Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cake

While the young people prepare to embark on a new path towards adulthood, parents are thinking: There’s a party to be planned! Where to begin? Who to invite? What about decorations? What food to serve? How will all those people fit in the house? Take a deep breath, make a pot of coffee and grab pen and paper.

Write down dates with goals in mind. You’ll want to keep track of expenses and check off each task as it’s completed. Sit down with your soon to be graduate and have an honest discussion about the expectations of the party. Only you, the parents, know what you can afford and how much space you have to create the perfect party for your young adult.

If you don’t think there will be enough room in your home for all your guests, order a tent from a reputable company near you. Make sure you have a clear idea of how many people will be attending and what the tent looks like. The company usually comes out early on the day of the event to put the tent up for you. You’ll need tables and chairs for food and for guests to sit and eat. They can be rented from the same company that rents tents or you can borrow them from friends.

More and more young people are planning the event around a theme. It’s usually something that brings to light a personal like or personality trait. The school colors are not always used these days. Ask your graduate if he/she has a preference. If not… go with the school colors. 

Graduation and congratulatory decorations abound through the spring. Keep a lookout for unique items. If helium balloons are on your list, be sure to order early and don’t forget the weights to keep them on the tables.

A “Memory Corner” recreates the past 18 years of your new adult. Make a collage of photographs, childhood memorabilia with bits and pieces of all their favorite things. Display any awards, merits and scholarships acquired through their years in elementary and high school. Let your imagination run wild to create a unique display that will be the hit of the day.

Pick up paper products. Specialty stores abound when it comes to party items like paper plates, cups, napkins, fruit cups and plastic spoons, forks and knives. Customized napkins need to be ordered early, but most kids are happy with just the year on it.

Music always adds a festive touch to any party. Choose music that your child loves or even better, leave the task of selecting the music to your graduate.

Since this is a day to honor your child’s achievement, let him/her be your guide. Perhaps all or some of their favorite foods could be served. You might wish to have a chicken barbeque or grill hamburgers and hotdogs. Sandwiches, chips and baked beans are probably the most used menu, but I would go a different route to create a buffet unique to your child. Mexican food, Italian, Greek, Chinese… the possibilities are endless.

A sample menu: Grilled chicken, your best potato salad or Caesar salad with creamy dressing, crusty rolls, a vegetable plate that includes celery and carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, a mixed fruit salad in a watermelon bowl an, of course, the cake.

If you’re expecting a large crowd, place bowls of M&M’s mixed with peanuts on the tables, mints or another finger food. FYI: You can purchase just the color of M&M’s you need at specialty stores. This makes for a colorful addition to the table decorations, especially in school colors.

Find a great cake decorator who creates unique, one of a kind cakes. Have the cake decorated to coordinate with the theme. Order early to assure you get just what you want. You can keep costs down by making your own cake. (See below)

It’s best to not include liquor or beer unless all the attendees are over 21. The temptation for young people to drink may be too great. Keep the drinks to sodas, iced tea, lemonade, punch or coffee.

Organizational Tips:

  • Create a timeline.
  • Ask a friend or two to help you out with kitchen duties and to run last minute errands, such as picking up the cake, getting the balloons, flowers, etc.
  • Create a list just for the menu and food preparation. Put the list on your refrigerator to remind you what needs to be done and when.
  • Do as much cooking beforehand. Meats can be cooked and stored in the freezer.
  • Clean and cut vegetables the day before, place in large bags or plastic containers.
  • Confirm all orders a week before the party. Don’t allow a glitch to occur that day.
  • Set up as much as possible the day before the party.
  • Don’t forget to: Have Fun!

Suggested Party Menu

Minted Citrus Tea

This recipe serves 10. It is easily doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 12 fresh mint sprigs
  • 4 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar, or sugar alternative such as Truvia (Stevia)
  • 1 cup fresh Florida orange juice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 5 cups cold water
  • 1 Florida orange, sliced for garnish
  • 1 lemon sliced for garnish

Directions:

Place the tea bags and mint sprigs into a large pitcher. Pour the boiling water over them and steep for about 7 minutes.

Remove and discard the tea bags and mint leaves, squeezing out excess liquid. Stir in sugar until dissolved and then stir in the orange juice and lemon juice.

Pour in the cold water. Serve over ice cubes, garnished with orange or lemon slices.

Arugula, Frisee and Red-Leaf Salad with Strawberries

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 12 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
  • 12 cups red-leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 12 cups frisee, trimmed, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 8 Belgian endives, leaves separated, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 pints strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, and quartered
  • 2 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions:

In a large salad bowl add the arugula, red-leaf lettuce, frisee, endive, strawberries and walnuts.

In a small bowl whisk together vinegar, oil and thyme; season with salt and pepper.

Pour half of the dressing over the salad and season with additional salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Taste and add more dressing, as desired

Grilled-Steak Sandwiches

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 sirloin, skirt, or flank steaks (about 2 pounds each)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 large loaves Italian bread, halved lengthwise
  • Garnish: fresh basil and romaine lettuce leaves

Directions:

Let steaks stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat grill to high. Brush grates with oil. Season steaks with salt and pepper. Grill for 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice steaks across the grain.

Meanwhile, drizzle tomatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper. Brush bread with oil. Grill tomatoes until lightly charred and soft, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Grill cut sides of bread until lightly charred, 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Layer sliced steak and grilled tomatoes over bottom halves of bread. Garnish with basil and romaine leaves, drizzle with oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Sandwich with top halves of bread. Cut each loaf crosswise into 6 sandwiches.

Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches

Servings: 8

Ingrdients:

  • 8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 2 white country loaves of bread—ends discarded, each with at least eight slices
  • 1 pound sliced provolone cheese
  • 1 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, mix the halved tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake the tomatoes cut side up for 1 1/2 hours, until soft and starting to brown. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and bake for about 30 minutes longer, until the tomatoes are very tender and slightly shriveled but still juicy. Let cool. (This can be done a day or two ahead)

Increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Brush 16 bread slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; arrange 8 of the slices oiled side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top with the provolone, cover with the tomatoes, 4 cups of the Fontina and the remaining 8 bread slices, oiled side up. Press gently on the sandwiches and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.

Preheat the broiler. Toss the remaining Fontina with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and sprinkle on the sandwiches. Broil 3 inches from the heat for about 1 minute, until the cheese is melted. Transfer the sandwiches to a serving platter. Cut into smaller pieces, if desired.

Potato Salad with Cipollini Onions, Olives and Fennel

Yukon Golds are the best potato for this salad.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 1 pound cipollini onions, peeled and left whole
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 cup picholine olives, pitted (2 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved (2 cups)

Directions:

Heat a large skillet or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add oil, garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add potatoes, onions and red-pepper flakes. Cook until onions are golden, about 7 minutes.

Add stock and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes and onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove potatoes and onions with a slotted spoon. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid.

Combine reserved liquid, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Pour over warm potatoes and onions. Stir in olives and let cool to room temperature.

Add fennel and parsley and combine. Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan.

Mix well. Best served at room temperature.

Note To ensure maximum flavor, toss potatoes with dressing while they’re still warm.

Charred Corn Salad

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 8 large ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing on the corn
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 6 tablespoons torn mint leaves
  • 6 tablespoons torn parsley leaves

Directions:

Heat grill to medium high. Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning, until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the onion and lime juice and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the syrup, jalapeño and the 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper.

Working in a large bowl, with a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs. Add the onion dressing and toss. Add the mint, parsley and toss again. Serve warm.

Graduation Cake

Servings: 24

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1 cup white sugar plus 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups shortening
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Creamy Butter Frosting

  • 1 cup butter
  • 8 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly spray a large (18-by-12-inch) sheet cake pan (or you can use a slightly smaller jelly roll pan) with nonstick baking spray. Be sure to get in all the corners of the pan.

Measure sifted flour, add baking powder, 2 teaspoons salt and sift together three times. In a separate large bowl beat egg whites until foamy, add the 1 cup white sugar, gradually, and continue beating until mixture  stands in soft peaks.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream shortening, add 2 1/2 cups white sugar, gradually, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture, alternately with milk, a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and the beaten egg whites and beat thoroughly into batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared sheet cake pan. Use a large offset spatula or knife to even out the surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

Place a large cutting board covered with parchment paper on top of the cake pan, then invert the cake, allowing it to turn out onto the cutting board. Let the cake cool completely before decorating.

When thoroughly cooled, at least 2 hours, brush cake to remove any loose crumbs. You can also cut the cake in half to make two layers, if desired.

Prepare Creamy Butter Frosting and spread the cake with frosting. You can tint the frosting, write on top of cake and add graduation decorations.

To Make Creamy Butter Frosting:

Cream 1 cup butter or margarine; add part of the confectioners’ sugar gradually, blending after each addition. Mix in 4 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then add remaining sugar alternately with milk, until the right consistency for spreading. Beat after each addition until smooth. Makes about 5 cups.

(While frosting cake, keep bowl of frosting covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying.)

 

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The living conditions for the whole family were not as good as for those who lived in cities. Most companies built homes for the workers to live in while they were employed. The conditions were bad, no running water or heat. No insulation to protect against the harsh winter weather and, in most cases, no electricity. The houses for the workers were not provided free of charge, quite the contrary, the coal companies often charged high rent for what was essentially a shack.
Miners who were trapped underground during explosions did not have their remains removed from the mine. The area where they died was sealed up and new entries were initiated. Work was rarely interrupted. Most of the immigrant miners were not even known by their given names, as one place in Kanawha county reflects that Italian # 14, perished in this mine. Only those who worked beside him knew who he was.
http://www.wvcoalhistory.com/id12.html

Individuals of Italian extraction constitute one of the most important ethnic groups in West Virginia. These Italian-Americans date their connection with the state to ancestors who were recruited during the early years of the 20th century to work in West Virginia’s rapidly developing industrial economy. With more than 17,000 Italian immigrants in the state by 1910, they made up 30 percent of West Virginia’s foreign-born population. In fact, so many Italians had entered the state that for over a decade before the First World War, the Italian government maintained a consular office in northern West Virginia.

The majority of the Italian population were located in the northern part of the state, with Marion County leading the way, followed by Harrison, Tucker, Randolph, Preston and Monongalia. Significant clusters of Italians were also drawn to southern West Virginia. McDowell County, with 2,300, could boast the most Italian immigrants in the state in 1910, although the Fayette County communities of Boomer, Harewood, Longacre and Smithers constituted the greatest single concentration of Italians in the state. While immigrants were attracted to West Virginia from all over the Italian peninsula, the majority came from the southern regions of Campania, Calabria and Sicily.

Miner’s Home Monongalia County, West Virginia.

The great majority of Italian immigrants were employed in the coal industry as pick-and-shovel miners. West Virginia mines were among the most mechanized in the US and miners born in America generally operated the new machines. They usually earned better pay than their foreign born counterparts, who were left with the hand tool work. Despite this disparity, West Virginia Italians were able to significantly improve their financial position. In part, the Italians achieved economic progress and acceptance by their work ethic. The records for coal production by hand tools are all apparently held by Italians. For instance, in 1924, Carmine Pellegrino of Rosemont mined 66 tons of coal in one 24-hour period and earned the nickname ‘‘sixty-six’’. Eleven years later, Dominic Pesca of Boomer mined by hand 48 tons of coal in one day and 52 tons the next at the Union Carbide mines at nearby Alloy. Italian miners in West Virginia also improved their economic position by self-sacrifice and frugality. Raising livestock and tending gardens kept down expenses and helped them save a great deal of their earnings. The U.S. Department of Labor noted that such Italian miners sent more money back to their home country than any other comparable group of immigrants.

Loading coal into horse drawn carts to be distributed to businesses or homes. (Image courtesy of Google Books)

Although large numbers were involved in digging coal, West Virginia’s Italians were an occupationally diverse group. Even in the coal camps, they often held a variety of jobs such as teamsters, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, stonemasons or general laborers. In many areas, Italians were a vital part of the business community. The occupational diversity of Italians was especially notable in the northern part of the state where urban industrial settings were more common. For instance, historian William Klaus has written that Italians in Marion County were not just miners, but also worked in glass and other manufacturing establishments, on railroads, in skilled trades, on farms and in their own small businesses.

Historians have explored the significance of the high concentration of Italians in the work force of the Mountain State. As a result, we know they came mostly as an indirect result of wanting to work in the West Virginia coal industry. What emerges from this literature is that these immigrants were desperately poor individuals fleeing their old world peasant communities for a chance at a better life in America. Confused and unable to speak English, they were met at ports of entry by employment agents or representatives of private firms and whisked away to the mountains, where they had little idea of where they were or what they were going to do.

Dispersed without input to coal, lumber, transportation and construction companies, they were seemingly powerless to determine their own destiny. However, despite this background, they earned respect for their hard work and were seen as assimilating rather easily into the mountain culture. The purpose of this historical study was to take a first step at understanding the Italian experience in West Virginia. By focusing on the group of Italians who were drawn to Fayette County, the research attempted to move beyond the impact in which West Virginia’s culture and institutions had on such immigrants. Rather, the research aimed to determine how the Italians influenced the institutions and values of the southern West Virginia coal workers, in what was emerging as a critical period in the state’s mining history.

