Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Fish

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Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.

Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.

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Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.

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Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:

  • Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
  • Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
  • Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.

In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.

Trapani Salt Fields

Trapani Salt Fields

Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.

Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.

Sfincione

Sfincione

Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .

Panella

Panella

Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.

Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.

Cassata Cake

Cassata Cake

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Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.

Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.

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Spicy Clams with Tomatoes

The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.

Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.

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Pasta alla Siciliana

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

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Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)

This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.

In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.

A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine, white or red
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Other preferred herbs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
  • Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs

Marinade:

In a plastic or stainless steel  bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.

Steaks:

Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.

Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.

Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying  pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.

Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.

Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.

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Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)

This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 1 large fresh fennel bulb
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 head of lettuce 
  • Fresh peppermint leaves

Directions

Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.

Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.

Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.

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Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.

Makes 10 cannoli

Ingredients

For the Shells

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 oz butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
  • Lard or olive oil for frying

For the Filling

  • 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
  • 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
  • Milk to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped

For the Garnish

  • Pistachio nuts, finely ground
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions

To make the shells

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.

Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.

To make the ricotta filling:

With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.

Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.

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Use in-season spring ingredients to create some healthier dinners this week. After a few weeks of holiday eating and chocolate candy, you may want to eat a bit lighter.

Dinner Menu 1

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Shrimp with Easy Risotto

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells or shelled
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (1 small)
  • 2/3 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Thaw shrimp, if frozen. Peel and devein shrimp if needed. Rinse shrimp; pat dry with paper towels.

Place shrimp in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish.

For the marinade:

In a small bowl combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and salt. Pour marinade over shrimp. Seal bag; turn to coat shrimp. Marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the risotto (15 to 25 minutes).

For the risotto:

In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat until melted. Add onion; cook about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add rice. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Carefully stir in broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in peas. Let stand about 1 minute or until heated through. (Rice should be tender but slightly firm and creamy.) Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Cook shrimp in a skillet or on the grill as described below. Serve shrimp with risotto and lemon wedges.

SKILLET: Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and marinade to the skillet. Cook about 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring frequently.

GRILL: Drain shrimp, reserving marinade. Thread shrimp onto metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch between shrimp. Brush shrimp with the reserved marinade.

For a charcoal or gas grill, place kabobs on the grill rack directly over medium-high heat. Cover and grill for 4 to 6 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, turning once halfway through grilling.

Dinner Menu 2

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Roasted Pork and Spring Vegetables

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds tiny new potatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 pound boneless pork top loin roast
  • 6 fresh baby artichokes or use thawed  frozen artichoke hearts, if you cannot find fresh
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups whole baby carrots

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place potatoes in a large bowl.

In a small bowl combine rosemary, oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour half of the mixture over the potatoes; toss to coat.

Trim fat from meat. Place meat on a rack in a shallow roasting pan; spread the remaining oil mixture over the meat. Arrange potatoes around the meat. Roast for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash artichokes if using fresh; trim stems and remove loose outer leaves. Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each artichoke lengthwise into quarters. Place quartered artichokes in a medium bowl; toss with lemon juice.

In a covered large saucepan cook artichokes and carrots in boiling, lightly salted water for 10 minutes; drain.

Add artichokes and carrots to the roasting pan, stirring to combine with potatoes. Roast for 15 to 35 minutes more or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees F and vegetables are tender, stirring vegetables occasionally.

Remove from the oven. Cover meat and vegetables with foil; let stand for 10 minutes before slicing meat.

Dinner Menu 3

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Creamy Carrot Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 2 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dillweed
  • Paprika and coarse salt

Directions

In a 3 to 4 quart pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion; cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add the carrots, rice, stock and salt. Bring to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cook, covered, for 35 minutes until rice and carrots are very tender. Cool slightly.

Using a handheld immersion blender, process the mixture in the pan until completely smooth. Whisk in milk and creme fraiche.

Heat and stir over low heat. For a thinner texture, stir in additional milk. To serve, sprinkle with green onion, dillweed, paprika and coarse salt, if desired.

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White Bean Tuna Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2-5 ounce cans tuna packed in water, drained
  • 2 cups lightly packed arugula or spinach
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Crusty Italian bread, sliced and toasted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beans, tuna, arugula, red onion and parsley.

For the dressing:

In a screw-top jar combine vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.

Pour dressing over tuna mixture; toss gently to combine. Squeeze juice from half of a lemon over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Dinner Menu 4

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Oregano Chicken and Peppers

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in meaty chicken pieces (breasts and thighs), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 medium green sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium red sweet pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz thin spaghetti

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a deep skillet with a cover. Cook chicken over medium heat about 15 minutes or until light brown, turning once. Reduce heat.

