Cherries are in season and you can use them to create sweet or savory recipes. There’s no need to limit cherries just to desserts. Use them in muffins, coffee cakes or pancakes for breakfast or add them to salads, salsas, sauces and shakes.
Traverse City, Michigan and Vignola, Italy, both claim to be the cherry capital of the world. Traverse City grows more cherries but Vignola’s been growing them longer. It’s the Pacific Northwest, however, that accounts for 70 percent of the sweet cherry production, while Michigan produces about three-quarters of the tart variety.
Nutritionally, cherries are very much like most fruit in that they contain fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta carotene.
Rain is the industry’s biggest problem. Ripe berries will split open if they get wet at the wrong time, making the crop sometimes unpredictable. The most popular Northwest sweet cherry is the Bing. These large cherries will be a dark burgundy color when fully ripened. The smaller, heart-shaped Lambert cherry is similar in taste to the Bing. A yellowish colored cherry is an extra-sweet hybrid called the Rainier.
In the Midwest, the Schmidt is a variety similar to the Bing. Other sweet cherry varieties of that region are the Emperor Francis and the Rainier. Tart cherries can sometimes be found at local farm stands for use in pies and jams. When picking out fresh cherries, make sure they’re firm (but not hard) and without soft spots or bruises. The stems should be green and not darkened with age.
Wash the cherries and pat dry and then store them in a plastic container for up to two weeks. Cherries deteriorate rapidly if they’re not kept refrigerated.
If you want to take advantage of the in season prices, you can freeze cherries. The only equipment you’ll need beforehand is a cherry pitter and surgical gloves (unless you want red hands for days). A cherry pitter works very well.
To freeze, lay the washed cherries, pitted, on a jelly roll pan in a single layer and place in the freezer. When they’re solid, place them in labeled Zip-Lock freezer bags and they should keep for up to a year. Never defrost cherries, however, before using in your cooking or baking because they become mushy.
You can also make dried cherries that are great for baking or for use in granola and salads. This is a great way to use up overripe or crushed fruit. Arrange cherries skin side down on foil-covered cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Place in a 200 degrees F oven for four to five hours or until the cherries are shriveled. They should be leathery and slightly sticky, but not hard.
Cool, then store in Zip-Lock bags or plastic containers. It is best to store homemade dried fruit in the refrigerator or freezer because the moisture that is still present in the fruit may cause some bacterial growth. Dried fruit will also taste fresher longer, if kept in a cool place.
Tomato Bruschetta with Sweet Cherries
- 1/2 loaf good, crusty Italian bread
- 1 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced to 1/4″ chunks
- 1 cup bing cherries
- 1/4 cup parsley, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, plus one whole clove for the bread
- 2 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bread
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Place the diced tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. Pit and quarter the cherries. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, cherries, parsley, minced garlic and onion. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar into the olive oil.
Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1/2″ thick slices, rub with the whole clove of garlic and brush with olive oil. Toast the slices of bread in a toaster oven or under the broiler until golden and crisp. Drizzle each slice with a 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil/vinegar mixture and then carefully spoon on the bruschetta. Garnish with a few parsley leaves and serve.
Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette
Next time you are grilling, add a few extra chicken breasts for a summer salad the following day.
- 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half to make four pieces (about 1/4 pound each)
- Olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper
- Fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary, chopped fine
- 8 cups assorted garden lettuce or greens, such as baby romaine, leaf, red oak, endive, arugula, spinach (about 1/2 pound)
- 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
- 10-15 radishes, sliced thin
- Toasted pecans, optional
- 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
- 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
- 1/2 cup cherry juice
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger root (peeled first),
- Dash salt, cayenne pepper and/or freshly ground pepper
In a blender, combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette.
Chill in a covered container until ready to use. (The dressing can be strained for a smoother appearance.)
Brush the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt, ground black pepper and the chopped fresh herbs.
Grill the chicken and refrigerate until needed.
Wash and dry the salad greens. Toss with the onions, pecans, if using, and radishes. Slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips.
Just before serving, toss the lettuce mixture with the vinaigrette. Lay the salad on the plates and top with the sliced chicken. Garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs.
Maple Cherry Sauce
Makes 1 cup.
This sauce can be used hot or cold as a topping for grilled meats, yogurt, ice cream or cheesecake. Tart cherries may be used, but you’ll need to adjust the amount of sweetener.
- 1/4 cup cherry juice or juice blend
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
- 2 cups pitted fresh or frozen sweet cherries, halved
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the juice and flour or cornstarch.
In a medium saucepan, pour in the juice mixture and the maple syrup. Stir over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken.
Add the cherries and simmer until they soften, crushing them a bit. Don’t overcook.
Cool or serve hot. The sauce will thicken a little as it cools.
Option: add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind or 1 tablespoon brandy.
Cherry Cheesecake Bars
These healthy bars are an easy dessert to take to a family barbecue.
2 cups Maple Cherry Sauce (double the recipe above)
- 2 cups crushed graham crackers (for gluten-free, use almond flour)
- 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1-1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt. (Brands that contain modified food starch and/or gelatin won’t work in this recipe.)
- 2 eight-ounce packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
- 1/2 cup real maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking pan ready.
Place the crackers in the processor and process until fine crumbs form. mix in the oil and sugar. Pour into the baking pan and press onto the bottom of the pan.
In the processor or using a mixer, beat the yogurt and cream cheese together. Beat in the maple syrup and vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Pour the mixture over the crumb crust in the baking pan.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the center has puffed up. (It will fall somewhat when cooled.) Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least three hours.
Just before serving, spread with the cherry sauce and cut into bars.
Italian Old Fashioned Cherry Cake or Dolce Di Ciliegie
This historical family recipe has been published by the famous Italian cook, Artusi, in his book, “L’arte la scienza in cucina e l’ arte di mangiar bene” in 1891.
Frozen cherries are too juicy to use in this recipe.
1/2 lb fresh cherries, pitted
For the Baking Pan
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2 ounces almonds ( ground)
- 1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs (finely grated)
For the Filling
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 4 ounces powdered sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
- 2 ounces plain bread crumbs, finely grated
- 2 tablespoons liqueur (Amaretto or Maraschino cherry juice)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Butter a 10 inch pie pan or baking pan. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200°C).
