Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: shrimp

shrimpcover

There are Gulf Shrimp, Farm Raised Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp, Imported Shrimp and Coldwater Shrimp. The flavor and texture of each type of shrimp are influenced by the waters they come from or are raised in, plus from what they eat or are fed. Wild shrimp feed on seaweed and crustaceans which gives them a more enriched flavor and thicker shells. The ability to swim freely also makes the meat firmer.

Shrimp are abundant in America, especially off the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards in inshore waters, wherever the bottom is sandy. Shrimp are in season from May to October and 95% of the shrimp caught come from the warm waters of the South Atlantic and Gulf states.

Fresh shrimp are highly perishable and should be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Unless you live in the part of the country where you can actually buy “fresh” shrimp, it is best to buy frozen shrimp. All shrimp are frozen soon after they are caught, usually right on the fishing vessel. Those “fresh” shrimp in the store? They are previously frozen and thawed. The shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days, whereas shrimp stored in the freezer retain their quality for several weeks.

Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it’s a sign they are way past their prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. Do not buy shrimp with black spots or rings (unless it’s black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting to break down.

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In the United States, shrimp are sold by count. This is a rating of the size and weight of the shrimp. The count represents the number of shrimp in a pound for a given size category. If you are grilling or serving the shrimp as a main course, you probably want 21-25 or larger (16-20). If you are stir-frying or adding to a soup or pasta dish, you probably want a smaller shrimp (31-35 or 36-40).

The terms “shrimp” and “prawns” can be confusing. In many restaurants, larger shrimp are referred to as “prawns,” while smaller shrimp are called “shrimp.” However, both shrimp and prawns can come from saltwater or freshwater and there is no absolute standard for measuring their size. Scientists say there are no real differences.

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in America, with close to 1 1/2 billion pounds sold per year. I know it is my first choice and here are some of my favorite recipes:

As An Appetizer

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Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the garlic, Italian seasoning and bell pepper.

In a skillet, sauté the shrimp in the oil over moderately high heat, turning the shrimp once, until just barely pink. Add the lemon juice and parsley and toss gently. Garnish with lemon wedges.

In A Sandwich

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Oven Fried Shrimp Sandwich

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 inch lengths of baguette, split in half
  • Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (hot) sauce, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten to mix
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, shelled
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 tomato, cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the bread, cut-side up, on a baking pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco sauce.

To prepare the shrimp:

Oil another baking pan and place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk and the egg. In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Dip the shrimp into the flour, then into the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs. Place on a plate until all the shrimp are breaded.

Transfer the shrimp to the preheated baking pan Bake the shrimp for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned, turning them over halfway through baking.

Place the bread in the oven with the shrimp after you turn the shrimp over and bake the pieces of baguette until they are lightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

Spread the sauce on both sides of the bread and add lettuce, tomato and shrimp.

In A Salad

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Grilled Shrimp Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 small heads Boston lettuce or any tender lettuce (about 1/2 pound in all), torn into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a blender, combine the anchovies, garlic and lemon zest. Pulse to chop. Add the mint, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan. Oil the grill or pan. Cook the shrimp until they just turn pink. Large shrimp will need about three minutes per side.

Transfer the shrimp to a medium glass bowl and toss with half the dressing.

Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl and toss with the remaining dressing.

Put the greens on individual serving plates; top with the grilled shrimp.

As A First Course

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Spaghettini with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Spicy Crumbs

Serves 6-8 as a first course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and scored on the bottoms with an X
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarse bread crumbs (about 2 ounces), made from stale bread
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghettini
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Put the plum tomatoes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Roast for about 20 minutes, just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes are barely softened. Let cool slightly, then peel the tomatoes and finely chop or mash them in the baking dish.

Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon zest, a large pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl.

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and add them to the skillet.

Cook over high heat, tossing once or twice, until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the shrimp, basil and reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing, until the pasta is coated in a light sauce and the shrimp are evenly distributed.

Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls and scatter the cherry tomatoes all around. Top each with tomato sauce and bread crumbs.

As A Main Course

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Stuffed Shrimp Oreganata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp (16-20 per pound) 
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact.

To butterfly them: make a slit along the back side, taking care not to slice all the way through the body.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick olive oil spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until soft and just beginning to turn golden – do not brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.

Spoon even portions of the breadcrumb mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp in the baking pan. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

While the shrimp are cooking, heat the minced garlic and olive oil in a saute pan until the garlic turns light brown, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the white wine and heat until almost dry; add the chicken stock and basil.

Heat the sauce for 3 minutes and place onto the bottom of a large platter. Place Shrimp Oreganata on top of the tomatoes sauce.

Quarter the lemon into 4 pieces and serve with the shrimp.


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Keeping your ingredient list simple is often the most effective way to prepare pasta sauces. A simple sauce highlights only one or two different flavors, enabling you to enjoy the texture of the pasta. While basic tomato sauce is a classic choice, sauces featuring olive oil as the primary ingredient also lend themselves to a simple but flavorful preparation. Use an extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Grated Parmesan cheese adds a distinct flavor and creamy texture when mixed through the hot pasta. Sprinkling some chili flakes on the dish adds some spice. You can also add sautéed shrimp or diced chicken to make the dish more substantial.

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Pasta Cooking Tips:

Use a tall, deep cooking pot rather than a wide, shallow one. Remembering that the pasta will swell, generously fill up the pot with about 4 quarts of water.

Season the water with salt before you add the pasta. It’s the best way to bring out the pasta flavor.

