Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

EarthDay

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Energy & Waste
The average American produces more than four pounds of garbage per day. Over the course of a year, that is more than 1,600 pounds of garbage per person. Almost half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste – approximately 3,000 pounds per second. The recycling rate has increased from less than 10% in 1980 to more than 34% in 2011. From 1990 to 2010, the total amount of garbage going into landfills dropped by almost 10 million tons.

Plastic
In 2012, the U.S. produced 32 million tons of plastic. Only 9% was recovered for recycling. It takes 100 to 400 years for plastics to break down in a landfill. The energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle can power a computer for 25 minutes. Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. About 1,500 bottles end up in landfills and the ocean every second.

Glass
It takes approximately 1 million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill. Recycling one glass bottle can power a computer for 30 minutes. Producing glass from new materials requires 30% more energy than using used glass.

Paper
Every year, Americans use more than 180,000 of paper and paperboard. That’s an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. Recycling a stack of newspaper just 3 feet high saves one tree. By recycling 1 ton of paper, we save enough energy to heat a home for six months.

Water
Almost 97% of the world’s water is salty or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2% is locked in ice caps and glaciers. Only 1% is usable for agriculture, manufacturing and personal needs. The average American uses more than 750,000 gallons of water per year. Around the world, the average is less than half of that figure.

Today is Earth Day, but you can have a meaningful discussion with your loved ones about it at any time. Taking care of our environment is important and you can empower your loved ones by sharing with them some of the easy ways to make a difference in your home and neighborhood.

Go Vegetarian Once a Week
One less meat-based dinner a week can nourish the planet and your diet. The meat industry contributes nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions accelerating climate change, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. A report published by the Environmental Working Group last year found that if every American eliminated both meat and cheese from their diet for one day a week, it would be equivalent to removing 7.6 million cars from the road. The Meatless Monday website reports that up to 2,500 gallons of water may be needed to produce one pound of beef and “40 calories of fossil fuel energy go into every calorie of feedlot beef in the U.S. Compare this to the 2.2 calories of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie of plant-based protein.”

Use Fewer Paper Napkins
This one’s real easy. During one year, the average American uses 2,200 paper napkins—approximately six per day. If everyone in the country eliminated just one paper napkin per day, more than a billion paper napkins could be saved from landfills each year. This goes for paper towels, too.

Buy local produce
According to the Institute of Food Research, the majority of produce in your grocery store loses nearly 45% of its nutritional value by the time you buy it. When you purchase produce from a nearby farm, chances are it was picked less than 24 hours earlier and had to travel less than 100 miles to get from the farm to you. This means you’re getting nearly all of the original nutrients and helping to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation, which contributes to climate change. While buying from a farm isn’t always possible, when you get the chance, doing so can make a big difference!

Reduce waste with composting
By composting kitchen scraps and yard trimmings, you cut down on the amount of food you waste and reduce your contribution to landfills. By composting regularly, you can reduce the volume of garbage you generate by as much as 25 percent!

Turn off the lights, and the faucets
Try to turn off incandescent bulbs when you leave a room. Experts recommend turning off Fluorescent bulbs which are sensitive to how many times you switch them on and off, when you leave a room for 15 minutes or more. This helps save both energy and money. And when brushing your teeth, try to turn off the water for the two minutes or so it takes to brush; you can help save up to four gallons of water if you do this regularly.

Plant a tree
The simple act of planting a tree also reaps many benefits. Trees are good for the air and land and they can provide shade for your house, which can help you save on cooling costs. You can make the act meaningful for your family by starting an annual ritual of planting a tree in honor or in memory of someone. Or if you want to start smaller, just plant some herbs you can watch grow on the windowsill.

Discover more activities you can do together
There are plenty of other easy Earth-day inspired ways your family can contribute to a healthier planet beyond your backyard. Take walks or bike rides together instead of driving places. Volunteer together to help clean or preserve local parks. Learn about recycling together by calling your local recycling center and taking a tour, if they offer them. The best part about these activities is not only that they’re good for the planet, but by doing them together, they’re good for the family, too.

Source: http://www.50waystohelp.com/

Earth Day Menu

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Italian Leafy Green Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 cups romaine lettuce – torn
  • 1 cup torn escarole
  • 1 cup torn radicchio
  • 1 cup torn red leaf lettuce
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced in rings
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
In a large bowl, combine the romaine, escarole, radicchio, red-leaf, scallions, red pepper, green pepper and cherry tomatoes.

Whisk together the olive oil, basil, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Pour over salad, toss and serve immediately.

 

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Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients

1 pound eggplant, peeled
3/4 cup egg substitute (such as Egg Beaters)
1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian style bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the 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 in another.

Dip the eggplant slices into the egg substitute mixture, 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.

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 below
  • 1-8 ounce package shredded mozzarella cheese 
  • 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 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.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped fine

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute vegetables. Add 1-6 oz. can tomato paste.
Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot. Add 4-28 oz. boxes Pomi tomatoes. Simmer for 1 hour.

Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper and dried thyme. Simmer for another hour or until the sauce has thickened. Taste the sauce to see if it is very acidic. If it is, add a teaspoon of honey or agave syrup.

Measure out 2 ½ cups of sauce for the recipe above and freeze the remaining sauce.

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Homemade Italian Bread

Ingredients

  • 7 1/4-7 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packages fast-rising active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water ( 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • 1 slightly beaten egg white

Directions

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and the yeast.
Combine the water and salt. Add to the dry mixture.
Beat at low-speed for 30 seconds, scrapping the sides constantly.
Beat at high for 3 minutes.
By hand, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a very stiff dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and very elastic (15-25 minutes).
Shape into a ball.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough.
Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 1 hour).

Punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough in half.
Cover with the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 15×12 inch rectangle.
Beginning at the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up tightly, sealing as you roll.
Taper the ends of the loaf.

Grease 2 baking sheets and sprinkle them each with cornmeal.
Place each loaf, diagonally seam side down, on baking sheets.
Make diagonal cuts 2 ½ inches apart (1/8 to ¼ inch deep) on the tops of the loaves.
Add tablespoon of water to the beaten egg white and brush over the top and sides of the loaves.

Cover and let rise in a warm place till double (about 20-45 minutes).
When ready to bake, place a large shallow pan on the lower rack of the oven and fill with boiling water.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes, brush with the egg white mixture again.
Bake 20 minutes longer. Cool on a rack.

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Yogurt Cake with Fresh Berries

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries or seasonal fruit for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-inch cake pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Oil the paper, too; set the pan aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil, almond extract and vanilla extract. Gently whisk flour mixture into yogurt mixture just until blended and smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and top has formed a thin crust. The cake should be just firm in the center when done. Cool cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan and peel off parchment paper.

Continue cooling on a rack. Slice and serve with berries.

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abruzzo-1

Abruzzi is located in the mountains along the Adriatic region of Italy and the cuisine is known for simple but hearty meals. A typical meal prepared in Abruzzi will feature diavolicchio, a combination of olive oil, tomatoes and chili peppers. Chili peppers are used often to spice up recipes, typical for much of Southern Italy. Rosemary, garlic and wine are also used extensively in Abruzzi cooking. Despite being more expensive per gram than truffles or caviar, saffron is used in many recipes and most of Italy’s saffron is produced in Abruzzi.

abruzzi

Abruzz’si cuisine is famous for artichokes and cardoons, legumes and potatoes and they are often enjoyed in soups. Cacio e Uova is a soup made from vegetables and salt pork and sometimes lamb, in a chicken base that relies on grated pecorino and eggs for a thick, creamy texture. Zuppa di cardi combines cardoons, relatives of the artichoke, with tomatoes and salt pork. The tiny mountain lentils are cooked with fresh chestnuts, pork and tomatoes with herbs to make zuppla di lenticchie. The traditional Christmas lunch begins with chicken broth, cardoons, tiny lamb meatballs and raw egg scrambled into the broth or fried chopped organ meats added to the soup just prior to serving.

Atessa-Abruzzo-Italy

Abruzzi recipes feature fresh seafood from the Adriatic, such as, Brodetto, a peppered seafood soup. Port cities also prepare fresh fish in a salty vinegar based dressing. Octopus is cooked in tomatoes and hot peppers and called “polpi in purgatorio”. Garlic, peppers and rosemary are used to season an anchovy and monkfish dish, called coda di rospo alla cacciatora. Fish and crayfish also come from inland freshwater ways.

The countryside of Abruzzi is dotted with herds of sheep and goats, making the preferred meats, lamb and kid. These meats are simmered slowly in sauces to serve over platters of polenta or pasta and served family style. Large pieces of spit roasted lamb are frequently eaten in Abruzzi, especially on special occasions. Another lamb dish of the region, agnello alle olive, is slowly cooked in a sealed clay casserole dish along with olives, lemons, hot peppers and oregano.

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While beef is not as popular as in other areas of Italy, many households have their own herds of free ranging pigs. This yields meat for curing. Mortadellina, ventricina and salsicce di fegato pazzo are locally made table ready sausages that are enjoyed with bread. Abruzzi recipes such as ‘Ndocca ‘ndocca make use of the ribs and other parts of the pig that might otherwise be wasted, such as skin, ears and feet. This stew is flavored with vinegar, rosemary, bay leaf and peppers. Pork sausage is also enjoyed baked into the savory pizza rustica along with cheese and eggs.

guitar pasta

Abruzzi cuisine begins many meals with a pasta course. Maccheroni alla chitarra, or guitar pasta, is a classic Abruzzi dish. This egg dough is cut into the classic quadrangular shape with an instrument resembling an acoustic guitar. This is traditionally served with a lamb and tomato sauce seasoned with tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic and bay leaves. Lasagne Abruzzese layers sheets of pasta with spicy meat and tomato sauce.

Abruzzi cooking often calls for a crepe called scrippelle. These crepes are filled with flavorful ingredients and then used in other dishes. With scrippelle ‘mbusse, the crepes are served in chicken stock with grated pecorino cheese. In timballo di crespe, the crepes are placed in elegant molds with vegetables, cheese and meat and baked.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil and Hot Pepper

spaghetti with oil

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino is a traditional recipe from the Abruzzi region of Italy.

Ingredients for 4 people

  • 14 oz (400 grams) spaghetti
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 peperoncino ( hot peppers)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water.
A few minutes before draining the pasta, heat 1/4 cup of oil, add the garlic and the peperoncino and cook slowly until the garlic turns golden. Add the sauce to the drained spaghetti, toss well and serve immediately.

Chicken and Peppers Abruzzi-Style

Chicken-cacciatore

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 lb chicken; cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh hot chili peppers; chopped
  • 4 whole cloves garlic; peeled
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves; chopped
  • Salt
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 12 small black olives

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a deep ovenproof skillet with a lid that is large enough to contain all the chicken pieces in one layer without crowding, add oil, garlic and rosemary to the pan – turn the heat to high. Add the chicken and arrange the pieces with the skin side facing down in one layer. When well browned, turn the pieces and brown on the other side. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and chili peppers and transfer the chicken to a large plate, skin side up.

