Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tiramisu

Chocolate Tiramisu

Ingredients

Serves 10.

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

warm cakes

Chocolate Cakes with Apricot-Amaretto Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

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

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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

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

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

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

68565-cocoa-cookies-h-2

Chocolate Oat Cookies

Yield: 2 dozens

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

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

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

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

sherbet

Chocolate Sherbet

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Italian Coffee

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

Pour the Strega into a glass coffee mug.

Fill with hot coffee.

Top with whipped cream

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Handmade Cappuccino

Makes 1 large mug

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Let cool in the baking pan on wire rack.

This plain chocolate cake is very moist.

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

Coffee Granita

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Espresso Souffle

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

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

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

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

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

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

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

Espresso Pudding Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Major Types of Italian Red Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cooking with Wine

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

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

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

Red Wine Bagna Cauda

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

Red Wine Glazed Meatloaf

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken Parmesan with Red-Wine Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chocolate-Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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


Leonard Covello

(1887-1982) was the first Italian American high school principal in New York City (Benjamin Franklin High School in East Harlem 1934-56). A pioneer in bilingual education, Covello believed a school should serve the interests of its neighborhood. He was also a co-founder of the American Italian Historical Association in 1966. Covello was born in the town of Avigliano in the Basilicata region of Southern Italy on November 26, 1887. In 1890 his father, Pietro Covello, emigrated to New York City. Leonard, his mother and his two brothers, joined his father in the East Harlem section of the city in 1896.

While in high school, Covello won a scholarship which enabled him to attend Columbia University and he graduated in 1911. In 1913 he took a job as a teacher of French in DeWitt Clinton High School. With the entrance of the United States into World War I in 1917, Covello enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Artillery Corps. He went to France as an interpreter and became a member of the Corps of Intelligence Police. In 1920 Covello returned to his former position at DeWitt Clinton and served as head of the school’s Italian Department from 1922 to 1926.

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Benjamin Franklin High School

In 1926 he was appointed First Assistant in Modern Languages, a post he held until 1934. While at DeWitt Clinton, Covello realized that Italian American children were confronted by a dilemma in the public schools. They were expected to separate themselves from their native culture and language, in order to meet the school’s expectations and to achieve academically. Covello sought means to ease the transition of immigrant school children into American life and to aid in their acculturation without separating them from their community.

In 1914 he established Il Circolo Italiano at DeWitt Clinton. This club combined social service, recreational and cultural activities and its members worked within the Italian immigrant community. He also began a campaign to establish Italian on an equal footing with other foreign languages taught in New York City schools, a campaign which culminated in his appointment as head of the newly established Italian Department at DeWitt Clinton in 1922. In that same year, Covello established the Italian Parents Association at the school.

Covello’s work extended beyond DeWitt Clinton to include the city’s school system and its Italian community as a whole. He was a major force in the Italian Teachers Association and in 1931 founded the Casa Italiana Educational Bureau, which disseminated information on Italian culture. He was associated with most of the Italian organizations in the city, such as the Italy-America Society and Order of Sons of Italy. Through them he tried to ease the transition of the immigrant and to spread pride and knowledge of Italian culture.

During his years at DeWitt Clinton, Covello became increasingly aware of the need for a high school in East Harlem. From 1931 until 1934 he led a campaign to create such a high school and in 1934 his work was rewarded with the establishment of Benjamin Franklin High School. Covello was appointed principal of the school. As East Harlem began to experience an influx of Puerto Rican immigrants during the 1940s and 1950s, Covello implemented programs for Puerto Rican students at Franklin similar to those which had proven successful among Italian immigrants. In 1956 Covello retired as principal of Franklin High School and accepted an appointment as Education Consultant to the Migration Division of the Puerto Rican Department of Labor. His work with the Migration Division included language and literacy campaigns, citizenship programs, work with Puerto Rican organizations, conferences and workshops on Puerto Rican problems and a general effort to raise awareness and pride in Puerto Rican history and culture.

Pasta with Italian Bacon 

Servings 4 Ingredients

  • 1 lb short pasta
  • 5 oz guanciale or pancetta or bacon
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Paprika
  • Parsley, chopped

Directions

While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet and cook the guanciale and the cloves of garlic until they are golden; add the wine and allow it to evaporate. Add the cooked pasta, cheese and pepper. Mix well. Garnish with parsley and paprika

Maria Montessori

(1870 -1952) born in Chiaravalle, near Ancona, Italy, Maria was an Italian educator and originator of the educational system that bears her name. The Montessori system is based on the belief in the creative potential of children, their drive to learn and the right of each child to be treated as an individual. After graduating in medicine from the University of Rome in 1896—the first woman in Italy to do so—Montessori was appointed an assistant doctor at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, where she became interested in the educational problems of the mentally disabled children. Between 1899 and 1901 she served as director of the State Orthophrenic School of Rome, where her methods proved extremely successful. From 1896 to 1906 she held a chair in hygiene at a women’s college in Rome and from 1900 to 1907 she lectured in pedagogy at the University of Rome, holding a chair in anthropology from 1904 to 1908. During these years she continued her studies of philosophy, psychology and education.

