Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Healthy Italian Cooking

italian-sweet-bread

Recipes updated and reblogged from December 2013.

Italian Breakfast Sweet Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm milk (70° to 80°)
  • 1 egg 
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast                                                                                                                       
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Sugar for topping

Directions

Place the first seven ingredients in large mixer bowl with paddle attachment and mix until combined.

Switch to the dough hook and knead dough until smooth and elastic.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and divide in half. Shape each portion into a ball; flatten slightly.

Place each ball of dough in a greased 9-inch round baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Beat egg and water; brush over the dough and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake at 350°F  for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves (16 slices each).

SCHIACCIATA CON ZIBIBBO (ITALIAN SWEET BREAD WITH RAISINS)

Double the ingredients to make two loaves and put one in the freezer.                                                                                                                                                                            

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm (105 to 115 degree) water
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a large bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Stir in raisins, sugar, oil, orange peel, egg and enough flour to make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Shape into a round, slightly flat loaf about 9 inches in diameter. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Cover; let rise 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until bread is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet; cool on wire rack. 1 loaf.

Italian Braided Sweet Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water ( 110 degrees F)
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 egg

Directions

Mix yeast and warm water and let sit so that the yeast can react. The yeast should begin to foam.

Mix dry ingredients together.

In a small saucepan, heat milk, butter and egg. Be careful not to let the egg cook and become solid.

Mix yeast/water with dry ingredients in large bowl of the mixer with a paddle attachment. When thoroughly incorporated, mix in milk/egg mixture until a dough is formed.

Switch to the dough hook and knead dough, then cover and let rise about 20 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. (Times vary depending on warmth of environment.)

Punch down the dough and divide in half to make 2 smaller loaves. Divide each half into three equal pieces and braid the ropes together and tuck in the ends.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover and let double in size. Bake bread at 350 degrees F. for about 20 minutes.

Optional Step:

Rum Syrup:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon dark rum

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and the water over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture reaches a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 5 minutes more. Remove pan from heat and stir in rum. Let cool to room temperature.

Brush all over bread as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let bread cool before slicing.

Rustic Raisin Walnut Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups lukewarm water (105° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped

Directions

In a large electric mixing bowl with the paddle attachment, stir together honey and 1/2 cup of the lukewarm water. Add yeast and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water.

Stir in the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and salt. Mix until well combined. Keep adding the rest of the white flour until dough leaves the sides of the bowl. 

Be sure not to add too much flour.

Switch to the dough hook and knead 5 to 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside in warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425°F.

Punch the dough down and place it on a floured board. Gently knead the raisins and walnuts into the dough. Shape (round, long, square,) into 1 large loaf and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Cover with damp cloth and let rise in a warm until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Using a spray bottle, spray loaf with water. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F and bake 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Cool on rack before slicing.

Ricotta Crumb Cake (Italian Breakfast Cake)                                                                                                              

Crust:

  • 2/3 cup toasted almonds, ground
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions for the Crust:

Mix the almonds, flour, baking powder and brown sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry blender cut in the cold butter with the dry ingredients. Pour the egg and vanilla over the butter mixture and toss together just until moistened. Spoon half of the crumb mixture into a 10 inch springform pan and set the other half aside.

Filling:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons rum
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions for the Filling:

Put 1/3 cup sugar and the almonds in the processor and pulse 5 or 6 times to grind the almonds into small pieces. Do not ground too fine.

In a bowl mix together the ricotta, rum and 3/4 cup sugar until blended. Stir in almond/sugar mixture. Spoon ricotta mixture over crumb crust in the springform pan.

Spoon remaining crumb mixture over the ricotta filling and pat down to make top flat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes, Let cool and sprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Sweet Bread from Valtellina (Bisciola)                                                                                               

Makes 1 (8-inch) oval loaf

Ingredient

  • 1 tablespoon grappa or rum
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg, for egg wash
  • 15 dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, roughly chopped

Directions

Heat oven to 350º F with oven rack placed on the middle shelf. In a small bowl combine raisins, grappa or rum and water; set aside.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then roughly chop.

In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat until just warm, then remove from the heat. Transfer warm milk to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in the milk. Let mixture stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, all-purpose flour, rye flour and salt. With mixer at medium-low speed, add half of the flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Mix until well blended, then add remaining flour mixture and butter. Reduce speed to low and mix 5 minutes more.

Drain raisins; discard liquid. Add raisins, hazelnuts, figs, walnuts and pine nuts to the dough; mix on low until just incorporated. Switch to the dough hook and knead dough to form a stiff, wet dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On prepared baking sheet, form dough into a 8-inch-long oval loaf. Cover loaf with a lightly dampened clean dishtowel and let rest, in a draft-free place, 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350º F. with oven rack in the middle.

