Caring about our communities, the environment and our planet shouldn’t be a one day thing. Working to decrease our impact on the planet should be a continuous process. However, Earth Day is also the perfect time to make a personal pledge to start a new good habit.
Here are a few ways to make a difference:
Turn out the lights when you leave a room. It does make a difference.
Taking a shower uses less water than filling a bathtub and a water-conserving shower head is even better.
To decrease waste, purchase durable, long-lasting products that can be reused, refilled or recharged. If you do use disposables, choose those made with recycled/recyclable materials.
Adjusting your thermostat down just 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer could save energy consumption.
Buy groceries such as grains, beans, cereals, pasta and snacks from bulk bins when available to avoid excess trash. Plus, being able to buy just the amount you need means no wasted food.
Use reusable cloth bags when shopping to avoid using paper or plastic bags.
Compost your food waste to reduce trash that goes to a landfill. Add the compost to your garden for nutrient-rich soil.
Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb up to 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
These are just a few suggestions to incorporate an Earth Day mentality into your daily routine.
The more unprocessed foods you eat — especially plant-based foods — the healthier you and our planet are going to be. While a meat-centered diet deepens our ecological footprint and contributes to pollution, a plant-centered diet requires fewer resources and supports long-term health. But you don’t have to go completely veggie to reap the benefits; try gradually adding a few meatless dishes to your weekly menu. Try some of these delicious, earth friendly recipes.
Spinach can be used in place of broccoli.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- Flour, for rolling dough
- 2 (1 pound each) fresh or frozen pizza dough balls, thawed if frozen
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded (6 ounces) mozzarella cheese
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Homemade marinara sauce, recipe below
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broccoli, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the calzones:
Divide each ball of dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, stretch each piece out, first to a 3-by-4-inch oval, then stretch again, this time to a 6-by-8-inch oval. (Let dough rest a few minutes if too elastic to work with.)
Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture; season generously with salt and pepper.
To assemble the calzones:
Spread a rounded 1/2 cup broccoli mixture over half of each piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; fold over to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. With a paring knife, cut 2 slits in the top of each calzone.
Using a wide metal spatula with a thin blade, transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment; reshape if needed.
Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with heated marinara sauce.
To freeze: Prepare recipe through step 3. Tightly wrap each calzone in plastic; freeze until firm. Transfer calzones to resealable plastic bags; label and date. Freeze up to 2 months.
To serve: unwrap calzones, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets; bake without thawing until golden, 35 to 40 minute
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Makes about 3 cups.
- 1 28-oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.
Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup
- 3 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, (about 12), cored and halved lengthwise
- 1/2 pound carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 10 garlic cloves
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 large eggplant, (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for serving
- Toasted Italian bread, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. with racks on the top and the bottom.
On one rimmed baking sheet, toss together tomatoes, carrots, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer, with tomatoes cut sides down.
On another rimmed baking sheet, toss together eggplant, chickpeas, Italian seasoning, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer.
Place both sheets in the oven (tomato mixture on top rack). Roast until tender, tossing mixtures halfway through, about 45 minutes.
Using tongs, peel off and discard tomato skins. Puree tomato mixture (including juices) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large pot.
Stir in eggplant mixture; thin with 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Serve, sprinkled with basil and garnished with toasted bread, if desired.
Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
- 3 pounds fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, divided
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 pounds wild mushrooms, (chanterelles, oyster and shiitake), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup Madeira wine
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
- 4 1/2 cups milk at room temperature, divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 one-pound package lasagna noodles, parboiled
Melt 1 tablespoon oil in large pan over medium heat. Add half the garlic; saute until light golden, about 1 minute. Add half the spinach leaves, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain spinach in a colander. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil, remaining garlic and spinach.
When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze to rid it of liquid. Roughly chop spinach; place in a medium bowl with ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute until mushrooms are softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Deglaze the skillet by pouring 1/4 cup Madeira into the hot skillet with the mushrooms and using a wooden spoon to loosen bits cooked onto skillet. Cook mushrooms until liquid has almost evaporated. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a second bowl. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon of butter, the remaining mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 1/4 cup Madeira. Add to the first batch of cooked mushrooms.
Set aside in a small bowl one-third of the cooked mushrooms to use for the topping. Add ¼ cup of chopped parsley to the remaining cooked mushrooms; stir.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Slowly add 4 cups of milk; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the nutmeg and 1/2 cup grated cheese. Set aside 1/2 cup sauce in another small bowl.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
To assemble the lasagna:
Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles in the pan; spread 1 cup spinach mixture, 1 cup mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup of sauce on top of the lasagna. Repeat layers several times.