Distribute the almonds and the one tablespoon bread crumbs to completely coat the bottom of thebaking pan.
Blend the egg yolks with the powdered sugar until creamy and soft. Incorporate the bread crumbs, liqueur or juice and vanilla.
Beat egg whites separately in another bowl until soft peaks form and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into the baking pan.
Drop the cherries on top.
Bake for about 30 minutes or untilthe top is brown and the cake is cooked through.
Dust the top with powdered sugar.
Serve hot or cold.
Duck With Cherries In Chianti
This dish was developed for a banquet to be served at the Castello di Gabbiano, south of Florence. Italian cherries were in season and the cherries were cooked in Castello’s Chianti.
The sauce was served with locally caught duck. Culinary instructor and cookbook author, Katie Caldesi, The Italian Cookery Course, is the creator of this recipe.
- 4 duck breasts, skin on
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 1/2 ounces cherries, halved, pits removed
- 2/3 cups orange juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 cups red wine, such as Gabbiano Chianti
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
To make the sauce,
Put the cherries in a ovenproof dish, pour in the orange juice, then sprinkle with half the sugar. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the cherries have softened and browned a little. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, pour the wine into a saucepan with the remaining sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow it to reduce to about a third of its volume (you want about 2/3 cup).
Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick frying pan and, when hot, fry the breasts, skin-side down, for about 6 minutes, then turn them over and fry for another 4 minutes.
This will give you medium-rare meat. If you prefer it well cooked, transfer the duck breasts to a baking pan and roast in the oven for about 10–15 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the cherries and the wine into a large frying pan and bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.
Slice the duck breasts and arrange them on warmed serving dishes. Pour the cherry wine sauce over and serve with plenty of creamy polenta.
- Damon Lee Fowler updating cookbook full of Savannah, Southern delights (savannahnow.com)
Sleek, fast redheads, the Testa Rossas, created by the late Enzo Ferrari: are displayed in the Museo Ferrari in Maranello, Italy in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Museo Ferrari is a Ferrari company museum dedicated to the Ferrari sports car marque. The museum is not purely for cars. On view are trophies, photographs and other historical objects relating to the Italian motor racing industry and the exhibition, also, includes technological innovations, some of which made the transition from racing cars to road cars.
The museum first opened in February 1990, with a new wing added in October 2004. Ferrari, itself, has run the museum since 1995. The total surface area is now 2,500 square meters and the number of annual visitors to the museum is around 180,000. The car exhibits are mostly a combination of Ferrari road and track cars. Many of Ferrari’s most iconic cars from throughout its history are present in the museum.
The Testarossa was a 12-cylinder mid-engine sports car manufactured by Ferrari, which went into production in 1984, as the successor to the Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer. The Pininfarina-designed car was originally produced from 1984 to 1991. Almost 10,000 Testarossas were produced, making it one of the most-produced Ferrari models, despite its high price and exotic design. In 1995, the F512 M retailed for $220,000.
The Testarossa name, which means “redhead” in Italian, comes from the red-painted cam covers on the engine. The Testarossa was a two-door coupe with a fixed roof and all versions of the Testarossa had power fed through the wheels from a rear-mounted, five-speed manual transmission. The rear mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout (engine between the axles but behind the cabin) kept the center of gravity in the middle of the car, which increased stability and improved the car’s cornering ability. The original Testarossa was re-engineered in 1992 and released at the Los Angeles Auto Show as a completely new car. The car dropped the TR initials and added the M, which in Italian, stood for modificata (modified) and was the final version of the Testarossa. The F512 M was Ferrari’s last mid-engine 12-cylinder car.
The Testarossa can trace its roots back to the faults of its predecessor. The problems that the Testarossa was conceived to fix, included a cabin that got increasingly hot between the front-mounted radiator and the engine and a lack of luggage space. To fix these problems Ferrari and Pininfarina designed the Testarossa to be larger than its predecessor, the Berlinetta Boxer. With an increased wheelbase, extra storage space behind the seats in the cabin was created. Headroom was also increased with a roofline half an inch taller than the Boxer.
The spectacular design came from the Pininfarina team. They were led by design chief, Leonardo Fioravanti, the maestro behind many beautiful Ferraris. Being a trained aerodynamicist, Fioravanti applied his know-how to set the aerodynamics layout of the car. This meant the large side intakes were not only a statement of style but actually functional, since they drew in clean air to cool the side radiators and then went upward and left the car through the ventilation holes located at the engine’s tail.
Pininfarina’s body was a departure from a traditional one. The side strakes, sometimes referred to as “cheese graters” or “egg slicers,” that spanned from the doors to the rear fenders were needed because rules in several countries outlawed large openings on cars. The Testarossa had twin radiators in the back with the engine, instead of a single radiator up-front. In addition, the strakes provided cool air to the rear-mounted side radiators, thus keeping the engine from overheating. The strakes also made the Testarossa wider at the rear than in the front, thus increasing its stability and handling. One unique feature to the design was a single high-mounted rear view mirror on the driver’s side for better road view. The Testarossa used a double wishbone front and rear suspension system. Ferrari, also, improved traction by adding 10-inch-wide alloy rear wheels and four-valve cylinder heads that were finished in red.
The car won many comparison tests and admirers – it was featured on the cover of Road & Track magazine nine times in just five years. Well known Testarossa owners were the English pop singer, Elton John, the French actor, Alain Delon, and the 1989 Ferrari formula 1 Pilot, Gerhard Berger. Jack Nerad of Driving Today states, the Testarossa “… [was] a car designed and built to cash in on an image. And since cashing in was what the Eighties were all about, it was the perfect vehicle for its time. The saving grace was, it was also a damn good automobile.”
Although successful on the road, the Testarossa did not appear on race tracks. As Ferrari’s range-topper during the 1980s, the car made appearances in numerous video games, most notably the arcade games OutRun and in the TV series, Miami Vice, as Sonny Crockett’s undercover car from season three.
Food and motors are the two true passions of this area of italy.
