Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. The coasts of Sardinia are generally high and rocky with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline that contain a few deep bays, many inlets and smaller islands off the coast. The Strait of Bonifacio is directly north of Sardinia and separates Sardinia from the French island of Corsica. The region’s capital is Cagliari.
The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coasts, plains and low hills and a continental climate on the interior plateaus, valleys and mountain ranges. During the year there are approximately 135 days of sunshine, with a major concentration of rainfall in the autumn and winter.
During the Second World War, Sardinia was an important air and naval base and was heavily bombed by the Allies. In the early 1960s, an industrialization effort was begun with the initiation of major infrastructure projects on the island. These included the construction of new dams and roads, reforestation, agricultural zones on reclaimed marshland and large industrial complexes (primarily oil refineries and related petrochemical operations). With the creation of these industries, thousands of ex-farmers became industrial workers.
The Sardinian economy is constrained due to the high cost of importing goods, transportation and generating electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions and triple that of the EU average. The once prosperous mining industry is still active, though restricted to coal, gold, bauxite, lead and zinc. Granite extraction represents one of the most flourishing industries in the northern part of the island. Principal industries include chemicals, petrochemicals, metalworking, cement, pharmaceutical, shipbuilding, oil rig construction, rail and food.
Agriculture has played a very important role in the economic history of the island, especially in the great plain of Campidano, where it is particularly suitable for wheat farming. Water scarcity was a major problem that was overcome with the construction of a great barrier system of dams. Now, the Campidano plain is a major Italian producer of oats, barley and durum wheat. Sardinian agriculture is linked to specific products: cheese, wine, olive oil, artichokes and tomatoes that contribute to a growing export business. Sardinia produces about 80% of Italian cork and ranks 5th among the Italian regions in rice production. The main paddy fields are located in the Arborea Plain.
Sardinia is home to one of the oldest forms of vocal music, generally known as cantu a tenore. The guttural sounds produced in this form make a remarkable sound, similar to Tuvan throat singing. Sardinia is home to professional soccer and basketball teams and auto racing. Cagliari hosted a Formula 3000 race in 2002 and 2003 around its Sant’Elia stadium.
Sardinia boasts the highest consumption of beer per capita in Italy. The discovery of jars containing hops in some archaeological sites are evidence that beer was produced in the region since the Copper Age.
The Cuisine of Sardinia
Thousands of rare species of plants and animals grow and live on the island, some entirely unique to Sardinia. An excellent example of the longevity of Sardinia’s heirloom produce is the Grenache wine grape which dates back to about 1,200 BC. The Grenache grapes grown on the island today are genetically indistinguishable from their ancestors grown thousands of years ago in the same areas.
Wild boar, lamb, pork, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, lobsters, sea urchins, octopus, clams, mussels and squid are plentiful. Salty flavors are preferred by Sardinians, such as, bottarga (a pressed and salted mullet roe) and salt preserved sardines.
Traditional hearty Italian pastas like culingiones (spinach and cheese ravioli) share center stage with Arabic-inspired couscous dishes. Many first-time visitors are surprised by the Sardinians’ liberal use of saffron, which grows well on the island. Saffron is a particular favorite in gnocchi dishes.
A wide variety of herbs, including myrtle (berries, flowers, leaves and stems), flourish on Sardinia and flavor the local dishes. Whether savory, sweet, used for wood smoking or instilled into digestive liqueurs, myrtle is a major part of the Sardinian palate.
Cheeses are especially important and the island’s most exported food product. Pecorino sardo, Fiore sardo, ricotta, caprino, pecorino romano and the famous casu marzu are all made within the region. Casu marzu is illegal now in Italy due to its bizarre culturing and aging process involving the introduction of live cheese fly larvae into the process to bring about a poisonous stage akin to decomposition. Though obviously a risky gastronomic health adventure and definitely not for the timid, casu marzu is nonetheless a very popular black market commodity and is considered a distinctive delicacy by many locals.
For more traditional tastes, you will find local rock lobsters topped with seasoned breadcrumbs and roasted in the oven and cassòla, a flavorful seafood soup, that can have as many as a dozen types of seafood cooked with spices and tomatoes.
Fava beans are cooked with cardoons, wild fennel, tomatoes, salt pork and sausage to create the thick stew known as favata. Farro, a locally grown grain, is simmered slowly in beef broth with cheese and mint to make su farro.