Italian Family 1929

A seam of coal, measuring between five and six feet thick, ran through the hills above the town of Boomer in Fayette County. This coal was first developed in 1896 by West Virginia merchant, William Masters. Boomer Coal and Coke operation became possible because of the extension of the Kanawha and Michigan Railroad. Completion of the K and M also aided W. R. Johnson in opening a mine in Harewood and Samuel Dixon in Longacre. By the spring of 1903, the Boomer Coal and Coke operations was purchased by Hocking Valley of Ohio. Since Boomer’s three mines were among the most productive in the district, their acquisition placed the Hocking Valley Corporation on the verge of a significant expansion in their capacity to produce coal.

Shortly after, the Boomer Coal and Coke Company began a vigorous campaign of attracting Italian immigrants as part of its workforce. The hostile labor relations atmosphere created by the Coal Strike of 1902 in West Virginia gave the recruitment of Italians and other foreign labor a sense of urgency. The work stoppage of West Virginia’s miners in the great Coal Strike of 1902 is historically pictured as a sympathy strike to support the anthracite miners in eastern Pennsylvania. However, in southern West Virginia the strike was basically about local issues. During this situation, the Boomer Coal and Coke Company did everything it could to keep the union out and keep its production going full strength. Among other things, it forbade meetings on its property and obtained restraining orders, forbidding any attempt at interference with the employment relationship at any of its operations.

File:W. Va. coal mine 1908.jpg

1908 West Virginia coal mine entrance

It became clear that Boomer Coal and Coke and the other Hocking properties decided that their expanding enterprises would depend essentially on immigrant labor, but it is not clear why these coal operations placed particular emphasis on recruiting Italians. It may have been as simple, as the fact, that there were so many of them available. On the other hand, the preference of Boomer Coal and the other Hocking operations for southern Italians may have had another source. It was well known that the vast majority of southern Italian immigrants were agricultural workers. However, anyone who conducted interviews with the Italians in the southern West Virginia coal fields, learned that a substantial number were not new to mining work. For example, Luigi Curatolo migrated from a Sicilian community where he and his brothers, Salvatore and Guiseppe, had entered the sulfur mines at the age of eight. These brothers, as had their father before them, expected to spend the rest of their lives in such mines. However, at the turn of the century, the ancient mines of Sicily were no longer profitable and eventual emigration to a place like West Virginia was an opportunity to do something that had a familiar feel to it.

KANAWHA COALFIELD

Whatever the reasons may have been for recruiting them, a steadily increasing stream of Italian immigrants flooded onto the properties of Boomer Coal and Coke and its sister companies. As more and more Italians made the trip to Boomer, they soon filled up the clusters of little houses the company built and the area became know as “little Italy.” In less than a decade there were over a thousand Italians in Boomer, making it the largest concentration of Italians relative to total population of any city in the state.

If Boomer Coal and Coke Company and the other Hocking Valley interests recruited so heavily among the Italians in the hope that these immigrants would constitute a more docile, controllable work force than their native West Virginia employees, who had caused so much trouble during the 1902 strike, they would soon be disillusioned. They would learn that Italians could respond aggressively and with remarkable solidarity to injustice. For example, in July, 1905, the foreman of a construction crew, working on a railroad grading crew in Fayette County, reprimanded an Italian laborer by knocking him down an embankment. The foreman’s actions incensed many of the Italian crew, who threw down their tools and grabbed rocks to throw at the foreman. The Italians were soon joined by workmen from other nearby railroad construction crews. A battle between the Italians and company men soon broke out. The Italians and their allies were winning until William Nelson Page, the owner of the area’s coal properties, got word of the trouble and sent law enforcement officers to break up the melee and arrest eleven of the instigators. 

While many Italian immigrants eventually left West Virginia, many others stayed and made a long lasting impact on the state and its institutions. Italian union members and organizers, such as Tony Stafford and Armando Folio, helped to make the Mountain State one of the most union-oriented states in the nation. West Virginia Catholicism and its ancillary institutions were strengthened considerably by the infusion of Italian parishioners. The continuing influence of Italians in West Virginia was symbolized by the growth of the yearly Italian festivals held in the state at Clarksburg and Wheeling in the north and Bluefield and Princeton in the southern part of the state. As late as 1970, Italians with at least one parent born in Italy constituted West Virginia’s second-largest ethnic group. By the third generation, Italians had moved into the center of political life in many parts of the state. In 2005, Joe Manchin became West Virginia’s first governor of Italian descent. His uncle, A. James Manchin, secretary of state and treasurer, had preceded him as one of the state’s most popular politicians.

West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival

The first West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival was first held in downtown Clarksburg in 1979. The idea was proposed by the librarian at the Clarksburg Harrison Public Library and a board of directors was formed, consisting mostly of prominent citizens of Italian descent. A parade, street concerts, authentic Italian food, cultural events (including art shows and opera), crafts, sports (bocce, morra and golf) and the crowning of a festival queen were all part of the first Italian Heritage Festival and continued in later festivals.The West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival is held each Labor Day weekend beginning on Friday and concluding on Sunday.

Sources: http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/924 and http://muwww-new.marshall.edu/csega/research/minewars.pdf

The Food of West Virginia Italians

The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll

As the story goes… Italian miners, like most miners, needed something non-perishable and easily portable to pack into their lunch pails (or pants pockets) as they often worked very long hours, so lunch frequently consisted of a piece of bread and a couple of pieces of cured meat. It wasn’t long before an entrepreneurial miner in Fairmont, W.V., Frank Agiro, decided to experiment with baking a couple of bits of salumi inside a yeast roll and, thus, the pepperoni roll was born. Not soon after, Agiro put down his pick ax and opened the now famous Country Club Bakery, which is still in operation today.

Like its cousin, the pizza, a pepperoni roll varies greatly in taste and quality and ranges from: flour-dusted, brownie-size rolls stuffed with sliced pepperoni and sold by the dozen in bread bags at gas stations; to individually wrapped rolls as big as an overstuffed burrito with pepperoni sticks in the middle sold at Mountaineer Field, home of West Virginia University’s football team; to heated rolls, split open and topped with cheese and tomato sauce, such as those served at Colosessano’s in Fairmont.

Sticks versus slices are probably the biggest dividers among bakers–sticks are definitively the purist’s take. You’ll also find some hackles raised over the matter of cheese. To add or not!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 large egg
  • One 6-ounce stick pepperoni, cut into 4 logs and each split in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded whole milk mozzarella

Directions:

In a small saucepan, gently heat the milk and butter until the butter is melted. The milk should be just a little hotter than warm, between 100 and 115 degrees F, but not over 115 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, salt and yeast. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is activated and foam covers the top, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the flour to a large bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the egg into the middle and pour in the yeast liquid. Make the dough by mixing all ingredients together with a rubber spatula. Make sure all ingredients are incorporated; the dough will be sticky and loose. Leave the dough in the center of the bowl when it is fully incorporated.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Remove the plastic and gently re-knead the dough while still in the bowl. Form into a ball, as best you can, and cover with plastic wrap. This time allow to rest in a warm place for 1 hour.

After the second rise, remove the dough to a very generously floured surface, kneading to bring together. Cut the dough into 8 pieces, about 3 1/2 ounces each. Gently form each piece of dough into balls, incorporating more flour as needed. Use your hands to flatten each ball to a 4 1/2-inch circle. Brush a piece of pepperoni with oil and place in the center of the circle, along with 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella. Fold the dough over the pepperoni, like a burrito, and place on a parchment-covered baking sheet seam side down.

Repeat with the remaining pepperoni and cheese. As you place each pepperoni roll on the sheet tray, leave at least 1 inch around each roll to allow for a third rise (therefore you will need 2 baking sheets). Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 30 minutes. The rolls will puff up just a bit.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the tops of the rolls with the remaining oil and bake in the oven 30 to 35 minutes. The rolls will have a rich golden color and crispy crust.

Note: This dough is very wet dough. Use a rubber spatula when incorporating flour into the dough. Make sure to always flour your hands and the surface you are working on when working with the dough.

Tiella

The dish is very popular among Italians in North Central West Virginia and a great way to use up fresh summer vegetables. Supposedly, the word “tiella” (like so many Italian recipes) means pan. A vegetarian version can also be made by omitting the meat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 large can tomato sauce (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 parboiled potatoes, peeled and sliced (if using red potatoes, leave the skin on)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 medium zucchini, sliced same size as the potatoes
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil and parsley chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Brown the meat in a skillet. Pour tomato sauce and water over meat mixture and let simmer about 15-20 min. In another pan saute the onions and garlic in olive oil and set aside. In a separate bowl combine the fresh bread crumbs with the grated cheese, parsley, basil, salt and ground black pepper.

In a round deep dish pizza pan or casserole cover the bottom of the pan with some of the meat sauce and then add a layer of potatoes, zucchini and onions. Top with some of the bread crumb mixture. Just like making lasagna, repeat with another layer, pour any remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle the top with the remaining bread crumb mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes.

Zuppe di Pesce Venetian

Carlotta Yonkers remembers the long hours her mother, Sylvia Potesta, spent in the family’s East End kitchen. Potesta’s maternal grandparents, who came from Calabria, in the southern coastal region of Italy, settled first in Boomer, where most of the men became miners. Her mother was born in Charleston, WV. Her father, who was born in Bruzzi (Italy) preferred city life and moved to Charleston where he became a tailor and worked for years at the Diamond department store. Potesta remembers that her father ordered seafood from New York City, which was shipped to them in a large barrel, for the family’s Christmas Eve dinner because no Charleston grocer carried the required ingredients.

Carlotta Yonkers’ Recipe

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, chopped
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups cleaned and chopped leeks
  • 4 cups chopped tomato
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 cups chopped fresh fennel tops
  • Any combination of: whole shrimp, clams in their shells, mussels, crab pieces in the shell, scallops, white fish of any kind, fresh, cut into 2-inch chunks

Directions:

Place butter, olive oil, garlic, onions, carrots, leeks and tomato in a 12-quart heavy stockpot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until things begin to brown a bit, about 15 minutes.

Add parsley, wine, stock, water, fennel seed, peppercorns and fennel tops to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 1 hour. Drain the stock from the kettle and discard all the ingredients, returning the stock to the pot.

Bring the stock to a boil when ready to serve and add any or all of the seafood, using any amount desired. Start with the heavy-shelled seafood and then add scallops and fish last. Simmer until the clams and mussels are open, the shrimp pink and all is tender, but not overcooked, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with crusty toasted bread.

Oliverio Family Tradition

In 1932, in her small kitchen at the back of her retail store in Clarksburg, WV, Antoinette “Ma” Oliverio perfected her recipe for peppers in Italian sauce. Her son, Frank, took her recipe out of the kitchen and into the business world.

In 1972, he began canning peppers under the Oliverio label. Today, his son Mark Oliverio and daughter Deanna Mason continue running the business that was a labor of love for their father. Three generations later, the Oliverio family have combined their love of good food with their recipe for success. In sharing their fathers dream, they are also continuing the legacy of Antoinette, whom they credit with instilling respect for heritage and love of family. Oliverio products are made from a family recipe using only the finest ingredients. Today, the peppers are used in restaurants and line store shelves throughout the East Coast.

Oliverio Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 16 oz jar Oliverio Peppers and Sauce (hot or sweet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl add ground beef and all ingredients except 1/4 of the peppers with sauce and cheese. Mix together. Place in a loaf pan and press gently to relieve any air pockets.

Pour remaining peppers and sauce on top of the ground beef mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Cover baking pan with foil (greased on the side facing the meatloaf) and place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until the meatloaf reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees.

Remove the meatloaf from the pan and drain any grease, let stand for 10 minutes. Slice and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Italian Cream Cake

Patricia Haddy bakes lots of Italian Cream Cakes, her most popular cake. She bakes for friends, family and others who request her cakes after they taste them. “The Italian Cream Cake took off like wildfire when I started making it,” she said.

When a friend requested she bring the cake to a reception years ago at the Marriott, the chef tasted it and offered her a job. She turned him down, but sold her cakes to him for years as his job took him to local country clubs and restaurants. She found the Italian Cream Cake she makes faithfully from a local source, “Seasons and Celebrations” by former West Virginia Gazette food contributor Rosalie Gaziano.

Yield: 3 9-inch round cakes

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 small can coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 5 egg whites, beaten

Cream butter and sugar well. Add egg yolks, one at a time.

Sift flour and soda together; add alternately with buttermilk to creamed mixture. Add vanilla, coconut and pecans.

Fold in beaten egg whites.

Pour into three greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Frosting for Italian Cream Cake

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Cream together cream cheese and butter or margarine. Add sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth.

Spread between layers and on top of the cake. If frosting is stiff, add a little milk.

Sprinkle nuts on top of the cake.

 


Memorial Day is the gateway to summer and it conjures up images of picnics, barbecues and parades. Originally the holiday was charged with deeper meaning and it was called Decoration Day – a day of remembrance for those who died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is about reconciliation and about coming together to honor those who gave their lives.

Memorial Day is the time to wear poppies, fly the flag and place flowers on the graves of military personnel. Many volunteers and volunteer organizations march in patriotic parades. Frequently there is a reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Patriotic speeches are made and declarations by The President and Heads of the Armed Services are also read. We all take time on this special day to remember the human sacrifice it has taken to establish and maintain our great country. Later in the day, time is set aside for picnics, BBQ parties and other outdoor activities.

Instead of spending money on store bought pasta salads, meat trays, fruit and dessert, save money by making these simple dishes yourself. Here is a suggested menu with beverage ideas to help you get you started.