For the last layer, place a layer of lasagna noodles on top; spread 1/2 cup sauce over the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup grated cheese. Bake lasagna until the top is golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
Just before serving, heat the remaining reserved one-third mushrooms, reserved ½ cup sauce, remaining half cup of milk and ¼ cup parsley in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon some of the mushroom sauce over each serving of lasagna.
Green Bean, Orange and Feta Salad
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
- 2 navel oranges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (6 ounces)
- 1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved and roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or nuts of choice
In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain green beans and spread on a baking sheet to cool.
Using a sharp knife, slice off both ends of each orange. Cut off the peel following the curve of the fruit. Halve fruit from top to bottom, and thinly slice each half crosswise.
In a bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add feta, oranges, lettuce, onion, nuts and green beans. Toss to combine.
Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 48
- 3 egg whites
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts or other nuts, chopped and toasted
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease large cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, beat together egg whites, oil, coffee and vanilla.
In a large bowl, stir together flour and remaining ingredients until well mixed.
Pour egg mixture onto dry ingredients and stir until combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half.
Shape mixture into two 12″ by 1″ logs; place both on the prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 10 minutes.
Transfer one log to a cutting board. Slice diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick biscotti.
Arrange biscotti, cut side up, on cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining log, using a second cookie sheet, if necessary.
Bake 20 minutes; turning cookies over after 10 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight jar up to 1 month.
Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.
Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.
Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.
Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.
Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:
- Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
- Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
- Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.
In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.
Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.
Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.
Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .
Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.
Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.
Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.
Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.
Spicy Clams with Tomatoes
The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.
Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.
Pasta alla Siciliana
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
- 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.
Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)
This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.
In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.
A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.
Serves 6 – 8
- 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup wine, white or red
- 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 lemon, sliced thin
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Pinch of oregano
- Other preferred herbs (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
- Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs
In a plastic or stainless steel bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.
Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.
Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.
Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.
Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.
Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.
Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)
This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.
- 4 large navel oranges
- 1 large fresh fennel bulb
- 1 small lemon
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
- 1 head of lettuce
- Fresh peppermint leaves
Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.
Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.
Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.
Authentic Sicilian Cannoli
The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.
Makes 10 cannoli
For the Shells
- 7 oz all-purpose flour
- 1 oz cocoa powder
- 1 oz sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 oz butter, melted
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
- Lard or olive oil for frying
For the Filling
- 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
- 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
- Milk to taste
- Vanilla to taste
- Cinnamon to taste
- 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
- 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped
For the Garnish
- Pistachio nuts, finely ground
- Confectioners sugar
To make the shells
Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.
Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.
Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.
To make the ricotta filling:
With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.
Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.
Millions of people flock each year to New Orleans to celebrate one of the biggest events in the city: Mardi Gras. This holiday revolves around parades, costumes and lots of traditional food. The problem, however, is that many of us don’t have the time to fly down to the Big Easy for this special event. While you may not be in New Orleans for Fat Tuesday fun, you can bring the fun to your living room or backyard.
Make your Mardi Gras party a masquerade and ask people to wear masks and costumes. You can pick a theme like a 17th century ball (the attire of choice for many of the Mardi Gras balls in New Orleans), a favorite celebrity or even characters from comic books or movies. Or, you can simply ask that your guests come in their favorite costume without giving the dress a specific theme.
Traditional food during Mardi Gras includes slow-cooked dishes like gumbo, red beans and rice, chili or jambalaya. Finger food is always welcome, as well as any food that is purple, green or gold. A King Cake is traditional.
Bright and colorful decorations are key to any Mardi Gras party. Purple, green, and gold are the official colors of the holiday, so be sure to incorporate them into your decor You can hang purple, green and gold streamers and beads along fences or the stairs. A fun idea is to get enough beads for everyone coming to the party that you can hand to them to wear as they walk in the door.
The other most frequently tossed items from floats are doubloons, aluminum coin-like objects bearing the insignia of the float krewes. Decorate your table with an assortment of colorful doubloons and encourage your guests to take some home as souvenirs. Scatter confetti on the tabletop and light some votive candles.
I have lived for some years near New Orleans, but I have not developed a taste for their traditional seasoned dishes. So here is my suggested dinner party menu for 8 for some great food that is somewhat close to the New Orleans style.