Chickens are marinated with myrtle leaves and berries, boiled and eaten chilled. Other Sardinian recipes for meat are agnello con finocchietti, a stew of lamb with wild fennel, tomatoes and onion. Not people to waste food, Sardinians stew lamb or kid intestines with peas, onions and tomatoes.
Sardinians love pasta in all forms and their cuisine features specialties found nowhere else. Plump culingiones are shaped like ravioli and stuffed with chard and pecorino cheese and served with tomato sauce. The regional dish, malloreddus, are tiny semolina gnocchi topped with a garlic, basil, pecorino and saffron flavored sausage and tomato sauce.
Every village has a unique shaped bread, either a round loaf, a long cylindrical loaf or a donut shaped loaf. Sardinian recipes also include a sweet focaccia flavored with pecorino cheese and a local bitter honey. The entire island loves flatbread and crisp carta de musica or “sheet of music”, a paper-thin crisp bread. One popular way to serve this cracker style bread is to soften it in warm water, then spread it with tomato sauce, grated cheese and poached eggs.
Sardinian cooking also offers a wide selection of cookies, pastries and cakes. These desserts are usually flavored with spices, almonds, raisins and ricotta cheese. Pabassinas are pastries filled with a raisin walnut paste.
Mirto is a liqueur unique to the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. It is made from the berries of the flowering Mirto (or Myrtle) plant, a distinctive plant that grows throughout the Mediterranean basin but is most prolific on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica. The berries are dark blue in color and look somewhat like blueberries but bear no relationship to blueberries in taste or other properties.
Sardinia’s wines have little in common with those produced in the rest of Italy. The Island’s remote Mediterranean location, as well as the historic influence from other cultures, gives the wines a unique character that might be considered to have more in common with Spanish wines rather than Italian wines. Production is extensive around the port of Cagliari in the Campidano area, where the little known Girò, Monica, Nasco and Nuragus varietals grow alongside Malvasia and Moscato, all bearing town names: Girò di Cagliari, Monica di Cagliari, Nasco di Cagliari, Nuragus di Cagliari, Malvasia di Cagliari and Moscato di Cagliari DOCs.
Traditionally, it is made with whatever is growing in the garden, but it always includes beans and fregula (or fregola) a toasted pebble-size semolina pasta that is popular in Sardinia.
- 1/2 cup dried peeled fava beans
- 1/2 cup dried cranberry beans or cannellini beans
- 1/3 cup dried chickpeas
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped (about 2⁄3 cup)
- 2 medium celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (about 3½ cups)
- 3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1½ cups)
- 1½ cups chopped fennel bulb
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
- 2⁄3 cup of Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous, or acini di pepe pasta
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano (about 2 ounces)
Soak the fava beans, cranberry beans and chickpeas in a large bowl of water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse well.
Warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery; cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 20 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, as well as the drained beans and chickpeas. Add enough water (6 to 8 cups) so that everything is submerged by 1 inch.
Raise the heat to high and bring to a full boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, until the beans are tender, adding more water as necessary if the mixture gets too thick, about 1½ hours.
Stir in the fregula, salt and pepper. Add up to 2 cups water if necessary. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into each of four serving bowls. Divide the soup among them and top each with 1 tablespoon of the grated cheese.
Notes: You can vary the beans in the minestrone: pinto beans make a good substitute for cranberry beans; great northern or cannellini beans, for the favas. Use the stalks and fronds that come off a fennel bulb for the most intense flavor. Add other fresh vegetables from the garden or market, such as zucchini, cabbage, green beans, and cauliflower or broccoli florets.
Cavatelli with Sardinian Sausage Sauce
Cavatelli pasta is shaped like a small hot dog bun with a long, rolled edge that is good for holding thick sauces.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (one 28-ounce can)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 1 pound fresh or frozen cavatelli pasta
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus more for serving
In a large deep frying pan or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a fork, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining oil to the pan. Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mint, parsley, water, salt and 1 pinch of the saffron. Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli with the remaining pinch saffron until just done, 10 to 15 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the cavatelli and toss with the meat sauce, the basil, the reserved pasta water and the cheese. Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.
Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over Couscous
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into small florets
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree
- 1 3/4 cups canned chicken broth or homemade stock
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 1/2 cups couscous
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Light an outdoor grill or heat the broiler.
In a glass dish or stainless steel pan, combine the lamb, 6 tablespoons of the oil, the thyme and 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice.
