Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

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The centerpiece of contemporary Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada is a huge meal, generally featuring a large roasted turkey. The majority of the dishes in a traditional Thanksgiving dinner are made from foods native to the New World. However, many of the classic traditions attributed to the first Thanksgiving are actually myths.

According to what is known about “The First Thanksgiving,” the 1621 feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony contained waterfowl, venison, fish, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin and squash. William Bradford (Plymouth Colony Governor) noted that, “besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many.” There were definitely wild turkeys in the Plymouth area, however, the best existing account of the Pilgrims’ harvest feast comes from colonist, Edward Winslow, author of Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Winslow’s first-hand account included no explicit mention of turkey. He does, however, mention the Pilgrims gathering “wild fowl” for the meal, although that could just as likely have meant ducks or geese. Many of the foods that were included in the first feast (except for the seafood) have since gone on to become staples of the modern Thanksgiving dinner.

The White House Cookbook, 1887, by Mrs. F.L. Gillette, et al., had the following menu: oysters on the half shell, cream of chicken soup, fried smelts, sauce tartare, roast turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, baked squash, boiled onions, parsnip fritters, olives, chicken salad, venison pastry, pumpkin pie, mince-pie, Charlotte russe, almond ice cream, lemon jelly, hickory nut cake, cheese, fruit and coffee.

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1943 Thanksgiving Dinner Aboard the Navy Ship U.S.S. Wake Island

 

Many other foods are typically served alongside the main dish—so many that, because of the amount of food, the Thanksgiving meal is sometimes served midday or early afternoon to make time for all the courses. Copious leftovers are also common. Many diners would say the meal is “incomplete” without cranberry sauce, stuffing or dressing and gravy. Other commonly served dishes include winter squash, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, dumplings, noodles, corn on the cob or hominy grits, deviled eggs, green beans or green bean casserole, sauerkraut (among those in the Mid-Atlantic; especially Baltimore), peas and carrots, bread or rolls, cornbread (in the south and parts of New England) or biscuits, rutabagas, turnips and salad.

There are also regional differences, as to the type of stuffing or dressing traditionally served with the turkey. Southerners generally make their dressing from cornbread, while those in other parts of the country make stuffing from white, wheat or rye bread as the base. One or several of the following may be added to the dressing/stuffing: oysters, apples, chestnuts, raisins, celery and/or other vegetables, sausages or the turkey’s giblets. The traditional Canadian version has bread cubes, sage, onion and celery. Rice is also sometimes used instead of bread in some parts of Canada.

Other dishes reflect the regional or cultural background of those who have come together for the meal. For example, many African-Americans and Southerners serve baked macaroni and cheese and collard greens, along with chitterlings and sweet potato pie; while Italian-Americans often have lasagna on the table alongside the turkey and Ashkenazi Jews may serve noodle kugel, a sweet dessert pudding. Other Jewish families may consume foods commonly associated with Hanukkah, such as latkes or a sufganiyot (a type of jelly doughnut). It is not unheard of for Mexican Americans to serve their turkey with mole and roasted corn.

In Puerto Rico, the Thanksgiving meal is completed with arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) or arroz con maiz (rice with corn), pasteles (root tamales) stuffed with turkey, pumpkin-coconut crème caramel, corn bread with longaniza, potato salad, roasted white sweet potatoes and Spanish sparkling hard cider. Turkey in Puerto Rico is stuffed with mofongo (a fried plantain-based dish). Cuban-Americans traditionally serve the turkey alongside a small roasted pork and include white rice and black beans or kidney beans. Vegetarians or vegans have been known to serve alternative entrées, such as a large vegetable pie or a stuffed and baked pumpkin or tofu substitutes. Many Midwesterners (such as Minnesotans) of Norwegian or Scandinavian descent serve lefse (a soft, Norwegian flatbread) at their holiday meal.

So, if you are not a traditionalist, you may want to change things around a little and try some new sides for your holiday meal. Much of the preparation in the recipes below can be done ahead of time.

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Creamy Farro Pilaf with Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • Coarse salt
  • 12 ounces wild mushrooms, such as shiitake or oyster, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • Red-pepper chili flakes
  • 1 bunch spinach (10 ounces), stemmed
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add farro, stirring until toasted, about 1 minute. Add wine and reduce by half. Add stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender and creamy, 35 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Roast, stirring once, until crisp and golden, about 20 minutes.