Scatter the garlic, half of the lemon slices, half of the tomato, the olives, onion, parsley and oregano over chicken pieces in the skillet. Sprinkle with ground red pepper. Add the wine and the chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and the bell peppers. Cook, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes more or until sweet peppers are crisp-tender and chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and place on a serving platter.Place the the chicken on top of the spaghetti and pour the peppers and sauce over the chicken. Garnish with remaining lemon slices.

Dinner Menu 5

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Avocado and Asparagus Egg Sandwiches

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • Boiling water
  • 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled, and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large slices country-style white or whole grain bread
  • 8 slices bacon, crisp cooked

Directions

Place asparagus spears in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Pour enough boiling water over the asparagus to cover. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes or until bright colored and crisp-tender. Drain. Finely chop three of the asparagus spears; set aside.

In a small bowl use a fork to mash the avocado; stir in lime juice. Stir in the chopped asparagus; set aside.

For the omelet:

In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, the water, salt and pepper until combined but not frothy.

Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet with flared sides over medium-high heat until the skillet is hot. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the skillet. Add half of the egg mixture; reduce heat to medium. Immediately begin stirring eggs gently but continuously with a wooden or plastic spatula until the mixture begins to come together. Stop stirring. Cook for 30 to 60 seconds or until the egg is set.

Remove from heat. Using a spatula, lift and fold an edge of omelet to opposite edge. Transfer to a warm plate. Cover with foil and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the remaining egg mixture to make a second omelet.

Toast bread. Spread avocado-asparagus mixture on 2 of the bread slices. Top with each with half the bacon, half the asparagus spears, omelets and the remaining 2 slices of bread. Cut sandwiches in half to make 4 servings.

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Roasted Beet Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh beets with tops
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 ounces sliced ricotta salata cheese or feta cheese
  • Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Cut the tops from beets; set tops aside. Place beets and rosemary on a piece of heavy foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bring up two opposite edges of the foil; seal with a double fold. Fold in remaining edges to completely enclose. Roast beets about 60 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Carefully open the packet to release the steam. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel skins from the beets and cut into wedges. Discard rosemary.

Meanwhile, thoroughly wash and dry the beet greens. Thinly slice just the beet greens and discard the stalks.

In a large bowl gently toss warm beets, shredded beet greens and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until the greens are slightly wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

On a large platter or four salad plates arrange the beet mixture. Sprinkle with raisins and nuts. Top with cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

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Calabria is a region in southern Italy, forming the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula. Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence dating as far back as 700,000 BC. It was the Greeks who occupied the shores of Calabria and Eastern Sicily forming Magna Grecia or Great Greece. The area was home to the poet Theocritus and mathematician and inventor Archimedes, and it remained part of the Greek Empire until the Romans annexed it in the 3rd century B.C.

The capital city of Calabria is Catanzaro. The most populated city and the seat of the Calabrian Regional Council, however, is Reggio. It is bordered to the north by the region of Basilicata, to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea and to the east by the Ionian Sea. The region covers 5,822 sq mi and has a population of just under 2 million. The area is seismically and volcanically active.

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The Pollino Mountains in the north of the region are rugged and form a natural barrier separating Calabria from the rest of Italy. Parts of the area are heavily wooded, while others are vast plateaus with little vegetation. These mountains are home to a rare Bosnian Pine and are included in the Pollino National Park. The area boasts numerous lakes and dense coniferous forests.

In general, most of the lower terrain in Calabria has been agricultural for centuries and exhibits natural scrub land as well as introduced plants such as the prickly pear cactus. The lowest slopes are rich in vineyards, citrus fruit orchards and olive and chestnut trees. The region boasts the second highest number of organic farmers only after Sicily. The region is the second-highest for olive oil production   The Bergamot orange is intensively cultivated, since the 18th century, exclusively the in coastal area of Reggio, where it found its optimal geological and weather conditions.

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Along the coastlines, the climate is Mediterranean with average low temperatures of 8 °C (46 °F) in the winter months and average high temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F) in the summer months. Along the Apennines and in the inland areas, the climate is mountainous (continental) with cold, snowy winters and warm, dry summers with occasional thunderstorms.

Calabria is one of the least developed regions in Italy. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Calabria is represented by service industries (28.94%), financial activities and real estate (21.09%), trade, tourism, transportation and communication (19.39%), taxation (11.49%), manufacturing (8.77%), construction (6.19%) and agriculture (4.13%).