In a large frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden, about 10 minutes. Add the saffron, 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the tomatoes, broth and raisins.
Simmer until the cauliflower is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous and parsley. Bring back to a simmer. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
Put the lamb on skewers. Sprinkle the kabobs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill or broil the kabobs, turning and basting with the marinade, until the lamb is cooked to your taste, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Serve the skewers on the couscous.
“Torta de arrosu” Saffron rice cake
- 200 gr / 7 oz rice
- 150 gr/ 5 oz sugar
- 750 ml / 1 ½ pints of milk
- 1/2 oz butter
- 5 eggs, lightly beaten
- 100 gr/ 3 1/2 oz skinned almonds
- Grated rind of a lemon
- A pinch of saffron
- A pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degree F (180 C). Grease a 9 inch (24 cm) cake pan.
Put the milk, butter, saffron, sugar, salt and lemon rind in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until all the milk has been absorbed. Let cool and then add the eggs and the almonds.
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for one hour. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.
Caring about our communities, the environment and our planet shouldn’t be a one day thing. Working to decrease our impact on the planet should be a continuous process. However, Earth Day is also the perfect time to make a personal pledge to start a new good habit.
Here are a few ways to make a difference:
Turn out the lights when you leave a room. It does make a difference.
Taking a shower uses less water than filling a bathtub and a water-conserving shower head is even better.
To decrease waste, purchase durable, long-lasting products that can be reused, refilled or recharged. If you do use disposables, choose those made with recycled/recyclable materials.
Adjusting your thermostat down just 2 degrees in the winter and up 2 degrees in the summer could save energy consumption.
Buy groceries such as grains, beans, cereals, pasta and snacks from bulk bins when available to avoid excess trash. Plus, being able to buy just the amount you need means no wasted food.
Use reusable cloth bags when shopping to avoid using paper or plastic bags.
Compost your food waste to reduce trash that goes to a landfill. Add the compost to your garden for nutrient-rich soil.
Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb up to 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
These are just a few suggestions to incorporate an Earth Day mentality into your daily routine.
The more unprocessed foods you eat — especially plant-based foods — the healthier you and our planet are going to be. While a meat-centered diet deepens our ecological footprint and contributes to pollution, a plant-centered diet requires fewer resources and supports long-term health. But you don’t have to go completely veggie to reap the benefits; try gradually adding a few meatless dishes to your weekly menu. Try some of these delicious, earth friendly recipes.
Spinach can be used in place of broccoli.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- Flour, for rolling dough
- 2 (1 pound each) fresh or frozen pizza dough balls, thawed if frozen
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups shredded (6 ounces) mozzarella cheese
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- Homemade marinara sauce, recipe below
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium. Add onion; cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broccoli, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and cool.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the calzones:
Divide each ball of dough into 4 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, stretch each piece out, first to a 3-by-4-inch oval, then stretch again, this time to a 6-by-8-inch oval. (Let dough rest a few minutes if too elastic to work with.)
Stir cheeses into cooled broccoli mixture; season generously with salt and pepper.
To assemble the calzones:
Spread a rounded 1/2 cup broccoli mixture over half of each piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border; fold over to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. With a paring knife, cut 2 slits in the top of each calzone.
Using a wide metal spatula with a thin blade, transfer calzones to 2 baking sheets lined with parchment; reshape if needed.
Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with heated marinara sauce.
To freeze: Prepare recipe through step 3. Tightly wrap each calzone in plastic; freeze until firm. Transfer calzones to resealable plastic bags; label and date. Freeze up to 2 months.
To serve: unwrap calzones, and place on parchment-lined baking sheets; bake without thawing until golden, 35 to 40 minute
Homemade Marinara Sauce
Makes about 3 cups.
- 1 28-oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
- 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put tomatoes and their liquid into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Set aside.
Heat oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bay leaf and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes along with the oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup
- 3 pounds fresh plum tomatoes, (about 12), cored and halved lengthwise
- 1/2 pound carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 10 garlic cloves
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 large eggplant, (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 can (15.5 ounces) no salt added chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, for serving
- Toasted Italian bread, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. with racks on the top and the bottom.
On one rimmed baking sheet, toss together tomatoes, carrots, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer, with tomatoes cut sides down.
On another rimmed baking sheet, toss together eggplant, chickpeas, Italian seasoning, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a single layer.
Place both sheets in the oven (tomato mixture on top rack). Roast until tender, tossing mixtures halfway through, about 45 minutes.