Re-warm the farro over medium heat and add the spinach, stirring until wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in mushrooms and Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Creamy White Bean and Vegetable Mash

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups cooked white beans, drained (equivalent to one 16-ounce can)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, celery and carrot until translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add potatoes and white beans and cover with water by 2 inches. Season generously with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.

Mash vegetables (or put through a ricer), adding reserved cooking water to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil before serving.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Pinch red-pepper chili flakes

Directions

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast cut side down on two baking sheets until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then fluff with a fork.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, parsley, feta, pistachios, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and vinegar. Season with salt and red-pepper flakes. Fill the squash cavities and serve.

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Sweet Potato-Ginger Spoon Bread

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Butter forthe  baking dish
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 2 small sweet potatoes (12 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk (1%)
  • 2 large eggs, separated, plus 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 tablespoon grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and dust with cornmeal.

Cook sweet potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash until very smooth; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. Whisk in cornmeal in a thin stream. Cook, whisking constantly, until just thickened, 1 to 3 minutes; remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed sweet potatoes, cornmeal mixture, egg yolks, sugar, molasses, ginger and salt.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold half of the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Very gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Spoon mixture into the prepared baking dish, place on a baking sheet and bake until puffed and set, about 35 to 40 minutes.

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Lemon-Garlic Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash pepper
  • 3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Directions

Cut an “X” in the core of each brussels sprout. Place in a shallow baking pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle oil and lemon juice over the brussels sprouts; sprinkle with salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Sprinkle with cheese and crumbled bacon.

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Meatloaf does not enjoy the very best reputation in the food world. Why? because it can be dry or lack flavor. A well made meatloaf is delicious and makes wonderful sandwiches.

Some important tips to help you make a good meatloaf:

Don’t handle the mixture too much. If you over mix the ground meat it will compact, squeezing liquid out during cooking, resulting in a tougher, drier loaf.

Meatloaf consists of three basic ingredients: ground meat, a binder like bread crumbs or oatmeal and a liquid. Soak the binder in the liquid before adding it to the meat. Then you won’t end up with dry chunks of bread in your meatloaf – one of the most common complaints about meatloaf.

When you’re making meatloaf from ground turkey or chicken, you must add lots of binder or the loaf will be too compact and heavy. For traditional meatloaf recipes, you can use all ground beef or add ground pork to the mixture for a little lighter texture and a more interesting loaf. Make sure your meat mixture is not too lean. Aim for about 15 percent fat.

Adding other ingredients to a meatloaf will help add moisture and flavor and make the texture lighter. Plus you’ll get more vitamins and minerals in each serving! You can add mashed or grated carrots or potatoes, diced and cooked onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, cooked spinach and cheese. The meatloaf might not hold together as perfectly with these add-ins, but it will taste fabulous. And seasonings are so important.

After the meatloaf is cooked (when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees), let the meatloaf sit for 15 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute so the texture is moist and tender.

Here is what you need for basic meatloaf:

2 pounds of ground meat: any combination of beef, pork, lamb, ham, sausage, turkey, chicken

Baking dish, loaf pan or broiler pan and a saute pan for the vegetables

Flavoring ingredients: herbs, spices, sautéed vegetables

Binder: dried bread crumbs, fresh bread slices, oats,

Liquid ingredients: eggs, milk, tomato sauce, ketchup, broth

Brush a glaze across the top of your meatloaf to make the meat more moist

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the cooked meatloaf

Classic Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil; more for the baking pan
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 lb. ground beef, 85-percent lean
  • 1/2 lb. ground veal or turkey
  • 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from firm country white bread
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 slices uncooked bacon

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F.

In a small skillet, heat the oil; add the onions and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 min. Add the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes to soften. Set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients except the bacon and add the cooled onion-garlic mixture. Mix with your hands just until the ingredients are combined. Don’t overwork the meat.

Oil a rimmed baking pan or jelly roll pan, turn the meat mixture out onto the pan and shape it into a large oval loaf. Place strips of bacon across the shaped loaf.

Bake the meatloaf until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, 60-75 minutes. Before slicing, let the meatloaf rest for 10 to 15 minutes to allow some carryover cooking and to let the juices redistribute. Slice and serve.

