Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: mushrooms

 

676142901_1388825053Whether it’s a partner or a family member with different eating styles and preferences, conflict can arise on various fronts when some people in the house are vegetarians and others are not. The good news: with a little patience and compromise, not to mention good humor, it is possible for everyone to enjoy meals together. Setting ground rules in advance can ward off many disagreements in the kitchen. In particular, deciding who is responsible for what can help prevent resentment and ensure things run more smoothly when it comes time for food preparation.

  • Will a group meal be prepared that everyone will share?
  • How does the vegetarian feel about preparing and cooking meat even if he or she doesn’t eat it?
  • Will the non-vegetarian prepare vegetarian meals?
  • Is it simplest for each person to be responsible for their own cooking?

There is no one correct answer and it may take some time to work out the best system. As far as meals are concerned, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options can be blended without making the division obvious. Here are a few suggestions for minimizing the differences and increasing the joy of eating together:

  • The non-vegetarian partner should agree to expand his/her food horizons and try new vegetables, grains and protein sources.
  • Find as many dishes as possible that also work for your partner.
  • The vegetarian partner should tolerate having the non-vegetarian cook meat, chicken or fish in the family kitchen. Have pots and dishes just for that, if it’s an issue.
  • At the same time, the vegetarian shouldn’t be expected to cook meat, unless he/she doesn’t mind.
  • Freeze individual portions of each partner’s favorite dishes to eat when time is short or you can’t agree.
  • Never make negative remarks about what the other wants to eat. Don’t try to convert the other to your point of view or even think that this would be a good thing. It never is.

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Types of Vegetarians

  • A vegetarian eats no meat, poultry or fish.
  • An ovo-lacto vegetarian eats eggs and milk.
  • A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy products, but not eggs.
  • A vegan eats no animal products at all, often including honey. There are strict ethical vegans who don’t wear or use any animal product.
  • Raw food devotees are vegan.
  • A pesco-vegetarian (eats fish) isn’t vegetarian, because fish is considered an animal product.
  • Flexitarian is a made up term for one who flips back and forth from vegetarian to non-vegetarian.

When entertaining think about the likely food preferences of those you’re feeding. Ask about likes and dislikes, as you would with any other guest. Stick with familiar foods, when feeding both vegetarians and non-vegetarians at the same meal.

Here are some suggestions:

Serve egg or cheese based dishes, such as a Spinach Quiche. Good accompanied with baked potato and a salad. Chickpeas and kidney beans are familiar enough to be used in small amounts. Add them to dishes that are well-known – such as three-bean salad, pasta salad, minestrone soup or vegetarian chili. Use familiar comfort foods, such as potatoes, breads or pasta. Familiar ethnic foods work well: Mexican, Indian or Italian. Whenever possible, tell your guests in advance what you’re planning to make and ask them for suggestions, if you feel comfortable with that idea.

Breakfast may be one of the easier meals to accommodate vegetarians and non-vegetarians, so inviting friends for brunch may be an ideal way to entertain. There are many breakfast options that do not contain meat, such as oatmeal, yogurt, granola, fruit, coffee cake, pancakes or waffles that can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. For a larger breakfast, eggs or omelets can be eaten by everyone, except vegans. For the non-vegetarians, bacon or sausage can easily be added to the meal as a side.

For vegetarians, sandwiches made with vegetables and cheese can provide an alternative to deli meats, while non-vegetarians can add sliced turkey, beef or chicken to their sandwiches. Soups can be made with vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth. Cooked chicken, fish or beef can be added to the non-vegetarian soup just before serving. Salads are also lunch options that are easy to make vegetarian by replacing meat or fish with beans or hard-boiled eggs. Dinner pasta or rice recipes made with vegetables are easily prepared dishes where meat or fish can be added for family members that are not vegetarians.

The situation in my family is easy. The vegetarians are not vegan. They just do not eat animal protein and they don’t get upset if it is on the table. My typical approach is that I make the same foods the non-vegetarians are eating minus the animal protein part for the vegetarians. It is a two-in-one system. Two versions of the same dish, one vegetarian and one non-vegetarian. Here are some of the recipes that work in our family.

split pea soup

Split Pea Soup

Corn chowder is another great option. Serve crumbled bacon on the side as a garnish.

4-6 servings

Ingredient

  • 2 cups dry split peas, rinsed
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion (2 cups), diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1 pound cooked ham steak, diced and heated

Directions
Sauté the onion, celery and carrot in olive oil in a Dutch oven for about 10 minutes, until the onions translucent. Add the potato, garlic and rosemary and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Add the split peas, vegetable stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, partially covered, for another 40 minutes or so until the peas are very soft and falling apart.
Serve the warmed ham in a separate bowl for non-vegetarians to add to their soup bowls.

cabbageroll

Stuffed Cabbage

4 servings

Ingredients

Cabbage & Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 large Savoy cabbage (2-3 pounds)
  • 1 pound baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped
  • 6-8 ounces (2 links) sweet turkey or pork Italian sausage, casing removed
  • Olive oil for drizzling over the cabbage rolls
  • Chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup red wine

Directions

To prepare the rice:

Combine water, rice and 1 teaspoon oil in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain the barest simmer, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is just tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

To prepare the cabbage:

Half fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
Line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and place near the stove.
Using a small, sharp knife, remove the core from the bottom of the cabbage. Add the whole cabbage to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. As the leaves soften, use tongs to gently remove 8 large outer leaves. Transfer the leaves to the toel lined baking sheet and pat with more towels to thoroughly dry. Set aside.
Drain the remaining cabbage in a colander for a few minutes. Finely chop enough to make 1 1/2 cups. (Save any remaining cabbage for another use. I place the remaining cabbage in the freezer to save for a soup recipe.)

To prepare the filling:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, sage, rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the mushrooms have released their juices and the pan is fairly dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 3 minutes more. Add the mushroom mixture to the cooked rice along with currants and pine nuts.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high. Add the chopped cabbage, the remaining salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until the cabbage is wilted and just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside in a separate bowl.
Add the sausage to the empty skillet and brown. Set aside in a separate bowl.

To prepare the sauce:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and wine; bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Coat two 8-inch baking dishes with olive oil cooking spray. Place a ½ cup of tomato sauce in each baking dish.

To stuff the cabbage:

Divide the rice mixture in half. To one half add the sautéed cabbage and to the other half add the browned sausage.

For the vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the cabbage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in one baking dish.

For the non-vegetarian rolls:

Place a reserved cabbage leaf on a cutting board; cut out the thick stem in the center, keeping the leaf intact. Repeat with three more cabbage leaves.
Evenly divide the sausage/ rice mixture among the four leaves. Fold both sides of the cabbage over the filling and roll up. Repeat with the remaining 3 leaves and filling. Place the stuffed cabbage rolls, seam side down in the other baking dish.

Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the rolls in both pans. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top of the cabbage rolls in each pan. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the tops of the vegetarian rolls, so you will know they are the vegetarian rolls when serving. Bake, uncovered, basting twice with the sauce, until hot, about 45 minutes.

pasta-primavera-ay-1875565-l

Pasta Primavera with Chicken

4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast, 1 to 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 small lemon, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into quarters
  • 2 ribs celery, cut into quarters
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • Small bunch of each – parsley, thyme and rosemary – tied together with kitchen twine

For the Primavera:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle, washed and dried
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose of instant flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Water
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 10 oz box frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1 pound egg tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • A handful of parsley, thyme leaves and rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

To poach the chicken:

Place chicken, onion, lemon, carrot, celery, bay and herb bundle in a medium saucepan, cover chicken with water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Strain and reserve a 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid. Save remaining broth for another use. Cool chicken and remove the skin and bones. Slice the chicken into serving pieces, place in a serving bowl, cover and keep warm

For the pasta sauce:

Heat oil with the butter over medium heat in the same pan. Add carrots, zucchini, leeks and garlic, season with salt and white pepper and sauté until tender, 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir a minute more. Deglaze the pan with the wine, then stir in 2 cups of the vegetable broth. Cook until the sauce thickens. Stir in the peas and reduce the heat to low.

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Add salt and cook the pasta to the al dente stage and drain. Add the Primavera sauce to the pasta along with the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable broth.

Gremolata-zest the lemon and combine it with the finely chopped herbs.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls topped with some of the gremolata and some grated cheese.

Heat the remaining 1/2 cup of chicken poaching broth and pour it over the sliced chicken. Serve the chicken to non-vegetarians to add to their pasta bowl.

beef skewers

vegetable skewers

shrimp skewers

Grilled Beef Sirloin & Shrimp & Farmer’s Market Skewers

I like to serve this dish with a brown and wild rice mix and a tomato salad. You can use any combination of vegetables that you like and that your vegetarian friends or family like.

Ingredients

Mustard-Thyme Glaze

  • 4 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Skewers

  • 1 lb top sirloin steak, grass-fed if possible, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 thin eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch thick wedges
  • 12 medium mushrooms

Directions

Combine glaze ingredients in a large glass measure. Microwave on HIGH 45-60 seconds, stirring once until bubbly.

Place the vegetables on one platter, the shrimp on another platter and the beef on another platter.

