized on the second Sunday in May and has traditionally involved giving mothers flowers, cards and other gifts.
Recognition and celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Festivals were held to honor the mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele. The modern precedent for Mother’s Day is found in the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” In the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, the occasion fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was seen as a time when the faithful would return to their mother (local) church for a special service. Over time,” Mothering Sunday” changed to a more secular holiday and children presented their mothers with flowers and other gifts of appreciation. The custom faded in popularity, then merged with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
The beginnings of the American Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century. Before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mother’s Day Work Clubs,” to teach women how to properly care for their children. In 1868, she organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” for the purpose of mothers gathering with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragist, wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” in 1870 as a call to action for mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2. Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering also worked to organize a Mother’s Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, Anna Jarvis, promoted the concept of a national Mother’s Day, as a way to honor mothers for the sacrifices they made for their children. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are 83 million mothers in the United States. More mothers now work out of the home and the number of single-mother households has tripled to more than 10 million since 1970. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $15 billion this year honoring their mothers. Dining out is expected to be the No. 1 expense. Make Mother’s Day even more special. Instead of dining out, why not make dinner for your mother.
Mother’s Day Menu
Crab Avocado Toasts
Serve with a Sauvignon Blanc wine.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 8 large slices packaged thin white bread
- 2 Hass avocados
- Salt and cayenne pepper
- 4 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly brush a large baking sheet with olive oil. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut 4 rounds out of each slice of bread and transfer to the baking sheet.
Lightly brush the rounds with olive oil and toast for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly golden and slightly crisp.
In a small bowl, mash the avocados with a pinch each of salt and cayenne pepper. In another small bowl, gently stir the crabmeat with the mint and lime juice and season with salt.
Spread the mashed avocado on the toasts, top with the crab mixture and serve.
Spinach and Pork Cannelloni
- 8 (6-by 4-inch) homemade fresh pasta rectangles (recipe below) or 8 dried manicotti pasta shells
- 1/2 cup (packed) dried porcini, soaked 20 minutes in 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cubed
- 10 oz fresh baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- A small onion, minced
- A medium carrot, minced
- A 6-inch stalk celery, minced
- A small bunch parsley, minced
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala (or sherry if you do not have Marsala)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
- Salt & pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
- Olive Oil Béchamel Sauce, recipe below
Heat butter in a saute pan and add carrot, celery and onion and brown them lightly. Add the pork and continue cooking until it is browned, then stir in the soaked mushrooms. Add in the Marsala and the diluted tomato paste, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for an hour, until thickened. Stir in the spinach and cook until completely wilted. Remove from heat and add the grated cheese and parsley.
While the sauce is simmering, boil pasta 2 pieces at a time in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to separate, until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta or about 6 minutes for packaged noodles. Gently transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, then remove from bowl, shaking off water, and lay flat on kitchen towels (not terry cloth). Pat dry with paper towels.
Place two or three rounded tablespoons of filling mixture down the center of each pasta sheet and carefully roll pasta tightly around the filling. If using the manicotti shells, use a small spoon and fill the shells from the sides or use a pastry bag.
Place the rolled cannelloni, side by side, into a greased ovenproof shallow baking dish.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the cannelloni covering completely.
Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Olive Oil Bechamel Sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups low-fat cold milk
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground white or black pepper
Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned. The mixture should have the texture of wet sand.
Whisk in the milk all at once and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and lost its raw flour taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Homemade Pasta Rectangles
- 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose or Italian (00) flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of water
- Dash of salt
Mix the flour, egg, salt and water together in the large bowl of a processor. Process until the dough forms a ball. Coat lightly with olive oil and allow it to rest covered for 30 minutes at room temperature.
After the pasta dough has rested, roll out sheets with a pasta roller to a thickness you can just about see your hand through, about the 5th or 6th setting on the roller for thickness.
Place the sheets on a pastry board and cut into 4″ x 6″ rectangles. Cook and fill as directed above.
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Pine Nuts
- 1 large head of broccoli (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch florets, stems peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a large baking sheet, toss the broccoli florets and stems with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the broccoli in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until browned and tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until light golden all over, about 4 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the shallot and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; season the dressing with salt and pepper. Place the broccoli into a serving bowl. Add the dressing and toasted pine nuts, toss well and serve.
Italian Almond Cake with Pears
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large whole eggs, beaten
- 6 large egg whites
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl, whisk the almond flour with the all-purpose flour, grated orange zest, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add the beaten whole eggs and whisk well.
In a separate large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites are firm and glossy, about 2 minutes.
Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the almond-flour mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is puffed and golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs still attached. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the sugar over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Arrange the pear wedges in the skillet in an even layer. Cover the pears and cook them over low heat until the pears are tender and a syrupy sauce forms, about 7 minutes.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the cake into two layers. Spoon the pears and their sauce over the bottom layer of cake and cover the pears with the top layer of cake. Lightly dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar and serve.
- 5 Healthy Spring Dinners (jovinacooksitalian.com)
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- Mother’s Day (twistedfatesphotography.wordpress.com)
- 15 Paleo Recipes for Mother’s Day & Paleo Broccoli Quiche Recipe (confessionsofanover-workedmom.com)
- Roasted Garlic and Herb Quinoa “Fried Rice” (annascuisine.wordpress.com)
Durante degli Alighieri, simply called Dante (1265–1321) was a major Italian poet of the Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.
Dante was born in Florence, Italy. The exact date of birth is unknown, although it is generally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from his autobiographical information found in the La Divina Commedia. It is in first section of the “Inferno” and begins, “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” (“Halfway through the journey of our life”), implying that Dante was around 35 years old, since the average lifespan was 70 years then. Some verses of the “Paradiso” section of the Divine Comedy also provide a possible clue that he was born under the sign of Gemini: “As I revolved with the eternal twins, I saw revealed, from hills to river outlets, the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious”. In 1265, the sun was in Gemini approximately between May 11 and June 11.