Variations

For a little extra color, sauté 1 cup diced red, green or yellow bell peppers along with the onions and garlic; when cool, fold them into the rest of the mixture.

The simple addition of 1/4 cup shredded basil and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese will offer another level of flavor or you could add a tablespoon of a favorite fresh herb, such as thyme or rosemary.

Here are some additional ways to make a meatloaf:

turkey_meatloaf

Mushroom Turkey Loaf

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 small leeks or 1 large, white and light-green parts only, thinly sliced, washed and dried
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded Italian fontina cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1 slice day-old bread, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook mushrooms, stirring once or twice, until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Season with salt and pepper; transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Return skillet to medium and add 1 tablespoon oil. Add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add to bowl with the mushrooms and let cool.

Add fontina cheese, bread, egg, and sage to the bowl with the mushrooms and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in turkey, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Turn out mixture onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and use your hands to form turkey mixture into a 10-inch loaf.

Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reads at least 160°F. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra sage leaves, if desired.

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Italian Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 ounce jar sliced roasted red peppers, drained, finely chopped and 2 tablespoons reserved for the top
  • 1/4 cup chopped black or green olives
  • 1/2 large onion finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 ½ cups dried seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds lean ground grass-fed beef
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the finely chopped roasted red peppers, olives, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, egg, marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, salt and black pepper. Add ground beef; mix well.

Shape into a loaf in a glass baking dish (8”x4”). Bake, uncovered, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat loaf registers 160 degrees F.

Let stand on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Drain off any fat from meat loaf; loosen meat loaf from sides of pan and turn out onto a serving platter. Sprinkle reserved chopped peppers and chopped parsley on top, slice and serve.

Old-fashioned-Glazed-Meatloaf

Vegetable Filled Meatloaf with BBQ Glaze

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with a little coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

BBQ Glaze

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

For the Glaze: combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, the crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, the 1/2 cup of ketchup and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush half the glaze over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F.

Remove from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

sausage meatloaf

Rolled Italian Sausage Meat Loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 1/4 lb Italian sausage, mixed hot and sweet, casings removed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F.

In large bowl, mix ground beef, sausage, egg, 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, the bread crumbs and pepper together.

On a large piece of foil, pat mixture to a 12×8 inch rectangle.

Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheese; gently press into meat. Top with spinach leaves.

Starting at the short end, roll up tightly, using the foil to start the roll and tucking in spinach leaves; seal ends. Place seam side down in an ungreased 12×8 inch (2 quart) glass baking dish.

Bake 1 hour. Spread remaining sauce over the top. Bake 15 minutes longer or until a thermometer inserted in the meat loaf reads 160°F. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


dutch_oven_campfireWEB

Dutch ovens are cylindrical, heavy gauge cooking pots with tight-fitting lids that can be used either on a range top or in the oven. The heavy metal or ceramic construction provides constant, even and multi-directional radiant heat to the food being cooked inside.

The term “Dutch oven” is something of a misnomer in that the pots are neither Dutch nor actual ovens. Rather, it refers to the casting process developed in Holland by which brass vessels were cast in dry-sand molds. In 1704, an Englishman by the name of Abraham Darby traveled to the Netherlands to observe how the thick-walled cast-iron pots were made and, eventually, patented a similar process for use in England and its American colonies.

A Dutch oven has the advantage of using one pot from start to finish — you can sear protein in the same pan you use to braise. When using a Dutch oven, you can braise on the stove top or in the oven. Almost any cooking task can be performed in a Dutch oven.

All of my recipes below are cooked on top of the stove but you could easily finish the braising process in the oven. Cover and place the Dutch Oven on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 300° Fahrenheit and follow the cooking times below.

How to Make Dutch Oven Recipes in a Slow Cooker.

Converting from a Dutch Oven to a slow cooker is easy. If a recipe has any searing, sauteing or deglazing steps, complete those steps in a pan on the stove top. After adding the liquid, transfer everything to the slow cooker. For recipes that call for either stove top simmering or an oven temperature of 300 degrees F or more, set your slow cooker to HIGH. For recipes under 300 degrees F, use the LOW setting. Slow cookers prevent liquid from evaporating, so sauces come out thinner than in a Dutch Oven.