Do not add olive oil to the cooking water. If you’re trying to keep the pasta from clumping as it cooks, make sure you have plenty of water in the pot and stir frequently, especially early in the cooking process. Don’t add it to drained pasta, either… it will only make your carefully prepared sauce slide right off the pasta.

There’s no need to rinse your cooked pasta with water. The starch helps the sauce bind to the pasta. Pasta for a salad can be quickly cooled by spreading out the pasta on a baking pan.

Before draining, save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce. Add enough to help loosen the sauce.

To reheat cooked pasta, place pasta in a colander and pour hot or boiling water over it or immerse it in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. Cooked pasta will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

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Shrimp Scampi over Whole-Grain Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic, crushed red pepper, wine and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet and simmer 1 minute. Stir in shrimp and heat.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Toss pasta with the shrimp mixture, lemon juice and parsley. Add reserved cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten.

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Linguine with Pancetta and Peas

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz linguine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 3 slices pancetta or bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat; add garlic, stir occasionally until they begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add peas; season with salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with peas. Toss well and add some reserved pasta water, a little at a time to coat the pasta. Add the Pecorino Romano. Toss with the pancetta or bacon and garnish with black pepper.

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Thin Spaghetti with Sausage and Spring Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 8 oz thin spaghetti
  • 8 oz link of Italian pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced into 2″ lengths
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Directions

Cook pasta al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta.

Mix together the parmesan cheese, mint, basil, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Cut into thin slices.

Add the olive oil to the pan and heat over medium. Add the mushrooms, peas and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring.

Return the sausage to the pan and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until everything is warmed through.

Add the cooked pasta and sprinkle with the reserved pasta cooking water.

Serve in individual pasta bowls. Drizzle each lightly with olive oil and top with a tablespoon of the herb-cheese mixture.

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Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Artichokes

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extras for the grill
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, rinsed or a package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted.
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving.

Directions

Light an outdoor grill or heat a grill pan. Oil the grill or grill pan.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken until just about cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Let the chicken rest and, then, slice into 1/4-inch thin slices.

Cook pasta al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the cooking water before draining.

Cut the artichoke hearts into smaller wedges.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add the artichoke hearts and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken and some of the reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss and cook an additional minute.

Add the fresh parsley and Romano cheese and serve immediately with more grated cheese on the side.

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Spring Vegetable Pasta Salad

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Pasta

  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente
  • 4 ounces asparagus, blanched and thinly sliced on the bias
  • One 10 oz package frozen peas, defrosted
  • One 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Parmigiano- Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the pasta:

Mix the pasta with the asparagus, peas, roasted peppers, tomatoes, fennel, shallots and basil.

Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat.

Let the salad rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to absorb the flavors before serving.

When ready to serve, toss and shave cheese over the top.


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The Southeast

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.

Residents of St. Helena, all from Northern Italy, about 1908. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Residents of St. Helena, all from Northern Italy, about 1908. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Saint Helena, North Carolina

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Saint Helena began as one of six immigrant colonies established by Wilmington developer, Hugh Mac Rae. He attracted Italian farmers to Saint Helena with promises of 10 acres and a three-room home for $240, payable over three years.

St. Helena was named for an Italian queen, Elena, the wife of King Victor Emmanuel III and the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro. In the Spring of 1906, eight immigrants from, Rovig, Veneto in Northern Italy, arrived. Within the year, they were followed by about 75 more adventurous individuals.

Planting a vineyard at St. Helena. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Planting a vineyard at St. Helena. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

The first group of immigrants cleared the wooded land for vineyards. Most of the immigrants had lived in the Italian wine country and were experienced vineyard dressers. One of their first tasks was to plant fields of grapevines. They also planted crops, such as peas and strawberries. The Italian ladies made plans to open a bakery.

By 1909, about 150 immigrants lived in St. Helena. The surnames included Bertazza, Yarbo, Trevisano, Laghetto, Berto, Borin, Ferro, Marcomin, Rossi, Fornasiero, Codo, Tasmassia, Rossi, Malosti, Tamburin, Santato, Ghirardello, Liago, Bouincontri, Canbouncci, Lorenzini, Garrello, Antonio, Martinelli, Canavesio, Perino, Ronchetto, and Bartolera.  From this group, fifteen musicians emerged who served as the Italian Brass Band that welcomed all newcomers to the Mac Rae settlements.

The Church of St. Joseph. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

The Church of St. Joseph. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Most of the settlers were Roman Catholics and their first mass at St. Helena was held in a shed near the depot by the Rev. Joseph A. Gallagher in 1906. The newcomers, assisted by 2 or 3 carpenters from Wilmington, built the Church of St. Joseph. The church was held in great affection and served numerous waves of immigrants in St. Helena until it burned in 1934. Another Church of St. Joseph was constructed on Highway 17 in 1954 and it still exists today.

Prohibition put an end to their wine making venture. However, another great success story originated in St. Helena. James Pecora, a native of Calabria, Italy, brought the superior Calabria variety of broccoli and other vegetables to North Carolina to create a successful produce business.

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Italian Cabbage with Tomatoes and Pecorino Romano Cheese

This robust side dish is served as an accompaniment to meats.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound savoy cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut into very thin rings
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 canned Italian plum tomatoes or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup tomato liquid from the can, or chicken stock or beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pecorino Romano for serving

Directions

Remove the core of the cabbage and cut the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch strips. You should have about 4 firmly packed cups of cabbage strips.

Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until they start to soften and brown. Add the cabbage and garlic, stirring to blend well.

Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the cabbage and add them to the pan. Add the tomato liquid (or stock), vinegar and thyme.

Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is softened.

