Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Soup

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Apples are the number one fall fruit. Fall also brings with it a renewed interest in baking. The most difficult part about encountering the appetizing display of apples in the store is deciding which apple is best for which project. All are great for munching out of hand, but texture, flavor and size, all contribute to whether a certain apple is best for apple crisp or applesauce.

Munching

If you’re simply in need of a good snack, apples fit the bill. Here are some favorite varieties for eating out of hand or using raw in salads.

Honeycrisp apples are extra crisp and tangy. They are excellent eaten raw, but will also hold their shape when baked.

With red skin and light green patches, Fuji apples are juicy and fragrant.

Crisp and mildly sweet, Gala apples are a satisfying snack.

Pink Lady apples are pinky red in color with crisp, juicy flesh and a complex flavor.

Baking

Whether stuffed or baked for a side dish or a dessert or chopped up and hidden under a layer of dough or crumble topping, these apples hold their shape during cooking.

Rome apples are very large with green-speckled red skin. This variety makes an impressive dessert when baked whole.

Extra tart with thick, “apple green” skin, Granny Smiths are the perfect opposite to the sweeter baking apples, like Golden Delicious, for balanced pies and crisps.

Braeburn apples are very crisp, sweet and tangy, making them great for baking or eating raw.

Golden Delicious are excellent all-purpose apples that are particularly good in pies and crisps.

Jonagold apples have a honeyed sweetness and crisp yellow flesh. This variety holds its shape during baking or sautéing.

Sauces

These apples break down beautifully with heat, making them perfect for purées and sauces.

Cortland apples are sweet and juicy and their flesh breaks down easily with cooking making them perfect for applesauce. These crisp apples are also great raw as their flesh resists browning.

With shiny, deep red skin and bright white flesh, Empire apples are crisp and a little spicy. Cored and stewed, this variety cooks down into a beautiful rosy pink sauce.

Stout Macoun apples are tender, juicy and sweet, making them also perfect for applesauce.

Tart-sweet McIntosh apples are juicy with a great fragrance, but they don’t stand up to long cooking times.

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Easy Homemade Apple Cider

The best cider has a balance between sweet and tart. Use half sweet and half tart apples in making the recipe below.

  • Red Delicious: Large, firm red apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Yellow Delicious: Large, firm yellow apple with a sweet flavor.
  • Jonathon: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple, with red near the top, descending to green lower down the fruit.
  • Granny Smith: Medium/small, crisp, tart apple with green color.
  • Gala: Medium, crisp semi-tart apple with yellow skin blushed with orange to red tinge.

Ingredients

  • 10 apples, half sweet and half tart from the list above, quartered
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice

Directions

Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 1 hour. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours.

Strain apple mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Discard solids. Drain cider again through a cheesecloth lined sieve. Refrigerate until cold.

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Celery, Apple and Fennel Slaw

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 celery stalks, thinly sliced diagonally, plus 1/4 cup loosely packed celery leaves
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 firm, crisp apple (such as Pink Lady, Gala or Granny Smith), julienned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add celery and celery leaves, thinly sliced fennel and chopped fennel fronds and the apple; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Sweet Potato Apple Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 sprig sage
  • 1 crisp apple (Fuji, Pink Lady or Granny Smith)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Put the sweet potatoes in a microwavable dish, loosely cover and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

In batches, puree the broth, cider, cooked onion and squash until smooth. Return all the ingredients to the stockpot, stir in the sage and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Right before serving, core and dice the apple. In a small skillet saute the apple, honey and lemon juice until warm. Serve the soup warm and garnish each serving with a spoonful of apple.

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Italian Farro with Apples

Farro, a wheat like grain, makes a delicious alternative to rice or a side-dish for pork, chicken and fish.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hulled whole-grain farro
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups reduced salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 Fuji apple (8 oz.)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Sort farro, discarding bits of hulls and other debris. Pour farro into a bowl, cover completely with cool water, stir, and skim off and discard any additional hulls that float to the surface. Drain farro.

Heat oil in a 5-to 6-quart pan over high heat, add celery and onion and cook stirring often until tender, about 5 minutes.. Add farro to the pan and stir until the grains are coated, about 2 minutes.

Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover pan, and simmer (mixture foams, so check and stir occasionally to keep it from boiling over) until farro is tender to the bite and no longer tastes starchy, about 25 minutes. Stir in parsley, cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apple; cut into about 1/4-inch dice and mix with the lemon juice. Stir into the  farro mixture, season to taste with salt and pepper, and pour into a serving bowl.

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Classic Apple Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tart apples, such as Granny Smith or Braeburn, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Pat pork chops dry with paper towels. Remove thyme leaves from their stems and divide in half. Sprinkle both sides of the pork chops with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and half the thyme leaves, pressing lightly so seasonings adhere.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling hot. Add the pork chops and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, turning only once, to brown. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm.

Add butter to the pan and heat until foamy. Add shallot and remaining thyme leaves and cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes. Add apples, broth and remaining salt and pepper to the skillet scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until apple is tender and sauce reduces slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.

Return pork chops to the skillet, along with any juices that have collected at the bottom of the plate, to the skillet and cook just until the pork registers 145 degrees on a meat thermometer.. Transfer the pork chops to a platter and spoon the apple mixture over the chops.

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Ricotta Cheesecake With Apple Topping

Crust

  • 1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs, (20 cookies)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • 1 package (8 ounces) light cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (8 ounces) light sour cream, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature

Topping

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and each cut into 8 slices
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup apple cider

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, mix cookie crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Place pan on wire rack.

In a food processor, process ricotta cheese, granulated sugar and vanilla bean until ricotta is smooth. Add cream cheese and sour cream; process just until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Whisk in 1/4 of the cheese mixture. Fold in the remaining cheese mixture in two additions. Pour over the baked  crust.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until the edges rise, and the center is just set, but still jiggly. Place on wire rack to cool completely (cheesecake may crack). Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the topping:

In a large skillet, combine the sugar and water. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Remove the skillet from the heat and immediately add the apples and butter. Stir to coat the apples. Return the pan to the heat and cook, turning apples occasionally, until the apples are tender but still hold their shape, 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the apples are tender, add the cider and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the topping into a bowl, cover and let cool.

