Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Pasta

region1valle_daosta

Valle d’Aosta is the most mountainous region of Italy, entirely surrounded by the peaks of the Alps: Monte Bianco, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. The latter is at the center of a magnificent National Park. Numerous glaciers feed a rich web of streams and the distinctly Alpine character of this region can be seen in the pine forests, up to rather high altitudes, where they give way to large pasture lands. Numerous small Alpine lakes sit in between the majestic mountain landscapes.

region Aosta map

Aosta is the capital of the region, where a special statute is in place that recognizes the Italian and the French languages as official languages. Important traces of the Roman Age can be found on the Aosta city walls, theaters, Augustus’s Arch and the Praetorian Gate. Visitors can admire the Romanesque Cathedral, which dates back to the eleventh century. The Sant’Orso Church is a good example of medieval architecture. There are many fortified castles in the Aosta Valley; most of them are in perfect condition and open to visitors; many have become historical museums. The most famous are the castles of Fénis, Aymavilles, Issogne and Verrés.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley's section of the Italian Alps.

Sunrise over Mount Mucrone, seen from Val di Gressoney, in the Aosta Valley’s section of the Italian Alps.

Valle d’Aosta’s unique location and long history of invasion from neighboring lands have combined to make for an interesting and diverse mix of languages and cooking influences that include pockets of Italian, French and German. This diversity makes the numerous local festivals a must-see for any traveler interested in distinctive food and entertainment.

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The best-loved dishes in the area cover as much cultural ground as the languages. Unlike much of Italy, pasta is not a staple food here. Valle dAosta cooking is based on warming soups, bread, rice, potatoes and gnocchi. Polentas hold a place right alongside Swiss-like fondues and creamy butter sauces. Dairy products are important in the region. Overall, food is relatively simple but hearty: stews thickened with bread, game meats or beef braised with chestnuts in wine sauces, smoked pork and sausages, fresh rye breads with local dark and slightly bitter honey, rich and nutty fontina cheeses, strong grappa and creamy panna cottas. Herds of free range pigs are used for the famous prosciutto known as Jambon de Bosses and for making salt pork. Boudins, spicy sausages made from pork blood, and salami are preserved in rendered pork fat.

Mountain streams provide trout and recipes include stuffing the trout fillets with ham and fontina and poaching them in white wine.

The valleys offer a wealth of crops like cabbage, grapes, apples and garlic and, while vintages are small, the wines produced in the area are of excellent quality. The area is most famous for fontina cheese and it is used in everything from appetizers to desserts.

Fruit from the Alps is very sweet and many desserts are prepared with the locally grown apples and pears. These fruits are often cooked with red wine. Sweets include tegole, a cookie named after the roof tiles that they resemble. Torcetti, or ring-shaped cookies, are also flavored with honey before being dusted with powdered sugar.

Take a tour of the area with the video below.

Recipes of the Valle d’Aosta Region

One of the favorite and most representative dishes of the Valle d’Aosta is zuppa di valpelline, a thick fall soup made from fresh cabbage, rye bread and fontina cheese.

region1soup

Zuppa di Valpelline (Valpelline Soup)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • A litre and a half (6 ¼ cups) meat stock
  • 1 savoy cabbage, sliced
  • 400 g (14 oz) fontina cheese
  • 500 g (1 lb.) rye bread cut into slices
  • Cinnamon
  • 150g (5 ¼ oz.) butter, melted

Directions

Layer an oven dish with the bread slices and, then, the fontina cheese.

Boil the savoy cabbage in the meat stock.

Pour the mixture over the bread and wait until it all softens, then pour the melted butter over the top.

Sprinkle on some cinnamon and place in a pre-heated 425 degree F (220°C) oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until a golden crust forms on top. Serve hot.

region1pork

Pork Chops Stuffed with Fontina Cheese

Ingredients

  • 4 thick pork chops on the bone
  • Fontina cheese, from Valle d’Aosta
  • 3 ½ oz butter
  • 7 oz breadcrumbs
  • 3 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the chops in two, horizontally, leaving them attached along the bone side.

Cut the Fontina cheese into thin slices and insert into the meat and then tap gently with a meat pounder.

Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste and dip the chops first in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs.

Saute in butter until the chops become golden and crunchy. They are traditionally served with sautéed cabbage.

region1Gnocchi

Gnocchi with Fontina

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. baking potatoes
  • 8 oz. Fontina, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz. flour
  • 4 oz. butter
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted water (without peeling). It is best to start with cold water. The potatoes should all be about the same size. Cooking time depends on the type and size.

A rule of thumb for testing if the potatoes are cooked is to stick a fork into one or two potatoes and, if it goes easily, the potatoes are done. When ready, drain, peel and mash them through a potato ricer, (do not use a food mill, as it would make the puree sticky and thus impossible to work with) and place the riced potatoes on a floured pastry board or marble surface. Should the potatoes be too watery, put them back on the stove over moderate heat and let them dry well, stirring constantly.

Add a small amount of salt and as much white flour as necessary to make the dough soft enough not to stick to your fingers. You don’t have to knead the dough for too long, just long enough to bind all the ingredients.

Cut a piece of the dough off, coating your hands with flour and roll the dough into a long cylinder about the thickness of your index finger. Then cut the cylinder into pieces about l-inch long. Press the dough lengthwise toward you and against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. You may also use other utensils, such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork and, In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape, though. They may be simply cut into nuggets of any desired size.

Repeat until all the dough is used, trying to handle the dumplings as little as possible. Finally, place the gnocchi on a flat surface sprinkled with flour without overcrowding. Cook as soon as possible.

Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water. They are cooked when they rise to the top of the water. Drain. Place alternate layers of gnocchi and Fontina in a buttered baking dish, making sure you have at least 3 layers. The top layer should be of cheese. Dot with butter and bake for 5 minutes. Let the gnocchi rest 5 more minutes and serve.

region1cookies3

Valdostana Tegole Dolci

These are delicious cookies that are part of the traditional cuisine of Valle d’Aosta. Their name is due to its shape, which is reminiscent of the typical curved roof tiles. To achieve this effect the hot cookies are pressed over a rolling-pin. The tiles are enjoyed with a cup of coffee at breakfast or as a snack.

Ingredients

  • 200g (7 oz) granulated sugar
  • 80g (2.8 oz) toasted and ground hazelnuts
  • 80g (2.8 oz)  toasted and ground almonds  
  • 60g (2.1 oz) butter,at room temperature
  • 60g (2.1 oz) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature.

Directions

Toast the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in preheated oven at 150 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let them cool thoroughly and then transfer them in a blender or processor along with half of the granulated sugar. Process until thoroughly ground.

Transfer the ground nut mixture in a large bowl and add the flour, melted butter and vanilla. Stir with a spatula until the butter is incorporated and set the bowl aside.

Place the egg whites in the electric mixer bowl and, with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites until they begin to thicken. Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and beat until stiff. Fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with the spatula.