Don’t forget to play New Orleans jazz or Zydeco music and, then, there are the drinks.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The Hurricane became popular at Pat O’Brien’s bar in 1940’s New Orleans, after it debuted at the 1939 World’s Fair. It was named after the hurricane lamp-shaped glasses the first drinks were served in. It’s said that O’Brien created this rum drink as a means to get rid of the large stock of rum his Southern distributors forced him to buy.
- 2 ounces light rum
- 2 ounces dark rum
- 2 ounces passion fruit juice
- 1 ounce orange juice
- Juice of a half a lime
- 1 tablespoon simple syrup
- 1 tablespoon grenadine
- Orange slice and cherry for garnish
Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.
Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.
Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.
Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.
Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce
Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings
- 2 lemons, halved
- 2 limes, halved
- 1 orange, halved
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp
- 2 cups fresh orange juice
- 2 cups grapefruit juice
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lime, sliced
- 1 grapefruit, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
- Garnish: citrus fruit slices
- 1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce
- 2 cups mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Greek seasoning
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
Make the Louis Sauce:
Stir together all the ingredients. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Make the Shrimp
Combine the lemon, lime and orange halves, crushed red pepper and salted water to cover in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; add shrimp and cook about 2 minutes or just until the shrimp turn pink. Plunge shrimp into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.
Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein.
Combine orange juice with the remaining ingredients, except the garnishes in a large shallow dish or heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add shrimp, cover or seal and chill 25 minutes.
Drain off liquid. Serve shrimp with Louis Sauce and garnishes.
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 cups cornflake crumbs
- 8 medium green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- Louis Sauce, recipe above
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cayenne. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Place cornflake crumbs in a third bowl. Pat green tomato slices dry with paper towels. Coat with flour mixture, dip into egg mixture and then coat with crumbs.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Fry tomato slices, four at a time, for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown, adding more oil as needed. Drain on paper towels.
Place fried tomatoes on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Serve along side shrimp and Louis sauce.
Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes
Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.
- Olive oil cooking spray
- 3 lbs boneless grilling steaks (such as ribeye, top sirloin, or strip)
- 4 tablespoons blackening seasoning
- 8 oz whipped cream cheese spread
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 8 medium white baking potatoes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons herb-seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 8 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
For the potatoes
Preheat the oven to 475ºF.
Cut potatoes into quarters; place in microwave-safe bowl. Top with butter and cover; microwave on HIGH 5 minutes.
Stir potatoes to evenly coat with butter; microwave 5 more minutes or until potatoes are hot and just beginning to soften.
Transfer potatoes to 2-quart baking dish and arrange in single layer. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.
Arrange onions evenly over potatoes; top, evenly, with bacon pieces. Bake 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and bacon is browned and semi-crisp.
For the steaks
Coat grill rack with cooking spray; preheat an outdoor grill.
Season both sides of steaks with blackening seasoning. Place steaks on grill; close lid (or cover loosely with foil). Grill 4-6 minutes on each side or until 145°F (for medium-rare).
Whisk remaining ingredients until blended and smooth. Serve horseradish cream with steaks.
Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad
- 4 navel oranges
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 (5-ounce) bag arugula, washed, stemmed, and spun dry
- 2 medium fennel bulb, quartered and sliced very thin
- 2 small sweet onion, sliced very thin
- Black or green olives, slivered
Slice off top and bottom of each orange with a serrated fruit knife or sharp paring knife, removing some flesh with the peel and reserve. With the flat end of an orange on a cutting board, cut off peel with a sawing motion from top to bottom, working all the way around the orange. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut between membranes to separate orange segments and set aside. Repeat with the three other oranges.
Squeeze juice from orange tops, bottoms and membranes into bowl (you should have about 1 cup) and strain into a sauté pan. Add vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 7 minutes. Pour hot liquid into a bowl and whisk in olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Stir in salt and pepper.
Toss arugula with fennel, onion and 1/2 cup of the dressing. Divide among 8 plates and add reserved orange segments to each plate. Drizzle with a little of the remaining dressing and top with olives. Serve immediately.
Country Corn Bread
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt and oil. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined.
Transfer to an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375°F for 20-25 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cut into small squares and serve warm
Makes 1 dozen
- 1/2 cup warm whole milk (110°)
- 2 (1/4-ounce) packages dry yeast
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 4 teaspoons
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cake flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
- Purple, green, and yellow sugar sprinkles
Combine milk, yeast and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Stir well and set in a warm place for about 10 minutes. In another bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients; stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice.
