Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Italian Cuisine

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Molise is the youngest and second smallest region in Italy and is located in central-southern Italy. The region has only been recognized since 1963. Before this, Molise was an isolated province of Abruzzo. It now borders Abruzzo to the north, Latium to the west and Campania to the south with Puglia (Apulia) to the south-east. Its capital is Campobasso and the city is famous for the exceptional skill of its knife craftsmen, as well as, its delicious pears and scamorza cheese. Molise is home to beautiful abbeys, churches and castles, as well as, impressive ancient ruins far off the tourist track. Though beautiful, many of the buildings in the Molise region have been rebuilt over time due to damage by invading forces, as well as, by significant earthquakes which shook the area in 1456, 1805 and again in 2002.

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Campobasso

Rain is very frequent and it is heavy during the autumn and spring months. Molise is mostly mountainous with rocky and steep hills, so sheep farming is a major industry. Only the coastline has roads/railways. Because of its mountainous terrain, the economy of the region has for centuries been highly dependent on the transit of shepherds and their flocks from Abruzzo to Puglia.

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Living off the land is a vital aspect of Molisani tradition and much of its agriculture is on a small-scale, reflecting the region’s sparse population. Most people live in rural areas where subsistence farming is both traditional and necessary to keep families fed and healthy. Sheep, goats, pigs and cattle have been cultivated for centuries in Molise, but have historically been raised as a form of currency rather than food, giving rise to the tradition of traveling with one’s livestock to Abruzzo for sale at the markets. Because animals have been generally raised for sale, Molisani recipes are often vegetarian or use very small amounts of meat just for flavoring. Most dishes are prepared simply and with few ingredients.

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Beans, potatoes, grapes and olives are primary crops of the region and the culinary tradition makes use of olive oil, chilies and garlic. Durum wheat is also important to the region, so pastas are both hearty and abundant. Of the few distinct dishes native to Molise is a polenta variation that is made from potatoes and wheat and is topped with a tomato sauce. Other traditional polenta dishes are common throughout the region and many recipes reflect the influence from surrounding regions. Even the flavors of nearby Croatia have made their way into the Molisani cuisine.

Typical desserts include a jam made with grapes grown in the Molise countryside, pastries filled with chickpeas, wafers made with walnuts and almonds and baked ravioli filled with sour black cherries.

Antipasto Course

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Baked Caciocavallo Cheese

Serves 8

  • 1 pound caciocavallo, wax removed, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs each fresh rosemary or oregano, sage, thyme, and parsley, chopped fine

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour the olive oil into the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the cheese in an even layer in the dish and scatter the herbs on top.

Bake until the cheese is soft and gooey, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately from the oven with plenty of crusty Italian bread.

First Course

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Spaghetti with Fresh Anchovies

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 7 ounces anchovies
  • 14 oz container diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Hot pepper to taste
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Dice the anchovies. Peel garlic and chop together with the hot pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped garlic and pepper and sauté until the garlic is lightly browned.

Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes. Add anchovies and cook for about 5 more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add torn basil leaves, mix well and remove pan from heat.

Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.

Drain, toss with prepared sauce, adding the rest of the oil and chopped parsley. Serve.

Second Course

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Breaded  Rib Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 8 rib lamb chops
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 ½ oz Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup prepared marinara sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Season the lamb chops with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.

Dip the lamb chops in the beaten eggs and then in the bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a frying pan and brown the ribs on both sides.

Place the browned chops in a baking dish. Cover each chop with a one tablespoon of marinara sauce.

Sprinkle each chop with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes and serve.

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Braised Peas with Onion

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are soft and golden brown.

Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.

When the peas are tender, uncover and stir frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Taste for seasoning, Add the cheese and serve the peas in a heated bowl.

Dessert Course

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Italian Almond Orange Cake 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at  room temperature, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 1/3 cups almond flour, packed
  • 1 orange, room temperature, zested and juiced
  • Pinch of salt
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure all the ingredients and separate eggs.

In a bowl, combine the potato starch with the almond flour until thoroughly mixed.

Put the egg whites into a medium mixing bowl and the yolks into a large mixing bowl.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt with very clean and dry beaters.  Beat until they reach a firm peak.  Put aside.

Beat the sugar into the egg yolks. Beat on high until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy.  Slowly fold in the potato starch/almond flour in three additions, slowly adding in the orange juice in between additions.  Then carefully fold in the orange zest. Followed by folding in the whipped egg whites, again in three additions to ensure a fluffy batter.

Turn into a parchment lined and greased 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.  Dust with sifted powdered/icing sugar before serving.

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Stracotto  translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in the northern Italy.The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery and, sometimes, finely diced pancetta or the fat from prosciutto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. In much of Tuscany, the meat to be roasted in the pot is seasoned with a minced mixture of celery, carrot, onion and parsley, but never garlic, whereas the cooks of Arezzo use garlic and juniper berries to season the meat.