Cover a baking pan with baking paper and place a small amount of dough (about a scant tablespoon) on the baking pan about 2 inches (3-4 cm) apart. Spread the dough with the back of a spoon to form circles with a diameter of about 7 cm (2 ¾ inches). Wet the back of a spoon to simplify the process.

Bake the tray in a preheated oven set at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 8 minutes. When they are crisp and lightly browned, remove each cookie from the baking pan and lay them over a rolling-pin to acquire their characteristic curved shape. Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough.

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 A Forest of Greens by  Carl Warner

A Forest of Greens by Carl Warner

For decades, Italian country cooks have simmered greens and buttery white beans together.

When we eat greens—such as escarole, Tuscan cabbage, spinach and chard—we are eating the leaves of a plant. Leafy greens are miracle vegetables—not only are they are low in calories, rich in amino acids, vitamins A and C, minerals and fiber, they also help with digestion and boost the metabolism. In addition, they are believed to provide a host of health benefits—from building up the immune system to balancing hormones.

Some of the most common types of leafy greens and lettuces (called lattughe in Italian) are found in most good Italian fruttivendolo (fruit and vegetable stores) and in a vast portion of the United States as well. The leafy green vegetables described below make wonderful contorni (side dishes) when cooked for just a few minutes:

Spinaci (Spinach)

Spinach

For salads, baby spinach is preferable because the leaves are more tender, but mature spinach is used in Italian cuisine in a myriad of ways—from the classic sautéed spinach to the fillings for a variety of pasta ripiena (filled pastas). Also, many pasta dishes, rolled meat preparations and crespelle (filled crêpes) use spinach as a main ingredient.

The best way to prepare spinach is by following this simple procedure:

Trim off the reddish roots from each bundle and eliminate any yellowish leaves Then wash the leaves three times in a clean sink filled with water. Fresh spinach often comes with a good deal of sand and dirt—so you want to be sure to thoroughly wash the spinach before cooking. Let the leaves dry out a bit in a big colander. In a large sauce pan, heat extra virgin olive oil on a low-medium flame; add one clove of peeled garlic (flattened with a knife) and then add the spinach, a little salt (very important because this will help release the spinach juices) and cover with a lid for a couple of minutes, until the leaves cook (they will shrink substantially). Then, remove the lid and allow the excess liquid to evaporate. Grate some nutmeg over the cooked spinach and serve.

Note: This basic method can be used with any greens and other vegetables with a high water content. None of the leafy greens’ nutritious juices are wasted when you cook and steam them in this way—it’s one of the quickest and healthiest ways to prepare them.

Bieta or bietola (chard)

coloredchard

This vegetable is used a great deal in Italian cuisine in all its forms—as verdure cotto (cooked vegetables) or biete saltate in padella (sautéed in a pan).

Because the stems take longer to cook than the leaves, it’s best to cut out the stems and cut them in half-inch pieces. Boil these pieces first in a small amount of salted water and then two minutes later add the leaves, cut in slices. After cooking another two minutes or less, drain and sauté the chard right away on a high flame in olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic. After just a couple of stirs, they’re ready to serve as a delicious contorno (side dish). Just drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil on top before serving.

For other more complex preparations, the following method for cooking chard can be used: Drain the chard from the boiling water with a strainer and immerse them right away in ice and water. Then press the leaves firmly to remove the water or spin in a salad spinner to remove the water. Next, sauté the chard in a pan as described above. Cooked chard can be used in pasta dishes or as a filling for a focaccia, in frittatas or as part of the filling for involtini (stuffed, rolled meat). Chard can be prepared with other vegetables, such as endive, and baked in the oven with a béchamel sauce, for example.

Escarole

greens escarole 1

Escarole is a form of endive that is both versatile and tasty. It is high in folic acid, fiber and vitamins A and K. Sometimes referred to as chicory and characterized by broad, dark outer leaves, this member of the chicory family does have a slightly bitter taste, but much less so than many other forms of endive. With a crinkled shape to the leaves, escarole is an example of greens that provide various degrees of flavor as the outer leaves are removed. While the outer leaves are a dark green, peeling back a layer will reveal a lighter shade of green. As more layers are peeled back, the leaves continue to lighten in shade. As the shade of the leaves lightens, the degree of bitter taste also lessens. The inner leaves are good in a salad and the darker, outer leaves can be sautéed.

Try serving some escarole quickly wilted with lemon juice or stir chopped escarole into soup. A medium head of escarole usually yields about seven cups of torn leaves.

Italian/Tuscan Cabbage

greens cabbage

Cabbage grows very well in the winter months and is therefore one of the most popular Italian winter vegetables. Common Italian cabbage varieties include:

Cavolo Verza: Savoy cabbage, also known as curly cabbage. A head cabbage with bright green, characteristically crinkly leaves. Very popular in northern Italy.

Cavolo Cappuccio: Red or green smooth-leaved head cabbage. Common in Northern Italy, especially the Northeast.

Cavolo Nero: Black leaf kale, a leafy cabbage with dark blackish-green leaves. It’s popular in central Italy, especially Tuscany.

Cime di Rapa or Rapini: Broccoli raab, one of the more rustic flowering cabbages; both the tiny florets and the leaves are edible. Popular in central and to a greater degree in Southern Italy.

greens escarole

Sauteed Escarole Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 large head of escarole (or 2 small heads)
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 long italian hot peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Clean and rinse escarole twice; chop into large pieces.

Boil in salted water for 5 minutes until wilted. Drain

Add olive oil to the pan and heat.

Add the chopped garlic and prosciutto and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Do not burn the garlic.

Add peppers and cook another minute or so.

Add the drained escarole and broth.

Gradually add the grated cheese, tossing gently until blended.

Adjust salt and pepper seasoning to taste.

Place in a casserole dish; sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and place under a broiler for 3-4 minutes until the breadcrumbs brown. Serve hot.

greensSwisschard

Swiss Chard with Pancetta & Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 3 large bunches of fresh Swiss chard
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled and diced
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the Swiss chard leaves thoroughly. Remove the toughest bottom third of the stalk. Roughly chop the leaves and remaining stalks into inch-wide strips.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard by boiling it just long enough to soften the leaves and stalks, about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add the olive oil, garlic and the crushed red pepper to the pan. Sauté for about 1 minute. Add the diced pancetta, lower the heat and allow the pancetta to cook until lightly browned.

Add the cooked diced potatoes and sauté with the pancetta briefly. Then add the blanched Swiss chard; toss together and cover and cook for about 8 minutes over medium heat. Add salt to taste and a small drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with rustic bread. Serves 4 to 6

greenszuppa-di-cavolo-

Zuppa di Cavolo Nero

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches Tuscan cabbage, about 2 1/2 pounds (1 k)
  • A medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • A medium carrot, minced
  • A stalk of celery, minced
  • A sprig of fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4 canned plum tomatoes, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) simmering vegetable or meat broth
  • Slices of Italian bread
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

Wash the cabbage, stripping the ribs from the leaves and slicing the leaves into strips. Next, heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a soup  pot; add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent and begins to color. Add the thyme and cabbage. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and broth, mix well, check seasoning, and simmer the soup for an hour.