Add the onion and the bell peppers to the skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the olives and cherry tomatoes and, once the tomatoes are hot, pour in the wine and simmer over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Cover the pan and braise in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Transfer dish to a large warm platter and serve at once with crusty Italian bread.

Timballo di Patate

potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds potatoes 
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese
  • Chopped parsley 
  • Salt, pepper to taste

Directions

Cook potatoes whole, in water, peel them. Mash potatoes mixing in mozzarella, eggs, grated cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.
Place mixture in a 12x9x2 inch (or 9 inch round) pan, of which the inside surfaces have been oiled (or buttered) and sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking. Heat at 425 degrees F. in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown. Serves 12.

Easter Ricotta Tarts with Saffron

soffioni

During Easter time the Abruzzi people celebrate the holiday with traditional sweets called soffioni or “big puffs”. The name refers to the look these mini tarts get while baking. Their filling is made with fresh ricotta and flavored with citrus zest and saffron. The expensive spice is a local ingredient from the fields around the small town of Navelli. It takes the inner part of 150 flowers (called crocus) to yield 1 gram of dry saffron and the brief harvest occurs once a year, when the flowers bloom around mid October.

12 pastries

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus some extra for the work surface
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium eggs plus 1 egg yolk

For the filling:

  • 1 pinch of saffron threads
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of sheep’s milk ricotta or cow’s milk ricotta, well-drained
  • Zest of 1 small lemon, finely grated
  • Vegetable oil or butter for coating
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, olive oil, eggs plus the egg yolk and salt. Work the dough just until it comes together in a smooth and firm ball. Wrap it with plastic and let rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature while making the filling.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the filling:

If you have an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, use it to make the filling. Remember to clean the bowl and the beater before beating the egg whites.

In a small bowl, crush the saffron threads with the back of a teaspoon.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks in an electric mixer with the sugar until light and pale colored. Add the saffron, ricotta and lemon zest. Continue to beat until the mixture is fluffy. Set aside.

In another bowl or in a clean electric mixer bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk and ricotta mixture.

Take the dough out of the wrap and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a square, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a fluted pastry cutter (or a knife), slightly trim the edges and then cut the pastry evenly into 12 squares.

Coat a 12 cup muffin baking pan with vegetable oil or butter and lightly dust with flour. Press the pastry squares into the muffin cups, making sure to leave the four corners hanging over the edges. With a spoon divide the ricotta filling among the 12 pastry cups without overfilling and then fold the corners over the center of the filling. They should not seal but remain partially separated from each other.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 320 degrees F and continue baking for another 15 minutes until the tarts are golden.

Let cool at room temperature and then carefully remove the tarts from the muffin pan. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

 

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Easter

The traditional Italian-American Easter meal is rich, festive, elaborate and labor-intensive. The array of dishes might include a big antipasto, a thick pizza rustica, homemade pasta, lamb accompanied by several vegetables and numerous pastries. Does this sound like a lot of work? So this year why not try a brunch, instead. Much of the work and preparation can be done ahead of time.

The word “brunch” obviously stands for “breakfast” and “lunch.” It’s served midday and combines the best sweet and savory elements of both of these meals. It’s the most common way to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day and has even become a way of dining at weddings and family celebrations.

How did this type of meal evolve? It was common among Christians to have a large post-church meal on Sundays. Catholics used to require fasting from midnight on before receiving communion, so after leaving their place of worship, many people ate a large meal combining breakfast and lunch. Some churches even hosted the meals on the premises. We also know that during much of Western history, the Sunday midday meal was the largest meal of the day, followed by an early evening smaller supper.

A British writer named Guy Beringer first used the word brunch in 1895. In his essay, “Brunch: A Plea,” he advocated for a meal that was lighter than what was traditional at the time. The midday post-church meal in turn-of-the-century Britain consisted of heavy meat pies and filling foods, but Beringer proposed a lighter meal, which started with breakfast food before moving onto dinnertime fare. He wrote, “[Brunch] It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

bloody mary

Beringer also noted that a later meal on Sunday would make it easier for those who liked to drink on Saturday nights. He wrote, “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.” He even suggested that instead of coffee and tea, perhaps this new meal could start with an alcoholic beverage.

Eggs-1

Although brunch originally conjured up images of idle ladies of leisure, Americans became very taken with brunch after World War I. During the Roaring Twenties, partygoers created a mini-brunch that took place in the early morning hours between dinner and breakfast, to refresh and sustain people who were dancing and drinking all night long. One women’s magazine recommended that in constructing a brunch menu, “a delicate hash, light fish balls, liver and bacon were all appropriate.” Tastes have changed … the menus of today’s best brunch establishments feature such creations as lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas and Eggs Benedict. According to one legend about the invention of Eggs Benedict, Mrs. LeGrand Benedict in 1893 asked for something new and different during her regular meal at Delmonico’s and she and the maître d’ came up with Eggs Benedict. Others say that in 1894, Mr. Lemuel Benedict requested the combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins and Hollandaise sauce in order to recover from a hangover. Either way, the chef recognized the dish’s potential and it’s been a brunch classic ever since.

One thing that hasn’t changed from Beringer’s original vision of a brunch is its association with alcohol. Most brunch menus serve drinks. A Bloody Mary in particular was developed specifically to be drunk in the morning to quell the pain of a hangover. The Bellini, a cocktail of sparkling wine and peach juice or puree, was invented in the 1930s by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy and named after one of Cipriani’s favorite Renaissance painters, Giovanni Bellini. Along with its sister, the Mimosa, these cocktails became associated with brunch because their light, drinkable flavor made it seem acceptable to drink them in the morning. Also, brunch is usually a leisurely meal, not rushed, and lounging with eggs and pastries does seem to lend itself to enjoying a cocktail or two.

Easter Brunch Menu

Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail
Italian Easter Bread
Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
Asparagus, Orange and Lentil Salad
Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata
Homemade Sausage Patties
Italian Easter Cookies

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Prosecco Strawberry Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hulled strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 bottle chilled Prosecco 
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, puree 2 cups hulled strawberries and 2 tablespoons water until smooth. In a pitcher combine strawberry puree,orange juice, sparkling wine and orange slices. Stir gently. Serve garnished in tall glasses with mint sprigs.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Crescia al Formaggio or Italian Easter cheese bread is still mostly unknown in this country. This light-textured, golden egg bread containing Parmesan cheese makes a wonderful, savory aroma as it bakes. Be aware that this isn’t a soft, moist loaf. It’s very light, crusty and dry inside. Serve it in thin slices with butter or use the leftovers for grilled sandwiches or paninis.

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • Reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Directions

Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

Add the cheese and beat until well combined.

Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rise for 1 hour; it rise much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl and allow it to rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that’s OK.

Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball and place it in a large souffle dish or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6″ to 7″ wide, and 3″ to 4″ deep.

To make a braid:

Divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12″ log and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan.
Cover the loaf lightly with a thin kitchen towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should become noticeably puffy, but it won’t double in size.

To bake the bread:

Put the oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage. Yield: 1 loaf.

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Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad

Red or Pink lentils cook quickly and become mushy if overcooked.

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 1 medium-size fennel bulb
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1 1/2 cups dried pink/red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Baby arugula leaves for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Rinse fennel thoroughly and trim the root end of the bulb. Trim stalks from the bulb and chop fronds to equal 1/4 cup. Thinly slice bulb and mix with oranges, black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until ready to complete the dish.

Cut asparagus tips into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Cut stalks diagonally into thin slices, discarding tough ends.

Bring 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add asparagus and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

To make the dressing:

Whisk together vinegar, shallots, honey, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended.

For the lentils:

Bring 3 cups water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lentils; return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, 8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Toss lentils with 1/4 cup of the dressing.

Combine parsley, asparagus, fennel mixture and fennel fronds in a large bowl; toss with remaining vinaigrette according to taste. Spoon lentils onto a serving platter; top with the asparagus mixture and garnish with arugula.

poached salmon

Cold Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, or low-sodium canned broth

Mustard Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon ground dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Place in a large, ovenproof sauté pan with the chicken stock and heat over medium heat just to a simmer. Place the pan in the oven and poach the salmon until the flesh is opaque, but still medium rare, 12 to 15 minutes.

Make the Mustard Sauce. Combine the mustards, honey and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill.

Transfer the fillets to a platter and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice the salmon into thin slices and serve with Mustard Sauce on the side.

frittata

Caramelized Mushroom and Onion Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or half & half
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

Preheat the broiler.

In a 10-in. ovenproof skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter and oil until softened. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes or until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add shallot and garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Reduce heat; sprinkle with cheeses. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, salt and pepper; pour over the mushroom mixture. Cover and cook for 4-6 minutes or until eggs are nearly set.

Uncover skillet. Place pan under the broiler. Broil 3-4 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until the eggs are completely set. Let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges. Yield: 4 servings.

sausages_hd

Homemade Sausage Patties

Makes 8 small patties

Ingredients

  • 1 poundlean ground pork or ground turkey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage, crumbled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel, crushed
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Mix together the ground meat, garlic, sage, thyme, fennel, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the egg white and combine thoroughly. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes

To easily form the sausage patties, rinse your hands in cold water. Divide the mixture into eighths and shape each portion into a 2 1/2-inch disk. Patties can be made to this point and refrigerated or frozen until ready to use.

Heat a skillet over high heat and then add the oil. Once the oil is heated, swirl it around the pan. Cook the sausages on both sides until completely cooked through and golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Drain and serve immediately.

easter_cookies-175x175

Italian Easter Cookies

Dough

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (10 5/8 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Icing

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Multicolored nonpareils

Directions

Beat together the oil, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, anise and sugar until smooth. Add the flour, beating until smooth. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Pinch off the dough into 2-teaspoon-size (1/2-ounce) balls; a teaspoon cookie scoop works perfectly here. Roll the balls into logs about 4 inches long and about 1/2-inch in diameter. Coil into doughnut shapes, leaving a small hole in the middle.

Place the shaped cookies on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake for about 18 minutes. They may have the merest hint of golden color on top, but they definitely won’t be brown. Do not overcook or they will get too hard to eat.

Remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely before icing.

To ice the cookies:

Combine all icing ingredients in a saucepan and heat on low until the mixture is lukewarm, stirring often. Hold one of the cooled cookies by the bottom and dip the top of the cookie into the glaze, letting the excess icing drip back into the pan. Immediately sprinkle with the nonpareils and place on a wire rack to let the icing set.

Allow the frosting to harden before storing the cookies. Yield: 3-3 1/2 dozen cookies.