The poet’s mother was Bella and she died when Dante was not yet ten years old. His father soon married again to Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi and she bore him two children, Dante’s half-brother, Francesco, and half-sister, Tana (Gaetana). When Dante was 12, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati, a member of the powerful Donati family. Contracting marriages at this early age was quite common and involved a formal ceremony, including contracts signed before a notary. But Dante had fallen in love with Beatrice Portinari (known also as Bice), whom he first met when he was only nine. Years after his marriage to Gemma, he claimed to have met Beatrice again and he wrote several sonnets to her but never mentioned Gemma in any of his poems. The exact date of his marriage is not known: the only certain information is that, prior to 1301, he had three children named Pietro, Jacopo and Antonia.
Not much is known about Dante’s education except that he studied either at home or at a school attached to a church or monastery in Florence. It is known that he studied poetry at a time when the Sicilian school (Scuola poetica Siciliana), a cultural group from Sicily, was a presence in Tuscany. His interests brought him to discover the poetry of the troubadours, such as Arnaut Daniel and the Latin classical writers, including Cicero, Ovid and especially Virgil. While still in his teens, Dante became involved with a group of poets, who would later be known as the founders of Dolce Stil Novo (Sweet New Style) poetry.
The Divine Comedy describes Dante’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Paradise (Paradiso), guided first by the Roman poet Virgil and then by Beatrice, the subject of his love in another of his works, La Vita Nuova. While the vision of “Inferno ‘ is vivid for modern readers, the theological concepts presented in the other books require a certain amount of patience and knowledge to appreciate. “Purgatorio”, the most lyrical and human of the three, also has the most poets in it; “Paradiso”, the most heavily theological with the most mystical passages.
With its seriousness of purpose, its literary stature and its range of content, The Divine Comedy, soon became a cornerstone in the evolution of Italian as an established literary language. Dante was more aware than most early Italian writers of the variety of Italian dialects and of the need to create literature with a unified literary language,in that sense, he is a forerunner of the Renaissance with its effort to utilize vernacular language.
Dante’s knowledge of Roman antiquity and his admiration for some aspects of pagan Rome also point toward to the 15th century. Ironically, while he was widely honored in the centuries after his death, The Divine Comedy slipped out of fashion among men of letters during his lifetime. It was considered too medieval, too rough and tragic and not stylistically refined in the respects that the Renaissance came to demand of literature.
He wrote The Divine Comedy in a language he called “Italian,” a literary language mostly based on the regional dialect of Tuscany, but with some elements of Latin and other regional dialects. He deliberately aimed to reach a readership throughout Italy, including laymen, clergymen and other poets. By creating a poem of epic structure and philosophic purpose, he established that the Italian language was suitable for the highest sort of literature.
Publishing in the vernacular language marked Dante as one of the first (among others such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio) to break free from standards of publishing in only Latin (the language of liturgy, history and scholarship in general, but also of lyric poetry). This break set a precedent and allowed more literature to be published for a wider audience, setting the stage for greater levels of literacy in the future. However, unlike Boccaccio, Milton or Ariosto, Dante did not really become an author read all over Europe until much later. Throughout the 19th century Dante’s reputation grew and solidified and, by 1865, he had become solidly established as one of the greatest literary icons of the Western world.
Dante is credited with inventing terza rima (a set or group of three lines of verse rhyming together) and chose to end each canto (sections of a long poem) of the The Divine Comedy with a single line that completed the rhyme scheme. The triple stanza likely symbolized the Holy Trinity and early enthusiasts, including Italian poets Boccaccio and Petrarch, were particularly interested in the unifying effects of the form.
Readers often cannot understand how such a serious work as The Divine Comedy can be called a “comedy”. The word “comedy” in the classical sense refers to works which reflect belief in an ordered universe, in which events tended toward not only a happy or amusing ending but one influenced by a divine will that orders all things to an ultimate good. Using this meaning of the word, Dante wrote in a letter, “the progression of the journey from Hell to Paradise made by the pilgrim is the expression of comedy, since the work begins with the pilgrim’s moral confusion and ends with the vision of God”.
Dante’s other works include Convivio (The Banquet), a collection of his longest poems with an (unfinished) allegorical commentary; Monarchia, a summary treatise of political philosophy in Latin which was condemned and burned after Dante’s death by the Papal Legate Bertrando del Poggetto, De vulgari eloquentia (On the Eloquence of Vernacular), on vernacular literature and La Vita Nuova (The New Life), the story of his love for Beatrice Portinari, who also served as the ultimate symbol of salvation in The Divine Comedy. The Vita Nuova contains many of Dante’s love poems written in Tuscan which was not unprecedented, since the language had been regularly used for lyric works before and during all the thirteenth century.
Due to the monumental influence that his work had on countless artists, Dante is considered among the greatest writers to have lived. As the poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them, there is no third.”
Dishes That May Have Been On Dante’s Table
The heart of Florentine cuisine is simple and abundant with local produce, mellow cheeses and grilled meats. Tuscans are also known for their appreciation of beans, especially white beans cooked with sage and olive oil. Beef Steak Florentine, roasted or wine-braised game such as boar, deer and rabbit and thick and hearty soups cover the table of a typical Tuscan meal. Plus this is the home of Chianti wine.
- Pinzimonio is a typical appetizer and can be varied according to the season and the availability of vegetables. The success of this simple and tasty dish depends on two elements: fresh, young ingredients and, above all, superb olive oil from the hills of Tuscany. The vegetables come with a small bowl containing the oil, salt and pepper into which you can dip the pieces of vegetables.
- Ribollita -Tuscan bread soup is a classic comfort food; it’s hard to think of any dish that’s more intimately associated with Florence than ribollita, a classic cabbage-and-bean soup that gains body and substance from a generous infusion of day-old Tuscan bread. The word ribollita literally translates as reboiled and for a ribollita to be authentic it must contain black-leaf kale, a long-leafed winter cabbage whose leaves are a purplish green and which has distinctive bitter overtones.