Lightly brush some of the glaze on all sides of the vegetables. Wash or change to another pastry brush and lightly brush the steak and shrimp with the remaining glaze.

Heat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Thread vegetables, beef and shrimp, separately, onto 12-inch metal skewers.

Place beef skewers on the grill over medium heat. Grill steak, 12-15 minutes for medium rare to medium, turning occasionally.

Grill vegetables skewers for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are until tender. Grill the shrimp just until they turn pink, turn and grill until the second side is pink.

Serve the grilled vegetables on one platter and the shrimp and beef on another platter.

veggie-cartoon

 

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Michelango_Portrait_by_Volterra

Portrait of Michelangelo by Daniele da Volterra

Michelangelo was born March 6, 1475 in Caprese near Arezzo, Tuscany. For several generations, Michelangelo’s family were bankers in Florence but, when their bank failed, his father, Lodovico di Leonardo Buonarroti Simoni, took a government post in Caprese, where Michelangelo was born. Several months after Michelangelo’s birth, the family moved back to Florence. After his mother’s death in 1481, when he was just six years old, Michelangelo was sent to live with a stonecutter and his family in the town of Settignano. A few years later Michelangelo went to Florence to study grammar, however, he showed no interest in schooling, preferring to copy paintings and seek the company of painters. His friend, Granacci, encouraged him to take a place as an apprentice with the Ghirlandaio brothers at their workshop in Florence. Here he learned the art of drawing but his desire to be a sculptor became stronger and he was noticed by Lorenzo de Medici, who took him in to live at the palace in Via Larga, where he was treated like a son. The Medici garden became a school for Michelangelo because it was filled with statues that he could use for inspiration.

One of Michelangelo's very early drawings - John the Baptist.

One of Michelangelo’s very early drawings – John the Baptist.

The death of Lorenzo de’ Medici, however, brought a reversal of Michelangelo’s circumstances. Michelangelo left the security of the Medici court and returned to his father’s house. In the following months he carved a polychrome wooden Crucifix (1493), as a gift to the prior at the Florentine church, Santo Spirito, who had permitted him to study the corpses in the church’s hospital. Between 1493 and 1494, Michelangelo carved a larger than life statue of Hercules from a block of marble, which was sent to France. Unfortunately, this piece of art disappeared sometime in the 18th century. In January 1494 after heavy snowfalls, Lorenzo’s heir, Piero de Medici, commissioned a snow statue and Michelangelo again entered the court of the Medici. Later that same year, the Medici were expelled from Florence due to the political rise of Savonarola, so Michelangelo left the city before the upheaval was resolved, moving to Venice, then to Bologna and, later, to Rome.

In November 1497, the French ambassador to the Holy See, Cardinal Jean de Bilhères-Lagraulas, commissioned Michelangelo to carve a Pietà, a sculpture showing the Virgin Mary grieving over the body of Jesus. The contract was agreed upon in August of the following year. Michelangelo was 24 when the statue was completed. The Pietà was soon to be regarded as one of the world’s great masterpieces of sculpture. Contemporary opinion was summarized by Michelangelo’s biographer, Vasari: “It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have been reduced to a perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh.” The Pietà is now located in St Peter’s Basilica.

Michelangelo's_Pieta

Michelangelo’s Pietà, St Peter’s Basilica

He spent the next four years in Florence developing technical mastery in his art forms. Some of the works produced during this time were the famous, David, in marble, representing the hero in youth; The Virgin and Child (Pille Tondo) (housed at Bargello, Florence), The Bruges Madonna and The Holy Family.

In 1505, Michelangelo was invited back to Rome by the newly elected Pope Julius II. He was commissioned to build the Pope’s tomb over the next five years and carve forty statues for the tomb during that time period. Michelangelo experienced constant interruptions to his work on the tomb in order to complete numerous other tasks for the Pope. Although Michelangelo worked on the tomb for 40 years, it was never finished to his satisfaction. It is located in the Church of S. Pietro in Vincoli, Rome and it is most famous for the central figure of Moses, completed in 1516. Of the other statues intended for the tomb, two known as the Heroic Captive and the Dying Captive, are now in the Louvre.

CAPPELLA_SISTINA_Ceiling

During the same period, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was a massive task that took approximately four years to complete (1508–1512). Working in uncomfortable conditions, cramped and often alone, it caused him to become reclusive. The situation also affected his health, body and mind. He complained about his eyesight and body aches. The work, though, was fantastic and the biblical fresco was filled with originality.

The composition stretches over 5382 square feet (500 square metres) of ceiling and contains over 300 figures. In the center are nine episodes from the Book of Genesis, divided into three groups: God’s Creation of the Earth; God’s Creation of Humans and their fall from God’s grace and, lastly, the state of Humanity as represented by Noah and his family. Among the most famous paintings on the ceiling are The Creation of Adam, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, The Deluge, The Prophet Jeremiah and The Cumaean Sibyl. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was a work of unprecedented grandeur, both for its architectural forms and for the details in the formation of human figures. Vasari wrote: “The work has proved a veritable beacon to our art, of inestimable benefit to all painters, restoring light to a world that for centuries had been plunged into darkness. Indeed, painters no longer need to seek for new inventions, novel attitudes, clothed figures, fresh ways of expression, different arrangements or sublime subjects, for this work contains every perfection possible under those heading.”

Vatican-ChapelleSixtine-Plafond

Michelangelo was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime and, ever since then, he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time. A number of his works in painting, sculpture and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in every field during his long life was prodigious. When the sheer volume of correspondence, sketches and reminiscences that survive are also taken into account, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century.

Two of his best-known works, the Pietà and the David, were sculpted before he turned thirty. Despite his low opinion of his painting, Michelangelo also created two of the most influential works in fresco in the history of Western art: The Scenes from Genesis on the ceiling and The Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel. As an architect, Michelangelo pioneered in using architectural forms to emphasize both solid and spatial relationships in art. At the age of 74, he succeeded Antonio da Sangallo the Younger as the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica, however, Michelangelo died before this work was completed. On December 7, 2007, a red chalk sketch for the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, possibly the last made by Michelangelo before his death, was discovered in the Vatican archives. It is extremely rare, since he destroyed his designs later in life. The sketch is a partial plan for one of the radial columns of the cupola drum of Saint Peter’s.

The amount of work that he did surpasses many modern artists even in this age of mass production. Starting from initial sketches, moving to oils and then graduating from frescoes to sculptures, even the most prolific artist who came after him, would appear short of this genius. Among all of his artworks, there is none, which can be rated as less than “perfect.”

Caprese

Caprese Michelangelo, Italy

Caprese, Italy is located in the Province of Arezzo in eastern Tuscany, bordered by the Apennines, and encompasses the areas of Casentino, Valdarno, Valtiberina and Val di Chiana. Each of these areas comprise unique landscapes where natural beauty blends harmoniously with its historic heritage and masterpieces of art. Today, Caprese has been renamed, Caprese Michelangelo.

Its cuisine is tied to agriculture and many recipes originated from the religious and convent life. One will find bean soups, meat stews, crostini topped with woodcock and bread made with hare (pan di lepre) as typical foods of the region. Some products are cultivated only in this area and are dedicated to specific recipes. Black cabbage, present in few parts of the world, is an important ingredient in minestra di pane (bread soup). The Chianina breed of cattle, raised according to Protected Geographical Indication (IGP) standards, is the base for historical dishes, like peposo alla fornacina – a slow cooking beef stew, a dish attributed to those workers who produced the terracotta construction materials for Florence’s Brunelleschi Chapel.

The free-range “grey” pig in this area is the source for one of the world’s best prosciutti, Prosciutto del Casentino. Sheep and goat’s milk (pasture-raised, naturally) cheese products, such as, raviggiolo, ricotta and raw-milk pecorino are important locally. The finest dishes center around the highly prized Valtiberina truffle, present year-round (alternating between black and the more costly white). Another product frequently used to make sweets and snacks is the chestnut that is ground into a flour. Not to be left out are classic Tuscan products that complete the table: oil and wine. The region possesess first-class wines according to the best national and international standards, such as Chianti, Cortona and Valdichiana and no meal is finished without Vinsanto.

beef stew

Il Peposo alla Fornicina (Kiln Worker’s Stew)

This slow-cooked stew needs about 3 hours for the flavors to blend. (You may want to find your crock pot for this recipe!) The story goes that in order to get more work done, the employer of the kiln workers had the dish sent up to the workers instead of allowing them to come down for lunch. It wasn’t long before the workers realized that they were losing their lunch break and a chance to meet friends, play cards and relax. The first strike in Florence resulted!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 3 or 4 cups red wine or tomato sauce
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons ground pepper, fresh and coarsely ground
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • Country bread

Directions

Cut the stew meat into small pieces. Put the meat in a stew pot that will fit in your oven. Add the garlic, onion, wine, rosemary and pepper. Cover and cook in a moderate oven (350 degrees F.) until the meat falls apart. Stir occasionally.

Serve the stew in deep dishes on slices of toasted country-style bread rubbed with garlic.

For a thicker sauce, substitute tomato sauce for wine.