In 1907 Montessori opened the first, Casa dei Bambini (“Children’s House”), preschool for children ages three to six from the San Lorenzo district of Rome, applying principles now recognized as the Montessori method. Her successes led to the opening of other Montessori schools and for the next 40 years she travelled throughout Europe, India and the United States lecturing, writing and establishing teacher-training programs. In 1922 she was appointed Government Inspector of Schools in Italy, but left the country in 1934 because of the Fascist rule.

Montessori scorned conventional classrooms and she sought, instead, to teach children by supplying concrete materials and organizing situations conducive to learning with these materials. She discovered that certain simple materials aroused in young children an interest and attention not previously thought possible. The materials used were designed specifically to encourage individual rather than cooperative effort. Group activity occurred in connection with shared housekeeping chores.

Tournedos alla Rossini

This recipe from the Ancona (Marche) region and is named for the opera composer, Rossini.

Ingredients

  • 4 thick slices of beef fillet, tied with kitchen string to hold its round shape
  • 4 round slices of bread as thick as the beef fillets
  • 4 slices of patê de fois
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Half cup of Marsala wine.
  • Truffles, optional

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet and fry the slices of bread. Put the bread on a serving dish dish.

Cook the beef in the same skillet with 1 tablespoon butter, salt and pepper until medium rare.

Place the beef ‘tournedos’ on top of each slice of bread and keep warm.

Fry the pate slices in the remaining butter and place on top of the beef.

Pour the Marsala wine into the skillet and cook for a few minutes, stirring the browned bits in the pan. Pour a little of the sauce over each ‘tournedos’.

Garnish with truffle slices, if desired.

Angelo Bartlett Giamatti

became the youngest president of Yale University in 1978 and the first president not of Anglo Saxon heritage. As the university’s 19th president, he served until 1986. Giamatti was born in Boston and grew up in South Hadley, Massachusetts, the son of Mary Claybaugh Walton and Valentine John Giamatti. His father was professor and chairman of the Department of Italian Language and Literature at Mount Holyoke College. Giamatti’s paternal grandparents were Italian immigrants, Angelo Giammattei and Maria Lavorgna. His grandfather, Angelo, had emigrated to the United States from Telese, near Naples, Italy, around 1900.

Giamatti attended South Hadley High School, spent his junior year at the Overseas School of Rome and graduated from Phillips Academy in 1956. At Yale University, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon (Phi chapter) and he graduated magna cum laude in 1960. That same year, he married Toni Marilyn Smith, who taught English for more than 20 years at the Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut. Together the couple had three children: Hollywood actors Paul and Marcus and jewelry designer Elena. In the film, Sideways, a photograph of the character, Miles Raymond (portrayed by Giamatti’s son Paul) with his late father is really a picture of Paul and Bart Giamatti.

Giamatti taught briefly at Princeton, but spent most of his academic life at Yale. Giamatti’s scholarly work focused on English Renaissance literature, particularly Edmund Spenser and the relationships between English and Italian Renaissance poets. While president of Yale University he presided over the university during a bitter strike by its clerical and technical workers in 1984-85. He also served on the board of trustees of Mount Holyoke College for many years, participating fully despite his Yale and baseball commitments. Giamatti had a lifelong interest in baseball (he was a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan). In 1978, when he was first rumored to be a candidate for the presidency of Yale, he had deflected questions by observing that “The only thing I ever wanted to be president of was the American League.” He didn’t exactly get his wish, but he became president of baseball’s National League in 1986 and commissioner of baseball in 1989.

During his term as National League president, Giamatti placed an emphasis on the need to improve the environment for the fan in the ballparks. While still serving as National League president, Giamatti suspended Pete Rose for 30 games after Rose shoved umpire, Dave Pallone, on April 30, 1988. Later that year, Giamatti also suspended Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, Jay Howell, who was caught using pine tar during the National League Championship Series. Giamatti, whose tough dealing with Yale’s union, favorably impressed Major League baseball owners and he was unanimously elected to succeed Peter Ueberroth as commissioner of baseball on September 8, 1988. Determined to maintain the integrity of the game, on August 24, 1989, Giamatti prevailed upon Pete Rose to agree voluntarily to remain permanently ineligible to play baseball. Giamatti died of a heart attack only a year after his appointment in September 1989.