The 485 miles of its coast make Calabria a popular tourist destination during the summer. The low industrial development and the lack of large cities in much of its territory have allowed maintaining low levels of marine pollution. In fact, the region is considered by many a natural paradise, which attracts a number of tourists from all over Italy. The most popular seaside destinations are: Tropea, Capo Vaticano, Pizzo, Scilla, Diamante, Amantea and Soverato.

The interior of Calabria is rich in history, traditions, art and culture that attract a number of tourists. Fortresses, castles, churches, historic centers and cemeteries are common elements in the interior of Calabria.

Some mountain locations attract tourists even in winter. Sila and Aspromonte are two national parks that offer facilities for winter sports, especially in the towns of Camigliatello, Lorica and Gambarie.

The cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant) and fish.

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Pasta  is also very important in Calabria. Pasta dishes that include peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage mixed into the eggs are also prevalent.

Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures. As a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (Sopressata, ‘Nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish- especially swordfish, sardines (sardelle rosamarina) and cod (Baccalà). Tomatoes are sun-dried, octopi are pickled, anchovies salted and peppers and aubergines packed into jars of oil and vinegar.

The chilli pepper is popular here and is crushed in oil and placed on the table with every meal to sprinkle over your food. The chilli was once considered to be a cure for malaria which probably accounts for its extensive use in this region.

Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries (Cudduraci, scalille or scalidde) or baked biscotti-type treats (such as ‘nzudda) served during holidays. Ice cream or fresh fruit is mainly served for dessert and melons,particularly watermelons, are abundant in Calabria

Some local specialties include Caciocavallo Cheese, Cipolla rossa di Tropea (red onion), Frìttuli and Curcùci (fried pork), Liquorice (liquirizia), Lagane e Cicciari (a pasta dish with chickpeas), Pecorino Crotonese (Cheese of Sheep), and Pignolata.

Some vineyards have origins dating back to the ancient Greek colonists. The best known DOC wines are Cirò (Province of Crotone) and Donnici (Province of Cosenza). 3% of the total annual production qualifies as DOC. Important grape varieties are the red Gaglioppo and white Greco. Many producers are resurrecting local, ancient grape varieties which have been around for as long as 3000 years.

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

This particular recipe is Calabrian; before you begin check the weather forecast because you’ll need several days of hot dry weather with intense sunlight.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (1 k) ripe plum tomatoes, as many as you want
  • Oregano
  • Freshly shredded mild or hot pepper to taste
  • Basil
  • Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the tomatoes and pat them dry.

Slice the tomatoes lengthwise, set them on a rack, dust them with salt, put them out where the sun will shine on them all day (if where you live has a lively insect population cover them with fine netting).

Leave them in the sun until dusk and then bring them inside.

Continue putting them out in the morning until they are dry. Depending upon the humidity where you live this could take 2 or more days.

When they have dried, rinse them with water and vinegar. Mince the herbs in the proportion that suits your taste, and then layer the dried tomatoes in a jar, sprinkling the herbs and some salt over each layer. Press down well, then fill the jar with olive oil, shaking repeatedly and tapping the sides of the jar to make sure no air pockets remain. Seal, and let the tomatoes sit in a cool dark place for a few months, at which point they’ll make a fine antipasto, over slices of crusty bread or sliced and served as a garnish for main dishes and vegetables.

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Linguine with Sun Dried Tomatoes

At times, Calabrians add seafood to this dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (450 g) spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup basil leaves, cut thin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
  • 1 hot pepper
  • A bunch of parsley,finely  chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons of oil the tomatoes were packed in
  • Salt

Directions

Chop the tomatoes and heat them for 3-5 minutes in a skillet with the oil, the garlic, the basil, the hot pepper and a pinch of salt. Don’t overcook or the tomatoes will dry and toughen. Turn off the heat and keep warm.

Cook the pasta in abundant salted water. Drain it’s al dente, transfer it to a bowl, pour the tomato mixture over it. Mix well. Garnish with the minced parsley and oregano.

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Calabrian Marinated Tuna

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh tuna, cut into 3/4-inch thick slices
  • 8 ounces (200 g) pitted black olives
  • One lemon
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Fresh hot pepper (chili flakes)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Pat the fish dry and grill it, basting it lightly with olive oil; turning it once. Figure a total cooking time of 5-7 minutes.

In the mean time blend the remaining ingredients with more oil to make a sauce. Marinate the fish in the sauce for at least an hour before serving it.

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Spicy Calabrian Grilled Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 6 pork chops with bone
  • Crushed or powdered hot pepper to taste (Calabrians like things hot)
  • Fennel seeds
  • Salt

Directions

Lightly pound the chops to flatten them out, sprinkle them with salt and then rub fennel seeds and hot pepper into them.