A great dish to cook ahead and reheat.

onion soup

Onion Soup in the Arezzo Style

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 6 Yellow onions, sliced
  • 2 oz butter
  • 20 slices Tuscan-style bread
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 8 slices Fontina cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmigiano, grated to taste
  • Chopped parsley

Directions

Saute the sliced onions in butter until soft in a large soup pot. Add the broth and simmer for about 10 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Butter 2 loaf pans or a ovenproof casserole dish. Line the bottoms of the pans with bread slices and spoon in a layer of onions and broth. Add 4 Fontina slices to each pan, then another layer of bread and broth. Sprinkle generously with Parmigiano. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Sprinkle the top with chopped parsley.

Sausage and mushrooms

Homemade Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms

In the style of Arezzo, with its Etruscan roots, this pasta is thicker than Bolognese fettuccine and is made with fewer eggs.

Makes 4 servings

For the pasta:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups semolina, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

For the toppings:

  • 12 ounces chicken or pork Italian sausage links
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 ounces shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cups hot vegetable or beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Freshly grated parmesan

To make the pasta dough:

Mix the flour, salt and 1 cup of semolina together in a bowl. Make a well in the center and break in the eggs. Whisk the eggs with a fork, gradually gathering the dry mix into the egg and then, as the mixture thickens, add water and oil. Pull in all the dry mix and knead for a few minutes in the bowl. If absolutely necessary, add 1 teaspoon at a time of extra water to make the dough soft enough to work. Put the dough onto on a counter sprinkled with semolina, cover with the inverted bowl and let rest for 30 minutes. (You can also make the dough in a food processor.)

To roll out and cut the pasta:

Secure the pasta machine to a work surface. Flatten the dough and send it through the rollers on setting ‘1’. Fold in half and send it through again; turn the long edges over toward the middle; send through a third time. Repeat until your pasta is smooth and supple. Cut the pasta into 3 pieces and let them rest on semolina for a few minutes before continuing. Send each piece of dough through the rollers on setting ‘3’. Let rest. Finally, send the pasta through on setting ‘5’. Sprinkle with semolina and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut each piece of pasta into long strips 3/16” wide using a sharp knife. Place the strips of cut pasta on a wide platter or tray sprinkled with semolina until ready to boil.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

To cook the sausage and mushrooms:

Clean the mushrooms and cut in half. Peel and slice the shallots. Heat a cast iron frying pan in the oven for a few minutes and then add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and the shallot and return the pan to the oven. After 2 or 3 minutes, once the shallots is beginning to brown, add the mushrooms and 1/2 cup of broth to the frying pan. Return to the oven and cook 5 minutes, turning halfway through. Once the mushrooms are lightly cooked, pour them into a serving bowl and pour any broth from the frying pan over them. Set aside and keep warm.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the frying pan, add the sausages and return the pan to the oven. Turn the sausages after 5 minutes and bake for a further 7 minutes until lightly brown on two sides. Pour in the rest of the broth and add back the mushrooms. Let simmer in the oven while you cook the pasta.

To cook the pasta:

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta and, once back at the boil, cook for 3 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and drizzle with olive oil.

To assemble the dish:

Distribute the pasta among 4 bowls. Sprinkle on half the parsley and half the red pepper. Spoon the mushrooms and the broth over the noodles. Slice the sausages and add to the pasta. Sprinkle the rest of the parsley and red pepper over the dishes and bring to the table piping hot. It’s traditional to serve this dish with grated parmesan.

vin santo tiramisu

Tiramisu al Vin Santo

Ingredients

  • 1 pound/500 g cantuccini (biscotti) cookies, chopped
  • 1 cup/250 ml Vin Santo
  • 1 pound/500 g mascarpone cheese
  • 3.5 ounces/100 g chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons/30 ml sugar

Directions

Place the cookies on the bottom of a cake pan, creating a base for the tiramisu. Drizzle 1/2 cup Vin Santo over the cookies and set aside. The exterior of the cookie should be wet while the interior should remain somewhat dry.

In a bowl, add the mascarpone, chocolate, sugar and remaining 1/2 cup Vin Santo. Whisk the ingredients together until creamy and thoroughly mixed.

Spread the cream mixture evenly over the cookies, making sure all the cookies are completely covered. You may also sprinkle the top of the tiramisu with additional chopped chocolate and cookies. Unlike traditional tiramisu, this version can be served immediately.

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Cliff_at_Tropea,_Italy,_Sep_2005

Calabria is at the toe of the boot, the extreme south of Italy – lapped by the crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas and separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina. The warm climate, the beautiful colors of the sea, rocky coasts that alternate with sandy beaches, the classic flavors of local foods and the vestiges of its ancient origins make Calabria a unique place in both winter and summer. The provinces of Calabria are: Catanzaro (regional capital), Reggio Calabria, Cosenza, Crotone and Vibo Valentia.

With farmland sparse in Calabria, every viable plot is cultivated to its greatest advantage. Tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, artichokes, beans, onions, peppers, asparagus, melons, citrus fruits, grapes, olives, almonds, figs and mountain-loving herbs grow well in the area. Calabrians tend to focus on the high quality of their ingredients, so that virtually everything picked from a garden is useable and worthy of praise.

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Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking.

Fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod and sardines and shrimp and lobster are common on their tables. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation has become a fine art in Calabria. Oiling, salting, curing, smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce and the local pancetta pairs perfectly with plump melons in summer.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal, so the fact that the organ meats are so prized by locals comes as no great surprise. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is both a complex and singularly unusual flavor. Made from pig’s fat and organ meats mixed with liberal local pepperoncinis, this salami-style delicacy is a testament to the Calabrian patience in waiting until foods have reached their perfection. In this case, waiting for the salami to cure for an entire year. Other salamis such as capicola calabrese and soppressata di calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads, cheeses and Calabrian wines.

Spelinga_Nduja

Nduja

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking. Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Pane del pescatore (“fisherman’s bread”) is a local specialty rich with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, due to Greek and Arabic influences. Greek influence still pervades in eggplant, swordfish and sweets by incorporating figs, almonds and honey into the preparations. Similarly, special pastries and desserts take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts, like ricci di donna (or “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti (or “hairs of the priest”), belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are scilateddri, lagane, cavateddri and maccheroni.

Wine is not produced in huge quantities in the region, though the small batches are excellent in flavor and heavily influenced by Greek varieties. Ciró wines are produced using the same ancient varieties of grapes, as wines produced in antiquity for local heroes of the Olympic games. The grapes are still grown primarily in the Cosenza province of Calabria and Ciró wines often take up to four years to reach maturity. Calabria also turns out sweet whites, such as Greco di Bianco.

hot peppers

Calabrian hot pepper is found in many Calabrian dishes – toasted bread with n’duja sausage or sardines, pork sausages, pasta sauces and fish dishes will have hot pepper added.  A fondness for spicy food shows in the popularity of all types of peppers and, unusual for Italy, the use of ginger (zenzero), which is added to spice up sauces (along with hot pepper). Some Calabrian chicken and fish recipes also include ginger.

Antipasto

stuffedmush1

Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

  • One dozen mushroom caps
  • 1 cup well-drained skim milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Fresh parsley or basil, chopped, for garnishing

Directions

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F.

Remove stems from mushrooms and set the caps side. Use the stems for soup or other recipes.

Thoroughly combine the next five ingredients -ricotta through pepper- in a mixing bowl.

Coat a baking dish just large enough to hold the 12 mushrooms with olive oil cooking spray.

Stuff each cap with ricotta filling. Sprinkle the tops lightly with breadcrumbs.

Place the stuffed mushroom caps in the baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake at 400 degrees F  20 minutes for large caps, 15 minutes for small caps. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

First Course

pasta_alla_calabrese

Calabrian Sugo – Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 ½ cups

This is a basic Calabrian sauce that is the foundation of many dishes. It can be served on its own with any pasta shape. It can also be the starting point for the addition of many other ingredients. You can use fresh tomatoes or canned.

Ingredients:

  • 28-ounce can of peeled tomatoes in their juice or 3 ½ cups of peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 large basil leaves
  • Salt
  • 1 fresh or dried hot red pepper or a large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound rigatoni

Directions:

If you are using canned tomatoes, break them up by hand. If you prefer a smoother sauce, puree them in a food processor or blender.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Combine pasta with sauce and serve.

Second Course

tuna

Trance di Tonno alla Calabrese (Tuna Steaks Calabrese Style)

Ingredients

  • 4 tuna steaks (about 2 pounds and 1 inch thick)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Directions

Place the tuna in a large large dish in a single layer, sprinkle with three tablespoons of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add bay leaves and garlic cloves and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the tuna to marinate in the refrigerator for at least six hours, occasionally turning the tuna.

Remove the tuna from the marinade.

Heat a large skillet until very hot and cook the tuna together with the lemon wedges, for approximately six minutes depending on thickness of the fillets or until the fish done to your likeness.

Sprinkle with black pepper and extra virgin olive oil before serving.

sauteed-escarole-with-raisins-pine-nuts-and-capers-104912-ss

Sautéed Escarole

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • One head of fresh escarole, washed thoroughly
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the escarole and cook until the stem pieces start to soften, about 2 minutes (the water needn’t return to a boil). Drain.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic browns slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the garlic with tongs and discard.

