Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Healthy Italian Cooking

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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. No one has contributed more foods to the American dinner table than the Italian immigrants. Strong Italian-American enclaves in New York City, Boston’s North End, Providence’s Federal Hill and South Philly have helped shape a new American hybrid cuisine. Based on Old World traditions, Italian-American cuisine is marked by an appreciation for the New World’s abundance.

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Boston’s Pan Pizza

Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. The neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of incredible foods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.

Ingredients

You’ll need a rimmed baking sheet, preferably non-stick, about 11 1/2-by-17 or a 16-inch pizza pan and a plastic dough scraper.

DOUGH

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water, or more if necessary
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Olive oil (for the pans)
  • Extra flour (for sprinkling)
  • Extra salt (for sprinkling)

Directions

In a bowl, sprinkle yeast into water; set aside for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Stir to blend.

With a wooden spoon, stir in the yeast mixture. Add enough additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to make a dough that holds together, but is sticky and too moist to knead.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap so the wrap does not touch the dough. Lay a dish towel on top. Set aside for 2 hours.

Rub a large rimmed baking sheet or pizza pan with olive oil. Rub the center of 1 long sheet of foil with oil and set it aside.

Sprinkle the dough with a little flour. Use a dough scraper to transfer the dough to the baking sheet or pizza pan. Pat the dough with a little flour to within 2 inches of the edge of the pans.

Cover with foil, oiled side down. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes (or as long as overnight).

Remove pan from the refrigerator. Dip your hand in flour and pat the dough with your hand, adding as little flour as necessary, until it reaches the edges of the sheets.

Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

TOPPINGS

  • 12 slices provolone cheese or 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced, or 4 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices good-quality ham, cut into matchsticks (optional)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Arrange racks on the lowest and center parts of the oven. Set the oven at 500 degrees.

If using provolone, arrange it on the dough, spacing out the slices. Add the cherry or plum tomatoes, spacing them out. Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Sprinkle with ham, if using, then Parmesan.

Bake the pizza on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes (check after 8 minutes to make sure edges are not burning).

Transfer the pizza to the center rack and continue baking for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, the dough is golden and crisp at the edges, and the bottom is firm.

With a wide metal spatula, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer to large wooden board. Cut into rectangles, wedges, or strips.

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Federal Hill’s Zuppa Di Polpette (Meatball Soup)

Federal Hill is the Italian neighborhood of Providence with many restaurants, bakeries, cafes, art galleries, cigar shops and markets. DePasquale Square is the center of the neighborhood. Historic Federal Hill is the “Heartbeat of Providence” and begins at Atwells Avenue, the street that flows under the arch. The gateway arch over Atwells with the La Pigna (pinecone) sculpture hanging from its center is a traditional Italian symbol of abundance and quality and the symbol of Federal Hill. It is a place dedicated to the Italian immigrants who gathered here as a community and is still a place of charm, warmth and hospitality to all. Numerous Italian restaurants and businesses line the main thoroughfare and its surrounding area. Garibaldi Square, with a bust of the “Hero of Two Worlds”, and DePasquale Plaza, with outdoor dining and two bocce courts, all contribute to the Italian atmosphere.

Ingredients

In a large 8 quart stock pot prepare the following:

  • 1 small chicken broken up in pieces
  • 1 large onion cut in quarters
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 medium ripe tomato cut in half
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • Pinch of turmeric, for a little color

Directions

Add enough water to cover 4-5 inches above the ingredients and cook for about one and one half hours. Remove the chicken and vegetables separately and cool.

Puree the vegetables through a food mill or processor and add back to the stock.

Cool the chicken and use it for chicken salad. If you like you can add some of the chicken cut into pieces back into the soup.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup Romano cheese
  • 1 large egg

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Scoop out by tablespoons and form into small meatballs. Add them to the soup and simmer them for about 30 minutes.

To serve:

  • 2 tablespoons uncooked soup (small) pasta, per person, optional
  • Lots of freshly grated Romano cheese

Cook the pasta and distribute it between the bowls. Ladle in the soup and meatballs and serve with the cheese.

Serves 6-8

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Capellini Alla Positano from Philadelphia’s Bellini Grill

Philadelphia’s Italian American community is the second-largest in the United States. Named after its view of the Center City skyline, Bella Vista, Italian for “Beautiful View,” is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and authentic Italian neighborhoods. Bella Vista is home to many Italian-American treasures, such as the city’s first Italian American bathhouse, the Fante-Leone Pool, built in 1905 and the Philadelphia Ninth Street Italian Market, claimed to be the oldest open-air market still in operation in the country. More than 100 years old, the Italian Market was originally a business association of local vendors who banded together to compete with larger stores that were moving into the area. Today, the market houses an assortment of shops, bakeries and restaurants.

Makes  4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 5 oz uncooked Angel Hair Pasta
  • 4 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chopped Fresh Chili
  • 3 Garlic Cloves; minced
  • 2 tablespoons Shallots; chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 cup Fish Broth
  • 2 ups Dry White Wine
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 8 oz Lump Crab Meat
  • 1 bunch Fresh Basil; chopped
  • 2 cups Grape Tomatoes

Marinara Sauce

  • 24 oz Canned Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Garlic Clove; minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon Fresh Basil, chopped
  • Pinch Sea Salt
  • Pinch White Pepper

Directions

For the marinara sauce: sauté chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add tomato sauce and remaining ingredients. Simmer for 30 minutes; stirring occasionally.

For the pasta: Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Sauté shallots, chili and garlic in olive oil for 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Add fish stock and white wine, cook until slightly reduced. Add marinara sauce, stirring until combined.

Gently fold in lump crab meat, fresh basil and tomatoes – cook for 5 minutes. Serve sauce over cooked pasta.