Symbol of the local cuisine, zampone (stuffed pig trotters) with lentils is cooked not only during the Christmas holidays and New Year’s, but all year-round. Among the typical products that have received the DOP quality recognition are the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena with its more sweet-than-sour taste and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Other renowned products are Vignola cherries and Modena pears.
The legendary tortellini, stuffed with pork meat, ham and Parmigiano cheese and the tigella, a flatbread cooked in a wood oven and served with cotechino and a mix of cheeses, are both even better, if paired with the local Lambrusco wine. Among other specialties are Borlengo, “rice bomb” (a rice mould stuffed with stewed pigeon meat) and Bocconcini. Typical desserts are amaretti cookies of San Geminiano, Bensone Cake and Barozzi Cake.
Eggplant Rolls with Pecorino and Prosciutto
- 1 eggplant about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds
- 12 slices prosciutto
- 1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- Chives to taste
- Salt to taste
Slice the eggplant about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle the slices with a pinch of salt and place in a colander. Place the colander on a plate and weight down the eggplant (with a bowl of water, for example). Allow to drain for 15 minutes.
Preheat a grill
Meanwhile, brush both sides of each slice of eggplant with extra virgin olive oil. Grill each slice for no more than two minutes.
Sprinkle the slices with grated Pecorino as they are removed from the grill.
Cover each slice of eggplant with a slice of Prosciutto di Parma and gently roll up. Secure each roll by tying with a chive leaf. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.
Penne with Zucchini and Ricotta
- Coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound zucchini, thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 pound penne
- 9 ounces fresh ricotta cheese (1 1/4 cup)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot, reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and basil; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and season with salt.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid, drain pasta. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl. Add zucchini mixture and ricotta; stir to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking liquid and sprinkle generously with pepper.
Beef Fillet with Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 3/4 pounds beef fillet
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef broth
- Salt to taste
Cut the fillet in four slices, 1 – 2 inches thick, depending on the size. Coat with flour, shaking off any excess flour.
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add fillets and season with salt and pepper. Cook on both sides as desired, remove fillets and keep warm.
Deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar. Add broth to the pan and cook until the sauce is thick. Pour the sauce over the fillets and serve.
The Bensone Cake (also called Balsone or Bensoun in the local dialect) is like a sponge cake with a crunchy surface and it is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon treat, dipped in milk or tea. But the real “connoisseurs” in the region usually eat it at the end of a meal dipped in Lambrusco wine.
- 1 3/4 pounds flour (about 6 ⅓ cups)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 sticks (8 oz) butter
- Grated zest of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 egg yolk, beaten for the topping
- 1/4 cup coarse white sprinkles
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
In a food processor, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and milk in a stream with the motor running.
Sift flour with baking powder and add grated lemon zest Incorporate flour into the butter mixture.
Turn dough out onto a floured board. Knead well. Shape into an oval loaf with your hands.
Line a baking sheet with oiled parchment paper and place the loaf of dough on the pan.
Brush the surface of the dough with the beaten egg yolk and dust with sugar sprinkles and confectioner’s sugar.
Bake in a preheated 375°F for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
In Italy’s north eastern corner lies the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. This small region sits on the Adriatic coast with the Alps bordering it and Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. Friuli Venezia Giulia cuisine is known as a composite of peasant fare and sophisticated Venetian food with influences from the Slavic and Austrian cultures. Despite these vastly different styles of cooking, this region manages to merge them successfully. The region is also the birthplace of grappa and the source of an astounding variety of wines, despite its diminutive size. The town of San Daniele has produced an excellent prosciutto for centuries that rivals Parma’s.
Pasta is eaten in many different forms in the Friuli Venezia Giulia cuisine. Lasagna noodles are layered with poppy seeds. Gnocchi are made with potato, winter squash or plums. The filled pasta called bauletti contains ham and cheese. Like many other northern regions of Italy, polenta is a staple food. Stewed meats, game and cheese dishes are often served with it.
Bread is another staple food in the Friuli Venezia Giulia cuisine. In addition to wheat, rye and barley flour are used to make bread. Pumpkin bread is also commonly enjoyed. Gubana is a bread traditionally served for Easter. This rich bread resembles brioche and is filled with layers of cocoa and grappa flavored dried fruit and nuts. Bread is used to make canederli which are dumplings that are served in broth or as a side dish for meat. Potatoes and ricotta are used to fill a savory strudel called strukli.
Friuli Venezia Giulia recipes for soup are widely varied, including many kinds of vegetables, beans, seafood and meat. Boreto alla graisana, or turbot chowder seasoned with garlic, olive oil and vinegar, is served at the port of Grado. Fasûj e uardi is a herb flavored barley soup, thick with beans, pork, onion and celery. Ham and beans are cooked with potatoes and corn to make bòbici. Jota is a soup made from sauerkraut, beans, sausages and potatoes cooked with sage and garlic. Even turtles are made into soup in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
The southern section of Friuli Venezia Giulia lies along the coast where seafood dishes play an important role in the diet. Granzevola alla triestina is a dish of baked spider crab with bread seasoned with lemon, garlic and parsley. Shrimp, squid and mussels are simmered with rice in fish broth to make risotto di Marano. The most popular fish in Friuli Venezia Giulia is turbot, while sardines, eels and cod are preserved in salt and served in many different ways.
The fogolar is an open-hearth oven with a cone-shaped chimney used for cooking. Most often, mushrooms, sausages, lamb, kid, poultry and beef are grilled on a fogolar. Stewed meats are commonly prepared in Friuli Venezia Giulia cooking. Venison and rabbit are cooked in a wine sauce called salmi. Gulasch, a beef and pepper stew flavored with hot peppers, onions, paprika and tomato, is served with polenta. Other meat dishes include rambasici or stuffed cabbage and patties of mixed beef and pork known as cevàpcici. Muset e bruada is a sausage made from pork rind, first boiled and then fried in salt pork, onions and garlic. Bruada (pickled turnips) are served as a condiment with this dish. Sauerkraut and horseradish are served with sausage dishes.
Gubana is a rich yeast-raised cake rolled up jelly roll style before placing in a round pan to bake. Its cinnamon flavored filling contains dried and candied fruit, nuts and chocolate. Presnitz, another dried, candied fruit and nut filled pastry, is coiled like a snake before baking. Apple strudel is prepared with pine nuts and raisins. Chestnuts are used in Castagnoli cookies. Chifeleti, or biscuits made with potato enriched dough, and pumpkin fritters called fritulis are fried treats.