- Stracotto – actually means “overcooked”, but in fact it is a good description, as it is intended for the tougher cuts of meat which require long, slow cooking.
- Before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto – a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion.
- Piselli novelli in casseruola – is a speciality in springtime when tiny, tender, sweet new peas are available. They are ideal not only with stuffed rabbit but also with roast pork, peppery stew and braised beef. The dish is simply new peas cooked with pancetta and seasoning.
- Casseruola alla fiorentina – Pasta or noodles are covered with a sauce of spinach, cream of mushroom soup, garlic, tarragon and marjoram and pieces of sausage, which is in turn covered with an egg and ricotta mix.
- Castagnaccio – Chestnut cake For many centuries chestnuts were part of the staple diet in mountainous and hilly areas and for the poorer classes in general as they provided an inexpensive form of nutrition. The original, Florentine version of castagnaccio is also known as migliaccio (black pudding) in some parts of Tuscany.
Rolled Bell Pepper Appetizer
- 6 red or yellow bell peppers (or a mix), cut into 1 inch wide strips (along the longest length, in order to have long strips)
- 1 lb ground beef or pork or turkey
- ¼ lb mortadella
- ¼ lb. prosciutto
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Oil a baking dish.
To make cutting the bell peppers into strips easier, you can first soften them by placing 2-3 at a time inside a small plastic bag and heating them up in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. The vapor that forms makes them soft and easier to cut and clean.
Prepare the meat filling by pureeing the mortadella and prosciutto in a processor. Remove to a mixing bowl and add the bread crumbs and egg. Mix well. Add salt and pepper.
Spread some of the filling on the bell pepper strips with the back of a spoon. Take one end of the strip and roll it up. Fasten with one or two toothpicks.
Place the rolled up bell peppers flat on one layer, close to each other (you should see the meat filling from the top in the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops of rolls are slightly browned. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving. They may also be served at room temperature.
Trippa Alla Fiorentina
Tripe is a type of edible offal made from the stomachs of various farm animals.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large celery, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 pounds beef tripe, cleaned, pre-boiled* and cut into strips
- 1 (10 ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes, with juices
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Fresh chopped basil for garnish
*Precooking the tripe:
Trim any pieces of solid fat from the tripe and wash the tripe thoroughly under cold running water. Put it in a large pot and pour in enough cold water to cover by four to six inches. Add 4 bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook for two hours. Pick out the bay leaves, drain the tripe and cool to room temperature
In a saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the garlic, celery, carrot, and onion and saute until they are soft. Add the tripe and cook together on medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes including the juices. Break up the whole plum tomatoes with a fork.
Let the mixture cook together until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the freshly grated Parmigiano cheese and basil. Stir well and serve warm.
Piselli alla Fiorentina
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 3-4 oz diced pancetta
- 1 ½ pounds fresh or frozen petite peas
- 1 cup water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
In a 2-quart saucepan, cook the olive oil, garlic and pancetta for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to brown the garlic.
Add the peas, water, salt and pepper and cook covered for approximately 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper, stir in parsley and serve.
Castagnaccio: Chestnut Flour Cake
- 14 ounces chestnut flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- Sprig fresh rosemary
- Zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, and water. Whisk the batter well until the batter is smooth.
Add the olive oil to a nonstick pie pan and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Once the oil and pie pan are hot, add the batter. Smooth out the batter evenly.
Sprinkle the raisins, pine nuts, rosemary and orange zest on top.
Bake the cake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden.
It was not until the middle of the 19th century that cake, as we know it today made with refined white flour and baking powder instead of yeast, arrived on the scene. The Cassell’s New Universal Cookery Book [London, 1894] contains a recipe for a layer cake. Butter-cream frosting (using butter, cream, confectioners [powdered] sugar and flavorings) replaced traditional boiled icing in the first few decades of the 20th century. Coffee cake (also sometimes known as Kuchen or Gugelhupf) was not invented. It evolved from ancient honey cakes to simple French galettes to medieval fruitcakes to sweet yeast rolls to Danish cakes to mass-produced pre-packaged treats.
Food historians generally agree the concept of coffee cake [eating sweet cake with coffee] most likely originated in Northern/Central Europe sometime in the 17th century. Why this place and time? These countries were already known for their traditional sweet yeast breads. When coffee was introduced in Europe these cakes were a natural accompaniment. German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants brought their coffee cake recipes with them to America. Italian coffee cakes are usually filled with fresh seasonal fruit and are eaten for breakfast.
The first coffee cake-type foods were more like bread than cake. They were simple mixtures of yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, nuts, dried fruit and sweet spices. Over time, coffee cake recipes changed. Sugared fruit, cheese, yogurt and other creamy fillings are often used in today’s American coffee cake recipes.
Coffee cakes are a class of cakes intended to be eaten alongside coffee as part of a breakfast meal or that may be eaten during a “coffee break” or offered to guests as a gesture of hospitality on or around a coffee table. They are typically single layer cakes that may be square or rectangular like a Stollen or a loaf-shaped cake or they may be ring-shaped. Coffee cakes may be flavored with cinnamon or other spices, seeds, nuts and fruits. These cakes sometimes have a crumb topping called streusel and/or a light glaze drizzle. The hole in the center of many coffee cakes is a relatively recent innovation—it became popular in the 1950’s. The “bundt pan” was invented to allow heavier batters to get cooked all the way through without any dough left unbaked in the center.
Enjoy one of the following cakes with your next cup of coffee.
Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cake
For the cake
- 5.25 ounces (1 cup) steel-cut or old-fashioned oats
- 3/4 cupsevaporated whole milk
- 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter or butter substitute (such as Smart Balance), room temperature
- 4 ounces (½ cup) packed brown sugar
- 3.5 ounces (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 7 ounces (about 1½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping
- 2.5 ounces (5 tablespoons) unsalted butter or butter alternative
- 2 ounces (¼ cup) packed brown sugar
- 2 ounces (¼ cup) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup evaporated whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3.5 ounces (1 cup) sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 ounces (½ cup) chopped pecans
Make the cake:
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over high heat until it just starts to boil. Pour the milk over the oats and cover the bowl. Allow the oats to rest for 30 minutes; in this time they should have absorbed much of the milk and softened considerably.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spray an 8-inch square metal cake pan with cooking spray. Line it with a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil cut to fit into the bottom and up two opposite sides of the pan with ample overhang on either side. Spray the foil lightly. (If you have no interest in serving the cake outside of the pan, don’t bother with the foil. Instead, sprinkle flour generously on the inside of the sprayed cake pan, tilt to coat the bottom and sides and remove the excess flour.) Set the pan aside.
Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, add the sugars, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and aerated, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.
Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Crack the eggs into a measuring cup. Add the vanilla and beat lightly with a fork until combined.
With the mixer running on low-speed, add the beaten eggs, then add the dry ingredients and the oats with any liquid remaining in the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake until the cake is golden brown, has shrunken slightly from the sides and tests clean with a toothpick, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Make the topping:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugars and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sugars have dissolved, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the milk and salt, bring to a boil, and boil until the mixture is thickened slightly, about 3 minutes longer. Remove from the heat. Stir in the coconut, pecans and vanilla and set aside, covered, until ready to use.
Finish the cake:
After removing the cake from the oven, position the oven rack about 6 inches below the heating element of the broiler and preheat the broiler.
With a toothpick or wooden skewer, poke ½-inch-deep holes at regular intervals into the top of the warm cake. Spread the topping over the cake, coaxing it to the sides and corners.
Broil until the topping is light brown and bubbly, 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the intensity of your broiler. Remove from the broiler and let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.
To unmold the cake:
Run a metal spatula along the sides of the cake that touch the pan directly. Gripping the foil overhang on both sides, carefully lift out the cake and transfer it to a cutting board or serving plate. Press a long metal spatula flush against a side of the cake with a foil overhang and gently pull out the foil from under the cake.
Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
- 3/4 cup butter or butter alternative, softened
- 1 1/4 cups sugar or sugar alternative
- 4 eggs or equivalent refrigerated egg substitute, such as Egg Beaters
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, if frozen do not thaw
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl; add to creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream.
Spoon a third of the batter into the prepared pan.
Combine brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; sprinkle half over the batter. Top with half of the berries. Repeat layers. Top with remaining batter.
Bake for 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Combine glaze ingredients; drizzle over the top of the cake.
Hazelnut Coffee Cake
- 1/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted, see tip below
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup light sour cream
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon low-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 9x 2-inch stone or metal loaf pan; set aside.
For the nut topping:
In a small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. With your fingers mix until mixture is crumbly. Stir in toasted hazelnuts. Set aside.
For the cake:
In a medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a small bowl, combine egg, sour cream, the water and oil and add to the flour mixture; stir just until combined.
Place 1/2 cup of the batter into a clean small bowl. Stir in cocoa powder, milk and vanilla until smooth.
Spoon the light-color batter into the prepared pan, spreading evenly (batter will be shallow in the pan).
Drop chocolate batter in small mounds over batter in the pan. Using a thin metal spatula, slightly marble batters. Sprinkle with the nut topping.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes; serve warm. Makes 12 servings.
To toast hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread nuts in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly toasted.
Remove from the oven. Let nuts cool for 5 minutes. Rub hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel until skins loosen and fall away.
Raspberry Cheese Coffee Cake
- 2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar or sugar alternative
- 3/4 cups cold butter or light butter alternative, cubed
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup light sour cream
- 1/4 cup low-fat milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cups low sugar or sugar-free raspberry jam, warmed
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Remove 1 cup and set aside.
To the remaining mixture, add the baking powder, baking soda and salt, sour cream, milk, egg and almond extract and mix well. Spread in the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan.
For the filling:
Beat the cream cheese, sugar and egg in a small bowl until smooth. Spoon over batter. Top with the warm raspberry jam. Sprinkle with almonds and reserved crumb mixture.
Bake at 350°F for 55-60 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Cool completely. Store in the refrigerator.
Yield: 12 servings.
- Lemon Yoghurt Cake (josephineharrington.wordpress.com)
- Rhubarb & Custard Cake (helenasbistro.wordpress.com)
The Jewish community of Ferrara is the only one in Emilia-Romagna with a continuous presence from the Middle Ages to the present day. It played an important role while the Duke Ercole I d’Este was in power. The situation of the Jews deteriorated in 1598, after the Este dynasty moved to Modena and the city came under papal control. The Jewish settlement, located on three city streets, formed a triangle near the cathedral and became a ghetto in 1627. Between 1627 and 1859, the Ferrara Jews were restricted to the ghetto, a self-sufficient small town within the larger one. With a population of about 1,800, the ghetto had its own synagogues, schools and old age homes. In 1848, King Carlo Alberto proclaimed the emancipation of the Italian Jews, granting them equal rights. Today, the old ghetto area, with its small attractive stores and refurbished colorful houses, is an essential part of the itinerary of all guided tours.
In 1799, the city was taken over by the Republic of France, which established a small garrison there. Shortly after, Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann von Klenau approached the fortress with his military forces consisting of Austrian cavalry, artillery and infantry men, augmented by Italian peasant rebels, and demanded its capitulation. The commander refused. Klenau blockaded the city. For the next three days, Klenau patrolled the countryside, capturing the surrounding strategic points. The French attempted two rescues of the beleaguered fortress and, finally, a column led by Pierre-Augustin Hulin reached and relieved the fortress. Klenau took possession of the town, though, and garrisoned it with a light battalion. The Jewish residents of Ferrara paid 30,000 ducats to prevent the pillage of the city by Klenau’s forces, thus, saving the city from being sacked.
Although Jews lived in several towns of Emilia-Romagna, including Modena, Bologna, Parma, Reggio and Emilia, the Jewish cuisine that seems to have survived or prevailed is the one from the city of Ferrara. Their influence in the region’s cooking is mainly Sephardi, with dishes such as buricchi, which is reminiscent of Spanish and Portuguese empanadas and can have both sweet and savory fillings.