Add the pine nuts, raisins, capers and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff, about 1 minute.

Add the escarole, increase the heat to medium high, and cook, tossing often, until heated through and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and season to taste with salt or more hot pepper.

Dessert

crostata light marmellata

Devil’s Tart (Crostata del Diavolo)

Sweet and hot are popular combinations in southern Italy, as evidenced by this tart. Chile jam is readily available from mail order sources. You can also roll the top crust out and fit it over the filling instead of making a lattice top.

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces soft butter
  • 5 ounces sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 11 ounces flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 5 ounces orange marmalade or apricot jam
  • 4 ounces red chile jam (Marmellata di Peperoncino)
  • 4 ounces almonds, blanched and chopped
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix well. Add the egg yolks, egg and lemon peel.

In another bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and slowly add to the butter-sugar-egg-mixture.

Divide the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough on a floured surface to fit a tart or pie pan and fit the dough into the pan.

Spread the fruit jam evenly over the dough in the pie dish and, then, spread the chile jam evenly on top of the orange jam. Sprinkle with the almonds.

Roll the other half of the dough to the size of the top of the tart pan on a floured surface. Cut the dough into one inch strips and lay the strips on top of the filling in a lattice pattern.

Bake the tart for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a rack and dust with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

marmellata-di-peperoncino

Eggs poached with n’duja, peppers and tomatoes (frombootlewithlove.wordpress.com)
Mangia! Mangia! (mylifelivedfull.wordpress.com)
Calabria: An Ideal Holiday Spot (gateawayblog.wordpress.com)
A Sicilian Style Christmas Eve Dinner (jovinacooksitalian.com)
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/11/11/plan-a-venetian-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/09/23/a-fall-neapolitan-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/10/22/a-fall-bolognese-style-dinner/
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2014/01/09/make-a-roman-inspired-winter-dinner/

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Generally, authentic Italian stews have similar ingredients to vegetable soup, but they tend to have larger chunks of meat and vegetables and sometimes have a thicker sauce. Some Italian stews are simply meat simmered in broth or wine. In Italy stew is usually a main dish and is often served in a bowl or on a plate alongside bread, polenta or rice. Some stews are served over polenta.

Stews are generally easy to prepare, store well in the refrigerator and taste better reheated. A perfect make ahead dish. In countries other than Italy, particularly in the United States, some dishes labeled as Italian stew are simply pasta dishes with Italian seaoning that have been converted into stews by reducing the broth or thickening the sauce in the mixture. Usually, this type of stew contains small, hollow noodles like macaroni or shell pasta.

Many Italian stew recipes that are the most popular in Italy did not actually come from there. Since the cuisine of Italy has been influenced by other nearby cultures, some common Italian stews may have originated in border areas, like Hungary and Croatia. The Italian stew called jota, which contains beans and bacon and is often cooked with garlic, potatoes and meat, originally came from Croatia.

In general, Italian stews are cooked using similar, low-heat methods, but they can contain a variety of meats and vegetables. They can be made on the stove, in the oven or in a slow cooker. Vegetables cooked in this type of stew can vary, but usually include carrots, celery and fennel. Potatoes, onion and garlic are also common. The typical Italian stew contains beef, but it can also contain other meats like chicken, pork or veal. Rabbit is a highly popular stew meat in Northern Italy. Sausage is also a common meat, especially in the south.

pork stew

Italian Pork Stew

My adaption of Marcella Hazan’s recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound Cipollini onions, peeled
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 cups (1-inch) slices carrot
  • 1 cup potatoes diced

Directions

Bring broth and mushrooms to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 20 minutes or until tender. Drain mushrooms in a colander over a bowl, reserving broth.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 6 minutes or until lightly browned. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Spoon onion mixture into a large bowl.

Place flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Heat remaining oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add half of pork mixture; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Add pork to onion mixture. Repeat procedure with remaining pork mixture, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.

Add wine to the pan, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in reserved broth, pork-onion mixture and sage; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes or until pork is almost tender.

Stir in carrot and potato. Simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and simmer 10 minutes.

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Roman Oxtail Stew

In Italy and elsewhere in Europe, the custom of raising beef for meat, as opposed to raising oxen for plowing and transportation, is relatively recent. That’s why, in English, we still refer to the tail of a steer as “oxtails” and not to “beef tails”. There are few true oxen left anywhere in the Western world and modern farming techniques have replaced their work. Most butcher shops and supermarkets in America actually sell the tail cut as “beef oxtails.” Oxtail stew tastes best, if made a day ahead and then reheated. This is a popular stewing cut in Italy and is often served over pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1 beef oxtail (2 1/2-3 pounds)
  • 6 celery stalks, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium-sized white onion
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Italian dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 6 to 8 cups boiling water
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

Rinse the oxtail under warm running water and eliminate any fat or gristle with a paring knife. Chop it into sections along the vertebrae. Pat them dry with paper towels.

Mince 1 celery stalk and reserve the rest. Mince the garlic with the carrot and onion. Mince the pancetta; you should have 3/4 cup. Combine the minced vegetables and pancetta with 1 heaping tablespoon of the parsley.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the minced vegetable-and-pancetta mixture and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until the onion becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the oxtail pieces, a generous pinch of salt and several turns of the peppermill. Brown thoroughly, stirring, for about 15 minutes.

Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and tomatoes, crushing and stirring. Add just enough of the water to completely submerge the oxtail meat.

Wrap the cloves in cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen string, leaving about one foot of the string attached. Lower the purse into the stew and secure the string to a pot handle. Drop in the bay leaf and stir.

Lower the heat to minimum and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours.

Slice the remaining 5 celery stalks into 2 inch sticks. Add them to the stew and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.

Remove and discard the cloves and the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1 heaping tablespoon of parsley. Serve in soup bowls.

sausage-beans-and-greens-24066-ss

Sausage, Escarole & White Bean Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 12 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small head escarole, chopped into 1- to 2-inch pieces, washed and lightly dried
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sausage, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a wooden spoon or spatula until lightly browned and broken into small (1-inch) pieces, 5 to 6 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the escarole to the pot in batches; using tongs, toss with the sausage mixture to wilt the escarole and make room for more. When all the escarole is in, add the beans and chicken broth, cover the pot, and cook until the beans are heated through and the escarole is tender, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with the vinegar and salt.

Transfer to bowls and sprinkle each portion with some of the Parmigiano. Serve with toasted Italian country bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

vegetable stew

Italian Vegetable Stew

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant (about 12 oz), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 (26-ounce) container POMI chopped tomatoes
  • 2 zucchini (8 ounces each), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers or a combination, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion and potatoes and sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant and potatoes begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to one side of the pot; add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until brown, about 2 minutes.

Add the broth and the chopped tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until the eggplant is soft and the potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Add zucchini, bell peppers and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste; serve. Add crushed red pepper to taste, if desired.

Tuscan chicken

Tuscan Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 4 ounces baby spinach leaves

Directions

Heat oil in large deep skillet on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from skillet. Add onion, garlic and fennel seed; cook and stir on medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, red wine, basil, rosemary, salt, oregano and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 3 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet  and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until spinach is wilted.

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This Parma Ham sponsored post is about helping you with some holiday entertaining ideas.

What does “entertaining” mean to you? Take a moment and think of what comes to mind.

The best advice I have is that, when it comes to holiday parties, nothing beats the power of planning.

Begin early:

  • Set the Date
  • Make a Guest List
  • Get the Word Out Early
  • Plan the Food and Drinks
  • Decide the Set Up for Beverages, Food and Decorations
  • Set Aside Time for Shopping, Preparing the Food, Cleaning and Decorating
  • Once the Doorbell Rings Have Fun

Holiday appetizer recipes are a must-have in your party plan book. They help tide over your guests until the main event or make for great eating on their own, along with a few cocktails and some desserts. Simple finger foods work the best. Instead of worrying about finding out whether anyone attending your party has a particular dietary restriction, prepare a variety of hors d’oeuvres that will suit any taste and diet. Make two or three meat-based dishes ( red meat and poultry), two fish dishes (one fish, one shellfish) and three vegetarian dishes (one with dairy, two without). You might consider gluten-free choices, as well.

Here is a tip – when Italians entertain guests, they are often greeted with a platter of prosciutto, crisp breadsticks and fruit. It’s an effortless but elegant crowd-pleaser that you can put together quickly. The famous Prosciutto di Parma brand is the one to use for this dish.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced in Parma, Italy for at least two thousand years, gaining recognition in 100 BC when Cato the Censor remarked on the extraordinary flavor and sweetness of the ham. Its production follows the same traditions, today, as the ones used then. By law Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in the hills around Parma where the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce ham of the highest quality. All Parma Ham authorized producers must be located within the geographical boundaries of the Parma region and meet the requirements set by the Consorzio, in order to receive the official certification mark – the Parma Crown. Through the long and carefully controlled curing process, the meat becomes tender and the distinctive aroma and flavor of Parma Ham emerges. This year the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Parma Ham is a naturally gluten free product, so are the recipes I developed for this post. If you’d like to try something more impressive for your guests, try one of these Parma party bites at your next party.

