Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Olives

Pumpkin1

Except for a Halloween display and its use in Thanksgiving pies, pumpkin is rarely served in the US. On the other hand, Italians, who grow a great deal of pumpkins, serve it in a number of ways. Cucurbitaceae, the genus that includes pumpkins, squashes and edible gourds, has nourished people for centuries.

Of all of Italy’s gastronomically diverse 20 regions, none utilizes the pumpkin the way the city of Venice does. Pumpkin, what the Venetians call zucca  or”suca”, lasts through the cold weather and keeps until spring.

Marina di Chioggia (pronounced kee-oh’-jah),  is Italy’s best known pumpkin. Dense, flavorful and silky, this pumpkin weighs about 4 lbs.  Called “suca baruca” (warty pumpkin) in Venetian dialect, this slightly squashed sphere with gnarled, dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh is rich and sweet after cooking. Once, vendors walked around the streets of Venice balancing wooden planks piled high with roasted pumpkin on their shoulders, hawking, “suca baruc”, to eager schoolchildren or anyone else wanting a sugary snack.

The “suca” criers are gone, replaced by souvenir peddlers, but Chioggia pumpkins have become universally loved in Italy and beyond, and vendors with their big golden wedges of pumpkin still sell in the markets from the Rialto to Sicily. There are other types of pumpkins that are long, such as the Violina from Ferrara (a variety of Butternut squash) with rugged skin. Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. This is the reason why Butternut squash is called “pumpkin” in Italy.

pumpkin

pumpkin3The Chioggia’s ancient signature dish, suca in saor, is sweet-and-sour pumpkin. Slices of pumpkin are salted in a colander, as for eggplant, to remove excess moisture. Next they are dredged in flour and fried in olive oil until crisp. Then they are layered with sautéed onions, raisins, toasted pine nuts and white wine vinegar. The dish is chilled for several days before serving it as an appetizer.

The US could grow Marina di Chioggia pumpkin, if there was a demand for it, though its sheer size would discourage shipping it to different markets. Widely available, however, are pie pumpkins, butternut squash and Calabaza that can be used in for Italian sweet and savory dishes or pies.

Overall, the Cucurbitaceae family’s bland and its compact flesh makes these squash an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet recipes the Italians cook. The blossoms are prepared in a variety of unusual ways, while the pulp is made into soup, risotto, pasta and gnocchi, to name just a few dishes.

They can also be used for savory pumpkin tarts with prosciutto and sweet versions made with pumpkin-honey-orange filling in a walnut-flour crust.

Pumpkin2

Italian Squash Stew

The combination of fresh pumpkin, black dry-cured olives, garlic and tomatoes may sound unusual, but it is a very aromatic dish. Pumpkin or squash alone is bland, but the dry-cured olives and garlic give it great flavor.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato purée, or ½ cup tomato paste mixed with ½ cup water
  • 1 medium-sized butternut or Hubbard squash or 1 small pumpkin (about 1½ pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 20 black dry-cured olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and garlic together until the garlic is fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, stir and bring slowly to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Add the squash, olives, thyme and 3/4 cup water. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.

Season with the salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or chill and reheat gently before serving.

This dish can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Pumpkin5

Italian Sausage and Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  onions, chopped
  • 1 leek, washed and sliced into half rounds
  • 1 29-ounce can of pumpkin or 3 pounds of fresh pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into half-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne to taste
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks. Cook and stir until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Mix well. If using fresh pumpkin, cook until it softens slightly.

Add chicken broth , sage and thyme. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until the pumpkin is tender and the broth thickens.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Brown the sausage in a medium sauté pan. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Stir the sausage into the soup and heat.

Serve the soup with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese on top.

pumpkin4

Pumpkin Pasta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for pasta water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup half & half or whole milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer. Add salt and the rigatoni and boil until al dente.

Dice the onion and garlic.

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat; add the onions and garlic and sauté for about five minutes, until the onion and garlic are translucent and just starting to brown.

Combine the salt, Italian seasoning and flour. Add to the onions and garlic and carefully stir to incorporate. Next, add the pumpkin puree to the pan, stirring it together. Add the half & half or milk to the mixture. Give it a gentle stir until incorporated and remove the pan from the heat.

Drain the pasta and place it in a large baking dish. Add the pumpkin sauce and stir until the pasta is coated. Sprinkle the shredded Parmesan cheese over the pasta and place the dish in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pasta is hot in the center of the baking dish and the cheese has melted.

pumpkin6

Pumpkin Bread Stuffing for Roast Chicken or Pork

Ingredients

  • 1 cup diced pumpkin (from 1 whole small pumpkin)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups diced sweet onions
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sage leaves
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups day old country bread
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F

Cut pumpkin in half and then cut each half into several pieces. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool, peel away skin and dice. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, thyme and sage, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper.

Meanwhile, crumble the bread into a large bowl and add the sautéed vegetables. Stir in the beaten egg and roasted pumpkin and mix well. Then add the chicken stock and mix well.

Transfer stuffing into a medium-sized casserole dish and dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 45 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.

To serve, cut stuffing into squares and serve with roasted meat.