What Drinks Go Well With BBQ?

Soda, beer and iced tea are a good start. Provide pitchers of punch or lemonade or mix up a few sensational summer cocktails. Put a twist on some old classics or try some fresh new blends to quench that thirst.

Try this Italian Cocktail Punch                                                                                                                                         

  • One 750-milliliter bottle Aperol or Compari (Italian Liqueurs)
  • One 750-milliliter bottle Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine)
  • 750 milliliters chilled seltzer
  • Ice
  • Fruit slices, for garnish

In a pitcher combine the Aperol,  the Prosecco and the seltzer. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish each drink with fruit.

Keeping it simple with wine:

The grill serves up such a wide range of foods that pairing them with beverages can be seen as either a challenge or the result of your imagination. Luckily, the spirit of outdoor dining—including the tendency to serve lighter beverages—simplifies the choice.

Sparkling wines beat the heat and play well with almost any grilled food. Stick with wines like Prosecco, Cava or a light California sparkling wine.

White wines are clearly suited to grilled fish and chicken and some pork recipes, even those that call for blackened preparations or spice rubs. The high acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc or a cool Sancerre (made from the same grape)—pairs perfectly with such meats. Choose a white Burgundy or Chardonnay for richer fish, like tuna, trout or salmon. Chardonnay is also the best pick for veggie burgers and sometimes regular hamburgers that have a mushroom sauce.

There’s no question that rosés are a perfect fit for casual outdoor dining. Served cool, these wines have a bit more acidity than white wines and can handle grilled flavors. Among the favorites in this category are Bandol from Provence, Tavel from the Rhône Valley and a number of rosés from California made from the Sangiovese grape.

When pork, smoked meats or shellfish are on the menu, a Pinot Noir from Oregon or the Russian River Valley or a Burgundy is best. 

If you’re serving hamburgers, steaks or barbecued ribs, only the big red wines will do. Bordeaux, California Cabernet and Barolo are perfect matches, but if the meat has a spicy rub, try Zinfandel or an Australian Shiraz or Argentine Malbec.

Appetizers

Pimento Ricotta Spread                                                                 

Serve with toasted baguette slices or flatbread and cut up vegetables.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 15 ounces fresh ricotta (1 1/2 cups)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup well-chopped drained pimentos (from one 8-ounce jar)
  • 3 ounces light cream cheese

Directions:

In a food processor, puree the ricotta and cream cheese. Add the pimentos and crushed red pepper and pulse until the pimentos are minced. Season with salt.

Iced Mint Green Tea Punch                                         

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 6 green tea bags
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 4 cups Limoncello
  • Lemon slices, for garnish

Directions:

Combine mint leaves, tea bags, honey and boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes; remove tea bags. Pour into a pitcher and refrigerate until chilled.

Stir in Limoncello, ice cubes and lemon slices just before serving.

Main Dishes

Rosemary-Skewered Artichoke Chicken

6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 fresh rosemary stems (18 inches)
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and halved
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 6 cherry tomatoes

Directions:

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the oil, dill, oregano, lemon peel, garlic, salt and pepper; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Using a vegetable peeler, peel bark from the bottom half of each rosemary stem and make a point at each end; soak in water until ready to use.

Drain and discard marinade. On soaked rosemary stems, alternately thread the chicken, artichokes, squash and tomatoes. Position the leaf parts of the rosemary stems so that they will be on the outside of the grill cover. Pointed ends toward the back of the grill.

Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Place skewers on the grill. 

Grill, with the cover slighly ajar, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes on each side or until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated zest of a navel orange
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb flank steak, trimmed
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 2 large navel oranges, peeled & sliced thin
  • 8 sprigs mint — for garnish

Directions:

In a shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine garlic, orange zest, juice, vinegar, pepper, mustard and chopped mint. Add steak to marinade; turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning steak twice in the marinade.

Remove steak from marinade, scraping any bits of marinade clinging to meat back into the bowl. Transfer marinade to small saucepan and bring to a boil; reserve.

Lightly grease grill rack with vegetable cooking spray or oil.

Preheat charcoal grill until coals have turned a gray ashy color or preheat gas grill according to manufacturer’s suggested time on high heat.

Place steak on grill 4 inches from heat source and sear 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Brush with a little reserved marinade and continue cooking, covered (with lid down or tented with foil on a charcoal grill), for approximately 4 minutes, brushing frequently with marinade.

Place onion slices on the grill and baste with some of the marinade. Cook until lightly brown about 3 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 7 minutes before slicing.

Arrange orange slices and onion slices in overlapping pattern around the outside of the platter.

Slice steak diagonally across the grain into very thin slices. Arrange down the center of the platter and garnish with mint.

Side Dishes

Grilled Peach Salad with Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 4 large peaches
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry flavored vinegar
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 heads romaine lettuce

Directions:

Preheat grill or a grill pan over medium-high heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Cut peaches into six slices each; discard pits. Cook peach slices until grill marks appear (no need to completely cook peaches). Remove from grill and let cool at room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Add butter, pecans, sugar and cayenne pepper. Cook while stirring constantly until sugar dissolves and turns golden brown.

Remove pan from heat and cool to room temperature.

Slice both heads of romaine into six sections. Place lettuce and peaches on a plate and top with dressing and pecans. 

Green Beans and Tomatoes                                       

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds green string beans (or a mixture of yellow and green)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

Directions:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them on a large baking sheet to cool. Pat dry.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the shallots and basil and season with salt and pepper. Place the beans and tomatoes in a large bowl, add the oil mixture and toss well.

Transfer to a platter for serving. Can be made early in the day and served room temperature.

 

Dessert

Strawberry Layer Cake

16 servings

Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon red food coloring
  • Cooking spray

Frosting:

  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 12 whole strawberries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray.

To prepare cake:

Place sliced strawberries in a food processor and process until smooth.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and whisk. Set aside.

Place granulated sugar and the 1/2 cup butter in the large bowl of an electric mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in egg whites.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Add pureed strawberries and food coloring and beat just until blended.

Divide batter between the twp pans.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the cake layers comes out clean.

Cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

To prepare frosting:

Place cream cheese, 1/3 cup butter and liqueur in a medium bowl; beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat just until blended.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake.

Cut 1 whole strawberry into thin slices, cutting to, but not through, the stem end. Fan strawberry on top of cake.  Cut remaining 11 strawberries in half. Garnish the sides of the cake with the strawberry halves.

 


In doing reseach for this post, I was sure that Italian immigrants found their way to Detroit, because it was a major industrial center that offered job opportunities the immigrants were seeking in coming to America. What totally surprised me was the number of immigrants who settled in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A land totally different from the warm Mediterranean country that the Italian immigrants had left behind. As you read, you will see why.

                          The Eastern Market established in 1891.

Italian Americans in Detroit

For more than 350 years, Italian immigrants played important roles in the opening and development of the land that is now Michigan, from their participation in the French fur trade up to the present day. People of Italian descent have been present in Detroit since Alfonso Tonti, second-in-command to Antoine Cadillac, participated in the founding of the city in 1701. By the close of the 19th century, the trickle of Italian immigrants had become a torrent, as thousands rushed to the growing industrial centers. They worked in stone and cement, paving, produce, tilework, at small groceries, as merchants and, of course, as part of the labor force in the auto shops around Detroit. Settling on the lower east side, the community grew rapidly, especially north and east into Macomb County. Italians in Detroit did not remain in a “little Italy,” but mingled with the diverse population of the city. Through a combination of hard work, strong family connections and community ties, the Italians of Detroit achieved their dreams of a better life. They met the challenges of living in a new land, while nurturing the culture of the old country. 

Most Italians came to Detroit between 1880-1920. Detroit’s original “Little Italy” started from the lower east side (Eastern Market area) along Gratiot and Riopelle Streets near Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. They also settled in considerable numbers along Oakwood Blvd. in SW Detroit and in Dearborn early in their residency here. As they prospered, Detroit Italians in the 1950′s eventually moved into neighborhoods across Detroit and their cultural and religious institutions dotted the landscape. Their affiliations were Catholic and other Christian religions. 

Church of the Holy Family

On the right is a photo of the yellow-hued church that is very visible when you exit the Chrysler Expressway in downtown Detroit, or drive west on East Jefferson toward the Renaissance Center. It is also Detroit’s first Italian Catholic church. Shortly after 1900, immigrants from Sicily and southern Italy settled in northeast Detroit.They began to worship at Sts. Peter and Paul on East Jefferson, but in 1907, Father Giovanni Boschi arrived from Italy and sought to establish an Italian parish here. In 1908, Bishop Foley gave him permission to do so and named the parish La Chiesa Della Sacra Famiglia or the Church of the Holy Family. In 1909, construction began on a modest Italian Renaissance-style, basilica-type church. More than one hundred years after its founding, this parish is in operation with an Italian language Mass said every Sunday.  There are about 300,000 Italian Americans in Metro Detroit, today.

If you are in Detroit and looking for a restaurant with authentic Italian food and a history related to the immigrant’s experience head to Giovanni’s Ristorante, 330 S. Oakwood Blvd., Detroit, MI 48219.

 

Giovanni Cannarsa was 14 years old when he embarked on a journey from Termoli– a town on the Adriatic coast of Italy, in the province of Campobasso, the region of Molise to the United States of America. Giovanni met a young woman, Rose Tonkery and in 1927 they were married. They moved from New York to Detroit, Michigan so Giovanni could go to work for Henry Ford. Giovanni and Rose settled in a neighborhood near the Rouge River plant, where the assembly line was first introduced during the immerging age of manufacturing. There the young couple started and raised their family, two sons and one daughter – her name is Frances. She and her brothers were born in Detroit.

Frances had a best friend, Marie. She came from an Italian family that lived across the street from the Cannarsa family. It was her older brother – Olindo Truant who captured the heart of young Frances. In 1953 she married her sweetheart. Frances and Olindo had three sons, Chris – Michael and Randy. Olindo worked for Detroit Edison and Frances opened a carryout pizzeria, Givoanni’s Pizza Parlor. It was 1968. It didn’t take long for Frances to start taking charge and making changes – it was 1972. Frances decided the family style pizza parlor would one day be an elegant, award winning five-star class restaurant. Everyone thought she was crazy… but the night Frank Sinatra held a private dinner party in the back room of what was now called Giovanni’s Ristorante, was the night the whole family new Frances meant business.

Italian-Americans in Wyandotte

Just after the turn of the 20th century, jobs were opening up at the J. B. Ford Company and the Michigan Alkali Company. The Italian settlement in East Detroit was bulging with a steady influx of friends and relatives coming to Michigan from Italy. Many young men sought work, and Wyandotte the bustling downriver town, offered the opportunity of jobs. A street car from Detroit brought the first Italian laborers to the city. Others joined the workforce and brought their families.

Statistics show that in 1890 there were only 338 Italians living in Detroit and downriver and, by 1920, the number had swelled to 29,047. In 1914, a large group of Italian workers and their families were residing in what was then called Ford City. The community had formed in an area bounded by Antoine, Hudson, 2nd Street and the railroad tracks.The families built large sturdy homes and planted gardens. Many of those early family residences still stand as testimony to the skillful construction techniques shown by those first immigrant workers. Most of the families knew each other from Palermo, Sicily in Italy and interacted socially. During the summer evenings, the men could be seen playing bocce (lawn bowling) or playing card games.

Bocce

In 1915, a concert band was organized. Maestro Pellegrino’s Italian Ford City Band attracted musicians from ages 15 to 25 and, in a relatively short time, the new musical group was presenting concerts for the entire community to enjoy. The camaraderie enjoyed by the band also gave birth to two early Italian social organizations.

The San Giuseppi Society was a club that assisted many newly arrived Italian immigrants and helped them transition to the American way of life. The second organization, Santa Fara, was formed in Wyandotte during 1924 and named after the patron saint of the small Sicilian village of Cinisi. In order to become a member, one must be a “Cinisarii” or be married to one.

Other organizations were formed over the years to serve the Italian community. In the 1930′s, the Non-Partisan Progressive Club was organized. One of the first projects of this club was to host a war bond drive in early 1945. Americans of Italian descent in Wayne County, under the leadership of Anthony D’Anna of Wyandotte, raised $16,000,000 to build a ship. The U.S.S. Cosselin was commissioned October 19, 1945, in memory of Seaman Joseph Polizzi, an Italian-American from Detroit killed earlier during the war. In 1970 fourteen members organized a new Italian organization, the Downriver Italian club and built a hall to host events.

Italian Americans in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Our knowledge of the Italian community in the Copper Country is credited to the research of Russell Magnaghi and to Cristina Menghini’s thesis: “Examining Patterns of Italian Immigration to Michigan’s Houghton County, 1860-1930”.

Menghini’s study, the most detailed migration study of any immigrant group in the Copper Country, uncovered specific chain migration links between sending communities in northern Italy and receiving communities in Houghton County. Half of the Italians in Houghton County had emigrated from the province of Torino, in Italy’s Piedmont region and another quarter had emigrated from the province of Lucca, in the Tuscany region. Thus, three-quarters of Italians in Houghton County had emigrated from just two of Italy’s 110 provinces. Not surprisingly, Menghini found that nearly three-quarters of Italians in Houghton County in 1910 worked either in the mines or mine related occupations. 

Source: Recorded in Stone is a collection of the oral histories of immigrants to the Marquette Iron Range in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Produced by the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives and funded in part with a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council.