Stuffed Vegetables and Parma Ham

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You can double the recipe or use all mushrooms or use all mini bell peppers.

Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 mini bell peppers
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Prosciutto di Parma slices cut into 1 inch squares (about 5-6 slices)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Cut the bell peppers in half, lengthwise; remove the seeds and stems. Lightly oil the bell peppers by tossing them in a bowl with some olive oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet skin-side down.

Remove mushroom stems (reserve for another use) and brush mushroom cavities lightly with olive oil. Place them on the baking sheet with the peppers. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to show some color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the stuffing.

Place the cream cheese, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and black pepper in a bowl or in a processor and mix until creamy. Refrigerate until ready to make the appetizers.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stuff the peppers and mushroom caps liberally with the filling and place them back on the baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes.

Change oven setting to high broil and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the top of the cheese stuffing begins to brown. (If they’re already brown at this point, you can skip the broiling).

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Top each pepper and mushroom with a square of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Parma Ham-Wrapped Shrimp

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Makes 18 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 18 thin slices prosciutto
  • 18 fresh basil leaves
  • 18 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Directions

In a bowl, gently combine the shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and garlic and marinate for 5 minutes.

Place 1 prosciutto slice on your work surface, short end parallel to the edge. Place 1 basil leaf at the short end of the prosciutto slice. Place 1 shrimp on top of the basil leaf. Roll up shrimp in the prosciutto. Thread shrimp on a skewer.

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Repeat with remaining prosciutto, basil, shrimp and skewers. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.)

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Prepare barbecue grill (medium-high heat) or preheat a broiler. Grill or broil wrapped shrimp until opaque in the center, turning frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Herbed Frittatas with Prosciutto di Parma

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Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, drained tomato
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Prosciutto di Parma, about 12 slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Dry the chopped tomatoes on a paper towel.

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Beat eggs and water with wire whisk in a medium bowl. Stir in tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the herbs.

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Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool.

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Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and gently turn it out onto a cutting board.

Cut the frittatas into 1-inch squares and top with a piece of prosciutto. Serve at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD:  The frittatas can be baked up to 3 hours ahead.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.

Win Parma Ham


Since the history of Italian food is so rooted in the regional cultures, it is interesting to take a look at the main regions of the country and what kinds of food products and dishes each one is known for. The most well known regions in Italy that are noted for their culinary distinctions are the following: Abruzzo-Molise, Apulia, Calabria-Lucania, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Naples-Campagna, Piedmont, Rome-Lazio, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria-Marche and Veneto. These areas can be split up roughly into three categories: northern, central and southern Italy.

Northern Italian cuisine is characterized by less use of olive oil, pasta and tomato sauce and more use of butter (or lard ), rice, corn (for polenta), meat and chesses for cream sauces.

Much of what the rest of the world considers Italian food comes from the central regions of Italy. Velvety smooth olive oils, world-famous cheeses, savory cured meats and rich tomato sauces grace the tables of this region. Beef dishes can be found more often here and the hills of Tuscan and Umbria are known for their wild boar. Both coasts share their love of locally caught seafood and the mountainous countryside is known for its hearty fare.

From the pizza of Naples to the countless types of dried and fresh pasta, the food of the south is the heart of Italy. This is the cuisine found in most Italian-American cuisine. Here you will find rich and spicy tomato sauces and the almost exclusive use of olive oil in cooking. In fact some of the best olive oil comes from this region, but very little of it is exported. The south is home to citrus fruits, fields of durum wheat for pasta, olive groves and vineyards. The sea is used to its fullest extent with all manner of seafood included in dishes from tuna to anchovies and clams to sea urchins.

Pigs are grown throughout Italy, and though many become sausage, salami or prosciutto, just as many do not. It is the one meat that is found in all the regions of the country. Historically, while a good portion of the hog was used for cured meats, many other recipes and uses for pork became popular in Italian cuisine. Each region has its own unique way of cooking pork. Here are five pork chop recipes to illustrate the regional variations of this cuisine.

Bolognese Style Pork Chops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 thick (3/4 -1 inch) rib pork chops with bone
  • 6 large slices of prosciutto
  • 6 slices Italian fontina cheese
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and minced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper

Directions

Trim all the gristle and fat from the cutlets, then cut them in half, leaving the halves attached only along the bone, so that the cutlets will open like a book.

Open the meat and fill each with a slice of prosciutto and one of cheese, trimming their edges so nothing sticks out.

In a skillet with a cover large enough for the meat to lie flat, heat the oil with the bay leaves. Place the pork chops in the pan and brown them on both sides, turning them carefully.

Season the meat with the minced herbs, salt and pepper, cover, and cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning the meat occasionally; should the meat look as if it’s drying out or over browning, reduce the heat.

Tuscan Style Pork Chops

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta (about 3 ounces)
  • 6 – 6 ounce thick-cut bone-in pork chops
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup roasted and peeled chestnuts (fresh or unsweetened canned or jarred), roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped pitted dried plums (prunes)
  • Small fresh sage leaves

Directions

In an extra-large skillet cook pancetta over medium heat until fat is rendered and the pancetta is brown but not too crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined small bowl; set aside.

Sprinkle all sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to the hot drippings in the skillet; cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until golden brown, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Using tongs, transfer chops to a plate.

For the sauce: add butter to the skillet; heat over medium heat until no longer foamy. Add onions and chestnuts to the hot butter; cook about 5 minutes or until golden brown, shaking the skillet occasionally. Stir in garlic and thinly sliced or dried sage; cook about 30 seconds more or until fragrant. Add broth, Marsala, vinegar and honey. Bring to boiling.

Cook, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until liquid begins to turn syrupy, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in dried plums and cooked pancetta; season to taste with pepper.

Return pork chops and any accumulated juices to the skillet; spoon sauce in skillet over chops. Cover skillet; reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 12 to 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through. Serve sauce over pork. If desired, garnish with small sage leaves.

Pork Chops Roman Style

Ingredients

  • 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons. honey
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the chops and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the honey, vinegar and thyme and cook until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer.

Return the pork chops to the pan, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning the chops occasionally and basting with the sauce, for about 15 minutes more for medium doneness. Transfer the chops to a platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer until the sauce is syrupy, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the pork chops. Serves 4.

Neapolitan Pork Chops

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 pork rib or loin chops, cut about 3/4 to 1 inch thick
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 green or red bell peppers, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dry red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet with a cover. Add garlic and cook until lightly browned. Season chops with salt and pepper.

Place chops in the skillet and brown on both sides. Add mushrooms, bell peppers, tomatoes, oregano and wine.

Cover and cook over low heat about 1 hour or until tender.

Sicilian Style Pork Chops

Spicy Sicilian Stuffed Pork Chops

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Swiss chard, ribs removed
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts (pignoli), toasted and chopped
  • Salt
  • 4 pork loin chops, each 1 1/2 inches thick (about 10 ounces each)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Finely slice Swiss chard. In a 2-quart saucepan, heat Swiss chard and 1 inch water to boiling over high heat, cover and cook 5 minutes. Drain, pressing hard to squeeze out excess liquid.

In the same saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in Swiss chard, raisins, pine nuts and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cut a pocket from the side of each chop, inserting knife almost to the bone. Slice parallel to surface, widening pocket as you go. Do not cut through to edge.

Fill pockets with chard stuffing, gently press closed. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat.

Add chops to the skillet and cook until browned on both sides. Add broth and wine to the skillet, heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour, or until chops are tender.

Transfer chops to platter, keep warm. Increase heat to high and boil pan juices until reduced to 3/4 cup. Pour over chops and serve.


A large and growing number of Italian American authors have had success in getting their works published in America. Some of the authors who have written about the Italian American experience are Pietro Di Donato, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dana Gioia (Executive Director of the National Endowment for the Arts), John Fusco (author of Paradise Salvage) and Daniela Gioseffi (winner of the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry and The American Book Award).

Poets Sandra (Mortola) Gilbert and Kim Addonizio and Helen Barolini, editor of The Dream Book, a collection of Italian American women’s writings were award winners from Italian Americana (a semi-annual historical and cultural journal devoted to the Italian experience in America). These women have authored many books depicting Italian American women in a new light. Helen Barolini’s work was the first anthology to pay special attention to the interaction of Italian American women with American social activism. Common themes included conflicts between the Italian American and the mainstream American culture and traditional immigrant parents with their American-assimilated children.

Mary Jo Bona (Professor of Italian American Studies & English at Stony Brook University is the author of Claiming A Tradition: Italian American Women Writers, was interested in showing how authors portrayed the many configurations of family relationships: from the early immigrant narratives of the journey to America, through novels that depicted intergenerational conflicts to contemporary works about the struggle of Italian American women to live in nontraditional gender roles.

A growing number of books about the Italian American experience are published each year. Well known authors, such as Don DeLillo, Giannina Braschi, Gilbert Sorrentino, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gay Talese, John Fante, Tina DeRosa, Daniela Gioseffi, Kim Addonizio and Dana Gioia, have broken into mainstream American literature and publishing. Dana Gioia was Poetry Editor of Italian Americana from 1993 to 2003. He initiated an educational series in which featured poets talked about their work. Poet, Michael Palma, continues Dana Gioia’s work, today.