In the meantime, slice and toast the bread and use it to line the soup bowls.

Ladle the soup over the bread and serve it with freshly grated cheese, extra virgin olive oil and black or red pepper for those who want it.

baked greens

Baked Pasta with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled Italian tomatoes
  • 8 ounces medium shell or penne pasta
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe (about 1 pound), trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and Italian seasoning; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden brown, about 15 minutes (reduce heat if browning too quickly).

Add garlic and sausage. Cook, breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with the wooden spoon. Cook sauce until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta 4 minutes less than the package instructions. Add broccoli rabe to the pot and cook 15 seconds. Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and return to the pot. Stir in sausage mixture.

Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish or divide among four 16-ounce gratin dishes. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake until cheese has melted and liquid is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

*A note to my readers who do not use US measurements – there is a recipe measurement/temperature converter tool in the side bar under Blogroll. Just click on the title and a new page will open with the converter tool.


Northern italy

Northern italy

Central italy

Central italy

Southern Italy

Southern Italy

The diverse nature of Italy’s landscape accounts for its attractiveness which has made the country a popular place to visit. The country is a peninsula with a unique shape, extending into the waters of the Mediterranean, that is surrounded by seas on all three sides. On the south-western corner of the country is located the Tyrrhenian Sea, while the Adriatic Sea is on the north-eastern side. In the south-eastern area is the Ionian Sea and the Ligurian Sea is located in north-west Italy.

Italy has two major mountain ranges, the Alps and the Apennines. The natural position of both these mountain ranges is in the shape of an arc and this semicircular topography strengthens the northern boundaries of Italy against any possible foreign invasions. Mont Blanc, 4810 meters or 5,781 feet above sea levels, is the highest Italian mountain summit. The country also has two volcanoes, among which Mount Vesuvius, close to Naples, is presently in a dormant state. The other volcanic peak in Sicily, Mount Etna is still very active.

Next to the mountains and the seas, come the valleys and the plains . The Italian plains, known as the Padan Plain, contains one of the longest rivers in Italy – the Po (652 km) and its numerous tributaries, mostly flowing down from the Alps and Apennines to join it. Some of the tributaries of the Po River like Mincio, Dora Baltea, Trebbia and Secchia bring extensive alluvial deposits onto the plains, increasing its fertility and making it ideal for cultivation.

Po Valley

Po Valley

Lake Como

Lake Como

Italy is also a land of lakes. The largest lake in Italy is Lake Garda that covers an area of 142 sq. mi./370 km² and, another, is Lake Como, a major tourist attraction. All these fresh water lakes add to the scenic beauty of the land, making it more and more inviting to tourists.

Northern and southern Italy are very different in climate. The south has very warm weather while in the north the weather is cold for a good portion of the year. Dry pasta, like spaghetti and rigatoni, is found more in the southern areas because it is easier to dry pasta in warm weather. Since it is more difficult to dry pasta in the north, fresh pastas, like pappardelle and tagliatelle, are more popular. Other types of pasta popular in the north are stuffed pastas, such as ravioli. The climate also affects the types of food and plants that grow in Italy. Some plants, like olive trees grow better in warm weather. Olive trees do not grow well in the northern areas where it is cold. In the south olive oil is used while in the north butter and lard are used in place of olive oil. Because of the gradually sloping hills in Parma, the consistent dry breeze make it an ideal location for curing and aging pork products, such as Prosciutto di Parma. The weather in southern Italy is conducive to growing vegetables and chilis that like hot weather conditions.

Italian Olive Trees

Italian Olive Trees

Although Italians are known throughout the world for pizza and pasta, the national diet of Italy has traditionally differed greatly by region. Italy has 20 regions and I will be writing about them in the future. From the early Middle Ages, Italy consisted of separate republics, each with different culinary customs. These varying cooking practices, which were passed down from generation to generation, contributed to the diversity of Italian cuisine. Italy’s neighboring countries, including France, Austria and Yugoslavia, also contributed to differences in the country’s cuisine. Pride in the culture of one’s region, or campanilismo, extends to the food of the locality and regional cooking styles are celebrated throughout the country.

The mountainous regions of the north feature hearty, meaty fare. The Veneto’s coastal lowlands provide mussels and clams and the lakes and waterways inland provide a tremendous variety of fresh water fish, in addition to ducks and other wild birds. You’ll find a southern meal isn’t complete without a pasta course, while the north prefers gnocchi, risotto and polenta dishes. Cooking ranges from boiling and frying through slow braising and stewing and, in the latter cases, northern cooks use much less tomato, preferring to use wine or broth as the liquid and chopped herbs for flavor. The results can be elegant and the same holds true for roasts, especially those that contain winter vegetable stuffings.

In Central Italy the summers are hotter and longer than those of the North and, consequently, tomato-based dishes are more common than they are further north; at the same time, the winters are chilly inland, making it possible to grow leafy vegetables that reach their best after it frosts, for example black leaf kale. Though there are braised meats and stews, in much of central Italy the centerpiece of a classic holiday meal will be a platter of mixed grilled or roasted meats, with poultry, pork or beef, especially in Tuscany, where the renowned Chianina cattle graze the fields. In Lazio, on the other hand, the platter will likely have lamb, which may also be present on Umbria and the Marche table.

Central Italy also has a rich specialty farming tradition, with many crops that are difficult to find elsewhere, including farro, an ancient grain domesticated by the Romans and saffron, whose distinctive sharpness adds considerably to many dishes. The area, which is almost entirely hilly or mountainous, also boasts massive chestnut stands on the steeper slopes; chestnuts were in the past one of the staple foods of the poor and even now roasted chestnuts are a wonderful treat in winter, as are the dishes made with fresh chestnut flour.

In the sun-drenched south, you will find more Greek and Arabic influences, with a cuisine featuring fragrant olive oils and many varieties of tomatoes both fresh and dried, spiked with hot peppers and seasoned with basil and oregano. Historically the South is known for shepherding and lamb and kid play a much more important role in the diet than they do in much of the rest of Italy. Fish in many coastal areas dominate. Sicilians add citrus, raisins, almonds and exotic spices that set their cuisine apart. The Spaniards’ influence, most notably saffron, is found throughout the south and also in Milan and Sardinia where they once ruled.

Classic Regional Recipes

regional carbonade

Carbonade

A classic northern Italian stew.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds (800 g) lean beef, cubed
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • Bay leaf
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of powdered cinnamon
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Flour
  • Beef broth
  • 2 cups full-bodied dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Directions

Flour the beef and brown the pieces in the butter, taking them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and setting them aside when brown.