Using tongs, peel off and discard tomato skins. Puree tomato mixture (including juices) in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large pot.
Stir in eggplant mixture; thin with 4 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Serve, sprinkled with basil and garnished with toasted bread, if desired.
Wild Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
- 3 pounds fresh spinach, stems removed and washed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced, divided
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 pounds wild mushrooms, (chanterelles, oyster and shiitake), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup Madeira wine
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
- 4 1/2 cups milk at room temperature, divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 one-pound package lasagna noodles, parboiled
Melt 1 tablespoon oil in large pan over medium heat. Add half the garlic; saute until light golden, about 1 minute. Add half the spinach leaves, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain spinach in a colander. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil, remaining garlic and spinach.
When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze to rid it of liquid. Roughly chop spinach; place in a medium bowl with ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute until mushrooms are softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Deglaze the skillet by pouring 1/4 cup Madeira into the hot skillet with the mushrooms and using a wooden spoon to loosen bits cooked onto skillet. Cook mushrooms until liquid has almost evaporated. Transfer cooked mushrooms to a second bowl. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon of butter, the remaining mushrooms, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 1/4 cup Madeira. Add to the first batch of cooked mushrooms.
Set aside in a small bowl one-third of the cooked mushrooms to use for the topping. Add ¼ cup of chopped parsley to the remaining cooked mushrooms; stir.
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. When butter bubbles, add the flour; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Slowly add 4 cups of milk; cook, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick. Remove pan from the heat. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, the nutmeg and 1/2 cup grated cheese. Set aside 1/2 cup sauce in another small bowl.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
To assemble the lasagna:
Spread 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Place a layer of lasagna noodles in the pan; spread 1 cup spinach mixture, 1 cup mushroom mixture and 1/2 cup of sauce on top of the lasagna. Repeat layers several times.
For the last layer, place a layer of lasagna noodles on top; spread 1/2 cup sauce over the lasagna noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup grated cheese. Bake lasagna until the top is golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 20 minutes before serving.
Just before serving, heat the remaining reserved one-third mushrooms, reserved ½ cup sauce, remaining half cup of milk and ¼ cup parsley in a skillet over medium heat. Spoon some of the mushroom sauce over each serving of lasagna.
Green Bean, Orange and Feta Salad
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and halved
- 2 navel oranges
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta (6 ounces)
- 1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved and roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or nuts of choice
In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook green beans until crisp-tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain green beans and spread on a baking sheet to cool.
Using a sharp knife, slice off both ends of each orange. Cut off the peel following the curve of the fruit. Halve fruit from top to bottom, and thinly slice each half crosswise.
In a bowl, whisk together oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Add feta, oranges, lettuce, onion, nuts and green beans. Toss to combine.
Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Makes about 48
- 3 egg whites
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts or other nuts, chopped and toasted
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease large cookie sheet.
In a small bowl, beat together egg whites, oil, coffee and vanilla.
In a large bowl, stir together flour and remaining ingredients until well mixed.
Pour egg mixture onto dry ingredients and stir until combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and divide in half.
Shape mixture into two 12″ by 1″ logs; place both on the prepared cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool 10 minutes.
Transfer one log to a cutting board. Slice diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick biscotti.
Arrange biscotti, cut side up, on cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining log, using a second cookie sheet, if necessary.
Bake 20 minutes; turning cookies over after 10 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight jar up to 1 month.
Puglia is a little more rustic than other parts of Italy. Its major cities are a lot smaller and less well-known by tourists than Florence or Rome. For the Italians, Puglia is where they go for sunny beaches, good seafood fished from nearby waters, vegetables grown in local pastures and to sample the region’s local wines: negroamaro, primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino.
Puglia is a region in southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. It is bordered by the Italian regions of Molise to the north, Campania to the west and Basilicata to the southwest. Puglia’s neighbors are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Montenegro. Its capital city is Bari.
The southernmost portion of Puglia forms a high heel on the “boot” of Italy and its population is about 4.1 million. Foggia is by far the least densely populated province, whereas Bari is the most densely populated province. Emigration from the region’s depressed areas to northern Italy and the rest of Europe was very intense in the years between 1956 and 1971. Later the trend declined as economic conditions improved after 1982.