Italian Americans have written not only about the Italian American experience but, also, about the human experience. Mario Puzo’s first novel, The Fortunate Pilgrim, was an inspirational account of the immigrant experience, which was widely reviewed as being well written, moving and poetic. The Right Thing to Do, by Josephine Gattuso Hendin, is an elevating novel about an Italian American family and their experiences in a new culture. Contemporary best-selling fiction writers include David Baldacci, Kate DiCamillo, Adriana Trigiani and Lisa Scottoline.

Helen Barolini

Helen Barolini’s fiction and nonfiction work has created a bridge between the United States, her home, and Italy, her ancestral land. Awarded a writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for her first novel, Umbertina, Barolini is also the author of twelve books and many short stories and essays that have been cited in annual editions of Best American Essays. She has received the American Book Award; has been a Resident Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Lake Como; a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome; an invited writer at Yaddo and the MacDowell colony and a writer in residence at the Mark Twain Quarry Center of Elmira College. Three of her books have appeared in translation in Italy, where she has lectured as an invited American author.

Helen’s maternal grandfather, Angelo Cardamone and his wife, Nicoletta, immigrated from Calabria, Italy to Utica, NY in 1880. Helen Barolini was born and raised in Syracuse, NY and attended local schools. She attended Wells College, graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University and received a Master’s degree from Columbia University. She was an exchange student at the University of London, where she studied contemporary English literature and then traveled in Europe, writing “Letters from Abroad” for the Syracuse Herald Journal.

Given the intercultural themes of her work linking her American birth and education with her ancestral Italy, Helen Barolini’s writings have been the subject of many student theses both here and abroad. Crossing the Alps, a novel, is Barolini’s newest work. It is a coming of age novel set in post World War II Italy. The Italian edition received praise for its authentic background.

John Ciardi

John Ciardi, poet and scholar, did the only English translation of Dante’s, Divine Comedy, that reproduced the Italian poet’s complex rhyme scheme. Ciardi was also a poet in his own right, who authored 60 books, taught at Harvard and Rutgers, hosted a weekly radio commentary on National Public Radio in the 1980′s and was the only American poet to have his own television program (“Accent,” CBS, 1961).

Ciardi was born in Boston’s Little Italy to immigrant parents from Naples, Italy. After the death of his father from an automobile accident in 1919, he was raised by his mother and his three older sisters, all of whom scrimped and saved until they had enough money to send him to college. In 1921, two years after his father’s death, the family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, where the Ciardi peddled vegetables to the neighbors and attended public school. Ciardi began his higher educational studies at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, but transferred to Tufts University in Boston, where he studied under the poet John Holmes. He received his degree in 1938 and won a scholarship to the University of Michigan, where he obtained his master’s degree the next year and won the first of many awards for his poetry: the prestigious, Hopwood Award in poetry.

Ciardi published his first book of poems, Homeward to America, in 1940, before the war and his next book, Other Skies, focusing on his wartime experiences, was published in 1947. His third book, Live Another Day, came out in 1949. In 1950, Ciardi edited a poetry collection, Mid-Century American Poets, which identified the best poets of his generation.

In 1953, Ciardi joined the English Department at Rutgers University, in order to begin a writing program, but after eight successful years there, he resigned his professorship in 1961 in favor of several other more lucrative careers and to “devote himself full time to literary pursuits”. (When he left Rutgers, he famously quipped that teaching was “planned poverty.”) He was popular enough and interesting enough to warrant a pair of appearances in the early 1960s on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He was the poetry editor of Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972 and wrote the 1959 poetry textbook, How Does A Poem Mean. Ciardi was a “fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a member and former president of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died on Easter Sunday in 1986 of a heart attack.

Don DeLillo

Don DeLillo, an important contemporary American novelist, wrote Americana, Great Jones Street, White Noise, Libra and Underworld. DeLillo was born on November 20, 1936 and grew up in a working-class Italian Catholic family from Molise, Italy in an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx. Reflecting on his childhood, DeLillo described how he was “…always out in the street. As a little boy I whiled away most of my time pretending to be a baseball announcer on the radio. There were eleven of us in a small house, but the close quarters were never a problem. I didn’t know things any other way. We always spoke English and Italian all mixed up together. My grandmother, who lived in America for fifty years, never learned English.”

DeLillo has described his fiction as being concerned with “living in dangerous times”. In a 2005 interview he declared, “Writers must oppose systems. It’s important to write against power, corporations, the state and the whole system of consumption and of debilitating entertainments. I think writers, by nature, must oppose things, oppose whatever power tries to impose on us.” DeLillo is currently at work on a new novel, his sixteenth, where the main character spends a lot of time watching file footage on a widescreen of images of a disaster. He currently lives near New York City in the suburb of Bronxville.

Pietro di Donato

Pietro di Donato, the son of an Italian immigrant and himself a bricklayer, captured the life and death of his father, who was foreman of a construction crew of Italian immigrants, in his first novel, Christ in Concrete (1939). Di Donato was born April 3, 1911 in West Hoboken, New Jersey (now Union City) to Geremio, a bricklayer, and Annunziata Chinquina. Pietro had seven other siblings. His parents had emigrated from the town of Vasto, in the region of Abruzzo in Italy.

On March 30, 1923, Geremio di Donato died when a building collapsed on him, burying him in concrete. Pietro, who was twelve at the time, left school in the seventh grade to become a construction worker in order to help support his family. His father’s death and his life growing up as an immigrant in West Hoboken were the inspiration for his writings. Though he had little formal education, during a strike, he wandered into a library and discovered French and Russian novels, becoming particularly fond of Émile Zola.

In 1958 di Donato wrote his second novel, a sequel to Christ in Concrete called, This Woman. It continued the story of di Donato’s life following his father’s death. In 1960 a third book in the same tradition called, Three Circles of Light, focused on di Donato’s childhood in the years prior to his father’s death. That same year, di Donato published, The Immigrant Saint: The Life of Mother Cabrini, a fictionalized account of Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first United States citizen canonized. The following year di Donato published, The Penitent, an account of contrition and spiritual rebirth of the man who killed the twelve-year-old Maria Goretti. In 1978 his article on the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro (president of the Christian Democratic Party of Italy), titled “Christ in Plastic”, appeared in Penthouse Magazine and won the Overseas Press Club award. Di Donato later adapted the article into a play, entitled Moro. Di Donato died of bone cancer on January 19, 1992 in Stony Brook, Long Island, with his last unfinished novel, Gospels, unpublished.

Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison

Barbara Grizzuti-Harrison, one of the most well-known contemporary writers, is the author of Italian Days, considered a masterpiece of travel writing, thanks to her acute powers of observation and broad cultural knowledge. She has also written The Islands of Italy, A History and a Memory of Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Astonishing World. Barbara Grizzuti was born in Queens, New York City, on September 14, 1934. Her parents were first-generation Americans and her grandparents were immigrants from Calabria in southern Italy. She later described her childhood as deeply troubled and the turmoil of her childhood would have a strong influence on her writing.

When Harrison was 9, she and her mother became Jehovah’s Witnesses. Harrison’s father and brother did not convert and this caused a rift in the household. As a teenager at New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn, Harrison fell in love with Arnold Horowitz, an English teacher who was among the first to encourage her writing talent. He apparently returned her feelings and although their relationship remained platonic, they continued to see each other and to correspond until Horowitz’s death in the late 1960s. After graduating from high school, Harrison, who had been forbidden to attend a university, went to live and work at the Watchtower headquarters. However, her friendship with Horowitz scandalised her colleagues and she was asked to leave. The relationship was but one symptom of a growing conflict between Harrison’s faith and her artistic sensibilities, which eventually led to a nervous breakdown.

Harrison became involved with the women’s movement and wrote about feminist themes for various publications. Her first book, Unlearning the Lie: Sexism in School, was published in 1969. Harrison was one of the first contributors to Ms. Magazine. Harrison wrote for many of the leading periodicals of her time, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, The Village Voice, The Nation, Ladies’ Home Journal and Mother Jones Magazine. Among the people she interviewed were Red Barber, Mario Cuomo, Jane Fonda, Gore Vidal, Joan Didion, Francis Ford Coppola, Nadia Comăneci, Alessandra Mussolini and Barbara Bush. Because of her background, Harrison was often asked to write about movements that were perceived to be cults; she described families affected by the Unification Church and the Northeast Kingdom Community Church and reported on the U.S. government’s deadly standoff with the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

In 1994 Harrison, who had been a heavy smoker for most of her adult life, was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She died on April 24, 2002 in a hospice in Manhattan.

Jerre Mangione

Jerre Mangione (1909-1998) was one of the most celebrated early Italian American writers. His first book, Mount Allegro, (1943) and, later, An Ethnic At Large (1978), explored the evolution of Mangione’s identity from a child of Sicilian immigrants to an American. His last book, La Storia, which he co-authored with Ben Morreale, is a monumental five-century social history of the Italians in America.

Mount Allegro was Mr. Mangione’s first book and its sympathetic portrait of his family and neighbors have made it a classic of ethnic American literature and a must read for anyone interested in the experience of Sicilian immigrants. Mr. Mangione, professor emeritus of American literature at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote 10 more books after Mount Allegro was published in 1943. Most of them dealt in some way with Sicily, Sicilians or the Italian American experience – the experience he lived as a child.