Combine flours, 2 teaspoons cinnamon and kosher salt in an electric mixing bowl. Add milk/yeast mixture and butter mixture, and beat, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky, until dough is smooth and forms a shaggy mass. (It should remain soft.)
Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning to the grease top. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down, and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 4 teaspoons sugar and sprinkle evenly over dough. Roll dough into a log and cut into 12 equal pieces. Places pieces into paper baking cups in a muffin pan; let rest 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush cupcake tops with beaten egg and bake 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack.
Combine powdered sugar, water and remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles.
Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges) are at their best in the winter and can add a burst of flavor to your recipes. These fruits are a rich source of vitamin C, which helps protect you from infection, can help keep your skin smooth, heals wounds and cuts and assists in red blood cell formation and repair.
A little bit of lemon zest brightens up morning pancakes while some freshly squeezed orange juice can be used to marinate mahi-mahi before grilling it.
Try these suggestions for adding citrus fruit to your menu.
- Make citrus fruit salad and include all of your favorites Try it with a sprinkling of unsweetened coconut flakes or a bit of raw honey and a sprinkling of nuts.
- Enjoy citrus for dessert with a square of dark chocolate.
- Pair with almost any variety of cheese. Hard, salty cheese adds wonderful balance and flavor to the sweet acidity of the fruit.
- Stir into Greek yogurt, cottage or ricotta cheese and eat as is or with a bit of honey or sliced dates for breakfast or a snack.
- Bake with citrus fruits.
- Cut into rounds and serve with a leafy green salad for a beautiful presentation.
- Add citrus to smoothie blends, such as green apple and parsley.
- Dip citrus segments into sweetened cream cheese dip or spread with your favorite roasted nut butter.
- Use citrus zest to add flavor to condiments.
- Add citrus segments to whole grain salads.
Some tips in using citrus fruits
- Heavy citrus fruits with firm rinds will have the most juice.
- Citrus fruits will stay freshest when wrapped in a plastic bag and stored in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
- Fresh-squeezed juice and citrus zest can be frozen for later use.
- When a recipe calls for strips of zest, a vegetable peeler works well. But for fluffy, grated zest, try using a microplane zester.
How to cut citrus fruit into segments:
Cut off the top and bottom of the fruit and stand it up on one end. Slice downward to cut away the skin and pith, moving around until all is removed. Holding the fruit over a bowl, slice along both sides of the membrane to release the segments.
Italian Kale Salad with Citrus Fruits
Lacinato kale is a variety of kale used in Italian cooking. It is also known as Tuscan kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, Dinosaur kale, cavolo nero, black kale, flat back cabbage, palm tree kale or black Tuscan palm. Lacinato kale has been grown in Tuscany for centuries. It is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone and ribollita.
- 3 cups raw lacinato kale, stems removed, cut into strips 1 cm wide (measure after cutting)
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
- 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese or feta cheese
- 1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into sections, dividing membranes removed
- 1 orange, peeled and cut into sections, dividing membranes removed
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
For the dressing:
Combine in a bottle or small bowl. Mix well before using.
For the salad:
Mix kale, pine nuts and onion in a large bowl. Season salad with salt and pepper. Cut goat or feta cheese into small pieces and mix into the salad.
Toss the salad with enough dressing to coat the leaves. Arrange grapefruit sections on the salad after it is put on the plate so they do not break.
Lemon Rice Soup with Tiny Meatballs
- 1/2 cup medium-grain white rice
- 3 cups water
- Kosher salt
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 pound lean ground turkey or lamb
- 1/3 cup sweet onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped mint, plus extra for garnishing
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped dill, plus dill sprigs for garnish
- 1 1/4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
In a large saucepan, cover the rice with the 3 cups of water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the rice is tender and the water is nearly absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Transfer 1/2 cup of the rice to a blender and spread the remaining rice on a plate.
Add the chicken stock to the empty saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Add 1 cup of the hot stock to the blender with the rice, cover and puree until the rice is smooth. With the machine on, add the egg yolks and lemon juice and blend until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture into the hot stock and keep warm over low heat.
In a medium bowl, mix the meat with the onion, mint, 2 tablespoons of the dill, 1/4 teaspoon of the lemon zest, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
Form the mixture into 1-inch balls. Lightly dust the meatballs with flour, tapping off any excess, and drop them into the warm soup.
Increase the heat to moderate and simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved rice and the remaining 1 tablespoon of dill and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with dill or mint and serve.