Slice the onions into rounds and brown them in the same pot, add a ladle of broth and simmer until the broth has evaporated. Add the meat, the spices, the bay leaf, salt and add a pinch of sugar. Then add the wine, bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook, covered, adding more broth as necessary to the meat submerged.

After about 2 hours or when the meat is tender, add a grinding of pepper and serve it over polenta.

Yield: 4 servings

regional pasta

Spaghetti Aio Oio

A central Italian traditional dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
  • 1/2 a dried chili pepper, crumbled, or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano, optional

Directions

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil and add the spaghetti. Meanwhile, mince the garlic, crumble the red pepper and sauté them in the oil until the garlic begins to turn a light brown.

Turn off the heat (the garlic will continue to brown; you don’t want it to over brown and become bitter).

When the spaghetti is cooked to the al dente stage, drain, transfer to a serving bowl and toss with the sauce.

Serve with grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano on the side; some people like it, whereas others, especially traditionalist Romans, shudder at the idea.

4-6 servings

regionalpizza

Pizza Margherita

A southern Italian staple.

To make the dough for 2 12-inch pizzas, you’ll need:

  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons, or about 20 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups (330 ml) warm (105-115 F, or 42-45 C) water
  • 3 1/2 cups (400-430 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • A healthy pinch of salt

For the topping for each pizza, you’ll need

  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes
  • Quarter pound of shredded mozzarella
  • 4 fresh basil leaves.

Directions

Begin by dissolving the yeast in the water, in a large mixing bowl; let it stand for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix, either by hand or with a mixer set to low-speed, until the ingredients are blended. Hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Coat the insides of another bowl with olive oil and turn the dough in it to coat it in oil, then cover with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour or until it doubles in volume.

Preheat the oven to 475 F (250 C) — if you are using a baking stone it should heat for at least 45 minutes. Otherwise grease and dust two flat baking sheets with corn meal. Divide the dough in half, shape each half into a ball and let rest for 15 minutes. Then shape them into disks, stretching them out from the center on a floured surface. Do not roll them, because rolling toughens the dough.

Ladle and spread a half cup of tomato sauce or chopped canned tomatoes over the dough, add the cheese and basil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes.

If you’re using a baking stone and have a baker’s peel, lightly flour it, slide the pizza onto it and transfer it to the stone with a shake — the flour will keep the dough from sticking. If you don’t have a peel, use a flat cookie sheet instead, lightly flouring it, to transfer the pizza from the work surface to the stone.

If you’re using metal baking pans you should bake the pizza towards the bottom of the oven.


salmon1

Salmon is one of the healthiest fish you can eat. It is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the immune and circulatory systems. Salmon is also good for the heart and is low in calories and fat compared to other protein sources.

Salmon purchased at a grocery store or fish market should still have the skin on to maintain its freshness and moisture. Try to buy a whole salmon side or a fillet that is cut from the thickest part of the fish. Request a center cut piece of salmon. Purchase 6 oz. of salmon (170 grams) per person. Avoid salmon with a strong fishy odor. Look for moist, clean-cut fillets.

There are several different kinds of salmon.

  • King Salmon (Chinook) is known for its buttery flavor and texture. It is the largest salmon species and has the highest Omega-3 and oil concentrations of any salmon. It is generally the most expensive salmon you can buy.
  • Sockeye Salmon or Red Salmon is more abundant than King Salmon. It has a bright red-orange color and a very rich flavor. It has a high fat and Omega-3 content. Sockeye is the most common salmon you will find in your local grocery store.
  • Coho Salmon usually appears in grocery stores around August and September. It has a milder flavor that King and Sockeye salmon and is sometimes referred to as silver salmon.
  • Chum Salmon is most often used for canned salmon. It varies greatly in quality and is generally lower in oil than other types of salmon.
  • Pink Humpback Salmon is the most abundant salmon of the species. This salmon is generally canned or smoked. It has a mild flavor and lighter colored flesh.

Salmon fillets adapt well to all cooking methods: baking, broiling, grilling, pan-searing or poaching. Adding a marinade is a common way to infuse the fish with extra flavor. Whether you’re a novice in the kitchen or an experienced cook, there’s no reason to fear salmon. Use the marinade and then choose one of the cooking methods below.

All purpose marinade for salmon:

4 salmon fillets, 6-oz (170 g) each
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) garlic salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

Combine the garlic salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Whisk the three ingredients together in a small bowl and transfer to a 1-gallon (4-liter) resealable plastic bag.

You can also use a glass dish covered with plastic wrap instead of the bag.

Place the salmon in the marinade and seal the bag. Turn the bag several times to coat all sides of the salmon. If using a glass dish, turn the fillets in the marinade several times to coat all sides, then cover the dish.

Place the bag with the marinade and salmon fillets in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Salmon, like all fish, is not as dense as red meat and poultry. As a result, it does not need to be marinated for long in order to absorb flavor. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator at least 10 minutes prior to cooking. Doing so raises the temperature, allowing it to cook more evenly throughout.

bakedSalmonFilet

Baking

Preheat the oven to 400℉ (200℃) Prepare a baking sheet with shallow sides by covering it with nonstick aluminum foil and coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Transfer the salmon to the prepared baking sheet. If the salmon fillets have skin on them, lay them skin-side down on the sheet. Position the fillets in a single layer, spaced evenly.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 15 minutes..

When done, you should be able to easily flake the salmon apart with a fork. The middle should also be opaque

broil-salmon

Broiling

Allow the broiler to heat up for 5 to 10 minutes.

Many broilers only have an “on” setting, but if yours has a separate “high” and “low” setting, set the broiler to high.

Coat the rack with nonstick cooking spray before putting the salmon on it. Using cooking spray can drastically reduce the amount of salmon that gets stuck to the broiler pan rack. You can also cover the broiler rack with foil and poke a few holes in it to make clean up easier.

Transfer the fillets to a broiler pan. Place the fillets on the interior rack inside the pan with the skin-side facing down. Arrange the fillets in a single layer and space them apart evenly.

Place the broiler pan 5 1/2 inches (14 cm) away from the top heating element and cook the salmon for 10-12 minutes.The salmon is done when you can flake the fillets with a fork. The center should be opaque.

You can turn the salmon once during cooking to ensure even browning, but it is not necessary. Turning salmon fillets over can be difficult and may cause the salmon to fall apart.

grilled salmon

Grilling

Preheat the grill. You can use both gas and charcoal grills to prepare salmon fillets.

If using a gas grill, preheat the grill to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius).

If using a charcoal grill, spread a layer of charcoal on the bottom of the grill and light. Allow the coals to burn to a gray color, about 30 minutes.

Place each fillet in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. (You can add herbs, seasoning and lemon slices if you like.) Bring the sides up and fold them together, sealing the packet. Press any raised aluminum foil flat.