Grill them over medium hot coals or medium high on a gas grill, turning once, until the internal temperature is 145 degrees F, about 15 minutes.

Transfer chops to a platter. Loosely tent with foil to keep warm; let stand 5 minutes before serving.

 


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Tips on grilling fish:

  • A hot fire is key. You want to cook seafood quickly to retain the natural juices and flavor.
  • A clean grill rack is equally important. Fish will stick to a dirty rack and make turning the fish difficult.
  • Oil the rack when the barbecue grill is hot, just before you’re ready to cook. Also, oil the fish whenever possible. Use a high-temperature oil, such as grape seed, peanut or plain olive oil.
  • Skin side up or down? Conventional wisdom says to cook the skin side first, but doing the opposite gives a nicer, crusted surface on the non-skin side and the skin helps the fillet hold together for turning. The result is a moist, more appealing fillet.
  • Fish will hold together better and be less likely to stick if you leave it alone during grilling. Cook it for the estimated time, then try lifting it carefully. If it pulls away easily, it is ready to turn.
  • A wide, thin spatula is essential for turning and removing fish from the grill.
  • If you’re grilling thin fillets, you can place them in a double-sided, long-handled grilling rack used for hamburgers and steaks. There are also specially shaped ones made for grilling whole fish.
  • A good rule of thumb is to grill fish for a total of 10 minutes per inch of thickness (measured at the thickest point.) So if you have a half-inch thick fillet, grill it for about 3 minutes on one side, then turn and cook for 2 minutes more.
  • Avoid sugary marinades or glazes, especially with thick fillets or whole fish, as the sugars can burn and turn bitter before the fish is fully cooked.
  • As with other methods, fish is fully cooked when it begins to flake and is opaque at the center. Some fish, like salmon and tuna, are often served while still somewhat ‘rare’, like steak.
  • Tuna, salmon, swordfish, halibut, mahi mahi, barramundi, trout, mackerel, yellowtail and sea bass are some of the best fish to grill.

When most of us think of swordfish, we think…well, isn’t it endangered? The answer — at least for American swordfish — is no. It is true that swordfish stocks were hurt in the 1980s and early 1990s, but a nationwide movement to give swordfish a break worked. Now, North Atlantic stocks are on the rebound and environmental watchdog groups list them as a “good alternative.”

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Grilled Swordfish With Caponata

Swordfish is made for the grill. It is firm, like steak, and many non-fish eaters will readily eat swordfish over other types of fish. Its texture also helps prevent the steaks from falling apart on the grill, a huge plus. Note: Halibut steaks or firm white fish fillets, such as red snapper, tilapia, cod or orange roughy, can be used in place of swordfish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 swordfish steaks (see note above)

Caponata

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 each Italian frying pepper and orange and yellow bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled or unpeeled according to taste
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed

Directions

Marinade:

Mix ingredients in a large ziptop bag. Add fish, seal; turn to coat. Leave at room temperature while preparing the caponata.

Caponata:

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and peppers; sauté 2 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds and add eggplant, cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in marinara sauce, cover; reduce heat and simmer, stirring twice, 12 minutes or until the eggplant is very tender.

Add vinegar and capers to the caponata. Cover and simmer 5 minutes to develop flavors.

Meanwhile, heat an outdoor grill or a stove-top ridged grill pan. Remove fish from the bag; discard bag with the marinade.

Grill fish 4 to 6 inches from the heat source on an outdoor grill or in a grill pan, turning once, 10 to 12  minutes until cooked through.

Serve fish over the caponata.

Healthy sides to go with your delicious grilled fish.

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Spinach & Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 large vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for the tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Rub the inside of a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set aside.

Using a serrated knife, cut off the top fourth of each tomato and discard the tops. Cut 1/8th off the bottom of each tomato, so that they’ll sit upright in the baking dish; discard bottoms.

Using a small spoon (a grapefruit spoon works the best), scoop out the seeds and pulp from each tomato and discard. Sprinkle the insides of each tomato with a little salt. Place the tomatoes upside down on a plate layered with paper towels and let them sit for 30 minutes to extract excess tomato juice, which may make the filling soggy.

Heat the remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and yellow pepper and cook 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and Italian seasoning. Cook 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in rice, salt and lemon rind. Cook 4 minutes or until heated through.

Spoon rice mixture into the tomatoes and cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

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Braised Spring Vegetables

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 spring onion or 4 green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chicken broth or water
  • 8 oz asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas (from about 1 pound of peas in the pod) or frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1/2 head escarole, torn into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

In heavy 12-inch skillet, combine spring onion, garlic, oil and broth; heat to simmering on medium heat. Cover; cook about 2 minutes, or until onion softens slightly.