Jerre (Gerlando) Mangione was born in Rochester in 1909, the first of six children born to parents, who emigrated from Sicily at the turn of the century. He grew up in the section of the city now known as Mount Allegro, the fictionalized name he gave the place in his book. His mother, Josephine, had dreams for her children, but they were musical rather than literary. Those dreams were realized through jazz musicians, Chuck and Gap Mangione, the sons of Mr. Mangione’s brother, Frank. But the dreams were nightmares for the young Jerre, who failed at the piano, violin and guitar before his mother finally understood that music was not his forte.

Said to have been a sickly and lonely child, Mr. Mangione spent much of his youth reading – generally on the sly because his mother believed too much reading caused insanity. “The boy would rather read than eat,” she said of him. His favorite book in those years was the dictionary, he once said. He depended on it because his parents, doing their best to preserve their Sicilian heritage, insisted that he and his siblings speak only Italian at home.

Though he was prolific, Mr. Mangione found that getting words down on paper was painful. He said he often found himself doing other chores to avoid his daily 9:30 a.m to 1 p.m. date with the typewriter. “In an effort to avoid writing, one can accomplish almost anything,” he said in an interview. Mr. Mangione, who once said he considered himself an observer of life, rather than a participant, enjoyed consistent success as a novelist and social historian. He won several national fellowships to pursue his writing. The New York Times and other national publications regularly gave his books glowing reviews and his book about the Federal Writers Project was nominated for a National Book Award. Mangione died on August 16, 1998 in Haverford, PA.

Gay Talese

Gay Talese (b.1932) is known for his daring pursuit of “unreportable” stories, for his exhaustive research, and for his formally elegant style. He is a prolific writer and one of the founders of the 1960′s style of writing called, “New Journalism,” which incorporates fictional elements (dialogue, scene description and shifting points of view) into news writing. Talese was a reporter for The New York Times between 1956 and 1965, writing about sports and politics. Among his many best-sellers is The Kingdom and the Power, the story of crime boss Joe Bonanno and his son, Bill; Thy Neighbor’s Wife, which examines America’s changing sexual mores and Unto the Sons, an autobiographical book about his Italian heritage.

Gay Talese was born into an Italian-American family in Ocean City, New Jersey, located just south of Atlantic City. His father, Joseph Talese, was a tailor who had immigrated to the United States in 1922 from Maida, a town in the province of Catanzaro in southern Italy. His mother, the former Catherine DePaolo, was a buyer for a Brooklyn department store.

Talese was rejected by dozens of colleges in New Jersey and nearby states but, eventually, he was accepted at the University of Alabama. His selection of a major was, as he described it, “I chose journalism as my college major because that is what I knew,” he recalls, “but I really became a student of history”.  It was here that he would begin to employ literary devices more well known in fiction, like establishing the “scene” with minute details in his writing. In his junior year he became the sports editor for the campus newspaper, Crimson-White, and started a column, he dubbed “Sports Gay-zing”.

He later wrote,”Sports is about people who lose and lose and lose. They lose games and then they lose their jobs. It can be very intriguing.” Of the various sports, boxing held the most appeal for Talese, largely because it was about individuals engaged in contests and those individuals were predominately non-whites. He wrote 38 articles about Floyd Patterson alone. Talese’s celebrated Esquire piece about Joe DiMaggio, “The Silent Season of a Hero” – in part a meditation on the transient nature of fame – appeared in 1966. The Library of America selected Talese’s 1970 account of the Charles Manson murders, “Charlie Manson’s Home on the Range”, for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime. In 2011 he received the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism.

Frances Winwar

Frances Winwar (1900-1985) a novelist, biographer and translator, was born Francesca Vinciguerra in Taormina, Sicily, the daughter of Domenico Vinciguerra, a singer, and Giovanna Sciglio. Her family arrived in the United States in 1907 and she grew up in New York City. She attended local public schools and studied at Hunter College and Columbia University but never earned a degree. Quickly mastering English and French while retaining complete fluency in Italian, she showed an early taste for literature and began to publish poetry. A literary essay on Giovanni Verga that she published in Freeman in 1923, brought her a job with the New York World as a staff book reviewer. She stayed with the World for two years and was a frequent contributor to such periodicals as the New York Times, the New Republic and the Saturday Review of Literature for years afterward.

Winwar married four times. Sometime shortly after 1920 she was briefly married to the writer, Victor J. Jerome. In 1925 she married Bernard D. N. Grebanier, a professor of English literature at Brooklyn College, with whom she had one son. That marriage ended in divorce and in 1943 Winwar married mystery writer, Richard Wilson Webb. After a third divorce, she married Dr. Francis Lazenby, a classics scholar and librarian of the University of Notre Dame.

Winwar was best known for a series of romanticized biographies of nineteenth-century English literary figures and their followers, beginning with Poor Splendid Wings: The Rossettis and Their Circle (1933), an account that included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Charles Algernon Swinburne and William Morris. Two years later she published The Romantic Rebels, another composite biography, in which she sensitively, though not always accurately, portrayed John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron. Farewell the Banner (1938) relates the complex relationships of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth and Wordsworth’s sister, Dorothy. The fourth of her group biographies was Oscar Wilde and the Yellow ‘Nineties, describing the scandal surrounding its leader.

In The Life of the Heart (1945) she focused on a single writer rather than a group or a movement, but her novelized biography of George Sand included vivid portraits of Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert and Louis Napoléon, as well. Other fictionalized biographies, such as American Giant: Walt Whitman and His Times (1941) and Haunted Palace (1959), a life of Edgar Allan Poe, met with popular success, even when the critics were less than enthusiastic, as did her juvenile histories, Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo (1953) and Queen Elizabeth and the Spanish Armada (1954). Listed as “romantic novels,” these novel-biographies were sometimes criticized as falling short of rigid historical completeness, but all were thoroughly researched and offered vivid portraits of their subjects.

She was an outspoken opponent of Italian Fascism, the only Italian American besides Pietro di Donato to speak at the Second American Writers Congress in 1937, where her paper “Literature under Fascism” vehemently condemned Fascist repression and its effects on literature in the country of her birth. She died on July 24, 1985, at her home in New York City.

All the authors in this post have Italian roots from southern Italy. Here are a few traditional Italian American recipes in their honor.

Seafood Marinara With Linguine

6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 14.5 oz can low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoons fresh basil chopped or 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz shrimp fresh or frozen, peeled and deveined
  • 8 oz scallops fresh or frozen
  • 1 lb linguine cooked, drained and kept warm

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, wine, basil, oregano and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for 10 minutes.

Heat remaining oil in small skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and scallops; cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and scallops are opaque.

Add to sauce. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve over pasta.

Sausage and Mushroom Calzone

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups homemade of store bought pizza sauce
  • 12 oz sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • 1 -1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese grated

Directions

Cook sausage and mushrooms in a large skillet until no longer pink; drain off fat in the pan. Stir in one cup of pizza sauce.

Roll dough on lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Place on greased cookie sheet or pizza pan. Spoon sausage mixture over half the dough to within 1/2 inch of edge.

Sprinkle with mozzarella.

Moisten edges of dough with water. Fold dough in half over filling. Seal by pressing with the tines of a fork. Cut slits in the top of the dough.

Brush with water and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Bake at 375°F. for 25 minutes or until golden. Heat remaining pizza sauce and serve with the calzone.

Ricotta Fritters

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer

Directions

Heat 1 1/2 inches oil in a large wide heavy saucepan until it registers 370°F.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.

Whisk together ricotta, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla in another bowl, then whisk in flour mixture.

Working in batches, gently drop level tablespoons of batter into the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes per batch.

Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain.

Dust generously with confectioners sugar.


Long ago, it was customary for a housewife to keep a pot on the fire into which all scraps of meat and vegetables were thrown. She kept the pot boiling all day. Stew was always available when hungry family members or neighbors stopped in for a visit. Even though the stew was always available, what it tasted like was a matter of “potluck.”

From “Little House in the Big Woods”
by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sketch by Garth Williams.

The word potluck was used in 16th century England to mean “food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot.” In the U.S. in the late 19th century or early 20th century, it was a “communal meal where guests would bring their own food.”

A potluck was a meal with no particular menu for the Irish. Everyone participating brought a dish for all to share. Irish women would gather together and cook dinner. They had only one pot so they cooked the meal together with whatever ingredients they happened to have that particular day.

Potluck dinners are often organized by religious or community groups. Smaller, more informal get-togethers such as family reunions, may also be called potlucks.

A Typical Potluck:

  • Each dish must be large enough to be shared among a good portion, by not necessarily all of the expected guests.
  • Guests may bring in any form of food, ranging from the main course to desserts.
  • In the United States, potlucks are associated with crockpot dishes, casseroles, dessert bars and jello salads.

Here are some synonyms for the word “potluck” used around the world.