In Lombardy, the meat is marinated overnight  in the red wine. In northern Italy, especially the Parma area, leftover stracotto becomes a filling for ravioli.

In Florence, before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto – a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion. Chianti is the wine of choice in preparing this dish in Florence and porcini mushrooms are often an important ingredient.

In Bologna, a veal roast is used for this dish. In Sicily, the meat is cut into chunks, stew like, before braising.

Italian Jews also make stracotto with wine and tomatoes that is eaten both as a shabbos lunch and as a Friday night dinner. Rome resident, Celeste Pavoncello Pipenro, recalls eating stracotto throughout her life, “I remember Grandmother Celeste cooking stracotto in a special crock pot that she used just for this dish. It was very important to her to cook the stracotto in the crockpot. Also, my father, Marco, cooks the stracotto quite often and he puts some chocolate in with the meat just to add a different flavor.”

The dish originated in the Piedmont area of italy and here is an early recipe translated from Italian to English.

Piedmontese Pot Roast of Beef with Barolo Wine

Ingredients for 6 persons
1 Kg of lean beef, Italian parsley, sage, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, a
little flour, one bottle of Barolo wine, olive oil, butter, nutmeg, salt
and pepper.

You place in a casserole dish some spoonfuls of butter, olive oil
and sliced onions. Saute these ingredients, then brown the meat
after dredging it in the flour. Cover with the parsley, garlic, the
herbs and the rest of the chopped vegetables. Brown the meat on
all sides to seal it, then add the Barolo wine. Simmer a while to
reduce the liquid & evaporate the wine, then add salt and pepper.
Cover and place in a preheated oven(150C/300F/Gas 2). Continue
cooking for approximately three hours in the covered casserole.
Slice the meat and serve the dish with its gravy, straining the gravy if
you prefer smooth gravy.

Barolo wine is traditionally used for this dish in Italy and in Italy it is possible to find inexpensive Barolo wines that are perfect to cook with. Unfortunately, that is not the case in America. Because you don’t want to pour a fifteen or twenty-dollar bottle of wine over a four-dollar piece of meat, I recommend cooking with a flavorful inexpensive red wine and reserving the Barolo to serve with dinner. For tender, flavorful meat, it is best to prepare this dish several hours or, even better, a full day ahead of time. Reheat it in the oven before serving.

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Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

I also include slow cooker directions for those who prefer that method for this recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lb chuck roast
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz Cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Polenta, recipe below, or Spaghetti

Directions

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Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides.

If using a slow cooker, put the roast in the cooker. If you’re using a Dutch oven, put the roast on a plate.

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Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

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Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

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Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock.

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For the Dutch oven put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours.

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If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

If you’re using a slow cooker, add the vegetables, wine, stock, herbs, tomato paste and tomatoes to the cooker and turn on low for 6-8 hours.

When the meat is tender, remove and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, especially if made in the slow cooker, boil for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Serve the sliced beef with creamy polenta or spaghetti and a green salad. An Italian red wine, like Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.

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Quick Creamy Polenta

3 cups water or beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup quick cooking polenta

Directions

Bring the water/broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.


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Away from the rolling hills, sweeping vineyards and expanses of the sunflower fields inland, on the Tuscany coast facing Elba Island where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his time in exile, perched high above the Baratti Gulf is the walled town of Populonia. The Populonia Bay is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy, a perfect fusion of nature and history. The Baratti Gulf and the Populonia cape have always attracted inhabitants. Today this area is the site of the Archaeological Park of Baratti and Populonia (close to Piombino, in the Livorno Province). The town sits next to the archeological park which contains the remains of a huge Etruscan settlement. The park tells the story of the Etruscans, a group of people who had an important impact on this territory.

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Populonia is especially known for the wealth of Etruscan archaeology in the area and an impressive collection of artifacts unearthed from the surrounding area, from tools to helmets, weapons, casks and jewellery. Positioned on the summit of a hill for safety reasons, the Etruscans constructed a necropolis at the base to house their dead dating from the late Iron Age (600 BC). Populonia, the only Etruscan town built over the sea, was composed of two different parts: Populonia Akron, the acropolis, the upper part, where there were the temples and the public buildings. Populonia Polis, the lower part, situated close to the Baratti Gulf contained the port, where the main economic and artisanal activities took place.

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The Etruscans were very enterprising and traded with many people from the East. Iron-work was the main economic activity of the Etruscan and Roman civilizations. This region also contained other precious metals, like copper. The Etruscans would sail from the Baratti Gulf to Elba Island, where they would transform the hematite into iron. Because of the region’s economic prosperity immigration increased: people from Spain, Sardinia, Campania and Corsica came to Populonia hoping for a new life. The Etruscans also created a mint: they needed coin for their commercial exchanges and to pay the soldiers who were protecting the area. The coins were made in silver and bronze.