Add asparagus, sugar snap peas and peas and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, or until beans and peas are heated through. Add escarole and basil; sauté 2 to 3 minutes, or until escarole wilts and asparagus is crisp-tender.

Stir in lemon peel and juice. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Transfer to serving platter; sprinkle with chives and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.

fishand3

Spaghettini with Lemon and Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghettini (thin spaghetti)
  • 3/4 cup good-quality fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons

Directions

Heat a large saucepan of salted water to boiling on high. Add spaghettini; cook 6 minutes or until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix ricotta, oil and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Finely grate the peel of 1 lemon and stir it into ricotta. Season with kosher salt.

Add cooked spaghettini to ricotta mixture; stir well, adding reserved cooking water, if needed to make a sauce that coats the pasta. Season to taste.

Divide pasta among 4 plates. Finely grate the peel of the remaining lemon over the pasta and serve.

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Tomato & Fennel Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts

Directions

Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool

Whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.

Add tomatoes, fennel, parsley and pine nuts; toss to coat. Serve.

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Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Anchovies

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot or Dutch oven of sated water to a boil. Add broccoli rabe and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, anchovies and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until the garlic is very light brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, toss to coat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes more. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.


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Soft, woodsy flavors and aromas are the hallmarks of spring’s earliest produce that include an assortment of mushrooms, bright green asparagus and artichokes.

Savor the peak of asparagus season by roasting fresh, green spears to enhance their flavor and provide for a more tender texture.

Step away from the strong flavors of winter, like garlic and onions, and explore some milder flavoring ingredients, such as shallots and green onions (spring onions).

Leafy herbs become widely available in spring and are great on everything.

Radishes are root vegetables with a distinctive flavor that range from mild to sharp, depending on the variety. To choose the best, pick radishes that are deep in color with solid roots.

All types of leafy greens and lettuces begin to bloom in the spring. With temperatures warming, it is time to replace stews and casseroles with salads at the dinner table.

Although rhubarb is often used as a fruit in sweet pies and jams, rhubarb is actually a vegetable. You can find rhubarb in a range of colors, from green to bright pink and everything in between (color doesn’t indicate ripeness) in the market until June.

Strawberries are at their peak in the spring. Be sure to purchase firm red berries with no soft or mushy spots. Store in the refrigerator, but keep them dry. Don’t wash until ready to eat and serve at room temperature.

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Grilled Artichokes with Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 medium artichokes
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce or chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1  teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Cut 1/2 inch off the top of each artichoke. Cut each in half vertically and, using scissors, trim the pointy ends off the leaves. Carefully cut out the fuzzy choke in the center and discard.

Rub the artichokes all over with lemon. Fill a large pot with water and fit with a steaming rack. Place the artichokes on a rack and steam until they are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor or indoor grill to high heat.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, hot sauce and  honey. Sir well. Set aside.

Brush the cut side of each artichoke with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Grill artichokes, cut side down, until evenly charred, 4 to 5 minutes.

Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

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Vegetable and Fruit Spring Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 8 ounces fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 4 ounces radishes, sliced in thin rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced or quartered strawberries

Directions

For the dressing: Combine vinegar, oil, chopped strawberries, sugar, tarragon, salt and pepper in a screw top jar. Cover; shake until combined. Set aside.

In a large pot cook green beans and peas in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl toss cooked beans and peas with dressing. Cover; chill for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Stir in radishes and sliced strawberries before serving.

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Roasted Asparagus and Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound assorted fresh mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, chanterelles, morels, stemmed shiitakes), sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium thick asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 475°F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic, sauté until mushrooms are brown and just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add lemon juice and parsley, toss to coat. Set aside.

Arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast asparagus until just tender, about 10 minutes. Arrange asparagus on a serving platter and top with mushrooms.

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Penne Primavera with Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces salmon, cut into 2 portions
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush both sides of the salmon with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down on a small baking sheet and roast until salmon is just lightly pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook until al dente, about 13 minutes, adding asparagus and peas in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta and vegetables and return them to the pot. Place over low heat and stir in tomatoes, crème fraîche, Parmesan and shallot. Remove and discard salmon skin; flake salmon into chunks with a fork and toss into pasta along with dill.

springproduce4

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

For the filling:

  • 6 to 8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups sliced strawberries

For the topping:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, chilled
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest

To make filling: 

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the rhubarb, sugar and orange zest until the rhubarb begins to soften and exude juices, about 2 minutes. Add the butter and flour and bring to a boil while stirring. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the sliced strawberries. Remove from heat and pour the fruit mixture into a deep 10-inch pie dish.