To serve the cheesecake, remove the pan sides and, with a large spatula, transfer the cake to a serving plate. Spoon the topping over the cake and serve.

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Piacenza is a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Piacenza. Piacenza is located at a major crossroad between Bologna and Milan and between Brescia and Tortona. The city hosts two universities, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Politecnico di Milano.

Founded by the Romans, destroyed by the Goths and resurrected by medieval noble families, this elegant Emilia-Romagna city flourished due to its location on a natural commercial artery, the Po River. In this place, nature dominates among rocky spurs, hills strewn with vineyards and sceneries dominated by spires, towers and impressive fortresses. It is a land full of natural beauties, valleys and mountains, but also history and art. It is also an excellent example of Gothic-Lombardy architecture. This is also the main production area for Parma hams (almost all are produced here) as well as Parmigiano cheese and Colli di Parma wines.

The outermost roads and valleys have always been used as passageways and battlegrounds. This explains the presence of castles and strongholds here since ancient times. Some of them are open to the public but others are still occupied. The great number of medieval castles with their unmistakable shapes stand out all over the land: for example, the Fortress of Castell’Arquato and the castles of Gropparello, Paderna, Rivalta and Rocca d’Olgisio.

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The best preserved castle is Torrechiara. The castle is almost unchanged, since the 15th century when it was built by Pier Maria Rossi. Every room is filled with “grotesque” frescoes, where naked acrobats perform impossible feats of fantasy atop lions. In other rooms, fantasy scenes combining animals, plants and people are strung out over every surface.

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Rocca d’Olgisio is set in the rock and presides over the valley of the Tidone. It is one of the oldest and most striking strongholds in the Piacenza area, surrounded by 6 rows of walls. It was built in the eleventh century and, after several owners, it changed hands in 1378 from Gian Galeazzo Visconti to Jacopo Dal Verme, the valorous winner of the Battle of Alessandria against the Florentines.

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Castello di Corticelli is in the municipality of Nibbiano and the little fortress has belonged to the Arcelli Counts for centuries. It was first mentioned in 1028. Originally the fortress may have been made up of just two towers (now the layout is quadrangular) surrounded by a moat and walls that enclose an oratory and several rural houses within, which are built in stone and are still standing.

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The Castle and Fortress of Agazzano was first built in the 1200s for purely military purposes (round corner towers, drawbridges) with a loggia added by Luigi Gonzaga. Next to the fortress there is an eighteenth-century villa. The contrast between the two buildings that make up this architectural complex adds to its charm. The walls of the large rooms of the villa contain furnishings from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Particularly noteworthy are the ceramics and porcelain pieces. The French-style garden, with its statues and fountains, is from the end of the eighteenth century, when Luigi Villoresi, director of the park of the Royal Villa in Monza, assisted in its design.

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The Castle and Village of Rivalta is mentioned in documents as early as 1048 and in the fourteenth century it passed into the hands of the Landi family, who still own it today. It is an impressive residence surrounded by a magnificent park and among its frequent visitors there are members of the English Royal family. It stands out for the unmistakable and unique profile of its turret. The large reception room, dining room, kitchen, cellars, prisons, bedrooms, tower, armory, gallery, billiard room and museum of military costumes are all open to the public. The castle also has 12 luxury rooms in the village, if you want to stay the night.

Some of the folklore that exists around these structures are:

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One of the most famous in the region is the Bardi Castle and it was the setting of a romantic love story between lady Soleste and Morello, one of her young and more valiant knights, whose ghost apparently still visits the place.

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According to legend, the fairy, Berna, elected Montechiarugolo Castle as her home. People say she appears to young brides on the night before their wedding day to give them all the advice they need.

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Far more unsettling is the story of Lady Cenerina, who was brutally murdered in 1573 at Soragna Castle. Her ghost still haunts the place and her presence is felt by the family whenever something awful is about to happen.

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Another haunted place is Grapparolo Castle where Rosania was imprisoned by her jealous husband. Her laments and wails can still be heard on stormy nights.

Supposedly, the ghost of Count Pier Maria Scotti can be seen and heard at Agazzano Castle. The unlucky nobleman was stabbed to death by a group of traitors who wanted to get hold of his fortress.

The Cuisine of Piacenza

Piacenza and its province are known for the production of seasoned and salted pork products. The main specialities are pancetta (rolled seasoned pork belly, salted and spiced), coppa (seasoned pork neck, containing less fat than pancetta, matured at least for six months) and salami (chopped pork meat flavored with spices and wine that are made into sausages).

Bortellina (salted pancakes made with flour, salt and water or milk) and chisulén (a torta fritta made with flour, milk and animal fats mixed together and then fried in hot clarified pork fat) are then paired with pancetta, coppa or salami and Gorgonzola and Robiola cheeses.

Among the culinary specialties of the region are mostarda di frutta, consisting of preserved fruits in a sugary syrup strongly flavored with mustard and tortelli dolci or fruit dumplings, that are filled with mostarda di frutta, mashed chestnuts and other seasonings.

Turtéi, a similarly named Piacentine specialty, is a type of pasta filled with either squash or spinach and ricotta cheese. Pisarei e fasö is a mixture of handmade pasta and borlotti beans.

Piacentine staple foods include corn (generally cooked as polenta) and rice (usually cooked as risotto), both of which are very common across northern Italy. There are also locally produced cheeses, such as Grana Padano.

The hills surrounding Piacenza are known for their vineyards. The wine produced in this area is qualified with a D.O.C. (Denominazione di origine controllata) and is called “Colli piacentini” (“Hills of Piacenza”). Some of the other local wines are Gutturnio (red wine, both sparkling and still), Bonarda (a red wine, often sparkling and foamy), Ortrugo (a dry white wine) and Malvasia (a sweet white wine).

Recipes From Piacenza

piacenza01 Piacenza Cold Tomato Soup

Serves 4

  • 10 large tomatoes
  • A bunch of parsley, chopped
  • A bunch of chives, chopped
  • 6-7 basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, a few drops
  • Croutons for garnish

Directions

Blanch the tomatoes for one minute, peel, seed and purée them in a blender. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, the fresh garlic without its core, the oil, salt and pepper. Let it marinate for a few hours at room temperature. Remove the garlic and process the mixture in the blender, again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add a few drops of Balsamic Vinegar. Place in a covered serving bowl, refrigerate for a couple of hours. Serve garnished with croutons.