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Bakeries in New York’s Little Italy

Most of the Italian immigrants who made their home in America first landed in New York City. Many then traveled to other parts of the country; but by the early 1900’s, hundreds of thousands had settled in lower Manhattan, living in row houses and tenements in an area of about one square mile. For the unskilled, it was a hard life of cleaning city streets and ash barrels and, for the skilled, it was a hard life of working their trade in constructing buildings and roads. Others became fruit peddlers, bread bakers, shoemakers and tailors. Some opened grocery stores and restaurants or worked in factories. Most of the people who lived on Mulberry came from Naples; those from Elizabeth Street were from Sicily; Mott Street from Calabria; and most of the people north of Mott, came from Bari.

Sweets would have been a rare indulgence for most in the Old Country, however, in America they were a frequent treat. One of the earliest New York ice cream parlors to open, in the 1820s, was Palmo’s Garden, whose immigrant owner, Ferdinand Palmo, fitted it out with gilded columns, huge mirrors and an Italian band. In 1892, opera impresario Antonio Ferrara opened a confections parlor under his name on Grand Street, where he could entertain his musician friends. Veniero’s on East 11th Street began as a billiard parlor in 1894 that sold candy and coffee, eventually, evolving into an enormously successful pastry shop that created the cake for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inauguration.

Arguably the most famous bakery and cafe in Little Italy is Ferrara, the two-floor dessert mecca with flashing lights and an outdoor summer-season gelato stand. Constantly packed with tourists and locals (on a recent Friday at 11 a.m., the takeout line was out the door), Ferrara has some of the most delicious cannoli this side of the Atlantic. Open since 1892, the cafe serves the dessert with a side of dark chocolate pieces and mixes small chocolate chips into the sweet ricotta-based filling.

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Ferrara’s Bakery Tiramisu

Enrico Scoppa and Antonio Ferrara, opera impresario and showman, opened the cafe in New York City called Caffé A. Ferrara. Enrico Caruso, the great opera singer, thought the coffee marvelous but loved the cookies and cakes.

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 box (7 oz.) Savoiardi or Lady Fingers
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup strong warm coffee
  • 1/4 cup coffee liqueur

Directions

Arrange Savoiardi in rectangular serving dish, (approximately 11″ x 13″).

Lightly soak Savoiardi with a mixture of coffee and coffee liqueur.

While gradually adding sugar, beat egg yolks (approximately 5-10 minutes) until very stiff and egg yolks appear pale in color.

Beat heavy cream until very stiff and fold into egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with a wire whisk or electric beater until very stiff and gently fold egg whites into the cream mixture. Add vanilla and fold gently.

Cover Savoiardi with this cream mixture. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Sprinkle with cocoa or chocolate flakes before serving.

Tiramisu may be frozen and should be defrosted in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

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Di Palo’s Ricotta Cheesecake

Di Palo’s in New York’s Little Italy is the iconic Italian deli, the stuff of dreams for anybody who cooks Italian. Lou Di Palo, whose family has owned the store for 104 years, is still working behind the counter. He is the great-grandson of the founder, is the fourth generation, along with his brother, Sal and his sister, Marie. When you stop in, you’ll almost always find two or more of them there, offering tastes of cheeses, slicing speck or prosciutto or dishing out orders of Eggplant Parmigiana. They make their own ricotta and mozzarella and have for decades.

Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother’s recipe for a true Italian-style cheesecake.

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter, for greasing
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup crushed Zwieback cookies or graham crackers, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 pounds fresh ricotta
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons orange-blossom water
  • 3/4 cup cream

Directions

Butter a 9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar and the crushed cookies in a small bowl and evenly coat the bottom and sides of the buttered pan with the mixture.

In a large bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups sugar and the ricotta, eggs, vanilla, orange-blossom water and the cream. Pour into the cookie-coated pan.

Sprinkle the top with additional crushed cookies and place the springform pan on the center oven rack on a cookie sheet to catch any leaks.

Bake for 1 hour or until the center no longer jiggles; it may crack slightly. Let cool, remove from pan and serve at room temperature.

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Cassateddi Di Ricotta (Ricotta Turnovers)

This traditional Sicilian recipe for sweet ricotta turnovers is adapted from “The Little Italy Cookbook: Recipes from North America’s Italian Communities” (out of print) by Maria Pace and Louisa Scaini-Jojic. The authors suggest using a pasta machine to get the dough thin enough to make the pastries.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ricotta, drained, see note at the bottom
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Oil for deep frying (about 2 cups)
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Directions

For the filling, combine the ricotta, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and egg white in a large bowl; set aside.

Combine the 4 eggs, melted shortening, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar and milk in a small bowl.

Mound 3 1/2 cups flour on a board; make a well. Pour the egg mixture into the well; sprinkle on the baking powder. Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the flour to form a dough; add a little more milk, if needed. Knead briefly until the dough is smooth. (Add flour, if needed.)

Divide the dough into four pieces. Take one of the pieces and flatten; dust with flour and roll until it is 1/16th-inch thick and shaped into a 4-inch-wide rectangle.

Place 1 rounded teaspoon of filling along one side of the dough at 3 1/2-inch intervals. Fold the top half of the strip over the filling and press edges together to enclose completely.

Cut with a pastry cutter or knife into individual squares or half moons. Lay each piece on a lightly floured baking sheet; repeat with remaining pieces and filling.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Fry several turnovers at a time until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on a rack placed over paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Draining ricotta: Place ricotta in a wire sieve in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight to remove excess water. For faster results, cover the ricotta with a small plate that fits in the sieve and weight that with a heavy can. If you can, use fresh whole milk ricotta from a specialty market for the richest flavor.


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I recently read the article, “Parmigiana Dishes to Warm Weary Souls” in the New York Times that got me to thinking about how many different kinds of Parmigiana exists in our cuisine.

Parmigiana or parmesan, also parmigiana di melanzane or melanzane alla parmigiana is an Italian dish made with a fried, sliced filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant (also called aubergine) is the earliest and still unique Italian version. Other variations may include chicken, veal, or another type of meat cutlet or vegetable filling. The origin of the dish is unclear; it is claimed by both the Southern regions of Campania and Sicily and by the Northern province of Parma.