Pumpkin7

Pumpkin Ricotta Cheese Pie

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice

Crust

  • 2 whole graham crackers, enough to make a scant 1/3 cup crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup almonds, pecans or hazelnuts
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter

Directions

For the crust:

Place the crust ingredients, except the butter, in a food processor or blender and process until totally ground, but not powdery:

Rub a little soft butter on the inside of a 9″ pie pan at least 1 1/2″ deep; use a deep-dish pan, if you have one. If your pie pan isn’t at least 1 1/2″ deep, substitute a 9″ square pan.

Pour the crumbs into the pan, tilting and shaking the pan to distribute the crumbs across the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet, to make it easy to handle once you’ve added the filling.

For the filling

Beat together with a mixer the ricotta, mascarpone, pumpkin, honey, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Continue to beat until creamy.

Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350degrees F for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the center of the cheese pie springs back to the touch. Chill in the refrigerator prior to serving

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There are five islands in the Ligurian Sea and all are protected nature reserves or part of the collection of Italian national parks. The Ligurian Islands are characterised by their small or even tiny size and by their vicinity to the coast. These islands share two common features: their well-preserved Mediterranean vegetation with rare surviving species and the presence of ruined abbeys and monasteries dating back to the late Roman times.

Palmaria

islandspalmaria

A ferry service takes visitors to the island of Palmaria, which is a regional park: a protected area which is rich in natural beaches, cliffs, vegetation and caves that can only be reached by boat. From a tourist point of view, the island of Palmaria is the biggest and the most popular of the La Spezia Archipelago and every year thousands of tourists choose to visit its beautiful, uncontaminated beaches and crystalline waters.

It is close to the town of Portovenere, separated only by a narrow strait called Le bocche. The Palmaria island probably takes its name from the term “balma” which means cave, rather than from the presence of dwarf palms. The island offers many different landscapes: the eastern part is densely covered with Mediterranean scrub and the western side is characterized by steep sea cliffs that reach (188 m) over 600 feet high.The island also contains many interesting sights, such as the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Cave) in the western side which can be reached only by boat and the Grotta dei Colombi (Cave of Pigeons) accessible only with climbing ropes. Another noteworthy site is an abandoned quarry situated in the southern part of the island called Pozzale, which was used for mining black marble with gold streaks.

Tino

islandstino

The island of Tino lies beyond Palmaria. It is a military zone and is only open to visitors once a year on the occasion of the feast of San Venerio, the hermit who lived on the island in the tenth century.The area measures about 127,000 square meters and presents a triangular and rocky shape, with dense vegetation made up of maritime pines, live oaks, myrtles, mastics and strawberry trees.

A military lighthouse is located on a 400 foot (122 m) high cliff and has been a guide for thousands of boats, ships and vessels. On the eastern side there’s also a small port, the only landing-place for visitors. Nearby, there’s an archaeological area with ruins dating back to the Roman Age which prove the presence of ancient monastic settlements. In addition, on the northern coast, are the ruins of a monastery, whose construction probably dates back to 11th century.

Although the island is a military area, every year on September 13th the day of the patron St. Venerio, the island can be visited by tourists and, in addition, it is also possible to visit it with excursions organized by the Park. On the other days of the year it is strictly forbidden to land there.

Tinetto

islandstinetto

The island of Tinetto is the smallest one in the La Spezia Archipelago and is separated from Tino by just a few submerged rocks. The area is about half a hectare and doesn’t exceed 55 feet (17 meters) in height. Tino island lacks vegetation, with the exception of some Mediterranean shrubs and it hosts a rare subspecies of wall lizard, which is not present in any other corner of the world.

Tinetto had the first monastic settlement that was built in the 6th century. but it was destroyed by the Saracens. On the southern side, a small oratory remains intact along with a church with two naves to which a second oratory and the monks’ cells were linked.

Gallinara

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The island of Gallinara takes its name from the wild hens (Gallina = hen in Italian) which once lived there.The island has a surface of 0.23 sq. miles and lies less than a mile from the coast, near Albenga. It is a small Island and sheltered St. Martin of Tours between 356 and 360, who was escaping from Milan in order to avoid the Aryan persecutions. It became a center for monks and subsequently, the Benedictines. The monastery extended its influence into the Riviera di Ponente in 11th century but, during the 13th and 14th centuries, the abbey gradually fell into decay. Today, the island preserves the monastery ruins, the 16th century tower and the little neo-gothic church.

The Island, with its rare Mediterranean vegetation and its uncontaminated environment has become a Regional Natural Park. The Herring Gulls chose this place to nest without being disturbed, creating one of the largest colonies in the northern Tyrrhenian Sea. The less steep northern coast used to be a landing-place for the Roman ships, whose important discoveries are safeguarded in the Albenga Museum. Visitors can find Mediterranean Paleolithic flower species, rare reptiles and an unpolluted sea environment. Sea beds host several interesting and, in some cases, rare species of animal and vegetative life. The island’s vertical rock is characterized by formations of Coralligeno, whereas the northern area shows a wide area of oceanic Posidonia, a genus of flowering plants. The area surrounding the whole island is a marine conservation area. The only mooring place is on the north-western side. Its 1.86 miles coastline is steep, but the seabed is beautiful and famous for the presence of very rare black coral.