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Piacenza-Style Tortelli

For Pasta

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3-4 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Filling

  • 5/8 lb spinach (about 3 cups, packed)
  • 7 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 egg
  • Nutmeg
  • Butter
  • Salt

Directions

To prepare the filling:

Cook the spinach, drain, squeeze and chop. Mix together with the ricotta cheese, then add the one egg, cheese and a little nutmeg.

To prepare the pasta:

Sift the flour onto a pastry board, make a well in the center and add the eggs, 3 tablespoons water and the salt and mix well. Add the extra water, if the dough seems a bit dry. Roll out into a thin sheet, divide it into strips about 3.2 inches wide and make as many small squares measuring 1.6 inches that you can.

On each of these put a dollop of filling. Fold the pasta to make either a triangular shape  or a ravioli shape and seal the edges.

Cook the tortelli in boiling salted water.

Drain and serve dressed with melted butter and a generous helping of grated cheese.

piacenza0 Chisolini  (Fried Dough)

The chisolini can be served with various ingredients such as Parmigiano cheese, prosciutto, salami, etc. An easy way to eat Chisolini is to put the meat and cheese in the center of the rectangle and fold it in half. They can also be eaten for breakfast with coffee and milk.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce pork lard
  • 1/2 ounce fresh yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (5/8 cup) tepid water
  • Oil for deep frying

Directions

Put the flour onto a working surface and make a little well. Put the pork lard in the center of the well, then add the salt to the flour and finally dissolve the yeast in the water before adding to the flour. Mix everything together using your hands and knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Once the dough is ready, put it into a container and cover with a kitchen cloth. Let it rise for a couple of hours. After two hours the dough should have doubled its size. Spread a bit of flour onto the working surface, so that the dough will not stick to it when rolled out. Turn the tough out onto the floured surface.

Using a rolling-pin, make a large disk roughly 5 mm (3/16″) thick. Then, using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into rectangles, about 10 x 8 cm (4″ x 3 1/4″). Don’t be worried, if you get some with different sizes, like 10 x 6 cm (4″ x 2 1/2″) or 10 x 7 cm (4″ x 2 3/4″); it will work, with whatever shapes are cut.

Fill a Dutch oven halfway with oil and heat to 180-190°C (355-375°F). When you drop the rectangles, one at a time, into the hot oil, you will see that it will stay in the bottom of the pan for just few seconds, then it will float and after few seconds again, it will inflate. Then, fry each side until they are golden. Usually, it takes 30-40 seconds per side, if fried at 190°C (375°F), but it could be less, if the temperature of the oil goes up, so look for the golden color rather than going by the time.

Fry all the rectangles and put them into a large container with a tight-fitting lid.

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Chicken or Rabbit Piacenza-style

Ingredients

  • 1 Chicken or Rabbit, cut into 8 or 10 parts
  • 2 ounces lard or shortening without trans-fats or oil
  • 1 ounce butter
  • 2 onions (medium size – thinly sliced)
  • 1 celery stalk (thinly sliced)
  • 3 1/2 ounces crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • A small bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 6 tablespoons (3/8 cup) white wine
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and black pepper for seasoning

Directions

Put the chicken or rabbit parts into a large bowl filled with cold water. Add the vinegar to the water, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. After about an hour, take the bowl out of the refrigerator, discard the water, rinse the chicken or rabbit parts and pat them dry.

In a large sauté pan with a cover, melt the lard together with the butter over medium-high heat. When the fats start sizzling, add the onion and the celery to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

Add the chicken or rabbit to the pan. Cook on each side for a few minutes until lightly brown. Add the tomatoes and stir until evenly distributed around the pan. Add the wine to the pan and stir. Then, add the chicken broth. Season with salt and black pepper.

Turn the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 1 hour, turning the chicken or rabbit every 20 minutes.

Finely chop the parsley and garlic together and add to the pan. Stir and continue cooking for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Uncover the pan and cook 10 minutes more to reduce the sauce to a thicker consistency.

Plate the chicken or rabbit and serve with polenta in the Piacenza style.


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A single plant can produce over a dozen tomatoes, which means you can give a basket to the neighbors and still include almost every meal with this nutrient-rich fruit. Serve them in pasta, pizza, vinaigrettes and even desserts. Paired with the right spices, tomatoes can be sweet, tangy or tart.

Sometimes the best way to enjoy fresh produce is to free it from heavy sauces or other flavor-masking extras. Serve a Mediterranean-inspired stuffed tomato with feta, olives and a little basil. It’s a great complement to any grilled entrée or add a little chopped chicken to the mix and serve on its own. Use sturdy, ripe tomatoes for optimal flavor and presentation.

When the temperature climbs, dinner cravings often tend toward light and simple. Make a pasta dish that’s packed with the freshest of ingredients, including fresh mozzarella, garlic, basil and, of course, tomatoes. A little olive oil adds flavor that rounds out the simple sauce.

Fresh tomato salsas, chutneys and dressings add color and flavor to almost any meat. Try it with grilled sea bass for a refreshing summer dish. A warm vinaigrette dressing pairs well with fluffy couscous, so make extra to use on other main dishes.

Update pizza night by replacing the standard jarred tomato sauce with a homemade basil pesto sauce. Top a store-bought pizza dough with the pesto, then layer on chopped tomatoes, garlic, provolone and a few sprinkles of basil and bake for a quick homemade pizza.

Looking for some new ideas on how to use tomatoes? Have you thought of these?

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Shrimp

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 medium ripe tomatoes, quartered and seeded (about 2 1/2 pounds total)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, quartered and seeded
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup torn crusty country bread
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup water (optional)
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined cooked shrimp, chilled
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, sweet pepper quarters, onion wedges and garlic between two 15x10x1 inch baking pans. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Roast 30 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and vegetables are lightly browned on edges.