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Many archaeologists tried to discover the remnants of the Etruscan civilization, but they couldn’t succeed due to the terrain The first discoveries were objects found in fishermen nets and at grave sites The Archaeological Park stretches over almost 200 acres between the slopes of the Piombino Mountains and the Gulf of Baratti. The Park includes a significant part of the ancient town of Populonia and is spread over a vast area, which enables visitors to appreciate the transformation that has taken place over the centuries.

The wooded coast overlooks the archipelago and the silhouettes of the islands, including Elba and Corsica, create a picturesque scenes. This is the landscape of the 8th-9th Century B.C., when important houses were built on the Acropolis to accommodate the aristocracies of Populonia. These houses are the remains of the summit of the acropolis and from the beach area on the Gulf of Baratti, one can view the remains of Populonia.

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A network of roads join the houses and temples to the industrial city and the cemeteries which lie on the first hills surrounding the inlet. As in ancient times, the routes follow the original roads, crossing the woods and the scrub areas and opening up to unexpected views over the Gulf of Baratti and the open sea. The deep wooded areas contain the remains of the Benedictine monastery of San Quirico that tell of a lost city and the natural resources and minerals that were once part of the region.

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Inside the park one can walk along three paths: the “Iron Route”, the “Quarries Route” and a naturalistic path. The “Iron Route” goes through the areas where the Etruscan ovens used to be. Then, going up the hills, the ruins of the industrial district can be seen. The “Quarries Route” is a path where the Etruscans used to extract the “panchina stone”, that was used to build Populonia.

Inside the park is an experimental archeological laboratory and a museum that includes vases, precious jewels, bronzes, coins and graphic reconstructions of Etruscan landscapes and activities.

The Etruscans

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The Italians in Central Italy today are descendants of the Etruscans. Not only that, but the Italian language has its roots in the Etruscan language. The Etruscans revered women, so women and men were on an equal footing. The men were clean-shaven and were primarily sailors and merchants. They were also good sportsmen, warriors and skilled farmers.

The Etruscan hillsides were abundant with olive groves and modern potters continue the practice of decorating their ceramics with olives and olive leaves.

The Etruscans grew crops beside the grapes and olives and grew barley, millet, broad beans, lentils, chickpeas and spelt. They also grew beans, peas, garlic and onions, figs, melons, apples and berries.

They kept livestock, especially pigs, chickens, ducks and goats and hunted game from the surrounding forests, such as rabbits, deer and boar. Fish were taken from the rivers and the seas and they were making pasta with the use of a rolling pin.

The Etruscans ate two meals a day, enjoyed holding banquets and made good wine. Their culture and civilization was influenced by the Greek culture and they, in turn, influenced the Roman culture and, in turn, the Tuscan culture, as we know it today.

Etruscan food traced from archaeological findings and frescoes depicts food that is still eaten today. They used herbs like rosemary to flavor their meats, honey to sweeten desserts and they had utensils such as saucepans, pans, graters, pots, colanders, goblets and pitchers and beautiful dining plates. They baked and cooked over open fires and produced a variety of breads, one of which is still eaten today – flat grape bread. Wine was plentiful and stored in terracotta jars underground. It was strong and often drunk watered down. Today you will still Italians who drink wine diluted in this way.

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Grape Flat Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds seedless black grapes

Directions

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water. When the mixture foams, after 5 minutes, stir in a pinch of salt, 4 tablespoons of the sugar and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough that is not sticky.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 5-8 minutes until firm, smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it. Set the dough aside for about an hour to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 9×13 baking pan. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll it out into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Enough dough should hang over the edge of the pan to completely cover the top when folded.

Transfer the dough to the baking pan. Spread 3/4 of the grapes over it, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Fold the overhanging dough up over the grapes, covering them completely. Press lightly to seal. Scatter the remaining grapes over the dough, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

Bake the bread until golden brown and the grapes are soft for about 45-60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Green Sauce (Salsa Verde)

This Etruscans served this sauce over what is called bollito misto or mixed boiled meats.

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle of parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 tablespoons capers (in vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed pickled vegetables (in italy you will find carrots-cauliflower in the jar)
  • 2 tablespoons of pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Directions

Boil the egg and mash it together with the other ingredients – the mixture you will obtain should be smooth and fine. (Use a processor)

Place it in a bowl – add salt, pepper and start pouring in  olive oil until you obtain a creamy sauce.

Before using the sauce, let it rest for some time so that all flavors can blend in.

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Peasant Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb italian sweet sausage, links
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, cleaned, rough chopped
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil oregano and garlic, undrained
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil in heavy 4 quart sauce pan.

Cut sausage into 1/2 inch pieces.

Brown sausage in pan until no longer pink.

Add onion and garlic and stir until softened.

Add spinach, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, beans and red pepper.