While the true meaning of the word Parmigiana is “in the style of Parma,” the term often gets confused with the cheese that we know—Parmigiano-Reggiano; however, there is no correlation. Though Eggplant Parmesan began in Italy—Northern or Southern—this dish is not commonly found in current Italian cuisine; the concept of Parmigiana, in this sense (breaded veggies or protein baked with layers of cheese and sauce), is considered more of an Italian American classic. But Eggplant Parmesan was just the beginning for the U.S. Since its first appearance “parms” have shown up on every menu, involving such ingredients as: chicken breasts, veal cutlets, zucchini and even, pork.

The dish consists of sliced ingredients, pan-fried in oil, layered with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven. In some versions, the sliced filling is first dipped in beaten eggs and dredged in flour or bread crumbs before frying. Some recipes use hard grated cheeses such as Parmigiano, while others use softer melting cheeses like mozzarella, or a combination of these.

Variations made with breaded meat cutlets, such as veal and chicken, have been popularized in other countries, usually in areas of Italian immigration. In the United States and Canada, veal parmigiana or chicken parmigiana is often served as an entrée and, sometimes, is served as a submarine sandwich. It is also popular with a side of or on top of pasta. Diced onions or green bell peppers are sometimes added. The veal dish is known in Italian as Cotolette alla Bolognese.

Veal or chicken parmigiana is a common dish in Australia and Argentina and in both countries often served with a side of chips or a salad. In Australia, it may also contain a variety of toppings, including sliced ham or fried eggplant (aubergine) slices. This dish is often referred to as a parmy or parma. In Argentina and in other neighboring South American countries, veal or chicken parmigiana is topped with ham and served with french fries. It is known as milanesa a la napolitana. If the dish is topped with a fried egg, then it is known as a súper milanesa or suprema napolitana. The origin of the dish was the Napoli restaurant in Buenos Aires during the 1940s. A similar dish, the parmo, which uses either pork or chicken, is found in England.

To make any “parm” dish well, you need a good marinara sauce. I have included the recipe in this post along with some of my family’s favorite parm dishes.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can Italian Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 large basil leaves

Directions

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in olive oil, until soft and translucent, on medium to low heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, careful not to overcook.

Add tomatoes, oregano and crushed red pepper to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Cook for about 20 minutes on medium heat. Stir in parsley. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh basil.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups of sauce.

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Eggplant Parmesan

This is not a dish that can be prepared quickly, but with some of my make ahead tips, you can enjoy this entrée for dinner and have several leftovers for future use without spending all day in the kitchen. Eggplant freezes very well in all stages of its preparation. Additionally, I do not fry the eggplant, but bake it in the oven to reduce the calories.

First Stage

I usually prepare 4-1 pound eggplants at once and freeze them, individually, for future use.

For each one pound of eggplant, you will need:

  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters) or egg whites
  • 1 cup Italian style bread crumbs
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat two large baking sheets with nonstick olive oil cooking spray.

Cut peeled eggplants crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (no thicker).  You want them to be thin.

Place the egg substitute in one shallow dish and the bread crumbs mixed with the cheese in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute, then coat with the breadcrumb mixture. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, turn the eggplant slices over, and bake until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes longer.

If you are not going to assemble the eggplant dish at this time, wrap each batch of eggplant in aluminum foil with foil sheets between the layers and place it in a ziplock freezer bag.  Store in the freezer until you need it. Defrost a package overnight in the refrigerator, when you want to make the casserole.

Second Stage

To assemble the casserole, you will need:

Spray an  8 inch or 9 inch or 8-by-11 1/2-inch baking dish with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 375 °F.

  • 2 ½ cups Marinara sauce (see recipe above)
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package of breaded and baked eggplant

Directions

Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping slightly. Spoon 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the package of cheese. Add a layer of the remaining eggplant slices and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the sauce bubbles, about 25 to 30 minutes.

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Chicken or Veal or Fish Parmigiana

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten lightly or egg whites or egg substitute
  • 2 chicken breasts, halved or about 1 pound veal cutlets or firm white fish fillets
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups Homemade Marinara, recipe above
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 4-8 slices of mozzarella cheese

Directions

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, 1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour and eggs in three separate dishes. First, dredge chicken breast halves (or veal/fish cutlets) in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, making sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken or veal until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from hot oil and onto a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

To bake, preheat oven to 375˚F. Spread about 1 cup of Marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish. Arrange a layer of breaded cutlets on top of the sauce. Top with 1 cup of Marinara, covering each piece. Sprinkle with Parmigiano. Place 1 to 2 slices of mozzarella on each cutlet.

Cover dish with foil and bake, 15 to 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Uncover, then bake to fully melt cheese for another 5 minutes.

Serves 4

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Shrimp  Parmigiana

For 2 servings you will need the following:

Ingredients

  • 12 large shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1/3 cup Italian Style Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup homemade marinara sauce, warmed
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Spray a baking dish that fits the portion of shrimp you are making with cooking spray.

Place the egg beaters in a shallow bowl and the Panko bread crumbs mixed with the Parmigiano cheese in another.

Wash and dry the shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Put the shrimp in the bowl with the egg beaters to coat and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Place in the baking dish.

The shrimp can be prepared ahead up to this point.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Drizzle the top of the shrimp with the olive oil and bake on the middle oven rack for 10 minutes. Turn shrimp over then cook another 5  minutes.  Pour sauce evenly over the shrimp and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese. Return to the oven and heat just until the cheese melts.

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Meatball Parmesan Subs

These are especially popular with children for a birthday party.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/4 lbs lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 recipe Marinara sauce, recipe above
  • 12 small hoagie buns or firm hot dog rolls, split and warmed
  • 12 slices (one ounce each) mozzarella cheese, cut in half

Directions

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for five minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Once the onion mixture has cooled, add the beef or turkey, bread crumbs, egg, salt and parsley and mix thoroughly. Using wet hands, shape tablespoons of the meatball mixture into 1 ½ inch balls and then transfer to a baking pan sprayed with olive oil cooking spray.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F. Bake the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden brown. Turn over halfway through baking.