Place roasted vegetables and any pan juices in a large food processor. Add bread. Cover and process until smooth. Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Stir in vinegar, basil, salt and pepper. If desired, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup water to make a thinner consistency. Cover; chill at last 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

Spoon soup in bowls. Top with shrimp. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and, if desired, sprinkle with parsley.

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Chicken-Stuffed Tomatoes

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cooked chicken breast
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 large tomatoes (8 to 10 ounces each)
  • 2 thin slices firm-texture whole wheat bread, toasted and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Chop enough meat to measure 2 cups; save the remaining chicken for another use.

In a medium bowl, combine the 2 cups chicken, the spinach, green onions, basil, vinegar, oil and garlic. Toss to evenly coat.

Cut a 1/4 inch-thick slice from the stem end of each tomato. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Place shells, open sides up, on a serving plate. Discard tomato seeds. Chop enough of the tomato pulp to measure 1/2 cup; reserve remaining pulp for another use.

Stir the 1/2 cup tomato pulp into the chicken mixture.

Divide chicken mixture among tomato shells. Top with bread cubes and cheese.

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Pork Chops in Herbed Tomato Sauce

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 pork rib chops, cut 1 inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onions
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large clove mashed garlic
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Dry the pork chops on paper towels. Heat the oil in a heavy, 10-12 inch oven-proof skillet with a cover.

Brown the chops, 2 or 3 at a time, on each side for 3 to 4 minutes. As they are browned, transfer them to a side dish.

Add the onions, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Mix in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 minutes more. Stir in the tomatoes and the next four ingredients.

Cover and cook slowly for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and beef stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Return the pork chops to the pan and push them into the sauce.

Cover the pan and bring to simmer on top of the stove, then set the pan in the lower third of the preheated oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the chops are done.

Arrange the chops on a serving platter and pour the sauce over the chops. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

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Tomato-Artichoke Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 1/4 pounds plum (Roma) tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
  • 4 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers

Directions

In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of the flour, the yeast and salt. Add the warm water and the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping side of bowl constantly. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in cornmeal and 2 cups of the remaining flour.

You can also use the dough hook on the electric mixer for this addition and the addition of the remaining flour below, instead.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough that is smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to oil the surface.

Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes). Punch down dough; let rest for 10 minutes.

Grease a 15x10x1 inch baking pan. Place dough in the prepared baking pan. Gently pull and stretch dough to the edges of the baking pan, being careful not to overwork dough.

Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let dough rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange tomato and artichoke slices on a double thickness of paper towels. Let stand for 15 minutes. Change paper towels as necessary so all of the excess liquid is absorbed from tomatoes and artichokes.

Using your fingers, press deep indentations in the dough 1-1/2 to 2 inches apart. Brush dough with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary. Arrange tomatoes, artichokes, onion rings and garlic slivers evenly on top of dough.

Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into rectangles. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 servings.

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Pan Roasted Fish Fillets With Tomato Sauce

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 (6-oz.) fish fillets (3/4- 1 inch thick) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon shredded basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced

Directions

Pat fish dry with paper towels. Season fish with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook fish in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes on each side. Transfer fish to a plate and keep warm.

Add onion and garlic to the skillet and sauté 2 minutes or until the onion is tender. Stir in capers, basil, oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low, add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Return fish to the pan with the tomato sauce and heat gently. Serve fish topped with the sauce.


summersoup

Summer’s soup recipes are wonderful and on a warm day what could be lovelier than a bowl of cold soup. Summer soup is different from winter soup. Winter soup is heavy, substantial, serious. It sticks to your ribs. But summer soup is light, frivolous, festive. It cools you down from the inside out. And if it is the right soup, it can even be a little bit sweet.

These soups make elegant starters for a dinner yet are just as comfortable for outdoor eating, picnics and barbecues. The hotter the temperature, the cooler the soup needs to be, so add ice cubes or serve in chilled bowls. Not too hot, then serve at room temperature, which also gives soup maximum flavor.

A summer soup made with the bounty from your local farmers market or CSA is a great way to eat healthy and support local growers. Whether you’re using fruits, vegetables or a combination of both, you’re likely to come across some interesting flavors you haven’t experienced before. Flavoring your summer soups with an array of spices will add diversity.

Even though most summer soups are served cold or chilled, most must start out being cooked on the stove. When you can, you might want to do any of the necessary cooking in the cooler morning hours, so you won’t be heating up the kitchen right before mealtime. This strategy will give your soup plenty of time to chill. Chilled soup leftovers make an easy and quick lunch, also.

Cold soups need to chill at least two hours to taste their best at serving time. If you need to chill your soup quickly, place it over ice to cut down on the refrigeration time.

Fruit Soups

Fruit soups are a refreshing way to start or end a summer meal. Berry soups are often a combination of sweet and tart flavors. Tartness is important, since some of the flavor may fade while the soup cools. Buttermilk or yogurt are often used to add a smooth tartness.

Fresh lemon juice is often used to bring out the flavors of the fruit, but be careful when using lemon — too much can turn your soup an unappealing brown. Color is an important aspect of these cool, lively dishes.

Fruit soups are fun to garnish in creative ways, with whole berries, sliced fruit or a bit of sour cream. Soups served this way have visual appeal

Vegetable Soups

Cool summer vegetable soups are a nice variation from serving a salad. They can also be a hearty meal by themselves. Unlike the desired smoothness of a fruit soup, summer vegetable soups are often rich and full of texture. For additional texture, add beans, rice or bread to the mix.

Again, there’s nothing like a summer farmers’ market to offer you an array of vegetables for creating soups: spinach, avocados, cucumber, tomatoes, beets, carrots, corn and asparagus, for example. Any of these creatively combined with herbs and spices in a summer soup will revive your weary taste buds after a long summer day.

Remember, when cooled, some of the flavors of your vegetables may fade, so you need to start with the freshest ingredients you can find. Newly picked vegetables will give you the most satisfying results.

summersoup1

Blueberry Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen (not thawed) blueberries, plus more for garnish
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream, plus extra for garnish

Directions

Combine blueberries, water, cinnamon stick, honey and ginger in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until most of the blueberries have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick. Puree the soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when pureeing hot liquids) or use an immersion hand blender. Place a fine sieve over the pan and pour the soup through it back into the pan, straining out any solids. (Discard the solids.)