Caprese Salad

This salad is from Capri and Campania but this simple dish is made everywhere in Italy from the beginning of spring to the end of summer. Ingredients

Red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, leaves of fresh basil, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.

Directions

Core the tomatoes cut each into thick slices and place on a large plate. Slice the mozzarella and arrange the slices alternating between the tomatoes slices. Decorate with the basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with crostini.

Rosemarie Truglio

is the director of research for Public Television’s award-winning children’s program, “Sesame Street.” She develops the program’s interdisciplinary curriculum and conducts research to enhance the program’s educational and entertainment values. Dr. Truglio is a nationally recognized expert on the effects of television on children and teenagers. In her position as director, she assesses the role of television in the socialization and education of children. This research has been the focus of her career and she has helped to ensure that the creative process always embraces the major curriculum points in a safe, sensitive, responsible and age-appropriate manner.

Dr. Truglio received her Ph.D. in Developmental and Child Psychology from the University of Kansas and her B.A in Psychology from Douglass College, Rutgers University. Dr.Truglio originally had an interest in math and science but she credits Rutgers’ early-childhood education and developmental childhood courses with preparing her for “Sesame Street”. Now, she is counting on the show’s lineup of furry friends to inspire another generation of children.

Dr. Truglio is a widely published expert on child development, whose articles appear in child and developmental psychology journals. A former Assistant Professor of Communication and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, Dr. Truglio also serves on the Advisory Board of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Alliance for a Media Literate America and The Council on Excellence in Children’s Media at Annenberg School of Communication.

Dr.Truglio was born in in 1961 in Hoboken, NJ and her parents, Lucy and Albert Truglio lived their entire life in Hoboken. They were co-founders of Truglio’s Meat Market on Park Avenue established in 1952. Dr. Truglio currently lives in New York with her family.

Swordfish Fillets

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb swordfish, thinly sliced
  • 5 oz plain homemade breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • Pepper to taste
  • Parsley, chopped to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Gently flatten out swordfish using a meat mallet and cut in half. and then into portion slices.

Season bread crumbs with salt, pepper and chopped parsley.

Mix three quarters of the breadcrumb mixture with capers and grated Caciocavallo cheese, drizzling oil onto it; place spoonfuls of the mixture onto the fish slices.

Roll up the fillets and coat in oil and dip in the remaining breadcrumbs. Thread onto a skewer alternating with pieces of onion.

Grill the skewers, turning once.

Antonio Buonomo

born in Naples in 1932, Buonomo is an Italian composer, solo percussionist and music educator. Antonio Buonomo’s professional experiences include performing as a timpani soloist in various orchestras (such as the “San Carlo” of Naples and “La Fenice” of Venice) and directing one of Europe’s first all-percussion instrument groups. His many compositions and transcripts for percussion instruments have been published and include teaching materials, as well as, music for plays and television documentaries. They have also been performed at musical events, on television and radio programs, as well as, at public concerts.

The fifth of ten children, Antonio began studying music before he even knew how to read or write. At the age of 12 he played the trumpet and drums with his father in the Naples nightclubs in front of an audience of American soldiers from the Allied Forces during the war. His career was built on “coming up through the ranks” and playing just about any musical genre, from popular music to marching bands to jazz and contemporary music.

Buonomo has to be given credit for being the first one in Italy ever to prove that percussion instruments had a life of their own because they contain the triple music root: rhythm, melody and harmony. So, these instruments were not (as many people used to think) just a rhythm section to accompany other instruments or to simulate weather phenomena, such as thunderstorms. He continued his efforts until percussion courses were established inside Italian conservatories. He carried out this initiative by writing ad-hoc compositions and participating in radio and TV programs, as well as, by playing pieces for percussion that had never been performed in Italy during the concerts he conducted.

Having achieved great success among young people through his concerts that were held in schools (from middle schools to universities) and hisrecordings of the first classical, pop and contemporary all-percussion Italian music record. He became much more popular as his artistic commitment grew. Italy’s most influential newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, printed the following in November 1987: “He is a real authority on rhythm as an internationally known percussionist and virtuoso. Antonio Buonomo is a versatile and passionate teacher who has published many works on his favorite subject: pure percussion technique and rhythm perspectives.” In 1983, the Minister of Public Education invited him to be part of the commission that drafted the program for percussion study for percussionists and he was called by the Opera Theatre in Rome to act as assistant conductor and music consultant for the Missa Solemnis pro Jubileo, by Franco Mannino, which had its world premiere at the Colosseum.