Lemon Gnocchi with Peas & Spinach
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 8 ounces heavy cream
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- Fine Sea Salt
- 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 (1-pound) package Potato Gnocchi
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
In a large skillet, combine peas, cream, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook uncovered until leaves are wilted. Remove pan from the heat and mix in lemon zest and juice.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float to the top, about 4 minutes. Drain gnocchi, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Mix the drained gnocchi with the cream sauce in the skillet. Add the reserved pasta water and stir to coat. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.
Pork Chops with Orange & Fennel
- 3 navel oranges
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 4 – 4 ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 3 cups arugula, tough stems removed
Remove the skin and white pith from oranges with a sharp knife. Working over a bowl, cut the segments from their surrounding membranes. Squeeze juice in the bowl before discarding the membranes. Transfer the segments with a slotted spoon to another bowl. Whisk lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 teaspoon salt into the bowl with the orange juice. Set aside.
Season pork chops on both sides with fennel seeds and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chops and cook until browned and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.
Add sliced fennel and shallot to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add arugula and cook, stirring, until it begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir in the reserved orange segments, then transfer the contents of the pan to a large serving platter. Place the pork chops on top.
Add the reserved orange juice mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Pour over the pork chops and serve.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
- 3/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to thin glaze
Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease a bundt pan with olive oil, then dust with flour.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. Stir in sugar.
In another bowl, sift baking powder and flour. Once combined, slowly add the flour to the wet ingredients as you mix.
Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. It should come out clean.
Remove cake from the oven and allow to rest. Once it has cooled, turn it onto a plate.
To create the icing, mix sugar and lemon juice together until smooth. Drizzle the over the cooled cake.
Serves 8 to 10
Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different parts of the world for a new year. Whether you want to create a full menu of lucky foods or just supplement your meal, here are the lucky foods to include:
New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal, as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador and Peru.
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money and are symbolic of an economic fortune.
Legumes including beans, peas and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seed like appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, its customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight. In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas in a dish called hoppin’ john.
The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.
Cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages because it could be preserved and transported, allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany. Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes, such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize the rice fields).
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped sweets. Italy has chiacchiere, which are crispy fritters dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands also eat donuts and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.
In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the finder will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.
Make your New Year’s Day dinner lucky with these recipes.
Salt Cod in Tomato Garlic Sauce
- 1 pound center-cut skinless boneless salt cod (bacala), rinsed well and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 8 large whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon water
Soak and poach cod:
Cover the cod pieces with 2 inches of cold water in a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator and soak, changing the water 3 times a day, up to 3 days (see note, below).
Drain the cod, transfer to a 3-quart saucepan and add 6 cups water. Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat. (Cod will just begin to flake; do not boil or it will become tough.) Gently transfer cod with a slotted spatula to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Cover with a dampened paper towel and chill while making the sauce.
Cook whole garlic cloves in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, turning occasionally until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes break down into a very thick sauce, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Mash thebgarlic cloves into the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread the sauce into a 3-quart gratin dish or other flameproof shallow baking dish and arrange fish over the sauce.
Preheat the broiler.
Whisk together the mayonnaise, crème fraîche and water and spread over each piece of fish. Place the dish under the broiler and broil the fish 5 to 6 inches from the heat just until the mayonnaise mixture is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Note: Brands of salt cod differ in their degree of saltiness: A less salty variety may need only 1 day of soaking, while another could require up to 3. To test it, simply taste a small piece after 1 day; you want it to be pleasantly salty but not overwhelming.
Sausage and Lentils with Fennel
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 4 1/2 cups cold water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 medium fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserve fronds
- 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 1/4 pounds sweet Italian sausage links
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar, or to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Bring lentils, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender but not falling apart, 12 to 15 minutes.
While lentils simmer, cut fennel bulb into 1/4-inch dice and chop enough fennel fronds to measure 2 tablespoons. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onion, carrot, fennel bulb, fennel seeds and remaining teaspoon salt. Cover pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, lightly prick sausages in a couple of places with tip of a sharp knife, then cook sausages in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
Drain the cooked lentils in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve the cooking water. Stir lentils into vegetables with enough cooking water to moisten (1/4 to 1/2 cup) and cook over moderate heat until heated through. Stir in parsley, pepper, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon fennel fronds. Season with additional vinegar and salt, if needed.