Heat to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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Etruscan Pici

Ingredients

For the pasta

  • 1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably Italian type 00
  • A generous 1 cup semolina  
  • Salt

For the sauce

  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 1⁄2 – 2/3 cup olive oil
  • Grated pecorino cheese, for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

To make the pasta, mix together the flour, semolina and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gradually mix in enough water to make a firm, elastic dough. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in a clean dish towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Chop the hard-boiled egg with the garlic, parsley, basil and mint, then transfer the mixture to a bowl. Gradually drizzle in enough oil to make a fairly liquid sauce.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Unwrap the pasta.Taking a small piece at a time, rub it back and forth on the work surface (counter) with your fingertips until it resembles thick spaghetti.

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil and cook and for 2–3 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, add to the sauce and toss well.

Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with grated pecorino and serve immediately.

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Guinea Fowl in Porcini

Ingredients

  • 1 guinea fowl, cut into 4 pieces
  • 8 small sprigs sage
  • 8 small sprigs mint
  • 4 slices pancetta
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 1⁄2 cups porcini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Stud the pieces of guinea fowl with the sage and mint sprigs and arrange a pancetta slice over each.

Pour 4 tablespoons of the olive oil into a casserole and add the guinea fowl. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a shallow pan with the garlic cloves.When the garlic begins to brown, remove with a slotted spoon and discard.

Add the mushrooms, mint leaves and tomatoes to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Remove the guinea fowl from the oven, add the pieces to the pan with the mushrooms and cook for 15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and remove the pan from the heat.

Transfer the guinea fowl and mushrooms to a serving dish and serve immediately


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One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

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Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

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Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

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Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

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Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.


cherries

Cherries are in season and you can use them to create sweet or savory recipes.  There’s no need to limit cherries just to desserts. Use them in muffins, coffee cakes or pancakes for breakfast or add them to salads, salsas, sauces and shakes.

Traverse City, Michigan and Vignola, Italy, both claim to be the cherry capital of the world. Traverse City grows more cherries but Vignola’s been growing them longer. It’s the Pacific Northwest, however, that accounts for 70 percent of the sweet cherry production, while Michigan produces about three-quarters of the tart variety.

Nutritionally, cherries are very much like most fruit in that they contain fiber and antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta carotene.

Choosing Cherries

Rain is the industry’s biggest problem. Ripe berries will split open if they get wet at the wrong time, making the crop sometimes unpredictable. The most popular Northwest sweet cherry is the Bing. These large cherries will be a dark burgundy color when fully ripened. The smaller, heart-shaped Lambert cherry is similar in taste to the Bing. A yellowish colored cherry is an extra-sweet hybrid called the Rainier.

In the Midwest, the Schmidt is a variety similar to the Bing. Other sweet cherry varieties of that region are the Emperor Francis and the Rainier. Tart cherries can sometimes be found at local farm stands for use in pies and jams. When picking out fresh cherries, make sure they’re firm (but not hard) and without soft spots or bruises. The stems should be green and not darkened with age.

Wash the cherries and pat dry and then store them in a plastic container for up to two weeks. Cherries deteriorate rapidly if they’re not kept refrigerated.

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If you want to take advantage of the in season prices, you can freeze cherries. The only equipment you’ll need beforehand is a cherry pitter and surgical gloves (unless you want red hands for days). A cherry pitter works very well.

To freeze, lay the washed cherries, pitted, on a jelly roll pan in a single layer and place in the freezer. When they’re solid, place them in labeled Zip-Lock freezer bags and they should keep for up to a year. Never defrost cherries, however, before using in your cooking or baking because they become mushy.

You can also make dried cherries that are great for baking or for use in granola and salads. This is a great way to use up overripe or crushed fruit. Arrange cherries skin side down on foil-covered cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Place in a 200 degrees F oven for four to five hours or until the cherries are shriveled. They should be leathery and slightly sticky, but not hard.

Cool, then store in Zip-Lock bags or plastic containers. It is best to store homemade dried fruit in the refrigerator or freezer because the moisture that is still present in the fruit may cause some bacterial growth. Dried fruit will also taste fresher longer, if kept in a cool place.

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Tomato Bruschetta with Sweet Cherries

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 loaf good, crusty Italian bread
  • 1 1/2 cup tomatoes, diced to 1/4″ chunks
  • 1 cup bing cherries
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, plus one whole clove for the bread
  • 2 tablespoons yellow onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bread
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

Directions

Place the diced tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. Pit and quarter the cherries. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, cherries, parsley, minced garlic and onion. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar into the olive oil.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1/2″ thick slices, rub with the whole clove of garlic and brush with olive oil. Toast the slices of bread in a toaster oven or under the broiler until golden and crisp. Drizzle each slice with a 1/2 teaspoon of the olive oil/vinegar mixture and then carefully spoon on the bruschetta. Garnish with a few parsley leaves and serve.

cherries4

Grilled Chicken Salad with Cherry Vinaigrette

Next time you are grilling, add a few extra chicken breasts for a summer salad the following day.