Stir the butter into the cabbage. Serve with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Charleston, South Carolina

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Giovanni Baptista Sanguinetti was a native of Genoa, Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1879.  He entered the country through New York and settled in Charleston, SC. Sanguinetti, like most Italian immigrants during this period, was young.  He was 25-years old.  In order for Sanguinetti to fit into the Charleston community, he “Americanized” his name. Giovanni Sanguinetti became John Sanguinett. This change was reflected in the city directory and on his death certificate. Sanguinetti, a sailor by trade, worked for the Clyde Steamship Line as a longshoreman. Italian immigrants were very commonly employed as longshoremen because they were willing to work for lower wages and this created a great conflict with the locals.

Many employers exploited this conflict so that they could take advantage of the Italians’ working for a lower wage. Immigrants in Charleston faced difficulties in finding housing. They were relegated to live in specific areas of downtown Charleston. They, along with other immigrants, were expected to live east of King Street and north of Broad Street. This area encompasses the current historical district, including the “market.”  Giovanni lived his entire life in this area and spent most of his working life on the wharf loading and unloading ships.

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In Italy and the Northern US cities, Italian workers were recruited for Southern states by padroni. The padroni were Italians who were paid to recruit Italian workers. Many Italians were recruited to be tenant farmers and work the fields or work in the Southern mills.

Italians were not desirable as immigrants in South Carolina. Ben Tillman, one of South Carolina’s most fervent politicians and later Governor, spoke very strongly against recruiting Italians to his state. Tillman preferred to recruit immigrants from Northern Europe.  As a result, South Carolina created its own Bureau of Immigration in 1881.

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Vegetarian Lasagna with Artichoke Sauce

Nancy Noble’s vegetarian lasagna with artichoke sauce won the 2011 Lasagna Contest sponsored by the local chapter of the Sons of Italy. From the Post and Courier.

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 to 6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 4 (28-ounce) cans crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil in large pot. Saute onions with garlic, basil, oregano, parsley and pepper flakes for 5 minutes. Add black pepper.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste and season with salt.

Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade and set aside. Add the artichoke marinade to sauce. Simmer another 30 minutes.

Cut artichoke heart pieces in half and add to the sauce. Simmer another 15 minutes.

Stir in grated cheese and adjust seasonings.

For the lasagna:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 recipe of artichoke sauce
  • 2 boxes of no-cook lasagna noodles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two 9 x 13 inch baking dishes.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the ricotta cheese and eggs until smooth and creamy. Reserve a few handfuls of the mozzarella to sprinkle on top of the dish. Add the remaining mozzarella to the ricotta mixture along with the parsley, salt and pepper.

In a 9 x 13-inch pan, spread a thin layer of sauce. Cover with a layer of the lasagna noodles. Spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture. Continue layering until pan is full.

Repeat with a second 9 x 13-inch pan. Top both with sauce and sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top.

Bake about 30 minutes, making sure not to let the cheese brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Elberton, Georgia

part6georgiaimmigrants

Beginning in the early twentieth century, millions of immigrants entered the United States from Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and the Middle East and some of these new arrivals found their way to Georgia. In many cases, the immigrants moved into neighborhoods where friends and relatives from their home country had already settled, and established themselves as members of the community. For example, Jewish Russian immigrants became prominent citizens of Columbus, Italian immigrants pursued opportunities in Elberton’s granite industry and Lebanese immigrants contributed to the growth of Valdosta.

Elbert County sits on a subterranean bed of granite in the Piedmont geologic province. It was identified at the turn of the twentieth century as the Lexington-Oglesby Blue Granite Belt that measures about fifteen miles wide and twenty-five miles long and stretches into nearby counties. In the county’s early history, the granite was seen more as a nuisance rather than as an industry, especially for residents primarily engaged in agricultural activities. Early uses of granite included grave markers and foundation and chimney stone.

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After the Civil War (1861-65), however, new possibilities for Elberton’s granite began to emerge. In 1882, Elberton’s first quarry was opened to get construction stone for use by one of the local railroads. By 1885 a second quarry was also opened. During the 1890s, Elberton’s potential as a producer of granite solidified as more quarries in the city and county were opened. On July 6, 1889, the Elberton Star, the local newspaper, christened the town the “Granite City.”

In 1898 Arthur Beter, an Italian sculptor, executed the first statue carved out of Elberton granite. A small building constructed to house the statue during its completion became the town’s first granite shed.

During the immigration period from Italy, skilled laborers came to Elbert County to pursue a livelihood in the granite business. Among the many new arrivals were Charles C. Comolli, founder and owner of the Georgia Granite Corporation and Richard Cecchini, a highly skilled stone sculpturer. The industry flourished with the creation of new sheds and the opening of additional quarries in the years following.

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A little bit of Georgia folklore:

Labor-Inducing Eggplant Parmigiana

Nearly 300 baby pictures decorate Scalini’s old-fashioned Italian restaurant. All of the babies pictured on the Italian restaurant wall were born after their mothers ate the Scalini’s eggplant parmigiana. The breaded eggplant smothered in cheese and thick marinara sauce is “guaranteed” to induce labor, the restaurant claims. The eggplant legend began not long after the restaurant opened 23 years ago.

“Two or three years after we began, a few people had just mentioned to us they came in when they were pregnant, and ate this eggplant and had a baby a short time after that,” said John Bogino, who runs the restaurant with his son, Bobby Bogino. “One person told another, and it just grew by itself by leaps and bounds.”

