Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Soup

winterproduce
Just because the farmers’ markets are closed for winter doesn’t mean you have to do without fresh veggies at the dinner table. Unfortunately, in the winter months, we often retreat from fresh produce, thinking it’s not as available or as tasty. From hearty root vegetables to bright, sweet citrus, winter produce delivers a surprising range of flavorful fruits and vegetables for you to cook. You may be surprised by how many locally grown root vegetables and cabbages are available from cold storage and how many greens are coming out of local cold frames and greenhouses at this time of year. Here are some recipes from appetizers through dessert that use winter fruits and vegetables.

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Winter Vegetable Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 10 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the barley. Add the vegetable broth, water, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

Add the celery root and parsnips and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over moderately low heat until the barley and root vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and nutmeg and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve in deep bowls.

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Seafood with Grapefruit-Onion Salad

8 First Course Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 small ruby red grapefruits (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons pickled cocktail onions
  • 2 tablespoons packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 24 sea scallops or medium shrimp (about 2 pounds) or a combination of both
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Directions

Using a very sharp paring knife to peel the grapefruits, carefully removing all of the bitter white pith. Over a mixing bowl, carefully cut in between the membranes of the  grapefruit sections and let them drop into the bowl. Stir in the pickled cocktail onions and parsley leaves and season with pepper.

Pat the sea scallops or shrimp dry and season them all over with salt. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil until it is shimmering. Cook the scallops over moderately high heat, turning once, until they are browned and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Spoon the pickled onion and grapefruit salad onto small serving plates and arrange the scallops around the salad. Drizzle with additional olive oil and serve at once.

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Stuffed and Baked Acorn Squash

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 4 acorn squash (about 1 pound each), halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
  • 10 ounces day-old rustic bread—crusts removed, bread cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 6 cups)
  • 7 ounces vacuum-packed cooked chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable stock or chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and season the cavities with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on two baking sheets covered with parchment paper and roast for about 25 minutes, until just tender.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the celery, leeks and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the apples and thyme and cook over moderately high heat until the apples just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl. Add the bread, chestnuts, parsley, cream and stock and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn the squash cut side up. Spoon the stuffing into the cavities and bake until the squash are tender and the stuffing is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve.

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Braised Beef over Butternut Squash Polenta

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons browning and seasoning sauce, such as Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup butternut squash, fresh cooked or frozen and thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Trim fat from beef. Cut meat into 1 1/2-inch pieces.

In an ovenproof 4-quart Dutch oven heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Cook meat, half at a time, until browned, stirring frequently. Remove meat from the Dutch oven.

In the same Dutch oven cook celery, carrots, parsnips and onion in the remaining oil for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables start to brown. Stir in wine and rosemary.

Add the 1 1/2 cups water, beef broth and Kitchen Bouquet; cook and stir over medium heat until boiling, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Place pan, covered, in the oven and bake about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

For the polenta:

In a medium saucepan combine milk and 1/4 cup water; bring to boiling. In a medium bowl stir together the 1 cup cold water and polenta or cornmeal. Slowly add the polenta mixture to the boiling milk mixture. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in squash, salt and pepper.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until mixture is very thick, stirring frequently, and adjusting heat as needed to maintain a slow boil.

To finish the stew:

Stir together the 1/4 cup cold water and flour. Add to the meat mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 1 minute more.

Spoon soft polenta into shallow serving bowls. Top with braised meat and vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley leaves.

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Upside-Down Cranberry-Ginger Cake

Ingredients

Topping:

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

For the topping:

Heat a 9-inch round cake pan over medium heat and coat the pan with cooking spray. Add brown sugar and the 2 tablespoons butter to pan, stirring until melted. Stir in ginger; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; arrange cranberries on top of the brown sugar mixture.

For the cake:

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine 1/4 cup butter and granulated sugar in an electric mixer bowl; beat at high speed until fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture; mix well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer at medium speed until stiff peaks form in another bowl. Fold egg whites into batter; pour batter over cranberries in the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 15 minutes; run a knife around outside edge. Place a plate upside down on top of the cake pan; invert cake onto plate.

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The Piedmont region stretches across the great Alpine arc: that includes the Pennine Alps and a portion of the Lepontine Alps. It includes two large hilly areas, the Langhe and the Monferrato. The Po River has its source in Piedmont and the region is crossed by several Alpine streams flowing into the Po. Many Alpine lakes dot the region. In the eastern section one can find two larger lakes: Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta. The regional capital is Turin. Other important cities are: Asti, Alessandria, Cuneo, Novara, Vercelli, Biella and Verbania.

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In Turin and in Susa interesting traces of the Roman era can be found. The religious Romanesque-Gothic architecture is remarkable: examples are the Abbey of Vezzolano, the Sacra di San Michele, the Abbey of Staffarda, St. Antonio di Ranverso, St. Andrea in Vercelli and other churches in Saluzzo, Chieri and Ciriè. The Baroque style has greatly influenced the appearance of most Piedmontese cities, especially in Turin.