Bergeggi

islandsbergeggi

The little island of Bergeggi is a mile from the small promontory of Punta Predani. It is part of a regional protected area and it has a medium high rocky coast which is a little over 170 feet (53 meters) high. The natural environment includes the Mediterranean scrub and other species named campanula sabatia and euphorbia dendroides.The surrounding marine area was included among the conservation areas for the presence of important biological species in its sea beds.

The island has several signs which prove human settlement occurred on the island during the Roman age. One can find a very ancient circular sighting tower and the ruins of a Roman church dedicated to St. Eugenio, which dates back to the fourth century. In 992, the bishop of Savona ordered the construction of a monastery on the island to pay homage to the saint and it was given as a gift to the Colombian monks of Lérins. Today, the ruins of the monastery remain intact. Recently, a private villa was built on the island, but now it is empty and abandoned.

On the western part of the island, a pifferaio (Pied piper), a metal statue which represents a sitting human figure playing a wind instrument can be seen. According to reports, the statue represents a shepherd who’s calling a little goat from the gardens of the promontory, Torre del mare.

In all the areas, it is strictly forbidden to do any activity that might disturb the animal and plant life, such as bathing, navigation, anchorage, mooring, use of water motors, water skiing, underwater fishing, fishing or aquaculture.

The Cuisine of Liguria

The Mediterranean diet combines certain ingredients with the climate, traditions and cultures of the Mediterranean countries. Olive oil, pasta, fruit, vegetables, fish, some meat, legumes and wine are the basis of the Mediterranean diet. The word “diet” come from the Greek “diaita” that means “way of living”. Since the 1960’s, scientific research has proved that the Mediterranean people enjoy better health conditions than much of the western world.

Italy is one of the major consumers of olive oil and pasta in the world. Moreover every region can boast different types of pasta produced locally and olive oil is produced throughout much of the country. Liguria produces extra virgin olive oil that bears the certification of “origine protetta” (i.e., protected origin) and is characterised by precise qualities according to its production areas. Extra virgin olive oil that is produced in Western Liguria is characterised by a fruity aroma with hints of almond and apple and a low acidity. The oil of Western Liguria is extracted from the Taggiasca olives that are small and dark whose cultivation was introduced into Liguria by the Benedictine monks many centuries ago.

Typical foods of the Ligurian cuisine include stuffed vegetables, salads and home-made pasta (e.g., ravioli and trofie) with pesto sauce. One can also find “rabbit with Vermentino”, “dried cod brand de cujun”, “torta verde” (rice and vegetables cooked in a thin sheet of pastry) or pizzas – such as “Sardenara” with tomatoes, anchovies, olives and extra virgin olive oil.

islandtart

Leek and Smoked Mozzarella Tart

This Ligurian tart is prepared by chef Fausto Oneto at Ristorante U’ Giancu in Rapallo.

For the dough:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, plus extra if needed

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick)unsalted butter
  • 3 pounds leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 4 ounces smoked Mozzarella or smoked Scamorza, coarsely grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a round 16-inch pizza pan with low sides with olive oil.

Make the dough: Combine the flour, salt, milk, and olive oil on a counter. Add a little more milk if the dough is dry, or a little more flour if the dough is sticky. Knead 30 seconds, or until smooth, and wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over a medium flame. Add the leeks and milk, and cook for 15 minutes, or until the leeks are soft and the milk has evaporated. Add the Parmigiano, smoked Mozzarella and salt, and cool to room temperature. Adjust the salt, if needed.

Roll out the dough until it is very thin on a lightly floured counter (it should measure about 22 inches in diameter) and line the prepared pan with it, letting excess dough hang over the sides of the pan. Spoon in the leek filling. Use the overhanging dough to create a pretty border around the tart.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

islandpasta

Pasta with Mediterranean Herbs

Maria Rosa Costa owns the renowned Ristorante Rosa overlooking the fishing town of Camogli. Here is her recipe for pasta with Mediterranean herbs.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, minced
  • 4 sage leaves, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shell pasta
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep saute pan over a high heat. Add the rosemary, sage and garlic and saute 30 seconds.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and cook 10 minutes, adding a little water, if needed.

Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shells and the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Stir the pasta into the rosemary sauce and add the Parmigiano. Add as much of the reserved pasta cooking water as needed to dilute the sauce and saute until the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. Adjust the salt, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and serve hot.

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Ligurian Style Snapper with Tomatoes and Olives

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 (6-ounce) pieces snapper fillet
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lightly toasted and ground fennel seeds
  • 1 cup black olives, pitted
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 3/4 pounds ripe but firm tomatoes, seeded and cut into 3/8-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed torn fresh basil leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in each of 2 baking dishes, each large enough to hold 4 pieces of fish with space in between. Put the dishes in the oven to heat the oil, but don’t let it get to the smoking point.

With a sharp utility or boning knife, make a few shallow slices through the skin of each snapper fillet to keep them from curling in the hot oil. Season each piece on both sides with salt, pepper and fennel. Place the fish in the hot oil, skin side down, to coat with the oil, then immediately turn with a fish spatula so that the skin side is up. The oil is the correct temperature, if you hear a light sizzle when the fish is added.