To make topping: 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces. With a fork or pastry cutter, cut the chilled butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and blend. Slowly add the half-and-half with a fork. Spoon the dough over the fruit mixture in the pie dish. Mix together the 2 tablespoons sugar and the orange zest, and sprinkle it over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve with or without whipped cream. Serves 6.


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Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.

Puglia

Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.

The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.

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As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.

In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.

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The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.

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No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.

Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

Taralli are breadsticks typical of Puglia

The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.

Vineyards

Vineyards

Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.

 

pugliabeans

Chickpea Soup

Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Finely minced flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.

Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.

Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.

Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.

Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.

Orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and red pepper

Orecchiette with Turnip Tops

Ingredients

  • 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
  • 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
  • 1 fresh chili pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta

Directions

Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.

Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.

Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.

In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper.  Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.

When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.

pugliapizza

Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)

A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.

Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.

Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.

Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.

Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.

Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.

Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.

Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.

puglia4

Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
  • 2 teaspoons dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions

Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.


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As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Heading West

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Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is referred to as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. In the decades following 1868, Bloomfield was settled by German Catholic immigrants. Beginning around 1900, they were joined by Italians from five towns in the Abruzzi region. Descendants from both groups, with the Italians outnumbering the Germans, still give the neighborhood its character today.

The residents are diverse, as the neighborhood has a combination of working class Italian-Americans, various other European populations, African-Americans and a substantial population of college students. It is a decidedly urban neighborhood, with narrow streets and alleys packed with row houses. Liberty Avenue is the neighborhood’s main business thoroughfare.

Ciao Pittsburgh is western Pennsylvania’s longest-running online magazine covering all things Italian. They write about Italian cuisine, culture and traditions that have been passed from generation to generation. The magazine advocates for Italian-Americans and provides readers a platform to connect and unite with other Italian-Americans. Each month, they highlight the people, places, traditions and events among the Italian community with in-depth features and articles. Visit the magazine site. Here is a local recipe from a recent edition.

Nicky D Cooks: Pesci Pizzaiola

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Copyright 2011  Check out Nancy’s blog.

“White Fish in herbed tomato sauce – a simple peasant dish that goes perfectly over rice pilaf, couscous or lightly dressed orzo in olive oil.”

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  lbs cod fillets or white fish fillets
  • 1 -2 cans small tomato sauce
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup (about) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the pan, then put fish on top of the onions. Pour a thin coat of the tomato sauce over the fish. Sprinkle oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and cheese over the fish. Cover and bake fish in the oven about ½ hr (approximately) or until the fish is done. The fish will become white and flaky – this is when it is done.

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Marion County West Virginia

Italian heritage is especially strong in Mountaineer Country, where at least 11% of the population of the Mountaineer Country has Italian ancestry. Many Italians originally immigrated to West Virginia in the early twentieth century to work in the coal mines throughout the state. Specialty glass factories in this region were largely an Italian immigrant industry with factories in Fairmont, Mannington and Clarksburg. Italian stonemasons were also common in the early communities.

Today Fairmont, Clarksburg and Morgantown form a tri-city area with a strong Italian American network, where community members maintain strong family ties which often include distant relatives, godparents and family friends. Families keep in contact by gathering at significant life events, such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals.

Local organizations, like the Sons of Italy in Morgantown, provide an important meeting place for the Italian American community. These organizations promote various cultural programs. The Sons of Italy, for example, organizes an Italian language course at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Morgantown. Morgantown is also home to the recently formed Committee for the Preservation of Italian History and Culture. This group raises money for local cultural events and sponsors historical programs of special interest to the Italian community.

One important event of the year in the region is the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Held in September each year, this event features traditional and contemporary Italian music and dance, bocce tournaments, homemade wine contests and plenty of Italian food. The event is a focal point statewide for the Italian American community.

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Writer, filmmaker, Robert Tinnell, grew up in the small town of Rivesville, (Marion County) West Virginia, in an extended, Italian-American family.  His comic strips are based on his experiences. Robert Tinnell’s Feast of the Seven Fishes has taken on a life of its own. It began as his family’s story of Christmas Eve and became a ‘graphic novel’ or strip, telling an engaging story. Check out Robert’s blog.

Stuffed Calamari

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Here’s a recipe for one of Robert’s favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes dishes as described on his blog.

You Will Need:  2-4 pounds of calamari (squid), bread crumbs, salt, pepper, fresh grated Parmesan and/or romano cheese, eggs, garlic, basil, water, milk and additional chopped up portions of  various seafood. He recommends serving them in Tomato Sauce.