Brush dough with beaten egg, then bake, rotating pan once halfway through, until bread is deep golden, about 30 minutes. Let bread cool completely on pan on wire rack.


 happy-holidays-christmas-trees

Italian Fig Cookies

A sweet dough is filled with fruits, nuts and jam, almost like a Fig Newton. Making them is time-consuming, but the dough and filling can be made in stages and refrigerated for several days before the cookies are assembled and baked. Using a stand mixer and food processor takes some of the effort out of the process.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Up to 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups dried figs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Make the Dough 

Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add the egg, salt and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and then add them to the butter mixture. Mix well. Switch to the dough hook and knead at the low setting for 5 minutes, adding milk as needed to make a slightly sticky, soft textured dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into four pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Make the filling:

Put the figs in the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Stir in the honey, cinnamon, marmalade and walnuts.

Form and Bake the Cookies

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Take one piece of dough out of the refrigerator. Roll the dough out into a 12-inch square on a floured surface. Cut the dough into 2- by 3-inch rectangles. Spoon 1 teaspoon of filling into the center of the rectangle.

Fold both of the longer edges toward the center of the cookie and pinch the seam together. Put the cookie, seam side down, on an ungreased baking sheet leaving 1 1/2 inches between cookies.

Make two slits in the cookie with a sharp knife. Start at each open, unpinched side and cut toward the center the cookie, being careful not to cut the cookie in half in the process. The cookie will bake into the shape of an X. (See picture)

Work in batches, keeping dough refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or ice the cookies after they cool with 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar mixed with just enough milk to make a smooth consistency. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Italian Hazelnut Cookies                    

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned (see Tip)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; preheat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

2. Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape into a large bowl.

3. Beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

4. Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

5. Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter.

Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tip: Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Espresso Crinkles                                                                        

Lightly coat your hands with flour to make rolling the dough into balls easier. The dough freezes well. Freeze the dough after step 1, thaw in the refrigerator, then proceed with step 2. The powdered sugar-coating gives these cookies an appealing cracked finish. Serve with coffee to enhance the espresso.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites

Directions:

1. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine oil and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat; heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Add espresso granules to pan; stir until blended. Remove from heat. Pour chocolate mixture into a large bowl; cool 5 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, syrup, and vanilla. Add egg whites, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring gently just until combined. Cover; chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350° F.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Dredge balls in remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar; place balls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until tops are cracked and almost set. Cool cookies on pan 2 minutes; remove from pan. Cool cookies on a wire rack.

Yield: 2 dozen

Mascarpone Fig Jam Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup softened Mascarpone Cheese
  • 2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Fig Jam or Jam of Choice

Directions:

  1. Beat together the butter and sugar until light.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  3. Add the mascarpone cheese, and beat until smooth.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients, and fold them into the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.
  5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Place sheets of parchment paper or silicone baking liners on two cookie pans.
  8. On a lightly floured counter or board, roll the dough into 1/2 inch balls.
  9. Using a blunt round object like the end of a wooden spoon, create an indentation in the center of each cookie.
  10. Place the cookies 2 inches apart, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or just as the cookies begin to color.
  11. While still warm, use the spoon to redefine the circle, and then carefully spoon a little jam into each cookie.
  12. Let sit at room temperature until the jam is set.
  13. Store in an airtight container.

Nutmeg Bites                                                                                                   

Cookie Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Rum Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons rum

Directions

1) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all ingredients and blend on medium speed until a soft, smooth dough forms, about 2 minutes.

3) Wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour. Towards the end of the chill time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

4) Drop tablespoon-sized dough balls onto the baking sheet. A teaspoon scoop makes this job easier. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. The edges will be slightly browned and the cookies will be round and domed.

5) Cool the cookies completely. Prepare the icing by blending the softened butter and confectioners’ sugar. Add rum one tablespoon at a time until you have a spreadable icing. Top each cookie with a dollop of icing and a dash of nutmeg.

Yield: Approximately 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches                                                     

4 dozen sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Granulated sugar
  • White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling (see recipe below)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can. Stir in any remaining flour mixture and the nuts by hand. Cover and chill dough about 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
  3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. A level teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll balls in granulated sugar to coat. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets. With the bottom of a glass, flatten balls to about 1-1/4-inch circles.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until tops are just firm. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
  5. Spread bottoms of half of the cookies with a rounded 1/2 teaspoon White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling. Top with remaining cookies, bottom sides down.

Makes 48 cookie sandwiches.

White Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling:

In a small saucepan, heat and stir 6 ounces chopped white chocolate and 3 tablespoons whipping cream over low heat until just melted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.


hanukkah

The first Jews began arriving in Rome as far back as 160 BC, creating one of the oldest Jewish communities in Western Europe, and with over thirty-thousand Jews calling Italy home, it isn’t surprising that Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is celebrated just as passionately as Christmas. Hanukkah 2014 begins in the evening on Tuesday, December 16.

Hanukkah celebrations last for eight days, with the dates being dictated by the Hebrew calendar. Each night a candle is lit on the nine-branched candle holder called the menorah until all eight candles are burning. The shamash; the ninth candle is raised above the eight others, its purpose being as a flame to light the religious candles below.  On Rome’s via Sacra, near the Coliseum stands the Arch of Titus, built in AD81, shows  a sculpture of a procession following the raid on the Temple of Solomon and, above the heads of the triumphant Romans, a menorah is held aloft. Today, a twenty-foot menorah is erected in Piazza Barberini and this becomes the central focus for Rome’s  lighting ceremony.  In Milan the large public menorah is traditionally set in Piazza San Carlo with the hope that its light will reach the hearts of the people.

While in Venice, following the lighting of the menorah, the Cannaregio neighborhood is brought to life with music and dancing. Once the home of the world’s oldest Jewish ghetto, the five synagogues remain intact and are still used for worship by the local community. Florence’s past is also steeped in Jewish history with the Jewish museum on Via dei Giudei (street of the Jews) where the city’s ghetto once stood. Nearby is Tempio Maggiore, built between 1874 and 1882, and is the  Synagogue of Florence where the city’s Jewish community gather to celebrate and light the Menorah before the feasting begins.

The fried foods that are served during the holiday commemorate the miracle of the one day’s supply of olive oil that burned for eight days after the destruction of the temple. The Jewish communities celebrate with traditional recipes, such as, chicken marinated in olive oil, lemon and nutmeg before being dredged in flour and fried, thin slices of fried eggplant and potato pancakes. Frittelle di Chanukah  (sweet fried dough fritters) are the traditional end to all Italian Hanukkah meals; balls of bread dough are stuffed with raisins and flavored with aniseed, fried and drizzled with hot honey.

hanukkah1

Fennel and Orange­ Scented Challah

By Joan Nathan (New York Times)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus 1/2 cup of the juice, strained
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

Using the paddle attachment, stir orange zest, juice and oil into yeast mixture, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, and remaining sugar and salt. Switch to the dough hook and gradually add 6 cups of flour, kneading for about 5 minutes and adding more flour as needed to make a slightly sticky, smooth and elastic dough.

Grease a large bowl, turn dough into it and then turn the dough over to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, remove it to a lightly floured counter, knead it briefly until smooth and divide it in half.

Roll each piece into a cylinder about 27 inches long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring one end of the dough up to the other and twist to form a spiral. Push both ends together to make a squat 12 ­inch loaf.

Repeat with the other piece of dough and arrange loaves on a parchment ­lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You can also twist the long spirals into a circle if you like; the dough is very malleable.

Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves, reserving the rest. Let the dough rise uncovered another half ­hour or overnight in the refrigerator.

If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and in a small bowl, combine fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. Brush the loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.

hanukkah4

Pollo Fritto

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, cut into eighths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Flour
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl, seasoning them well with salt and pepper. Mix the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, nutmeg and the lemon juice in a measuring cup and beating the mixture well with a fork. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces, turn them to coat on all sides and let them marinate for about an hour, turning them several times.

When it comes time to cook, heat the oil in a pot. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and pat them dry.

Beat the eggs in a bowl, seasoning them lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, then dip them in the egg and slip them into the oil. When they are well browned on all sides, remove them from the pot, drain them well, and serve them.

hanukkah5

Butternut Squash and Sage Latkes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 6 cups grated butternut squash (1 3-pound squash)
  • 1/4 cup chopped or slivered fresh sage(more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons oat bran
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Place the grated onion in a strainer set over a bowl while you prepare the other ingredients. Then wrap the onion in a dishtowel and squeeze out excess water. Place in a large bowl and add the squash, sage, baking powder, salt and pepper, oat bran and flour. Add the eggs and stir together.

Begin heating a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Place a wire rack over another sheet pan.

Take a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill with 3 tablespoons of the mixture. Turn out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining latke mix. You should have enough to make about 30 latkes.

Add the oil to the pan and when it is hot, use a spatula to transfer a ball of latke mixture to the pan. Press down with the spatula to flatten.

Repeat with more mounds. Cook on one side until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Slide the spatula underneath and turn the latkes over. Cook on the other side until golden brown, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to the rack set over a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm. Serve hot topped with low-fat or regular sour cream.

hanukkah3

Couscous With Olives, Lemon And Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

Servings: 8

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) pareve margarine
  • 6 cups chopped onions
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 1/4 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted halved brine-cured black olives (such as Kalamata)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups couscous (about 13 1/2 ounces)

Directions

Melt margarine in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add onions; stir to coat. Cover pot and cook onions until very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.