Italians were attracted to Marquette County through the efforts of “barasa” or what is known as chain migration: Immigrants arrived at a location and then sent letters back to Italy, which then brought their friends and relatives to America. At first the Italians who were from northern Italy: Lombardy, Piedmont, Venice and the Tyrol settled in Negaunee. Initial­ly 50 Italians arrived; followed in the spring of 1888 by an additional 100. Although they inherited the jobs at the lowest end of the employ­ment scale as trammers (miners) or iron ore shovelers, they wrote back to Italy and encouraged others to join them. The wages and living conditions on the Marquette Iron Range were a great improvement over economic and work conditions in Italy. In the 1890′s southern Italians, primarily from Calabria but also from Naples and Sicily, settled in Ishpeming. They experienced a similar migration process. By 1910 Italians comprised 15% – 16% of the labor force on the Range. In 1910, of the 907 Italians with occupations, 741 or 81.6% were miners. There were also 51 Italians (6%) working on the railroad, 24 (2.8%) listed as laborers and 20 working in the iron furnaces in Mar­quette. 

Copper Miners; Calumet, Michigan; between 1907 – 1920.

The first Italians who arrived on the Marquette Range were usually single men, who once they got settled, sent for their wives or got married. At first, many lived in company housing but, as soon as was possible, they purchased their own homes. Families took in boarders from the same Italian village and/or family members, as a means of providing housing and adding to the family income. Most of the Italian businessmen were located in Negaunee and Gwinn at that time. There were 16 boardinghouse keepers, 11 saloon keepers, 5 merchants, 5 bakers and 3 shoemakers. 

Each family maintained a garden which provided the household with much of the vegetables that the household needed during the year. Besides what was planted, the women and children gathered fruits and berries and made jams and preserves from them. If possible families kept a pig and cow. In November the pig was usually butchered and prime pieces were preserved in a crock jar, covered with liquefied lard, and the small pieces were processed into different types of sausage. The cow pro­vided milk, butter and cheese for the family and, if there was a surplus, it was sold to neighbors. The Italian family became self-sufficient, so that they only had to purchase certain items, like coffee, sugar or olive oil. Pasta and Italian bread were often made at home, but were sometimes purchased. In the late summer, orders were taken for grapes and beginning in September train loads of grapes arrived at railroad sidings in Negaunee and Ishpeming. Most families made as many as 150-200 gallons of wine, which would last them through the year.

Most of the Italian immigrants who settled on the Marquette Range were literate. As a result many of them kept in touch with the news through Italian-language newspapers. Some subscribed to papers published in New York City, like the popular Il Progresso, while others read the Il Minatore Italiano (The Italian Miner) which was published in Laurium, MI between 1896 and the 1930′s or the transient papers, such as La Democrazione Italiana of Hancock or La Sentinella (The Sentinel) published in Calumet, MI.

Portrait of an Italian Musician
From the collection of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives

The Italian love for music is well known. As early as 1884, the Marquette Mining Journal noted that an Italian band provided excellent dance music in Marquette County. A number of Italian music teachers appeared in the various communities, such as Nettie R. Calamata, who in 1906 offered mandolin, guitar and banjo lessons. The Italian Band of Negaunee was organized by January 9, 1907, when it provided music for Mike Marrietti’s saloon, called Hogan’s Place and in the summer, it provided music for picnic dances. The most famous band in Ishpeming’s history was Vampa’s Band. Professor Vampa arrived in the community in 1915 and organiz­ed the band. He was able to get even the most musically illiterate to read music and, by January 1916, his band with thirty-four members, played for the first time and was an immediate success. Vampa’s Band played at the Marquette County Fair, Memorial Day and Columbus Day celebrations and at other dances and festivals given by local clubs and lodges.

The local Italians directed their entertainment and recreation toward their families. Home parties were popular with an accordion and violin or guitar providing the music on a Saturday night.The men played bocce in their backyards or saloon-side courts or played the Italian card game, morra. Some of the Italians fished and hunted both as recreation and also a means of augmenting their families’ food supply. The mutual beneficial societies were a characteristic feature of all Italian communities, wherever the immigrants settled. At a time when there were no Social Security benefits for unemployment or disability insurance or death benefits, the Italians  established these societies. The oldest of the Italian fraternal organization in Marquette Coun­ty was Società Fratellanza e Mútuo Soccórso/Fraternal and Mutual Aid Society which was established in Negaunee in 1890. The biggest activity for the lodge was the annual picnic ,where there was boating, swimming and athletic events, eating contests and card games. Over the years a number of fraternal organizations were formed in Negaunee. Società Italiana di Mútuo Soccórso Giuseppe Maz­zini/Italian Mutual Aid Society Giuseppe Mazzini was founded on June 24, 1908. They built a series of Italian Halls, which were used for  meetings and social events. Like many benefit societies, the Italian Mutual Beneficial Society transformed itself in a social organization. It was through such organizations that Italian immigrants and their children located housing, found work, organized political blocks and met their prospective mates.

Calumet’s Italian Hall

Funeral of the Victims of the Italian Hall Disaster, Calumet, Michigan, December, 1913.

On Christmas Eve, 1913, members of the Upper Peninsula mining community of Calumet, Michigan gathered in the upstairs of the Italian Hall for a party. The gathering was supposed to be one of a few happy times for the town, which was ravaged by a bitter strike between miners and owners. Popular history has it that someone ran into the party and yelled “fire”, causing a stampede down the stairs into doors that opened inward, resulting in a deadly pile-up. Some claim the incident was plotted by local copper bosses. So was it murder or an accident? Author and lawyer, Steve Lehto, goes back to find the answer in his book, Death’s Door: the Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder. Lehto uses his skills as a lawyer to investigate the deaths of 74 people, mostly children. His research led him to the conclusion that the doors opened out and were purposely held closed, resulting in the murder of the party-goers. Claims that the tragedy was an accident, Lehto believes, were the result of carefully placed stories in the mine-controlled newspapers.

Cuisine of the Early Italian Families in Michigan

Antipasto of Italian vegetables and fish

Baccala – Italian dried cod fish

Bagna Cauda – garlic, olive oil dip

Rustic Bread

Cornetti -Italian rolls

Grissini – Italian breadsticks

Porchetta, Abruzzi Style 

Salame Milanese for sandwiches

Cudighi Italian Sausage – Italian sausage originating in northern Italy and made in the homes of many Michigan Italian Americans. It is made from pork meat on the hind section of the hog, this sausage is a combination of coarse ground pork, pork fat, red wine, and seasonings such as salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. The meat is then typically aged only for only a few days before being served. (See recipe below)

Sautissa Piedmontese Sausage – pork sausage from the Piedmont region of Italy that uses cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves to impart a unique flavor. Often used as a filling ingredient for ravioli. 

Suppressa – Italian cured meats

Garden Vegetables

Pasta

Torchetti cookies

Cookies: biscotti, pizzelle, cialde

Grappa  - Italian brandy

Homemade wine

Try Some Michigan-Italian Inspired Recipes At Home

Northern Michigan Cherry Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 18 1/2 inch thick slices of small baguette-style bread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted fresh sweet cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup each diced yellow sweet bell peppers and green onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:

Toast one side of baguette slices at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes. Turn slices, brush with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bake 5 minutes longer.

Combine cherries, bell pepper, green onions, lime juice, salt, pepper and remaining olive oil; mix well.

Top each slice of baguette with a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, a heaping tablespoon of cherry mixture and sliced basil.

Homemade Cudighi Sausage

Unique to the central part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the cudighi is an excellent example of the Italian-American food of this region. This one is made the more modern way, dressed like pizza. The classic sandwich is sausage with mustard and onions.  (Paisano’s in Negaunee, MI, an Italian-American restaurant on the shore of Lake Teal in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula)

Ingredients:

  • 6 lb coarsely ground pork butt
  • 1 clove garlic chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seed

Mix well and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Directions:

Form into thin, 1/2 thick patties into or oblong shapes. Brown in oil , cover and simmer in a little water to help with the dryness, for 25-30 minutes or until no red shows and pork is fully cooked.

Serve on a Ciabatta roll or italian bread with grilled green pepper rings and grilled sliced onion, mustard, ketchup, pizza sauce or mozzarella cheese.

Freeze extra cooked patties.

Some other serving suggestions:

You can make this into links or leave in bulk. Use it in Italian cooking for lasagna, pizza, etc. You can also serve this as a sandwich, either grilled or pan fried. Can be served with mustard and onions, but the most popular way is to top with mozzarella cheese and some spaghetti sauce. You could add some green peppers and mushrooms also.

Can be served as an appetizer with cheese and crackers. Roll the sausage into log. Wrap in foil and boil in water for 45 minutes. Let cool and serve sliced.

Iron Mountain Vegetable Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh peas
  • 2 cups fresh asparagus, cut on the bias
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups besciamella (recipe follows)
  • 8 ounces freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 -16-ounce package lasagna noodles (or use fresh)

For besciamella sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups milk, heated
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For vegetable filling:

Heat oil in a skillet and lightly saute vegetables, in steps if needed, until vegetables are just tender. Cool to room temperature.

For besciamella sauce:

In heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, not allowing mixture to brown. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring just to a simmer, whisking frequently.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking often, until the sauce has thickened to a creamy consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to cool for a few minutes before using.

For lasagna:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook lasagna noodles to desired tenderness, drain.

In a 12-by-18-inch pan assemble the lasagna, beginning with a layer of besciamella in the bottom of the pan, followed by a layer of pasta, a scattering of vegetables, a layer of besciamella, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano, until all sauce, vegetables and pasta are used up.

The top layer should be pasta with besciamella over it. Top the lasagna with grated Parmigiano and bake, loosely covered with foil in the oven, until the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

 

Pork Roast alla Porchetta

 Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds boneless pork loin roast
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel, fronds chopped and reserved, bulb thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds ground pork or Italian sausage with casing removed
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 red onions, halved

 Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Have your butcher butterfly the pork to an even 1 inch thickness, you should have a flat piece of meat about 8 inches by 14 inches. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and set aside.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil until smoking. Add the onion and fennel bulb and sauté until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ground pork, fennel seeds, pepper, rosemary and garlic and cook until the mixture assumes a light color, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Add chopped fennel leaves and eggs and mix well.

Spread the mixture over the pork loin and roll up like a jelly roll. Tie with butcher’s twine and place in roast pan on top of halved red onions. Place in the oven and roast for 2 1/2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remove and allow to rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Slice into 1 inch thick pieces and serve.

Northern Michigan’s Mario Batali Shares His Recipe for Ciambella with Summer Berry Compote

The chef summers in Northern Michigan.

By: Mario Batali

A ciambella is a simple ring-shaped bread made of egg, shortening and sugar. Ciambelle were for a long time a symbol of luxury in Italian culture; a fancy bread pictured next to royalty and aristocracy in Renaissance painting. Today, ciambelle are often served as an afternoon snack at a bar or cafe. They can be dressed with glazes, syrups, or, in this case, a berry compote. In this recipe, I incorporate berries abundant in this area, but you can easily substitute whatever berries are available at your farmers’ market. With the listed ingredients, this ciambella makes the perfect summer dessert in this fertile area that I’ve come to love—Mario Batali (www.mynorth.com)

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup cold milk

Directions:

In a large saucepan, combine the berries, lemon juice,and 3 tablespoons sugar. Place over medium heat and heat just to the boiling point, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a cookie sheet.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, flour and the baking powder in a food processor and pulse quickly to blend. Add the cold butter and pulse quickly until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg, almond extract and milk until smooth. With the food processor running, add the liquid all at once and blend 10 to 15 seconds, until the dough just forms a ball.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured cutting board and shape into a log about 14 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Form the log into a ring in the center of the cookie sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until light golden brown.

Remove, transfer to a rack, and cool to room temperature.

Cut the cake into slices about 1 inch thick, top with 2 tablespoons of berry compote, and serve.

 

 


Little Italy in Chicago, 1909.

Italian immigrants to Chicago faced many drastic changes in their environments and way of life. The bustling new metropolis was very different from an Italian rural village. The mass of new Italian immigrants who entered the city in the late nineteenth century, primarily men from the small towns surrounding Palermo, Sicily were either single or had left their wives and children back in Italy. Frugality was essential. Most workers saved their wages to repay initial passage money, send funds to needy family members left behind or to purchase land in Italy.

In the summers many Italian laborers lived in railroad or mining work camps where food was provided by the padrone who recruited them. In the winter, workers returned to Chicago where they frequently lived cooperatively, sharing meals and kitchen chores.

Workers Sharing Living Spac

When possible, single men boarded with Italian families, a practice unknown in Italy. Boarding, freed men from the necessity of doing any of their own housework, while providing supplemental income for the families who housed them. Lodging and boarding continued in the Italian communities until immigration was curtailed by World War One. 

With time, many men had a new reason to economize. As months of saving stretched into years, most immigrants decided to settle permanently in the city, so passage money was put aside for wives, children and other relatives to come to the U.S. Eventually, family members joined the men.

While wages in Chicago exceeded those of Italy, the railway and street work at which many Italian men were employed, was intermittent and low paying. Garment work, done at home by Italian women, added only a meager amount to the family income. Italian laborers did much of the grueling ditch digging and manual labor which the growing city required. Women struggled to keep house in the cramped confines of tenement flats. Small flats of two to four rooms were common. Sinks and toilets were sometimes located in yards, halls or basements and water was unavailable when plumbing froze in winter. Basement and cellar flats were common due to the large number of homes below street level and “many a kitchen floor, the only playground for the children, was cold, damp and water soaked.”