An old saying from Ferrara goes, “Dell’oca non si butta via niente”, which translates as “Nothing gets thrown away from a goose”. Inspired by the Italian pork cold cuts, the Ferrara Jews recreated similar cuts using goose. All the parts of the goose were eaten: its fat was widely used in cooking as it was full of protein and calories and was cheap to buy. Its meat was used to make ‘prosciutti’ and goose sausages or salami. For centuries the word ‘sallame’, spelt with two ‘l’s instead of ‘salame’ was used within the Jewish community in order to distinguish the goose salami from the forbidden pork one. Foie gras was made from the goose liver and it was very expensive. Sometimes it was even used for payment in illegal betting and smuggling.
Goose was widely used in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont until modern times, when it was replaced by turkey, as turkey is more tender, less fatty and cheaper. Many recipes from the Jewish community of Ferrara have goose and turkey as their main dish entree and turkey meatloaf is still a popular dish. A well-known and interesting goose dish is the ruota del faraone or Pharaoh’s wheel. It is made with fresh tagliatelle, goose salami, pine nuts and raisins. It’s ingredients represent the Egyptian soldiers and chariots being caught up in the waves of the closing Red Sea, while chasing the Jews who were escaping from Egypt. This dish and many other old traditional recipes are laborious and few people make them today, if at all. Testine di spinaci – the stems of spinach – and guscetti – the husks of green peas were dishes created at the time of the ghettos, when living conditions were particularly poor and creativity was a necessity in the kitchen.
During Passover, foods containing chametz, that is leavened bread or anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are not allowed. The Ashkenazic tradition also places kitniyot in the list of prohibited Passover foods: rice, corn, soy, millet, beans, peas, any other legume or anything derived from those products, such as corn syrup, tofu or soy oil fall under this category. Similarly, seeds, mustard, sesame and fennel are also avoided during Passover. This restriction includes peanuts, even though we think of them as nuts, they really are classified as legumes. People from a Sephardi or Mizrahi background do not have the kitniyot restriction.
Look on products like matzah flour, juices, wine, oil, candy and soda for the “Kosher for Passover” certification. That can help you be sure.
Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer
- 11 matzahs, broken into small pieces
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
- A pinch of nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons of matzah meal, plus more to dust the gnocchi
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon kosher approved extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks
- 1 clove garlic
- 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
- Pinch of sugar
Soak the matzah in cold water or broth for at least 1 hour or until soft. Drain, squeeze well and place into a clean bowl; add the eggs, salt and pepper, parsley, nutmeg and matzah meal. Mix all the ingredients together.
In a second bowl, place some more matzah meal. With a wet tablespoon or a small scoop, take some of the mixture and place it on top of the matzah meal. Using your hands, roll the mixture evenly over the matzah meal and shape it into a ping-pong size ball. Proceed with the rest of the mix and place the rolled gnocchi on a piece of wax paper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; drop in the gnocchi and scoop them out as they rise to the surface using a slotted skimmer. Place them in with the tomato sauce and serve.
Prepare the sauce:
Heat olive oil and add thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts) and a whole clove of garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, and discard the garlic.
Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon . Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook for about 10-15 minutes uncovered, allowing the sauce to thicken.
Passover Rolled Turkey Breast With Mushroom-Spinach Stuffing
FOR THE STUFFING:
- 2 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover olive oil
- 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
- 1 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
- 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
- Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE TURKEY:
- 1 Kosher whole turkey breast, boned, with skin (4-5 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover olive oil
- 3 cups reduced-sodium Kosher chicken or vegetable broth, divided
- 1 cup kosher-for-Passover dry white wine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
TO PREPARE THE STUFFING:
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Saute leeks and mushrooms until leeks are tender and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and spinach and stir until spinach wilts. Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and stir in matzah meal. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
TO PREPARE THE TURKEY:
Lay turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board or wax paper. Trim any excess skin. Holding a knife parallel to the meat, make lengthwise cuts on both breast halves, cutting away from the center, so meat is of a consistent thickness (creating a rectangular shape). Cover with wax paper and pound to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread with the spinach stuffing mixture, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Starting from the left side, roll into a cylinder. Tie at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string and secure open edges with toothpicks.
Place turkey on a rack, seam side down, in a roasting pan. Brush with oil. Combine 2 cups chicken broth with the wine and pour over the turkey. Roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting with stock mixture every 15 minutes (add broth if evaporating too quickly) or until temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear.
Remove from roast the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Skim fat from the roasting pan and pour pan juices into a small saucepan with the remaining stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove toothpicks and string, and slice turkey into 1-inch-thick slices. Serve with sauce.
These latkes are oven fried.
- 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, about 3 medium potatoes
- 1 medium onion
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons Matzah meal
- Kosher approved vegetable oil for the baking sheets
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray two large cookie sheets with rims with cooking spray.
Grate or shred the potatoes. You can use the fine shredding attachment on a processor or mixer. Wrap the grated potatoes in a cotton dish towel (a flour sack towel works well), and twist the towel closed at the top. Bring the potatoes to the sink and squeeze them, wringing as much liquid as possible from them.
Shred or grate the onion. Don’t use the finest shredding disk of your food processor, as it will turn the onion to mush; the medium shredding disk is preferable.
Combine the drained potatoes, onion, egg, salt and matzah in a bowl, stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed.
Pour a thin layer of oil into each baking pan. It should be deep enough that when you tilt the pan, you can see it move. For easier-to-clean pans and slightly less greasy latkes, heat the pans in the oven briefly, to warm the oil.
Drop the pancake batter onto the sheets by the 1/4 to 1/3-cupful. Space them far enough apart so that you can easily get a spatula between them to flip them over when the time comes.
Bake the pancakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, turn the pancakes over and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.
Remove from the oven and drain the pancakes on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.