Some of the major sites in Turin, include the Royal Armory, the Egyptian Museum, the second most important in the world after the one in Cairo, with historical remains of the ancient civilization. The Sabauda Gallery houses pictorial works of the Piedmontese, Dutch and Flemish schools, as well as some valuable Tuscan works, such as the Beato Angelico and the Pollaiolo. The Borgogna Museum houses the works of the local Renaissance painters and the Civic Museum is dedicated to local history and art.

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This northwestern region of Italy, is famous for egg pastas, vitello tonnato, the boiled-meat dish, bollito misto—plus well known red wines like Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco. Torino (Turin) is a city of interesting contrasts between old the world and the new. The name of Torino is widely recognized as home to the famous Shroud of Torino, housed in the Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista (“Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist”), but it is also the center of operations for the automobile manufacturers, Lancia and Fiat. Torino’s appeal is heightened even more by the city’s excellent artisan chocolates, no doubt influenced heavily by their proximity to Switzerland.

The valleys and pasture lands, protected in large part by the Alps, offer the ideal locations for growing grains like wheat, corn and rice. The terraced hills lend themselves well to growing grapes and, subsequently, wine production. Freshwater fish and eels are popular in Piedmontese cooking. Pork and pork products are on the table, as is good beef. Cattle thrive in Piedmont, and the dairy industry is strong, creating a love of cheeses, cream, milk and butter. Locals also have a fondness for game meats hunted in the forests. White truffles grow wild there and their distinctive flavor adds earthiness to many recipes.

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The preferred pasta is a narrow handmade noodle called tajarin. They are often simmered in beef broth and topped with butter, grated Grana Padano cheese and shaved truffles. Agnolotti Piemontesi, similar to ravioli, are also popular. These meat and herb filled dumplings are generally served with fresh sage fried in butter and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano.

The flatlands of Piemonte are Europe’s prominent supplier of Carnaroli rice and they are known for their creamy risotto dishes. It is cooked with butter and shaved truffles or made into panissa, a risotto flavored with red borlotti beans, Salam d’la Duja and pork rind. Frogs, meat or vegetables may also be used in rice dishes.

Piemonte produces large numbers of hazelnuts and they are put to good use in cakes and pastries, as well as torrone nougat and chocolates. Candied chestnuts, known as marron glacés, are famous worldwide. Other outstanding desserts include bonèt, a custard cake flavored with coffee or chocolate, panna cotta, a silky custard made with cream and caramel thickened with gelatin and torta gianduia, a decadent hazelnut and chocolate cake made with ground nuts instead of flour. Zabaione is a light custard made with Marsala wine and sweetened egg yolks.

Take a trip through the Piedmont region via the video below.

Piedmont Recipes To Make At Home

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Zuppa di Cipolla al Vino Rosso

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 16 thin slices baguette
  • 1 cup freshly grated Fontina cheese

Directions

Melt the butter in a heavy, wide pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 25 minutes, or until they are very soft and caramelized; stirring every few minutes to ensure they cook evenly.

Season with the salt and pepper, deglaze with the wine and cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the liquid into the onions.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, uncovered. Cook for 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring once in a while.

Preheat the broiler.

Place 4 slices of baguette in each of 4 oven-proof soup bowls (preferably the sort with a handle). Scatter the Fontina over the bread.

Ladle the soup over the bread and place the dishes under the broiler. Broil the soup for 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Serve hot. Serves 4.

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Maltagliati with Leek Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 6 leeks, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup light cream (half & half)
  • ½ cup or more of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Mix the flour and eggs in a mixing bowl or a food processor.

Roll the dough thin by hand or with a pasta machine. Cut the pasta into medium-size diamonds.

In a deep skillet, brown the leeks in the butter.

Cook the pasta in abundant boiling salted water. Fresh pasta cooks quickly in about 2-3 minutes.

Drain and add it to the pan with the  browned leeks.

Add the cream, mix well and finish with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese.

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Pan Roasted Meat with Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • Pork or veal tenderloin about 2 lbs.(800 grams)
  • 3 ½ oz (100 grams) hazelnuts, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
  • 2 cups (1 pint) milk
  • Half an onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons (80 grams) Flour
  • Water

Directions

In a large pot, brown the onion in the butter. Push the onions aside and add the meat and let it brown on all sides.

Add the Marsala wine and let it completely evaporate. Season the meat with salt and add the milk and chopped hazelnuts .

Cover the pan and cook the tenderloin for at least 120 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Prepare a roux by mixing the flour with enough water to make a paste, mix well.

Bring the sauce in the pan to a boil, then whisk in the roux and cook until the sauce thickens, whisking the entire time.

Cut the meat into slices and serve coated with the sauce. Garnish with hazelnuts.