As with the other regions of Italy, the national language (since 1861) is Italian. However, as a consequence of its long and varied history, other historical languages have been spoken in this region for centuries. In the northern and central sections, some dialects of the Neapolitan language are spoken. In the southern part of the region, the Tarantino and Salentino dialects of Sicily are spoken. In isolated pockets of the southern part of Salento, a dialect of modern Greek, called Griko, is spoken by just a few thousand people. A rare dialect of the Franco-Provençal language called Faetar is spoken in two isolated towns, Faeto and Celle Di San Vito. In a couple of villages, the Arbëreshë dialect of the Albanian language has been spoken by a very small community since a wave of refugees settled there in the 15th century.
In the last 20 years the industrial base of the region’s economy has changed radically. Alongside large-scale plants, such as ILVA (steel-making) in Taranto and Eni (petrochemicals) in Brindisi and Manfredonia, a network of small and medium-sized firms has gradually expanded and they provide approximately 70% of the jobs in the region. The majority of such firms are financed by local capital. As a result, highly specialized areas have developed in food processing, vehicle production, footwear, textiles, clothing, wood and furniture, rubber and computer software. A major contribution to the competitiveness of the region’s economy stems from the existence of important research and development centers such as Tecnopolis-CSATA near Bari, the Cittadella della ricerca (Center for research and new materials) near Brindisi and the new software development centers, also near Bari.
The region has a good network of roads but the railway network is somewhat inadequate, particularly in the south. Puglia’s long coastline, more than 500 miles of coast on two seas, is dotted with ports, which make this region an important terminal for transport and tourism to Greece and the eastern Mediterranean.
No other image says Puglia better than the trulli, a rural home that’s essentially a whitewashed teepee of small limestone slabs stacked without mortar, with a cone surmounted by ancient symbols. They are scattered among olive groves and prickly pear cacti in the Valle d’Itria, inland in a triangle between Bari, Taranto and Brindisi. Of unknown origin and unique to Puglia, the trulli date at least back to the Middle Ages.
Puglian cuisine is balanced by equal use the land and the sea. A typical local antipasti will often contain a number of seafood dishes, such as mussels, oysters, octopus, red mullet and swordfish. Popular vegetables are fava beans, artichokes, chicory and various greens including rucola (“rocket”). Eggplant, peppers, lampasciuoli (a bitter type of onion), cauliflower, olives and olive oil are all Puglian staples.
The region produces half of all Italian olive oils and olive oil is used almost exclusively in local cooking. The most famous pasta is orecchiette, but bucatini is also popular and both are usually served with tomato sauce or with olive oil, garlic and cauliflower. Regional cheeses include Canestrato Puglisi, Caciocavallo Silano (both PDO), Ricotta and Mozzarella. The meat of choice is either lamb or kid that may be roasted, baked or grilled on skewers. Pork is popular for local salami with rabbit and beef also being available. Breads and sweets include focaccia and pizza to fritters filled with sweetened ricotta, sweet ravioli, honey covered dates and Zeppole di San Giuseppe, served on the saint’s day in March.
Puglia is now producing wines of quality over quantity, yet they are reasonably priced. Castel del Monte (DOC) is well-known as a full-bodied red wine, Primitivo di Manduria is now more refined and. Salice Salentino (DOC) is used to make sweeter reds and dessert wines. White wines are undergoing modernization and international grape varieties are being introduced, however there are some traditional varietals. Locorotondo (DOC) is straw yellow and fruity. Martina Franca (DOC) is a dry white. Besides the dessert wines and Grappa, Puglia also is home to a number of herbal and citrus infused spirits making use of local walnuts, flowers, rhubarb, myrtle, anise, lemons and oranges.
Like most bean soups in the Puglia region, this one may be served over slices of stale country-style bread, lightly toasted and brushed with a little garlic.
- 8 oz (1 cup) dried chickpeas
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
- 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, or 2 cups drained canned tomatoes
- 1 stalk celery, including the top green leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small dried hot red chili pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Finely minced flat-leaf parsley
Put the chick-peas in a bowl, cover with cool water and set aside to soak for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. Then drain and place in a soup pot with fresh cold water to cover to a depth of one inch.
Put the pot on medium-low heat and when the water boils, lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer until the chickpeas are partially cooked-about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the age of the beans. Add simmering water from time to time to keep the beans covered, if needed.
Add the garlic, onion halves, tomatoes and celery to the pot, along with the bay leaf, chili pepper, salt and pepper.
Continue cooking, adding boiling water as necessary, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove the bay leaf and chili pepper.