Roasted Root Vegetables
- About 3-4 pounds, in any combination: turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery root, shallots, golden beets, butternut or kabocha squash
- 1/3 cup kosher approved olive oil
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 6 sprigs thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Peel all the vegetables and dice into 1 inch pieces.
Combine al lthe ingredients in a mixing bowl and transfer to two rimmed cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
Roast about 20-30 minutes, until very tender.
Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Serve with the turkey roast.
Italian Almond Passover Cake
Dress this simple cake up by dusting the top with confectioners’ sugar and topping it with fresh fruit.
- 2 tablespoons matzah meal, plus more for coating the cake pan
- 2 cups whole blanched almonds or 2 cups packaged finely ground almonds
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup kosher approved extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and grease the paper. Evenly coat the bottom and sides with matzah meal, tapping out any excess.
If you are using whole blanched almonds, pulse the whole blanched almonds in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of matzah meal and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until very finely ground. If using packaged finely ground almonds, mix by hand: packaged ground almonds with the matzah meal and the 1/4 cup sugar.
In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar at high-speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. At low-speed, gradually add the ground almond mixture, the extracts, the olive oil and the lemon zest.
In a medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Beat 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it; then quickly fold in the remaining whites.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Run a small, sharp knife around the side of the cake, transfer it to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the base of the pan, then carefully peel off the paper. Garnish according to taste.
- Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Matzo Brittle – Recipes from The Kitchn (thekitchn.com)
- Passover in Israel (401j.wordpress.com)
- Passover Primer (boiseweekly.com)
- Passover Chocolate Cake (adinamenashe.wordpress.com)
- Pesach Strategies for Eating Healthy & Shopping Smart (nourishingisrael.wordpress.com)
Benvenuto Cellini was a Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, soldier and writer. He was born in 1500 in Florence, Italy and his parents were Giovanni Cellini and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini was pushed towards music,but when he was fifteen his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to the goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro. However, at the age of sixteen, Benvenuto attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an altercation with his companions. He was banished for six months by the magistrates and went to live in Siena, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro. From Siena he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa and a period of studying sculpture in Florence, he moved to Rome.
His first artistic works were a silver casket, silver candlesticks and a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII. Another celebrated work from his time in Rome is the gold medallion, “Leda and the Swan”, created for Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino that is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. He also took up the flute again and was appointed one of the pope’s court musicians.
In the attack on Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Cellini gained fame as a soldier. According to his own accounts, he shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, Prince of Orange. His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates and he soon returned to his hometown of Florence. Here, he devoted himself to crafting medals in gold, the most famous of which are “Hercules and the Nemean Lion” and “Atlas Supporting the Sphere”, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France.
He returned to Rome and this time he was employed in the craft of making jewelery and in casting dies for medals and the papal mint. In 1529 his brother, Cecchino, killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and, in turn, was wounded. He later died. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother’s killer – an act of blood revenge, but not justice, as Cellini admits that his brother’s killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to escape the consequences. Through the influence of several cardinals, he later obtained a pardon. Cellini next went to Venice, where he was restored with greater honor than before.
At the age of 37, after returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled the gems of the pope’s tiara during the war. He was confined to the Castel Sant’Angelo, escaped, was recaptured and treated severely. The intercession Cardinal d’Este of Ferrara, eventually secured Cellini’s release, in gratitude for which he crafted d’Este a gold cup.
Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini created sculptures of a grander scale. One of the main projects of his French period is probably the “Golden Gate” for the Château de Fontainebleau. Only the bronze tympanum of this unfinished work, which represents the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Paris, Louvre), still exists, but the complete spectrum of his work can be known through archives,his preparatory drawings and reproduced casts. His most distinguished sculpture, the bronze group of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” now in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence, was his attempt to surpass Michelangelo’s, “David” and Donatello’s, “Judith and Holofernes”. The casting of this work caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety, but it was called a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. By 1996, centuries of environmental pollution exposure had damaged the statue. In December 1996 it was removed from the Loggia and transferred to the Uffizi for cleaning and restoration. It was a slow, years-long process and the restored statue was returned to its home in June 2000.
The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini was started when he was 58 and ended just before his last trip to Pisa around the year 1563, when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions and enjoyments, that is written in an energetic, direct and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. Despite its exaggerations and its often boastful tone, it is a document of surprising frankness and incomparable authenticity and, thanks to it Cellini’s character, is more intimately known than that of any other figure of his time.
He died in Florence in 1571 at the age of 71 leaving behind a magnificent legacy of work. For all his exploits, Benvenuto Cellini remains a hero of Florence, in the Piazzale Degli Uffizi, outside the famous Uffizi Gallery, a life-size sculptor of him stands alongside the great masters of renaissance art, Da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo.
Still in the news today, Cellini’s gold and enamel masterpiece the “Saltcellar of Francis I” executed in 1540 for the King of France and valued today at $60,000,000, was recovered recently after being stolen from a museum in Vienna. Being chosen as a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno shows the respect he commanded: not just as an artist but as a patron of Florence.
Some Florentine Specialties
Much of the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine was born out of necessity. Wild herbs and greens were used in simple soups. Every part of the animal was used–cibreo is a popular Florentine chicken stew that features cockscombs. Tuscan bread, a rustic sourdough baked in a wood-fired oven, traditionally was made without expensive salt. That meant it quickly went stale and so ribollita was born, a vegetable soup thickened with bread. Panzanella is a summer salad made from stale bread cubes, fresh tomatoes, basil and Tuscany’s famed olive oil. Wheat flour was another expensive ingredient and so Tuscans created dishes like castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, orange zest and olive oil.
Dishes here have hearty, rustic flavors, well-matched to the area’s famous wines, and Florentines enjoy eating their regional cuisine in friendly, warm, informal settings.
Typically, Florentine people never start a meal from the main course but always have a starter first. Whether eating in a restaurant or at home with friends, you will always find liver crostini (thin sliced toasted bread with liver patè) on the table. Alongside liver crostini the usual antipasto also offers different types of sliced salamis and hams.