SLOW COOKER DUTCH OVEN
12 hours/Low 3 hours/325° F
10 hours/Low 2 1/2 hours/325° F
8 hours/Low 2 hours/325° F
6 hours/Low 1 1/2 hours/325° F
5 hours/Low 1 hour, 15 min./325° F
4 hours/Low 1 hour/325° F
4 hours/High 2 hours/325° F
3 hours/Low 45 min./325° F
3 hours/High 1 1/2 hours/325° F
2 hours/Low 30 min./325° F
2 hours/High 1 hour/325° F
1 hour/Low 15 min./325° F
1 hour/High 30 min./325° F

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Quick Cooking Pork and Vegetable Stew Italiano

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, medium, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 14 1/2 oz canned low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil , torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

Directions

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add pork pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté pork on all sides, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Return sautéed vegetables to the pot. Add zucchini, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until pork is tender. Stir in basil and oregano, season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Half of a 1-lb. loaf sourdough bread, torn into 2” pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1 bunch collard greens, center ribs and stems removed
  • 1 bunch Tuscan or other kale, center ribs and stems removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig marjoram or oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan (for serving

Directions

Scatter bread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Let stand at room temperature to slightly dry out, about 2 hours.

Cook greens separately in a large pot (Dutch Oven) of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 3 minutes per batch. Cool. Squeeze out excess water; roughly chop. Set aside.

In the empty pot heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and leek; stir often until softened, 8–10 minutes.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, beans, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and reserved greens; season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld and soup thickens slightly, 40–50 minutes. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.

Just before serving, gently stir bread into the soup. Divide among bowls, top with Parmesan and drizzle with oil.

DO AHEAD: Stew can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing. Store bread airtight at room temperature.

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Spicy Cioppino

For 2

Ingredients

  • 6 fingerling potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika (or half cayenne and half smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 fresh plum tomatoes seeded and finely diced
  • 1 white fish fillet (cod, halibut, grouper) diced (about 8 ounces)
  • 6 sea scallops and 6 peeled shrimp, patted dry 
  • 6 mussels and 6 small clams
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley and/or basil
  • Sourdough bread

Directions

Place potatoes in a Dutch Oven, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil onion, garlic and jalapeno to the pan and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until vegetables soften, about 4- 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, add seasonings, salt and pepper, wine, clam juice and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the clams and mussels and cook until the shellfish open.

Season fish, shrimp and scallops with salt and pepper. Add the fish, shrimp and scallops, cooked potatoes, cream and capers to the pot, return to a simmer and cook until heated through and white fish is cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve with sourdough bread.

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Italian Beef Stew

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8-ounce package whole cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 3/4 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven.

Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.

Add half the beef to the pan; sauté 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from the pan to a bowl. Repeat procedure with oil and beef.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan. Add onion and chopped carrot; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté for 45 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes). Return meat to the pan. Add tomatoes and the next 6 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and stir in sliced carrot. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil and parsley.

chickpea-stew-646

Chickpea and Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, sliced into ½ inch thick lengths
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced, drained roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups 1′ cubes country-style bread
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to the pot and cook, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to low and add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add oregano, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Add reserved, browned chicken with any accumulated juices, along with bay leaves and 4 cups water. Scrape up any browned bits. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Add chickpeas to the pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add diced red peppers. Stir in lemon juice; simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Divide bread cubes among bowls. Ladle stew over. Garnish with parsley.

 


rice

What is Whole Grain Rice?

After rice is harvested, its inedible hull must be removed, resulting in a whole grain (often brown) rice kernel, ready to cook. If the rice is milled further, the bran and germ are removed, white rice is the result, with lower levels of nutrients.

Rice is often classified by size and texture. There’s long, medium and short-grain rice, with the former quite elongated and the latter nearly round. Some short-grain rices are known as “sticky” rice because of the extra amylopectin (a kind of starch) that they contain; this stickiness makes them easier to manipulate with chopsticks and perfect for sushi. Aromatic rices have a special fragrance and taste, such as Basmati, Jasmine, Texmati and Ambemohar rice.

Rice is one of the most easily digested grains – one reason rice cereal is often recommended as a baby’s first solid. This makes rice ideal for those on a restricted diet or who are gluten-intolerant.

Brown rice has much higher levels of many vitamins and minerals than white rice.