Whisk cornstarch and milk in a measuring cup until smooth. Whisk into the blueberry mixture. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Boil, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, loosely cover and chill until cold, at least 5 hours or up to 2 days.

Just before serving, whisk 1 cup sour cream into the soup and ladle into bowls; top each serving with a dollop of sour cream and swirl it decoratively into the soup. Garnish with additional blueberries, if desired.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 2 and chill for up to 1 day. The finished soup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

summersoup2

Herbed Zucchini Soup

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, (about 3 medium), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or dill
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • Garnish with fresh herbs and zucchini strips

Directions

Place broth, zucchini and tarragon (or dill) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the zucchini is tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Reheat over medium-high, slowly stirring in cheese until it is incorporated. Remove fromthe  heat and season with salt and pepper. Chill and serve with garnishes.

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

summersoup3

Chilled Melon Soup with Basil

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 cups chopped honeydew melon
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup lime juice

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a blender and purée, stirring often, until very smooth. Transfer to bowls and serve grnished with basil leaves. Alternately, transfer to a container, cover and chill before serving.

summersoup5

Chilled Tuscan-Style Tomato Soup

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups (1-inch cubes) country-style Italian bread
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, each cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Additional basil leaves, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In small skillet, heat oil on medium until hot. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring. Remove skillet fromthe  heat.

In food processor pulse bread until coarsely chopped. Add tomatoes and garlic; pulse until soup is almost pureed. Pour soup into a bowl; stir in chopped basil, sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight. Garnish each serving with basil leaves. Makes about 6 cups.

summersoup4

Peach Soup with Shrimp and Crab

8 servings

Ingredients

Seafood Topping:

  • 8 ounces chopped cooked shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced hot fresh pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Soup:

  • 3 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 large limes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup matchstick-cut radishes
  • 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon seeded, minced fresh hot pepper

Directions

To prepare seafood topping:

Combine shrimp and lime juice in a medium bowl; add crab; toss gently to combine. Stir in 3 tablespoons onion and next 4 ingredients (through 1/4 teaspoon salt). Chill at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.

To prepare the soup:

Combine peaches, 1/3 cup juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place half of the peach mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed peach mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining peach mixture. Stir in 1/4 cup onion and remaining ingredients. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

To serve: Ladle about 1/2 cup of soup into a shallow bowl and top with 1/4 cup of the seafood topping.

summersoup6

Cucumber Soup with Watermelon and Mint

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 large cucumbers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 block (1-pound) silken tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons (about 1 lemon) lemon juice
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed, chopped and divided
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups seeded and diced watermelon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, setting aside 2 tablespoons of mint and stir to combine. Working in batches, purée allthe  ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer soup to a large pitcher, cover, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours.

Before serving, taste soup and adjust seasonings, if needed. Divide soup between chilled bowls and top evenly with watermelon, reserved chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil.


 

100_0722

When you become a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you purchase a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Weekly during the growing season in your area, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront and shares usually include 7-10 types of vegetables; enough for a family of 2-3 people.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. The farmers receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow and the farmers have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow. The consumer gets to eat fresh picked food with all the flavor and vitamin benefits, learn more about how the food is grown and develop a relationship with the farmer who grows the food.

Jeta farms

Jeta Farms

My CSA is Jeta Farms, a family owned and operated farm located in Elberta, Al. They offer a variety of vegetables and some specialty and heirloom varieties. They do not plant GMO vegetable crops. I pick up my share on Saturday mornings and the produce is truly fresh and delicious. As soon as I get my share home, I start planning the week’s menu.

See the photo at the top of the post for last Saturday’s share, which included: a dozen ears of corn-on-the-cob, 2 eggplant, 4 plum tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, a package of blackberries, 2 large bell peppers, 4 patty pan squash, a pound of Italian green beans, a sack (about 5 lbs) of potatoes, lots of zucchini and yellow squash.

I was able to create a whole week’s worth of meals using these vegetables. All the herbs used in the recipes come from my garden.

  • Sunday: Grilled Italian sausage, 2 grilled corn on the cob (from the corn share) and potato salad (from the potato share)
  • Monday: Eggplant-Tomato Bake (recipe below) and sautéed zucchini (from the zucchini share) over Orecchiette pasta
  • Tuesday: Stuffed peppers (recipe below) and cucumber (from the cucumber share) salad 
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish, grilled summer squash (recipe below) and potato salad
  • Thursday: Chicken Oreganata, Italian green beans (recipe below) and eggplant bake
  • Friday: Corn Chowder (recipe below) and hash-browned potatoes (from the potato share) with eggs
  • Saturday: Grilled shrimp, grilled patty pan squash (recipe below) and tomato salad
  • The blackberries became dessert; see the Blackberry Crumble recipe in my post on Using Summer Fruit
Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Hash Browns

Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Orecchiette Pasta

Orecchiette Pasta

Here are some of the recipes I used for this menu.

Eggplant Tomato Bake

100_0726

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/4” round slices (from the eggplant share)
  • 3/4 lb package fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4”slices (from the tomato share)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Egg Beaters (refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh or dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil two baking sheets.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg substitute and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place the slices on the prepared pans and bake until brown, about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through baking.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices and add half the tomatoes and half of the cheese. Add another layer of eggplant slices, tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle the top layer with oregano.

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Peppers

100_0739

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Fresh corn kernels, cut off 2 cobs from the corn share
  • 1/2 cup yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 large bell peppers: halved and seeded (from the bell pepper share)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of your favorite prepared BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the ground turkey until browned..
Add the chopped garlic, onion, corn and squash; stir and heat through. Season mixture with sea salt and pepper. Stir well to combine the flavors. Remove from heat. Add in the chopped parsley and cheese.

Coat a shallow baking dish that will fit the halved peppers with cooking spray. Stuff the halved peppers with the turkey mixture, pressing it in firmly. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish. Top each pepper with a spoonful of BBQ sauce.

Pour about an inch of hot boiled water into the bottom of the baking pan, around the peppers, and loosely cover the pan with a foil tent. This helps to cook the peppers. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender.