Confined to substandard tenement housing and severely restricted in employment opportunities, many Italian immigrant families took garment work into their homes and employed their children. The mother and her three eldest children in this picture earned a total of about two dollars a week—when work was available—around 1913, while the father sought day work on the street. (Library of Congress)

Settlement worker Edith Abbot reported that in tenement homes food was hung from the ceilings to keep it away from the rats. The kitchen sometimes doubled as sleeping space for family members or lodgers. As late as 1925, ice-boxes were uncommon on the Near West Side and window sills were often the best means available to keep perishable food cold. As city dwellers and renters, Italians lost the option of supplementing their diets with home-grown foods. Many made valiant efforts to garden in the minuscule backyards and on the fire escapes and porches of tenement homes, where tomatoes, peppers and parsley struggled for existence in the cramped spaces.

Cooking Classes at Hull House

Terese DeFalco, who grew up on the Near West Side, recalls that there was no room for gardening amidst the densely packed housing in her neighborhood. “Our garden was the alley,” she says. Most food was purchased and Italians spent a large proportion of their incomes on food. Under these conditions, lessons learned in Italy remained relevant. Diets consisting of bread, macaroni and vegetables remained the norm among Italian immigrant families. Homemade Italian bread, with its thick crust and heavy texture, provided bulk at the evening meal and stayed fresh long enough to be dunked in coffee the next morning. Working family members carried chunks of it to their jobs, along with peppers purchased from the numerous street vendors found in Italian neighborhoods or from neighborhood stores, which sold familiar Italian ingredients.

Phyllis Williams noted that one of the reasons Italians shunned the recipes taught in settlement cooking classes was that “Italians thought many of the dishes prepared were too expensive and would not satisfy hungry children.” In hot summer months, when putting on the stove would be unbearable in cramped tenement apartments, Rose Tellerino, born in 1899, remembered salads were the daily fare while macaroni was “all we ate” in the wintertime. Wine, usually made at home, continued to be drunk at meals and milk and water were not, much to the chagrin of the Hull House reformers.

Jane Addams founded Hull House in 1889

The Italian communities of Chicago were enriched by a phenomenon all too rare in their towns of origin, voluntary associations. By the 1920’s the Italians in Chicago had church and school-oriented clubs and sodalities that worked at fundraising, as well as special-interest organizations, sponsored by the settlement houses. The Holy Guardian Angel and Our Lady of Pompeii served the Italian community. On the near Northwest Side, a varied community of Baresi, Sicilians and others grew up around the Santa Maria Addolorata Church. Perhaps the most colorful Italian sector was in the 22nd Ward on the city’s Near North Side. It was known as, “Little Sicily”, and this neighborhood was home to some 20,000 by 1920.

World War II changed everything for Italian Americans. It Americanized the second generation. The G.I. Bill opened up the first possibilities for a college education and the first opportunities to buy a new suburban house. Other government policies, such as urban renewal, public housing and the building of the interstate highway system combined to destroy their inner-city neighborhoods. First, was the building of the Cabrini-Green Housing Project, which destroyed the Sicilian neighborhoods in the Near North Side in the 1940′s and 1950′s. Then, came the construction of the expressway system on the near south, west and northwest sides which dislodged additional Italian families and institutions including many churches and schools.

Today, some 500,000 Italian-Americans, about the population of a medium-sized Italian city, live in Chicago. Though the group has been in the city for about a century, it maintains a lively array of civic, religious and cultural institutions and organizations that provide a sense of ethnic identification and recognition in a manageable area inside the larger metropolis. Because these institutions perform the functions of allocating recognition and ethnic identity, they will not die or fade quickly from the scene.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago and Jane Addams Memorial Collection

Taylor Street, in the Near West Side, became the hub of the Italian community, most notably, because of Jane Addam’s Hull House that was established to educate and help assimilate European immigrants and because of Mother Frances Cabrini, who started a school and founded two hospitals in the Italian community. Although parts of the Italian neighborhood were torn down when road construction and the University of Illinois at Chicago were completed in the 1960′s, numerous Italian and Italian American clubs and organizations helped maintain a strong sense of community.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, established in 1910 and the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame added more culture and heritage to the area. Major events include an Italian Street Festival in June and Taylor Street Festa Italiana in August. Italian food and regional specialties from the area’s restaurants, entertainment, merchandise from Italy and children’s activities are part of both celebrations. Festa di Tutti I Santi, a fundraiser for The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, is held in August.

Taylor Street is the main dining area in Chicago’s Little Italy, anchored with favorites like Pompei (1531 W. Taylor St.), opened by Sicilian, Luigi Davino, in 1909, Pompei has remained a family-run business ever since, but don’t expect to find deep dish here: the pizza is still Sicilian style.

For a neighborhood specialty, stop at Al’s Beef (1070 W Taylor St.); Chicago’s well-known Italian beef sandwich was created here in 1938 and has grown from a humble depression era street food to a legendary Italian staple. Order yours with Italian sauce and eat it standing wide-legged and leaning over the counter.

There are many neighborhood grocers, but Conte Di Savoia (2227 W. Taylor St.) has been the neighborhood specialty market since 1948 and continues to serve the area.

Ferrara Bakery

Opened in 1908, Salvatore Ferrara’s Italian pastry legacy lives on today at Ferrara Bakery (2210 W Taylor St.), where the baked goods have been pretty well perfected over its century-plus existence. When Ferrara Bakery opened its doors over a hundred years, it was a staple in the Italian community of Chicago. Backed by a strong immigrant work ethic and an American public infatuated with pastries and confectioneries, Salvatore Ferrara opened a pastry shop on Taylor and Halsted Streets, with a candy shop located roughly a mile away on Taylor Street and Ogden Avenue. While the candy aspect of Ferrara’s business has boomed, distributing worldwide, the pastry shop maintains a more modest reputation. Forced to relocate due to the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Original Ferrara Pastries resides in the old candy distributing facility at Taylor and Ogden.

The Food of Chicago’s Little Italy

If you’re craving deep dish, head about 15 minutes north of Sicilian Little Italy and pay a visit to Uno Pizzeria (29 E Ohio St.), home of the famous Chicago style pie.

Chicago pizza is a not your typical pizza. When Pizzeria Uno founders, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, invented it in 1943, they weren’t trying for true Italian. They believed Chicagoans needed something more substantial: deep dish pizza, which is more a casserole than a flatbread. It grew so popular that they opened a second location, Pizzeria Due, across the street in 1955.

The deep-dish pie spread throughout Chicago due to several pizza makers who left Uno. The first was Uno’s primary pizza chef, Alice Mae Redmond. It is said that Alice Mae was the one who developed Uno’s dough recipe. She left in the sixties, formed a partnership with three local businessmen, including cab drivers Fred Bartoli and Sam Levine, and opened Gino’s East. Gino’s has been through several changes in ownership, but still uses the same recipe at its thirteen locations.

Chicago’s Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, believed to have originated in Chicago, where its history dates back at least to the 1930′s. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the juices the meat is cooked in and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style hot giardiniera or sauteed green Italian sweet peppers. I posted a recipe for the Chicago Italian beef sandwich last July. You can see the recipe at http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/10/in-the-mood-for-a-really-great-italian-sandwich/

The Chicago style dog is a steamed poppy-seed bun with a Vienna beef hot dog hidden under relish, yellow mustard, onions, tomato, celery salt, hot peppers and a pickle spear.

 

UNO’S FAMOUS DEEP-DISH PIZZA

Recipe shared by Uno in celebration of the 65th anniversary of Uno’s Chicago-Style Pizza.

MASTER DOUGH RECIPE

Yield: one 20-ounce ball of dough to make one 12-inch Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon. sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12″ Deep-Dish Pizza Pan or Cake Pan

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast with water and sugar. Add the corn oil and blend. Add the flour and salt and mix thoroughly. If using a stand mixer, mix for 4 minutes at medium speed, until the dough is smooth and pliable. If kneading by hand, knead for 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand for two additional minutes. Add olive oil to a deep bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it twice to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.* Let the dough rise for two hours. Do not punch it down. Spread and push the dough ball across the bottom of the deep dish pan and up the sides.

*At this stage, the dough can be put in the refrigerator and allowed to rise slowly overnight. Take the dough out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you are ready to assemble the pizza.

PEPPERONI DEEP-DISH PIZZA

  • 1½ cups tomatoes, ground
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1 teaspoon basil, dried
  • 2 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
  • 5 oz. part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella, sliced
  • 5 oz. provolone, sliced
  • 24 ea. pepperoni slices (about 2 oz.)

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, oregano, basil and Romano cheese. Set aside.

Lay the slices of mozzarella and provolone on top of the dough, overlapping the slices to cover all of the dough.

Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the cheese.

Dot the top of the tomatoes with the pepperoni.

Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 475° F. oven for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Allow the pizza to rest for 3-4 minutes before cutting and serving.

 

Eggplant Ravioli

Eggplant Ravioli is a specialty of Francesca’s On Taylor. Here is a similar recipe you can make at home. Francesca’s on Taylor features the earthy cuisine of Rome and the surrounding areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. Chicago Magazine notes, “It brings a new kind of abbondanza to an old Italian neighborhood.”

Pasta Dough

(Makes about 1 pound)

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 3 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions:

Put the flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in a food processor.

Pulse several times to blend the ingredients.

Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough starts to come together.

Avoid adding too much water or the dough will be too sticky to roll.

It may still look dry but can be gathered into a ball.

Gather the dough into a ball and place on a floured surface.

Knead lightly, just until the dough is smooth.

Divide in half and keep one-half covered while you work with the other.

Filling

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper

Marinara Sauce

Directions:

Saute garlic in olive oil over low heat about 2 minutes.

Add eggplant and dried herbs, cover and cook 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, cool, and pulse in food processor to finely chop.

Add remaining ingredients and fill ravioli.

Forming the Ravioli

Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness into strips about 4 inches wide.

Using a tablespoon, place mounds of filling 1-1/2 to 2-inches apart down the center of the dough.

Brush a little water across the top and bottom of the strip and between the mounds of filling.

Place another 4-inch wide strip of dough over the top.

Press the dough down around the mounds of filling to seal.

Cut the ravioli into rounds or squares using a ravioli cutter, pastry cutter or a knife.

Completed ravioli can be refrigerated for a few hours before cooking.

They can also be frozen by placing them on a cookie sheet and freezing until firm and then storing in a plastic bag for 2-3 months.

Cook ravioli in salted water until they rise to the top, 3-4 minutes for fresh ravioli or 9-10 minutes for frozen.

Serve with Marinara Sauce.

 

Maggiano’s Baked Ziti and Sausage Casserole

Maggiano’s Little Italy is an American casual dining restaurant specializing in Italian-American cuisine that is aimed at “re-creating the classic pre-World War II dinner house featuring family size portions”.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked ziti pasta
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausages (casings removed)

WHITE SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

CHEESE LAYER

  • 1 (1 lb) carton cream-style cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Paprika

Directions:

Set oven to 350 degrees. F. and grease a 3-quart baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until JUST tender (do not overcook the pasta as it will cook more in the oven). Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet; add in the sausage meat and cook until browned, remove to a plate.

For the white sauce; melt butter in a medium saucepan; add the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper if using) saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add in flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add in half and half cream; bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thickened.

Remove from heat; add in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta in the bowl; mix with a wooden spoon.

In a medium bowl mix together the cottage cheese with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, egg and chopped parsley, then season with salt and lots of pepper.

Spoon HALF of the creamed ziti mixture into the prepared baking dish, then spread the cottage cheese mixture on top, then spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top of the cottage cheese mixture.

Sprinkle the cooked sausage meat on the top.

Top with mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle paprika on top.

Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

Let stand about 5 or more minutes before serving.

 

Cannoli Cake

Similar to the Ferrara Bakery’s Famous Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

9 inch ungreased springform pan

For the Pan di Spagna (sponge cake): Have the following ingredients at room temperature at least 1 hour before baking  6 eggs, lemon juice, orange zest and sherry.

Ingredients:

FOR  THE SPONGE

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rum, for sprinkling the cake layers

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons rum
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, grated
  • 1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TO MAKE FROSTING:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted finely chopped almonds

Directions:

TO MAKE SPONGE LAYER

Separate 6 eggs and set the egg whites aside.

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in sugar, lemon juice, orange zest and sherry.

Beat until foamy.

Sift flour 3 times and fold into egg yolk mixture gently but thoroughly.

Beat egg whites until foamy, add salt and beat until stiff but not dry.

Fold into yolk mixture.

Pour batter into a 9 inch ungreased springform pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

TEST by pressing lightly with fingertips, if cake springs back at once, it is done.

Leave cake in the pan to cool and invert on a wire rack.

Once the cake is completely cool, slice it into 3 layers.

Sprinkle layers with the 1/4 cup rum.

TO MAKE THE FILLING:

Crush ricotta very finely with a potato masher.

Add 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the 6 tablespoons rum, grated chocolate, chopped cherries and cinnamon.

Spread the ricotta filling over the sponge cake layers, using 1/2 inch of filling on each layer.

Leave the top and sides of the cake plain.

TO MAKE FROSTING:

Cream butter with 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Beat the 2 egg whites until stiff and gradually beat the remaining 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar into the egg whites.