Wild rice is not technically rice at all, but the seed of an aquatic grass originally grown by Native American tribes around the Great Lakes. Today some commercial cultivation takes place in California and the Midwest, but much of the crop is still harvested by Native Americans, largely in Minnesota.

The strong flavor and high price of wild rice means that it is most often consumed in a blend with other rices or other grains. Wild rice has twice the protein and fiber of brown rice, but less iron and calcium.

Cooking common varieties of brown rice is simple.

In general, combine 1 cup uncooked brown rice with two cups liquid (such as water or broth) in a 2-3 quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Check to see if most of the water has been absorbed. If rice is not quite tender or liquid is not absorbed, replace lid and cook 2 to 4 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let stand ten minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve. Yields 3-4 cups.

Tips for perfect rice:

  • Keep lid on the pot during cooking
  • Don’t stir – unless you like sticky rice. Stirring releases extra starch. (That’s the reason for all that stirring when making risotto.)
  • If rice (or any other grain) is sticking to the pot, add a little water, turn off the heat, and let it steam for a few extra minutes. Usually the rice will release from the pot.

Whole grain rice comes in many quick-cooking forms these days, too. These brown rice options are partially (or completely) pre-cooked, so all you have to do is warm them up for ten minutes – or even as little as 90 seconds in the microwave. So brown rice can have a place on your table even when you’re in a hurry.

Store uncooked brown rice at room temperature for up to six months, or in your refrigerator or freezer for longer periods. Cooked rice can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or in the freezer for several months. It’s easy to cook a big batch of brown rice, freeze it in batches sized for your household and simply warm it up at mealtime.

My favorite rice company, Lundberg.

Make a big batch of Brown Rice Stuffing and use it in any number of recipes or serve some alongside roasted chicken or pork. You can also just cook the 2 cups of rice in the stock and use the leftovers for casseroles and soup.

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pignoli, etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice or whole grain rice mix (unseasoned)
  • 3 ⅓ cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Toast the nuts by heating them over medium-high heat in a heavy, dry skillet or baking them in a toaster oven until golden brown. Do not allow them to burn. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and celery and saute over low heat until soft and just beginning to brown. Stir in the thyme, sage and rice. Add the toasted nuts. Add the stock, bring to a boil and boil for two minutes.

Lower heat, cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. The rice will still be a little firm, but it will continue to cook in the recipes below. Season the mixture with parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Use to stuff vegetables, such as peppers, tomatoes, onions or cabbage.

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4-6 (depending on size) large peppers (green, red, yellow or orange), tops cut off and cleaned out
  • 1 lb hot Italian pork or turkey sausage, casing removed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, recipe above
  • 1 cup prepared brown rice stuffing
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, optional
  • Fresh basil, for garnish

Directions

Saute sausage until browned. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for 2 minutes.

Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in rice stuffing.

Stuff  mixture into the hollowed out peppers.  Place in a baking dish and top the peppers with mozzarella cheese. Pour marinara sauce around the peppers, if desired. You can also heat the sauce separately and pour it over the baked peppers.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes or until the peppers are tender. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.

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Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 tablespoons extra‐virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove organic garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced Portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice stuffing
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut acorn squash in half; remove seeds and place cut sides down on a greased baking pan.

Roast for 35 minutes. Cool and remove flesh the from squash halves; cube the squash flesh.

Add oil to a sauté pan over medium‐high heat. Add the cubed squash, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cooked brown rice stuffing, butter and salt and pepper, if needed.

Mix well and stuff into empty squash halves. Reheat in the oven for a few minutes.

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Brown Rice Fritters

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked (leftover, plain) brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

Combine rice, parmigiano-reggiano, oregano, salt, pepper and egg.

Form rice mixture into eight 2″ round cakes. Transfer cakes to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow them to firm up.

Put flour on a plate; dredge cakes in flour.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, fry cakes, turning once carefully so they do not break apart, until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan for the second batch, if needed, and cook the second batch.

Garnish each cake with a thin slice of softened butter and sprinkle with finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves.

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Chicken Rice Soup

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1/4 cup snipped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken cubed (3/4 lb.)
  • 4 cups (6 oz) baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

Combine broth, onion, celery, carrots, parsley, pepper, thyme and bay leaf in a Dutch oven or very large soup pot.