How You Do It:

Remove the tentacles from the calamari, leaving only the body cavity.
Prepare a homemade tomato sauce and allow it to simmer while preparing the stuffing.

The Stuffing – In a large bowl, combine two 15 oz. cans of bread crumbs (or four cups fresh bread crumbs), one head of minced garlic, cup of milk and an egg. Add cheese to preference and chopped seafood. Mix by hand until you get a thick moist mixture; add more milk if necessary.

Now, take the stuffing and fill each calamari tube (tight but not too tight) and place in an olive oiled casserole dish. Lay the stuffed calamari in rows.
Drizzle the stuffed calamari with olive oil and cheese, then pour your sauce over top the entire dish.
Cover with foil and place in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 450 degrees F for about an hour.

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Brier Hill is a neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, that was once viewed as the city’s “Little Italy” district. The neighborhood, which was the site of the city’s first Italian settlement, stretches along the western edge of Youngstown’s lower north side and encircles St. Anthony’s Church, an Italian-American Roman Catholic parish. Each year, at the end of August, the Brier Hill Fest attracts thousands of visitors from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

The neighborhood was the birthplace of “Brier Hill pizza”, a home-style recipe with origins in the Basilicata region of Italy. Brier Hill pizza is prepared with a generous amount of thick “Sunday sauce”, bell peppers and romano cheese, as opposed to the more typical mozzarella topping. It is one of several dishes the Youngstown area prides itself upon, in much the same way New Yorkers value their distinctive thin-crusted New York-style pizza.

According to Tony Trolio, the organizer of the Brier Hill Memorial Tribute Plaque project, most of the Italians that lived in Brier Hill all came from the same area in Italy; Colobraro, Provincia, Matera and Basilicata. “My parents, Antonio and Nicolette Trolio, came to America in 1922,” said Trolio, who added that they lived on Pershing Street, near St. Anthony’s. Sharing that his father, who was a plumber, continued all of the traditional Italian customs, including having a huge garden and making homemade wine and sausage. Trolio added, “My mother, like all the mothers, made pizza.” He added however, that his mother made and sold about 300 pizzas every week. “We bought boxes for her and called it Mama Mia’s Pizza.”

“I wrote two books about Brier Hill and, in fact, I claimed to be the first one to come up with the name Brier Hill Pizza,” said Trolio, adding that he also led the move to have four road signs installed claiming Brier Hill as the first Italian settlement in Youngstown. “This exciting event brings our tribute to our parents and neighborhood full cycle with two books written, four historic road signs installed honoring Youngstown’s first Italian immigrants and, finally, the memorial plaque,” said Trolio. The plaque is installed next to the parish’s cornerstone on the outside of the church where Trolio said he received his first communion, was confirmed, married and from where many of his family members funeral masses were held. (http://www.towncrieronline.com/)

 Steve and Marian DeGenaro in the kitchen at St Anthony Church in Youngstown Friday 4-24-09. They and about 25 volunteers make and sell several hundred pizza's/week as a church fundraiser. See more at: http://www.vindy.com/photos


Steve and Marian DeGenaro in the kitchen at St Anthony Church in Youngstown Friday 4-24-09. They and about 25 volunteers make and sell several hundred pizza’s/week as a church fundraiser. See more at: http://www.vindy.com/photos

St. Anthony’s Church still sells its Brier Hill pizza by the pie on most Friday mornings. It is a simple recipe consisting of red sauce, red/green peppers and romano cheese. It was a pizza that many early southern Italian immigrants could make from ingredients grown in their own backyards. Many years later, it has become a source of pride for a city that takes food very seriously. There are lots of great places in Youngstown that sell their own version of this style of pizza. However, for the real deal, you need to get a pie at St. Anthony’s church.

Modarelli Baking Company posted a recipe for the Brier Hill sauce on their Facebook page and writes:

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brier Hill Pizza… It’s a ‘style’ of pizza that originated in a Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood called Brier Hill just uphill from Youngstown Sheet and Tube. It was a neighborhood of Italian immigrants including my grandparents. From this neighborhood emerged a unique style of pizza that is Now called Brierhill. It was made from their gardens with tomatoes, peppers and garlic and had only pecorino romano cheese on top.”