Divide the olives between the dishes, scattering them around the fish, then splash equal amounts of wine into each dish.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the fish is slightly firm and starts to flake when the tip of a knife is inserted into the flesh. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillets. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper, then divide them between the baking dishes, making sure they fall between the pieces of fish and into the hot pan juices. The tomatoes just need to get slightly wilted in the hot pans.

With a fish spatula, transfer the fish to warmed plates or a serving platter. Toss the basil in the olives and tomatoes and when the leaves are coated with the pan juices, spoon the mixture over the fish.

Italian-hazelnuislandcake

Hazelnut Olive Oil Cake

10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with oil.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly then rub in a clean dish towel to remove the skins. Set aside to cool completely.

Grind cooled nuts in a food processor until finely ground but not powdery. Transfer to a bowl. Add flour and baking powder; whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed until frothy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, beating until light, thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Gradually add hazelnut-flour mixture; then add olive oil, milk and lemon zest, beating 1 minute more to combine.

Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on a wire rack. Release cake from pan and serve.

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anchovy9

A health food for some, a gourmet food to others and a scary little fish for still others.

This tiny little fish swims in schools throughout most of the world’s oceans. Most become food for bigger fish, but sea-going cultures all over the world consume these tiny creatures and have incorporated them into their respective cuisines. This fish is a small, warm water relative of the herring, a Northern European staple, and just as the peoples of the north salted their herring to preserve them, the anchovy has long been salted by fishermen and packers in the Mediterranean where it is a staple. While they were usually consumed fresh and either grilled or marinated, they always preserved some of their catch for later use. Before the advent of canning and refrigeration, salt was the predominant way to preserve them. Salting anchovies changes both their taste and texture. Although Europeans seem to prefer buying whole salted anchovies from their local market, salted anchovies show up in the US mainly in the form of small flat or rolled fillets packed with olive oil – like sardines. Salt-packed anchovies are sold as whole fish with heads removed; while oil packed anchovies are sold de-boned or in pieces. Oil packed fillets are ready to use, while salt packed anchovies must be de-boned and soaked to remove the excess salt.

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After rinsing, salt-packed anchovies have a deep flavor with less saltiness; while oil packed anchovies are saltier due to being preserved in olive oil. In most cases they can be used interchangeably in recipes. Salt-packed anchovies can be stored covered in the refrigerator, where they will keep almost indefinitely. Salt-packed anchovies must be soaked prior for use in a recipe. There are three commonly used soaking liquids: cold water, milk or a combination of cold water and dry white wine. Whatever liquid you choose, use enough to completely cover the anchovies and soak them for approximately 30 minutes. (Many people will change the liquid after about 15 minutes.) You can soak the salt-packed anchovies before or after removing the backbone.

anchovy01

Anchovy paste can make an acceptable substitute for anchovies in some recipes. (Use ½ teaspoon for every anchovy called for.) Anchovies can be used in recipes as a seasoning ingredient rather than as the main ingredient. Many recipes call for one or two mashed or minced fillets that disappear into the sauce as it is cooked. There are well-known recipes where the anchovy is the main ingredient For example, in an anchovy and garlic paste that is used to spread on slices of crostini or in Bagna Cauda, an anchovy and garlic dip, that is traditional in Northern Italy. The Italian cuisines of Campania, Calabria, and Sicily often rely on anchovies for pasta dishes, such as, Spaghetti con Acciughe that includes anchovies, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and bread crumbs. Anchovies are often minced or mashed into vinaigrettes to season vegetables and salads.

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Bagna Cauda Pot

Consider the health benefits of anchovies:

  • Anchovies are high in Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Anchovies are also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Calcium and Selenium.
  • Anchovies are an excellent source of protein – delivering 9 grams of protein for only five anchovies.
  • Due to their size and short life span, Anchovies contain lower levels of heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic,) and other environmental toxins – especially when compared to tuna and other larger fish.

Equivalents:

2 oz Anchovy paste = 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup

2 oz Anchovy fillets in oil = 50g = 8 to 12 Anchovies in oil = 12 drained

1 ½ oz Anchovies, drained = 40g = 8 to 10 Anchovies

1/2 teaspoon Anchovy paste = 1 Anchovy fillet

Once a tin or jar of anchovies is opened, you can store the anchovies in the refrigerator (discard the tin and store them in a sealed container) for up to two months: just make sure the fillets are covered in oil during that time to keep them fresh.

anchovy

Here are some recipes where you can incorporate this tiny fish into your cooking. I prefer to purchase anchovy fillets packed in extra-virgin olive oil.

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Bagna Cauda

Serves 6

Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. Raw vegetable pieces are dipped into the hot, garlicky, anchovy-flavored oil until warm – and then eaten, catching every little garlicky drip on a fresh piece of Italian bread. It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
  • Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
  • Italian bread – sliced

Directions

Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, or electric skillet or wok.

To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.

anchovy6

Tuna Stuffed Roasted Peppers

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • One 12 oz jar of roasted peppers, drained
  • Two 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, optional
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the peppers into 2-inches wide strips.

Combine tuna, lemon juice, capers and anchovies in a medium bowl.

Lay the pepper strip flat, inside facing up, and put a tablespoon of the tuna stuffing at one end.

Tightly roll up the pepper strip. Place the pepper roll-ups on a serving platter.