Add the baked meatballs to the marinara sauce and heat.

To make the sandwiches:

Spoon the hot meatballs with some sauce over the bottoms of the rolls. Place a slice of mozzarella, cut in half, over the meatballs. Spread a little more sauce over the meatballs, then fold the tops of the rolls over and serve.

The sandwiches can be assembled and wrapped individually in foil. Rewarm the sandwiches in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes before serving.

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Cauliflower Parmesan

The New York Times article contained a recipe for Cauliflower Parmesan and it inspired me to create this healthy version. I made this dish over the Christmas holidays for family and they loved it.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade  marinara sauce, recipe above
  • 1 head of fresh cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup Italian flavored bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat a large, deep oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to the  pan and heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in sauce and cauliflower and cook until cauliflower is just tender.

Preheat the broiler

Mix the bread crumbs with the Parmigiano cheese. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the bread crumbs and broil until the cheese melts..

 


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In this series on Italian regional cooking, I have been working my way around the Italian peninsula. The series started with the northern regions and now it is moving into the central areas. Todays post is on Umbria, the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a border with another country. The region is mostly mountainous and hilly and presents a landscape rich in forests, water resources and valleys. Lake Trasimeno is located here.

In literature, Umbria is referred to as il cuore verde d’Italia (the green heart of Italy). The phrase is taken from the poem, Barbarian Odes,  by Giosuè Carducci, an italian Nobel prize-winning poet.  The poem is one most familiar to Italian school children and is entitled “Le fonti del Clitumno” (“The Head-waters of the Clitumnus”), a description of that spot in the hills of Umbria where the Clitunno River had its beginning. Carducci wrote the ode between July and October 1876. It is generally considered one of Carducci’s best poems combining pastoral beauty with nostalgia for the glories of ancient Italy.

The flocks still come down to you, o Clitumnus, from the far mountains that move with the murmur of breeze-swept ash groves and fresh scent of sage and thyme in the damps of evening.

The young Umbrian shepherd immerses his reluctant sheep in your waters.

By a farmhouse a barefoot mother sits and sings, nursing her child, who looks to the shepherd and smiles.

The pensive father with goatish hair, at his painted cart, turns on his hips like the beasts of old, with the strength of a young bull, like those square of breast, erect and crowned by crescent horns, sweet in their eyes and snow-white, much beloved by gentle Virgil.

The darkening clouds hang like smoke on the Apennines: grand, austere and green from the spreading mountains, Umbria watches. Hail, green Umbria, and you the fount of god Clitumnus.

I feel in my heart the ancient home, my fevered brow touched by the olden gods of Italy.

English Translation

The region is named for the Umbri tribe, one of the many tribes who were absorbed by the expansion of the Romans. The Umbri probably sprang from neighboring tribes in northern and central Italy, at the beginning of the Bronze Age. The Etruscans were the chief enemies of the Umbri. The Etruscan invasion came from the western coast towards the north and east, eventually driving the Umbrians inland. Nevertheless, the Umbrian population does not seem to have been eradicated by the conquerors. After the downfall of the Etruscans, Umbrians aided the Samnites in their struggle against Rome (308 BC). However, the Romans defeated the Samnites and their allies. The Roman victory started a period of integration under the Roman rulers, who established colonies in the region.

Perugia, the Capital

Perugia, the Capital

The modern region of Umbria is different from the Umbria of Roman times. Roman Umbria extended through most of what is now the northern Marche region. After the collapse of the Roman empire, Ostrogoths and Byzantines struggled for supremacy in the region. The Lombards founded the duchy of Spoleto, covering much of today’s Umbria and when Charlemagne conquered the Lombard region, some Umbrian territories were given to the Pope. After the French Revolution and the French conquest of Italy, Umbria became part of the Roman Republic (1798–1799) and later, part of the Napoleonic Empire. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Pope regained Umbria and ruled it until 1860.

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Following Italian unification in 1861, Umbria was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. The present borders of Umbria were fixed in 1927 and in 1946 Umbria became part of the Italian Republic.

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The charm of Umbria derives from its fusion of art, nature, peacefulness and the inspirations behind its artistic masterpieces and small Medieval towns. Umbrians have a deep appreciation of art and, throughout history, the region has produced its share of talented artists. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Umbria was home to a well-respected art school (known as the “Umbrian School”) that taught venerated artists such as Raphael, della Francesca and Perugino. Old paintings and frescos can still be found all over Umbria, not just in famous museums (such as the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia) but on the walls of tiny churches in the quiet hilltop towns. Romanesque architecture thrived in this region at the beginning of the twelfth century and some beautiful examples that have survived the years are the Cathedrals of Spoleto and Assisi, St. Silvestro and St. Michele in Bevagna. The Gothic styles are also present in almost every city. The Renaissance movement can be seen in the region’s magnificent monuments.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

When it comes to music, Umbria steps away from its traditions and embraces contemporary music. Each July, the region hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival, one of the most renowned international music festivals in the world. Famed musicians such as Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie have played at the festival and every year it attracts new talented artists.

The food industry in Umbria produces processed pork-meats, pasta, lentils, truffles and cheese. The other main industries are textiles, clothing, sportswear, iron and steel, chemicals and ornamental ceramics. Umbrian agriculture is noted for its tobacco, olive oil and vineyards that produce fine wines. Regional varietals include white Orvieto, Torgiano and Rosso di Montefalco. Another typical Umbrian product is the black truffle found in Valnerina, an area that produces 45% of this product for Italy.

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The most renowned Umbrian pork comes from the black pigs of Norcia, an ancient town in southeast Umbria. Norcia has been the center of sausage-making and other pork dishes for so many centuries that pork butcher shops in Umbria are called “Norcineria.” Traditional Umbrian pork dishes include salame mazzafegati (a pork liver sausage made with orange peel, pine nuts and raisins) and porchetta, an herb-stuffed pork roast.