The region has an outstanding reputation for its white wines which account for just over 60% of its output. A mixture of local and international grape varieties are grown with great success here. The region’s winemakers are forward-thinking, even pioneering the “Friuli method”, a modern technique for getting juice off the skins quickly.
Friuli holds two DOCGs for its unique dessert wines. Ramandolo, a little known sweet white, whose Verduzzo grapes are grown on the hills to the north of Udine, was the first to be awarded its status. Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit, a delicate amber wine made from the aromatic Picolit grape, became DOCG in 2006. There are ten DOCs wines in Friuli and two of these are considered to be exceptional – Collio Goriziano, which is usually known simply as Collio, and Friuli Colli Orientali. Quality is also excellent in the Friuli Isonzo DOC area, where some dry whites are made from Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio and Riesling, as well as some semi-dry and sparkling wines. Tocai Friuliano has been an important variety historically. The grape is now commonly known as Friuliano following a European court ruling to avoid confusion with the Hungarian wine Tokaji. The region has had great success with its single varietal white wines, such as Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla and Verduzzo, whereas Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco from the region tend to be refined.
Some excellent reds are Cabernet and Pinot Nero, as well as vendemmia tardiva (late harvest) blends. Red wines from Friuli have tended to be single varietal wines made from Italian grapes like Refosco, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Nero. Historically, they were light and not designed for cellaring. But this is a region where experimentation and forward thinking in the winery is as much part of the routine as following traditional techniques are in other parts of Italy. Consequently, there are some fine blends on the market, often aged in oak barrels. The resultant wines have great depth and complexity and a firm structure that ensures they are capable of ageing.
For the dumplings:
- 300 g (10 oz) stale bread, diced
- 225 ml (1 cup) milk
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 60 g (½ cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
- 3 tablespoons (minced) flat leaf parsley
- 200 g (7 oz) Italian Fontina cheese, diced
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 12 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (for boiling)
For the broth:
- 1 cup per serving of extra vegetable or chicken broth
- Grated Parmigiano cheese
- Chives, thinly sliced
Put the stale bread into a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and let it rest for at least two hours, covered with a tea towel, in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Stir occasionally. After the two hours, add the flour, then the parsley and the cheese. Mix gently and set aside.
Heat the oil and butter and cook the onion for ten minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let the onion cool off, then incorporate it into the flour mixture. Let the mixture rest for another half an hour covered with a tea towel. It should look uniformly moist and slightly sticky.
Using your hands, form the canederli by pressing together enough of the mixture to make balls the size of a small orange. You should be able produce 14-16 balls out of the entire mix.
After making each ball, roll it in flour to seal the outside and prevent the canederli from sticking to each other. When all the canederli are ready, re-roll them into flour and compress them a second time.
Boil the vegetable or chicken broth in a large pot. Place the canederli gently in the pot, wait until the boil is resumed. Boil the canederli for 12-15 minutes (they will be floating the whole time), then drain them gently.
To prepare the canederli in broth:
Heat 1 cup per serving of vegetable or chicken broth (as the one used for boiling will be cloudy because of the flour). Place two to three canederli into each soup bowl, then pour the broth over them. Garnish with grated Parmigiano cheese and chives.
Grilled Tuna with Crushed Fennel Seed
Makes 4 to 6 servings
- 4 fresh tuna steaks, 1 inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Lemons for garnish
Marinate the tuna for 1 hour with the fennel seeds, finely chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice before grilling.
Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Season tuna with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks on the grill and cook, sprinkled with a bit more fennel seeds if desired, until deep black grid marks appear, 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with lemon slices.
Half-moon Potatoes – Kipfel De Patate
- 2 lb potatoes
- 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ oz butter
- 1 egg yolk
- Olive oil
- Salt to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Once cooked, peel the potatoes and mash them. Add salt and let cool. Once cool, add the butter and egg yolk.
Then add the flour and mix well until you have a smooth mixture. Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into pieces as thick as your little finger and 3 to 4 inches long. Then, shape them into half moons.
Saute the moons in hot oil for a couple of minutes until they puff up a little and are golden in color – a sign of a crispy exterior. Serve the half-moon potatoes hot, sprinkled with salt.
Cappuccio in Insalata – Cabbage Salad
- A medium cabbage, cored and finely shredded
- A 1/2 inch thick slice of San Daniele prosciutto
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter over medium heat in a small skillet and add the diced prosciutto. Saute just until the prosciutto begins to brown. Remove from heat.
Combine the cabbage and the crisped prosciutto in a bowl, mix well and season to taste with salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 oz butter
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons grappa
- 4 tablespoons raisins
- 1 cup Marsala
- 5 oz walnuts, chopped
- 4 tablespoons almonds, chopped
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 oz candied lemon and orange peel
- 1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg, separated plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Butter for greasing pan
- 1 tablespoon flour
To make the pastry
In a food processor place the flour and 1 1/2 oz. of butter, a whole egg and the grappa. Remove and form into a ball, then flatten it into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest while you make the filling.
To make the filling
Let the raisins soften in the Marsala for about 30 minutes and squeeze out the excess liqueur. Put the walnuts, almonds, raisins, pine nuts and candied peel into a bowl.
Saute the bread crumbs in the 2 tablespoons butter and mix it into the nuts with the grated rinds of the orange and lemon. Mix well. Add one egg yolk.
Beat egg white until stiff and fold it into the nut mixture.
To make the pastry
Roll out the pastry into a thin rectangle. Spread the filling on top of it. Roll (jelly roll style) and fold in the filling from the long side of the rectangle. Place the dough rolled up into a spiral and set in a buttered and floured round baking pan or casserole dish. Brush with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake the gubana in the oven at 375°F for about 50 minutes.
Capri is an island located in the Tyrrhenian Sea on the south side of the Gulf of Naples in the Campania region of Italy. It has been a resort since the time of the Roman Republic.