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National Archeology Museum of Naples

National Archeology Museum of Naples

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, has one of the world’s best collections of Greek and Roman artifacts, including mosaics, sculptures, gems, glass and silver and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii. Many of the objects come from excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum and nearby archaeological sites. The collection includes works of the highest quality produced in Greek, Roman and Renaissance times. It is the most important archaeological museum in Italy. Charles III of Spain founded the museum in the 1750s. The building he used for it had been erected as a cavalry barracks and later was the seat of the University of Naples until it became the site of the museum.

Some of the highlights include:

A major collection of ancient Roman bronzes from the Villa of the Papyri is housed at the museum and includes the Seated Hermes, a sprawling Drunken Satyr and a bust of Thespis.

Mosaics covering the period from two centuries BC until the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD and mosaics that were parts of floors and walls in Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae are displayed. Many of the mosaics include figures from Greek paintings. The most well-known are the mosaics from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. The museum’s collection also includes a number of important mosaics recovered from the ruins of  several Vesuvian cities. This includes the Alexander Mosaic, dating circa 100 BC, and depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. Another important mosaic is of the gladiatorial fighter depicted in the mosaic found at the Villa of the Figured Capitals.

mosaic

Dog Mosaic

Secret Cabinet – This room was created in the early 1800′s to house the museum’s many sexual items. It was closed for many years but reopened in 2000. The Secret Cabinet (Gabbinete) or Secret Room is the name the Bourbon Monarchy gave the private rooms in which they held their fairly extensive collection, mostly derived from excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Access was limited to only persons of a mature age. After the revolution of 1848, the government of the monarchy proposed the destruction of these objects, fearful of the implications of their ownership, which would tarnish the monarchy’s reputation. The, then, director of the Royal Bourbon Museum had access to the collection terminated and the entrance door was sealed with three different locks, whose keys were held respectively by the Director of the Museum, the Museum Controller and the Palace Butler. This censorship occurred in 1851 when even nude Venus statues were locked up. The entrance was eventually walled up in the hope that the collection would vanish from memory.

In September 1860, when the forces of Garibaldi occupied Naples, he ordered that the collection be made available for the general public to view. Since the Royal Butler was no longer available, they broke into the collection and restored viewership.  Censorship was again imposed during the era of the Kingdom of Italy and continued into the Fascist period, when visitors to the rooms needed the permission of the Minister of National Education in Rome. Censorship persisted through the postwar period up to 1967, abating only after 1971 when the Ministry was given new rules to regulate requests for visits and access to the section. Completely rebuilt a few years ago with all of the new criteria, the collection was finally opened to the public in April 2000. Visitors under the age of 14 can tour the exhibit only with an adult.

Frescoes come from the walls in Pompeii. Covering a period of about two centuries, the frescoes are excellent examples of Roman painting. They cover a variety of themes, including mythology, landscapes and scenes of daily life.

Temple of Isis  is a special exhibit that holds wall paintings removed from the temple in Pompeii, as well as artifacts from the temple.

Pompeii Model

Pompeii Model

Pompeii Model was made in the 19th century and is a model of the city that helps the visitor visualize what it looked like before the eruption.

Sculptures of Greeks and Romans are housed in a large collection at the museum.

Coins and Metals  are displayed in six  rooms containing more than 200,000 coins and medals from Ancient Greece, Rome, medieval times and the Bourbon era.

Prehistory and Early History rooms cover objects related to the Bay of Naples from paleolithic times to Greek colonization in the 8th century BC. There’s a section on Etruscan occupation of the area.

The museum has the third largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy, after the Vatican Museum and the Museo Egizio in Turin. It is made up primarily of works from two private collections, assembled by Cardinal Borgia in the second half of the 18th century and Picchianti in the first years of the 19th. In the recent rearrangement of the galleries the two collections have been exhibited separately, while in a connecting room other items are on display, including Egyptian artifacts from Pompeii and other Campanian sites. In its new layout the collection provides both an important record of Egyptian civilization from the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) up to the Ptolemaic-Roman era.

Museo di Capodimonte

Museo di Capodimonte

Museo di Capodimonte is located in the Palace of Capodimonte, a grand Bourbon palazzo in Naples, Italy. The museum is the prime repository of Neapolitan painting and decorative art, with several important works from other Italian schools of painting and some important ancient Roman sculptures This museum has the largest collection in Italy aside from the Uffizi — and yet you don’t have to vie for space in front of its masterpieces. The Capodimonte contains pieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, Bellini, El Greco, Artemisia Gentileschi, even an Andy Warhol painting of Mt. Vesuvius erupting… among others.

Napoli_-_Museo_di_Capodimonte_(salone_da_ballo)

The collection can trace its origins back to 1738, when King Charles VII of Naples and Sicily (later Charles III, king of Spain) decided to build a hunting lodge on the Capodimonte hill, but then decided that he would instead build a grand palace, partly because his existing residence, the Palace of Portici, was too small to accommodate his court and partly because he needed somewhere to house his Farnese art collection, which he had inherited from his mother, Elisabetta Farnese, the last descendant of the sovereign ducal family of Parma.

Over the years the palace was enlarged and filled with more art. In 1787, on the advice of Jacob Philipp Hackert, a laboratory for the restoration of paintings was created. After the palace passed in 1861 to the House of Savoy, further pieces were added to the art collections, appointing Domenico Morelli as consultant for new acquisitions. They also added an extensive collection of historic firearms and other weapons. In 1866, the boudoir of Maria Amalia of Saxony was transferred to Capodimonte from the Palace of Portici and in 1877 a Roman era marble floor was brought in from a Roman villa on Capri. After the end of the monarchy, the palace became a national museum in 1950.

Naples museum

Cappella Sansevero

The Cappella Sansevero (also known as the Capella Sansevero de’ Sangri or Pietatella) is a chapel north of the church of San Domenico Maggiore, in the historic center of Naples, Italy. Its origin dates to 1590 when John Francesco di Sangro, Duke of Torremaggiore, after recovering from a serious illness, had a private chapel built in what were then the gardens of the nearby Sansevero family residence, the Palazzo Sansevero. The building was converted into a family burial chapel by Alessandro di Sangro in 1613 (as inscribed on the marble plinth over the entrance to the chapel). The Prince of Sansevero also included Masonic symbols in its reconstruction. Until 1888 a passageway connected the Sansevero palace with the chapel.

Cappella Sansevero Interni Cristo Velato

Christ Veiled under a Shroud

Christ Veiled under a Shroud

The museum contains works of art by some of the leading Italian artists of the 18th century including sculptures of the late Baroque period. The chapel houses almost thirty works of art, among them sculptures made of a marble-like substance that, in whole or in part, was invented by Raimondo, who also participated in the design of the works of art in the chapel. The Veiled Truth was completed by Antonio Corradini in 1750 as a tomb monument dedicated to Cecilia Gaetani dell’Aquila d’Aragona, mother of Raimondo. A Christ Veiled under a Shroud (also called Veiled Christ) was completed in 1753 by Giuseppe Sanmartino. It is a masterpiece of expression — even though there is a veil covering the face.

The ceiling, the Glory of Paradise, was painted by Francesco Maria Russo in 1749. The original floor (most of the present one dates from 1901) was in black and white (said to symbolize good/evil) in the design of a labyrinth.

In the basement there is a painting by the Roman artist, Giuseppe Pesce, Madonna con Bambino, dating from around 1750. It was painted using wax-based paints of Raimondo di Sangro’s own invention. The prince presented this painting to his friend Charles Bourbon, King of Naples.

macchine-anatomiche-cappella-sansevero

There are also “anatomic models” of 18th century people whose skeletons, arteries and veins have all been preserved to this day. However, analysis of the “blood vessels” indicate they are constructed of beeswax, iron wire and silk.

 

naples_1742999c

The Bay of Naples

Neapolitan Cuisine

Ask any Italian where the best pizza in Italy comes from and the answer will be — begrudgingly — the same: “Napoli.” Here’s where pizza was invented and, since the 19th century, the Neapolitans have raised it to a fine art.

Pizza is far from the only food Naples does well. Its fritti (fried offerings), seafood and pastas are top-notch, too. But the one thing you can’t miss are the baked goods. Thanks to Naples’ mixed heritage — from the 12th to 19th centuries, the French, Spanish, Austrians and Bourbons all claimed control at some point — its pastries have picked up the best of all foreign influences, such as baba, zeppola, sfogliatelle or around Easter time – the pastiera.

Neapolitan pizza

 Naples-Style Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sugar (⅞ oz.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (½ oz.)
  • ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 5½ cups “00″ flour, (1 lb. 12 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt (¾ oz.)

Directions

Combine sugar, oil, yeast and 2 cups cold water in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook; let sit until foamy, 8-10 minutes. Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl.

With motor running, slowly add flour mixture; mix until a smooth dough forms, 8-10 minutes. Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour.

Divide dough into 4 balls; transfer to a greased 9″ x 13″ dish; brush tops with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate for 48 hours.

Salsa di Pomodoro Fresco

Ingredients

  • 2 (28-oz) cans whole peeled tomatoes, packed in purée
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Directions

Remove each whole tomato from the can and reserve 3 cups of the purée. Cut the tomatoes in half and, using your fingers, remove and discard the seeds (don’t rinse).

Place the tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until just crushed but not puréed. (Alternatively, crush the tomatoes by hand or pass them through a food mill.)

Transfer the tomato sauce to a bowl and stir in the reserved 3 cups of purée and salt.

Pizza Margherita

4 pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Naples-style pizza dough
  • Fine semolina, for dusting
  • 1 recipe Naples-style pizza sauce
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • Olive oil

Directions

Place a pizza stone under the broiler; heat for 30 minutes.

Working with the 4 batches of dough, dust 1 ball dough with semolina. Using your fingertips, press dough into a 10″ circle about ¼” thick, leaving a 1″ crust around the edges.

Hold dough straight up, and with fingertips circling crust, slide fingers around crust in a circular motion as you would turn a steering wheel until dough in the center is stretched to about ⅛” thick; transfer to a semolina-dusted pizza peel.

Spread ½ cup sauce over dough and distribute a quarter each of the cheese and basil leaves; drizzle with oil. Slide pizza onto the stone; broil until the  cheese melts and the crust is puffed and charred in spots, 3-4 minutes.

easy-lasagna

Lasagne alla Napoletena

Also known as carnival lasagna, a traditional southern recipe from Naples.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. (gr.170) lasagne (fresh homemade lasagne pasta, if possible)
  • 8 oz. (gr.225) Italian sausage
  • 4 oz. (gr.115) mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz. (gr.225) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 10 oz. (gr.300) ripe tomatoes or whole canned, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (gr.30) butter
  • 4 tablespoons (ml.60) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Small bunch of basil, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

In a saucepan heat the olive oil and brown the onion. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 15 minutes at low heat. Add the minced basil.

Brown the Italian sausages in a skillet on all sides. Set aside to cool. After cooling, remove the casing and thinly slice the sausage.

Dice  the mozzarella cheese. Slice the hard-boiled eggs.