Grilled Summer Squash

100_0758

 

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs green and yellow squash, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick ovals (from the squash share)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire.

In a colander, toss the squash with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and drain for 30 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, put the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor and purée until smooth.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons., 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Grill, turning once, until golden and tender, 8 to 12 minutes.

Arrange the squash on a platter, dot with the pesto and balsamic syrup. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Italian Flat Green Beans With Tomatoes and Garlic

100_0736

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian flat green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 3-inch pieces (from the green bean share)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, cut into very thin slices ( a 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice ( 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 -8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade ( stacked, then rolled tightly and cut into very thin strips)

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain immediately.

While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the garlic slices, distributing them evenly. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the slices become almost translucent and start to brown on the edges; be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the diced tomato and salt and pepper to taste, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the tomato is heated through. Add the cooked green beans and heat through for 1 to 2 minutes; mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with the basil, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Corn Chowder

100_0732

Ingredients

  • 8 corn on the cob from the corn share
  • Corn Stock, see below
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups) 
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • 2 lbs potatoes, diced (from the potato share)
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 2 fresh whole sprigs of thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 can) evaporated whole milk

Directions

Cut the corn kernels from the 8 cobs and reserve the corn and cobs separately. Place the corn cobs and 4 quarts water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the cobs and discard.

Add half the reserved corn and all the vegetables to the soup pot and return the broth to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup right in the soup pot. Add the seasonings, remaining corn and milk. Heat on low for about 15 minutes or until the corn is tender.

Grilled Patty Pan Squash with Italian Salsa Verde

Pattypan Squash 004001

 

4 servings

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 large garlic clove, halved, 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (tightly packed) parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the squash:

  • 4 small to medium patty pan squash from the squash share
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the garlic, salt, anchovy fillet and capers in a food processor. With the motor running add the olive oil with the parsley and blend to a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If serving within a few hours, allow to sit at room temperature. Otherwise, refrigerate and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Prepare an outdoor grill.

Slice the patty pan squash in half horizontally and coat with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill the squash for about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender all the way through.

Transfer the squash to a serving platter. Top each one with a teaspoon or two of the salsa verde and serve.

Yield: 4 servings


basil-varieties

Basil comes in many different varieties, each of which have a unique flavor and smell. Described below are 12 varieties, but there are even more – well over sixty.  I never realized that there were so many varieties of basil until I shopped at a nursery for my plants. If it weren’t for its distinctive smell, it would be difficult to recognize all the different kinds of basil.   Leaves range from a mint color to dark green to purple and grow in size from tiny to large – some are even ruffled!

Basil is traditional in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisine. It is superb with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese and eggs. It blends well with garlic, thyme and lemon. Basil adds zip to mild vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, spinach and to the soups, stews and sauces that contain these vegetables. Basil is also one of the ingredients in the liqueur, Chartreuse.

Bring the wonderful fragrance of basil indoors by incorporating them in potpourri, sachets and dried winter bouquets. The sweet-scented Opal basil and Thai basil are particularly good for these projects. Other fragrant varieties include lemon, lime and cinnamon basil.

basil-christmas
1. Christmas Basil

With 2-inch, glossy green leaves and purple flowers, Christmas basil adds fruity flavor to salads and drinks, and the plants are gorgeous in the landscape. A beautiful border plant, it averages 16 to 20 inches tall and combines the attributes of both Sweet and Thai basil.

basil cinnamon2. Cinnamon Basil

This basil variety has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor. A beautiful, 25 to 30 inch tall plant with dark-purple stems and flowers accented with small, glossy leaves. it’s a favorite basil to use for fresh arrangements, garnishes and in fruit salads.

basil-dark-opal

3. Dark Opal Basil

Dark Opal basil adds color to fresh summer floral displays and depth to dried arrangements and wreaths. Beautiful and spicy in a salad or as a garnish, it can also be made into pesto, which adds an unexpected color and flavor to your pasta or bruschetta. The plants are attractive in the herb garden, ranging from 14 to 20 inches in height with purple stems, flower and leaves.

basil-holy

4. Holy Basil

A revered plant in the Hindu religion, Holy basil is also referred to as Sacred basil or Tulsi. Its leaves can be used to make tea for boosting your immune system. It is a beautiful plant in the garden with mottled green and purple leaves and grows to about 12 to 14 inches tall.

basil-lemon

5. Lemon Basil

This basil variety can be added to salads and fish dishes. A sprig of Lemon basil in a glass of iced tea is particularly delightful on a hot summer day. The 20 to 24 inch plants are light green with white flowers and 2½ inch long leaves.

basil-lime

6. Lime Basil

With small green leaves on compact 12 to 16-inch plants with white flowers, this basil variety’s lime scent and flavor makes it great in fish and chicken dishes. A simple syrup infused with Lime basil is a delicious addition to tea and margaritas.

basil-spicy-bush

7. Spicy Bush Basil

Spicy Bush basil has tiny leaves on small, mounded plants, which are perfect for pots or lining the garden in bonsai-like fashion. It only takes a few of Spicy Bush basil’s intensely flavored leaves to add a punch to a sauce or soup. The plants are a soft green and about 8 to 10 inches in height and width, with 1/2 to 1 inch long leaves.

basil-purple-ruffles

8. Purple Ruffles Basil

A feathery variation of Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles adds another dimension to the landscape, floral arrangements or garnishes. It has the same flavor as Opal basil and can be used similarly. It is a 16 to 20 inch-tall plant with 2 to 3 inch long leaves.

basil-sweet

9. Sweet Basil

This basil cultivar is the best choice for Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto. Varieties include Genovese, Napoletano, Italian Large Leaf and Lettuce Leaf. Plants range from 14 to 30 inches tall and are prolific in hot, sunny locations. Harvest the top four leaves often to keep the plant growing and sweetly flavored.

basil-sweet-thai

10. Sweet Thai Basil

An Asian variety with a distinct, spicy, anise-clove flavor, quite unlike common sweet basil, sweet Thai is a must for Asian cuisine and makes a nice addition to the herb garden for fragrance and color. It has purple stems and blooms with green leaves reaching 12 to 16 inched tall.