To date, more than 300 of the pregnant women customers who ordered the eggplant have given birth within 48 hours, and the restaurant dubs them the “eggplant babies.” If it doesn’t work in two days, the moms-to-be get a gift certificate for another meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized eggplants
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups fine Italian bread crumbs (seasoned)
  • Olive oil
  • 8 cups marinara sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese

Scalini’s Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cups tomatoes (fresh or canned), chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sweet basil, chopped
  • Pinch thyme
  • Pinch rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices. You may choose to peel the eggplant before you slice it. Place the eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt, then cover with another layer of paper towels and hold it down with something heavy to drain the excess moisture. Let them sit for about an hour.

Working with one slice of eggplant at a time, dust with flour, dip in beaten eggs, then coat well with breadcrumbs. Saute in preheated olive oil on both sides until golden brown.

In a baking dish, alternate layers of marinara sauce, eggplant slices, ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, until you fill the baking dish, about 1/8 inch from the top. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree F oven. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Scalini’s Marinara Sauce Directions

Lightly saute the onions in olive oil in large pot for a few minutes.

Add garlic and saute another minute. Add tomatoes and bring sauce to a boil, then turn heat to low. Add remaining ingredients, stir, cover and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Recipe courtesy of John Bogino, Scalini’s Italian Restaurant, Georgia (scalinis.com).

Miami, Florida

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Julia DeForest Tuttle (1849-1898), Henry Morrison Flagler (1830- 1913), James Deering, (1859-1925) and other American pioneers were busy displaying their understanding of Italian culture as they built railways, planned a city and erected palatial estates in Miami and Southeast Florida. The hotels and the villas built in Miami replicated the symbols of status of the early modern European courts.

The landscape and architecture of Villa Vizcaya were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style with Baroque elements. Paul Chalfin was the design director.

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Vizcaya was created as James Deering’s winter home and, today, it is a National Historic Landmark and museum. The planning and construction of Vizcaya lasted over a decade, from 1910 to 1922. Deering modeled his estate after an old Italian country villa. This involved the large-scale purchase of European antiques and the design of buildings and landscapes to accommodate them. Deering began to purchase the land for Vizcaya in 1910 and, that same year, he made his first trip to Italy to acquire antiquities.

Deering purchased an additional 130 acres of land and construction on the site began in the following year. About a thousand individuals were employed at the height of construction in creating Vizcaya, including several hundred construction workers, stonecutters and craftsmen from the northeastern states, Italy and the Bahamas.

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James Deering died in September 1925 and the property was passed to his relatives. In 1952 Miami-Dade County acquired the villa and formal Italian gardens, which needed significant restoration, for $1 million. Deering’s heirs donated the villa’s furnishings and antiquities to the County-Museum. Vizcaya began operation in 1953 as the Dade County Art Museum.

The village and remaining property were acquired by the County during the mid-1950s. In 1994 the Vizcaya estate was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 1998, in conjunction with Vizcaya’s accreditation process by the American Alliance of Museums, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust was formed to be the museum’s governing body.

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Linguine Frutti di Mare

Serves 2 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 5 oz.fresh linguine pasta
  • 4 jumbo shrimp
  • 12 small scallops
  • 6 mussels
  • 6 clams
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1.5 oz. white wine
  • 1 tablespoon. garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon. lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon basil, chopped and a sprig for garnish
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a hot pan. Add garlic, then sauté for about two minutes. Add shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, tomatoes and kosher salt. Add the wine and cover the pan to steam another two minutes.Add tomato sauce to the pan of seafood and stir.

Put the fresh pasta into boiling salted water. When the pasta is al dente, drain, add to the seafood pan and mix well. Add the chopped basil, mix and divide between two pasta serving bowls. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

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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.

The South

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Birmingham

Italians arriving in New Orleans often went to work first on Louisiana citrus farms or one of the state’s sugar cane plantations. But word got around that Birmingham offered a chance to earn wages in one of its factories. Attracted by the promise of better pay, many Italian immigrants left Louisiana for Birmingham. They were joined by fellow Italian immigrants who came directly from Sicily or other parts of Italy, or who may have spent some time in a northern city before deciding to head south to seek better paying jobs.

By 1910, Birmingham’s Italian population numbered almost 2,000 and was spread out over several neighborhoods. There was Little Italy in Ensley, a working class neighborhood associated with Tennessee Coal and Iron. There was the Italian community of Thomas, where Republic Steel was located. To the west lay another Little Italy, in West Blocton, where Italian immigrants mined coal and the town is known to this day for its Italian Catholic cemetery. Each community was anchored by a Catholic parish, supplying social and spiritual support and operating schools for Italian speaking children. Corner grocery stores, some of which grew into major supermarket chains, supplemented their owners’ income. Fig trees, small family gardens and even livestock kept Italian food traditions alive.

La Storia: Birmingham’s Italian Community exhibition at Vulcan Park and Museum

Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue and is considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. Both the Vulcan statue and the pedestal it stands upon, display the Italian heritage that is prevalent throughout Vulcan Park and the Birmingham community. Designed by Italian artist, Giuseppe Moretti, and cast from local iron in 1904, Vulcan has overlooked Alabama’s largest city from atop Red Mountain since the 1930s. Vulcan Park and Museum features spectacular views of Birmingham, an interactive history museum and Birmingham’s Italian immigrant story.

Italian Americans had a huge impact on not only Vulcan Park and the Museum, but also on the city itself. La Storia tells the story of Italian immigration to the city of Birmingham from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century.  While the exhibit showcases prosperity for Italian immigrants, it also documents the hardships these immigrant families endured as a community and how they relied on faith and family to hold them together.