In a mixing slightly beat the egg together with the Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Oil the bottom of a lasagna pan and lay 3 noodles crosswise. Spread with some of the tomato sauce, some diced mozzarella, some ricotta, a few tablespoons of the eggs and cheese mixture, some slices of the hard-boiled eggs and some pieces of the Italian sausages. Repeat the layering procedure until all ingredients are used.

For the last layer cover with just the noodles and spread the top with softened butter. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and bake the lasagna for 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and let lasagna rest for 5 minutes. Cut and serve.

zuppapesce28plated29_edited-11

Neapolitan Zuppa di Pesce 

The Neapolitan version will almost always include one or more kinds of mollusks such as squid, baby cuttlefish or octopus, clams or mussels or both, and a variety fish with fins. The fish was usually the local catch, so many local varieties of fish, most of them small and some quite bony but flavorful, can be added to the pot. Larger fish can be cut into serving or even bite-sized pieces. The most typical fish of all is scorfano, called ‘scorpion fish’ in English. (Scorfano is also typical of the Tuscan cacciucco and some of the Adriatic brodetti.) Triglie—red mullet—is also a common addition. But any firm-fleshed fish that lends itself to simmering will do: monkfish, snapper, catfish, sole. Less typical of this kind of fish soup are sea scallops and shellfish but they are nice additions.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

For the tomato base:

  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 peperoncino (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • Olive oil
  • A can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash of white wine
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped

For the seafood (in the order they should be added to the pot):

  • An assortment of mollusks, such as squid, baby cuttlefish or octopus, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • An assortment of firm-fleshed fish of your choice, such as monkfish cut into large chunks
  • Shrimp, crayfish and/or sea scallops
  • Clams and/or mussels

Directions

Sauté the garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the peperoncino.  When the garlic is just barely beginning to brown; add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper (going light on the salt since the shellfish will be salty) and add some of the chopped parsley. Simmer for 10 minutes or so, or until the  sauce begins to reduce. Add a splash of white wine.

Add the seafood starting with the varieties that take the longest to cook, then progressing to those that take less time. Begin with the mollusks, since they will take some time to cook. With baby cuttlefish, let them simmer about 10 minutes before adding any other fish. Octopus or mature squid (cut up into bite-sized pieces) will take much longer, usually about 30 minutes. Then add the fish and let that cook for another five minutes. Finally, add the clams and mussels and simmer them just until they open. Sprinkle with a bit more finely chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread.

pasteria

Ricotta Neapolitan Easter Pie (Pasteria)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 3/4 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • Unsalted butter, for the pan
  • All-purpose flour, for pan
  • 3 lbs fresh ricotta cheese, drained 3 hours or preferably overnight
  • 3 large whole eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Directions

Boil milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, cinnamon, salt and the vanilla bean. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 30 minutes or until rice is very tender and has absorbed all the liquid.

Remove pan from the heat. Stir in ¾ cups granulated sugar. Cover. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Discard vanilla bean.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch springform  pan.

In a large bowl, mix the rice mixture, ricotta, whole eggs, egg yolks and remaining ½ cup sugar. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until golden on top and almost set in the center. Cover with foil if starting to brown too much.

Transfer pan to a cooling rack. When cake has completely cooled, run a knife around edge to loosen. Gently remove ring.

Transfer cake to a serving platter. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

 

 

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passover

The Jewish community of Ferrara is the only one in Emilia-Romagna with a continuous presence from the Middle Ages to the present day. It played an important role while the Duke Ercole I d’Este was in power. The situation of the Jews deteriorated in 1598, after the Este dynasty moved to Modena and the city came under papal control. The Jewish settlement, located on three city streets, formed a triangle near the cathedral and became a ghetto in 1627. Between 1627 and 1859, the Ferrara Jews were restricted to the ghetto, a self-sufficient small town within the larger one. With a population of about 1,800, the ghetto had its own synagogues, schools and old age homes. In 1848, King Carlo Alberto proclaimed the emancipation of the Italian Jews, granting them equal rights. Today, the old ghetto area, with its small attractive stores and refurbished colorful houses, is an essential part of the itinerary of all guided tours.

In 1799, the city was taken over by the Republic of France, which established a small garrison there. Shortly after, Lieutenant Field Marshal Johann von Klenau approached the fortress with his military forces consisting of Austrian cavalry, artillery and infantry men, augmented by Italian peasant rebels, and demanded its capitulation. The commander refused. Klenau blockaded the city. For the next three days, Klenau patrolled the countryside, capturing the surrounding strategic points. The French attempted two rescues of the beleaguered fortress and, finally, a column led by Pierre-Augustin Hulin reached and relieved the fortress. Klenau took possession of the town, though, and garrisoned it with a light battalion. The Jewish residents of Ferrara paid 30,000 ducats to prevent the pillage of the city by Klenau’s forces, thus, saving the city from being sacked.

Although Jews lived in several towns of Emilia-Romagna, including Modena, Bologna, Parma, Reggio and Emilia, the Jewish cuisine that seems to have survived or prevailed is the one from the city of Ferrara. Their influence in the region’s cooking is mainly Sephardi, with dishes such as buricchi, which is reminiscent of Spanish and Portuguese empanadas and can have both sweet and savory fillings.

Jewish Museum

Jewish Museum

An old saying from Ferrara goes, “Dell’oca non si butta via niente”, which translates as “Nothing gets thrown away from a goose”. Inspired by the Italian pork cold cuts, the Ferrara Jews recreated similar cuts using goose. All the parts of the goose were eaten: its fat was widely used in cooking as it was full of protein and calories and was cheap to buy. Its meat was used to make ‘prosciutti’ and goose sausages or salami. For centuries the word ‘sallame’, spelt with two ‘l’s instead of ‘salame’ was used within the Jewish community in order to distinguish the goose salami from the forbidden pork one. Foie gras was made from the goose liver and it was very expensive. Sometimes it was even used for payment in illegal betting and smuggling.

Goose was widely used in Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Piedmont until modern times, when it was replaced by turkey, as turkey is more tender, less fatty and cheaper. Many recipes from the Jewish community of Ferrara have goose and turkey as their main dish entree and turkey meatloaf is still a popular dish. A well-known and interesting goose dish is the ruota del faraone or Pharaoh’s wheel. It is made with fresh tagliatelle, goose salami, pine nuts and raisins. It’s ingredients represent the Egyptian soldiers and chariots being caught up in the waves of the closing Red Sea, while chasing the Jews who were escaping from Egypt. This dish and many other old traditional recipes are laborious and few people make them today, if at all. Testine di spinaci – the stems of spinach – and guscetti – the husks of green peas were dishes created at the time of the ghettos, when living conditions were particularly poor and creativity was a necessity in the kitchen.

During Passover, foods containing chametz, that is leavened bread or anything else made with wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye are not allowed. The Ashkenazic tradition also places kitniyot in the list of prohibited Passover foods: rice, corn, soy, millet, beans, peas, any other legume or anything derived from those products, such as corn syrup, tofu or soy oil fall under this category. Similarly, seeds, mustard, sesame and fennel are also avoided during Passover. This restriction includes peanuts, even though we think of them as nuts, they really are classified as legumes. People from a Sephardi or Mizrahi background do not have the kitniyot restriction.

Look on products like matzah flour, juices, wine, oil, candy and soda for the “Kosher for Passover” certification. That can help you be sure.

matzah gnocchi

Matzah Gnocchi

Serves 4 to 6 as appetizer

Ingredients

  • 11 matzahs, broken into small pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly minced parsley
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons of matzah meal, plus more to dust the gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon kosher approved extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes
  • Pinch of sugar

Directions

Soak the matzah in cold water or broth for at least 1 hour or until soft. Drain, squeeze well and place into a clean bowl; add the eggs, salt and pepper, parsley, nutmeg and matzah meal. Mix all the ingredients together.

In a second bowl, place some more matzah meal. With a wet tablespoon or a small scoop, take some of the mixture and place it on top of the matzah meal. Using your hands, roll the mixture evenly over the matzah meal and shape it into a ping-pong size ball. Proceed with the rest of the mix and place the rolled gnocchi on a piece of wax paper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; drop in the gnocchi and scoop them out as they rise to the surface using a slotted skimmer. Place them in with the tomato sauce and serve.

Prepare the sauce:

Heat olive oil and add thinly sliced leeks (white and light green parts) and a whole clove of garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring, and discard the garlic.

Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon . Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook for about 10-15 minutes uncovered, allowing the sauce to thicken.

passoverrolledturkeys-01

Passover Rolled Turkey Breast With Mushroom-Spinach Stuffing

FOR THE STUFFING:

  • 2 tablespoons kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part only, chopped
  • 1 pound mushrooms, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups matzah meal
  • Salt and pepper to taste

FOR THE TURKEY:

  • 1 Kosher whole turkey breast, boned, with skin (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher-for-Passover olive oil
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium Kosher chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 cup kosher-for-Passover dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

TO PREPARE THE STUFFING:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Saute leeks and mushrooms until leeks are tender and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and spinach and stir until spinach wilts. Remove to a large bowl to cool slightly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and stir in matzah meal. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

TO PREPARE THE TURKEY:

Lay turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board or wax paper. Trim any excess skin. Holding a knife parallel to the meat, make lengthwise cuts on both breast halves, cutting away from the center, so meat is of a consistent thickness (creating a rectangular shape). Cover with wax paper and pound to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread with the spinach stuffing mixture, leaving about a 1/2-inch border. Starting from the left side, roll into a cylinder. Tie at 1-inch intervals with kitchen string and secure open edges with toothpicks.

Place turkey on a rack, seam side down, in a roasting pan. Brush with oil. Combine 2 cups chicken broth with the wine and pour over the turkey. Roast for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting with stock mixture every 15 minutes (add broth if evaporating too quickly) or until temperature registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and juices run clear.

Remove from roast the oven and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Skim fat from the roasting pan and pour pan juices into a small saucepan with the remaining stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook until slightly thickened. Remove toothpicks and string, and slice turkey into 1-inch-thick slices. Serve with sauce.

Latkes
Easy Latkes

These latkes are oven fried.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, about 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons Matzah meal
  • Kosher approved vegetable oil for the baking sheets

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly spray two large cookie sheets with rims with cooking spray.

Grate or shred the potatoes. You can use the fine shredding attachment on a processor or mixer. Wrap the grated potatoes in a cotton dish towel (a flour sack towel works well), and twist the towel closed at the top. Bring the potatoes to the sink and squeeze them, wringing as much liquid as possible from them.

Shred or grate the onion. Don’t use the finest shredding disk of your food processor, as it will turn the onion to mush; the medium shredding disk is preferable.

Combine the drained potatoes, onion, egg, salt and matzah in a bowl, stirring until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Pour a thin layer of oil into each baking pan. It should be deep enough that when you tilt the pan, you can see it move. For easier-to-clean pans and slightly less greasy latkes, heat the pans in the oven briefly, to warm the oil.