Some of the main features of the island include the following: the Belvedere of Tragara (a high panoramic promenade lined with villas), the limestone crags called sea stacks that project above the sea (the Faraglioni), the town of Anacapri, the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra) and the ruins of the Imperial Roman villa. The island has two harbors, Marina Piccola and Marina Grande (the main port of the island).
The city has been inhabited since early times. Evidence of human settlement was discovered during the Roman era when the foundations for the villa of Emperor Augustus (the first Emperor of the Roman Empire) were being excavated where giant bones and stone weapons were discovered. Modern excavations have shown that human presence on the island can be dated to the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. Augustus developed Capri; he built temples, villas, aqueducts and planted gardens, so he could enjoy his private paradise. Augustus’ successor, Tiberius, built a series of villas in Capri, the most famous of which is the Villa Jovis, one of the best-preserved Roman villas in Italy. In 27 AD, Tiberius permanently moved to Capri, running the Empire from there until his death in 37 AD.
After the end of the Western Roman Empire, Capri returned to the status of a dominion of Naples and suffered various attacks and ravages by pirates. In 866 Emperor Louis II gave the island to Amalfi. In 987 Pope John XV consecrated the first bishop of Capri. In 1496 Frederick IV of Naples established legal and administrative parity between the settlements of Capri and Anacapri. The pirate raids reached their peak during the reign of Charles V when the famous Turkish admirals, Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha and Turgut Reis, captured the island in 1535 and 1553 for the Ottoman Empire.
The first recorded tourist to visit the island was French antiques dealer, Jean-Jacques Bouchard, in the 17th century. His diary, found in 1850, is an important information source about Capri.
French troops under Napoleon occupied Capri in January 1806. The British ousted the French the following May, after which Capri was turned into a powerful naval base but the building program caused heavy damage to the archaeological sites. The French reconquered Capri in 1808 and remained there until the end of the Napoleonic era (1815), when Capri was returned to the Bourbon ruling house of Naples.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular resort for European artists, writers and other celebrities. Norman Douglas, Friedrich Alfred Krupp, Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen, Christian Wilhelm Allers, Emil von Behring, Curzio Malaparte, Axel Munthe and Maxim Gorky are all reported to have owned a villa there or to have stayed there for more than three months. Swedish Queen Victoria often stayed there. Rose O’Neill, the American illustrator and creator of the Kewpie, owned the Villa Narcissus, formerly owned by the famous Beaux Art painter, Charles Caryl Coleman. Dame Gracie Fields also had a villa on the island, though her 1934 song “The Isle of Capri” was written by two Englishmen. Mariah Carey owns a villa on the island.
Capri is a popular tourist destination for both Italians and foreigners. In summer, the island is heavily visited by tourists, especially by day trippers from Naples and Sorrento. The center of Capri is the Piazza. Piazza Umberto I, better known as the Piazzetta, is a surprisingly small little square enclosed within ancient edifices. In the past, the Piazzetta was home to a lively fish and fruit market – that was until 1938, when a young islander, Raffaele Vuotto, opened a bar and arranged a few small tables and chairs outside, where customers could relax over a cup of coffee or glass of wine. A number of his fellow citizens soon followed suit and, from that moment on, the Piazzetta became the heart of Capri’s social life, so much so that, in no time at all, the square earned itself the label of “salotto del mondo” (the world’s sitting room).
Capri is home to the Mediterranean plant, the Arboreal Euphorbia, and the Ilex Wood. The native inhabitants on the island include quails, robins, peregrine falcons, woodcocks, blackbirds, geckos, red goldfish, conger eels, sargos, grouper, mullet and the blue lizard of the Faraglioni. Capri has twelve churches and seven museums and monuments.
Capri is known for the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), a sea cave that is flooded with a brilliant blue or emerald light. It is the most visited attraction in Capri. The Grotta Azzurra was discovered in the 19th century by foreign tourists and has been a phenomenon ever since.
There are no cars on the main part of Capri. Capri is served by ferry or hydrofoil from Naples, Sorrento, Positano or Amalfi, as well as by boat services from the ports of the Bay of Naples and the Sorrentine Peninsula. Boats arrive in the morning and leave after lunch (3–4 pm). From Naples, the ferry takes 80 minutes and the hydrofoil 40 minutes. From Sorrento, the ferry takes about 40 minutes while the hydrofoil takes about 20 minutes. From the port, a funicular (a cable railway)transfers tourists to Capri town. From Anacapri, a city in the center of the island, a chair lift takes passengers to the top of the island.
Capri’s traditional cuisine is prepared using the produce grown on the island and the fish caught in the surrounding sea. Typical island recipes make liberal use of fresh fish, caciotta and mozzarella cheese, sun-ripened tomatoes, aubergine, garlic, peperoncino, olive oil and aromatic herbs such as basil, oregano, parsley and rosemary.
Limoncello is a liqueur made with Capri’s organically grown lemons. The island has any number of shops selling Limoncello in every shape and size of bottle, but, for those keen to make their own, the procedure is surprisingly simple.
Pennette Aumm Aumm
This typical summer dish is made with garden vegetables, fresh cheese and basil.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 14-16 oz Pennette (penne) pasta
- 1 lb aubergines (eggplant)
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 1 lb Mozzarella di Bufala cheese, diced
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup white wine
Dice the aubergine and brown it in the olive oil. Remove to a separate bowl and reserve. Add the garlic to the pan and the tomatoes (sliced in two). Cook for 5 minutes on a high flame, take off the heat and add the aubergine.
Cook the pennette “al dente”, drain and toss in the tomato and aubergine sauce. Before serving: add the cheese (in small cubes), the fresh basil, mix and serve hot.
Fish cooked in crazy water – Pezzogna all’acqua pazza
While the dish originated from fishermen of the Neapolitan area, who sautéed the catch of the day in seawater together with tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil, the term itself most likely originated from Tuscany. While peasants would make wine, they had to give most of it to the landlord, leaving little left for them to drink. The peasants were resourceful, however, and mixed the stems, seeds and pomace leftover from the wine production with large quantities of water, brought it to a boil, then sealed it in a terracotta vase and fermented it for several days. Called l’acquarello or l’acqua pazza; the result was a water barely colored with wine, which the fisherman may have been reminded of when seeing the broth of the dish, colored slightly red by the tomatoes and oil. Acqua pazza became a very popular dish with tourists on Capri Island in the 1960s.