Capri Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 5 oz almonds, finely chopped
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • 3 ½ oz sugar
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons crème de Cacao Liqueur or Strega liqueur
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

Directions

Blend the butter with the sugar until it becomes a creamy and smooth in an electric mixer. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the almonds, chocolate, baking powder and liqueur. Mix well.

Grease a 9 inch cake pan and line with parchment paper. Pour in the cake batter. Bake in a 350°F oven for 50/55 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the cake onto a serving dish. When cool, dust with powdered sugar.

Linda Lantieri

co-founded “Resolving Conflicts Creatively,” an organization which teaches students how to prevent violence in the classroom in New York City. The private agency, founded in 1985, forms partnerships with public schools to help elementary and high school students learn how to resolve conflicts and develop friendships.

Linda, an Italian-American, has over 40 years of experience in education, as a teacher, assistant principal, director of an alternative middle school in East Harlem and a faculty member of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Hunter College in New York City. She has served as a consultant to various institutions in the area of death education, including the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the New York City Public Schools, where she trained the first Crisis Response Teams in 1988. She is a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She is the director of The Inner Resilience Program and a founding member of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

The Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP), founded by Lantieri is a social and emotional learning program that has been implemented at 400 schools in 15 school districts in the U.S., with pilot sites in Brazil and Puerto Rico. Lantieri is coauthor of Waging Peace in Our Schools, editor of Schools with Spirit: Nurturing the Inner Lives of Children and Teachers and a contributor to Forever After: New York City Teachers on 9/11.

Her recipe for making better citizens (with higher academic achievement) is simple: introduce emotional learning in schools through small steps. According to Lantieri, “Children bring their emotions to school, whether we recognize them or not. What we are trying to do is help them express them in appropriate ways, helping learn how they can feel surer of themselves and better deal with their emotions. We do this in two different ways. First, by creating a classroom environment that is truly welcoming, where they feel emotionally safe, they can talk to each other and they can feel that the class really cares about them. The second thing is we teach them skills to be aware and to be able to talk about their feelings. In addition, the research shows that we can work to improve children’s emotional intelligence.


A favorite fall and winter fruit, pears are enjoyed for their juicy, sweet flavor and tender texture.

Pear Varieties:

Anjou pears come in a variety of fall colors, from light green to yellow-green to red. Anjou pears, with their squat shape, are firm and have a mealy texture. They are juicy with a sweet-spicy flavor. These pears do not change color upon ripening. Eat fresh or use in salads and desserts.

Asian pears have a less traditional pear shape and more of an apple shape. They are firm and juicy with an apple-pear flavor. These pears, also known as Chinese pears and apple pears, have a crunchy texture. Eat fresh or use in salads or for baking.

Bartlett pears are all-purpose pears with the classic pear shape. They are smooth with green skins that turn buttery yellow when ripe. Bartletts can also be red but they do not change color with ripening. When ripe, Bartlett pears have a juicy, sweet flavor and a pleasant aroma. Excellent for eating fresh and using in salads and desserts.

Bosc pears have a slender shape with a longer top and a long, thin stem. They have a mottled tan-gold color with a subtle nutty flavor and buttery texture. Use for baking and poaching, as well as for eating fresh.

Comice pears are short and squat with a greenish yellow color and red blush when ripe. Their sweet, juicy flesh and buttery texture make them best for eating fresh.

Forelle pears are small with a bell shape. Green before ripening, these pears turn a golden yellow with a red blush when ripe. Sweet and juicy, Forelle pears are great eaten fresh or for salads and desserts.

Seckel pears are petite red or red and green pears. Sometimes even small enough to be bite-size, these tiny pears have a sweet flavor that makes them ideal for snacking or using in appetizers and desserts.

All about pears:

Look for firm or hard unripe pears with no bruises or cuts and with stems that are in place. Pears are one of a handful of fruits that are actually better if ripened after picking and it’s better to ripen pears at home rather than purchasing them ripe.

Store hard, unripe pears in a paper bag or in a covered fruit bowl at room temperature. Check daily for ripeness. You can also refrigerate unripe pears until you are ready to ripen them; then keep at room temperature. You cannot test ripeness by color because some varieties will not change color after picking. To check for ripeness of a pear, gently press the stem end of the pear with your thumb, If it yields to pressure, it’s ripe. To keep ripe pears longer, refrigerate them 3 to 5 days after ripening.