Transfer the packets to the grill and cook for 14 to 16 minutes. Turn the packets over once, at the 7 or 8 minute mark, using grill tongs or a heatproof spatula.

Checking the fillets for doneness may be difficult since the foil will be hot to the touch. You may need to wait until after you pull the fish from the grill. If the fillets do not flake easily with a fork or if the center is not opaque, seal the foil again and return to the grill.

Allow the salmon to sit off the grill and in their foil packets at room temperature for 5 minutes, then serve.

Pan-Seared-Salmon-600x400

Pan-Searing

Preheat a skillet or saute pan over high heat. The pan should get hot, but it should not begin to smoke. Coat the pan with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil.

Place the fish in the preheated pan. Cook for 4 minutes before turning each fillet over and cooking for an additional 4 minutes.

Use a fish spatula to turn the salmon. Do not use tongs, since the salmon will likely break apart if handled with tongs during the cooking process.

The salmon is done when you can flake the center apart with a fork and when the entire fillet is no longer translucent. After removing them from the heat, you should let the fillets rest at room temperature for 5 minutes before you serve them.

poaching salmon

Poaching

Place 1-2 inches of water in a saucepan with tall sides. Heat over medium heat until the water starts to gently simmer.

If desired, you can salt the water as it heats up. You can also add one chopped shallot or green onion and several sprigs of fresh dill, rosemary or other herbs.

Add the salmon fillets to the pan, skin-side down. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on its thickness.

If the salmon flakes apart easily with a fork and is no longer translucent inside, it has finished cooking.

Remove the pan from the heat and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the fillets with a slotted spatula to a serving platter.

Variations

Experiment with the marinade ingredients by using different combinations of oil, acid and seasoning. Acids usually include vinegars and citrus juices and seasonings can be dry or wet. For instance, you could create a marinade using soy sauce, rice vinegar, olive oil and brown sugar. You could also use a vinaigrette dressing, which already combines vinegar, oil and seasonings.

If baking or pan-searing the salmon fillets, you could coat the fish with a layer of fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or dill and bread crumbs.

You can prepare a second, separate batch of the marinade and use it as a sauce or glaze. To use it as a glaze, coat grilled, pan-seared or broiled salmon halfway through the cooking process with the mixture using a pastry brush. To use it as a sauce, thicken it on the stove top by cooking the marinade over medium-high heat until it reduces. Pour over the cooked fish.

Here are some of my favorite ways to prepare salmon.

salmon and pasta

Linguine With Roasted Salmon and Lemon

This is a great recipe to make when you have leftover salmon. In fact, cook extra the first night you serve salmon and save some for this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 5 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed, cooked salmon (see recipes above)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaf

Directions

Cook linguine to the al dente stage.

While the linguine is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Add onion and garlic and cook 3 minutes, or until soft. Add the thyme and cook about 1 minute. Add wine and cook 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, olives, lemon juice, capers and lemon zest and bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

When the linguine is cooked, drain and add it to the pan with the olive-caper mixture. Add the salmon and toss to mix well.

Cook 1 minute just to heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in basil.

parmesan salmon

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Large zip-top bag
  • 1 1/2 lbs salmon fillets (skin removed)
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Combine seasoned salt and flour in zip-top bag. Cut salmon into 4 portions. Place in the bag; seal tightly and shake to coat.

Preheat a large sauté pan on medium 2-3 minutes. Place fish on a cutting board; spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise over all 4 portions, to coat. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the mayonnaise and press lightly until cheese sticks.

Place salmon in the saute pan with the cheese side down. Lightly coat fish with remaining 1 tablespoon mayonnaise and 1/4 cup cheese, pressing lightly until cheese sticks.

Cover and cook 5-6 minutes on each side or until internal temperature reaches 145°F (or fish is opaque and separates easily with a fork).

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Sweet and Spicy Salmon Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 12 (10-inch) metal or bamboo skewers
  • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 medium (8-ounce) zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Directions

If using bamboo skewers, soak skewers in hot water at least 30 minutes.

Prepare outdoor grill for direct grilling on medium heat and oil grates.

In large bowl, combine sugar, paprika, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Rub mixture between fingers to break up any lumps of sugar.

Add salmon and zucchini and toss to evenly coat with spice mixture.

Thread zucchini slices 2 at a time, alternating with salmon, onto the skewers. Place on hot grill grate and cook 9 to 11 minutes or until salmon turns opaque throughout, turning occasionally.

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Salmon BLT

Makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon peel
  • 4 pieces (1-inch thick, about 6 ounces each) salmon fillet with the skin
  • Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 slices (1⁄2-inch thick) country-style bread
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 6 slices fully cooked bacon, each broken in half

Directions

Lightly grease grill rack on an outdoor grill. Prepare outdoor grill for covered direct grilling over medium heat.

In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise, dill and lemon peel until mixed; set aside.

Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Place salmon, skin-side down, on hot grill rack and cook, covered, 10 to 12 minutes or until salmon is opaque throughout, without turning over.

Slide a  thin metal spatula between the salmon flesh and skin. Lift salmon from skin and transfer to plate; discard the skin.

Place bread on the grill rack and cook about 1 minute on each side or until lightly toasted.

Spread lemon-dill mayonnaise on 1 side of the toasted bread slices.

Place 1 lettuce leaf, folding to fit, on each of 4 bread slices.

Top each with 2 or 3 tomato slices, 1 salmon fillet, 3 pieces of bacon and another bread slice.


Tremiti_01

The Isole Tremiti are an archipelago in the Adriatic Sea, north of the Gargano Peninsula. They form part of the Gargano National Park. The name of the islands relates to their seismic danger with a history of earthquakes in the area: tremiti means “tremors”. Thousands of years of history can be found in this small archipelago and it is preserved in a large open-air museum.

Tremiti 2

The Islands:

San Domino is the most developed island and has the only sand beach in the archipelago.
San Nicola is where most of the population resides. It is the site of a monastery where a monk named Nicolò was buried. Legend has it that every time someone tried to move his corpse off the island, a violent storm would break out, preventing navigation around the island.
Capraia is deserted.
Cretaccio is a large block of clay and uninhabited.
Pianosa is a small, uninhabited island. Sometimes, during storms, the waves cover it.

isole tremiti

 

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The Archipelago Sea is characterized by crystal-clear waters that allow light to penetrate to great depths. Another interesting aspect is the presence of numerous underwater caves, which were created by the erosion of the limestone. The different configurations of the three islands and coasts are reflected in the type of seabed around them. The south-eastern slopes of San Domino and Caprara have a rocky bottom which extends to a depth of no more than 10-15 m. Near the island of St. Nicholas, the rocky bottom is made ​​up of collapsed stones. While Caprara’s coastline, has a rocky bottom that does not exceed 30 meters. The north-west coast is characterized by high, steep cliffs.