Grind some black pepper over the stuffed peppers and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if using. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

anchovy1

Spaghetti con Acciughe

A classic Neapolitan dish.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Spaghetti or Bucatini Pasta
  • 12 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Big pinch of hot, red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted

Directions

Mince 6 of the anchovies and chop the remaining six coarsely. Set aside.

Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until “al dente” – about 10 minutes.

While pasta is boiling, put olive oil, garlic, minced anchovies and chili flakes in a deep-sided frying pan or pot and saute over low heat until the anchovies are “dissolved.” Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies and turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer pasta into the pan containing the anchovy sauce and toss until pasta is well coated. Add some reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Put 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs aside. Add remaining bread crumbs to the pasta and toss again.

Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top ot the pasta before serving.

anchovy4

Tomato Salad with Anchovy & Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 anchovies, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tomatoes, sliced

Directions

Halve the head of garlic crosswise and wrap them in foil, cut side up. Roast in a 450°F oven until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze the cloves into a medium bowl. Add the anchovies and mash them with a fork into a paste.

Whisk in chopped parsley, vinegar, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over tomato slices.

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Italian Fish Stew with Anchovy Pesto

Stew

  • 1 lb cod fillets or other firm white fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 1 28 oz container Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 shrimp

Pesto

  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the chopped plum tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Rinse and dry the fish on paper towels and cut into 1 inch chunks.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and celery until soft.  Reduce the temperature to low and add the fish and the tomato mixture to the saucepan.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the wine.

Cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until the fish is just cooked and the liquid has reduced to a thick soupy consistency.

Add the mussels and shrimp and cook until the mussels open. Discard any that do not open.

Pound together the pesto ingredients with a pestle & mortar or process in a food processor to make a rough paste.

Remove the bay leaf and serve the fish stew in shallow bowls, topped with a tablespoon of the pesto.

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Lamb Chops With Anchovies, Capers and Sage

3 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 rib lamb chops (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 15 sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Lemon wedges, for serving.

Directions

Pat the lamb chops dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper and let rest for 15 minutes.

Over medium-high heat, warm a skillet large enough to hold all the chops in one layer. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add the anchovies and capers. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies break down, about 3 minutes.

Arrange the lamb chops in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until brown, about 3 minutes. Turn them over, and add the sage leaves and red pepper flakes into the pan. Cook until the lamb reaches the desired doneness, about 2 minutes for medium-rare.

Arrange the chops on serving plates. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute, then spoon the sauce over the lamb. Serve with the lemon wedges.

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Figs Stuffed with Anchovy Tapenade

Ingredients

  • 15 oil-cured black olives, pitted
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 ripe, small Mission figs

Directions

Puree olives, capers, anchovy, thyme, and olive oil together in a food processor or chop by hand.

Make a slit in the side of each fig and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of tapenade into the fig. Pinch opening closed. Allow 3 figs per person.

 


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Garlic cloves come in a wide variety of sizes, so the numbers given in a recipe should be treated as a rough guide only. There are hundreds of named varieties of garlic, but all of them can be categorized into two major types: softnecked and hardnecked.

Hardneck garlic gets its name from the stiff stalks, or neck, of the garlic plants and prefer cold winter climates. Hardneck garlic bulbs are impressive with much larger cloves.

As they grow, they produce a stalk that coils from the top called a “scape” or garlic flower. When the scapes appear they curl and wind their way up and around the plants. Garlic scapes are completely edible and make for a true gourmet cooking experience.

Hardneck garlic include three varieties: Porcelain, Purple Stripe and Rocambole.

Almost all supermarket garlic is a softneck variety. This is because softneck garlic is easier to grow and can be mechanically planted. Softnecks are known by the white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, often forming several layers around the central core. The flexible stalk also allows softneck garlic to be formed into garlic braids (plaits).

There are two main types of softneck garlic: silverskin and artichoke.

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garlic4Buy firm, plump, heavy heads with tight, unbroken papery skins. The heavier the garlic, the fresher and better tasting it is. Avoid bulbs that are dried out or have soft spots or mold.

Store unpeeled heads of garlic in an open container in a cool, dry place away from other foods. Do not refrigerate or freeze unpeeled garlic. Properly stored garlic can keep up to three months.

As garlic ages, it will begin to produce green sprouts in the center of each clove. These thin green sprouts can be bitter, so discard them before chopping the garlic for your recipe.

You can buy a variety of garlic presses and other gadgets to help crush the cloves. If you’d rather avoid gadgets then it’s easy to crush garlic with only a knife and a little salt.

In general the finer the chop the stronger the taste. Crushed garlic has the strongest taste of all. When cooked whole, garlic has a much milder, rather sweet taste. Garlic also mellows the longer it is cooked. Garlic added at the end of cooking will give a stronger taste than garlic prepared the same way but added earlier.

To make garlic chips, use a paring knife to cut the clove into thin, vertical slices.

To make garlic flavored oil: heat the garlic chips in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat. Stir chips several minutes or until lightly golden. Remove garlic from the oil in the pan.

It’s easy to overcook garlic, which results in hard, bitter pieces. Pour the oil over the drained pasta and serve. Or use the garlic flavored oil to brush on chicken or seafood before grilling.