To prepare pears for cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove the thin skin. To halve pears, cut in half lengthwise and remove the core with a small knife or melon baller. If you want to poach pears or stuff whole pears, use a melon baller to remove the core from the bottom of the pear, leaving the pear intact. Brush sliced pears that will not be immediately eaten with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. A medium pear will give you about 1 cup sliced.

Pears are healthy with only 100 calories each and a low glycemic index (meaning the carbohydrates in pears convert slowly to sugar). A medium pear (about the size of an adult fist) is a good source of dietary fiber, providing 16% of the recommended daily allowance. Pears are a good source of Vitamin C. This antioxidant promotes healing and boosts the immune system. Pears are a good source of potassium, an important mineral in heart health, nerve and muscle function.

Pear Crostata

A crostata is an Italian baked tart. It has been known by various names throughout Italy, including coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy.

Servings: 12

If you don’t have a food processor, you can use the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, a pastry cutter or two forks to cut the cold butter into the cornmeal-flour mixture. Make sure that you choose a fine grade of cornmeal or polenta (not a coarse brand) for best results. And, you can make the pastry ahead, store it in the refrigerator, sealed in a plastic bag, for up to a week. Let it warm up before rolling it out.

Pastry Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cup fine cornmeal or polenta
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup water

Filling Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds ripe pears (any kind, or a mixture)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto Liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt

To make the pastry:

Combine the walnuts, cornmeal, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the walnuts are ground into a coarse meal. Pour the olive oil on top of the dry ingredients in the food processor.

Run the machine in a few long pulses, until the oil is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse once or twice—just until it is incorporated—then pulse in enough water to bring the dough together. Remove the dough from the food processor, gather it together and knead lightly into one ball.

Break the dough into two pieces, approximately 2/3 and 1/3. Form each piece into a ball and flatten each ball into a thick disk. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of dough into a 13-inch circle, about 1/8-inch thick. Ease it into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the edges.

Roll out the smaller disc into a 10 inch circle and cut into strips about 1/2-inch wide. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F.

To make the filling:

Peel the fruit and cut it into thin slices Transfer the slices to a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with the lemon juice and amaretto. Sprinkle with the flour and salt and toss to coat.

Spread the fruit into the crust. Arrange the strips of dough on top in a criss-cross pattern, then push the ends of the strips into the edges of the bottom crust to hold them in place. (You might need to wet them a little to make them stick.)

Place the filled tart on a baking pan and bake in the lower half of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until golden on the top and around the edges.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before removing the rim of the pan and serving the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Italian Pear Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup thinly sliced peeled pear
  • 8 pecan halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place butter in a 9-inch round cake pan; place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove pan from oven.

Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange pear slices and pecan halves in a decorative pattern over the sugar. Set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat sugar, butter, egg and extracts with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and half of flour mixture; beat well. Add remaining flour mixture and milk; beat well. Pour batter over pear slices, spreading gently.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 5 minutes.

Run a sharp knife around edge of pan to loosen cake. Place a serving plate upside-down over pan; invert cake onto serving plate. Serve warm or cool completely.

Coconut-Streusel Pear Pie

Refrigerated Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups sliced peeled fresh pears
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Topping:

  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons cold butter
  • 1/3 cup flaked coconut

Directions

Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. Heat oven to at 400° F.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Add pears and lemon juice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Pour into pastry.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine sugar and flour. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in coconut; sprinkle over top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly browned.

Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 8 servings.

Red Wine Oven Poached Pears

Ingredients

  • 4-6 peeled, cored pears (recommend Bosc or Anjou)
  • 2-3 cups of red wine (recommend Zinfandel or Merlot)
  • 3/4 cups of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (can also add lemon zest, if desired)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine 2 cups of the wine and all the remaining ingredients, except the pears, in an ovenproof deep pan that will hold the pears snugly and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel the pears but leave the stems on and remove the core from the bottom. Place the pears upright in the pan with the wine mixture. The pears should be covered by the liquid, if not add the remaining cup of wine.

Bring the wine mixture to a simmer on the stovetop and, then, place the pan in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour, basting every 15 minutes. The pears should darken to a rich mahogany color as they cook.

When the pears are done (still firm but easily pierced with a fork), remove them from the oven.

The liquid in the baking dish should be syrupy. If you would like the sauce thicker, remove the pears to a serving bowl and cook the wine mixture until it is reduced, slightly thick.

Place the pears in individual serving bowls and cover with syrup. Serve with either sweetened mascarpone cheese, crème fraiche or whipped cream.