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The islands were used for the internment of political prisoners during Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime. The islands have been a confinement place since ancient times. Emperor Augustus had his granddaughter, Julia the Younger, exiled to one of these islands, then named Trimerus, where she died after 20 years.

Tremiti3

In the Middle Ages the archipelago was ruled by the Abbey of Santa Maria a Mare (“Holy Mary on the Sea”) at San Nicola island, apparently founded in the 9th century by Benedictine monks from Montecassino. In 1334 the abbey was destroyed by Dalmatian pirates from Omiš. In 1412 the Lateran Canons took ownership of the islands and restored the abbey with cisterns and fortifications that were able to withstand the assault of Ottoman ships in 1567. The abbey was taken over in 1783 by King Ferdinand IV of Naples, who set up a penal colony. During the Napoleonic age, the islands were a stronghold of Joachim Murat’s supporters, who resisted a British fleet in 1809. In 1843, to repopulate the islands, King Ferdinand II of Two Sicilies moved a number of people from the Naples’ slums to the islands and most became fishermen. In 1911, about 1,300 Libyans, who had resisted Italian colonial rule, were confined to Tremiti. After a year, around one-third of them had died, mainly from typhus.

castello-isola-di-san

The economy of the Tremiti Islands is mainly based on fishing, agriculture and tourism. The islands are now an important tourist attraction because of the clear waters surrounding them. Up to 100,000 visitors come to the islands in the summer season, as such, there is an increasing demand for hotels, apartments, resorts and campgrounds. Ferry services from the mainland operate from Termoli, Foggia, Vieste, Rodi Garganico and Capoiale.

7

isole_tremiti_004

Original Recipes From The Region.

friselle-with-tomatoes-big

Friselle with Tomatoes

The Friselle are typical of the region. They consist of bagel type bread made with durum wheat flour.  That are cut in half horizontally (when half-cooked) and baked again until crispy.

Ingredients

  • 4 friselle
  • Half pound of cherry tomatoes
  • Few leaves of basil
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lettuce, optional

Directions

Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and place them in a serving bowl.

Add chopped garlic, chopped basil, a bit of oregano and olive oil.

Wet the friselle with a small amount of water and place them on a large plate

Cover the friselle with the tomato mixture. Serve with lettuce, if desired.

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Seafood Spaghetti

The region has a long coastline and a very active fish business with various types of seafood that can be found easily in local fish markets.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz spaghetti
  • 1 ¼ lbs mixed seafood (mussels, clams, etc.)
  • 5-6 oz prawns (or large shrimp)
  • 1/4 lb of eels
  • 4 sea dates (unique to the region but similar to mussels)
  • Parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup tomato pulp
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Scrub the shellfish. Heat them in a frying pan over medium heat until they open.

Get rid of those that do not open.

Shell the prawns; debone and cut the eel into pieces.

Scrub the sea dates.

Cook one clove of garlic with some oil, add the clams, shrimp, dates and the pieces of eel and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chopped parsley. Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and pour the spaghetti into the pan with the sauce. Sautè for a couple of minutes and serve hot.

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Broccoli with Black Olives

Broccoli is an essential part of the region’s cuisine.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs broccoli
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz pitted black olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/3 grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt

Directions

Cut the broccoli into small pieces.

Steam them for 4 minutes and put them into a saucepan.

Add the olive oil, olives, wine and chilli. Add salt to taste and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.

Add the grated pecorino cheese and stir for another two minutes. Serve.

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Emilian roll

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless pork or veal loin
  • 4 oz Mortadella, sliced thin
  • 1 lb spinach
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Grana Padano cheese
  • A little dry white wine
  • A little broth
  • Oil
  • Pepper
  • Salt

Directions

Cook the spinach, squeeze dry and saute in a pan with 2 oz of butter and a little salt.

Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper, add the cheese, then add the spinach.

Pour the mixture into a greased skillet and make an omelet.

Pound the meat between pieces of plastic wrap. Place the slices of mortadella on the meat and then the omelet, cut to fit.

Roll the meat up jelly roll style and tie closed with kitchen twine.

Heat the remaining butter and a little oil in an ovenproof pan, brown the meat roll, sprinkle with wine and let it evaporate. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Pour a little broth every now and then over the meat to keep the bottom of the pan moist.

Serve sliced after removing the twine.


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These cooler days are a great time to cook with winter squash. Sweeter, denser and more firm in texture than summer squash or zucchini, winter squashes take well to a wide variety of recipes and can be delicious in soups, casseroles, risotto, lasagna and even desserts.

Winter squash are harvested in the fall and these hardy vegetables will keep well through the cold winter months for which they’re named. Sugar pumpkins, acorn squash, spaghetti and butternut squash are probably the most common types to find at your local supermarket. The other varieties are worth seeking out at farmers’ markets and specialty markets. Regardless of the type, select winter squash that are blemish and bruise free with an intact stem and a heavy feeling for their size.

Naturally low in fat and calories, winter squash provide significant nutritional benefits. For example, one cup of baked butternut squash contains vitamins A (from beta carotene), B6, C and E, as well as magnesium, potassium and manganese. Flavors are generally mild-to-sweet, so squash won’t overwhelm other ingredients and can easily be incorporated into seasonal recipes. The orange and yellow flesh helps brighten dishes, especially in the colder months, when variety and color can be hard to come by in seasonal produce. Don’t be discouraged by winter squash’s size and tough exterior and you can sometimes find popular varieties, like butternut, in stores already peeled and cubed. See my earlier post on tips for cutting up winter squash.

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See chart above for photos of each of the following winter squashes.

1. Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The squat, green kabocha—the Japanese word for squash—has a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It’s similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in.

2. Butternut Squash
Characteristics: A slim neck and bulbous bottom give the butternut squash its distinctive bell shape. The muted yellow-tan rind hides bright orange-yellow flesh with a slightly sweet taste. To make butternut squash easier to handle, cut the neck from the body and work with each section separately.

3. Red Kabocha Squash
Characteristics: The red kabocha is squat, like its green counterpart, and has faint white stripes running from top to bottom. While the green kabocha is savory, the red kabocha is sweeter.

4. Carnival Squash
Characteristics: Combine an acorn squash with a sweet dumpling squash and you get a carnival squash. While the carnival squash’s exterior resembles both of its relatives, its yellow flesh is mellow and sweet. Use it wherever acorn squash or butternut squash is called for in a recipe.

5. Sugar Pumpkin
Characteristics: Sugar pumpkins are prized for their classic pumpkin flavor, as well as for their thick and fleshy walls. If you’d like to opt out of canned pumpkin for your baking and make your own purée instead, use a sugar pumpkin.

6. Sweet Dumpling Squash
Characteristics: This whitish-yellow and green squash is small and compact, making the whole squash the perfect-size for an individual serving. The flesh tastes very much like a sweet potato and the skin is edible is as well. Use sweet dumpling squash in recipes calling for sweet potato or pumpkin.