Mix in ginger and turmeric.

Add broth, olives, basil, mint and lemon juice. Bring to simmer. Mix in couscous.

Cover pot, turn off heat and let stand until couscous is tender and all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour couscous into a bowl and serve.

hanukkah2

Honey-Glazed Doughnuts With Raisins And Pine Nuts

Ingredients

MAKES ABOUT 32

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus more for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups honey
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Combine 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over; stir to blend. Let stand until yeast dissolves and mixture is foamy, about 6 minutes.

Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Make a well in the center. Add raisins, pine nuts, egg and 1 tablespoon oil to well. Pour remaining 1 1/4 cups warm water over, then pour yeast mixture over. Stir until a smooth dough forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; cover bowl with plastic, then a towel. Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels. Pour enough oil into large deep saucepan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Attach a deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan and heat oil to 360°F to 370°F. Working in batches of 5 or 6 doughnuts, dip a metal tablespoon into the hot oil to coat and, without deflating dough, gently scoop up a rounded tablespoonful. Drop dough into the oil. Fry until deep golden, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer doughnuts to prepared sheet and drain.

DO AHEAD Doughnuts can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm on the same sheet in a 350°F oven about 15 minutes.

Whisk honey, 3/4 cup water and cinnamon in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat until syrup comes to boil. Remove pan from the heat. Dip warm doughnuts into honey syrup and pile onto a serving platter. Pour remaining syrup into bowl. Serve doughnuts with remaining syrup.


lombardy1

One of Italy’s largest regions, Lombardy lies in the north of the country, sharing a border with Switzerland. Lombardy’s northern borders are formed by the Lepontine, Rhaetian and Orobic Alps. It also includes the major Italian lakes: Varese, lseo, Como and the northern part of Lake Garda. The regional capital is Milano. Other important cities are: Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Varese, Sondrio, Pavia, Cremona and Mantova.

Take a tour of Lombardy through the video below.

The mountain peaks welcome ski and snowboard enthusiasts to internationally-famous ski destinations, like the Camonica Valley and Valtellina. In summertime, the area offers mountain climbing, as well as rafting, trekking and mountain biking, while the Stelvio Glacier offers skiers the challenge and adventure of its slopes, even in the warmest months. Visitors can tour the vineyard-covered terraces and hills, stopping off at wineries and local producers to taste the well-known local specialties.

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While the terrain of northern Lombardy can be harsh and sometimes unforgiving, water from snow on the mountains refreshes many of the streams and rivers branching out into other parts of the region, as well as other parts of Italy. Freshwater fish like trout, perch and whitefish are abundant. The mountains tend to shelter the southern parts of the region, which allows for milder and more ideal growing conditions further down into the Po River Basin.

Rice grows well here, so it’s no surprise that risotto dishes find their way onto almost every table. The cattle industry is healthy, providing shanks for the well-known dish, ossobuco. Agri d’ Valtorta, Bagoss, Bitto, Branzi, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Provolone Valpadana are just a few of the many excellent cheeses crafted in Lombardy. Peppers, greens, lettuce, pumpkins, potatoes, onions and tomatoes are all abundant harvests. Lombardy is also the home of the Christmas favorite, panettone (a rich bread made with candied fruits, citrus and raisins). Stews, soups, heavily sauced polenta, hearty filled ravioli and slow-braised meat dishes are all-around favorites.

Lombardy

Recipes From Lombardy

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Milanese Risotto

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 5½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2½ cups carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups hot chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt

Directions

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat until melted. Add sage and cook until fragrant. Remove and discard sage. Remove sage butter from heat and set aside.

Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until the rice becomes translucent. This process is known as tostatura or toasting.

Add wine, stirring, until it is mostly absorbed, then add 1 cup of broth and the saffron. Simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is almost absorbed. Continue adding broth in ½ cupfuls, stirring often, and allowing each addition to mostly evaporate before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still slightly firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy (you will have broth left over).

Stir in the remaining 3½ tablespoons butter, reserved sage butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt to taste.

Add an additional cup of broth, stir to combine, and serve “all’onda” (a “wavy” or wet-style risotto) immediately.

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Skillet Perch with Lemon and Capers

Yield: 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups each: flour, fine cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 pounds lake perch fillets, skinned
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup capers, drained
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
  • 1 lemon sliced for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, paprika, salt and pepper in medium bowl.

Combine the eggs and milk in another medium bowl. Drench fillets in egg-milk mixture; shake off excess. Coat fillets evenly with seasoned flour; shake to remove excess flour.