Drop the pancake batter onto the sheets by the 1/4 to 1/3-cupful. Space them far enough apart so that you can easily get a spatula between them to flip them over when the time comes.

Bake the pancakes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. Remove the pans from the oven, turn the pancakes over and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom.

Remove from the oven and drain the pancakes on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream, if desired.

rootveg

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • About 3-4 pounds, in any combination: turnips, parsnips, carrots, celery root, shallots, golden beets, butternut or kabocha squash
  • 1/3 cup kosher approved olive oil
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Peel all the vegetables and dice into 1 inch pieces.
Combine al lthe ingredients in a mixing bowl and transfer to two rimmed cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment paper.
Roast about 20-30 minutes, until very tender.
Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs. Serve with the turkey roast.

Passover basic_sponge

Italian Almond Passover Cake

Servings: 12

Dress this simple cake up by dusting the top with confectioners’ sugar and topping it with fresh fruit.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal, plus more for coating the cake pan
  • 2 cups whole blanched almonds or 2 cups packaged finely ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup kosher approved extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Grease a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and grease the paper. Evenly coat the bottom and sides with matzah meal, tapping out any excess.

If you are using whole blanched almonds, pulse the whole blanched almonds in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of matzah meal and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until very finely ground. If using packaged finely ground almonds, mix by hand: packaged ground almonds with the matzah meal and the 1/4 cup sugar.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the brown sugar and the remaining granulated sugar at high-speed until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. At low-speed, gradually add the ground almond mixture, the extracts, the olive oil and the lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Beat 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it; then quickly fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Run a small, sharp knife around the side of the cake, transfer it to a rack and let cool completely in the pan. Remove the side of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the base of the pan, then carefully peel off the paper. Garnish according to taste.

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ravanelligal

Although the radish was a well-established crop in Greek and Roman times, one might assume that it was brought into cultivation at an earlier time, however, there are almost no archeological records available to help determine the radish’s history and domestication. Wild forms of the radish and its relatives, mustard greens and turnips, can be found over western Asia and Europe, suggesting that their domestication took place somewhere in that area. They are certainly revered and highly appreciated in Asia, particularly in Japan where the long, white daikon radish is a major food. The ancient Greeks prized radishes above all root crops, even making replicas of them in gold. The radish was a common food in Egypt long before the pyramids were built and was popular in ancient Rome as well. Columbus and the early settlers brought radishes to America where they are a favorite spring crop for home gardeners because they’re so easy to plant and they grow quickly.

Radish_3371103037_4ab07db0bf_o

There are two basic types of radishes- spring and winter. The crunchy spring varieties are ‘Cherry Bomb’, ‘Champion’, ‘Burpee White’ and ‘Crimson Giant’. Winter radishes such as ‘China Rose’ and ‘Long Black Spanish’ store better and have a more distinctive flavor than the spring varieties. The Bunny Tail is an Italian radish that is slightly oblong in shape. It is mostly red and has a white tip. The Sicily Giant radish is a large heirloom variety originating from Sicily. It has a smooth, bright red skin and tastes hotter than some other radishes. It can grow up to 2 inches across the widest part. White Icicle radishes are completely white and are carrot-shaped. These radishes come from an Italian heirloom variety. Sometimes, they are simply called Icicle radishes.

Radishes are more versatile in the kitchen than many cooks realize. Besides adding crisp radishes to salads, try them sliced into stir-fries, stews and soups. Sauté them in butter for a minute and then serve with salt, pepper and herbs (especially chervil) for a different and unusual side dish. Long radishes are particularly good for sautéing. Slice them diagonally to obtain larger pieces and cook quickly to retain crispness. Grate radishes into your favorite slaws or dice them for egg and potato salads. Radishes can even be pickled!

 Appetizers

prosiutto

Prosciutto-Wrapped Radishes

Serves 2

ingredients

  • 6 long, red Italian radishes (or any radish)
  • 6 thin slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil

Directions

Wash and peel radishes, leaving stems intact.
Carefully wrap each radish in a slice of prosciutto.
Drizzle with olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.

dip

Fresh Radish Dip

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces large radishes (about 12), cut into very thin bite-size strips, chopped or grated
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Fresh dill sprigs
  • Carrot sticks, celery sticks, Belgian endive leaves and/or fresh snow pea pods for dipping

Directions

In a large bowl stir together radish strips, sour cream, feta cheese, dill, lemon peel and lemon juice. Garnish with dill sprigs. Serve with fresh vegetables for dipping.

Salads

RavanelliOlive

Radish and Olive Salad Recipe – Ravanelli con Insalata di Olive

While radishes are not the most common salad vegetable in Italy, you will find them in well stocked markets. Valeriana (Valerian) is a popular salad green belonging to the Valerianella family. It has a number of local names in Italy, including soncino and is also called lamb’s lettuce or corn salad in the English speaking world. Substitute mache, arugula or wild baby lettuce for the valeriana.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/4 pound (100 g) medium red radishes
  • 2/3 pound (300 g) valeriana or other spring lettuce
  • 10 pitted black olives
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Wash the radishes, pat them dry, remove the leaves and roots and thinly slice them. Put them in a bowl with the lemon juice and let them steep for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, wash and drain the valeriana. Drain the olives and slice them. Add the valeriana and olives to the radishes.

Drizzle lightly with olive oil, season to taste with salt (Italians rarely add pepper to salads) and toss. Let the salad rest for a minute or two before serving it.

bresaola-Mottram-515x438

Bresaola with Radishes, White Asparagus and Baby Greens

Bresaola is air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months until it becomes hard and turns a dark red color. It is made from top round and is lean and tender with a sweet, musty smell. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italy’s Lombardy region.
6 servings

Ingredients

  • 25 white asparagus stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated or high quality jarred horseradish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 42 slices bresaola, sliced paper thin
  • 2 cups baby greens
  • 1/2 cup baby frisée
  • 1/2 cup shaved radishes
  • Sea salt for garnish
  • Marcona almonds for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and Champagne vinegar. Cook until very tender, about 12-15 minutes, dependign on thickness. Prepare an ice bath while the asparagus cooks. When the asparagus are cooked, transfer to the ice bath. Drain the asparagus and purée in a food processor. Add the horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Prepare a second ice bath. Add the basil, oregano and parsley to the water. Boil for 20 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Drain the herbs and squeeze out excess water. Combine the herbs and olive oil in a blender and blend on high. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To serve, lay 7 slices of bresaola on each plate, overlapping the slices slightly. Spoon some asparagus purée on the bresaola slices. Toss the greens, frisée and radishes with the herb oil. Top each serving of bresaola with some salad and almonds. Season with sea salt and serve.

Side Dishes

roasted radishes

Roasted Radishes

If you want a more substantial side dish add 12 baby carrots to the radishes in the recipe below and increase the cooking time to 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches fresh radishes, washed, dried, stems and tails removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking pan in the oven until hot.
In a bowl, mix the radishes with the oil, salt, pepper and thyme.
Place the radishes on the hot pan and put the pan back in the oven.
Every 5 minutes stir the radishes. Total cooking time should be 15 minutes, depending on the size of the radishes.
When ready, they’ll be blistered and pink with just a little bite left to the texture.
Serve as a side dish with a drizzle of fresh olive oil.

pan-roasted_radishes_with_italian-style_greens-458x326

Pan-Roasted Radishes with Italian-Style Greens

Cooked radishes taste a lot like turnips, their Brassicaceae cousins, but with a milder flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced dried Mission figs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups trimmed radishes, halved or quartered (10 oz.)
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 4 cups radish greens or arugula
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped black oil-cured olives
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste

Directions

Place figs in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Plump 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add radishes, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until browned on one side (do not stir). Shake pan and cook, uncovered, 3 to 4 minutes more or until radishes are just tender. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt. Set aside.

Return skillet to heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add spinach and radish greens and cook 2 minutes or until barely wilted, turning with tongs. Add pine nuts, figs, olives and radishes. Cover and cook 3 minutes more or until greens are tender and radishes are heated through. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

snap peas

Sugar Snap Peas and Radishes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sugar snap peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 medium radishes, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • Freshly cracked pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add snap peas; cook 1 to 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain snap peas; run under cold water until cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, tarragon and salt until well combined. Toss snap peas and radishes in the dressing. Season with freshly cracked pepper.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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cellini

The self-portrait of master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini

Benvenuto Cellini was a Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, soldier and writer. He was born in 1500 in Florence, Italy and his parents were Giovanni Cellini and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini was pushed towards music,but when he was fifteen his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to the goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro. However, at the age of sixteen, Benvenuto attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an altercation with his companions. He was banished for six months by the magistrates and went to live in Siena, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro. From Siena he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa and a period of studying sculpture in Florence, he moved to Rome.

His first artistic works were a silver casket, silver candlesticks and a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII. Another celebrated work from his time in Rome is the gold medallion, “Leda and the Swan”, created for Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino that is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. He also took up the flute again and was appointed one of the pope’s court musicians.

In the attack on Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Cellini gained fame as a soldier. According to his own accounts, he shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, Prince of Orange. His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates and he soon returned to his hometown of Florence. Here, he devoted himself to crafting medals in gold, the most famous of which are “Hercules and the Nemean Lion” and “Atlas Supporting the Sphere”, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France.

He returned to Rome and this time he was employed in the craft of making jewelery and in casting dies for medals and the papal mint. In 1529 his brother, Cecchino, killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and, in turn, was wounded. He later died. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother’s killer – an act of blood revenge, but not justice, as Cellini admits that his brother’s killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to escape the consequences. Through the influence of several cardinals, he later obtained a pardon. Cellini next went to Venice, where he was restored with greater honor than before.

At the age of 37, after returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled the gems of the pope’s tiara during the war. He was confined to the Castel Sant’Angelo, escaped, was recaptured and treated severely. The intercession Cardinal d’Este of Ferrara, eventually secured Cellini’s release, in gratitude for which he crafted d’Este a gold cup.

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini created sculptures of a grander scale. One of the main projects of his French period is probably the “Golden Gate” for the Château de Fontainebleau. Only the bronze tympanum of this unfinished work, which represents the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Paris, Louvre), still exists, but the complete spectrum of his work can be known through archives,his preparatory drawings and reproduced casts. His most distinguished sculpture, the bronze group of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” now in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence, was his attempt to surpass Michelangelo’s, “David” and Donatello’s, “Judith and Holofernes”. The casting of this work caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety, but it was called a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. By 1996, centuries of environmental pollution exposure had damaged the statue. In December 1996 it was removed from the Loggia and transferred to the Uffizi for cleaning and restoration. It was a slow, years-long process and the restored statue was returned to its home in June 2000.