7. Spaghetti Squash
Characteristics: Take a fork to the inside of a cooked spaghetti squash and you’ll understand how this squash got its name. If you’re in search of a healthy pasta alternative, try this very mild-tasting squash.

8. Blue Hubbard Squash
Characteristics: Most blue Hubbard squash are huge and bumpy and are often sold as pre-cut wedges. Some varieties, like the Blue Ballet, are smaller, making it easier to store and prepare at home. Underneath the gray-blue skin is sweet-tasting orange flesh.

9. Delicata Squash
Characteristics: This particular winter squash, with its pale yellow shading, most closely resembles its summer squash relatives. The thin skin is edible, but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. When cooked, the delicata has a consistency similar to that of a sweet potato—creamy and soft—although the flavoring is more earthy.

10. Red Kuri Squash
Characteristics: Like all Hubbards, the red kuri has an asymmetrical, lopsided look to it. However, the red kuri is smaller and easier to handle. Its yellow flesh is smooth and has a chestnut like flavor.

11. Buttercup Squash
Characteristics: Compact and green with paler green stripes, the buttercup can closely resemble a kabocha squash but it has a distinctive circular ridge on the bottom. On some, the ridge may surround a more pronounced bump, or “turban.” A freshly cut buttercup may smell like a cucumber, but once cooked, its orange flesh becomes dense.

12. Acorn Squash
Characteristics: This mild flavored squash is named for its acorn like shape. Choose one with a dull green rind; an acorn squash that’s turned orange will have tough and fibrous flesh.

(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

vegeta-porrusalda

Squash and Fish Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cod or white fish available in your area, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped in 1/2-inch sections
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
  • 4 potatoes, chopped in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound winter squash, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4-5 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and sauté leeks until they brown slightly, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until they begin to take on a slight tan color, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add potatoes, carrot, squash and cod pieces. Immediately, pour in enough broth to cover and add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Bring soup to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 15 to 25 minutes or until potatoes and squash are tender. Stir once or twice. Add salt and pepper, if needed.

51134000

Mediterranean Squash with Lemon Sauce

This dish goes very well with baked chicken.

ingredients

  • 1 small kabocha squash or large acorn squash (1 pound), scrubbed,
  • 1 1-pound delicata squash, scrubbed, cut into 1″-thick wedges or rings, seeded
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Arrange two racks in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425°F.

Place kabocha on one rimmed baking sheet and delicata on a second sheet. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the squash on both baking sheets and sprinkle each pan with a 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano. Season squash with salt and pepper; toss. Roast for 15 minutes.

Combine 1 tablespoon oil and the scallions in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Scatter scallion mixture over the squash, dividing evenly between the two baking sheets, and continue to roast until squash is tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes longer (time may vary depending on squash).

Whisk lemon juice, tahini and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer squash to a serving platter. Drizzle sauce over the squash and sprinkle with Aleppo pepper.

Empanadas6

Sweet Squash Turnovers

Makes 24

Ingredients

Squash Filling

  • 4 lb squash, sugar pumpkin or any winter squash of choice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar

Pastry Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze

  • Egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • Cinnamon-sugar mixture (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)

Directions

To make the filling:

Rinse off the exterior of the squash. Using a serrated knife cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Scrape out the stringy layer (pulp) with a spoon. Discard seeds and pulp and cut into 4 inch slices leaving the skin on.

In a steamer or large pot, steam the squash over the 2 cups of water, making sure to keep the lid on tight, for 20 to 40 minutes, or until tender. Cool. Once cooled, scrape the flesh off the skins and into a mixing bowl. Discard the skins. Mash with a potato masher and strain the liquid in a colander into a bowl. Reserve the liquid and set squash puree aside.

In the same large pot, put the reserved liquid from the squash (you will have about about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and the add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Bring liquid to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat. Replace the lid and let steep for 30 minutes.

Remove cinnamon and cloves and add the squash puree to the liquid. Add the brown sugar and over medium-low heat let it melt into the squash puree, stirring occasionally, so it will not burn or stick to the pot. Once the sugar has melted, lower the heat to low and let simmer uncovered until all the water evaporates. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down before refrigerating, about 15 minutes. Place in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

To make the pastry dough:

Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening and add the eggs, milk, sugar and cinnamon. Combine until you have a soft dough. Cut the dough in half, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the turnovers:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven.

Take out half the dough and divide it into 12 equal balls of dough. Keep the remaining dough in the refrigerator until you are finished with the first half.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough balls into small round circles, about 4-5 inches. Place a tablespoon of filling on one half of each of the dough circles. Wet the bottom edges of the circles with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough to cover the filling and seal the edges with a fork by pressing down along the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush each turnover with egg white mixture, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Puncture the top of each turnover with a fork.

Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, place turnovers on the cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes on the middle rack in the oven. After 15 minutes move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown. Follow the same procedure for the remaining turnovers.

20060615_0002

Squash and Hazelnut Lasagna

For the squash filling

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 lb butternut squash or squash of choice, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (4 oz), toasted , loose skins rubbed off with a kitchen towel and chopped

For the sauce

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

For assembling the lasagna

  • 1/2 lb mozzarella, coarsely grated (2 cups)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 oz)
  • 12 lasagna noodles, partially cooked

Directions

To make the filling:

Cook onion in butter in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, salt and white pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley, sage and nuts. Cool filling.

To make the sauce:

Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook mixture, whisking, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream, whisking. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Whisk in salt and white pepper and remove from heat. Discard bay leaf. (Cover surface of the sauce with wax paper, if not using immediately.)

To assemble the lasagna:

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Cook lasagna noodles in boiling salted water, about 6 minutes. Drain and place on kitchen towels, so they do not stick together.

Mix cheeses together. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in a buttered 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish (or other shallow 3-quart baking dish) and cover the sauce with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between the sheets. Spread with 2/3 cup sauce and one-third of the filling, then sprinkle with a 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining 3 pasta sheets, remaining sauce and remaining cheese.

Tightly cover baking dish with buttered heavy-duty foil and bake the lasagna in the middle of the for oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 20 minutes before serving.

239812

Kabocha Squash Mini-Cakes

Cakes:

  • 2 cups 3/4-inch cubes peeled seeded kabocha squash (from one 3-pound squash)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored beer
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 2 cups vanilla flavored Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar

Directions:

Combine squash and milk in a heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from the vanilla bean; add the bean pod. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Partially cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pod. Drain squash. Place in a processor and blend until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray six 3/4 cup ramekins with nonstick spray. Place 1/2 cup squash puree in large bowl (reserve remaining puree for another baking use). Add sugar, oil, beer and egg to puree and beat to blend. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt over; beat to blend. Divide batter among prepared ramekins.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Cool cakes in ramekins. Turn out onto serving plates.

Topping: Combine yogurt and brown sugar. Serve with the mini-cakes.