Bring to a boil; stir once or twice. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 to 15 minutes. Add chicken and spinach; simmer uncovered 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked.

Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in rice and lemon juice and heat just before serving.


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Autumn officially arrived on Tuesday. What better way to welcome the season than making a delicious soup using ingredients that are hitting the farmers markets now? Soup is perfect in any season, but Autumn is especially a perfect time to make soup. When the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of warm soup. Store-bought varieties are convenient, but they can be salty and taste overcooked. Homemade is better.

The fall season aligns well with some interesting seasonal ingredients. For example you can add any of the fall ingredients to your standard soup recipes:

Squash, acorn, delicata, kabocha or butternut squash
Apples
Kale
Cabbage
Kohlrabi
Parsnips
Turnips
Parsnips
Swiss Chard
Sweet Potatoes

Orzo, Squash and Chicken Soup

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Make it vegetarian by omitting the chicken, substituting vegetable broth and serving with shaved Parmesan. You can also substitute a different type of squash or sweet potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 delicata squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 sage leaves, torn into pieces
  • 4 cups chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Mix the squash with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on one prepared baking pan.

Place the chicken on the other baking pan, brush with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash on the top rack in the oven and the chicken on the lower rack. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reaches 160°F, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and continue to roast the squash until it is tender and caramelized, about 10 minutes longer.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

Put 6 cups water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Add salt and the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil  Add the onion, garlic and sage and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chickenbroth and bring to a boil. Add the cooked orzo, chicken and squash and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Vegetable Farro Soup

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Omit the Parmesan cheese for a vegan dish.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 quarts water
  • One 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the oil and add the celery, onion and leek. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.

Add 1 quart of the water, sweet potato and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.

Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, at the most 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with basil and Parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with bread sticks.

Pea Soup with Ham and Sherry

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 – 14 ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup dried green split peas
  • 3 ounces reduced-sodium ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • Whole wheat croutons* (optional)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme. Reduce heat to medium; cook about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

Stir in the chicken broth, the water, split peas, ham, crushed red pepper, black pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or the until split peas are soft.

Stir in frozen peas and parsley; cook about 5 minutes more or until the peas are heated through. Stir in sherry and remove from the heat.

Top the soup with croutons and/or yogurt.

*For homemade croutons, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Cut up whole wheat bread slices into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces; place on the prepared baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden, turning or stirring once halfway through the baking time.

Hearty Greens, Bowtie Pasta and Tomato Soup

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Use any hearty greens that are in season in this filling soup. I save the rinds from wedges of Parmesan cheese in the freezer for making this type of soup.

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard including chard stalks or kale (about 3/4 pound)
  • One Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, plus grated Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach
  • 1/2 pound bowtie (farfalle) pasta, cooked al dente

Directions

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning and tomatoes and cook until most of the tomato liquid is released and absorbed, about 5 minutes more.

Add carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

Stir in chard and Parmigiano-Reggiano rind. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour.

Stir in spinach, cooked pasta and season. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Add salt and pepper, if needed, and ladle into bowls, Garnish with grated cheese.

Pork, Rosemary, Chianti Wine and Pasta Soup

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound Ditalini pasta
  • Two 16-oz cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 whole sprig of rosemary
  • 2 slivers lemon zest
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/3 cup Chianti wine
  • 1½ pounds pork shoulder fat trimmed, diced ½ inch pieces
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil, optional
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shredded, optional

Directions using a slow cooker:

In a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients except for the pasta and parsley. Set to low and cook for 8 hours.

Once the soup is cooked, remove the rosemary sprig, garlic and lemon zest.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta to the al dente stage, drain and add to the soup. Heat until all the ingredients are hot.

Garnish with fresh parsley, drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese, if desired, before serving.

Stove top directions:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot and brown the pork cubes.

Mince the garlic and add to the pot with the rosemary leaves and lemon zest. Saute for one minute. Add the wine and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

Add the carrots, parsnips, tomatoes and beef broth; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours.

The meat should be very tender. If not, simmer for another 30 – 45 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and add to the soup along with the parsley. Heat for a few minutes and serve with the optional ingredients.

A green salad goes nicely with this soup.


Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.


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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.

Apple3

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.

apple1

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.

apple6

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.

apple5

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.

apple 2

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.

apple4

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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