While strolling through Citta’ Della Pieve, a northern Umbrian town during the Festa dello Zafferano held each fall, you will pass shops with baskets of lilac colored crocus petals and zafferano packets. During this festival, sprays of crocus flowers decorate textile shop windows, toy shop entrances and the Gelaterie which features ice-creams and yogurts made with saffron. In the Piazza Matteotti, a young chef teaches a cooking class with saffron starring in every dish: yellow risotto, saffron bread and a dessert. Just around the corner in the Palazzo della Corgna, you’ll find the embroidery work of the local women, including textiles of yellow hues, dyed with saffron. In the covered market area, you’ll see saffron-dyed candles and even creams and soaps made with saffron.

Citta’ Della Pieve in Umbria – http://www.annesitaly.com/

Saffron, the red-orange stigmas from the center of the fall flowering crocus plant (Crocus sativus), is the world’s most expensive spice. That’s because each flower provides only three stigmas. One ounce of saffron = approximately 14,000 of these tiny saffron threads. The tiny threads of saffron must be handpicked from the flower. The yellow stamens which have no taste are left behind. This spice comes either powdered or in threads.

The ancient Greeks and Romans prized saffron for its use as a perfume. They scattered it about public spaces such as royal halls, courts and amphitheaters. When Emperor Nero entered Rome, they spread saffron along the streets and wealthy Romans made daily use of saffron baths. They also used saffron as mascara, stirred saffron threads into their wines, strewn it in the halls and streets as a potpourri and offered it to their deities. Roman colonists took saffron with them when they settled in southern Gaul, where it was extensively cultivated until the AD 271. Saffron cultivation in Europe declined following the fall of the Roman Empire. For several centuries thereafter, saffron cultivation was rare or non-existent throughout Europe. This was reversed when the Moors came from North Africa to settle most of Spain, as well as parts of France and southern Italy. Two centuries after their conquest of Spain, the Moors planted saffron throughout the southern provinces of Andalucia, Castile, La Mancha and Valencia.

During the Renaissance, Venice stood out as the most important commercial center for saffron. In that period saffron was worth its weight in gold and, even today, it is still the most expensive spice in the world. Unfortunately, its high price led to its adulteration which, in those times, was severely punished. Henry VIII, who cherished the aroma of saffron, condemned adulterers to death.

Saffron grows on the Navelli Plain in the Province of L’Aquila and is considered by many to be a major product of the Italian Abruzzo region. How a flower of Middle Eastern origin found a home in Italy can be attributed to a priest by the name of Santucci, who introduced it to his native home over 450 years ago. Following his return from Spain at the height of the Inquisition, Santucci was convinced that the cultivation of saffron was possible in the plains of Abruzzo. Nevertheless, even today, the harvesting of saffron is difficult work and great skill is needed to handle the stems without damaging the product or allowing contamination from other parts of the plant.

Italian saffron is also produced on family owned farms in Sardara, a town located in the center of Sardinia, Italy. The production of saffron on the island of Sardinia and especially in Sardara has been a tradition for centuries with more than 60% of Italian saffron being produced in this region

An essential ingredient in Risotto Milanese, saffron is also used in many other dishes across Italy. For example, the fish soup found in Marche region, uses saffron for its red coloring in place of the more traditional tomato in the recipe. This coloring property is also widely appreciated in the production of cakes and liqueurs and, for centuries, by painters in the preparation of dyes. Its additional curative powers have long been believed to help digestion, rheumatism and colds.

Copycats

American saffron or Mexican saffron is actually safflower, a member of the Daisy family and the same plant from which we get safflower oil. Although its dried, edible flowers do yield the characteristic yellow color, it has no flavor and is not suitable as a saffron substitute. Turmeric, also known as Indian saffron, is an honest substitute for saffron, but it is a member of the ginger family. Use turmeric sparingly as a saffron substitute, since its acrid flavor can easily overwhelm the food. Turmeric is also used to stretch powdered saffron by unscrupulous retailers. Unfortunately, there is no truly acceptable substitute for saffron. Its distinctive flavor is a must for classic dishes such as paella, bouillabaisse and risotto. If your recipe calls for saffron, do yourself a favor and use the real thing to fully appreciate the intended result.

Beyond Risotto

Eggs Stuffed with Saffron

A classic Italian appetizer that is often served with olives.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup bechamel sauce
  • 18 strands of saffron
  • ground saffron for garnish

Bechamel Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

To make the sauce:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden color, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate saucepan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture, a little at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and nutmeg and set aside until ready to use.

To make the stuffed eggs:

Peel the eggs, cut them in half and remove the yolks. Set the white halves aside on a serving platter.

Mash the yolks in a small bowl.

Add the saffron to the bechamel sauce and mix well. Add the mashed yolk and stir until the egg yolks are completely dissolved.