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over high heat. Add enough oil to cover skillet bottom. Place perch, one by one, in the pan cooking until golden, about 3 minutes. Turn fillets and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove to paper towel-lined cookie sheet to drain. Keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining fillets.

For sauce, discard oil from the skillet. Add lemon juice and capers to the skillet; cook about 1 minute or just until bubbles appear. Add chives, salt and pepper to taste. Place fillets on a serving plate. Top with the lemon sauce and lemon slices.

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Asparagi al Forno (Classic Roasted Asparagus)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 bunches asparagus (40 asparagus), woody ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Line an 11-inch x 17-inch baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease lightly with olive oil.

Arrange the asparagus on the baking sheet in a single layer, with the tips facing in the same direction (this will make serving easier later).

Pour the water into the baking sheet.

Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil and season with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano.

Roast the asparagus for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden on top and still slightly crisp. Serve hot. Serves 4 to 6

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The Traditional Recipe for Panettone

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups flour, divided
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast, divided
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 12 tablespoons softened butter, divided
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons good quality vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped fine

Icing (Optional)

  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions

Make the sponge:

Place 1 1/2 cups flour, 2/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons apricot jam and 1 teaspoon yeast in a small bowl and whisk together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rest for 3 hours.

Make the dough:

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the sponge, 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon yeast. Use the hook attachment to knead the dough until the mixture is smooth and stretchy, about 3-5 minutes.

Add 3 egg yolks, one at a time and continue kneading until the dough is smooth, shiny, and stretchy.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Return the dough to the mixer and add salt, vanilla, lemon and orange flavoring, honey and 1 teaspoon yeast. Knead for 1 minute.

Add 3 egg yolks and knead until incorporated. Add the 12 tablespoons of softened butter, one tablespoon at a time. Knead until dough is soft, shiny and very stretchy, about 5 minutes. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Combine the chopped raisins, cherries and pecans with 2 tablespoons of flour. Add them to the dough and knead briefly, until just mixed in.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape into a ball. Place dough inside of a 6 inch diameter panettone mold, or use a clean, buttered coffee can lined with parchment paper (you can also use a baking dish). Make a small cross in the top of the dough with scissors.

Let dough rise in a warm place until triple in size, which may take several hours since the dough is cold from the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Place the panettone in the oven and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Bake the panettone for about 1 hour, until it has risen high and springs back a little when pressed on top (like a muffin).

Let the panettone cool in the pan on a rack.

Make the icing (optional): Melt 2 tablespoons butter and whisk into 1 cup powdered sugar. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of milk until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle icing decoratively over the top of the panettone.

Store panettone wrapped in plastic for up to 1 week.

Note: Traditional Italian panettones are made with a special flavoring called “fiori de sicila”, which you can purchase at gourmet stores and online. Use in place of the lemon and orange extract.


fingerfoods

How did finger foods come about? Ratified in 1919, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor. Even before the law took effect in 1920, Congress passed the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, which outlawed the sale of “intoxicating beverages”—defined as any drink containing 0.5 percent or more of alcohol.

Of course, no amount of legislation could transform all Americans into teetotalers; instead, Prohibition simply drove alcohol consumption underground. Millions of people in small towns and large cities imbibed at secret taverns and bars called speakeasies. Many were drab, makeshift saloons in basements or tenements located in shabby parts of town. Some, however, were fine restaurants in their own right, including New York City’s swanky 21 Club, which featured two bars, a dance floor, dining rooms on two levels and underground passageways leading to a secret wine cellar.

To help soak up the booze and drive up sales, some enterprising speakeasy proprietors began offering more than just popular cocktails of the day. Rather than heavy meals, customers were offered assorted bite-sized canapés to snack.

It was also during this period that the custom of hosting cocktail parties at home became fashionable. The rise of these parties led to the popularization of an increasingly wide array of finger foods. Hosts paraded out such popular foods as lobster canapés, caviar rolls, crab meat cocktails, shrimp patties, oyster toast, jellied anchovy molds, radish roses, devilled eggs and savory cheese balls. Sweet selections included fruit cocktail cups topped with powdered sugar or marshmallows.

Even after the 1933 repeal of the 18th Amendment, the practice of serving finger foods at restaurants, bars and cocktail parties lived on and quickly became a popular American culinary tradition. Fannie Farmer’s “Boston Cooking-School Cook Book,”  contained many finger food recipes and became widely used in the United States throughout the 1920s.

Care to whip up some Prohibition-era finger foods at your next holiday gathering? Try the easy recipes below.