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Salad of Roasted Peppers, Olives and Fontina

Ingredients

  • 3 large yellow bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, Italian green olives
  • ¼ pound fontina, cut into long strip

Directions

Arrange the peppers on a grill rack above a charcoal fire, on wire racks positioned over the burners of a gas or electric stove, 2 to 3 inches under a preheated broiler, or in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F. Roast them until they are charred all over and tender inside, turning them frequently to insure they blacken evenly, about 30 minutes in the oven, but less time by the other methods. Set aside to cool.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingertips, peel off the skins. Cut the peppers in half and remove and discard the stems, ribs, and seeds (Do not do this under running water; it will wash away some of the delicious taste.) Cut the peppers lengthwise into ½-inch-wide strips and place in a bowl. Add the oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, olives and cheese and toss gently to mix well. Serve at room temperature.

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Baci di Dama (Lady Kisses) Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Nutella (or any chocolate hazelnut spread)

Directions

In a mixing bowl combine the flours and the sugar. Cut the butter into small chunks and incorporate it into the flour mixture. It is best to use a wooden spoon or your fingers to completely mix the butter with the flour mixture to make the dough.

Place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then take it out and form small balls the size of a quarter. When placing them on the cookie sheet, press down slightly so that they are flattened on one side. They will form a dome shape: flat on one side, rounded on the other.

Bake at 350 degrees F, for about 20 minutes, or until they just start to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

After the cookies have cooled spread a thin layer of Nutella on the flat side of the cookie and place another cookie on top, making a sandwich.


leftovers

Today is Monday and you may be tired of heating up the turkey leftovers by now. There’s lots of ideas out there for using up the turkey but what about that leftover stuffing, veggies or cranberry sauce? Here are some easy ways to use them up.

Leftover cranberry sauce and turkey make a great lunchtime turnover

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Turkey Cranberry Turnovers

Makes 8 turnovers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked turkey breast, diced into small cubes
  • 1 box (15 oz/425 g) frozen puff pastry dough, defrosted
  • 2/3 cup Swiss cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) chopped onion
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Cranberry Sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C)

Flour the surface you will be working on. Roll one of the pastry sheets lightly to make the sheet an even thickness. Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares. Repeat with the second sheet of pastry.

Divide the turkey, cranberry sauce, onion and cheese equally among each pastry dough square.

Fold one corner of the square over to the opposite end (to make a triangle) and seal the edges with your fingers, pressing the pastry to merge the two edges. Use a fork and press the edges to further seal the turnovers.

Place the turnovers on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned and puffed.

Leftover mashed potatoes make delicious potato pancakes for breakfast or as a side dish.

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Crispy Mashed Potato Cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cold mashed potatoes
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • Sour cream, for serving

Directions

Combine potatoes, eggs, cornstarch and garlic powder in a bowl. Form into 4 patties (about 1/4 cup of the potato mixture patted into 3 inch circles that are 1/2″ thick).

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the bottom is browned and crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Carefully turn the patties over and cook the second side until brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve with sour cream, if desired.

I make bread stuffing with Italian sausage and the leftovers are delicious in a frittata for a quick weeknight dinner.

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Stuffing Frittata

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups leftover sausage stuffing
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to  400°F (200°C)

Heat the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium heat.

Add the stuffing to the pan and warm through.

Sprinkle with the grated fontina cheese.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the  eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon of parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Carefully transfer the skillet to the preheated oven.

Bake until the eggs are set and the sides have puffed up a little bit and the cheese is golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Let rest before cutting.

Sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley.

Turn those leftover sweet potatoes into delicious waffles.

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Sweet-Potato Waffles

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup leftover sweet potatoes, mashed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing the waffle iron
  • Maple syrup, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place a wire rack on a baking pan and place in the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through allspice).

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sweet potatoes, eggs and vanilla until combined. Stir sweet-potato mixture into flour mixture until combined. Stir in melted butter until just blended – some lumps will remain.

Heat a waffle iron to medium-high and lightly brush the grids with melted butter. Ladle about 1/2 cup batter into the center of the iron (grids should be full but not overflowing), close and cook until the iron stops steaming and waffles are golden brown, about 4 minutes (or make according to your manufacturer’s instructions).

Transfer waffles to the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with maple syrup.

Turn those leftover Thanksgiving vegetables into soup.

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Turkey Leftover Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

  • 8 cups turkey or chicken broth
  • 1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
  • 1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
  • 1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 stalk, minced
  • 1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
  • 2 bay leaves, divided
  • 2-3 cups leftover turkey meat, diced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables ( Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Directions

Put the broth, turkey bones, carrot halves, celery stalk, onion halves and 1 bay leaf in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, about 1 1/2 hours.

Before straining the broth, remove the large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve covered with wet cheesecloth. Discard the solids and set broth aside.

In a large soup pot, heat the garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced carrots, celery and onions. Cook over medium-low heat until softened, 7 or 8 minutes.

Dice the leftover Thanksgiving vegetables. Add the sage to the soup pot along with the reserved turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add the diced leftover vegetables and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

region1cookie


 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.


visual-guide-winter-squash_612

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.

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/11/26/how-do-i-cook-winter-squash/

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.

jjnh37nc-recipe-db

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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