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half to make four pieces (about 1/4 pound each)
  • Olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary, chopped fine
  • 8 cups assorted garden lettuce or greens, such as baby romaine, leaf, red oak, endive, arugula, spinach (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 10-15 radishes, sliced thin
  • Toasted pecans, optional

Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 cup cherry juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger root (peeled first),
  • Dash salt, cayenne pepper and/or freshly ground pepper

Directions

In a blender, combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

Chill in a covered container until ready to use. (The dressing can be strained for a smoother appearance.)

Brush the chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt, ground black pepper and the chopped fresh herbs.

Grill the chicken and refrigerate until needed.

Wash and dry the salad greens. Toss with the onions, pecans, if using, and radishes. Slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips.

Just before serving, toss the lettuce mixture with the vinaigrette. Lay the salad on the plates and top with the sliced chicken. Garnish with additional chopped fresh herbs.

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Maple Cherry Sauce

Makes 1 cup.

This sauce  can be used hot or cold as a topping for grilled meats, yogurt, ice cream or cheesecake. Tart cherries may be used, but you’ll need to adjust the amount of sweetener.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup cherry juice or juice blend
  • 2 teaspoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  • 2 cups pitted fresh or frozen sweet cherries, halved

Directions

In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the juice and flour or cornstarch.

In a medium saucepan, pour in the juice mixture and the maple syrup. Stir over medium heat until the sauce starts to thicken.

Add the cherries and simmer until they soften, crushing them a bit. Don’t overcook.

Cool or serve hot. The sauce will thicken a little as it cools.

Option: add 1 teaspoon grated orange rind or 1 tablespoon brandy.

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Cherry Cheesecake Bars

These healthy bars are an easy dessert to take to a family barbecue.

Ingredients

2 cups Maple Cherry Sauce (double the recipe above)

Crust

  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers (for gluten-free, use almond flour)
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Filling

  • 1-1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt. (Brands that contain modified food starch and/or gelatin won’t work in this recipe.)
  • 2 eight-ounce packages 1/3 less fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 large eggs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Have a 9-by-13-inch baking pan ready.

Place the crackers in the processor and process until fine crumbs form.  mix in the oil and sugar. Pour into the baking pan and press onto the bottom of the pan.

In the processor or using a mixer, beat the yogurt and cream cheese together. Beat in the maple syrup and vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time. Pour the mixture over the crumb crust in the baking pan.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and the center has puffed up. (It will fall somewhat when cooled.) Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least three hours.

Just before serving, spread with the cherry sauce and cut into bars.

cherries2

Italian Old Fashioned Cherry Cake or Dolce Di Ciliegie

Servings: 6-8

This historical family recipe has been published by the famous Italian cook, Artusi, in his book, “L’arte la scienza in cucina e l’ arte di mangiar bene” in 1891.

Frozen cherries are too juicy to use in this recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 lb fresh cherries, pitted

For the Baking Pan

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 2 ounces almonds ( ground)
  • 1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs (finely grated)

For the Filling

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 4 ounces powdered sugar, plus extra for the top of the cake
  • 2 ounces plain bread crumbs, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur (Amaretto or Maraschino cherry juice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Butter a 10 inch pie pan or baking pan. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200°C).

Distribute the almonds and the one tablespoon bread crumbs to completely coat the bottom of thebaking pan.

Blend the egg yolks with the powdered sugar until creamy and soft. Incorporate the bread crumbs, liqueur or juice and vanilla.

Beat egg whites separately in another bowl until soft peaks form and gently fold into the egg yolk mixture. Pour into the baking pan.

Drop the cherries on top.

Bake for about 30 minutes or untilthe top is brown and the cake is cooked through.

Dust the top with powdered sugar.

Serve hot or cold.

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Duck With Cherries In Chianti

This dish was developed for a banquet to be served at the Castello di Gabbiano, south of Florence. Italian cherries were in season and the cherries were cooked in Castello’s Chianti.

The sauce was served with locally caught duck. Culinary instructor and cookbook author, Katie Caldesi, The Italian Cookery Course, is the creator of this recipe.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauce

  • 3 1/2 ounces cherries, halved, pits removed
  • 2/3 cups orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups red wine, such as Gabbiano Chianti

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the sauce,

Put the cherries in a ovenproof dish, pour in the orange juice, then sprinkle with half the sugar. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the cherries have softened and browned a little. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour the wine into a saucepan with the remaining sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to allow it to reduce to about a third of its volume (you want about 2/3 cup).

Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick frying pan and, when hot, fry the breasts, skin-side down, for about 6 minutes, then turn them over and fry for another 4 minutes.