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Warm Olives with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Strips of zest from 1 small lemon
  • 1 small rosemary sprig
  • 2 small garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 1 pound mixed oil-brined-cured olives, such as Kalamata, Niçoise, Moroccan, cracked green Sicilian and Cerignola (3 cups)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the oil with the lemon zest, rosemary and garlic and cook over moderate heat until the garlic just begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the olives and let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD: The olives can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated; warm gently before serving.

Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth

Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth

Don’t be tempted to cook the tortellini in the soup; they will soak up too much of the garlicky broth. Cook the pasta separately while the soup is simmering and stir them into the soup at the last moment.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 pound spinach, stems removed, leaves washed well (about 2 1/4 quarts)
  • Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the water, broth, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just done, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tortellini. Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan and pass more of the grated cheese at the table.

Variations: Substitute one quart of shredded escarole for the spinach. Use meat-or cheese-filled ravioli instead of the tortellini.

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Garlic-Herb Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, chives, and thyme)
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. mixed greens

Directions

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a jar. Stir well with a fork.

Add olive oil, cover tightly, and shake well until combined. You can also use a blender and drizzle the oil in slowly while it is running.

Serve over mixed greens.

Rustic Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken

Yes, three heads of garlic. They soften during cooking and take on a subtle sweetness.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chicken (about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 heads garlic, cloves peeled but left whole
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute the chicken until well browned, turning, about 8 minutes in all, and remove from the pot. Reduce the heat to moderate, add the garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the garlic and stir until combined. Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and put it on a burner. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and keep warm. Over moderately high heat, whisk in the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, whisk in the butter, and pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve with mashed potatoes, egg noodles or rice.

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Gelato al Aglio Cioccolato

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Chop the chocolate and place in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan just to the point of boiling and add the garlic.  Remove the pan from the heat and steep, covered, for 15 minutes.  Remove the garlic, add the sugar to the milk mixture and reheat.

Whisk the egg and yolks until well-combined in a mixing bowl. Once the milk mixture is almost boiling, gradually whisk it into the eggs, constantly beating so that the eggs do not curdle. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and gently return to a boil over low heat and cook until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Cover the bowl and refrigerate to cool completely before churning. Overnight is best. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.


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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.


MarcheMarche’s location is ideal for both catching fresh seafood and harvesting food from the land. While Marche recipes make frequent use of pecorino cheese, olive oil and unsalted bread, they are also influenced by other nearby regions. Marche’s most famous appetizer is Olive Ascolana-olives are stuffed with a bread, cheese and meat filling before being deep-fried. Since it is deep-fried, I don’t serve them, but if you would like to know how to make them click on the recipe link.

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Vincisgrassi is a pasta dish layered with lasagna noodles, chicken livers and giblets, veal brains, ham and mushrooms with béchamel sauce, Parmesan cheese and white truffles, if they are in season. Tender pockets of ravioli pasta are filled with a parsley and ricotta mixture and served with sole cooked with tomatoes and white wine in what is called, Ravioli ai Filetto di Sogliola.

Lumachelle, a cheese flavored egg pasta, is made into a popular soup called Minestra di Lumachelle. Other popular soups in the Marche cuisine include Minestra di Trippa, a tripe soup served with battuto, a herb-flavored pork fat. Brodetto or fish soup, is eaten further along the coast and may contain any number of types of fish that are seasoned with vinegar, garlic or saffron and thickened with flour.

Several classic seafood combinations include a Potacchio sauce seasoned with white wine, tomato, onion. rosemary and lemon juice. Alla Marinara cooks the seafood in tomato sauce and Gratinati al Forno broils the fish in the oven. Porchetta combines cured pork, such as pancetta or prosciutto, wild fennel, rosemary and garlic with seafood and spices.

Mussels are stuffed with ham, bread crumbs and parsley before roasting in tomato sauce to make Muccioli Arrosto. Dried cod, tomatoes and carrots are cooked in a garlic and rosemary flavored sauce made with olive oil, white wine and milk for a dish called Stocco All Anconetana.

Marche cuisine includes a wide range of meats, from beef and lamb, free range poultry and pork, rabbits and game birds. Ground beef and bone marrow are mixed with cheese, spinach, bread crumbs and eggs to make a pasta that is served in broth. Quail, salt pork, peas and tomatoes are braised in white wine.

Marche’s variety of salumi is quite extensive. Ciauscolo,is a sausage that is spread on bread and prosciutto form Carpegna is especially well-known.

Fresh vegetables, such as greens, zucchini and peas, are eaten in season.

Marche cuisine takes advantage of dried lentils and beans to eat all year-long in soup. In the dish, Minestra di ceci, chick peas with pork ribs and tomatoes are simmered in a herb broth. It is served over toast with grated pecorino cheese.

Pecorino from Marche is eaten while relatively young and mild. It is used frequently in focaccia and pizza. Formaggio di fossa is a rare cheese from Talamello, made from sheep and cow milk. It is wrapped in cloth and buried in pits to age.

Marche cuisine also uses cheese in sweet dessert dishes. Calcio are pocket shaped pastries made with fresh pecorino. Piconi are made with ricotta and flavored with cinnamon and rum. Becute, a raisin and nut biscuit and Frustenga, a dried fruit and walnut cake, are both made with cornmeal.

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Dinner Menu

Antipasto

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Slices of fresh Italian bread,  Ciauscolo, Pecorino cheese and olives.