Fill eggs halves with a little of the sauce and garnish with ground saffron.

Italian Seafood Stew

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 cup no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup clam broth
  • 4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces bay scallops or sea scallops quartered, tough muscle removed
  • 6 ounces medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Directions

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, fennel seed, salt, pepper and saffron; cook for 20 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes, clam broth and green beans. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.

Increase heat to medium, stir in scallops and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more.

Serve with crusty Italian bread.

Homemade Saffron-Flavored Pasta Dough

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions

Put the crushed saffron threads in a cup. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water and let stand 30 minutes.

Place the saffron water in a food processor with the 3 eggs and puree.

Add remaining ingredients and process until the dough forms a ball.

Cover kneaded dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least ½ hour.

Preparing the dough with a hand crank pasta machine: Divide dough into 3″ x 2″ pieces. Dust the dough lightly with flour on both sides. Start with the first thickness on the machine and gradually crank in steps to the desired thinness.

After the first pass through the machine, fold the dough in half to help develop the gluten. To make good straight edges, fold the ends of the pasta sheet to the center and then rotate it 90º so that the folded edges are on the sides. Place rolled pasta sheets on floured kitchen towels.

After all the pasta sheets are formed, cut the pasta into spaghetti or fettuccine on the pasta machine.

As soon as you cut the pasta, either place on a floured flat surface or hang on a pasta drying rack. Homemade pasta will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few days, or it can be air dried on your pasta rack and then stored in an airtight container. Fresh pasta can also be frozen in a vacuum bag. Do not keep dried fresh pasta unrefrigerated because it contains eggs in the mixture.

Cooking Hand Made Pasta: Drop the pasta into a large pot of salted boiling water and boil until tender or “al dente” for about two to three minutes. Do not over-cook the pasta. Drain well and serve with your favorite sauce. Saffron flavored pasta is especially good with butter and parmesan cheese. It also makes a delicious side dish to Chicken Marsala.

Chicken Breasts with Saffron Gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, (flattened with a meat pounder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Chives, chopped for garnish

Directions

Season chicken with salt, pepper and dredge in flour.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and saute until lightly browned on both sides. Then transfer to another plate; cover with foil to keep warm.

Add butter to the same skillet and heat until its starts to sizzle. Add the shallots and saute for about 5 minutes..

Add the wine to the pan. After a minute, slowly whisk in the cream, blending completely. Add the saffron and simmer for a minute.

Add the chicken back into the pan, lower heat, cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is done. Plate chicken, pour sauce over the top and garnish with chopped chives.

Gluten Free Orange Saffron Cake

Ingrdients

  • 2 whole sweet oranges with thin peels
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 large pinch saffron strands
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied orange peel

Directions

Place the oranges in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 hours over medium heat. Check occasionally to make sure they stay covered with water. Allow the oranges to cool, then cut them open and remove as much white pith as possible and the seeds. Process in a blender or food processor into a coarse pulp.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (190 degrees C) Thoroughly grease a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale, at least 10 minutes. Mix in baking powder and saffron. Stir in the pureed oranges.

Gently fold in almond meal and candied orange peel; pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until a small knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Allow the cake to cool in the pan. Tap out onto a serving plate when cool.


The leaves of the anise plant can be used as an herb. The seeds of the anise plant, called aniseed or anise seeds, are used as a spice, either ground or whole. Despite its similar name, anise is not related to star anise, which is another spice from a different family of plants. Anise is used in a variety of baked goods and desserts, for example, Italian biscotti. Anise seeds are, also, the basis for a number of alcoholic beverages, including absinthe, anisette, ouzo and sambuca.

Anise has been used for centuries and has been mentioned in ancient herbal mixtures, as well as in texts on medicine, folklore, cookery, confectionery, perfumery and witchcraft. Pliny, in his treatise on natural history, mentions anise and states that the best was grown on the Greek Island of Crete. He also tells us that anise was used to alleviate headaches, soothe the stomach, clear the eyes and treat colics and coughs. Pliny, as well as Pythagoras, also strongly recommended anise steeped in wine as a remedy against scorpions. The ancient Romans used anise to flavor cakes. They often served these spiced cakes, called mustaceoe at the end of feasts, as a digestive. This tradition of serving cake at the end of festivities is the basis for the tradition of serving cake at weddings.

Some other historical facts, include: Democritus noted that anise was a cure for melancholy. In England, under King Edward I, anise was used to pay taxes and in Italy anise was helpful for nursing mothers. In old astrology treatises, anise was associated with the planet, Mercury, and according to old plant-lore it protected the lungs. Apparently, anise was also used to ward off evil and was kept in a small pouch under the pillow to avoid nightmares.