This will give you medium-rare meat. If you prefer it well cooked, transfer the duck breasts to a baking pan and roast in the oven for about 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the cherries and the wine into a large frying pan and bring to a boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

Slice the duck breasts and arrange them on warmed serving dishes. Pour the cherry wine sauce over and serve with plenty of creamy polenta.


lunchtime

The healthiest meals you can make are ones that you prepare from scratch using unprocessed foods. If you don’t have time to home-cook all of your meals, try to make healthy choices about the processed and prepared foods you do consume. Choosing baked or grilled foods over fried, drinking water instead of soda and sharing a dessert are just a few ways you can eat healthy while still eating well.

Choose ingredients located in the perimeter aisles of your grocery store, where the produce, fresh meats and unprocessed foods are typically located. Make healthy meals by forgoing prepared meals that come in boxes or frozen meals in bags, which all contain high amounts of preservatives and unhealthy salt that can contribute to high blood pressure. Refined grains lack the outer husk of the grain, which contains the health benefits of fiber that cleanses the intestines and creates a full feeling sensation during a meal. Choose brown rice instead of white and cook with whole oats, not instant.

Bake, braise, broil or grill meats, fish and poultry. These are healthier cooking methods because fats drain away from the foods while they are cooking. Low fat dairy products help decrease your risk of high cholesterol and weight gain because you will consume less animal fat.

Consume less food when eating out by splitting your entrée with a friend or taking a portion of the dinner home and look for foods that haven’t been fried. Choose lower fat options when available. Lunchtime is probably one of the least healthiest meals, if you buy your lunch. Fast food is an expensive but convenient option that often comes with a side of guilt. One in every four Americans eats fast food at least once a day. Unfortunately, many fast food meals contain a whole day’s worth of calories and fat all in one meal. When you consider the benefits that come from taking your lunch to work or preparing lunch at home with fresh ingredients, the prospect of making your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Here are some ideas for appealing and healthy lunches that can be made ahead and warmed at work or at home in the microwave. Add your favorite seasonal fruit, a bottle of water and you are all set.

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Focaccia Pizza Sandwiches

This sandwich can also be layered with sliced fresh tomatoes and pesto instead of marinara sauce and pepperoni.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup prepared or homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 (4-inch) squares focaccia, halved horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons sliced pitted black olives
  • 1 ounce sliced uncured (such as Applegate Farms) pepperoni, ham or prosciutto
  • 4 slices part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 small leaves basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place focaccia bottoms on a baking pan. Spread marinara sauce on one side of each of the 2 bottom pieces of focaccia. Top the sauce with olives, pepperoni or other meats and the mozzarella cheese. Arrange the focaccia tops next to the bottoms on the baking sheet.

Bake until cheese is just melted, pepperoni is warmed through and focaccia is crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates, top bottom halves with basil, add focaccia tops and serve.

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Meatball Pitas

Serves 4

Savory beef meatballs makes this a satisfying sandwich for lunch or a light dinner. Adding bread soaked in milk to the meat mixture keeps meatballs moist and tender. This recipe uses some of the pita tops for just that purpose.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 whole grain pita breads
  • 1/2 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef or your favorite ground meat
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced onion
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 cup finely sliced romaine lettuce

Yogurt Sauce

  • 3/4 (6-ounce) cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray olive oil on a medium baking sheet.

Cut the top third off the pitas. Tear 2 of the tops into pieces with your fingers and place the pieces in a small bowl; save the remaining 2 pita tops for another use. Add milk to the bowl and let the bread soak until very soft, about 15 minutes.

Combine beef, onion, oregano, cayenne, pepper and the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. With your hands, gently squeeze excess milk from pita tops; add the bread to the bowl with the meat; discard milk. Mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until well combined. Form the mixture into 16 balls, each about the size of a ping-pong ball. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, cucumber and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill each pita with tomato, lettuce and 4 meatballs. Spoon yogurt sauce on top.

lunchtime2

Quick Italian Spinach and Pasta Soup

Serves 4

This soup is simply made from pantry staples including vegetable or chicken broth, diced tomatoes, canned beans and dried pasta. Look in the freezer section of your store for some frozen spinach or other favorite vegetables to add.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried pasta (any shape), cooked according to package instructions
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Italian tomatoes
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces frozen or 4 cups fresh spinach
  • Grated parmesan cheese

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and saute garlic for a minute.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Add beans, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and lower to a simmer. Add spinach and cook until softened and bright green.

Place pasta (about 1 cup per serving) into soup bowls, ladle soup over the top and garnish with Parmesan cheese..

lunchtime4

Leftover Frittata

A frittata is the savvy cook’s solution for leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped cooked vegetables and/or meat (asparagus, onion, ham, potatoes, spinach, sausage, chopped bell pepper etc.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – any kind you like
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, beat eggs and stir in vegetables and/or meat, herbs and salt and pepper, if needed. Reserve the cheese.

Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add oil and carefully swirl around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the skillet.