This will make 2 – 12” or 4 – 6” pizzas

Sauce

  • 2 large cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large can tomato puree
  • Dried Basil, .about 1-2  teaspoons
  • Dried Oregano, about 1/4 teaspoon
  • Dried Parsley, about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 4 Bell peppers (2 red & 2 green) chopped 1/2”- 1” chunks
  • 2- 4 large cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Romano cheese
  • …and MY secret ingredient 2-3 in. chunk pepperoni
  • Favorite pizza dough crust/shell, see recipe below

Directions

Slowly brown garlic in olive oil in a saucepan…when it starts getting soft and slightly yellow-i crush it with the back of a spoon and let it get a darker yellow.
Add peppers and let it cool slightly before putting sauce in or it will ”sizzles” at you.
Add tomatoes, herbs and pepperoni chunk and bring to boil then simmer on low heat for at least 45 min. You can pull out garlic when done.
“Sometimes I add 1 hot pepper sliced in half or put in hot pepper seeds while cooking. Sometimes I will add some onion powder and garlic powder (1 teaspoon each and some seasoned salt ¼ teaspoon).”

Spread sauce/peppers on pizza dough, sprinkle on a generous amount of grated pecorino romano cheese and bake.

Pizza Dough

  • 1-1/2 cup warm water (100* to 105* F)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/4 oz Active Dry Yeast Packet
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups of bread flour

(BY HAND) Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl, Add the sugar and packet of yeast. Stir the mixture slowly until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Let sit to allow the mixture to “mature” about 10 minutes or so, The mixture will begin to react: clouding and forming a foamy froth on the surface of the mixture.

Add the salt and olive oil and stir again to combine and dissolve the ingredients. Add one cup of flour and whisk in until dissolved. Add the second cup of flour and whisk it in. Add the third cup of flour and combine. The dough mixture should be fairly thick. Add the last cup of floor and with your hands begin to combine and knead the dough.

Remove the dough ball to the tabletop to knead it. You may need to add a dusting of flour from time to time to reduce the stickiness of the dough. Be patient, folding the dough ball in half, then quarters over and over again for about 8 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done well when the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Coat the dough ball with a thin layer of olive oil and place at the bottom of a large mixing bowl which has been coated on the inside with some olive oil and cover with a stretched piece of kitchen film or kitchen towel.

MIXER OR FOOD PROCESSOR: put all dry ingredients in as listed above and run the machine for about a minute on low-speed to mix the ingredients dry. Add the water slowly and mix/knead until a ball is formed (not usually more than a couple of minutes of machine running time).

Set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed for an hour or so until the dough ball grows at least twice its original size. Punch down lightly and let sit for another hour of rising before spreading in a pizza pan.

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The Hill is a neighborhood within St. Louis, Missouri, located south of Forest Park. Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill. The first Italians to move to St. Louis were Lombard villagers from the region around Milan. Fleeing poverty and overpopulation, they arrived in the 1880s to work in St. Louis’s clay mines and brick factories. At the turn of the century, Sicilians came to work in the same factories and were soon sharing the Hill with their northern cousins.

The first restaurants on the Hill began as taverns catering to workers and evolved over the years into Italian American restaurants. On their menus you’ll find the standards: spaghetti carbonara, cannelloni, scampi, plenty of veal dishes and, usually, ”toasted” ravioli—a definitive St. Louis Italian specialty, said to have been born by accident about fifty years ago at a restaurant on the Hill when a piece of the stuffed pasta fell into a pot of hot fat.

Tony Catarinicchia, who left Palermo more than 25 years ago, says, ”Good Italian food doesn’t need too many ingredients and should never be over sauced,”. Catarinicchia draws crowds of locals to his restaurant with his  long list of dishes including fried artichokes, pennette all’arrabbiata and seafood ravioli. His eggplant parmesan is made in the summertime with ingredients picked from the restaurant’s garden.

The Hill is one of St. Louis’s least changed and most stable neighborhoods. Currently, about three-quarters of the residents are Italian-Americans. The neighborhood is home to a large number of locally renowned Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, salons and two bocce gardens.

Tony’s Eggplant Parmesan

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(http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Eggplant-Parmesan)

Serves 4

This southern Italian classic might be named after the cheese that tops it—but some Sicilians think the title comes from palmigiana , meaning ”shutter”, describing the way the eggplant slices are often overlapped.

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups dried plain bread crumbs, sifted
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 3/4 cup grated provolone cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°f. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs together in another shallow dish. Mix bread crumbs with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a third shallow dish. Set dishes aside.

Peel and trim eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2” pieces. Dredge each slice first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.

Heat remaining ⅛ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add breaded eggplant slices to the hot oil (working in batches, if needed) and cook until golden on both sides and dark brown on the edges, 2-3 minutes per side.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large shallow ovenproof dish. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on top of tomato sauce. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Scatter basil on top of sauce and sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano, then provolone. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

Read Part 1

Read Part 2



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