First Course

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce & Béchamel – Vincisgrassi

Ingredients

Meat Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 5 ounces prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb or pork
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound chopped chicken thighs
  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

White Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

Lasagna:

  • 1 (1-pound) package lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Directions

In a large stockpot, bring several quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook until the pasta is al dente. Strain and set aside to cool on kitchen towels.

Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped prosciutto and sauté until almost crisp. Add the carrots and onions and sauté, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add the ground lamb to the mixture and cook until evenly browned. Pour in the white wine and the stock. Stir in the tomato paste until well mixed and add a little salt and pepper. Reduce the liquid by half. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

In another pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the chopped chicken, mushrooms and a pinch of nutmeg. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add this mixture to the simmering meat sauce, along with 1/3 cup of whole milk. Cover the meat sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes, tasting towards the end for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the white sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a light roux, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of whole milk. Allow the white sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a large rectangular baking dish with olive oil cooking spray. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce topped with white sauce. (Be sparing on bottom layers to avoid a soggy casserole). Add a layer of Parmesan cheese. Repeat the layering process, ending with a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Using a pastry brush, brush the top noodles with the melted butter and sprinkle on the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is golden brown.

Serve the vincisgrassi piping hot from the oven, cut into squares.

Second Course

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Fish in Spicy Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm white fish fillets, such as snapper or cod
  • 1 carrot, chopped fine
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped fine
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 ounces (200 g) roasted red bell peppers packed in oil, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces (100 g) pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons salted or pickled capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • Hot water
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces. Salt and pepper the fillets and flour them lightly. Heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the fish on both sides, then pour in the wine.Simmer for 1 minute. Remove the fish to a platter and keep warm.

In the same skillet sauté the onion, carrot and celery. When the onions are lightly browned, stir in the tomato paste, roasted red peppers, olives, capers and a half cup of hot water. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and crushed red pepper. Return the fish to the skillet and gently heat. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Zucchini Carpaccio

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 pound piece Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh mint or parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin lengthwise slices. Overlap zucchini in 1 layer on a plate; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice and scatter with leeks. Using a vegetable peeler, shave very thin slices of Parmesan over the leeks. Garnish with mint leaves.

Dessert Course

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Poached Peaches in White Wine

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 firm peaches 
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • White wine
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Mascarpone cheese or Frozen Yogurt

Directions

With a paring knife cut the fruit in half and remove the stone. If the stone will not come away easily, make a shallow incision around the stone and it will fall away once cooked.

Place the fruit cut side down in a pan or pot that fits the fruit snugly. Add in the herbs, lemon zest and the honey. Add enough wine to reach halfway up the fruit. Cover with baking paper (parchment) and bring the pan up to a medium simmer for 8-12 minutes total depending on the size of the fruit.

Give the peaches a turn on their backs after about 5 minutes and they are done when a knife slips easily into the thickest part of the fruit.

Once the peaches are cooked, remove them from the pan and place on a plate to cool. Return the pan to a low heat and reduce the wine until it becomes a syrup. Be careful not to let the mixture burn. Strain the syrup into a bowl and allow to cool.

To serve: Carefully remove the skins and arrange the peach halves on a serving plate. Drizzle the peaches with the white wine syrup and add tablespoons of mascarpone or yogurt on top of each peach half.


Cinque

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. The coastline, the five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Over the centuries, people have built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, but cars cannot reach them from the outside. There’s not a chain store anywhere and each of the five villages has a distinct dialect and its own proud heritage. The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination and the main attraction is the landscape. Mediterranean herbs and trees grow spontaneously from the top of the hills down to the water level. Admiring this amazing natural scenery, one can imagine the intense human activity of carrying an enormous quantity of heavy stones on men’s shoulders and women’s heads to build the terraces that surround the hills. It is estimated to have taken about 200 years to build the entire stone-wall network. Its total length has been calculated to be at least equal to the Great Wall of China.

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The first historical documents concerning Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. The villages of Monterosso and Vernazza sprang up first and the other villages grew later under the Genoa military and political era. In order to protect themselves from the attacks by the Turks, the inhabitants reinforced the old forts and built new defence towers. However, this isolated the inhabitants. In later years, thanks to the construction of the Military Arsenal of La Spezia and to the building of the railway line between Genoa and La Spezia, the inhabitants were able to escape their isolation. The consequence was an increase in poverty which pushed many to emigrate abroad, at least up until the 1970s, when the development of tourism brought back wealth.

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There are few roads into the Cinque Terre area that are accessible by car. The one into Vernazza opened in June 2012, but it is very narrow and leads to a parking area that is a 1/2 mile from town. Local trains from LaSpezia to Genova and the rest of the region’s network connect the towns. Intercity trains also connect Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. A passenger ferry runs between the villages and enters Cinque Terre from Genova’s Old Harbor and LaSpezia ,Lerici or Portovenere.

Walking is very popular but In order to walk along the trails between the villages, one must purchase a pass. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly.

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The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. Most of the families in the villages made money by catching the fish and selling them in the small port villages. Fish was also their main source of food.