Add egg mixture, spread out evenly and cook, without stirring, until the edges and bottom are set and golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (Carefully loosen an edge to peek.)

Sprinkle the cheese on top and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake until the eggs are completely set and the frittata is deep golden brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the oven. (The handle will be hot!)

Loosenthe  edges and bottom of the frittata with a table knife and spatula; carefully slide onto a large plate. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold, cut into wedges.

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Italian Tuna Salad

Servings: 2

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 can (5 oz) Tonno (tuna) in 0live oil, drained and oil reserved for use in the vinaigrette
  • 3 tablespoons canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup cooked cut fresh green beans
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (or vinegar of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons oil (combine tuna oil and olive oil to make 3 tablespoons)
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Prepare Balsamic Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Set aside. (Stir vinaigrette mixture later before pouring on the salad.)

Prepare the Salad:

In a medium bowl, combine garbanzo beans, white beans, green beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper and half of the vinaigrette, stir gently.

In a separate bowl, toss salad greens with the remainder of the vinaigrette.  Divide the tossed salad greens between two salad plates and top each plate with an equal portion of the bean mixture. Divide the tuna in half and add to the top of the bean mixture. Garnish with fresh basil leaves. Serve with your favorite bread.


semifreddo

Semifreddo desserts are easy to make but look and taste like you took a class at Le Cordon Bleu! Semifreddo is an Italian word meaning “half cold” or “half frozen.” It refers to a class of frozen desserts that are similar to ice cream, but made with heavy cream instead of churning air into the mixture while it freezes. Semifreddos are very similar to mousses and are often served in the form of ice cream cakes or tarts.

There are many different recipes for semifreddo, that use different bases to mix with the cream. In Italy, semifreddo is commonly made with gelato. Cooked custards and custard-based sauces are another common choice to mix with the cream. One of the biggest benefits of making semifreddo is that you don’t need an ice cream maker or other specialty equipment to make it. Many semifreddo recipes involve no cooking at all. The most difficult part of making semifreddo is waiting for it to freeze, which typically takes from several hours to overnight in your freezer.

Semifreddos are a great base for just about any flavor or combination of flavors. Once you learn the basics of the recipe, you can customize your semifreddo with your favorite blends of fruits, chocolate, coffee, spices and more! Best of all, the texture and flavors are delicious. For semifreddos with a crust, use a springform pan so it’s easier to remove and present. But you could just as easily form the crust in the bottom of a loaf pan and mold your semifreddo on top of that. Using individual ramekins works well, too.

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Raspberry & Chocolate Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1 (9 ounce) box chocolate wafer cookies
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, unsweetened raspberries (if using frozen berries, thaw before use)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Break cookies into pieces and place in a food processor; process to finely ground crumbs. Combine crumbs with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the butter. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and halfway up sides of a 9 inch round and 3 inch deep springform pan. Bake 10 minutes or until crust is set; cool on wire rack 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form; transfer to another bowl and chill.

In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup of the sugar.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F.  Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.

Place raspberries and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor. Process until pureed. Place mixture in a strainer placed over a large bowl. Press firmly on the raspberry mixture to extract all the juice. Discard seeds. Gently stir in half the meringue. Gently stir in half of the whipped cream mixture. Repeat stirring in remaining meringue and whipped cream until well combined.

Pour mixture over cooled crust, smoothing top. Cover tightly with foil. Freeze at least 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, run a thin spatula between semifreddo and edge of rim to loosen. Remove rim from spring-form pan. Cut semifreddo into wedges; serve immediately. If there is any remaining semifreddo, reattach the rim of the springform pan, cover and return to the freezer for up to 1 week.

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Pistachio, Strawberry and Vanilla Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 4 tablespoons sugar, divided, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1 cup whole milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh strawberries (about 4 ounces), hulled, halved
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups chilled heavy(whipping) cream

Directions

Line a metal loaf pan (approximately 9x5x3″) with 2 layers of plastic wrap, leaving generous overhang on all sides.

Grind pistachios and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until very finely chopped. Transfer pistachio mixture to a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; strain, discarding solids. Stir in almond extract; set pistachio mixture aside.

Place remaining 1/2 cup milk in a separate small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes. Set a strainer over another medium bowl; strain, discarding solids, and chill vanilla mixture.

Purée strawberries and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a food processor until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over another medium bowl; strain, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Stir in vanilla extract and set strawberry mixture aside.

Whisk eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Beat egg mixture at high-speed until it triples in volume and an instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers 170°, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from over water and continue beating until thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Add one-third of egg mixture to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend.

Beat cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add one-third of cream to each of the pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla mixtures; fold each just to blend. Cover vanilla and strawberry mixtures separately; chill. Pour pistachio mixture into pan; smooth top. Cover; freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over pistachio layer; smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes. Gently fold vanilla mixture to blend; pour over and smooth top. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Fold plastic wrap over; seal tightly and keep frozen.