Greens are a very popular vegetable found across Umbria and commonly include rapini (broccoli rabe), bietola (swiss chard) and chicoria (chicory). Greens are usually blanched, drained and sautéed with olive oil, chili pepper and garlic. These sautéed greens are then enjoyed as a vegetable side dish or are used as fillings in sandwiches, to top pizza, stirred into eggs or tossed with pasta. Rustic tortas are made with blanched greens and eggs, flavored with onions, pancetta and garlic. The tiny lentils from the Umbrian town of Castelluccio are prized across Italy for their earthy, sweet taste and their ability to maintain their shape even after long simmering.

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Umbrians are masters at grilling and it is not uncommon to find indoor grills in their kitchens. Bakers in Umbria use wood ovens to make giant saltless loaves of pane casereccio. Pecorino or pork rind flavored breads are made from an egg enriched wheat flour dough.  Pan nociato are sweet rolls with pecorino, walnuts and grapes flavored with cloves.  A similar bun, called pan pepato, is filled with almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts with raisins and candied fruit.  Other desserts include torcolo, a sponge cake brimming with raisins and candied fruit, or ciaramicola.  This meringue covered round cake is made with a rich egg batter flavored with lemon rind and a spicy liqueur called Alchermes.

Regional Cuisine

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Truffle Festival

Insalata Di Farro (Farro Salad)

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium shallots, minced or 1/4 clove garlic and 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1/2 teaspoon minced anchovy or both
  • 1 tablespoon minced capers or finely chopped, pitted black olives
  • 1 cup (total) chopped fresh parsley, chives, thyme or basil (or any combination)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or other firm or semi-firm cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Directions

Combine shallots, olive oil, vinegar, mustard, capers and herbs in a bowl.

In a large saucepan, bring  chicken stock to a boil.

Add the farro to the stock, lower heat to a strong simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender but somewhat chewy.

Drain and let cool until no more than warm.

Add cooked farro to the ingredients in the bowl and mix. Add vegetables, tomato and cheese and mix.

Salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and serve at room temperature.

White Lasagna with Besciamella (Lasagna in Bianco )

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Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3 3/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup), divided
  • 12 (7 by 3 inch) no-boil lasagna sheets

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock. Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over the bottom of an 11 by 8 inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagna sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.

Umbrian Mixed  Grill

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This dish is often served with the region’s classic lentils.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless pork loin
  • 1 pound boneless beef loin
  • 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
  • 4 thick slices pancetta or prosciutto, cut in 1-inch squares
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2-inch squares
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Small bunch of fresh sage, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

Cut the meat, sausage and chicken into 1-inch cubes. Season the pork with coarse salt and pepper and rub with the garlic; season the beef  with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the sage; season the chicken with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the rosemary. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil and sauté the peppers until just crisp-tender. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Thread the skewers in this order: Pork, bell pepper, chicken, pancetta, sage leaf, beef, bell pepper and sausage. Do not crowd the pieces. Place the skewers in a nonmetal dish large enough to hold them in a single layer and drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over them. Let them marinate for several hours in the refrigerator, basting and turning them often.

Heat the grill and lightly oil the grill rack. Remove the skewers from the marinade, place them on the grill, and baste with the marinade. Grill, turning and basting the skewers, until done to taste, about 8 to 12 minutes.

Apricots with Amaretto Syrup

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 firm-ripe large apricots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup Amaretto liqueur
  • 6 amaretti (Italian almond macaroons; if paper-wrapped, use 3 packets), crumbled (1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped pine nuts for sprinkling

Directions

Peel apricots with a vegetable peeler, then halve and pit. Finely chop 2 halves and set aside.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until foam subsides, then cook sugar, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Stir in Amaretto (be careful; syrup will spatter) and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes.

Working in 2 batches, poach apricot halves in syrup at a low simmer, turning, until almost tender, 5 to 10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer apricots, hollow sides up, to a platter.

Add crumbled amaretti to syrup and cook over low heat, crushing cookies with back of a wooden spoon, until melted into a coarse purée.

Stir in reserved chopped apricot and gently simmer, stirring, until syrup is deep brown and slightly thickened. Cool syrup slightly.

Spoon syrup over apricots and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 


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Italian cuisine includes many different varieties of vegetables and they are cooked in every conceivable way.  Tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are popular in southern Italy and cabbage, asparagus and potatoes are more popular in the north. Recipes for savory pies appear in the oldest Italian cookbooks, often with the popular ingredients of the day.

Vegetable pies are great to make for lunch and light dinners. They are also good for entertaining, either as an appetizer or as a lunch entre with salads and other finger foods. These pies also make a perfect vegetarian main dish for a dinner party and the leftovers are terrific lunchbox fare, hot or cold.

These pies can also be economical because, you can use ingredients, you have on hand that you want to use before they spoil. These recipes are easy to make and can be even easier if you make the pastry in advance and keep several in the freezer for when you need them .

I like to keep these recipes healthy by using whole wheat flour and olive oil in the pastry dough and lower calorie ingredients in the tart fillings.

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Whole Wheat Tart Pastry

Yeasted crusts are more rustic than buttery short crusts. They’re also easier to manipulate — they don’t crack or tear. Remember to roll this out thinly, so that it doesn’t become too bready.

Makes two 10-inch tarts.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached flour (more as needed)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm water, add the sugar and allow to sit until the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and the olive oil. Combine the flours and salt and stir into the yeast mixture.

You can use a bowl and wooden spoon for this, or a processor or a mixer by combining the ingredients using the paddle attachment. Work the dough until it comes together, adding flour as necessary. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a few minutes or use the mixer’s dough hook, adding flour as necessary, just until the dough is smooth — do not overwork it. Shape into a ball.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in size, about one hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently knead a couple of times and cut into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball without kneading it. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for five minutes. Then roll out into a thin round to fit a 10 inch pas, as directed in each recipe.