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Mini Appetizer Pizzas

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella (5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup pitted olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup jarred or frozen and thawed artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Coat each of two rimmed baking sheets with olive oil. Divide prepared pizza dough into 32 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured work surface, press each piece into a 2-inch round with the palm of your hand. Transfer to prepared baking sheets, turning once to coat lightly in oil.

Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts among rounds. Sprinkle with red-pepper flakes.

Bake until the cheese is bubbling and dough is crisp and golden brown, about 12 minutes.

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Marinated Olives

Ingredients

  • 2 cups assorted unpitted olives, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 thin orange slices
  • 3 thin lemon slices
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • Red-pepper flakes (chili)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine olives, olive oil, orange slices, lemon slices and fresh thyme. Season to taste with crushed red-pepper flakes.

Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer olives, fruit and herbs to a serving dish; reserve oil for salads.

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Pancetta-Wrapped Figs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon juniper berries
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cup dried Black Mission figs, stemmed
  • 12 ounces pancetta, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds and cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips

Directions

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, juniper berries, peppercorns, and cloves to a boil in a small saucepan. Add figs, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered, to bring to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer figs to a cutting board using a slotted spoon; cut in half. Wrap a pancetta strip around each half. Transfer, seam side down, to a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Bake until pancetta is browned, about 30 minutes. Secure each with a toothpick. Serve warm.

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Sausage-Cheddar Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups grated cheddar (1/2 pound)
  • 1 pound bulk pork, chicken or turkey sausage
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, grated on large holes of a box grater
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and baking powder. Add cheddar and toss to coat. Add sausage, onion and butter.

With your hands, mix until well combined and roll mixture into 1-inch balls. Place balls, 1/2 inch apart, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until balls are golden and cooked through, 25 minutes. Serve warm.

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Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Pour olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven until the oil is hot, 3 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cayenne pepper, and cumin seed. Season with salt and toss to combine. Place chickpea mixture on hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer.

Bake until chickpeas are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and let cool slightly. Serve warm.

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Artichoke-Parmesan Crostini

Ingredients

  • 8 slices (1/4 inch thick) baguette
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 jar (6 1/2 ounces) marinated artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make crostini: Brush baguette slices on both sides with a total of 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet, and bake, turning over once, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, make topping: Finely chop artichokes, and combine in a bowl with Parmesan, parsley, and remaining tablespoon oil.

Dividing evenly, spoon topping on crostini and garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired.

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Shrimp Salad Canapes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • Thin crackers, for serving

Directions

Bring water, wine, 1 teaspoon salt, and the bay leaf to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add half the shrimp, and cook until opaque, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a plate, and let cool. Repeat with remaining shrimp. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Pour in oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in creme fraiche. Fold in shallot, chives and shrimp. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (and up to 4 hours). Serve on crackers.


pastasauces

In Italian cuisine, a ragù is a meat-based sauce, which is commonly served over pasta. The Italian gastronomic society, l’Accademia Italiana Della Cucina, has documented 14 different ragùs. The commonalities among the recipes are that they are all meat-based and all are used as sauces for pasta. Typical Italian ragùs include ragù alla bolognese (Bolognese sauce), ragù alla napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and ragù alla Barese (sometimes made with horse meat).

In the northern Italian regions, a ragù is typically a sauce of meat, chopped or ground, and cooked with sautéed vegetables in a liquid. The meats are varied and may include beef, chicken, pork, duck, goose, lamb, mutton, veal or game, as well as offal from any of the same. The liquids can be broth, stock, water, wine, milk, cream or tomatoes and often include a combination of these. If tomatoes are included, it is usually a small amount. Characteristically, a ragù is a sauce of braised or stewed meat that may be flavored with tomato, to distinguish it from a tomato sauce that is flavored with the addition of meat.

In southern Italian regions, especially Campania, ragùs are often prepared with whole cuts of beef, pork and regional sausages, cooked with vegetables and tomatoes. After a long braise (or simmer), the meats are then removed and may be served as a separate course. Examples of these styles of ragùs are the well-known ragù alla Napoletana (Neapolitan ragù) and carne a ragù.

Sometimes a thick meatless, vegetable based sauce is referred to as a ragu, such as mushroom ragu.

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Pork Ragu

This sauce is excellent served over potato gnocchi.

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic (about cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • Water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat and bits of cartilage as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into a large pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread out the pieces in the pan and season with the salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning to brown the pieces on all sides.

When the pork is brown, add the chopped garlic and chili flakes. Raise the heat and pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Add the crushed tomatoes and 1 cup of water; grate the fresh nutmeg over all and stir.

Cover the pan and bring the sauce to a boil, then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it. Use immediately or cool and refrigerate until needed.

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Mushroom Shallot Sauce

This sauce is excellent for pasta, baked in a lasagna or poured over polenta, cooked into risotto or as a condiment for grilled steak or fish.