Serve garnished with olive oil and parsley.
Orecchiette with Turnip Tops
- 1.8 lbs (800 g) young and tender leaves from turnips
- 6 fillets of anchovy in oil
- 1 fresh chili pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 14 oz (400 g) of orecchiette pasta
Once you’ve collected the most tender leaves, wash them several times in cold water and boil them in plenty salted water in a large pot for at least 7-8 minutes.
Drain the turnip tops into a large bowl saving all the cooking water, since you’ll need it to boil the pasta.
Return the salted cooking water to the pot, bring to a boil and add the orecchiette.
In a saucepan heat the oil, the garlic, the anchovies and the chopped chili pepper. Once the garlic is golden brown, add the turnip tops and sauté them for a few minutes to coat in the oil.
When the orecchiette are cooked to the al dente stage, drain, return them to the pasta pot and add the turnip tops and sauce. Sauté everything together for a few moments, season with salt, if needed, and serve.
Pizza di Patate Pugliese (Tomato-and-Cheese-Topped Potato Pizza)
A classic Puglian pizza recipe adapted from RUSTICO COOKING.
Serves 2 as a main course or 6 as an appetizer
- 1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
- 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place the potatoes in a saucepan. Add water to cover by 2 inches and bring to a boil. Cook until tender about 30 minutes over medium heat.
Drain, pass through a ricer and cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven with a baking stone in it to 450°F.
Mix the potatoes, flour and ¼ teaspoon salt together on a floured board until a smooth dough forms.
Add a little water, if needed, to help the dough come together or add a little flour, if the dough is sticky,. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
Flatten into a disk and roll out into a 12-inch circle.
Generously grease a 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil and line it with the dough.
Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil; top with the tomatoes, cut side down. Season with oregano, the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and the pepper.
Place the pizza pan on the baking stone in the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes or until golden around the edges.
Remove the pan from the oven, top with the Mozzarella and Parmigiano cheeses and return to the oven for 10 more minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Serve hot.
Stuffed Eggplant Puglian Style
- 4 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound), preferably short and plumb
- Coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon (20) small capers, rinsed and drained
- 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
- 1/4 packed cup (1 ounce) finely grated Pecorino cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled just before using
- 2 teaspoons dry white wine
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Halve the eggplants lengthwise and make two or three deep slits in the eggplant flesh but do not pierce the skin on the bottom. Sprinkle with salt and place cut side down in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top and let stand at least 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
In a mixing bowl, combine the capers, anchovies, cheese and pepper and crush to make a paste. You should have about 3 tablespoons. Divide mixture into 8 equal parts and fill the slits in the eggplant halves with garlic slivers and a portion of the paste. Reshape the eggplant.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil to hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, cut side down, and reduce the heat to moderate. Cover and cook until the eggplant flesh turns golden brown, about 10 minutes. Turn each eggplant and cook, uncovered, until tender, about 5 minutes. Place eggplant, flesh side up, on a serving plate; sprinkle with the crumbled oregano, white wine and vinegar and let stand at least 20 minutes before serving.
Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!
Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.
A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.
You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.
If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.
A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.
The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
How to Make Vegetable Stock
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped parsnips
- 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.
Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.
To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.
If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.
Makes 5 quarts.
Spring Vegetable Soup
- 7 cups vegetable stock
- 10 small red potatoes, quartered
- 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Freshly ground pepper
In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup light cream
- Fresh chopped chives for garnish
Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.
Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.
Vegetable, Fennel Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.
Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
- 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.
Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.
Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.
For an easy and economical alternative to fresh fish, consider canned fish. There are advantages in using canned fish: safety, hygiene, nutrition and flavor. Moreover, in the kitchen, canned fish is ideal for making salads, pasta and rice dishes and appetizers
Skipjack and albacore are good varieties to buy. Wild Planet brand is sustainably pole-and-line-caught. Mix it into a salad with fresh chard and white beans; use it for fish tacos; stuff it in tomatoes.
Look for sockeye or the milder pink variety. The small pin bones are often cooked with the fish, adding extra calcium. Make salmon burgers or fish cakes; put it in a creamy chowder; try it smoked—Patagonia sells pouches that are perfect for hiking and camping.
These tiny fish have a bold taste and are dense with omega-3 oils. Bela brand offers them smoked in different flavors. Add to an antipasto platter; top crostini; delicious grilled.