Fold egg whites into the butter mixture and fold in 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Cover sides and top of cake with this frosting evenly. Sprinkle nuts on the top and sides of the cake.

Store in refrigerator until ready to serve it.


Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.” Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older.

In the book, The True History of Chocolate, authors Sophie and Michael Coe make a case that the earliest linguistic evidence of chocolate consumption stretches back three or even four millennia, to pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Anthropologists from the University of Pennsylvania recently announced the discovery of cacao residue on pottery excavated in Honduras that could date back as far as 1400 B.C.E. It appears that the sweet pulp of the cacao fruit, which surrounds the beans, was fermented into an alcoholic beverage of the time.

It’s hard to pin down exactly when chocolate was born, but it’s clear that it was cherished from the start. For several centuries in pre-modern Latin America, cacao beans were considered valuable enough to use as currency. One bean could be traded for a tamale, while 100 beans could purchase a good turkey hen, according to a 16th-century Aztec document. Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed the cacao bean had magical or even divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death. According to Chloe Doutre-Roussel’s book, The Chocolate Connoisseur, Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.

Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas. Legend has it that the Aztec king, Montezuma, welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate.  Chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first –one described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs” – but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.

By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and even aphrodisiac properties. But it remained largely a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine made mass production possible in the late 1700′s.

In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate by removing about half the natural fat (cacao butter) from chocolate liquor, pulverizing what remained and treating the mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. His product became known as “Dutch cocoa” and it soon led to the creation of solid chocolate.

The creation of the first modern chocolate bar is credited to Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa. By 1868, a little company called Cadbury was marketing boxes of chocolate candies in England. Milk chocolate hit the market a few years later, pioneered by another name that will sound familiar– Nestle.

In America, chocolate was so valued during the Revolutionary War that it was included in soldiers’ rations and used in lieu of wages. Chocolate manufacturing is more than a 4-billion-dollar industry in the United States and the average American eats at least half a pound per month.

 

The main types of chocolate are milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate. These types of chocolate may be produced with ordinary cacao beans (mass-produced and cheap) or specialty cacao beans (aromatic and expensive) or a mixture of these two types. The composition of the mixture, origin of cacao beans, the treatment and roasting of beans and the types and amounts of additives used will significantly affect the flavor and the price of the final chocolate.

One ounce of chocolate

The higher the cacao (kuh-KOW) content number, the less sugar. Vanilla and lecithin usually make up less than 1 percent.

Dark Chocolate

Sweetened chocolate with high content of cocoa solids and no or very little milk may contain up to 12% milk solids. Dark chocolate can either be sweet, semi-sweet, bittersweet or unsweetened. If a recipe specifies ‘dark chocolate’ you should use semi-sweet dark chocolate.

Sweet Dark Chocolate

Similar to semi-sweet chocolate, it is not always possible to distinguish between the flavor of sweet and semi-sweet chocolate. If a recipe asks for sweet dark chocolate you may also use semi-sweet chocolate. Contains 35-45% cocoa solids.

Semi-Sweet Chocolate

This is the classic baking chocolate which can be purchased in most grocery stores. It is frequently used for cakes, cookies and brownies and can be used instead of sweet dark chocolate. It has a good, sweet flavor. Contains 40-62% cocoa solids.

Bittersweet Chocolate

A dark sweetened chocolate which must contain at least 35% cocoa solids. However, good quality bittersweet chocolate usually contains 60% to 85% cocoa solids depending on the brand. If the content of cocoa solids is high and the content of sugar is low, the chocolate will have a rich, intense flavor. Bittersweet chocolate is often used for baking/cooking. If a recipe specifies bittersweet chocolate do not substitute with semi-sweet or sweet chocolate. European types of bittersweet chocolate usually contain very large amounts of cocoa solids and some of them have quite a bitter taste.

Unsweetened cocoa powder

Unsweetened Chocolate

A bitter chocolate which is only used for baking. The flavor is not suitable for eating. Use it only if a recipe specifies “unsweetened chocolate”. It contains almost 100% cocoa solids and about half of it may be fat (cocoa butter).

Milk Chocolate

Sweet chocolate which normally contains 10-20% cocoa solids (which includes cocoa and cocoa butter) and more than 12% milk solids. It is seldom used for baking, except for cookies. An ounce of milk chocolate can contain 75 percent less cacao and twice as much sugar as the darkest chocolate.

White Chocolate

Chocolate made with cocoa butter, sugar, milk, vanilla and sometimes other flavorings. It does not contain any ingredients from the cacao bean and, therefore, has an off-white color. In some countries white chocolate cannot be called ‘chocolate’ because of the low content of cocoa solids. It has a mild and pleasant flavor and can be used to make Mousse, Panna Cotta and other desserts.

Here are some healthy recipes without too many calories to indulge your chocolate sweet tooth:

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.                                                                                           

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1 1/4 cups regular rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces or chunks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment.

In a small bowl combine raisins and boiling water; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine peanut butter and butter; beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar or sugar substitute, egg product, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until combined. Add the flour; beat until smooth. Stir in the oats.

Drain the raisins; stir raisins and chocolate pieces into oat mixture.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned, reversing pans in the oven after six minutes.

Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake

16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cups fat-free milk
  • 28 ounces of reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 18 ounces of fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 18 ounces lowfat sour cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Chocolate curls (optional)

Directions:

In a medium bowl stir together finely crushed graham crackers and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Press mixture evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch springform pan. Cover and chill while preparing filling.

In a small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Heat and stir over low heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat. Cool for 15 minutes.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheeses until smooth. Beat in sour cream, sugar and vanilla until well mixed; gradually beat in gelatin mixture. Divide mixture in half. Gradually stir melted chocolate into half of the mixture.

Spoon half of the chocolate mixture over chilled crust in pan; spread evenly. Carefully spoon half of the white mixture over chocolate mixture in small mounds. Using a narrow, thin-bladed metal spatula or a table knife, swirl chocolate and white mixtures. Top with remaining chocolate mixture, spreading evenly; spoon remaining white mixture over chocolate mixture in small mounds and swirl again. Cover and chill about 6 hours or until set.

To serve, using a small sharp knife, loosen cheesecake from side of springform pan; remove side of pan. Cut cheesecake into wedges. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 16 slices.

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare as directed, except cover and chill for up to 24 hours.

Chocolate-Amaretto Pots de Creme

Yield: 6 individual pots de creme

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or sugar substitute equivalent to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 2 ounces sweet dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten, or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (see tip)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 recipe Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping (below)
  • Shaved chocolate (optional)

Directions:

In a heavy small saucepan combine milk, sugar, whipped topping, chocolate, margarine, cocoa powder and coffee powder. Cook and stir over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

Gradually stir about 1/3 cup of the hot chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Return the yolk mixture to the remaining hot chocolate mixture in the saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes; remove from heat.

Stir in vanilla, amaretto and almond extract. Pour chocolate mixture into six small heatproof cups or pots de creme cups. Cover and chill for 2 hours or overnight or until set.

Spoon the Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping  on top of individual servings. If desired, sprinkle with shaved chocolate. Makes 6 individual pots de creme.

Tip: If you use egg substitute, the mixture will be softer set.

Whipped Coffee-Almond Topping

  • 1 teaspoon amaretto
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • Several drops of almond extract
  • 1/4 cup frozen light whipped dessert topping

In a small bowl stir together amaretto, vanilla, instant espresso coffee powder and several drops of almond extract, stirring until coffee dissolves. Fold in frozen light whipped dessert topping.

 

Hazelnut-Mocha Torte

Yield: 16 slices

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts or walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cups refrigerated egg product or 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Chocolate curls (optional)

White Mocha Filling:

  • 18 ounce container frozen fat-free whipped dessert topping, thawed
  • 2 ounces white baking chocolate (with cocoa butter), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon instant sugar-free, fat-free Suisse mocha or French vanilla-style coffee powder
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 x 1-1/2-inch round cake pans. Set pans aside. In a medium bowl combine nuts, flour and baking powder; set aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine eggs and sugar; cover and blend or process until combined. Add nut mixture. Cover and blend or process until nearly smooth, scraping side of container occasionally. Divide batter between the prepared pans; spread evenly.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Place one of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread top with half of the White Mocha Filling. Top with remaining cake layer and remaining filling. Loosely cover. Chill frosted cake for 2 to 24 hours. If desired, garnish with chocolate curls. Makes 16 slices.

White Mocha Filling:

In a small saucepan combine white baking chocolate, instant coffee powder and milk. Cook and stir over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of the whipped topping (whipped topping will melt). Cool mixture about 5 minutes. Fold melted mixture into remaining whipped topping.

Tip: To toast nuts, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan. Bake about 10 minutes or until toasted. Cool nuts slightly. If using hazelnuts, place warm nuts on a clean kitchen towel. Rub nuts with towel to remove loose skins.

 

Mocha Cream Puffs

Makes 20 cream puffs

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 recipe Mocha Filling (see recipe below)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat an extra large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine the water, butter, coffee crystals and salt. Bring to boiling. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously. Cook and stir until a ball forms that doesn’t separate. Cool for 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition until smooth. Drop into 20 small mounds onto prepared baking sheet. Bake about 25 minutes or until brown.

Cool on wire rack. Split puffs; remove soft dough from insides.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a star tip or a spoon, pipe or spoon Mocha filling into cream puff bottoms. Add cream puff tops. 

Make-Ahead Directions: Prepare and bake cream puffs; cover and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Prepare Mocha Filling as directed; cover and chill for up to 2 hours. Fill cream puffs just before serving.

Mocha Filling

  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce carton lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals
  • 1/2 of an 8-ounce container thawed light whipped dessert topping

In a medium bowl combine yogurt, cocoa powder and instant coffee crystals. Fold in thawed light whipped dessert topping. Cover and chill until serving time.

 

Fudgy Almond Cookies

Makes 36

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup plain lowfat yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 ounces white chocolate baking squares (with cocoa butter)
  • 1/2 teaspoon shortening
  • 36 whole almonds, toasted

Directions:

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.

Add brown sugar, espresso powder and baking soda; beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally.

Add egg whites, yogurt and almond extract; beat until combined. Beat in cocoa powder.

Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill dough for 1 to 2 hours or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or just until edges are firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; cool.

In a small saucepan combine white chocolate and shortening; heat and stir over low heat until melted and smooth.

Spoon a little melted white chocolate on top of each cookie. Press an almond on top of the white chocolate on each cookie. Let cookies stand until white chocolate is set.


Tribute to Immigrants of Ybor City – Centennial Park

The Italians in Florida

“The people who had lived for centuries in Sicilian villages perched on hilltops for protection from marauding bands and spent endless hours each day walking to and from the fields, now faced a new and strange life on the flats of Ybor City.” - Tony Pizzo, The Italians in Tampa.

The Italians of Ybor arrived almost exclusively from Sicily. Life in that island off Italy’s southern coast was unimaginably hard in the mid- to late 1800s. Most of the immigrants whose eventual destination was Ybor City came from Sicily’s southwestern region, a hilly area containing the towns of Santo Stefano Quisquina, Alessandria della Rocca, Cianciana and Bivona. Dependent on agriculture (including the cultivation of almonds, pistachios, flax, olives, wheat and wool), mining and limited trade contacts, the residents of the area struggled with poor soil, malaria, bandits, low birth rates, high land rents and absentee landlords. The population responded, according to historian Giampiero Carocci, by exercising three options: “resignation, socialism, and emigration.”

The last option–emigration–was usually of the “chain” variety. Both through word of mouth and the activities of labor brokers (padrones), Sicilians learned of job opportunities in America. Padrones were labor brokers, usually immigrants themselves, who acted as middlemen between immigrant workers and employers. Early sugar-producing communities in New Orleans, Louisiana and St. Cloud, Florida attracted many Sicilians, but the work and conditions were so grueling that many immigrants looked elsewhere. The completion of the Plant System Railway to Tampa (1884) and Vicente Martinez Ybor’s development of Ybor City (1886) made the Tampa area an attractive destination for these immigrants. Thousands–including the many Sicilians who either came directly to Tampa or moved there from their initial U.S. “landing spots”–found work in the cigar trade, as well as in the myriad of other enterprises that supported Italians in the community.  Source: Cigar City Magazine

Italians mostly brought their entire families with them, unlike many of the other immigrants. The foreign-born Italian population of Tampa grew from 56 in 1890 to 2,684 in 1940. Once arriving in Ybor City (pronounced ee-bor), Italians settled mainly in the eastern and southern fringes of the city. The area was referred to as La Pachata, after a Cuban rent collector in that area. It also became known as “Little Italy”.

At first, Italians found it difficult to find employment in the cigar industry, which had moved to Tampa from Cuba and Key West, FL and was dominated by Hispanic workers. The Italians arrived in the cigar town without cigar-making skills. When the early Italians entered the factories, it was at the bottom of the ladder, positions which did not involve handling tobacco. Working beside unskilled Cubans, they swept, hauled, and were porters and doorkeepers. In time, many did become cigar workers, including Italian women. The majority of the Italian women worked as cigar strippers, an undesirable position, mainly held by women who could find nothing else. Eventually, many women became skilled cigar makers, earning more than the male Italian cigar makers.