 


beans_pole_kwintus

Romano beans are a form of flat snap bean which originated in Italy. Specialty grocers and farmers’ markets sometimes carry them and they can also be grown at home, assuming you live in an area with a Mediterranean climate. They are usually available in late summer and fall. They are also readily available frozen in most markets.

Like other snap beans, Romano beans are supposed to be eaten whole. They are considered ripe when they make a crisp “snap” if they are broken in half, and they have a very mild flavor and a tender texture. These beans are often braised with other vegetables and eaten as a side dish. They can also be added to soups, stews, stir fries and an assortment of other dishes. These beans can also be pickled.

You may also hear these legumes referred to as Italian flat beans or Italian snap beans, but don’t confuse them with fava beans, which are sometimes labeled as “Italian broad beans.” These snap beans are flattened, rather than rounded, as one might expect. To use Romano beans, snap or trim off the ends and rinse the pods to remove any dirt from the field. These beans can be lightly cooked to retain their crunchy texture or cooked until they are extremely tender. However, overcooking will cause the beans to turn into a tasteless mush, so  take care when preparing them in braised and other long-cooked dishes.

In addition to being available in classic green, Romanos also come in yellow and purple, for cooks who like to play around with different colors in their cooking. When selecting Romano beans in the market, look for crisp specimens with even coloration and no soft spots or signs of mold. Limp, listless beans should be avoided and the beans should be stored in paper bags and used within a few days for best results.

How to Steam

Step 1
Rinse Romano beans under running water to wash away any debris. Drain the beans in a colander.

Step 2
Set a steamer basket in a large cooking pot with 1 inch of water in the bottom. Turn the heat to high, and bring the water to a boil.

Step 3
Chop the stem and tips of the beans off with a sharp paring knife while the water is heating. Cut the beans into 1- to 1 1/2-inch sections. For an attractive visual effect, hold the knife at a 45-degree angle to the beans, to cut sections on the diagonal.

Step 4
Place the bean pieces in the steamer basket. Set the lid on the pot, and cook for three to four minutes.

Step 5
Remove the lid, and test the beans tenderness with the tip of a sharp knife. If the beans are not yet soft, use a spoon to rotate the pieces at the top of the steamer basket to the bottom, nearer the water. Cover with the lid, and cook for another two to three minutes.

Step 6
Drain the beans in a colander and serve immediately, seasoned with salt or salt substitute and fresh-ground black pepper to taste.

How to Boil

Step 1
Fill a large pot half full of water, add 1 to 2 tsp. salt, and cover the pot with a lid. Bring the water to a full, rolling boil over high heat.

Step 2
Add washed Romano beans that have been cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces to the pot of boiling water.

Step 3
Boil bean pieces until tender. Remove the bean pieces from the pot with a slotted spoon, and serve promptly.

How to Braise

Step 1
Cook onions, celery, carrots or any other garnish or vegetable you prefer, in olive oil over medium heat until golden.

Step 2
Add additional flavorings such as tomatoes or minced garlic, then add cut Romano beans. Add seasonings of your choice to taste.

Step 3
Simmer over medium-low heat for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft and most of the moisture has evaporated. Cool your braised Romano beans for five to 10 minutes before serving.

Tips

  • If you are using the steamed beans in a cold salad recipe, place the drained beans in a large bowl filled with cold water and ice. Allow the beans to cool completely before draining in a colander.
  • If you have both small and large beans to cook, separate them into two batches for cooking because the thicker ones take longer to become tender.
  • Add cooked garbanzo beans or potatoes to braised Romano beans to make a hearty entrée.

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Sautéed Romano Beans

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Romano beans
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Directions

Rinse the beans under cold running water. Drain, leaving any water clinging to the beans. Trim the ends and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the shallots and sauté over medium heat about 1 minute. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 30 to 45 seconds, until tender and fragrant but not browned. Remove the sautéed shallots and garlic from the pan with a slotted spoon, pressing any excess oil back into the skillet. Set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Once the oil is hot, add the beans, oregano leaves, salt and pepper to taste. Sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently until the beans are browned in spots and tender but retain some crispness, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the sautéed shallots and garlic. Cook just until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and let the beans cool slightly. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and allow contents to cool to room temperature. Remove the salad from the pan to a serving platter.

braised-romano-beans1

Braised Romano Beans

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup minced celery
  • 1/2 cup minced carrot
  • 1 cup minced red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds romano beans (flat green beans), ends trimmed

Directions

Heat oil in a deep skillet or a shallow three-quart saucepan. Add celery, carrot and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables barely begin to brown, about 25 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, a few minutes. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until mixture is well combined, about 5 minutes.

Add beans, setting them in pan all in one direction. Add 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer. Baste beans, season with salt, reduce heat to low. Cook gently, partly covered, turning beans in sauce from time to time, until beans are very tender, about 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings.

Three-bean-pasta-e-fagioli

Romano Bean Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 minced cloves of garlic
  • 2 chopped celery stalks
  • 2 chopped carrots
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup  water
  • 1 can (28 oz)  diced plum tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup small pasta, cooked
  • 16 oz frozen romano beans, partially defrosted
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion, garlic, celery and carrots, stirring often, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in stock, water, oregano and tomatoes bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.  Add pasta, chickpeas, romano beans, salt and pepper to the soup and cook until the beans are heated.

Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

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Braised Chicken With Romano Beans

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 lb romano beans (You can also use frozen)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olive, sliced in quarters
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a pan that has a cover. Trim the chicken thighs of extra fat, cut in half if possible, and season with salt and pepper.

Lightly dust the chicken with flour and fry over medium high heat until well browned, but not too much. Any burning is very apparent in the dish, so keep it brown, not black. Turn and finish browning.

Deglaze pan with the wine until most of the liquid is gone.

Trim Romano beans and cut on the diagonal into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Toss into pan and stir to get the cooking going. After a couple of minutes, toss in the peeled and crushed garlic. Stir another 2 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the tomatoes and juices to the pan along with the rosemary, garlic, and additional salt and pepper as desired.

Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Cover the pan, but leave the lid slightly ajar. Allow to cook on low heat (keep a simmer going) for 20 minutes.

Add the olives and cook an additional five minutes.

539w

Italian Green Bean and Meatball Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 pounds ground beef or turkey
  • 1 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping
  • 1 bunch parsley, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cans (28 ounces each) Italian peeled tomatoes, crushed 
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 pounds small red potatoes, skin on, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 pounds Italian green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the meat with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and eggs. With clean hands, work the mixture well. Shape it into 1 inch meatballs and place on  greased baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes or until brown and cooked through.

In a soup pot, heat the oil and cook the onion, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until it begins to brown. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir well. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Add salt and red pepper. Add the potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender.

Add the green beans and the meatballs. With the back of a ladle, gently press the meatballs into the liquid so they’re just submerged. Try not to break the potatoes or meatballs. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour. Serve with shaved parmesan cheese over the top.



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