Uncover semifreddo. Using plastic wrap as an aid, lift from mold. Invert onto a chilled platter; peel off plastic. Slice crosswise.

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Triple Layer Berry Semifreddo

Ingredients

  • 1⁄4 cup (1 ounce) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1⁄3 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1⁄2 cups halved and hulled fresh strawberries (6 ounces)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups fresh blueberries (6 ounces)

Directions

Coat a 9 x 5 x 3-inch metal loaf pan lightly with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap extending generously over edges of pan.

In large bowl of electric mixer, using the whip attachment, whip cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add cream; beat at medium speed until soft peaks form, scraping down bowl once. Transfer to another bowl and chill.

In clean bowl of electric mixer, combine egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar.  Place bowl over a pot of simmering water (not touching bottom of bowl); whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 130 degrees F.  Place bowl on the stand mixer; using the whip attachment, beat on high-speed until meringue forms and mixture is room temperature, 3 to 4 minutes.

Combine milk and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl; set aside. Place strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to a second medium-sized bowl. Place blueberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar in clean food processor; puree until smooth. Place strainer over another medium-sized bowl; sieve blueberry mixture through strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard blueberry skins.

Gently stir 1/3 of the meringue into each of the three bowls. Gently stir 1/3 of the chilled whipped cream into each of the three bowls. Pour blueberry mixture into bottom of prepared loaf pan. Refrigerate the bowls of vanilla and strawberry mixture. Freeze loaf pan until firm, 45 minutes. Gently pour vanilla mixture over blueberry mixture; freeze 45 minutes. Gently pour strawberry mixture over the vanilla layer, smoothing top with a spatula. Pan will be full, so do not cover with foil until top is firm, about 45 minutes. Continue freezing at least 3 ½ hours or overnight.

To unmold: wrap sides of pan with a hot, wet cloth or dip briefly in a sink of warm water to loosen. Using plastic wrap as an aid, remove semifreddo from pan; place on a serving platter; discard plastic wrap.  Cut into slices; serve immediately. To store, cover and return any extra semifreddo immediately to the freezer for up to 1 week.

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Apricot Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce

A healthier version.

Serves 12

APRICOT SEMIFREDDO

  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh apricots
  • 1/3 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 pint fresh blackberries

BLACKBERRY SAUCE

  • 1/2 pint fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions

To make the Apricot Semifreddo:

Line 4-cup loaf pan with plastic wrap. Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until thick and light yellow, about 1 minute.

Bring milk to a boil in saucepan. Slowly pour hot milk over egg mixture, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan; cook over medium-low heat (do not boil), stirring often, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Strain, and cool.

Meanwhile, place dried apricots in heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water, and let stand 15 minutes, or until softened. Drain, and cool. Put in food processor with fresh apricots, and purée until smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Add custard, sour cream and almond extract.

Put egg whites in large bowl; beat until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into apricot mixture.

Pour half of mixture into prepared pan. Place 3 rows of blackberries on their sides down the center of loaf pan; top with remaining mixture. Cover; freeze at least 4 hours.
To make the Blackberry Sauce:

Press blackberries through fine-meshed sieve into bowl. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Set aside.

Remove Apricot Semifreddo from freezer; let stand 10 minutes. Unmold onto plate, and cut into 10 slices. Drizzle with Blackberry Sauce and serve.

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Espresso Semifreddo with Dried Cherries

Serves 8

Ingredients

Semifreddo

  • 1/3 cup freshly made strong espresso or coffee, hot
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature, yolks and whites separated
  • 6 crisp amaretti cookies

Fruit

  • 1/4 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Zest of 1/4 lemon, in strips
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (1/2 pound) dried cherries

Directions

While the espresso is still hot, add all but 2 tablespoons of sugar and stir until dissolved. Cool.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl and with a wooden spoon or a spatula, push ricotta through. Add half of the espresso mixture, amaretto, lemon zest, and salt, and whisk until well combined.

Combine egg yolks and remaining espresso in a stainless-steel bowl and whisk until eggs are foamy. Set the bowl over, not in, a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Continue whisking until the mixture is foamy, light-colored, and tripled in bulk. This could take up to 10 minutes. If cooking too quickly, turn heat off and work over the hot water. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, whip egg whites until foamy. Add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whip to stiff peaks.

Stir 1/4 cup of cooled yolk mixture into the ricotta mixture to lighten. Fold in the remaining yolk mixture and 1/3 of the whites. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan and gently smooth top. Crumble the amaretti cookies and spread over the top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze at least 24 hours.

For the fruit: Combine Kirsch and sugar in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Place over low heat and stir until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Remove from heat and let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight at room temperature.

To serve:

Remove semifreddo from the freezer 20 minutes before serving. Uncover top; invert semifreddo onto a serving platter and remove plastic wrap. Cut into 1-inch slices, spoon on cherries, and serve.



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