Inside an Ybor City cigar factory, ca. 1920

Seventh Avenue (ca. 1908)

Many Italians founded businesses to serve cigar workers, mostly small grocery stores in the neighborhood’s commercial district that were supplied by Italian-owned vegetable and dairy farms located east of Tampa’s city limits.The immigrant cultures in town became better integrated as time went by; eventually, approximately 20% of the workers in the cigar industry were Italian Americans. The tradition of local Italian-owned groceries continued and a handful of such businesses founded in the late 1800’s were still operating into the 21st century. Many descendants of Sicilian immigrants eventually became prominent local citizens, such as mayors Nick Nuccio and Dick Greco.

Current View: Gateway to Ybor City on 7th Ave near the Nick Nuccio Parkway.

Devil crab is one of Tampa’s original culinary creations. The snack first appeared around 1920 as street food in Tampa, concocted when blue crab was plentiful. Heat from red pepper flakes gave the rolls their fiery name. Some debate the origins of the rolls, tracing them to Spain, Cuba or Italy, but they are likely a little of all three, one of Tampa’s fusion foods.

Victor Licata watched over his own devil crabs after opening the Seabreeze Restaurant on the 22nd Street Causeway around 1925. His daughters rolled the crabs at home and then they were served in the restaurant; diners could not get enough of the spicy, plump croquettes. Seabreeze devil crabs were so popular, the restaurant sold about 750,000 rolls annually in the 1990′s. In 1992, the Licata family sold the Seabreeze Restaurant to Robert and Helen Richards, who had run a neighboring seafood shop since the 1960′s. 

Seabreeze’s Devil Crab

From: Seabreeze By The Bay Cookbook.                                    

This recipe has been cut in half. See the original in the newspaper copy above

You can also bake the cakes in a very hot oven turning them over several times, so that they can brown evenly.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green or red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 7 oz. tomato puree
  • 7 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 pounds of blue crab claw meat, fresh or frozen

Stuffing

  • 1 Italian baguette
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs, plus additional for dredging
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
  • Water
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Finely dice the onion, pepper, garlic and celery in a blender or food processor.

Add the vegetables to a large saute pan with the oil and the water and cook over very low heat for 1 hour until soft.

Add in the tomato puree, tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for an additional hour, stirring often. Add the oregano and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Flake the crabmeat into a large bowl and make sure to pick it over for any small pieces of shell. Add sauce gradually until the mixture is moist and holds together. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to cook.

Tear the bread up and put it all into a big bowl. Add enough water to moisten the bread and then mash it all together until it has a loose, doughy consistency.

Add in the red pepper and then add enough bread crumbs to form a dough with a biscuit consistency.

In a Dutch Oven heat 2 inches of oil to 330 degrees F.

In 3 separate bowls: place stuffing in the first bowl, crab mixture in the second and additional bread crumbs in the third.

Scoop up a handful of dough and drop it into the bread crumbs and roll lightly and form it into a 4 inch circle.

Place a heaping tablespoon of crab filling right in the center and then bring the edges up and around it. Close up the seams. (See photos below.)

Roll the deviled crab in bread crumbs again and place on a plate.

Fry the cakes in batches for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with hot sauce.

Healthier Recipes To Make At Home

Cucuzza Soup

Cucuzza has its origins in the Mediterranean, especially Italy. Its season in Florida is from June until first frost and can grow from 15 to 36 inches long and approximately 3 inches in diameter. It’s also known as bottle gourd, super long squash and snake squash.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cucuzza (3–4 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1–15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut the cucuzza in cubes and set them aside while the onions and garlic simmer in olive oil. Next add the cucuzza, water and tomatoes. Add the salt, pepper and grated Parmesan cheese. Simmer until the cucuzza is tender and almost transparent.

Spicy Deviled Crab

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb crabmeat
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 finely chopped serrano chile
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 4-6 cleaned crab shells or ramekins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients together and let rest for 10 minutes.

Stuff the mixture loosely — do not pack it — into the crab shells, or if you don’t have them, single-serving ramekins. You could also simply use a casserole dish, too.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Linguine with Clams, Mussels, Shrimp and Calamari in Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 Serving

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2-ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2-ounce garlic, chopped
  • 1/2-ounce shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 4 small clams
  • 5 black mussels
  • 2 ounces shrimp
  • 1/2-ounce white wine
  • 3 ounces spicy marinara sauce
  • 1-ounce calamari
  • 3 ounces linguine
  • 1-ounce fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs

Directions:

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Add garlic, bell pepper and shallots, and saute until brown. Add the clams, mussels and shrimp. When shells start to open, add the white wine. Reduce to half its volume, then add the marinara and calamari.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Drain and add to the seafood. Allow pasta to cook in the sauce for a minute, then toss in the basil and bread crumbs. Serve in a deep pasta bowl.

 

Easy Italian Rum Cake

A popular restaurant dessert.

Yield: 1 – 10 inch Bundt Pan or Tube Pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (4 oz serving size)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup of pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dark rum

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup of dark rum

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Spray the bundt or tube pan with cooking spray.

Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the bottom of the pan.

Mix all the cake ingredients together in an electric mixer and blend well.

Pour batter over nuts.

Bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is baking prepare the glaze.

Glaze Directions:

Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the water and sugar. Boil the glaze mixture for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in the rum.

When the cake has cooled remove from the cake pan and invert onto a serving plate.

Prick the top with a fork. Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over the sides and top.You may need to do this several times until all the glaze is absorbed. Let the cake sit covered for 12 hours to absorb the rum sauce. (Place several toothpicks in the cake and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 12 hours.)


A few little facts: The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome. Note: The banana plant is not a tree. It is actually the world’s largest herb! The time between planting a banana plant and the harvest of the banana bunch is from 9 to 12 months. The flower appears in the sixth or seventh month. Bananas are available throughout the year – they do not have a growing season. Bananas are grown in tropical regions where the average temperature is 80° F (27° C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. They require moist soil with good drainage.

In fact, most exported bananas are grown within 30 degrees of either side of the equator. Plantations are predominant in Latin America and they require a huge investment in infrastructure and technology for transport, irrigation, drainage and packing facilities. Banana growing is, in general, labor intensive, involving clearing away jungle growth, propping up the plants to counter bending from the weight of the growing fruit, and installing irrigation in some regions. As well as implementing an intensive use of pesticides, the conventional production process involves covering banana bunches with polyethylene bags to protect them from wind, attacks of insects or birds and to maintain optimum temperatures.

After nine months, the bananas are harvested while still green. At the packhouse they are inspected and sorted for export. Buyers of the fruit want unbruised bananas and so very high standards are set. If the bananas do not meet these standards they are usually sold locally at a much lower price.They are then transported to ports to be packed in refrigerated ships called reefers. They are transported at a temperature of 55.94 degrees F. (13.3°C ) in order to increase their shelf life and require careful handling in order to prevent damage. Humidity, ventilation and temperature conditions are carefully monitored in order to maintain quality. When the bananas arrive at their destination port, they are first sent to ripening rooms (a process involving ethylene gas) and then sent to the stores and markets.

The true origin of bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. Bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE. In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great had his first taste of the banana, an unusual fruit he saw growing on tall trees, and he is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian, Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese people until the 20th century.

Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 CE, the Arabs were successful in trading ivory and bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. Arabian slave traders are also credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa, as well as Southeast Asia, were not the eight-to-twelve-inch fruits that have become familiar in U.S. supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man’s finger, therefore, the name banan, Arabic for finger.

By 1402 Portuguese sailors discovered this tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary Islands with the first banana plantations. Continuing the banana’s travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk, who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo in the year 1516. It wasn’t long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean, as well as Central America.

It was almost three hundred and fifty years later that Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: “Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.”

Hafer & Bro. in Reading, Pennsylania, July 6, 1914

How did bananas get to Italy?

Italian Somaliland, also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various treaties. In 1936, the region was incorporated into Africa Orientale Italiana, as part of the Italian Empire. This arrangement would last until 1941, when Italian Somaliland came under British administration. The two major economic developments of the Italian colonial era were the establishment of plantations and the creation of a salaried workers. In the south, the Italians laid the basis for profitable export-oriented agriculture, primarily in bananas, through the creation of plantations and irrigation systems. Banana exports to Italy began in 1927 and gained primary importance in the colony after 1929, when the world cotton market collapsed.

Italian Style Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup amaretto-flavored non dairy liquid creamer
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant banana pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 7 ounces of bite-sized amaretti cookies
  • 3 – 4 bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces ( depending on size)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl place the coffee creamer, milk, pudding mix and vanilla extract. Whisk for 2 minutes until thickened; place the bowl in the refrigerator.

In a large mixer bowl place the 1/2 cup of heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Whip at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1-1/2 minutes. Fold mixture gently into pudding mixture until well combined.

Place six 1-cup dessert dishes or ramekins on work surface. Spoon a few tablespoons of pudding mixture into each dish. Place 4 cookies on pudding; top with banana slices. Layer in the same way ending with pudding and making sure cookies and bananas are covered on the top layer. Cover dishes with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle each with chopped hazelnuts.

 

Banana Nutella Crepes

Serves: 8 to 10 crepes

Ingredients:

For the crepes:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons hazelnuts, peeled, toasted, chopped

For the filling:

  • 4 bananas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 small jar hazelnut spread (such as, Nutella)

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Directions:

For the crepes:

In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt. Place a small sauce pan or saute pan over low heat and melt the butter; cook it until it is light brown.

Add the egg and milk to the flour and salt and mix well so that there are no large clumps. Add the browned butter and mix to incorporate, being careful not to overwork batter. The batter should just coat the back of a spoon. If seems too thick, thin it out with a little more milk or water. Let the batter rest for 1 hour prior to cooking crepes.

For the filling:

Peel bananas, cut in half lengthwise and then cut 1/2-inch slices widthwise. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the bay leaves to the hot butter and cook until it crackles slightly, add the lemon juice and sugar, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Add the bananas and orange juice and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes so the flavors incorporate and the bananas are hot but not mushy. Add the raspberries. Stir gently to combine. Set this mixture aside and let cool slightly.

For the Crepes:

After the crepe batter has rested for 1 hour, heat 1 (10-inch) nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 ounces of the crepe batter to the pan, remove pan from heat and tilt slightly to spread the batter over the entire pan. Return to heat and sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon of the chopped hazelnuts. Cook for about 1 minute until the bottom side is lightly browned. With your fingertips and a spatula, carefully flip crepe and cook the second side for about 15 seconds. Set the cooked crepe on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used all of the batter. You should be able to produce 8 to 10 crepes.

Lay the crepes out on a flat surface. Spread each crepe with about 1 tablespoon of hazelnut spread. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the banana mixture on one section of the crepe and fold the crepe over in half and in half again so that it forms a triangular shape. Repeat this with all of the crepes.

For the sauce:

In a small saute pan over medium heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the lemon juice and brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Serve the crepes on a plate with the sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled with the remaining chopped hazelnuts and confectioners’ sugar.

Note: See how to make crepes in post:  http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/12/27/new-years-eve-party-time/

Grilled Bananas

Grilling bananas is a unique way to cook them. Prepare this dish when you can take advantage of a still very hot grill from a barbecue dinner, but remember to scrape the grilling grate with a grill spatula and let some of the bits burn off from any previous food that was cooked before placing the bananas on the grill.

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 unpeeled bananas
  • 4 tablespoons Italian liqueur of choice, such as Frangelico
  • Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes.

2. Put the unpeeled bananas on the grill 1 to 2 inches from the source of the heat until they blacken on both sides.

3. Remove from the grill, slice the bananas open lengthwise, leaving them in their peels, and sprinkle a tablespoon of liqueur, a shake of powdered sugar and cinnamon on each and serve.

Olive oil Banana Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (has salt and baking powder included)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons instant expresso powder
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:

Spray a tube pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine bananas, eggs and oil in a small bowl.

Sift flour, expresso powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in sugar. Make a well in the center and add the bananas mixture.

Stir until mixture is smooth. Pour into mixture into pan, spread eveningly and bake for 1 hour.

Allow the cake to sit on the wire cooling rack for ten minutes. Remove from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Gelato di Banana al Rum

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 slightly overripe bananas
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Directions::

Peel bananas; cut into thirds. In heavy-bottom saucepan, bring bananas and milk to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until bananas are very soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In food processor, whirl banana mixture until smooth.

In electric mixer large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow and frothy. Slowly whisk in banana mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until banana mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the banana mixture surface; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Stir in rum. Chill another 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Freeze banana mixture in ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Banana Chocolate Chip Nut Biscotti

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana ( about 1 large banana)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chip

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine bananas, oil, egg and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into dry mixture along with nuts and chocolate chips, stir together.

Flour a working area and turn dough out onto it. Flour hands as dough is sticky. Form two 7 inch loaves about 2 inches wide.

Put loaves on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn temperature down to 250 degrees F.

Remove loaves from cookie sheet and let cool 10 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4 inch slices, return slices to cookie sheet.

Bake for an additional 18-20 minutes.


People rarely associate Judaism with Italy, probably because Rome has hosted the seat of the Catholic Church for close to 2000 years. Jews arrived long before the Christians, however. Jewish traders built one of the first synagogues in Ostia Antica (an area just outside of present day Rome) during the second century BC. With time the Jewish population grew and swelled and historians have calculated that by the reign of Tiberius (14-37 AD), there were more than 50,000 Jews living in Rome and dozens of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman territory.