Basil-Greek

11. Greek Columnar

Greek Columnar’s attractive appearance is in the plant’s dense columnar shape. It does not flower, so the plant can be maintained throughout the year. It can be grown indoors in the winter. This basil has a pungent flavor that is best for stews and hearty dishes.

Basil-Lettuce-Leaf

12. Lettuce Leaf Basil

Lettuce Leaf Basil has the look of green, wrinkly lettuce but packs a bigger punch. The spicy flavor is typical of basils and tastes great with fresh tomatoes, in salads (your guests will be surprised by the rich flavor of what looks like a regular salad leaf!) and in any type of Mediterranean dishes. Pinch back the flowers to make a fuller plant.

Resources: Pantry Garden Herbs and Hobby Farms.

basil dip

Basil Herb Dip

A cool and refreshing dip for fresh vegetables and even chips and pretzels.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon country-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice into a blender, then add the basil leaves.
Pulse until the basil is incorporated throughout the mixture.
Chill for at least 20 minutes. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Genovese
Basil, Lemon
Basil, Italian Large Leaf

basil Tuscan-Bread-SaladTuscan Bread Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 slices of thick, whole grain or crusty bread cut in chunks
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 4-5 jarred artichoke hearts, diced
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese cut in chunks
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup torn basil leaves

Directions

Gently combine the bread, vegetables, basil, and cheese together.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with vinegar and oil. Chill.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Sweet
Basil, Italian Large leaf
Basil, Lemon
Basil, Purple Ruffle

basil Tagliatelle_carbonara

Basil Carbonara

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions

Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter.
After draining the cooked pasta, return the pasta to the cooking pot and place over medium heat.
Toss the pasta with the onion mixture, add chicken broth.
Beat the eggs and pour over the hot pasta stirring constantly to coat pasta and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add Parmesan, bacon and torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Use one of these varieties:
Lemon
Sweet
Italian Large Leaf

basil zucchini-soup3

 

 

Zucchini Basil Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups roughly chopped sweet onions 
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped sweet bell pepper (any color) 
  • 2½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh sweet basil
  • Any number of toppings can add additional flavor: chopped fresh tomato, diced squash, croutons or Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, garlic and salt until vegetables start to soften. Stir in pepper, zucchini and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the pepper is soft, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach and basil just until wilted. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add a topping and serve
Makes about 6 servings.

basil roast-beef-wrap

Roast Beef Wraps with Garlic Basil Aioli

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, loosely packed fresh basil (any variety will work in this sandwich)
  • 4 8-inch whole-grain sandwich wraps
  • 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
  • 6 ounces roast beef (Italian-style if available), thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced

Directions

To make the aioli, place mayonnaise, garlic and basil in a blender; purée until smooth.
Divide the mixture into four portions and spread each wrap evenly with aioli. Lay the spinach leaves evenly over the aioli.
Place beef, then Provolone in single layers over the spinach. Roll up tightly.
Chill until ready to serve.


FVG 8

In Italy’s north eastern corner lies the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. This small region sits on the Adriatic coast with the Alps bordering it and Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. Friuli Venezia Giulia cuisine is known as a composite of peasant fare and sophisticated Venetian food with influences from the Slavic and Austrian cultures. Despite these vastly different styles of cooking, this region manages to merge them successfully. The region is also the birthplace of grappa and the source of an astounding variety of wines, despite its diminutive size. The town of San Daniele has produced an excellent prosciutto for centuries that rivals Parma’s.

FVG 3

Pasta is eaten in many different forms in the Friuli Venezia Giulia cuisine. Lasagna noodles are layered with poppy seeds. Gnocchi are made with potato, winter squash or plums. The filled pasta called bauletti contains ham and cheese. Like many other northern regions of Italy, polenta is a staple food. Stewed meats, game and cheese dishes are often served with it.

Bread is another staple food in the Friuli Venezia Giulia cuisine. In addition to wheat, rye and barley flour are used to make bread. Pumpkin bread is also commonly enjoyed. Gubana is a bread traditionally served for Easter. This rich bread resembles brioche and is filled with layers of cocoa and grappa flavored dried fruit and nuts. Bread is used to make canederli which are dumplings that are served in broth or as a side dish for meat. Potatoes and ricotta are used to fill a savory strudel called strukli.

Friuli Venezia Giulia recipes for soup are widely varied, including many kinds of vegetables, beans, seafood and meat. Boreto alla graisana, or turbot chowder seasoned with garlic, olive oil and vinegar, is served at the port of Grado. Fasûj e uardi is a herb flavored barley soup, thick with beans, pork, onion and celery. Ham and beans are cooked with potatoes and corn to make bòbici. Jota is a soup made from sauerkraut, beans, sausages and potatoes cooked with sage and garlic. Even turtles are made into soup in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

The southern section of Friuli Venezia Giulia lies along the coast where seafood dishes play an important role in the diet. Granzevola alla triestina is a dish of baked spider crab with bread seasoned with lemon, garlic and parsley. Shrimp, squid and mussels are simmered with rice in fish broth to make risotto di Marano. The most popular fish in Friuli Venezia Giulia is turbot, while sardines, eels and cod are preserved in salt and served in many different ways.

fogolar

The fogolar is an open-hearth oven with a cone-shaped chimney used for cooking. Most often, mushrooms, sausages, lamb, kid, poultry and beef are grilled on a fogolar. Stewed meats are commonly prepared in Friuli Venezia Giulia cooking. Venison and rabbit are cooked in a wine sauce called salmi. Gulasch, a beef and pepper stew flavored with hot peppers, onions, paprika and tomato, is served with polenta. Other meat dishes include rambasici or stuffed cabbage and patties of mixed beef and pork known as cevàpcici. Muset e bruada is a sausage made from pork rind, first boiled and then fried in salt pork, onions and garlic. Bruada (pickled turnips) are served as a condiment with this dish. Sauerkraut and horseradish are served with sausage dishes.