In 1998, the Italian Ministry for the Environment set up a natural marine area in Cinque Terre to protect the natural environment and to promote socio-economic development. In 1999 the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre was set up to conserve the ecological balance, protect the landscape and safeguard the anthropological values of the location. Nevertheless, the dwindling interest in cultivation and maintenance of the terrace walls posed a long-term threat to the site. As a result the site was included in the 2000 and 2002 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. The organization secured grants from American Express to support a study of the conservation of Cinque Terre and a site management plan was created.

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The Cuisine of Cinque Terre

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The cuisine of the Cinque Terre preserves tradition and respects the flavors and ingredients of its local products. Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area in the region of Liguria is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is common and locally baked. Farinata is also a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias- a savory and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick-pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for its gelato made from local honey.

The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines: Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include Grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.

Some typical dishes include:

  • Trofie is a type of pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour and its usual condiment is pesto sauce.
  • Farinata, similar to focaccia but made with chickpea flour. A regional speciality.
  • Tagliatelle, a broad handmade pasta, is used with sauces that contain mushrooms, cabbage and potatoes, beans, chickpeas or sometimes pesto.
  • Vegetable pies are prepared with a stuffings that contain borage, parsley, marjoram, other local herbs that grow wild, artichokes, swiss chard, zucchini, potatoes and leeks combined with egg and ricotta cheese or with stale bread soaked in milk or béchamel sauce (depending on each family’s traditions) and parmesan cheese.
  • Rice pie, or ‘torta di riso’, is a specialty of every grandma in the region. In Monterosso this rice pie is made by adding dried mushrooms to the filling. In Manarola, the tradition is to make this dish for the feast of the patron saint, Lawrence, on August 10th.
  • Egg frittata or flat omelettes are very popular and are used as an antipasto.
  • Cotoletta di acciughe are anchovies stuffed with a breadcrumb filling and then fried.
  • Frittelle di bianchetti are fritters made from tiny anchovies or sardines.
  • Other dishes include stewed cuttlefish, stuffed calamari and spiced octopus.
  • Mussels, another protected designation of origin product from the Gulf of La Spezia, are prepared in a variety of ways: stuffed, stewed or baked.

Farinata with Sage, Olives and Onion

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup chick-pea flour
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 30 Ligurian black olives, pitted
  • 45 small or 30 large fresh sage leaves

Directions

At least 1 hour before making farinata, set a pizza stone on a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat the oven to 550°F.

Whisk together chick-pea flour and water until smooth, then whisk in salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Let stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Cook the onion with salt to taste in 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes; then cool.

Put a seasoned 10-inch cast-iron round griddle on the pizza stone and heat 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add 1/2 tablespoon oil, tilting to coat evenly.

Working quickly, stir batter and ladle about 7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) evenly into the pan (batter will sizzle and start to set almost immediately).

Quickly scatter a third of the onion, olives and sage leaves over the batter and carefully return pan to the oven on the pizza stone.

If using an oven with a built-in broiler, bake 12 minutes, then turn oven setting to broil and broil the farinata for 3 to 5 minutes.

If using an oven with a broiler underneath, bake 15 minutes, then transfer pan to the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. Edges should be golden brown and crisp and the top flecked with golden spots.

Slide farinata onto a cutting board. Make 2 more in same manner, reheating pan 5 minutes for each successive farinata. Halve farinata and cut into strips.

Fish Stew

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Buridda is a traditional fish stew, made around the Cinque Terre area. To serve six you’ll need:

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of mixed fresh fish (red mullet, angler fish, dogfish, drumfish, etc – things that are inexpensive and fresh)
  • 1 1/4 pounds cuttlefish, shellfish and/or and baby squid
  • 1 pound onions
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • A pinch of dried oregano (no more)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Slices of toasted Italian bread, for serving

Directions

Clean the mollusks and slice all the fish, removing any bones you may find. Thinly slice the onions and blanch, peel, and chop the tomatoes.

In a Dutch oven lightly oil the bottom, then add half the tomatoes and half the onions. Salt and pepper lightly, then arrange half the fish over the vegetables. Add another tomato-onion layer, then another fish layer, then season again and sprinkle the top with the parsley, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over a very low flame for about an hour, or until the liquid is mostly evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Occasionally shake the pot lightly but do not stir it, or you will break up the fish.

Serve the Buridda over slices of toasted Italian bread that have been rubbed with garlic.

Pizzoccheri (Pasta with Potatoes, Cabbage & Cheese)

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Pre-heat oven to 450°F. Coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 8 oz Savoy cabbage, halved, cored and cut into strips about 1/2″ wide
  • 1 lb pizzoccheri (buckwheat fettuccine) or regular fettuccine
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 12 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 10 oz Italian Fontina or Taleggio cheese, diced

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the coarse salt and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes or until potatoes are softened (but not cooked through). Stir in the cabbage and pasta. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the pasta is not quite tender and firm. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

Melt the butter in the pasta pot and add the garlic and sage, adding the pinch of salt and pepper. The garlic should get soft, but not brown. Return the pasta and vegetables to the pot. Add all but 3 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Toss it all together gently until incorporated.

Place half the mixture in the prepared casserole dish, scatter half the diced Fontina over the top and a grinding of pepper. Repeat and then top with the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Pour 1/3 cup of the reserved cooking liquid over top to moisten slightly.

Bake in the top half of the oven for 7 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let stand for five minutes before serving.



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