Cassoeula

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A traditional dish that is popular in Northern Italy—particularly in Lombardy. Alabama Italian chef/owner, Marco Morosini shares his expertise in cooking this comforting recipe. B-Metro Magazine December 2013

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 Spare ribs
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 8 pieces pork rind (optional)
  • 1 large head Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • Salt

Directions

Place the extra virgin olive oil, carrots, celery and onion in a large pan over low to medium heat. Brown for approximately five minutes. Add and brown the spare ribs. Add the pork rind. After five more minutes add the sausages. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Add the Savoy cabbage. Stir until all are well mixed. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Serve over polenta. Serves eight.

part56

Mississippi Delta

Few people associate the South with Italian immigration to America, assuming immigrants settled only in the urban Northeast. Yet, many communities throughout the United States have a significant proportion of Italian Americans. Immigrants gravitated to places where they could find work, whether it be in the garment industry, coal mines, farms, fisheries, canning factories or lumber mills. In the peak immigration years (1880–1910), the American South attracted its share of Italian immigrants.

The first immigrants to the Delta in the 1880s, were hired to repair levees or as farm laborers on the plantations. Some of these families became peddlers selling goods to farmers. In 1895, some Italians crossed the Mississippi River to work in the Arkansas Delta. They were mostly from central Italy and experienced in farm work.

The late 19th century saw the arrival of larger numbers of Italian immigrants, who left Italy seeking economic opportunities. Some Italians from Sicily settled as families along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Gulfport, preserving close ties with those from their homeland. They worked in the fishing and canning industries. Others were merchants, operating grocery stores, liquor stores and tobacco shops. The seafood (and small shipyard) industry of Biloxi was mainly owned by the family of Andrew H. Longino – Governor of Mississippi from 1900 to 1904, who was the first governor of a southern US State to be of Italian heritage.

Life was very challenging for the immigrants. They found the adjustment to the South’s climate especially difficult; Italian farmers did not have experience with cotton and sugarcane crops and many immigrants died as a result of  malaria. While some of the settlers remained in the Delta, bought land and became cotton farmers, others moved to Italian communities in northern Missouri, Alabama and Tennessee.

The Italian Americans were often victims of prejudice, economic exploitation and violence. The Delta states were no exception. Mississippi and Louisiana became a worldwide symbol of Anti-Italianism. In the twentieth century, mainly after World War I , the Italians were slowly accepted and integrated into society. The food and restaurant industry was one of the areas where they gained acceptance and economic success.

Italians developed a distinctive cultural life in the Delta, preserving traditional ways from their Italian ancestry and, yet, adapting to the culture of the American South. Families continued to make wine and cook Italian food with recipes long passed down from their grandmothers.

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Italians established restaurants that helped popularize Italian food in the region. Greenwood, in particular, has several restaurants with deep Italian connections. Lusco’s and Giardina’s both trace their ancestry to families from Cefalu in Sicily. Charles and Marie Lusco were first generation Italian immigrants, who established a grocery store in 1921. Local cotton farmers spent time there, playing cards in the back of the store, eating the dishes that Marie prepared and drinking Charles’s homemade wine. Lusco’s emerged from a grocery store into a restaurant because their food became popular. Patrons and customers began requesting the sauces made in the restaurant to take home. As a result, Lusco’s began bottling and marketing the three most requested salad dressings and sauces.

Beef and Spinach Lasagna

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Mississippi Farm Families recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 32 oz (4 cups) homemade spaghetti sauce
  • 14 ½ oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 10 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef 8 – 10 minutes until no longer pink. Pour off the drippings.

Season with salt. Add tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and red pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese and egg.

Spread 2 cups beef sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange 5 lasagna noodles in single layer completely covering the bottom. Press noodles into sauce.

Spread entire ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and top with 2 cups beef sauce.

Arrange remaining noodles in a single layer and press lightly into sauce. Top with remaining beef sauce.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until noodles are tender. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Tent lightly with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into 12 servings.

part51

Galveston

Galveston was called the “Ellis Island of the West” as it was the primary point of entry for European immigrants settling in the western United States. By 1910, there were more than 1,000 Italian immigrants living in Galveston.  The language barrier and discrimination caused the Italian immigrants to stick together. Most of the southern Italians were fishermen, laborers and farmers, while the northern Italians tended to be businessmen. The northern Italians used their business skills to set up small, family owned shops. At the time, half the grocery stores in Galveston were owned by Italian families, who made up only 2 percent of the population. “There was an Italian grocery store on every street corner,” said Anthony Piperi, 89, who remembers those days well. Piperi said those who did well in business formed benevolent societies to help the new immigrants and the less fortunate get a foothold. “Fifty percent of them owned some kind of small business,” Piperi said. “By the second generation, everybody had a lawyer or doctor in the family.”

The reason the Italian community did so well, he said, was that it put a premium on education. Everybody in the second generation tried to get an education, he said, because their parents knew what it was like to try to make it without one. The emphasis on education allowed those children to have great mobility and freedom — a mixed blessing. “The families spread out,” Piperi said. “A brother would get a job in Houston. Somebody else would get a job in New York.” An American Army captain whose father was an immigrant, said one of the many things about the Italian experience in Galveston was how quickly many of the immigrants succeeded in their new American life.

Joe Grasso from Sicily pioneered the shrimp industry along the Texas Gulf Coast. Arriving in Galveston in 1906, he worked as a fisherman and saved his money to buy a boat. For 15 years he sold shrimp as bait to fishermen and, then in the 1920s, he began freezing shrimp to export to Japan, creating a successful business.