Cut sausages diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve lentils topped with sausage slices and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
Creamy Winter Greens
- 1/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 black peppercorns
- 3 1/2 pounds mixed winter greens such as collards, mustard greens and kale
- 6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch sticks
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, or to taste
Make béchamel sauce:
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add milk in a stream, whisking, then add shallot, bay leaf and peppercorns and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes, whisking occasionally. Strain béchamel sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids and cover the surface with plastic wrap.
Discard stems and center ribs from the greens, then coarsely chop leaves.
Cook bacon in a wide 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then pour off the fat from the pot and wipe clean.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the pot over medium-low heat until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes, add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Increase heat to medium-high, then stir in greens, 1 handful at a time, letting each handful wilt before adding more. Add béchamel sauce, garlic, red-pepper flakes, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, uncovered, stirring, until sauce coats greens and the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in bacon, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Almond Good Luck Cake
The person who finds the whole almond inside the cake will have good luck during the upcoming year.
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 1 tablespoon plus 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup shortening
- 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
- 3 eggs, separated
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 whole almond
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the chopped almonds and 1 tablespoon flour; sprinkle into a well-greased 10-inch fluted tube pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and 1 cup of the sugar. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in lemon juice, peel and extracts.
Combine the baking powder, salt, baking soda and remaining flour; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Pour into prepared pan. Insert whole almond into batter.
Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan to a wire rack.
For the glaze:
Melt preserves in the microwave or saucepan and stir in orange juice; drizzle over warm cake. Yield: 12 servings.
Molise is the youngest and second smallest region in Italy and is located in central-southern Italy. The region has only been recognized since 1963. Before this, Molise was an isolated province of Abruzzo. It now borders Abruzzo to the north, Latium to the west and Campania to the south with Puglia (Apulia) to the south-east. Its capital is Campobasso and the city is famous for the exceptional skill of its knife craftsmen, as well as, its delicious pears and scamorza cheese. Molise is home to beautiful abbeys, churches and castles, as well as, impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track. Though beautiful, many of the buildings in the Molise region have been rebuilt over time due to damage by invading forces, as well as, by significant earthquakes which shook the area in 1456, 1805 and again in 2002.
Rain is very frequent and it is heavy during the autumn and spring months. Molise is mostly mountainous with rocky and steep hills, so sheep farming is a major industry. Only the coastline has roads/railways. Because of its mountainous terrain, the economy of the region has for centuries been highly dependent on the transit of shepherds and their flocks from Abruzzo to Puglia.
Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and much of its agriculture is on a small-scale, reflecting the region’s sparse population. Most people live in rural areas where subsistence farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families fed and healthy. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients.
Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region and the culinary tradition makes use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise is a polenta variation that is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other traditional polenta dishes are common throughout the region and many recipes reflect the influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani cuisine.
Typical desserts include a jam made with grapes grown in the Molise countryside, pastries filled with chickpeas, wafers made with walnuts and almonds and baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries.
Baked Caciocavallo Cheese
- 1 pound caciocavallo, wax removed, cut into ½ inch slices
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary or oregano, sage, thyme, and parsley, chopped fine
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the cheese in an even layer in the dish and scatter the herbs on top.
Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately from the oven with plenty of crusty Italian bread.
Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 7 ounces anchovies
- 14 oz container diced Italian tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- Hot pepper to taste
- 4 basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Dice the anchovies. Peel garlic and chop together with the hot pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.
Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for about 5 more minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves, mix well and remove pan from heat.
Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.
Drain, toss with prepared sauce, adding the rest of the oil and chopped parsley. Serve.
Breaded Rib Lamb Chops
- 8 rib lamb chops
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 ½ oz Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.
Dip the lamb chops in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.
Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the ribs on both sides.
Place the browned chops in a baking dish. Cover each chop with a one tablespoon of marinara sauce.
Sprinkle each chop with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve.
Braised Peas with Onion
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden brown.
Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
When the peas are tender, uncover and stir frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
Taste for seasoning, Add the cheese and serve the peas in a heated bowl.
Italian Almond Orange Cake
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature, whites and yolks separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons potato starch
- 2 1/3 cups almond flour, packed
- 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
- Pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Measure all the ingredients and separate eggs.
In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.
Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.
Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters. Beat until they reach a firm peak. Put aside.
Beat the sugar into the egg yolks. Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy. Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in the orange juice in between additions. Then carefully fold in the orange zest. Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure a fluffy batter.
Turn into a parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pan or springform pan. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.
- 20 Steps to Becoming an Italian Foodie: Molise (selectitaly.com)