The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini was started when he was 58 and ended just before his last trip to Pisa around the year 1563, when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions and enjoyments, that is written in an energetic, direct and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. Despite its exaggerations and its often boastful tone, it is a document of surprising frankness and incomparable authenticity and, thanks to it Cellini’s character, is more intimately known than that of any other figure of his time.

He died in Florence in 1571 at the age of 71 leaving behind a magnificent legacy of work. For all his exploits, Benvenuto Cellini remains a hero of Florence, in the Piazzale Degli Uffizi, outside the famous Uffizi Gallery, a life-size sculptor of him stands alongside the great masters of renaissance art, Da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo.

Still in the news today, Cellini’s gold and enamel masterpiece the “Saltcellar of Francis I” executed in 1540 for the King of France and valued today at $60,000,000, was recovered recently after being stolen from a museum in Vienna. Being chosen as a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno shows the respect he commanded: not just as an artist but as a patron of Florence.

florence

Some Florentine Specialties

Much of the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine was born out of necessity. Wild herbs and greens were used in simple soups. Every part of the animal was used–cibreo is a popular Florentine chicken stew that features cockscombs. Tuscan bread, a rustic sourdough baked in a wood-fired oven, traditionally was made without expensive salt. That meant it quickly went stale and so ribollita was born, a vegetable soup thickened with bread. Panzanella is a summer salad made from stale bread cubes, fresh tomatoes, basil and Tuscany’s famed olive oil. Wheat flour was another expensive ingredient and so Tuscans created dishes like castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, orange zest and olive oil.
Dishes here have hearty, rustic flavors, well-matched to the area’s famous wines, and Florentines enjoy eating their regional cuisine in friendly, warm, informal settings.

Typically, Florentine people never start a meal from the main course but always have a starter first. Whether eating in a restaurant or at home with friends, you will always find liver crostini (thin sliced toasted bread with liver patè) on the table. Alongside liver crostini the usual antipasto also offers different types of sliced salamis and hams.

Pappardelle (similar to spaghetti, but a thicker pasta made with egg) with boar or hare sauce. It can be seasoned with other classic ingredients: porcini mushrooms, meat sauces, artichokes and sausages, etc. Other first course dishes are the soups: pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, carabaccia and black cabbage. These are all variations of a single base made from vegetables, bread and tomato.

The hills around Florence abound with game, including wild boar which is used in locally made salamis and air-dried hams. Duck and rabbit appear on the table grilled. Fish from the region’s lakes and seafood from the coastal areas appear on the table. Porcini, wild mushrooms, are another favorite served in the fall after foragers have combed the woods around the city.

Bistecca alla fiorentina (a T-bone steak) is served rare with a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and often accompanied by white beans, roasted potatoes or a green salad. Porchetta is a suckling pig, stuffed with garlic and herbs and brushed with a rosemary branch while its roasts. Trippa alla fiorentina, tripe cooked with wine, tomatoes and herbs, is another signature dish.

Florentine desserts: cantucci (small almond biscuits) to eat at the end of a meal dipped in Vinsanto or in the colder seasons the castagnaccio, that takes its name from the nearby mountains , is a thin cake made of chestnut flour and pine nuts. During Carnival or after the Epiphany, you can find schiacciata alla fiorentina, a soft sweet, sponge cake which can be filled with cream or chocolate and covered with powdered sugar.

Sometimes Florentines like eating a sandwich in the street for lunch. In addition to steak, Florence offers other meat specialties such as tripe and lampredotto. These are foods that are eaten in kiosks on the street, even in winter.They can be seasoned with green sauce and enriched with other vegetables, such as leeks.

chicken-liver-crostini-Bourgeois

Chicken Liver Crostini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • Baguette, sliced thinly and toasted
  • Sea salt, optional

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions, capers and garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, Marsala, anchovies and chicken livers. Season with salt, pepper and chili and cook until the chicken livers are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor. Add the butter and purée until smooth. 

To serve, spread the chicken liver on toasted baguette slices and garnish with sea salt, if desired.

pappa

Pappa al Pomodoro

Many Florentine recipes make use of leftover ingredients. Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick, hearty soup made with dry bread, is one of the city’s classic dishes.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4–8 cloves of garlic, according to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
  • 1 pound of dry, stale (preferably unsalted Tuscan) bread, broken into small pieces
  • 4–6 cups of water or warmed vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch (20 leaves) of basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half teaspoon of crushed and dried chili pepper
  • 1 leek (white flesh only), finely chopped

Directions

Place the bread in a bowl and add water or broth. Cover and put aside for at least an hour.

Sauté the garlic and leek in oil. Add dried chili pepper, the tomatoes, half the basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Squeeze excess broth from the soaked bread and add to the oil and tomatoes. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with remaining basil and a swirl of olive oil.

Minestra

Ribollita

Ribollita means “reboiled,” because to make this rich, thick vegetable soup correctly, it must be cooked and recooked. Ribollita appears with many variations, but the key ingredient is cavolo nero ( winter black cabbage), though kale, chard, or green and Savoy cabbage can also be used. Add zucchini, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables according to taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 leek (white flesh) finely chopped
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 fresh or canned peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups canned white cannellini beans
  • 1 quarter cavolo nero or equivalent
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard and/or spinach
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk and leaves
  • 4 chopped zucchini 
  • 2 peeled and cubed potatoes 
  • 1 pound stale Italian bread 
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano, rosemary and hot chili pepper as desired

Directions

Sauté the onion, leek, and garlic in a Dutch Oven in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots, celery, chili pepper and cook for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, beans, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes.

Add tomato paste, zucchini, potatoes or other vegetables of choice and water to cover the ingredients. Cook gently for 90 minutes, adding water as necessary,

Chill the soup overnight. The next day purée half the mixture, return to the pot. Bring to a boil and reheat.

Ladling the soup over a thick slice of toasted dry bread and add a swirl of olive oil to each serving.

ganugi-pappardelle-gross

Pappardelle with Duck

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound duck breast, skin removed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, broken into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound dried pappardelle pasta

Directions

Rub the meat with the orange zest, lemon zest, rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the duck breast from the herbs and dice the meat.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the diced duck meat. Cook until the meat has changed color, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the red wine; cook until the alcohol has reduced and evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and mix with the sauce to serve.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Traditionally, a T-bone from local Chianina beef cattle is preferred, but an ordinary T-bone (or porterhouse) can also be used.

Serves at least four

Ingredients

  • 2-pound T-bone steak, three fingers thick
  • Sea salt (coarse)

Directions

Florentines grill the meat over a very hot wood or coal, but it can also be cooked on a hot skillet or griddle.

Grill the steak, without seasoning, for three to five minutes. Florentines often grill the steak standing up on the bone for a few minutes at the end to cook around the T-bone.

The meat should be seared and crispy on the outside and red, almost raw at its heart. Allow to rest for ten minutes then cut the meat off the bone into large chunks.

Season with coarse sea salt and serve.

cake

Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Powdered sugar, for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.

In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk and oil and pour into bowl with flour.

Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the batter to the greased pan and bake for about 25 minutes.

Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

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artichoke-ranch-980x360

ArtichokeBlossom The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean region. The artichoke that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. Spring is the peak season and most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop.

How To Buy Artichokes

Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage. To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do not wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.

How To Prepare Artichokes

Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off the lower petals and cut off the bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke.  Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works wonderfully) to scoop out the choke. Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.

TrimBottom

 

TrimmedArtichoke

How To Cook Artichokes

Boiling Method:
Stand up the prepared artichoke in a deep saucepan or pot with 3-inches boiling water (if desired, oil, lemon juice and/or seasonings can be added to cooking water). Cover with a lid and gently boil approximately 25 to 40 minutes, depending on size of the artichokes, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily. When done cooking, remove from the pot and stand artichoke upside down on a rack to drain.

Steaming Method:
Place prepared artichoke on a rack above 1- to 2-inches of boiling water. Cover and steam approximately 25 to 45 minutes, depending on size, or until a petal near the center pulls out easily.

baby-artichokes-at-market

Baby Artichokes

Baby artichokes are not a separate variety but merely smaller versions of larger artichokes. Their size comes from their location on the artichoke plant. They are picked from the lower parts of the artichoke plant where the plant fronds protect them from sun, in effect stunting their growth.
Small artichokes, which are being shipped fresh more frequently today, make a savory appetizer, salad or vegetable accompaniment when marinated, either whole or cut lengthwise in halves. They are also delicious in poultry, beef, pork or lamb stews.

Baby artichokes are sold in plastic bags or containers or loose. Their size can vary from walnut to jumbo egg size. Size is no indication of age. (Some babies are bigger than other babies!) Choose baby artichokes that are firm and heavy for their size. Most do not have a fuzzy choke.
Bend back lower, outer petals of artichokes until they snap off easily near base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom).

Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.
Halve or quarter as desired. If center petals are purple or pink remove center petals and fuzzy centers. Dip or rub all surfaces with lemon juice.

Cooking Artichokes

Preparing fresh artichokes for cooking can be intimidating. Luckily, preserved versions of this spring vegetable are just as delicious. Here are a few ways to use artichokes, whether fresh, jarred or frozen.

Whole. Steaming whole artichokes to serve with butter or mayonnaise mixed with capers, lemon and smoked paprika. Or, stuff them with your favorite stuffing mix.
Sauteed. When cooked, the leaves on trimmed fresh artichokes fan out and get crisp.
Grilled. Boil trimmed artichokes until tender, then finish them on the grill to give them a smoky flavor.
Pasta sauce. Simmer oil-packed artichokes in cream, then puree for a luxurious pasta sauce.
Bread pudding. Layer marinated artichokes with sourdough cubes and cheese, then cover with eggs and milk and bake for a savory brunch dish.
Dip. Instead of the usual cream cheese base, use Greek yogurt and silken tofu in a healthy version of creamy artichoke dip.
Involtini. Roll up marinated artichoke hearts with celery leaves in smoked salmon for a super healthy hors d’oeuvres.
Pizza. Marinate frozen artichoke hearts in herbed olive oil and add them to a white pizza or a pizza with the works.

artichokes and potatoes

Sautéed Artichokes and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 8 artichokes (they should be firm and feel solid)
  • Juice of a half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 pounds baby potatoes 
  • A bunch parsley, minced
  • Pepper to taste

Directions

If the potatoes are young and thin skinned, wash and rub them with a rough cloth. Otherwise, peel them and cut in half.

Trim the tough outer leaves off the artichokes, cut the tops off (perpendicular to the length of the artichoke) and cut them into eighths, putting the slices into water acidulated with lemon juice to keep them from turning black.

When you have finished cutting them up, pat them dry and sauté them in a large skillet with a cover with the oil, garlic, salt and minced parsley. Begin over a low heat, covered, and after a little while uncover them and turn them often so they cook well on all sides, browning and almost coming apart. Remove the artichokes with a slotted spoon to another bowl and set aside.