Small and salty, they’re not just for Caesar dressing—toss on Puttanesca pasta sauce; stir into fish stew; wrap around olives.
While there are many subcategories and fine distinctions in the area of canned crabmeat, there are a few main categories. Knowing these will help you save money when deciding what type of crab meat to purchase for the meal you’re planning.
Lump crabmeat is best for fancy, impressive-looking dishes where appearance matters, like Butter-poached Crab, Crab Cakes or Crab Louis, where you want big chunks that will hold together with minimal binders.
Backfin grade is made up of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat mixed in with flakes of white body meat. It’s less expensive than lump crab meat. Good for salads and pasta dishes.
Claw Crabmeat is the least expensive and most flavorful grade. It is pinkish-brown rather than white and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. Great for soups, crab meat stuffing, tacos, stir-frys, etc.
While overfishing has been an issue for some species that find their way to the market, that’s not the case with clams. Harvesting of both the Atlantic surf clam, also called the sea clam, and the ocean quahog have been well within the quotas, according to statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service. Minced and chopped clams are good in chowders and pasta dishes.
Crabmeat Artichoke Appetizer
- 1 can(6 oz) Lump Crabmeat, drained
- 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
- ½ cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese
Place the drained crabmeat in a glass bowl and cover with cold milk. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain well. (This technique gives canned fish a fresh taste.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, combine crab, artichoke, mayonnaise, yogurt and seasoning. Sprinkle with cheese.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot. Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.
Artichokes with Bagna Cauda
Makes 6 servings
- 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed
Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from their peels and place cloves in a small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.
Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and olive oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).
Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size. Drain.
Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda. Pull a leaf off the artichoke and dip it into the sauce.
To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand.
Use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.
Spinach Salad with Sardines and Crispy Prosciutto
- 1 lemon, zested, plus 3 tablespoons juice
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 3-inch pieces
- 8 cups baby spinach (6 oz)
- 1 can (4.25 ounces) sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives
Whisk the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in raisins.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange prosciutto in a single layer and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes.
Arrange spinach on a platter and top with sardines, prosciutto, lemon zest and chives. Drizzle with dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- 3 cans or pouches (5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
- 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth plus water to equal 4 cups
- 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) ready-cut Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (15-1/4 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon Italian dried herb seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 cup dry small shell pasta
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, etc.)
- 3 cups fresh romaine lettuce cut crosswise in 1-inch strips
- ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine chicken broth mixture, tomatoes with liquid, kidney beans, tomato paste, herb seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and frozen vegetables; simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tuna and romaine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Salmon and Potato Gratin
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1 pound canned salmon, boneless, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Grease a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter.
Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.
Layer 1/2 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Sprinkle with salmon and thyme. Layer remaining potatoes on top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese.
In a medium bowl combine cornstarch, milk, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes.
Cut butter into pieces and dot over the top.
Bake until potatoes are tender and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.
Linguine with Clam Sauce
- 1 pound linguine
- 2 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams with liquid drained – reserve the liquid. I like the Bar Harbor brand.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
In a large deep skillet add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and the drained clams. Cook on low about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down to very low and stir in the reserved clam liquid and the parsley.
Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.
As the morning dawns, there are some of you who are thinking, spring will never come after, not after all the snow and ice that has fallen in the past few days. The first official day of spring is March 20th, but the promise of warmer weather and brighter days occur all month-long. Go outside and hunt for signs of spring to boost your mood. Here are some “spring things” to look and listen for: budding trees and flowers, crocuses, daffodils, newly arriving bird species, nest-building, caterpillars, ducks flying overhead, rainy days, worms on the sidewalk, baby animals, people cleaning their yards, forsythia, magnolias, windy days, songbirds singing, blooming fruit trees and butterflies.
Spring fruits and vegetables are beginning to appear in my market and soon they will be in yours, so here are a few dinner ideas to get you started.
What spring foods are you most looking forward to?
Cherry Tomato and Prosciutto Focaccia
Serve with Spring Onion Soup (recipe below)
- 1 lb pizza dough, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups baby arugula
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut or torn lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into ribbons
Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll and stretch dough into a large rimmed baking sheet, at least 15 x 10 x 1 inches. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for 14 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
While dough is baking, mix together tomatoes, shallot, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper in a medium-size bowl. Spread tomatoes in an even layer in a rimmed baking sheet and roast at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir in arugula.
Sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella over the dough and scatter tomato mixture over the top using a slotted spoon. Distribute prosciutto slices over tomatoes. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella over the top and bake at 325 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes, then sprinkle with basil.
Spring Onion Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 bunches scallions—white and tender green parts cut into 1-inch lengths, green tops thinly sliced
- 4 leeks, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups half & half
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 ounces cream cheese (1/4 cup), at room temperature
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the white and tender green parts of the scallions, along with the leeks, fennel and onion; season with salt and white pepper.
Cook over low heat, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and boil over high heat until reduced to a few tablespoons, 12 minutes.
Add the water and half & half and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are very tender and pale green, 15 minutes.
Add the scallion green tops and cook just until softened, 2 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender or in a blender and return it to the pot. Season with salt and white pepper.
In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the cream cheese. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls, drizzle with the creamy buttermilk before serving.
Spring Shrimp Salad
Serve with Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (recipe below).
- 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
- 1 pound (16 to 20 count) large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 package (6-ounce) baby arugula
- 2 packages (8 to 9 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
- 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
From the lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 1 tablespoon juice, set juice aside.
In a large bowl, toss lemon peel, shrimp and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium. Add onions; cook 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until golden, stirring. Transfer to plate.
Add shrimp to the skillet and cook 6 minutes or until opaque, turning once. Divide arugula among 4 plates; top with shrimp.
In the skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high. Add artichokes; cook 2 minutes or until golden. Add reserved lemon juice, 1/4 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Cook 4 minutes or until artichokes are hot. Remove from heat. Stir in mint. Divide among plates.
Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup sliced fresh rhubarb
- 6 small fresh strawberries, halved
- 2 teaspoons sugar
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, beat the egg, milk and oil until smooth. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fold in strawberries and rhubarb.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Place a strawberry half, cut side down, on each. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake at 375°F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. Serve warm. Yield: 1 dozen.
Farfalle with Peas and Mozzarella Cheese
Serve with Spring Green Salad (recipe below)
- 8 ounces farfalle pasta
- 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw
- 1 large red pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
Bring a medium-size pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water.
Add peas and red pepper to the pasta pot for last 2 minutes of pasta cooking time. Drain pasta mixture and set aside.
Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute. Stir in wine and bring to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in cornstarch mixture and cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in salt.
Add pasta mixture to skillet and stir together with the sauce. Stir in chives, walnuts and mozzarella cheese, adding pasta water by the tablespoonful if mixture appears dry. Serve immediately.
Spring Green Salad
- 8 cups (about 1 pound) mixed spring greens (mesclun, mache, watercress, baby arugula, dandelions)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
Wash and dry greens, place in a large bowl. Add chives and season with salt and pepper; drizzle with the olive oil. Toss well to coat.
Squeeze lemon juice over the greens and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.
Chicken and Asparagus Skillet Supper
Serve with Herbed Rice (recipe below)
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 3 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
- 1 small yellow summer squash, halved crosswise and cut in 1/2-inch strips
- 4 green onions, cut in 2-inch pieces
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a 12-inch skillet, cook chicken and bacon over medium-high heat 12 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Carefully add broth; cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes more or until chicken is tender and no longer pink.
Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe 2-quart dish, combine asparagus, squash and 2 tablespoons water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Cook on 100% power (high) 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are crisp-tender, stirring once. Transfer to plates and drizzle with the vegetable cooking liquid; top with chicken, bacon and green onions.
- 1 ¾ cups low sodium chicken broth or water
- 1 cup short-grain rice
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup sliced celery
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh herbs (such as basil, oregano, parsley, thyme or parsley)
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary
In a medium saucepan bring broth or water to boiling; stir in the uncooked rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove the saucepan from the heat; let rice stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook and stir onion in hot oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add celery, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more or until vegetables are tender. Remove skillet from the heat. Stir in cooked rice, fresh herbs and rosemary just until combined.
Spring Minestrone With Chicken Meatballs
Serve with Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini (recipe below)
- 6 ounces ground chicken (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided, plus more for garnish
- 4 garlic cloves, 2 minced, 2 thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 large egg, whisked to blend
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 3/4 cup ditalini or other small pasta
- 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds peeled carrots
- 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
- Chopped fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.
Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (makes about 28).Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 8 minutes. Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted and Parmesan is melted. Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped basil and additional Parmesan.
Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini
- 12 thin slices baguette (from 1 small thin loaf)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/2 cup ricotta
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture and sprinkle with the thyme.