The Galveston Shrimp Company was founded in 1978 by Rosario Cassarino, an immigrant from the Italian island of Sicily. For twenty years he and his wife, Giovanna, unloaded  fish and shrimp boats at the historic Pier 19 and sold the catch of the day to Galveston locals and the visiting tourists. In 1994 their son, Nello, took over the daily  operation and moved the company to a larger facility that was more accessible to highway transportation. The company began to shift its focus from a retail operation to a wholesale seafood company that now supplies  retailers and distributors around the nation.

Texas Cioppino

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Chef Maurizio Ferrarese from Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew that originated in San Francisco. This Gulf version using brown shrimp, redfish and blue crab make it a Texas-Italian Cioppino.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds uncooked heads-on shrimp
  • One 4 pound whole redfish
  • 8 live crabs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • Small can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 bay leaves

Directions

Shell the shrimp and filet the fish. Make a stock with the fish bones and head and the shrimp shells and heads. When the stock boils, add the crabs and cook until done, about ten minutes. Remove the crabs and allow to cool. Reserve the crab bodies and claws and return the rest of the crab including the innards to the stockpot. Simmer the stock for a total of 30 minutes adding water as needed, then turn off the heat. You should have 8 cups of stock.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic and jalapeño; saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes, wine and bay leaf.

Strain the stock and pour the strained liquid into the soup pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Cut the fish into 2 inch chunks. Add the shrimp, reserved crab and fish to the soup. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and some hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Serve with crusty bread and nutcrackers for the crab claws.

part59

New Orleans

Italians flocked to New Orleans in the late 1800s because of the growing business of importing Mediterranean citrus into the port city. Many of these immigrants worked on the docks in the fruit district and, eventually, these workers opened grocery stores and restaurants around the city. Italians made up about 90 percent of the immigrants in New Orleans at the time and dominated the grocery industry. Italian contributions to the cuisine include “red gravy”, a red sauce thickened with roux that is used in everything from Creole Daube to grillades, stuffed artichokes and peppers. Today, the Italian influence in shaping Creole cuisine is unmistakable – Southern Italian and Sicilian ingredients fundamentally transformed the cuisine.

Joseph Maselli was a catalyst for countless American Italian activities in Louisiana, founding the first state-wide organization of American Italians that later became the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, an umbrella organization with over 9,000 members from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Ten years later, he founded the Italian American Renaissance Foundation Museum and Research Library, the first of its kind in the South, which contains more than 400 oral tape histories, vertical files on 25,000 individuals and 5,500 American Italian books. Today, it has been renamed the American Italian Cultural Center. To honor Louisiana Italian Americans who have excelled in athletics, he founded the Louisiana Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Maselli focused his energy on civic endeavors and, in particular, on preserving the Italian culture and heritage and fighting against prejudice on behalf of all nationalities. Mr. Maselli was the publisher of the Italian American Digest which he founded to preserve immigrant values of family tradition, hard work and education.

Parmesan Crusted Breast of Chicken

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Vincent’s Italian Cuisine/New Orleans

Vincent’s Italian Cuisine was founded in 1989 by native New Orleanian, Vincent Catalanotto. From a large, close Sicilian family, Vincent grew up eating wonderful food prepared by his parents who were both great cooks. The “little Italian place on the side street” quickly became Metairie’s hidden jewel. Vincent developed a menu that showcased the finest and freshest ingredients available. In fact, there are no walk-in coolers or freezers at Vincent’s – produce, seafood, meats and cheeses are delivered fresh daily. It wasn’t long before Vincent had more customers than chairs. A second location was added in 1997 on St. Charles Avenue near the Riverbend.

CREAMED SPINACH

  • 2 boxes (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sambuca Liqueur
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese

Mix ingredients together and set aside.

CHICKEN

  • 6 Chicken Breast Halves – boneless, skinless, pounded thin
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil

Dredge chicken in flour, dip in beaten eggs, then in parmesan cheese, pressing cheese into chicken until well coated.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan; add chicken and sauté until golden brown.

While cooking chicken, heat creamed spinach in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Spread approximately 3 tablespoons of heated spinach on each dinner plate, then top with a cooked chicken breast.

Finish the dish with lemon butter sauce (as follows).

LEMON BUTTER SAUCE

  • Juice of 2 small or 1 Large Lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup dry White Wine
  • 1 stick butter, cut up
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Green Onions (tops only)

Mix lemon juice, wine and Worcestershire in a small saucepan and cook until reduced.

Add butter and green onions, stirring until butter is melted.

Drizzle over chicken and serve.

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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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Roseto Pennsylvania

In 1882 a group of 11 Italians came to the United States from Roseto, Italy and found work in an area of Pennsylvania that later become known as the town of Roseto. Relatives of these immigrants followed and settled in the same area. By the early 1900s the town was flourishing and a near exact replica of the Roseto, Italy they had left behind. And that was how it remained for years.

By the 1950s the town was bustling with activity. The residents kept to themselves creating an Italian village similar to one in the “Old Country”. However, they didn’t necessarily stick to the “old world” style of cooking and eating. The light flatbread pizza of their homeland was exchanged for heavy bread and cheese. Sausage, meatballs and pasta were a normal dinner, biscotti and other sweets became daily treats and there was always wine.

A physician and University Professor named Stewart Wolf discovered Roseto. Wolf became interested in the townsfolk when he noticed that despite their diets and struggles with obesity, no one really seemed to get sick. He conducted a study of the residents and looked at the incidence of heart disease and heart attack fatalities. He and his team took EKGs of everyone, did blood tests, collected death certificates from decades into the past and conducted exhaustive interviews with the residents.