Add the potatoes with a half cup of water to the skillet. Let them cook gently at first, covering the pot so that they soften, and then raise the heat and uncover them to brown them.
Once the potatoes have browned, add the artichokes together with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about ten minutes over a very low flame.

GrilledBabyArtichokes

Grilled Baby Artichokes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • Lemon Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 12 baby artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare the Lemon Vinaigrette; set aside until ready to use.

Bend back lower, outer petals of the artichokes until they snap off easily near the base. Continue doing this until you reach a point where the leaves are half green (at the top) and half yellow (at the bottom). Using a sharp stainless steel knife, cut off top third of artichokes or just below the green tips of the petals. Pare all remaining dark green areas from bases. Cut off stems.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a boil. Add prepared baby artichokes and cook approximately 7 to 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork, but they still offer some resistance. Drain and immediately and immerse in cold water to stop the cooking.

When cool, cut the baby artichokes in half lengthwise, sprinkle them with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare an outdoor grill. Place the artichokes cut side down on oiled grill grates, cover with the grill lid, and cook over a medium-hot fire, for about 5 minutes, or until the cut sides are well browned. Remove the artichokes to a bowl and pour the Lemon Vinaigrette over the grilled artichokes and toss.

This can be served right away, but it is much better to let them sit for an hour or so in the vinaigrette for the flavors to mingle. They will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 3 days. .
Makes 4 servings.

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives
  • Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, olives and pepper. Whisk together well.

artichoke pizza

Artichoke Cheese Pizzas

This is one of our favorite pizzas. Since I use convenient frozen artichoke hearts, this recipe can be made any time of the year.

Ingredients

  • One 9 ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 thyme sprigs, leaves removed
  • Salt
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • One homemade or store-bought pizza dough
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, combine the artichoke hearts with the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic and thyme leaves. Season with salt. Cook until the artichokes are soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and stretch dough to fit the pan.

Spread the ricotta cheese over the dough and sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella cheese over the ricotta.

Distribute the cooked artichoke hearts and sauce over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and place the pizza to the oven.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are browned. Serve hot.

artichoke stuffed

Stuffed Artichokes

This is my favorite way to stuff artichokes.

Ingredients

For 2-double ingredients for 4

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 medium artichokes
  • 1 1/4 cups plain panko crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, reserve the stems
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 minced garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Half small onion sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a bowl with water and squeeze juice from the lemon into the water and reserve the lemon shell. Cut off the artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with lemon shell (this prevents browning) and drop them into the lemon water.

Use a heavy, sharp stainless steel knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon to scoop out the choke.

Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub the lemon shell over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.

To prepare stuffing:

In a large bowl combine the panko crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley, rosemary, half the garlic, capers, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Toss.

In a small roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices, artichoke stems, parsley sprigs and remaining garlic.

Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff each choke cavity and in between the leaves with the bread crumb mixture.

Stand stuffed artichokes upright in the baking dish and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.

Fill the baking dish with water until it reaches 1/4 of the way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt to the water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil.

Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should be easily inserted into the artichoke and a leaf should be easily pulled out.

fish

Halibut with Braised Artichokes, Fennel and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 1 9 oz package frozen artichokes, defrosted
  • 1 medium onion, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, halved crosswise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips 
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed or ground
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour for coating fish
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 halibut fillets or any white firm fish (each about 6 ounces and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches thick)
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions

Squeeze juice from 1 lemon; cut the remaining lemon crosswise into very thin slices.

Put onion, fennel, artichokes, coriander, reserved lemon juice and lemon slices, 3/4 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons water and 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large saute pan.

Cover pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Set aside.

Combine flour with remaining salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Dredge fish in flour.

In the same pan heat the remaining tablespoon oil over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add fillets. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook fillets, without moving them, until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.

Carefully turn the fish and cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, 2 to 3 minutes more. Return artichoke mixture to the pan and warm a minute or two.

To serve: spoon 1/2 cup of the artichoke mixture onto each serving plate and top with a fish fillet. Garnish with basil.

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horseradishHorseradish is native to Eastern and Central Europe and possibly Western Asia. It has been grown for its roots for over 2,000 years. The Oxford Companion to Food notes that the first written mention of the root was probably in the 13th century, when a root with the description of horseradish was mentioned in a text describing medicinal cures. Its use as a condiment came later, based on the earliest known written documentation from the 15th century.

The English word “horseradish” has nothing to do with horses or radishes. The word “horse” formerly meant “coarse” or “rough.” “Radish” comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root.” Horseradish is not a type of radish, although they are in the same family.

In Slovenia and in the Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, horseradish (often grated and mixed with sour cream, vinegar, hard-boiled eggs or apples) is also a traditional Easter dish. Further west in the Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, it is called “barbaforte (strong beard)” and is a traditional accompaniment to Bollito Misto; while in the Italian northeastern regions of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, it is still called “kren” or “cren”.

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Horseradish is in the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, radishes, kohlrabi, cauliflower and kale. It is a perennial in most locations in the US and will spread rapidly in the garden from season to season, if not contained properly. Horseradish plants have large, deep green, spoon-shaped leaves (which are edible), large, deep-growing roots and very fragrant white flowers. The bulk of US horseradish cultivation is in southwestern Illinois, near the banks of the Mississippi River (near St. Louis), where the root has been grown commercially for over 150 years. Cool weather helps give horseradish its pungency, so it is generally harvested from mid-fall right through to early spring.

Horseradish growers employ a wide range of herbicides, including glyphosate (aka RoundUp) to control both weeds and spreading horseradish plants (because horseradish spreads so easily. Other pesticides are used to control insect infestations and disease. If you are concerned about pesticide use in horseradish cultivation, look for organic horseradish at your local farmers’ market.

Horseradish roots are large, tapering to a point, with a dark brown peel and a creamy white interior. Horseradish’s bite comes from the release of compounds when the root is grated (without grating and exposure to air, horseradish roots really don’t smell like much of anything). Vinegar stops this chemical process, which is why most commercial horseradish preparations contain vinegar. For really hot horseradish, leave the grated root exposed to the air for a few minutes (longer than that, it starts to discolor and dry out). For milder horseradish, add vinegar right away.

What to look for:

Look for firm roots with no mushy or black spots. Avoid roots that are floppy or dried out. You can find horseradish root in the produce section of some grocery stores and at farmers’ markets.

horseradish_fresh_harvest

What to Do with It:

Grated horseradish root makes delicious sauces and condiments. It is perfect paired with beef, seafood and roasted vegetables. You can stir freshly grated root (or prepared horseradish) in to mustard for a spicy sauce or mix it with ketchup to make a cocktail sauce for seafood.

Horseradish root is generally not cooked, but grated and mixed with vinegar or other condiments to make sauces. Cooking grated horseradish greatly diminishes the flavor and pungency of the root, so add horseradish at the end of cooking, off the heat. Horseradish root can be used in a number of creative ways in the kitchen. The grated root is commonly mixed with dairy products (like cream, sour cream and crème fraiche) to tame its peppery bite. Also try stirring some horseradish into your next batch of vinaigrette, make a horseradish dip or fold some grated horseradish into mashed potatoes. Creamy horseradish sauce is commonly served with roast beef, but is equally good with salmon, scallops, roasted vegetables (especially potatoes and beets) and, of course, stirred into Bloody Mary mixes.

Some recipes call for fresh horseradish to be grated in a food processor (convenient if you have a large batch to grind), but a Microplane zester makes the best grated horseradish, if all you need is a tablespoon or two. Many recipes for grating your own horseradish recommend that you do so outdoors or in a very well ventilated place and wear gloves and eye protection. The volatile oils that are released from horseradish that is grated are very pungent.

Equivalents:

  • 1 1/2 pounds Horseradish root = 680 g = 2 3/4 cups grated
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh grated Horseradish = 2 tablespoons bottled
  • 1/2 cup grated horseradish = 3 oz / 7 g

A Few Facts:

  • An enzyme found in horseradish, called horseradish peroxidase, is widely used in biochemical research.
  • Horseradish is toxic to horses.
  • Don’t put your horseradish sauce in a silver serving dish: the grated root can tarnish the metal.
  • Horseradish is commonly used as one of the “bitter herbs” required at Passover Seder.

Storage

Uncut horseradish roots will keep for several weeks in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Cut horseradish should be used right away. Grated fresh horseradish, preserved in vinegar, will keep for several months in the refrigerator. Peeled and grated horseradish can be stored in sealed bags or containers in the freezer for a few months.

horseradish-sauce

How to make prepared horseradish for your recipes:

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh horseradish root
  • 8 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Peel and coarsely grate the fresh horseradish root. Combine grated horseradish, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and salt in a food processor; pulse 4 or 5 times or until the horseradish begins to break down. Add the remaining vinegar, a tablespoonful at a time, until the mixture forms a coarse paste. Transfer mixture to a jar and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

125-22_Horseradish_applesauce_250_

Apple Horseradish Sauce

In Trentino, Italy, cooked apples and fresh horseradish are served with roasted beef, chicken or pork dishes. Cream is added to the sauce to temper the sharpness of the horseradish.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 5 ounce piece of fresh horseradish root
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions

In a heavy 3 or 4-quart saucepan with a cover, place the apple chunks and toss with the lemon juice and salt. Cover the pan, and set it over medium-low heat. Cook the apples slowly for 15 minutes, stirring several times, as they soften. Remove the cover, raise the heat to bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the juices are syrupy and the apples are very soft. Turn off the heat.

Peel the horseradish and grate it into fine shreds, until you have at least 1/2 cup, for a milder taste, or 1 cup, for a stronger taste.

With a potato masher, crush the apples into a chunky sauce. Stir in the grated horseradish and cream and pour into a serving bowl. Serve warm or cold.

beets

Roasted Beet Salad with Horseradish-Dill Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium beets, washed and trimmed
  • 1/4 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane grater (or chopped very fine)
  • 1 tablespoon (or more, to taste) freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Lettuce for serving

Directions

To roast the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets, two at a time, in aluminum foil. Place the beets on a baking pan and roast until tender. The amount of time will vary by the size and even variety of the beet; but start checking around 45 minutes, as it could take as long as 40-45 minutes more. Use the tip of a sharp knife to test; if the knife goes into the beets with little resistance, they are done.

For the horseradish-dill sauce:

Whisk together the sour cream, Greek yogurt, garlic, horseradish, lemon juice, cayenne and salt (to taste). Gently fold in the chopped dill. Cover and refrigerate while the beets are roasting to let the flavors blend.

When the beets are done, let cool slightly, then peel or rub the skins off with a paper towel. Slice into 1/4 inch thick slices, gently toss with the extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt, and arrange on a platter over lettuce. Drizzle with some of the horseradish-dill sauce. (Serve extra on the side.)

bakedclams_xl

Italian Baked Clams with Horseradish

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 12 littleneck or cherrystone clams, opened; top shell discarded
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated horseradish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned panko crumbs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, halved

Directions

Preheat the broiler in your oven. Place clams in their half shells on a baking pan; drizzle with olive oil and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine horseradish and panko crumbs; sprinkle over clams and lightly pat down. Squeeze the juice from 1 of the lemon halves over the clams and drizzle with olive oil.