You can make the dough a day ahead and refrigerate it. If not using right away, freeze the dough to prevent it from rising and becoming too bready. The dough will keep for a month in the freezer, if it’s well wrapped.

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Spinach and Onion Tart

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 whole wheat tart pastry (1/2 recipe), recipe above
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh spinach, stems removed or 3/4 pound baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ounce freshly grated Parmesan (1/4 cup)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 10-inch tart pan and line it with the pastry. Keep it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it is tender and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Stir together just until spinach begins to wilt. Remove from the heat.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and whisk in the milk. Stir in the onion and spinach mixture and the cheeses. Pour into the pastry-lined tart pan and place the tart pan on a baking sheet.

Place in the oven and bake 40 to 45 minutes, until the tart is set and beginning to color on the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Ahead: You can make the filling through Step 3 a day ahead and the crust can be made weeks ahead and frozen.

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Zucchini and Feta Tart

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of the recipe for the whole wheat tart pastry, recipe above
  • 2 ½ pounds zucchini, ends trimmed
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped dill
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or parsley
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 10-inch tart pan and line it with the pastry. Keep it in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Grate the zucchini using a food processor or a hand grater. Place in a large colander, salt generously and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down on it occasionally to squeeze out the liquid. After an hour, take up handfuls and squeeze out moisture (or wrap in a kitchen towel and twist the towel to squeeze out the moisture). Place in a bowl.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes; then add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for one minute. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini. Stir in the herbs, feta, eggs and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the pastry-lined tart pan and place the tart pan on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake 40 to 45 minutes, until the tart is set and beginning to color on the top.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Cabbage and Caramelized Onion Tart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half root to stem, then thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small cabbage, shredded or chopped (about 6 cups)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup low-fat milk
  • ½ cup, tightly packed (2 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 whole wheat tart pastry (1/2 recipe), recipe above

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they begin to sizzle and soften, about three minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt and the garlic. Stir everything together, turn the heat to low, cover and cook slowly for 45 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are very soft, sweet and light brown. Remove to a bowl and cover.

Heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat in the skillet. Add the cabbage. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to wilt, then add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until the cabbage is tender. Stir in the onions, simmer together uncovered for about five minutes or until there is no longer any liquid in the pan and remove the pan from the heat.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 10-inch tart pan and line with the dough.

Beat the eggs and milk in a bowl and season with salt (about 1/2 teaspoon) and pepper to taste. Stir in the onions, cabbage and cheese. Combine well. Pour into the tart pan and place the tar pan on a baking sheet. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

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Mushroom Tart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the crust
  • 2 shallots or 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 8 oz shiitake or wild mushrooms, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • Salt 
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 whole wheat tart pastry (1/2 recipe), recipe above
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan, grated (1/4 cup)

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a 9- or 10-inch tart pan with the dough. Using a fork, pierce at regular intervals to allow for even baking. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to prebake and fill. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet to allow for easy handling. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom of the crust with olive oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside on the baking sheet.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet or a wide saucepan and add the shallots or onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir together for about 30 seconds. Add the fresh mushrooms, rosemary and thyme and turn up the heat, slightly. Cook until the mushrooms begin to sweat, then add a generous pinch of salt. Stir for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat as the mushrooms continue to soften. Continue to cook until the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat, stir in freshly ground pepper to taste and the parsley.

Beat together the eggs in a medium bowl. Whisk the milk into the eggs. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the mushrooms and cheeses. Mix together well and pour into the crust.

Place in the oven and bake 35 to 45 minutes, until set and lightly browned.


souppizzatureen

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Mix and match the recipes below according to your taste. These meals can easily come together, if you have pizza dough in the freezer or pick it up from your supermarket. Keep vegetables in the freezer for a quick put together soup recipe. Supermarkets, today, carry diced onion, celery and peppers that make it easy to make soup in a short amount of time. Mushrooms are also available pre-sliced. Fresh refrigerated pasta is great for soup and cooks very quickly. It is easy to make substitutions, if you don’t have the exact ingredients listed in the recipes below.

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MUSHROOM SOUP

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2  (14-ounce) cans beef broth
  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Heat a large soup pan on high heat and add the oil, onions and garlic; cover and cook 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms; cover and cook 5 minutes.

Combine in a large bowl, onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper and thyme, Whisking continuously, add beef broth, sherry and milk to the spice mixture.

Slowly whisk broth mixture into the mushroom mixture in the soup pan. Simmer uncovered 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mix flour and water in a small bowl to form a creamy paste. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth from the soup pot in 1/4-cup increments, stirring after each addition, to make a thin paste.

Add to the soup, slowly while whisking continuously. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.

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SAUSAGE AND PEPPER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 small green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup homemade or store-bought pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and add oil and sausage. Brown 5–6 minutes, stirring to crumble sausage, or until no pink remains. Let stand 2–3 minutes to cool.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Top crust with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppers, onions and sausage. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake 18–25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until crust is golden, cheese is melted and toppings are thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

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TOMATO GNOCCHI FLORENTINE SOUP

Ingredients

4 large tomatoes

  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (4 oz)
  • 2 ½ cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (14-oz) can vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (16-oz) package gnocchi pasta

Directions

Cut tomatoes in half; remove seeds and chop coarsely.

Chop spinach coarsely; set aside.

Combine crushed tomatoes, broth and butter in large saucepan; bring to a boil on medium-high. Stir in fresh chopped tomatoes, dill weed, salt and pepper; return to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium; cook and stir 12-15 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Puree soup using a stick blender. Stir in gnocchi and spinach; cook 3 more minutes or until spinach wilts. Serve.

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CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli florets, (or frozen florets, defrosted)
  • 2 cups roasted chicken (10 oz)
  • 1 lb homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Olive oil cooking spray for the pan

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour.

Place oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 425ºF.