Anise seed has a faint licorice taste that is common in Mediterranean cooking. Its formal name is pimpinella anisum and it is in the biological family, Apiaceae — the same family as parsley, dill, coriander and cumin. Both seed and leaves carry the plant’s distinctive licorice taste, but the seeds are usually the only part that humans consume. The anise plant is an annual plant, which means that it typically survives for just one season — it sprouts in the early spring, is at the height of its seed production in the midsummer and dies back in the fall. The seeds it drops on the surrounding ground are its primary means of reproduction.

Anise is a bushy plant that commonly grows to at least 3 feet (about 1m) in height and has feathery, dense leaves. In the early summer, these leaves give way to white flowers that will ultimately produce the sought-after seeds. The plant is native to the coastal areas of the Mediterranean, including France, Italy, Greece and Turkey; it is also commonly seen in parts of North Africa. So long as the plant has good soil, regular sun and a generally constant climate, it can thrive in a range of places and is grown pretty much everywhere in the world today. Many growers even have good luck cultivating it indoors. It is a non-toxic plant, which makes it attractive for gardeners with young children or pets. Dog owners should use a bit of caution, though — dogs often respond to aniseed the way cats do to catnip, that is, by becoming hyperactive.

Despite its near worldwide cultivation, anise remains most popular in recipes from the Mediterranean region. It is very common in baked goods such as breads, cakes and cookies; its slight sweetness adds a complexity and an interesting dimension to otherwise  “ordinary” recipes. Many cooks will also add it to soups, stews and savory sauces for similar reasons. The seeds tend to open up when simmered, which can release many of its essential oils.

The fragrant Italian cookies made with anise seeds, often called angelonies or angelettis, are pillow-like and rich with eggs and either crushed anise seeds, anise extract or both. They are usually iced with an icing and dotted with tiny nonpareils. These cookies are traditionally served at both Easter and Christmas and at Italian weddings. A bite of an angellotti cookie will bring back any Italian American’s memories of childhood.

Pizelle are another Italian cookie flavored with anise seed. Pizzelle are light crispy cookies which are baked on a cooking surface similar to a waffle iron. They should be stored in airtight containers to keep them crisp. Anise seed are also often found in crisp Italian biscotti and the combination of anise and almond is especially delicious!

Italian Anise Toast

Servings: 16

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (190 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x5x3 inch greased loaf pan.

Beat the eggs and sugar thoroughly add the anise seed then mix in the flour. Scrape dough into the prepared pan (pan will only be about 1/2 full).

Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not turn off the oven.

Remove bread from the pan and slice into 16 slices about 1/2 inch thick each. Place slices on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes until bottom is browned, turn and bake for another 5 minutes until the other side is browned.

Anise Rye Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1 teaspoon anise seed
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups rye flour

Directions

Boil the water, caraway and anise seeds for 5 minutes. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Cool to warm.

Then add the molasses, brown sugar and shortening. Add yeast.

Mix in all purpose flour and salt.

Let rise, covered, for 1-1/2 hours in a warm place.

Add the rye flour gradually. If sticky add a bit more flour, but not too much, since rye flour soaks up water more slowly than regular flour.

Let rise again.

Form into 2 equal round loaves; let rise until doubled on parchment covered baking sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

Anisette Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks; one egg white, reserved
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons anisette
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 6 cups coarsely chopped whole almonds
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar for glaze

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled. Beat in the vanilla, anisette and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough into four equal portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch, about 40 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200°. With a serrated knife, slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias, into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp

Store in an airtight container. They will keep up to about 2 weeks.

Italian Anise Cookies

3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg

Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • milk
  • colored sprinkles

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Stir in anise and lemon extract. Add dry ingredients – blend together. Add egg. Blend.

Form dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Cool and glaze. Mix powdered sugar with enough milk (2-3 teaspoons) to make a thick glaze. Top with sprinkles.

Anise Cake (Torta di Fioretto)

Ingredients

  • 3 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 5 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus extra
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds (fioretto)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in warm water and add 1 2/3 cups of the flour and knead until a soft dough is obtained. Set aside to rest for 2 hours.

Combine the remaining flour with the 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, 3/4 cups butter and salt. Work until a soft and homogenous dough mixture is obtained. Add the dough made earlier and continue to work it in until the dough is smooth and soft.

Butter and dust a medium-sized round baking pan with flour. Roll out the dough to the size of the pan and place the dough in the baking pan. Cover with a cotton kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle with additional sugar to taste, the anise seeds and pour the melted butter on top. Transfer to the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool before serving. Serves 4



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