The pezzogna fish (also known as “occhione” or “big eye” because of the size of its eyes) is caught in the Bay of Naples and is highly prized for its delicious meat and is used in a variety of dishes. In this recipe the pezzogna is cooked “all’acqua pazza” with tomatoes.
Ingredients for 4 people
- 1 pezzogna about 1 ½ to 2 lbs (in the US substitute red snapper)
- Salt and pepper
- 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (peperoncino)
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Clean and season the fish with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil and lightly fry the garlic and peperoncino in a large skillet with a cover. Add the tomatoes, fish, white wine and water. Cook, covered, for 20 minutes. Serve immediately, dressed with the cooking liquid and sprinkled with parsley.
- Four cups (1 qt) good vodka, 80 proof
- Nine (9) small/medium sized lemons, cleaned with a pastry brush and patted dry.
- One Jar, 1 1/2 to 2 quart size, with a lid.
- Simple Syrup, recipe below
With a potato peeler, peel (zest) all the lemons avoiding any of the white part, as this will make the limoncello bitter.
Put the zest in the jar and add the vodka. Place the cover on the jar and give it a good shake.
Place it in a cool dry place for five (5) days and each day give it a good shake. The more it is shaken, the more flavor is released by the lemons.
At the end of five days, strain the liquid into a large bowl or jar. Squeeze and, then, discard the lemon zest. Add the simple syrup and mix well.
Transfer to decorative bottles for storage.
Keep in the refrigerator and serve cold.
Four (4) cups of water and four (4) cups of sugar.
Without stirring, bring to a boil and simmer for five to ten minutes until the liquid is clear.
Let it cool completely.
Capri Chocolate Cake
- 5 oz almonds, chopped
- 3 ½ oz butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons crème de Cacao Liqueur or Strega liqueur
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
Cream the butter with the sugar in an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.
Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
Then add the almonds and finely chopped chocolate mixed with the baking powder. Add the liqueur.
Grease a 9 inch cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
Pour in the cake batter.
Bake in a 350°F oven for 50/55 minutes. Invert the cake on a serving dish.
When cool, dust with powdered sugar.
- Memoirs of Capri: Alluring San Michele (timelessitaly.wordpress.com)
Did you know that 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day in America?
Mother’s Day is next Sunday, May 11 and what better time to take a look at the origins of this special day. Mother’s Day is observed in different countries around the world. The day is most often recognized on the second Sunday in May and has traditionally involved giving mothers flowers, cards and other gifts.
Recognition and celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Festivals were held to honor the mother goddesses, Rhea and Cybele. The modern precedent for Mother’s Day is found in the early Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” In the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, the occasion fell on the fourth Sunday in Lent and was seen as a time when the faithful would return to their mother (local) church for a special service. Over time,” Mothering Sunday” changed to a more secular holiday and children presented their mothers with flowers and other gifts of appreciation. The custom faded in popularity, then merged with the American Mother’s Day in the 1930s and 1940s.
The beginnings of the American Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century. Before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mother’s Day Work Clubs,” to teach women how to properly care for their children. In 1868, she organized “Mother’s Friendship Day” for the purpose of mothers gathering with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation. Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragist, wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” in 1870 as a call to action for mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2. Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering also worked to organize a Mother’s Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, Anna Jarvis, promoted the concept of a national Mother’s Day, as a way to honor mothers for the sacrifices they made for their children. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are 83 million mothers in the United States. More mothers now work out of the home and the number of single-mother households has tripled to more than 10 million since 1970. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $15 billion this year honoring their mothers. Dining out is expected to be the No. 1 expense. Make Mother’s Day even more special. Instead of dining out, why not make dinner for your mother.
Mother’s Day Menu
Crab Avocado Toasts
Serve with a Sauvignon Blanc wine.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 8 large slices packaged thin white bread
- 2 Hass avocados
- Salt and cayenne pepper
- 4 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly brush a large baking sheet with olive oil. Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut 4 rounds out of each slice of bread and transfer to the baking sheet.
Lightly brush the rounds with olive oil and toast for about 15 minutes, until they are lightly golden and slightly crisp.
In a small bowl, mash the avocados with a pinch each of salt and cayenne pepper. In another small bowl, gently stir the crabmeat with the mint and lime juice and season with salt.
Spread the mashed avocado on the toasts, top with the crab mixture and serve.
Spinach and Pork Cannelloni
- 8 (6-by 4-inch) homemade fresh pasta rectangles (recipe below) or 8 dried manicotti pasta shells
- 1/2 cup (packed) dried porcini, soaked 20 minutes in 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 to 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and cubed
- 10 oz fresh baby spinach
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- A small onion, minced
- A medium carrot, minced
- A 6-inch stalk celery, minced
- A small bunch parsley, minced
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala (or sherry if you do not have Marsala)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste diluted in 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
- Salt & pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)
- Olive Oil Béchamel Sauce, recipe below
Heat butter in a saute pan and add carrot, celery and onion and brown them lightly. Add the pork and continue cooking until it is browned, then stir in the soaked mushrooms. Add in the Marsala and the diluted tomato paste, season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for an hour, until thickened. Stir in the spinach and cook until completely wilted. Remove from heat and add the grated cheese and parsley.
While the sauce is simmering, boil pasta 2 pieces at a time in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to separate, until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh pasta or about 6 minutes for packaged noodles. Gently transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking, then remove from bowl, shaking off water, and lay flat on kitchen towels (not terry cloth). Pat dry with paper towels.
Place two or three rounded tablespoons of filling mixture down the center of each pasta sheet and carefully roll pasta tightly around the filling. If using the manicotti shells, use a small spoon and fill the shells from the sides or use a pastry bag.
Place the rolled cannelloni, side by side, into a greased ovenproof shallow baking dish.
Pour the bechamel sauce over the cannelloni covering completely.
Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for approximately 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Olive Oil Bechamel Sauce
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups low-fat cold milk
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground white or black pepper
Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for about three minutes until smooth and bubbling but not browned. The mixture should have the texture of wet sand.