Makes 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
  • 1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry Marsala
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups hot meat or vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside.

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine.

Put the oil and butter in the large skillet or saucepan and place over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Cook slowly for 6 minutes-stirring often-until they’re soft, wilted and shiny, without any brown color.

Add the fresh mushrooms and porcini to the pan and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the herb bouquet, raise the heat a little and cover the pan. Cook, covered for about 3 minutes, so the mushrooms release their liquid.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more. When the pan is dry and the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot, add the tomato paste and stirring,cook for a minute or so, then stir it into the mushrooms.

Pour in the Marsala and stir constantly until the wine evaporates. Add the porcini mushroom water and 2 cups of the hot stock. Bring to a boil, stirring up any caramelization in the pan. Lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and adding stock to keep the mushrooms covered in liquid; expect to add at least a 1/2 cup, if not more.

Uncover the pan and cook for another 20 minutes, maintaining a simmer and adding stock as needed. Remove the herb bouquet and discard it. Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Neapolitan Ragu

Ingredients

  • 2 pound boneless pork butt or shoulder, in 1 piece
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided, more to taste
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
  • 1 pound onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup chopped pancetta
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, crumbled

Directions

Season the pork all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

In a food processor, chop together the parsley, onions, garlic, pancetta and prosciutto to make a very coarse paste.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the seasoning paste and another teaspoon of salt and cook until no more liquid appears when the paste is stirred, about 7 minutes.

Add the pork roast, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, turning every 15 minutes, until the meat is lightly browned and the onions have begun to color, about 1 hour.

Add the red wine, place the cover back but leave ajar and continue cooking until the wine reduces to a thick sauce, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

If, after 1 hour and 15 minutes, the wine has not reduced sufficiently, remove the roast to a plate, increase the heat to medium-high and cook the sauce until it thickens.

Reduce to low heat, stir in the tomato paste, 2 or 3 tablespoons at a time, stirring in each addition until it mixes into the sauce and darkens to a brick color. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, return the roast to the pan if previously removed and cover. Continue to cook, turning the meat every 30 minutes and stirring the sauce until the meat is tender enough to be easily pierced with a meat fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. If the sauce dries out too much and the meat begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, stir in a tablespoon or two of water.

Remove the roast to refrigerate and reheat when dinner is served, if desired. Crumble the Italian sausage into the sauce and cook until the sauce is a deep red color and thickened, stirring occasionally, about another hour. (The dish can be prepared to this point and refrigerated overnight.)

pastasauce1

Winter Squash and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili) flakes, or to taste
  • 2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds (about 5 cups) winter squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature, optional
  • 8 ounces ziti or penne cut pasta
  • Freshly chopped parsley or Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions

Put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute; add the white wine and cook for a few minutes.

Add the tomatoes and squash and season with salt and pepper.

When the squash is tender, about 20 minutes or so for small cubes. Remove the pot from the heat and mash the sauce with a potato masher.

Stir in the mascarpone cheese, if using. Keep warm while the pasta cooks.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until it is al dente.

Mix the sauce and pasta together and serve garnished with parsley or Parmesan cheese.

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Sicilian Pesto

If fresh basil is not available in your market this time of year, substitute with fresh flat leafed parsley and 1 tablespoon dried basil.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves, (see substitute above)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pepperoncini (Italian pickled pepper), stemmed, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Short pasta, such as corkscrew or penne

Directions

Place the cherry tomatoes in a food processor and process until finely chopped; pour tomatoes into a fine strainer and drain off excess juices. Return the pulp to the processor.

Process the tomato pulp along with the almonds, basil, Parmesan, olive oil, raisins, capers, chili flakes, anchovies, garlic and pepperoncini in a food processor until finely ground.

Season with salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, add pasta and cook, stirring, until al dente. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking water, and transfer pasta to a large bowl along with the pesto; toss to combine, adding a couple of spoonfuls of pasta cooking water, if needed, to create a smooth sauce.

Transfer to a large serving platter or individual bowls and serve with more Parmesan cheese.

 


appetizer cover

What kinds of appetizers should you serve on Thanksgiving or before other holiday dinners? What kinds of appetizers you serve depends on how much you want to spend and what type of event you’re cooking for. Don’t think, however, that appetizers have to be fancy and unusual. It’s best to lean toward the practical side and serve appetizers that most people like.

For a formal or semi-formal party: Serve such items as chilled shrimp with a dipping sauce, oysters on the half shell, mini quiches, stuffed mushrooms, finger sandwiches, tartlets, baked brie with crackers and cocktail meatballs.
For home-style parties: Serve various chips and dips, meat and cheese trays, cracker trays, cocktail sausages, cheese balls, chicken nuggets and veggies.
Generally, serving appetizers is a good idea. Appetizers give guests something to do, while waiting for dinner.