Place clams under the broiler and cook until crumbs are light golden and bubbly, about 5-6 minutes. Drizzle clams with the white wine halfway through cooking.

Transfer clams to a serving plate..

Cut remaining lemon half into 4 wedges and serve with the clams.

horseradish beef

Italian Beef Sandwiches With Horseradish Sauce

Makes enough for 10 sandwiches

Ingredients

Beef

  • 2 1/2 – 3 lb boneless chuck roast
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, if cooking in the oven

Horseradish Sauce

  • 1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Sandwich

  • 10 whole wheat rolls
  • 1 white onion, sliced thin
  • 10 slices provolone cheese or cheese of choice

Directions

For the beef cooked in the oven:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Liberally sprinkle the entire roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the roast on all sides until golden brown. Add the remaining beef ingredients and place the pot in the oven. Cook the roast, turning every 30 minutes, until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer the roast to a cutting board and tent with foil. Once cooled a bit, shred the meat into smaller pieces for the sandwiches.

For the beef cooked in a slow cooker:

Place roast in slow cooker and add the remaining beef ingredients, except the oil, over the top of the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours. Slice or shred the meat.

For the horseradish sauce:

Mix everything together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Preheat the broiler. Toast the rolls.

Spread a little horseradish sauce on both sides of the toasted rolls.

Add a layer of beef, top with sliced onion and then a piece of provolone cheese.

Place under the broiler for a minute or two until the cheese is melted.

salmon

Horseradish Asiago Crusted Salmon

Serves 6

Ingredients

Salmon

  • 4 – 6 oz. skinless salmon fillets
  • 3/4 cup fresh shredded horseradish root
  • 3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lime

Dijon Sauce

  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions

For the Dijon sauce:

Mix the ingredients together and refrigerate until serving time.

For the salmon:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine grated horseradish, Asiago, melted butter and rosemary.

Brush each salmon fillet with olive oil and coat with the Asiago cheese mixture.

Place each fillet on a well-oiled baking pan and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes)

Remove from the oven to a serving platter and drizzle with the Dijon sauce. Serve with fresh lime.

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eggplant

Eggplant has been vastly under-used by the American public. Today, thanks to Asian and Southern European influences, it is finding its way into more and more dishes. It is a good meat substitute which also makes it attractive to vegetarians. Eggplant actually has a bland flavor, but it soaks up flavors of accompanying foods, herbs and spices like a sponge. The eggplant is considered a vegetable but is botanically a fruit. Early varieties of eggplant were smaller and white, resembling eggs, hence the name.

How to Buy Eggplant

Eggplants come in all shapes, from small, round fruits (about two inches in diameter) to the popular large oblong Black Beauty variety, which can range up to 12 inches long. Japanese eggplant is long and thin, resembling zucchini and has fewer seeds. The seeds are edible in all varieties. Eggplant colors range from white to lavender to dark purplish-black as well as pale green, yellow and reddish. There are even some striped varieties. Eggplant varieties may be used interchangeably in your recipes. When shopping, choose eggplants with smooth, shiny skin, heavy for their size and free of blemishes, tan patches or bruises. Wrinkled, loose skin is an indication of age and the fruit will be bitter. Smaller eggplants have fewer seeds, thinner skin and tend to be sweeter, more tender and less bitter. Press your finger lightly against the skin. If it leaves a light imprint, it is ripe. If it is soft, it is too old.

How to Store Eggplant

Eggplant is quite perishable and will not store long. Depending on the freshness factor of the eggplant at the time of purchase, it may be refrigerated for up to 4 days (up to 7 days if you pick right from the garden). However, it is best to use them as soon as possible, preferably within a day.

Handle eggplants carefully as they bruise easily. Wrap each in a paper towel and place in a perforated plastic bag before storing in the refrigerator vegetable bin. Do not store eggplant at temperatures less than 50 degrees F (10 degrees C).

Cooked eggplant may be refrigerated up to 3 days (it will get mushy when reheated) or frozen up to 6 months in a puree form. It holds up fairly well in chunks in soups and stews when thawed in the refrigerator, but not as chunks on its own. I have had great success in freezing breaded, oven baked eggplant slices to use in future eggplant parmesan recipes. I freeze them in single layer packages and pull out what I need for a casserole.

Cooking Tips

Eggplant skin is edible. However, some find it bitter.

The flesh is very sponge-like and will soak up juices and oils. Coat slices with flour, beaten egg and bread crumbs to avoid soaking up too much oil. Let breaded patties dry for half an hour in the refrigerator before cooking.

Parboiling slices for 1 to 2 minutes can also help reduce eggplant’s absorbancy, while ridding it of moisture. Be sure to thoroughly drain and pat dry with paper towels before further cooking.

Once cut, eggplant flesh will begin to darken with exposure to air. A brushing of lemon juice will help keep the flesh from darkening.

Do not use aluminum cookware with eggplant as it will cause discoloration.

salting

Some cooks salt cut eggplant and let it sit for up to an hour to leach out water and bitterness before cooking. In general, it’s not necessary to salt smaller eggplants, since they have fewer seeds than larger eggplants. Larger eggplants tend to become soft when cooked, so salting them before cooking leads to a firmer cooked texture. Bitterness is concentrated just under the skin, so peeling will also work on especially large eggplants.

Here are the directions, if you choose salting. Slice the eggplant according to your recipe and generously season the slices with kosher salt. Let them sit until you can see the liquid coming to the surface, 20-30 minutes (see photo above). Rinse the slices well and pat them dry. It’s also a good idea to use half as much salt as the recipe calls for (unless the recipe takes into account the fact that the eggplant has been salted).

Eggplant may be microwaved to remove excess water. Microwave slices on high for 4 to 6 minutes, remove, cover and let stand for a minute or two. Use paper towels and press lightly to soak up the water.

If you are baking a whole eggplant, be sure to puncture the skin in several places so it does not burst.

Add eggplant to soups and stews during the last 10 minutes of cooking to avoid overcooking.

Eggplant Measures and Equivalents

• 1 medium eggplant = about 1 pound.

• 1 medium eggplant = 4 to 6 servings.

• 1 pound eggplant = 3 to 4 cups diced.

• 1 serving = 1/3 pound as a side dish.

• 1 serving = 1/2 to 3/4 pound as a main dish.

linguine

Linguine with Eggplant 

8 servings

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 32 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Pasta

  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 3 thin eggplants, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into strips
  • 3 tablespoons oil from the sun-dried tomato jar
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Crushed red pepper to taste

Directions

For the sauce:

Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add celery, carrots and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 more minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer, uncovered, over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

For the pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat oil from the sun-dried tomato jar in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the diced eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the marinara sauce and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and add the mozzarella cheese, basil, salt and pepper.

Serve in shallow pasta bowls, topped with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Grilled-vegetable-goat-cheese-pizza-606x455

Flatbread Topped With Grilled Vegetables

Dough

  • 3 cups Italian-Style Flour (00) or other low-protein flour
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

Topping

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil mixed with 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1 eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 roasted red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch rings
  • 1 large tomato, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, optional

Directions

For the dough:

Mix and knead all of the ingredients — by hand or mixer — to make a soft, supple dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes.

To grill the vegetables:

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Brush a thin coating of the garlic oil onto each side of the eggplant rounds and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the eggplant rounds on the grill and cook for 5 minutes or until you see well-defined grill marks. Turn the rounds over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes to achieve the same grill marks. Add the pepper and tomato slices, coated with garlic oil, during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Transfer to a plate until you’re ready to top the flatbreads.

To grill the flatbread:

Divide the dough in half. Place each half on a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper and stretch into 1/4″-thick irregular ovals. Flip one piece of dough from the greased parchment onto the heated grill. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until you see well-defined grill marks; then turn over.

Spread half the pesto onto the grilled side of the crust. Top with the grilled eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and cheese. Close the grill and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, then transfer to a serving plate. Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Garnish flatbreads with basil leaves, if desired, and serve warm.

Yield: 2 flatbreads

To make the flatbread in the oven:

Preheat your oven to 450°F (with or without a baking stone). One at a time, place the rolled-out pieces of dough with their parchment directly onto a preheated pizza stone or onto a baking sheet. Bake until the dough is just starting to brown around the edges, about 4 minutes.

Grill vegetable slices on a stove top grill following directions above.

Remove crust from the oven, add toppings and bake for an additional 6 minutes, or until the pizzas are warm and bubbly.

stuffed eggplant

Italian Sausage Stuffed Eggplant

Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 eggplant, cut in half and flesh scooped out and chopped
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Cook until browned, 8-10 minutes, breaking up sausage into pieces. Remove sausage from pan, drain on paper towels and set aside in a mixing bowl.

To the same skillet, add olive oil, onion and garlic. Cook until almost tender, 3-5 minutes. Add eggplant flesh and salt; cook until browned. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl with the sausage. Add parsley, chopped tomato, basil, thyme, marjoram, cayenne, the half cup mozzarella and the half cup Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, egg and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir to blend mixture evenly, then stuff into eggplant halves. Place stuffed eggplant on a baking sheet, top with remaining cheeses. Bake 45-50 minutes until tender.

eggplant balls

Eggplant Balls

I often make these for parties and they are a big hit with my vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends.

Makes about 15

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs, divided
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Marinara sauce for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and place on a baking pan. Roast in the center of the oven for 1 hour, until very soft and collapsed. Let cool slightly, then scrape the eggplant flesh into a large mixing bowl and let cool completely. Discard the skin.

Mix the cheese, onion, garlic, parsley, egg, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the bread crumbs into eggplant pulp. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture holds together.

Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls. Roll the outside of the balls in the ¼ cup remaining bread crumbs. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes turning once until nicely browned. Serve with warm marinara sauce, if desired.

eggplant fries

Baked Eggplant Fries with Lemon Sauce

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into thin strips (peeled, if you choose)
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Heat oven to 450°F.  Line a baking sheet (cookie) pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spray with olive oil cooking spray.

In a shallow bowl mix flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, beat egg with milk. In another shallow bowl, mix panko crumbs, crushed pepper flakes, garlic powder and paprika.

Dip eggplant strips into flour coating all sides; shake off excess. Dip in egg mixture. Roll in bread crumb mixture until coated. Place on prepared baking pan. Spray with olive oil cooking spray.

Bake about 20 minutes, turning once, or until coating is crisp and lightly golden.

For Lemon Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to chill and allow flavors to combine.

To My Readers:

I have added a feature called My Taste ( http://www.mytaste.com/) that will allow you to create cookbooks, save recipes and follow other users.  See the green box on the right. It is also linked to the following social site https://www.facebook.com/groups/437545196294432/

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