Whisk in the milk all at once and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and lost its raw flour taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Homemade Pasta Rectangles
- 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose or Italian (00) flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of water
- Dash of salt
Mix the flour, egg, salt and water together in the large bowl of a processor. Process until the dough forms a ball. Coat lightly with olive oil and allow it to rest covered for 30 minutes at room temperature.
After the pasta dough has rested, roll out sheets with a pasta roller to a thickness you can just about see your hand through, about the 5th or 6th setting on the roller for thickness.
Place the sheets on a pastry board and cut into 4″ x 6″ rectangles. Cook and fill as directed above.
Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Pine Nuts
- 1 large head of broccoli (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1 1/2-inch florets, stems peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon minced shallot
Preheat the oven to 400°F. On a large baking sheet, toss the broccoli florets and stems with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the broccoli in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until browned and tender.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until light golden all over, about 4 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the shallot and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; season the dressing with salt and pepper. Place the broccoli into a serving bowl. Add the dressing and toasted pine nuts, toss well and serve.
Italian Almond Cake with Pears
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large whole eggs, beaten
- 6 large egg whites
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 10-inch springform pan.
In a large bowl, whisk the almond flour with the all-purpose flour, grated orange zest, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add the beaten whole eggs and whisk well.
In a separate large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites are firm and glossy, about 2 minutes.
Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the almond-flour mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites until just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake is puffed and golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs still attached. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In a large skillet, melt the butter with the sugar over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Arrange the pear wedges in the skillet in an even layer. Cover the pears and cook them over low heat until the pears are tender and a syrupy sauce forms, about 7 minutes.
Using a large serrated knife, cut the cake into two layers. Spoon the pears and their sauce over the bottom layer of cake and cover the pears with the top layer of cake. Lightly dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar and serve.
- 5 Healthy Spring Dinners (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Paprika Pork Chops w/ Fresh Roasted Asparagus and Roasted Red Potatoes (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com)
- Mother’s Day (twistedfatesphotography.wordpress.com)
- 15 Paleo Recipes for Mother’s Day & Paleo Broccoli Quiche Recipe (confessionsofanover-workedmom.com)
- Roasted Garlic and Herb Quinoa “Fried Rice” (annascuisine.wordpress.com)
Durante degli Alighieri, simply called Dante (1265–1321) was a major Italian poet of the Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.
Dante was born in Florence, Italy. The exact date of birth is unknown, although it is generally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from his autobiographical information found in the La Divina Commedia. It is in first section of the “Inferno” and begins, “Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita” (“Halfway through the journey of our life”), implying that Dante was around 35 years old, since the average lifespan was 70 years then. Some verses of the “Paradiso” section of the Divine Comedy also provide a possible clue that he was born under the sign of Gemini: “As I revolved with the eternal twins, I saw revealed, from hills to river outlets, the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious”. In 1265, the sun was in Gemini approximately between May 11 and June 11.
The poet’s mother was Bella and she died when Dante was not yet ten years old. His father soon married again to Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi and she bore him two children, Dante’s half-brother, Francesco, and half-sister, Tana (Gaetana). When Dante was 12, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati, a member of the powerful Donati family. Contracting marriages at this early age was quite common and involved a formal ceremony, including contracts signed before a notary. But Dante had fallen in love with Beatrice Portinari (known also as Bice), whom he first met when he was only nine. Years after his marriage to Gemma, he claimed to have met Beatrice again and he wrote several sonnets to her but never mentioned Gemma in any of his poems. The exact date of his marriage is not known: the only certain information is that, prior to 1301, he had three children named Pietro, Jacopo and Antonia.
Not much is known about Dante’s education except that he studied either at home or at a school attached to a church or monastery in Florence. It is known that he studied poetry at a time when the Sicilian school (Scuola poetica Siciliana), a cultural group from Sicily, was a presence in Tuscany. His interests brought him to discover the poetry of the troubadours, such as Arnaut Daniel and the Latin classical writers, including Cicero, Ovid and especially Virgil. While still in his teens, Dante became involved with a group of poets, who would later be known as the founders of Dolce Stil Novo (Sweet New Style) poetry.
The Divine Comedy describes Dante’s journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Paradise (Paradiso), guided first by the Roman poet Virgil and then by Beatrice, the subject of his love in another of his works, La Vita Nuova. While the vision of “Inferno ‘ is vivid for modern readers, the theological concepts presented in the other books require a certain amount of patience and knowledge to appreciate. “Purgatorio”, the most lyrical and human of the three, also has the most poets in it; “Paradiso”, the most heavily theological with the most mystical passages.
With its seriousness of purpose, its literary stature and its range of content, The Divine Comedy, soon became a cornerstone in the evolution of Italian as an established literary language. Dante was more aware than most early Italian writers of the variety of Italian dialects and of the need to create literature with a unified literary language,in that sense, he is a forerunner of the Renaissance with its effort to utilize vernacular language.
Dante’s knowledge of Roman antiquity and his admiration for some aspects of pagan Rome also point toward to the 15th century. Ironically, while he was widely honored in the centuries after his death, The Divine Comedy slipped out of fashion among men of letters during his lifetime. It was considered too medieval, too rough and tragic and not stylistically refined in the respects that the Renaissance came to demand of literature.
He wrote The Divine Comedy in a language he called “Italian,” a literary language mostly based on the regional dialect of Tuscany, but with some elements of Latin and other regional dialects. He deliberately aimed to reach a readership throughout Italy, including laymen, clergymen and other poets. By creating a poem of epic structure and philosophic purpose, he established that the Italian language was suitable for the highest sort of literature.
Publishing in the vernacular language marked Dante as one of the first (among others such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio) to break free from standards of publishing in only Latin (the language of liturgy, history and scholarship in general, but also of lyric poetry). This break set a precedent and allowed more literature to be published for a wider audience, setting the stage for greater levels of literacy in the future. However, unlike Boccaccio, Milton or Ariosto, Dante did not really become an author read all over Europe until much later. Throughout the 19th century Dante’s reputation grew and solidified and, by 1865, he had become solidly established as one of the greatest literary icons of the Western world.
Dante is credited with inventing terza rima (a set or group of three lines of verse rhyming together) and chose to end each canto (sections of a long poem) of the The Divine Comedy with a single line that completed the rhyme scheme. The triple stanza likely symbolized the Holy Trinity and early enthusiasts, including Italian poets Boccaccio and Petrarch, were particularly interested in the unifying effects of the form.