Like their fellow countrymen, Italian Jews suffered through thousands of years of invasions that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, but they managed to live fairly peacefully almost everywhere — from Venice, where the Isola della Giudecca (across the canal from Piazza San Marco) is so named because it was the home of many Jews, to the Arab lands of south Italy. At least until 1492, when the Spaniards drove the Arabs back across the Mediterranean Sea into Africa and turned the liberated territories of Sicily and Southern Italy over to the Inquisition. Southern Italian Jews fled north to more tolerant regions, where they were joined by Jews from other parts of Europe as well. Florence, Torino, Mantova and Bologna all had strong Jewish communities during the renaissance.

Edda Servi Machlin, whose father was the Rabbi in the Tuscan town of Pitigliano, joined the partisans in the hills when Italy surrendered to the Nazis in 1943. After the war, she settled in the United States and raised a family. However, she didn’t forget her homeland, nor the foods her family ate. Through the years, she has lectured widely on Italian Jewish life and gathered her recollections of life and cuisine into a book titled, The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews.

The Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation over 3,300 years ago from slavery in ancient Egypt. When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise. For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten and that is why Passover is also called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is a symbol of the holiday. Other scholars teach that in the time of the Exodus, matzo was commonly baked for the purpose of traveling because it did not spo[l and was light to carry, suggesting that matzo was baked intentionally for the long journey ahead.

The Passover Meal By Dora Artist

It is traditional for Jewish families to gather on the first night of Passover for a special dinner called a seder. The table is set with the finest china and silverware to reflect the importance of the meal. During this meal, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is retold using a special text called the Haggadah. The Passover seder is one of the great traditions of the Jewish faith, but it can also be a test of endurance. As the premeal chants and readings stretch on, empty stomachs growl and attention wanes until the moment when the charoset is passed around. “With unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it,” is recited while biting into the Passover matzoh, horseradish and charoset. One of the most revered of Jewish dishes, it closes the ceremony and begins the feast.

Passover Seder Plate

Charoset comes from the Hebrew word cheres, which means “clay.” Charoset is a dense fruit paste that represents the mortar used by the ancient Hebrew slaves in Egypt to make bricks.

Because Passover celebrates freedom, a small amount of charoset is placed on the seder plate as a reminder to Jews that they were once slaves and they should not take their freedom for granted.

Recipes for charoset are as many as there are Jewish people. Italian varieties vary from family to family, including everything from almonds, apples and pears to chestnuts, oranges and even hard-boiled eggs.

Italian Charoset                                                             

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound apple slices, peeled
  • 3/4 pound boiled chestnuts, peeled
  • 1/2 pound walnuts, shelled
  • 1/2 pound pitted dates
  • 1/2 pound dried apricots
  • 1/2 pound raisins
  • 2 small bananas
  • 1 small seedless orange, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Sweet wine

Directions:

Put everything in the blender and process until combined, but it shouldn’t be too smooth.

Cook on a low flame for 15 minutes, stirring. Add some sweet wine or grape juice right before serving.

Matzo Gnocchi Soup

8 servings

Ingredients:

Broth

  • 1 large kosher chicken
  • 3 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 head of celery, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves set aside
  • 3 large leeks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Gnocchi

  • 1 large (11–12-ounce) russet potato
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
  • Celery leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Broth

Place first 8 ingredients and 5 quarts water in a large soup pot; season with salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Skim foam from surface; reduce heat to low and cook, keeping at a low simmer and skimming occasionally, for 3 hours.

Using tongs, remove chicken from broth and reserve for another use. Strain broth into a large bowl through a fine-mesh sieve (if desired, line sieve with cheesecloth for clearer broth); set aside. Discard solids. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Chill uncovered until cold. Cover; keep chilled.

Gnocchi

Preheat oven to 400°. Bake potato until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly. Peel potato and pass through a ricer or food mill, or press through the holes in a colander into a medium bowl. Add matzo meal, herbs and nutmeg; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add yolks; stir to form a dough.

Divide dough into 4 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time and keeping the others covered with a kitchen towel, roll dough into a 12-inch-long rope. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Transfer gnocchi to a parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Cover with towel.

Bring broth to a simmer in a large pot over medium heat. Add gnocchi; simmer until tender, 4–5 minutes. Divide mixture among bowls. Drizzle with oil; garnish with celery leaves.

Baked Snapper — Spigola Arrosto

This baked snapper is an Italian Passover tradition. It’s also an interesting variation on the standard roasted fish one generally encounters in Italy, which simply has rosemary and lemon in the cavity and a little more rosemary and lemon outside. In this recipe there are anchovy fillets added and the dish will work with any kind of fish.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 four-pound red snapper, or 2 fish totaling five pounds
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 anchovy filets
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 lemon cut into 6 wedges

Directions

Clean the fish, wash the cavity and pat it dry inside and out. Lightly season it inside and out with salt and pepper, set the fish in an oiled baking dish and place the rosemary into the cavity, distributing them evenly. Measure the thickness of the fish at its thickest point.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F .

Heat the anchovies in a quarter cup of olive oil, stirring them around until they dissolve into a paste. Remove the pot from the fire and stir in the matzo meal and the parsley. Spread the mixture over the top of the fish.

Figuring ten minutes per inch of thickness, bake the fish until done. This will be between 20 and 30 minutes for smaller fish and up to about 45 for a large one.

Serve with the lemon wedges as garnish.

Pan-Sauteed Spinach (Spinaci Rifatti)

Ingredients:

  • Two pounds fresh spinach, washed well
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, halved and crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions:

Pick over the spinach, removing and discarding tough ribs and coarsely chop the leaves.

Place in a large pot and heat until it has wilted.

Drain it well, squeezing it to remove most of the water.

Add the oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the pan. When hot, add the spinach and stir vigorously. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If you’re pressed for time, you can use frozen spinach, though you should thaw it before sauteeing it.

Yield: 4 servings 

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (kosher approved brand)
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a large casserole dish.

Place the olive oil and garlic in a large resealable bag. Add cauliflower and shake to mix.

Pour into the prepared casserole dish and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Top with Parmesan cheese and parsley and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Passover Carrot Cake

Did you think carrot cake was an American dessert? In the Veneto region, Italian Jews have had many versions of this dessert for centuries, minus the cheese frosting.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2.5 cups of ground almonds
  • 9 ounces carrots, grated
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • A pinch of salt
  • Amaretto liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • Parve margarine (non-dairy) and matzo meal for the pan

Directions:

Beat the yolks with the sugar, add the grated carrots, the almonds, salt, cinnamon and Amaretto. In a separate clean bowl beat the egg whites until thick.

Gradually fold the whites into the carrot mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 9 inch tart pan and dust with matzo meal

Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes.


Italian Easter dessert recipes are a mixture of tradition, symbolism, light textures and rich tastes. Each region in Italy has its own specialty desserts, so you would have to travel the country to understand the entire array of Easter desserts available in Italy.

Italian Easter Cookies

At Easter-time in Italy, cookies made of light and airy meringues are very popular. For an added after dinner touch, try a chocolate-espresso. Almond biscotti, a twice baked cookie, for dipping in after-dinner-drinks are also popular.

Italian Easter Pastries

Pastries abound in Italian desserts–for Easter, too! — including the well known cannoli and the layered chocolate, liquor and cake pastry known as tiramisu. For most Italians though, Italian sponge cake is preferred for a light finish to a large meal, especially when topped with fruit and flavored syrup.

Italian Easter Fruits, Nuts, and Grains

Fresh fruit is a popular dessert any time of year in Italy. But it can also be found in tarts, fried pies or served whole with Italian cheeses.

Rice even makes an appearance in Italian Easter dessert recipes. Black Easter Rice is made by mixing rice with milk, dark chocolate, cocoa, candied fruit, orange zest and spices.

Italian cooking uses almonds and nuts as additions to cake batters, pastry toppings and fillings.

Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pastiera)

No Easter celebration in southern Italy would be complete without a slice of sweet ricotta pie. Each region has its own version.

In Naples, the ricotta pie is called “pastiera” and it is thickened with softened wheat berries.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups wheat berries
  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 large eggs, divided
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup candied citrus
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions:

Cover wheat berries with 2 cups water in a bowl; soak, changing water daily, for 3 days. Drain and boil in a pot of fresh water for 15 minutes; drain.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and the 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add 1 whole egg and stir with a fork until just combined. Turn out dough onto a work surface.

Knead just until well combined, then form into a disk.

Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

While dough is chilling, cut a 1-inch-wide strip of zest from the lemon, avoiding the white pith.

In a large saucepan, combine milk and zest; bring to boil. Add wheat berries, reduce heat to low and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

Spread wheat berries on a plate and cool; discard zest.

Heat oven to 375°F.

Separate the remaining 4 eggs.

In a large bowl stir together wheat berries, ricotta, remaining cup sugar, candied citrus, egg yolks, orange extract, finely grated zest from the orange, 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest and cinnamon.

Beat egg whites in another bowl to soft peaks and fold into ricotta mixture.

Grease a 9-inch springform pan; dust with flour.

Divide dough into 2 pieces, one larger than the other (three-quarters and one-quarter).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the larger piece into a 15-inch round with a floured rolling pin.

Fit dough into prepared pan, leaving a 1/4-inch overhang. Chill for 10 minutes.

Roll out remaining dough into a 9-inch round. Using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter, cut 3/4-inch-wide strips.

Spoon filling into crust. Arrange strips over filling to form a diagonal lattice.

Crimp edges of crust. Bake until filling is set and crust is golden, about 1 hour. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Run a thin knife around edge of the pie and remove the side of the pan. Chill cake at least 2 hours. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Italian Easter CookiesItalian Lemon Ring Cookies

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract

Icing

  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • Sugar Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until dough is formed. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into pencil thin strips 4 inches long. Twist dough pieces to make circles or braids. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool on wire racks.

Icing: Mix together the confectioners’ sugar, milk and lemon extract until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies. Return to wire racks for frosting to set. Sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired, before frosting is set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36.

Pinza Goriziana (Traditional Easter Cake)

A soft and light dessert from Italy’s Friuli region.

Ingredients

  • 7 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 oz butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 9 egg yolks, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • Pinch salt
  • Powdered Sugar, optional

Mix together 4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast and 1/3 cup milk in an electric mixer bowl. Knead until the dough is smooth and uniform, then let it rise for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, knead it again, adding half of the remaining flour (1 ¾ cups), all of the remaining sugar, half (2 ½ oz.) of the butter (melted and allowed to cool), 1 egg, 6 egg yolks, half of the remaining milk (1/3 cup) and a pinch of salt. Mix together until you have a soft dough and let rise for another hour.

After the dough has risen a second time, add the remaining flour, 3 egg yolks, the remaining milk, the other half of the melted butter, the lemon oil and rum. Mix together until smooth and uniform, then shape the dough into a ball. Let rise for another hour.

Place the dough in a round baking dish lined with parchment paper. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it onto the dough. Bake the “Pinza Goriziana” in a 320° F oven for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired, when cool.

Easter Knot Cookies

These are  traditional cookies from Italy flavored with vanilla and almond extracts. They are tied in loose knots and baked, then frosted.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder

Icing

  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon almond extract, 1/4 cup milk and oil.

Combine the flour and baking powder and stir into the sugar mixture.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls out into ropes about 5 inches long.

Tie into loose knots and place cookies 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 5 minutes on the bottom shelf and 5 minutes on the top shelf of the preheated oven, until the bottoms of the cookies are light golden brown.

When cookies are cool, dip them into the icing and sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles, if desired

To make the icing: cream together the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Beat in 3 tablespoons milk, one tablespoon at a time.

 

Italian Easter Egg Basket (Pupa Cu L’ova)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 tablespoons butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 eggs, uncooked and dyed in Easter egg colors

Directions

Combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly after each. Add the anise extract, mix thoroughly.

Combine flour and baking powder and add to bowl. Mix until a dough forms.

Take a small amount of dough, roll into a ball, flatten it to make a 4-inch round and place on a baking sheet. Place a colored egg in the center.

Pinch another piece of dough, roll into a “rope” 1/4 inch in diameter and cut into 2 pieces, each long enough to crisscross over the egg. (See photo above.)

Seal the edges to the round by pressing firmly. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

 Barbara Lucchi's Ciambella Romagnola

Italian Ring Cake

A traditional cake that is easy to make. It’s usually eaten for breakfast, dipped into warm milk or caffè latte. It’s also served at the end of a meal, either with a glass of dessert wine or with the slices drizzled with zabaione or  fruit sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted over a double boiler or in the microwave and allowed to cool
  • 4 1/8 cups unbleached flour
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup milk, plus a little more at the end
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • Coarse sugar, optional

Directions:

Put the sugar into the electric mixer bowl and crack the eggs into it. Beat with the mixer set to low/medium for 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture is a creamy yellow.

Add about a third of the flour to the egg and sugar mixture and beat the batter for about a minute. Add another third of the flour and beat for a minute more.

Add the melted butter and beat for another 30-40 seconds. Next, add the lemon zest.

Beat in half of the milk and half of the remaining flour. Then beat in the rest of the milk and the rest of the flour.

Add the baking powder and beat until creamy.

Butter a 10 inch tube pan and then flour it, tapping it upside down to remove excess flour.

Pour the batter into the pan. Give the filled pan a couple of quick shakes and tap it once or twice against your countertop to level the batter.

Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar, if desired.

Bake the cake on a low rack for 40-45 minutes. Cool before removing from the pan.



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