Pappardelle (similar to spaghetti, but a thicker pasta made with egg) with boar or hare sauce. It can be seasoned with other classic ingredients: porcini mushrooms, meat sauces, artichokes and sausages, etc. Other first course dishes are the soups: pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, carabaccia and black cabbage. These are all variations of a single base made from vegetables, bread and tomato.
The hills around Florence abound with game, including wild boar which is used in locally made salamis and air-dried hams. Duck and rabbit appear on the table grilled. Fish from the region’s lakes and seafood from the coastal areas appear on the table. Porcini, wild mushrooms, are another favorite served in the fall after foragers have combed the woods around the city.
Bistecca alla fiorentina (a T-bone steak) is served rare with a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and often accompanied by white beans, roasted potatoes or a green salad. Porchetta is a suckling pig, stuffed with garlic and herbs and brushed with a rosemary branch while its roasts. Trippa alla fiorentina, tripe cooked with wine, tomatoes and herbs, is another signature dish.
Florentine desserts: cantucci (small almond biscuits) to eat at the end of a meal dipped in Vinsanto or in the colder seasons the castagnaccio, that takes its name from the nearby mountains , is a thin cake made of chestnut flour and pine nuts. During Carnival or after the Epiphany, you can find schiacciata alla fiorentina, a soft sweet, sponge cake which can be filled with cream or chocolate and covered with powdered sugar.
Sometimes Florentines like eating a sandwich in the street for lunch. In addition to steak, Florence offers other meat specialties such as tripe and lampredotto. These are foods that are eaten in kiosks on the street, even in winter.They can be seasoned with green sauce and enriched with other vegetables, such as leeks.
Chicken Liver Crostini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed
- 1 cup Marsala wine
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- Baguette, sliced thinly and toasted
- Sea salt, optional
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions, capers and garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, Marsala, anchovies and chicken livers. Season with salt, pepper and chili and cook until the chicken livers are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor. Add the butter and purée until smooth.
To serve, spread the chicken liver on toasted baguette slices and garnish with sea salt, if desired.
Pappa al Pomodoro
Many Florentine recipes make use of leftover ingredients. Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick, hearty soup made with dry bread, is one of the city’s classic dishes.
- 4–8 cloves of garlic, according to taste
- 1 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
- 1 pound of dry, stale (preferably unsalted Tuscan) bread, broken into small pieces
- 4–6 cups of water or warmed vegetable broth
- 1 bunch (20 leaves) of basil, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Half teaspoon of crushed and dried chili pepper
- 1 leek (white flesh only), finely chopped
Place the bread in a bowl and add water or broth. Cover and put aside for at least an hour.
Sauté the garlic and leek in oil. Add dried chili pepper, the tomatoes, half the basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Squeeze excess broth from the soaked bread and add to the oil and tomatoes. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with remaining basil and a swirl of olive oil.
Ribollita means “reboiled,” because to make this rich, thick vegetable soup correctly, it must be cooked and recooked. Ribollita appears with many variations, but the key ingredient is cavolo nero ( winter black cabbage), though kale, chard, or green and Savoy cabbage can also be used. Add zucchini, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables according to taste.
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 leek (white flesh) finely chopped
- 3 chopped carrots
- 3 fresh or canned peeled plum tomatoes
- 2 cups canned white cannellini beans
- 1 quarter cavolo nero or equivalent
- 1 bunch Swiss chard and/or spinach
- 1 finely chopped celery stalk and leaves
- 4 chopped zucchini
- 2 peeled and cubed potatoes
- 1 pound stale Italian bread
- 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- Oregano, rosemary and hot chili pepper as desired
Sauté the onion, leek, and garlic in a Dutch Oven in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots, celery, chili pepper and cook for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, beans, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes.
Add tomato paste, zucchini, potatoes or other vegetables of choice and water to cover the ingredients. Cook gently for 90 minutes, adding water as necessary,
Chill the soup overnight. The next day purée half the mixture, return to the pot. Bring to a boil and reheat.
Ladling the soup over a thick slice of toasted dry bread and add a swirl of olive oil to each serving.
Pappardelle with Duck
- 1/2 pound duck breast, skin removed
- Zest of 2 oranges
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf, broken into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Fresh rosemary
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 pound dried pappardelle pasta
Rub the meat with the orange zest, lemon zest, rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the duck breast from the herbs and dice the meat.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the diced duck meat. Cook until the meat has changed color, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the red wine; cook until the alcohol has reduced and evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and mix with the sauce to serve.
Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Traditionally, a T-bone from local Chianina beef cattle is preferred, but an ordinary T-bone (or porterhouse) can also be used.
Serves at least four
- 2-pound T-bone steak, three fingers thick
- Sea salt (coarse)
Florentines grill the meat over a very hot wood or coal, but it can also be cooked on a hot skillet or griddle.
Grill the steak, without seasoning, for three to five minutes. Florentines often grill the steak standing up on the bone for a few minutes at the end to cook around the T-bone.
The meat should be seared and crispy on the outside and red, almost raw at its heart. Allow to rest for ten minutes then cut the meat off the bone into large chunks.
Season with coarse sea salt and serve.
Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina
Serves: 12 servings
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Powdered sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.
In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk and oil and pour into bowl with flour.
Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour the batter to the greased pan and bake for about 25 minutes.
Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.
- Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini – a renowned scultor (autobiographiestoread.wordpress.com)
San Sperate has a very ancient history. Recent archaeological excavations have dated the first settlements to the Bronze Age. Following the period of Punic rule in Sardinia, the villages in the San Sperate basin came under Carthaginian rule and four cemeteries from this period have been found. Roman occupation in 238 BC can be documented and the parish church dates to the XVI century. This small village in Sardinia, not far from Cagliari, is known for the “Paese Museo” (Museum Village) and its artistic features. It is a village of murals with more than 300 large wall paintings. Painting the walls of its houses was begun by a local artist, Pinuccio Sciola. In 1968, in the wake of a youth protest movement, Sciola had the idea of turning the village into an open-air “museum village”. The idea was taken up by other artists such as Foiso Fois, Liliana Canu, Primo Pantoli, Giorgio Princivalle, Gaetano Brundu, Nando Pintus, Giovanni Thermes and Franco Putzolu. They came to San Sperate to add their own different styles and techniques. The result ranged from trompe l’oeil windows, balconies and lines of washing hung out to dry to historic scenes and copies of famous works of art.