Cut broccoli into bite-size pieces. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.

Prepare crust. Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into lightly greased  pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Mix the ricotta with the basil, oregano and garlic salt and spread it evenly over the crust to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Evenly distribute the chicken and broccoli over the ricotta.

Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over pizza;

Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Slice and serve.

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POTATO EDAMAME SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-oz) bag frozen shelled edamame
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (32-oz) box reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Thaw edamame in a colander under cool running water just until the beans separate.

Melt butter in large saucepan on medium-high. Add onions, potatoes and garlic; cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until onions begin to soften.

Stir in Italian seasoning, salt and chicken broth, then cover; cook, stirring occasionally 10 minutes.

Stir in edamame, then cover; cook 10-15 more minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Mash lightly to thicken the soup a little. Serve.

souppizza6

BURGER PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 8 large slices Swiss cheese, broken into large pieces
  • 12 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb fresh pizza dough
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 packet dry beef bouillon
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator and let stand one hour  Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high and place 1 tablespoon oil in the pan. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, 2-3 minutes or until tender. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the saute pan and add the onions; cook and stir 5-6 minutes or until soft and golden. Add meat to the pan; brown 4-5 minutes, stirring to crumble the meat until no pink remains. Add the bouillon, Worcestershire and 1/2 cup water; simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Flour hands lightly and pat dough evenly into a lightly greased pizza pan. (Or turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to desired thinness.)

Spread ricotta evenly over the dough and spread the meat/mushroom mixture over the ricotta. Place pieces of cheese evenly on top of the meat mixture. Bake 18-25 minutes (depending on thickness of pizza) or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes; slice and serve.

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CORN CHEDDAR CHOWDER

Ingredients

  • 5 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of each: diced onions, diced red/green peppers and diced celery
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seafood seasoning blend
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag of frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan on high and place bacon in the saucepan. Cook until crisp, stirring frequently.

Add onions, peppers and celery and cook until softened. Add seafood seasoning and black pepper.

Stir corn and hash brown potatoes into the bacon vegetable mixture.. Cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whisk flour, water, milk and broth in a bowl or large measuring cup until smooth.

Add flour mixture slowly to the chowder, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cheese, stir until melted and serve with additional cheese, if desired.

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SEAFOOD PIZZA

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pizza dough at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Italian Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers
  • 6 ounces crab meat
  • 8 ounces cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 6 fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat oven 450°F. Spread pizza dough on a greased pizza pan.

Combine ricotta and pesto in a small bowl until blended and spread evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Dice roasted red peppers. Cut crab meat into bite-size pieces.

Arrange shrimp, crab, peppers and mushrooms evenly over pizza. Top with remaining 1 cup of shredded cheese and 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning.

Bake 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden.

Slice basil leaves into very thin strips. Sprinkle over pizza and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

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TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 14 ounces water (1 can)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup each of diced onions, carrots and celery
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated three-cheese tortellini
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Heat a large saucepan and add sausage and garlic. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until brown and no pink remains. Add diced vegetables, italian seasoning and cook until softened.

Stir in chicken broth, water, tomatoes and chili. Cover and bring to boil. Once soup boils, reduce heat to low. Simmer 7-10 minutes. Increase heat to high and add tortellini to boiling soup; cover and cook 5 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

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PIZZA BAGUETTE

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh spinach (loosely packed)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced thinly
  • 1 Italian baguette
  • Olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons pesto sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sliced black olives, drained
  • 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thinly
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 8 teaspoons feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Add spinach and water to a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes.

Cut bread in half lengthwise, then into fourths and brush lightly with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet.

Spread each with 1 teaspoon pesto sauce.

Top each piece of bread with ¼ of the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, feta cheese, red pepper slices and olives.

Sprinkle each with seasoned salt and Italian seasoning.

Place in the oven and bake for 9-10 minutes.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hurricane Cocktail

1 cocktail

  • 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

Directions

Squeeze juice from half a lime into cocktail shaker over ice.

Pour the remaining ingredients into the cocktail shaker.

Shake well.

Strain into a hurricane shaped glass.

Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

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Citrus-Marinated Shrimp with Louis Sauce

Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings

Ingredients

Shrimp

  • 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

Louis Sauce

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Fried Green Tomatoes

Serves 8-12

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Blackened Steaks with Horseradish Cream and Butter-Basted Potatoes

Serve with the Arugula Salad on the side. Recipe below.

8 Servings

STEAKS

  • 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

POTATOES

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Arugula, Orange and Fennel Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Country Corn Bread

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

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King Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Marche (in English, this region is also known as the Marches) is a mountainous and hilly region facing the Adriatic Sea that allows for very little travel north and south, except on twisting roads over the passes. The mountain area is rugged, with narrow valleys, deep gorges and numerous rushing, sometimes inaccessible, streams. The coastline presents a succession of gently rolling hills and flat plains crossed by rivers. The regional capital is Ancona. Other important cities are Ascoli Piceno, Pesaro, Urbino and Macerata.

marche

Prior to the 1980s, Marche was considered a rather poor region, although economically stable in some sectors, thanks to its agricultural and crafts industries. Today, the contribution of agriculture to the economy of the region is less significant. Their main products are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. The sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish with the main fishing centers located in Ancona, San Benedetto del Tronto, Fano and Civitanova Marche.

Ancona

Ancona

Many of the small craft workshops scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernised and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world (Indesit, Tod’s, Guzzini, Teuco). This evolution led to the emergence of specialised industrial areas, which are profitable for the region, such as footwear and leather goods in  the provinces of Macerata and Fermo; furniture in the Pesaro area; household appliances and textiles in Ancona, where engineering companies are also found (including ship building, petrochemicals and paper, as well as consumer goods). The region continues to draw tourists, whose increasing numbers have been attracted by the region’s rich heritage, as well as by the attractive seaside resorts.