This time of year, however, can turn into an eating frenzy. Cocktails, dips laden with fat, fried food and lots of sweet desserts can be the usual fare. Not exactly healthy. While you don’t necessarily have to eat like you are dieting, remember that you may be eating a lot more calories at these holiday parties than you really want or need. Thanksgiving dinner alone can be over indulgent. You, also, want appetizers that won’t ruin your guests appetites for the main event.

Appetizers are just that – a little something in anticipation of the main meal. They should not be the main meal, unless this is a cocktail party where dinner will not be served.

Some tips on creating healthy but good tasting appetizers:

Don’t overlook the power of a good vegetable tray, especially served alongside a low-fat dip with great flavor. Here is a tip for giving the vegetables good taste – boil the vegetables for one minute in abundant salted water, drain, chill in ice water, drain and dry the vegetables. Chill in the refrigerator.until serving time.

It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to pre-dinner cheeses. Serve lower fat cheeses like Swiss, fresh mozzarella or well aged Italian hard cheeses that can be eaten without crackers.

Wrap small pieces of cheese or fruit in pieces of prosciutto for a delicious appetizer.

Healthier fresh salsas and bean purées or hummus make for smart dips. Serve baked snacks instead of fried.

Popcorn is a healthy whole grain and can be dressed up with flavorful herbs and spices for a special-occasion treat.

For recipes that call for a cup of regular mayonnaise, blend 1/2 cup of light mayonnaise and 1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt. You’ll cut more than 1,000 calories and more than 130 grams of fat for every 1 cup.

Nuts are an excellent party snack, especially almonds or walnuts because they offer the best health benefits. They are a great protein source and the fat in them will help keep you fuller and not as tempted to binge.

Be mindful of what drinks you choose and be careful not to go overboard—especially during the appetizer course. Remember, too, that the size of the glass and serving makes a big difference. A serving of wine is 5 oz.

Here are some easy appetizers you may like to prepare for your future holiday gatherings.

Green-Olive-Tapenade-Resized-006

Artichoke Tapenade

Good on a vegetable tray.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 large pitted green olives
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained or one package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted

Directions

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

appetizer crab

Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 16 small cremini mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Prepare the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, the garlic powder and season with salt. Arrange the mushrooms snugly in a baking dish and bake until tender, about 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and crab meat; cook until the shallot is soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and push the crab mixture to one side of the skillet; let any excess juices collect on the opposite side.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven and preheat the broiler. Stuff the mushrooms with the crab mixture. Toss the panko with the juices in the skillet; sprinkle over the mushrooms. Broil until golden, about 2 minutes. Squeeze lemon wedges on top.

appetizertomatoes.jpg.rend.snigalleryslide

Chicken Salad Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Chicken broth
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, to keep apples from turning brown
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 16 very small leaves rosemary, for garnish

Directions

Poach chicken in enough chicken broth to just cover the breasts for about 8 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. Set aside to cool.

Carefully cut off a thin slice of the top of the tomatoes (be careful not to remove too much) and scoop out seeds. (A 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works well for this procedure.)

Peel apples, remove core and chop fine and coat in lemon juice.

Finely chop cooled chicken, season with salt and pepper and cinnamon, stir in mayonnaise and chopped parsley, mixing well.

Spoon chicken salad into tomatoes and garnish with the rosemary leaves. Chill until serving time.

appetizerGrilledPrawn

Broiled Shrimp with Caper Sauce

This recipe is easily doubled.

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup large capers, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Shrimp

  • 12 extra-large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled, deveined, tail left on
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

To make the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, capers, shallots and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Let stand to allow flavors to mingle.

To make the shrimp:  Mix shrimp with oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano and season well with salt and pepper. Place shrimp on a broiler pan.

Broil the shrimp, turning once, until bright pink and just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Serve with the sauce.

appetizer falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients

  • One 15- to 16-ounce can low salt chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion or 2 scallions (white and light green parts), roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Juice of 1 lemon, divided (3 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Hummus, tzatziki or tahini sauce as a condiment

Directions
Preheat oven to 450°F and set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Grease or line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.

Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, baking powder, half of the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Pulse until well combined but mixture is still relatively coarse. You do not want a puree.

Using your hands or a small cookie scoop, shape the mixture into about 24 balls (roughly 1½ inches in diameter) and arrange on the the prepared baking sheets. Flatten each slightly and brush the tops with the remaining olive oil.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then turn patties (rotating the trays when you take them out) and bake for another 10-12 minutes or until brown. Serve with hummus or yogurt sauce..



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