What he found was astounding. Virtually no one in the town of Rosetto died under the age of 55 from heart disease or heart attack. And the incidences of death from heart disease in men older than 65 was nearly half that of the national averages. In fact, deaths of all causes were 30%-35% lower than expected. There was virtually no alcoholism, no suicide, no drug addiction, no one on welfare and crime was practically nonexistent. There were also no occurrences of peptic ulcers or other stress related problems. The only real consistent cause of death appeared to be old age.

Researchers were baffled. How did this town of sausage eating, wine drinking, overweight and happy Italians manage to escape the ill-health fate of the rest of the country? The researchers came to realize that the people of Roseto were not only very social, but very kind. They stopped in the streets and talked. They had each other over for dinner. Three generations of family lived under the same roof. They laughed a lot. Everyone knew and respected each other, especially their elders. Thus, the town of Roseto illustrated the importance of feeling good about life.

part2lasagna

Italian American Lasagna

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 12 whole fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Filling

  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded
  • 4 oz Italian style dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 sprigs Italian parsley finely chopped

For the lasagna

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 12 whole lasagna either oven-ready or parboiled
  • 10 oz mozzarella, shredded
  • 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded

Directions

For the sauce:

Combine the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and simmer until the sauce thickens, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, salt and parsley for the filling and set aside.

Brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Coat a large roasting pan or lasagna pan with olive oil.

Assemble the lasagna as follows (bottom to top): mozzarella, thin layer of sauce, layer of pasta, Parmigiano, ricotta cheese filling, mozzarella, meat, thin layer of sauce and layer of pasta.

Bake for one hour, covered with foil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice into squares and serve.

part2belmont

Newark,  New Jersey

In its heyday, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest “Little Italies” in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also great feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.

Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher, Rick Cerone, also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue. Seventh Avenue produced stars, such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, was a native of the First Ward as well.

Seventh Avenue was devastated by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s. Eighth Avenue was obliterated by the city council, scattering the Italian American residents. Most businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. Following these events some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods, such as Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound section.

Belmont Tavern

The Belmont, founded in the 1920s, moved to its current location on Bloomfield Ave. in 1965. Chef Stretch has passed away, but his Chicken Savoy recipe is still a popular menu item. Celebrity spottings are not uncommon. Clint Eastwood bought the cast of his movie, Jersey Boys there while they were filming in NJ.

part2chicken

Stretch’s Chicken Savoy

Serves 3 or 4

This is a restaurant recipe and you must keep the chicken pieces well-separated in the pan. If the pan is crowded, the chicken will not brown because too much liquid will accumulate. In a restaurant kitchen, the oven goes to 700 degrees F or more, which means the juices evaporate before they have a chance to accumulate. For years the recipe was a family secret and Stretch’s daughter Annette, pulled the old, “If I tell you, then we’d have to kill you” line when Saveur Magazine came calling for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces (two drumsticks, two thighs, two breasts with wings)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 teaspoons grated Locatelli or other Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (preferably 7% acidity)

Directions

In a 10 1/2-inch cast iron skillet or other heavy, oven-proof pan, arrange the chicken pieces so that they do not touch each other, skin side down.

Sprinkle the chicken with garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and grated cheese, in that order.

Place chicken in a preheated 500-degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and pour on all the vinegar at once. It should sizzle.

Return the chicken to the oven for another minute or so.

Arrange chicken on a platter and pour the vinegar sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

part2baltimoregia

Café Gia Ristoranté

Baltimore

The “Little Italy” of Baltimore is located close to the Inner Harbor area and Fells Point, newly renovated and very popular for its great restaurants. This neighborhood has been occupied by Italians since the 1890’s and still retains a large Italian community. During the warm months, the neighborhood is home to bocce games and open-air film festivals. “Little Italy” is the end point for the nation’s oldest Columbus Day parade, celebrated since 1890 and hosted by the Italian American community. In June, Baltimore’s “Little Italy” celebrates the Feast of Saint Anthony and the Feast of Saint Gabriel in August.

In 1953, Giovanna Aquia, along with her father Pasquale, her mother Rosa and her little brother Salvatore (Sammy) embarked on a journey that would forever change their lives. The family boarded the famous Italian luxury liner the “Andrea Doria” and made their way to America from Cefalu, Sicily. They entered the U.S. via NYC and arrived to their final destination in Baltimore on June 23, 1953. Giovanna likes to say, “At a time when no one liked to move around, our family traveled 3500 miles and we haven’t moved 200 feet since.”

Giovanna goes on to say that ” family life always revolved around the dinner table. It was there that a great appreciation of simple Sicilian cuisine became rooted in them. Their house was always open to friends and family. On Sundays and holidays, Nonna Rosa, would cook up a feast. We all just sat together, enjoyed each other and talked and laughed while we were feeding their faces. Our family is the only family with 4 generations still living in Little Italy.”

It was the desire to share their Sicilian heritage and Sicilian cuisine that prompted the family to buy an older neighborhood diner and create a warm, comfortable family ristoranté in “Little Italy”, called Café Gia Ristoranté. “We strived very hard to recreate a Sicilian bistro, a place where one feels like they are in Sicily while dining,” she said. “Our walls are embraced with hand painted colorful murals, our tables are also topped off with great hand painted murals. The exterior echoes an old Sicilian bistro and we have created a little bit of Italy with fresh, delicious Italian food and friendly, family service.”

part2baltimoresalad

Insalata di Mare Calda

Chef Gia Daniella

“Growing up, Christmas Eve was a big deal at my house,” says Chef Gia Daniella, the owner of Cafe Gia Ristorante in Little Italy. That night, her family hosted the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand seafood meal with Italian roots. “We always entertained and had a spread of seafood and side dishes — all Italian and Italian-American,” she recalls. “My mother is from Italy — Sicily,” she explains. “The Seven Seafoods is actually a regional tradition in the south.” The mixed seafood salad was always one of Gia’s favorite Christmas Eve dishes. The recipe below is served warm but is equally appealing when chilled, she says. And best enjoyed when surrounded by loved ones.