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One can visit the various workshops of local craftsmen, like those of violin makers, which attest to the skill and creativity of the region’s inhabitants. On the first Sunday of August, the streets of Ascoli serve as the background for the Quintana, in which expert horsemen challenge each other in a joust. The Cathedral of San Ciriaco rises on the site of an ancient Greek acropolis and is considered to be one of the most interesting Medieval churches in the Marches. Another site to visit is the fortress at Gradara, a magnificent example of medieval military architecture. According to legend, the fortress is where Paolo and Francesca kissed, as written about in “Canto V” of Dante’s Inferno.

The Renaissance Town of Urbino

The Renaissance Town of Urbino

If you love classical music, Pesaro hosts the Rossini Opera Festival with two weeks of complete immersion into the music of Gioacchino Rossini (a native of Pesaro) every August.

Take A Tour Of The Marches

The cuisine of Marche has been greatly influenced by other regions and by invading peoples throughout its long history.

Marche Kitchen

Marche Kitchen

Creamy sauces made from chicken giblets are used liberally in Marche cooking. Pork recipes rely on generous chunks instead of the traditional thin prosciutto style servings. Since pork is so readily available, there are many types of sausage made in Marche. A local favorite is a smoked sausage called ciauscolo and it is made with half pork and half pork fat and it is seasoned with salt, pepper, orange peel and fennel seed.

Polenta made from corn, seasoned with oil, cheese, lard, onions, ricotta, tomatoes, greens, legumes, etc.; bread made from a mixture of cornmeal and flour, wine and occasionally salt pork, is the typical diet of Marche shepherds and farmers.

Olives grow well in Marche and are often stuffed with savory meat fillings. Grapes, grains, mushrooms and a wide variety of vegetables are found throughout the region.

Casciotta d’Urbino is a sheep and cow milk cheese, hand-pressed into rounds, that are then salted and cured in a moist environment, producing a velvety texture. Ambra di Talamello is made from goat, sheep or cow milk and is cured in a pit lined with straw, resulting in an earthy flavor. Cacio La Forma di Limone is a sheep milk cheese made with lemons, then formed into small balls (that look a bit like lemons). They are rubbed with a salt and lemon mixture for curing, resulting in a refreshingly light lemon tang. Pecorino cheeses can be found in the region as well.

Pasta in the Marche region is rich with eggs that are formed into wide noodles, like lasagna and pappardelle. The region’s signature dish is vincisgrassi, a pasta casserole with meat sauce. Other pastas like spaghetti alla chitarra, spaghettini, tagliatelle and maccheroncini are typical of Marche dishes.

Along the coast, soup is popular, but it takes the form of brodetto – fish soup. Brodetto are prepared with all types of fish and varying other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron. Other seafood favorites include dried codfish, sole, bream, clams and mussels.

Marche desserts include a Pizza Dolce or sweet pizza and Frustenga a cake made with raisins, figs and walnuts.

Traditional Recipes From Marche

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Calamari Marche Style

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs small squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 fresh flat leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 2 salted anchovies
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5 tablespoons white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the anchovy heads, clean and fillet them, if they are not bought as fillets. Soak them in cold water for 10 minutes and drain.

Chop the anchovy fillets.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet with the garlic and parsley.

Add the squid and anchovies. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Stir in the wine and 3 tablespoons water. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes until tender. Serves 4.

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Mussels and Clams in White Wine

Serves 4

  • 1 lb or 500 grams of mussels, rinsed, cleaned & beards removed
  • 1 lb or 500 grams of clams, cleaned
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • Red pepper or chili flakes
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnishing

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat and slowly cook the garlic until brown all over.

Turn the heat up, add the chili flakes and clams – cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add in the mussels.

Turn up the heat and toss in the cherry tomatoes, sauteing for a moment or two.

Add the white wine and cover the pan. Allow to cook covered 1-2 minutes until the shells open.  Then shut off the heat and add the parsley. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Spaghetti alla Marchigiana

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/3 pound guanciale or pancetta cut into little cubes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 fresh chili pepper left whole
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti al dente.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan sauté the guanciale and fresh chili pepper in the olive oil.

When the guanciale is crispy and golden, add the onion and garlic and continue to sauté. Add salt to taste.

Once the onion and garlic have become golden, take the pan off of the heat and set aside.

Put the drained spaghetti into a serving dish and sprinkle the pecorino cheese on top.

Pour the onion, olive oil and guanciale sauce over the top of the pasta. Mix well and serve.

Additional pecorino cheese can be sprinkled over the pasta as a finishing touch.

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Polenta with Beans and Cabbage

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (5-600 g) finely ground cornmeal (polenta)
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dried fava beans
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dried white beans
  • 1 to 1 1/3 pounds (5-600 g) green or red cabbage
  • 1/4 pound (100 g)  guanciale or pancetta, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Directions

Soak the beans and fava beans separately in water to cover overnight and cook them separately until tender.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the tomato paste, the minced herbs and the guanciale, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the mixture gently for about 30 minutes, taking care to not let it brown.

Lightly salt and shred the cabbage,

In the meantime, heat 2 quarts of water.  When it comes to a boil, add the cornmeal in a very slow stream (you don’t want the pot to stop boiling), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to keep lumps from forming. Add the cabbage and continue stirring, in the same direction, as the mush thickens, for about a half-hour (the longer you stir the better the polenta will be; the finished polenta should have the consistency of firm mashed potatoes), adding boiling water as necessary. The polenta is done when it peels easily off the sides of the pot.

Stir the beans and the sauce into the polenta when it’s ready, let everything rest for a minute and then turn the mixture out onto the polenta board or large platter.

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Funghetti Di Offida

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ lb sugar
  • 1 large pinch anise seed
  • Water

Directions

Using a mixer work together the flour, sugar and anise seed with a little water until you have a smooth dough.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls and allow them to dry for thirty minutes on parchment paper.

Place the balls in a mini muffin tin, one ball in each mold. The molds should be small enough so that the dough touches the edge.

Bake the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and serve hot. Reheat before serving, if you plan to serve them later.



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