Gubana is a rich yeast-raised cake rolled up jelly roll style before placing in a round pan to bake. Its cinnamon flavored filling contains dried and candied fruit, nuts and chocolate. Presnitz, another dried, candied fruit and nut filled pastry, is coiled like a snake before baking. Apple strudel is prepared with pine nuts and raisins. Chestnuts are used in Castagnoli cookies. Chifeleti, or biscuits made with potato enriched dough, and pumpkin fritters called fritulis are fried treats.

friuli-venezia-giulia 1

The region has an outstanding reputation for its white wines which account for just over 60% of its output. A mixture of local and international grape varieties are grown with great success here. The region’s winemakers are forward-thinking, even pioneering the “Friuli method”, a modern technique for getting juice off the skins quickly.

Friuli holds two DOCGs for its unique dessert wines. Ramandolo, a little known sweet white, whose Verduzzo grapes are grown on the hills to the north of Udine, was the first to be awarded its status. Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit, a delicate amber wine made from the aromatic Picolit grape, became DOCG in 2006. There are ten DOCs wines in Friuli and two of these are considered to be exceptional – Collio Goriziano, which is usually known simply as Collio, and Friuli Colli Orientali. Quality is also excellent in the Friuli Isonzo DOC area, where some dry whites are made from Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio and Riesling, as well as some semi-dry and sparkling wines. Tocai Friuliano has been an important variety historically. The grape is now commonly known as Friuliano following a European court ruling to avoid confusion with the Hungarian wine Tokaji. The region has had great success with its single varietal white wines, such as Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla and Verduzzo, whereas Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco from the region tend to be refined.

Some excellent reds are Cabernet and Pinot Nero, as well as vendemmia tardiva (late harvest) blends. Red wines from Friuli have tended to be single varietal wines made from Italian grapes like Refosco, as well as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Nero. Historically, they were light and not designed for cellaring. But this is a region where experimentation and forward thinking in the winery is as much part of the routine as following traditional techniques are in other parts of Italy. Consequently, there are some fine blends on the market, often aged in oak barrels. The resultant wines have great depth and complexity and a firm structure that ensures they are capable of ageing.

FVG

Dinner Menu

FVG 2
Canederli in Broth

Ingredients

For the dumplings:

  • 300 g (10 oz) stale bread, diced 
  • 225 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 60 g (½ cup) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 3 tablespoons (minced) flat leaf parsley
  • 200 g (7 oz) Italian Fontina cheese, diced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 12 cups of vegetable or chicken broth (for boiling)

For the broth:

  • 1 cup per serving of extra vegetable or chicken broth
  • Grated Parmigiano cheese
  • Chives, thinly sliced

Directions

Put the stale bread into a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, the eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well and let it rest for at least two hours, covered with a tea towel, in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Stir occasionally. After the two hours, add the flour, then the parsley and the cheese. Mix gently and set aside.

Heat the oil and butter and cook the onion for ten minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Let the onion cool off, then incorporate it into the flour mixture. Let the mixture rest for another half an hour covered with a tea towel. It should look uniformly moist and slightly sticky.

Using your hands, form the canederli by pressing together enough of the mixture to make balls the size of a small orange. You should be able produce 14-16 balls out of the entire mix.
After making each ball, roll it in flour to seal the outside and prevent the canederli from sticking to each other. When all the canederli are ready, re-roll them into flour and compress them a second time.

Boil the vegetable or chicken broth in a large pot. Place the canederli gently in the pot, wait until the boil is resumed. Boil the canederli for 12-15 minutes (they will be floating the whole time), then drain them gently.

To prepare the canederli in broth:

Heat 1 cup per serving of vegetable or chicken broth (as the one used for boiling will be cloudy because of the flour). Place two to three canederli into each soup bowl, then pour the broth over them. Garnish with grated Parmigiano cheese and chives.

FVG 5

Grilled Tuna with Crushed Fennel Seed

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh tuna steaks, 1 inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Lemons for garnish

Directions

Marinate the tuna for 1 hour with the fennel seeds, finely chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil and the lemon juice before grilling.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.

Season tuna with salt and pepper. Place the tuna steaks on the grill and cook, sprinkled with a bit more fennel seeds if desired, until deep black grid marks appear, 6 to 7 minutes on each side. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with lemon slices.

FVG 7

Half-moon Potatoes – Kipfel De Patate

Ingredients

Servings 6

  • 2 lb potatoes
  • 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ oz butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Olive oil 
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Once cooked, peel the potatoes and mash them. Add salt and let cool. Once cool, add the butter and egg yolk.

Then add the flour and mix well until you have a smooth mixture. Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into pieces as thick as your little finger and 3 to 4 inches long. Then, shape them into half moons.

Saute the moons in hot oil for a couple of minutes until they puff up a little and are golden in color – a sign of a crispy exterior. Serve the half-moon potatoes hot, sprinkled with salt.

FVG 6

Cappuccio in Insalata – Cabbage Salad

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • A medium cabbage, cored and finely shredded
  • A 1/2 inch thick slice of San Daniele prosciutto
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Melt butter over medium heat in a small skillet and add the diced prosciutto. Saute just until the prosciutto begins to brown. Remove from heat.
Combine the cabbage and the crisped prosciutto in a bowl, mix well and season to taste with salt, pepper and a dash of vinegar.

FVG 4

Gubana

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons grappa

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 cup Marsala
  • 5 oz walnuts, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons almonds, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 oz candied lemon and orange peel
  • 1 tablespoon plain breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg, separated plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 lemon 
  • 1 orange
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Butter for greasing pan
  • 1 tablespoon flour

To make the pastry

In a food processor place the flour and 1 1/2 oz. of butter, a whole egg and the grappa. Remove and form into a ball, then flatten it into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest while you make the filling.

To make the filling

Let the raisins soften in the Marsala for about 30 minutes and squeeze out the excess liqueur. Put the walnuts, almonds, raisins, pine nuts and candied peel into a bowl.

Saute the bread crumbs in the 2 tablespoons butter and mix it into the nuts with the grated rinds of the orange and lemon. Mix well. Add one egg yolk.

Beat egg white until stiff and fold it into the nut mixture.

To make the pastry

Roll out the pastry into a thin rectangle. Spread the filling on top of it. Roll (jelly roll style) and fold in the filling from the long side of the rectangle. Place the dough rolled up into a spiral and set in a buttered and floured round baking pan or casserole dish. Brush with the remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the gubana in the oven at 375°F for about 50 minutes.

 

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