4 servings

For the salad:

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 pound clams, cleaned
  • 1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 ½ cups celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cups arugula 
  • Chopped roasted red peppers for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ cup capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large pot, combine 3 cups of water, bay leaves and crushed garlic.

Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot, then place the lemon rind in the pot.

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.

Add the shrimp to the pot for two minutes, then remove with a strainer and set aside in a bowl.

Add the calamari to the water for 1 ½ minutes. Remove with a strainer and add to the bowl with the shrimp.

Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cook until their shells open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a strainer and combine with the shrimp and calamari.

Add the chopped celery. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and gently fold.

To make the dressing:

In a processor combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gently toss the seafood with the dressing. Add another dash or two of salt and pepper. Garnish with roasted red peppers.

For an attractive presentation, serve over fresh arugula.

part2washington

Judiciary Square

Washington, D.C.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the eastern side of Judiciary Square became an enclave of Italian immigrants in Washington; the equivalent of a Little Italy. The Italian neighborhood rested on the eastern edge of the square, stretching eastward to about 2nd Street NW. The heart of the community was Holy Rosary Church, a chapel built at 3rd and F Streets NW. It was a government town without mills, factories or a commercial port and there were fewer opportunities for unskilled laborers without language skills to support themselves. Instead, the area drew smaller numbers of skilled immigrants, such as the construction workers, artists and tradesmen, who labored on the government buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

part2casa

Casa Italiana

The neighborhood grew throughout the 20th century, with an increased surge of Italian immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. However, the construction of Interstate 395 through the city in the 1970s razed about half of the neighborhood and forced its remaining residents to move away. Today, the former Italian enclave is dominated by Federal office buildings and law offices. The Holy Rosary Church remains standing, though, and continues to draw a heavily Italian congregation, along with its “Casa Italia” cultural center next door. Casa Italiana offers classes on cinema, literature,  cuisine, wine tasting and majolica, the ancient Italian art of ceramic pottery, Visitors can still hear a Catholic Mass in Italian every Sunday at Holy Rosary.

part2sub1

Campono Meatball Subs

What sets a great meatball sub apart from all the others is the quality of its ingredients. Campono’s popular sandwich is made with ricotta cheese in the meatball mixture and made in-house mozzarella and marinara sauce for the sandwich. The meatballs are neither too firm nor so tender that they fall apart.

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for your hands
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 slices white/country bread, crusts removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 pounds ground veal
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork shoulder (butt)
  • 8 ounces finely chopped or ground prosciutto
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups “00” flour, for dusting

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 28 ounces canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A few fresh basil leaves

FOR ASSEMBLY

  • 6 sub rolls, partially split
  • 12 thin slices good-quality mozzarella cheese
  • 6 slices deli provolone cheese

Directions

For the meatballs:

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, garlic, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook just until the onion and garlic have softened but not browned; transfer to a very large mixing bowl.

Combine the bread pieces and milk in a medium bowl; let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the milk is completely absorbed.

Add to the large bowl with the onions, the ground veal, ground beef, ground pork shoulder, prosciutto, pecorino-Romano, ricotta, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and the soaked bread pieces; use clean hands to blend the mixture until well incorporated.

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the “00” flour in a wide, shallow bowl.

Grease your hands with a little oil. Form the meatball mixture into 65 meatballs of equal size (the size of shell-on walnuts). Coat each one lightly with “00” flour, dividing them between two parchment-paper-lined rimmed baking sheets. Roast on the upper and lower racks for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through. Discard any remaining flour.

For the sauce:

Use a food mill to puree the tomatoes. Discard the seeds; reserve the drained juices for another use, if desired.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook just until the garlic starts to brown, then stir in the tomato puree. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes then taste, and season lightly with kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Stir in 6 to 8 basil leaves. Turn off the heat. Transfer 30 of the meatballs to the saucepan, turning them until coated. Cool and freeze the remaining meatballs for another time.

When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Open the sub rolls, keeping the halves partially attached and laying them on two rimmed baking sheets. Tear out some of the inside bread to create room for the meatballs. Spread a tablespoon or two of the marinara sauce over both halves of each open-faced roll; toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes; keep the oven on.

Line each sub roll with the mozzarella and provolone slices, overlapping and/or tearing the slices so the inside roll surfaces are covered. Place 5 sauced meatballs at the center of each sub roll; return to the oven just until the cheese melts.

Close each sandwich and cut crosswise in half. Serve hot.

*View Recipes From America’s Italian Communities: Part 1  here .


springcover

As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.

Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.

What spring foods are you most looking forward to?

spring1

Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia

Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)

8  servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 8 ounces  mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons

Directions

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.

Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.

spring3

Spring Onion Soup

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
  • 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.

Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.

Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.

Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before  serving.

spring4

Spring Shrimp Salad

Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).

4 servings

Ingredient

  • 1  lemon, plus wedges for serving
  • 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2  green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
  • 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2  cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

Directions

From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.

In a large bowl, toss lemon  peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.

Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.

In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.

spring5

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb

TOPPING:

  • 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.

spring2

Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese

Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

Directions

Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.

Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.

Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.

spring6

Spring Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Directions

Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.

Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

spring7

Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper

Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces

Directions

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.

spring8

Herbed Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 cup short-grain rice
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary

Directions

In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.

spring9

Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs

Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked to blend
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.

spring0

Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini

Makes 12

Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.



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