Readers often cannot understand how such a serious work as The Divine Comedy can be called a “comedy”. The word “comedy” in the classical sense refers to works which reflect belief in an ordered universe, in which events tended toward not only a happy or amusing ending but one influenced by a divine will that orders all things to an ultimate good. Using this meaning of the word, Dante wrote in a letter, “the progression of the journey from Hell to Paradise made by the pilgrim is the expression of comedy, since the work begins with the pilgrim’s moral confusion and ends with the vision of God”.
Dante’s other works include Convivio (The Banquet), a collection of his longest poems with an (unfinished) allegorical commentary; Monarchia, a summary treatise of political philosophy in Latin which was condemned and burned after Dante’s death by the Papal Legate Bertrando del Poggetto, De vulgari eloquentia (On the Eloquence of Vernacular), on vernacular literature and La Vita Nuova (The New Life), the story of his love for Beatrice Portinari, who also served as the ultimate symbol of salvation in The Divine Comedy. The Vita Nuova contains many of Dante’s love poems written in Tuscan which was not unprecedented, since the language had been regularly used for lyric works before and during all the thirteenth century.
Due to the monumental influence that his work had on countless artists, Dante is considered among the greatest writers to have lived. As the poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them, there is no third.”
Dishes That May Have Been On Dante’s Table
The heart of Florentine cuisine is simple and abundant with local produce, mellow cheeses and grilled meats. Tuscans are also known for their appreciation of beans, especially white beans cooked with sage and olive oil. Beef Steak Florentine, roasted or wine-braised game such as boar, deer and rabbit and thick and hearty soups cover the table of a typical Tuscan meal. Plus this is the home of Chianti wine.
- Pinzimonio is a typical appetizer and can be varied according to the season and the availability of vegetables. The success of this simple and tasty dish depends on two elements: fresh, young ingredients and, above all, superb olive oil from the hills of Tuscany. The vegetables come with a small bowl containing the oil, salt and pepper into which you can dip the pieces of vegetables.
- Ribollita -Tuscan bread soup is a classic comfort food; it’s hard to think of any dish that’s more intimately associated with Florence than ribollita, a classic cabbage-and-bean soup that gains body and substance from a generous infusion of day-old Tuscan bread. The word ribollita literally translates as reboiled and for a ribollita to be authentic it must contain black-leaf kale, a long-leafed winter cabbage whose leaves are a purplish green and which has distinctive bitter overtones.
- Stracotto – actually means “overcooked”, but in fact it is a good description, as it is intended for the tougher cuts of meat which require long, slow cooking.
- Before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto – a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion.
- Piselli novelli in casseruola – is a speciality in springtime when tiny, tender, sweet new peas are available. They are ideal not only with stuffed rabbit but also with roast pork, peppery stew and braised beef. The dish is simply new peas cooked with pancetta and seasoning.
- Casseruola alla fiorentina – Pasta or noodles are covered with a sauce of spinach, cream of mushroom soup, garlic, tarragon and marjoram and pieces of sausage, which is in turn covered with an egg and ricotta mix.
- Castagnaccio – Chestnut cake For many centuries chestnuts were part of the staple diet in mountainous and hilly areas and for the poorer classes in general as they provided an inexpensive form of nutrition. The original, Florentine version of castagnaccio is also known as migliaccio (black pudding) in some parts of Tuscany.
Rolled Bell Pepper Appetizer
- 6 red or yellow bell peppers (or a mix), cut into 1 inch wide strips (along the longest length, in order to have long strips)
- 1 lb ground beef or pork or turkey
- ¼ lb mortadella
- ¼ lb. prosciutto
- ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Oil a baking dish.
To make cutting the bell peppers into strips easier, you can first soften them by placing 2-3 at a time inside a small plastic bag and heating them up in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. The vapor that forms makes them soft and easier to cut and clean.
Prepare the meat filling by pureeing the mortadella and prosciutto in a processor. Remove to a mixing bowl and add the bread crumbs and egg. Mix well. Add salt and pepper.
Spread some of the filling on the bell pepper strips with the back of a spoon. Take one end of the strip and roll it up. Fasten with one or two toothpicks.
Place the rolled up bell peppers flat on one layer, close to each other (you should see the meat filling from the top in the prepared baking dish.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops of rolls are slightly browned. Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving. They may also be served at room temperature.
Trippa Alla Fiorentina
Tripe is a type of edible offal made from the stomachs of various farm animals.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large celery, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 pounds beef tripe, cleaned, pre-boiled* and cut into strips
- 1 (10 ounce) can peeled plum tomatoes, with juices
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Fresh chopped basil for garnish
*Precooking the tripe:
Trim any pieces of solid fat from the tripe and wash the tripe thoroughly under cold running water. Put it in a large pot and pour in enough cold water to cover by four to six inches. Add 4 bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust the heat to a gentle boil and cook for two hours. Pick out the bay leaves, drain the tripe and cool to room temperature
In a saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil. Add the garlic, celery, carrot, and onion and saute until they are soft. Add the tripe and cook together on medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes including the juices. Break up the whole plum tomatoes with a fork.
Let the mixture cook together until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the freshly grated Parmigiano cheese and basil. Stir well and serve warm.
Piselli alla Fiorentina
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 3-4 oz diced pancetta
- 1 ½ pounds fresh or frozen petite peas
- 1 cup water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
In a 2-quart saucepan, cook the olive oil, garlic and pancetta for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to brown the garlic.
Add the peas, water, salt and pepper and cook covered for approximately 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper, stir in parsley and serve.
Castagnaccio: Chestnut Flour Cake
- 14 ounces chestnut flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Pinch salt
- 2 cups
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- Sprig fresh rosemary
- Zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, salt, and water. Whisk the batter well until the batter is smooth.
Add the olive oil to a nonstick pie pan and heat in the oven for 5 minutes. Once the oil and pie pan are hot, add the batter. Smooth out the batter evenly.
Sprinkle the raisins, pine nuts, rosemary and orange zest on top.
Bake the cake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top is golden.