Sciola is also Sardinia’s best known sculptor and there are examples of his work carved from the local stone. His stone sculptures are the living testimony of the art of San Sperate. Limestones and basalts are the materials mainly used by Sciola. He makes a “kind of wound” in each stone, so that the energy of the stone is taken out. His large sculptures resonate when rubbed by human hands or small rocks. However, you can’t image how amazing it is listening to Sciola’s stones, so instead of imagining, you can hear these stones in a documentary about this fascinating artist and his work by playing the video link below:
The murals depict how life was in San Sperate one hundred years ago. They are creations of a changing farming culture with themes of rural life (work in the fields and scenes from the village) in an urban space made more significant by the display of traditional implements, such as olive oil mills, wheat grinding mills, stone tubs, basins and by rows of orange and lemon trees. A Picasso-esque house wall of colorful images and a wall painted to resemble a space for hanging agricultural tools (painted so realistically with shadows that they look ready to be unhooked and used) are just two of the vivid images depicted in the town. There are also curiosities, like a house which appears to be wrapped in paper with a corner torn off or painted groups of people chatting in front of arcades or abstract patterns. Here are a few photos of the murals:
One artist from the Renaissance period, Piero della Francesca, must have been popular because there are several copies of his most famous paintings scattered throughout the village, including one next to a bakery that has an image of a single oven on its wall.
The murals covering the brick walls of the village houses brought this small village into the limelight, attracting Italian and foreign artists wishing to experiment with mural painting and other forms of art expression. This attraction also created a platform for local artists: in sculpture – Sergio Caddeo, Giuseppe Lasio, Gianfranco Pinna, Romano Porcu, Eva Schirru and Lucio Schirru; in painting – Monica Corda, Erminluca Maccioni and Raffaele Muscas; in miniature art – Ignazio Casti; in ceramics – Giampaolo Mameli; in murals – Angelo Pilloni and in street art – Manu Invisible. (Source: Italy Magazine)
Sardinian food ranges from soups and stews, seafood, freshly baked breads, olives and wine to roasted lamb, sheep’s milk cheeses and pastries.
Bean, Fennel and Potato Soup
- 2/3 pound (300 g) fresh fava beans or dried cannellini beans
- 2 fennel bulbs, fronds (feathery tops) only
- 1/2 pound (250 g) potatoes
- 1/2 pound (225 g) plum tomatoes or canned italian tomatoes
- 1/3 pound (150 g) dry short pasta (ditalini)
- A ham bone
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Freshly grated Pecorino Sardo (in its absence use Pecorino Toscano or a mixture of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano.)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the fennel fronds, pat them dry and chop them. Save the fennel bulbs for another recipe. Peel and dice the potatoes. Blanch, peel, seed, chop and drain the tomatoes.
Heat the oil in a soup pot, sauté the tomatoes for a minute and as soon as they begin to wilt add the beans, fennel, potatoes and ham. Add 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 l) of water, cover, and simmer for at least two hours.
Sardinian Stuffed Leg of Lamb
- A boneless leg of lamb, weighing about 4 1/2 pounds (2 k)
- 3/4 pound (110 g) Italian mild sausage, casing removed and crumbled
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup (50 g) dry bread crumbs
- 1 2/3 pounds (750 g) plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped — canned tomatoes will also work
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- A large bunch parsley, minced
- A medium onion, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Butcher’s twine
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan or Dutch oven large enough to contain the leg of lamb and sauté the minced garlic, parsley and onion until the onion is translucent. Remove the mixture from the saucepan to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the pan drippings behind. When the onion mixture has cooled, mix it with the sausage, eggs and bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the inside of the leg of lamb. Roll the leg up tightly and tie it with twine.
Reheat the pan drippings in the saucepan and brown the meat, turning it to brown all sides. Add the tomatoes, crumbling them between your fingers, add enough water to reach part-way up the sides of the pot and simmer gently for an hour or until the meat is quite tender.
When the meat is done, remove it from the pot. Remove and discard the string, slice the meat and arrange the pieces on a warmed platter. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.
Saffron Ring Cake
- 12 ounces (300 g) ricotta
- 2 1/2 cups (300 g) flour
- 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
- 3 eggs
- The grated zest of an orange
- The grated zest of a lemon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- A big pinch of saffron
Preheat the oven to 380 degrees F (190 C).
Squeeze the orange, warm the juice slightly and dissolve the saffron in it.
Mash the ricotta with the tines of a fork, mixing until it is creamy in texture and combine it with the sugar, grated orange and lemon zest, eggs and half the orange juice mixed with saffron. Mix well, fold in the flour and baking powder and then pour the batter into a floured ring mold baking pan.
Brush the surface of the cake with the remaining orange juice, sprinkle with sugar and bake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry, about 40 minutes, but check before then.
- Pinuccio Sciola, Sound Stones (murighingius.com)
- Italian food, wine and typical recipes: a brief introduction to the Sinis’ traditional cuisine. (tipstogo.wordpress.com)
Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.
On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.
Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.
Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.
Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.
Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.
Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).
La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese
The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.
Dough (will make two “14″ pans)
- 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature
- Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
- Sea salt, to taste
In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.
Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.
Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.
Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).
When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.
Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.
Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.
Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto
- 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
- 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
- 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
- 2 potatoes
- 1 leek
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 rib celery
- 1/2 medium onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
- 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.
After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.
Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure
- 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
- 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
- 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.
Ligurian Olive Oil Cake
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.
MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
- A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)