  • potluck dinner
  • spread
  • Jacob’s join,
  • Jacob’s supper
  • faith supper
  • covered dish supper
  • bring and share
  • shared meal
  • pitch-in
  • carry-in
  • bring-a-plate
  • smorgasbord
  • dish-to-pass

Smart, Healthy Choices:

Potluck buffet spreads can be loaded with temptations, but with the right approach, you can serve up some healthful choices and not feel deprived. For example:

Grilled veggies — served hot or cold — add nutritious variety to the table. Vegetable skewers with zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms and peppers are easy to make and with the addition of cubes of lean meat, they make an entree. Even casseroles can be healthy options with the right ingredients.

Remember salads, too, such as coleslaw, potato salad or macaroni salad made healthy with generous amounts of colorful chopped vegetables and low-fat mayonnaise or plain low-fat yogurt.

For a sandwich buffet, think about whole wheat pita pocket halves. You can serve them with stuff-it-yourself fillings such as lean meats, fish, reduced-fat cheese, tomato and spinach leaves.

Once you arrive at the gathering, take a walk around the table to decide which foods will work for you, then aim for a balanced and colorful plate.

Choose veggies first so you won’t overdo other foods. For starchy vegetables, such as potato salad, keep in mind portion control. Portions at a potluck should be much smaller than at a regular meal because you’re eating a wider variety of foods.

For meat entrees, stick to lower-fat basics such as oven-”fried” skinless chicken, grilled fish or lean ground beef or turkey burgers on whole wheat buns.

For barbecue prepared food, practice moderation — no more than two saucy spareribs because many purchased sauces contain ingredients that are high in fat.

Throughout the potluck, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Make sure sodas, iced tea and lemonade are sugar-free.

Be discerning about desserts. Try to avoid packaged cookies or other sweet treats that are loaded with fat and sugar. Seasonal fruits are a good choice, or bring your favorite dessert to share.

Make sure hot foods stay hot (above 140 degrees F) and cold foods stay cold (below 40 degrees F).

What is your favorite dish to bring to a “Potluck”?  Here are a few of mine:

Crowd-Sized Minestrone

20 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth or 8 cups water
  • 8 cups low sodium tomato juice
  • 2 cups dry red wine or 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium green cabbage, chopped ( 6 cups)
  • 4 small zucchini, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced ( 1 cup)
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 56 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 (15 ounce) cans beans, rinsed and drained ( such as kidney, garbanzo or great northern)
  • 20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain
  • 2 cups small pasta (orzo, ditalini, alphabet, elbows)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook garlic and onion in oil about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients except cheese. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Serve with cheese.

Make Ahead:

Refrigerate tightly covered no longer than 48 hours.

To Reheat: Cover and heat soup to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions for a Crowd

Serves 20-25

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs Italian hot and sweet lean pork or turkey sausage, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 8 mixed colors bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 4 vidalia onions, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

Put sausage in a roasting pan large enough to fit the ingredients.

Top with onions, peppers, garlic and oregano. Add water

Cover pan with heavy duty foil and bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees F.

Cheesy Spinach Lasagna Rolls 

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound (16-18) uncooked lasagna noodles
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and gently transfer to kitchen towels on the countertop.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl to blend.

Spray two 9 x 13 inch casserole dishes with cooking spray; set aside.

Working with one noodle at a time, spread with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce and about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture.

Starting at one end, roll up noodle snugly then arrange in pan either seam-side down or standing with the rolls close enough together to hold each other closed. Repeat with the remaining noodles.

Pour remaining marinara over assembled rolls, then sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover each dish tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Braised Italian Steak

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for browning meat
  • 1 lb fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 5 pounds boneless round steak, 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups crushed Italian  tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Saute the garlic, onions and sliced mushrooms in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Cut round steak into serving-size portions ,about 4 inches by 4 inches. Pound the flour into the steak pieces and transfer to the Dutch oven. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; brown round steak thoroughly on both sides, adding more oil if needed. You may need to do this in batches, removing browned meat to a plate.

When browned, return all the meat to the pot and add the beef broth, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, onions and mushrooms. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours, or until meat is very tender.

Check for drying out and add a little water if needed. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Italian Fruit SaladItalian Fruit Salad

Makes: 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes or balls (8 cups)
  • 6 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon honey

Directions:

In a large bowl combine watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together vinegar and honey.

Pour dressing over fruit; stir gently to coat. Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.


Nothing says summer like grilling kabobs. Whether you choose to make steak, chicken, pork, lamb or vegetable skewers, successful grilling of kabobs is not difficult.

Some Helpful Tips

Tools:

  1. Tongs that are long enough to keep hands safely away from the grill but short enough for easy handling. The tongs are also useful to hold a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil to coat the grill grates.
  2. A good grill brush with a long handle to clean the grill thoroughly.
  3. Skewers: there are many choices, including round or flat wooden sticks, double-pronged skewers, metal baskets and more. The most-common and least-expensive option is the round or flat wooden skewers.

Bamboo/Wooden Skewer

Double Pronged Metal Skewer

Cicular Wire Skewer

Skewer Tips:

  1. Metal skewers are sturdy and reusable but get hot; it’s safest to remove food before serving. To serve on skewers, choose disposable wood; they can burn, though, so they need to be presoaked.
  2. When using metal skewers, leave a little space between pieces of food so the metal will heat, speeding up the cooking time. With wood, make sure the food pieces are lightly touching, to protect the wood from the flame.
  3. Before grilling with wood skewers, either soak them in water for at least 10 minutes or cover the tips in foil. Another option: Fold a piece of heavy-duty foil in thirds, place it on the edge of the grill and rest the ends of the skewers on the foil so they don’t burn.
  4. If you are using wooden skewers, especially round ones, try using two sticks per kabob. This will add stability to the kabobs, which can be heavy, and make it easier to turn them while grilling.

Cooking Tips:

  1. Cut the food in pieces that are the same size and thickness so they will get done at the same time.
  2. Alternate protein pieces with fruits or vegetables, as this enhances the flavor combinations.
  3. If you are cooking foods that require different lengths of time to cook properly, try skewing all the protein on 1 skewer and the vegetables on the other. For example, if you’re cooking chicken that takes 10 minutes versus tomatoes, which take only 2 or 3 minutes, put them on different skewers. This will allow you to cook each set of ingredients properly without over or under cooking the other.
  4. Turn the kabobs frequently during cooking to allow all sides to cook evenly. As a general rule, most kabobs require approximately 10 minutes to cook, which is 2.5 minutes on each of the 4 sides.
  5. Use a fork to easily slide the food from the skewers when it is time to serve the kabobs and don’t forget to hold the hot skewer with a pot holder.
  6. For additional flavor, try marinating your ingredients in a sauce for approximately 30 minutes before grilling. Popular marinades include teriyaki, sweet and sour, honey mustard or lemon garlic. You can buy ready-made marinades from your local grocery store or you can make your own.
  7. Throw away any leftover marinades after you remove the food. If you wish to serve a dip on the side, use a batch of marinade that did not touch the raw ingredients. This can prevent illness.

Shrimp and Fennel Kebabs with Italian Salsa

Serves 4

Italian Salsa

  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Kebabs:

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 28 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cut into 12 wedges
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 12 wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

To prepare salsa:

Combine the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside at room temperature.

To prepare kebabs:

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Oil grill grates.

Combine 2 teaspoons oil and shrimp; toss to coat. Thread shrimp evenly onto 4 (12-inch) skewers. Thread 3 fennel wedges and 3 onion wedges alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers. Brush vegetables with remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Sprinkle shrimp and vegetables with salt and pepper.

Place vegetable skewers on the grill rates and grill vegetables 12 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Place shrimp on the grill and cook shrimp 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until done. (Shrimp turn a light pink when cooked)  Serve with salsa.

Summer Pork Kabobs

This recipe also works well with chicken.

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops, 3/4 inch thick (1 lb)
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into 12 (1-inch) pieces
  • 8 medium mushrooms
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1/2 cup low sugar apricot preserves
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil grill grates. Sprinkle pork chops with seasoned salt; cut each chop into 4 pieces. Alternately thread pork pieces, zucchini, mushrooms and bell pepper equally onto each of 4 (12- to 14-inch) metal skewers.

In small bowl, mix preserves and vinegar.

When the grill is heated, place kabobs on a gas grill over medium heat or on a charcoal grill over medium coals. Brush kabobs with preserve mixture; cover grill. Cook 5 to 7 minutes.

Turn kabobs; brush with preserve mixture. Cook covered 5 to 7 minutes longer or until pork is no longer pink in the center. Meat Thermometer should register 160°F.

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium yellow squash
  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 8 ounces fresh whole mushrooms
  • 2 medium ears sweet corn
  • Olive Oil cooking spray

Sauce

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions:

Cut zucchini, squash and bell peppers into 2-inch chunks. Cut red onions into wedges. Combine the cut vegetables with the tomatoes and mushrooms in a bowl.

Cut the corn into 1-inch pieces and cook in boiling water for 5 minutes. Add the cooked corn to the other vegetables.

Mix the vinegar, mustard, garlic and thyme in a measuring cup and pour over the vegetables. Mix well.

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil the grates.

Thread vegetables on skewers. Place the skewers on the grill over medium heat.

Baste occasionally with extra sauce.

Grill 20 minutes, turning several times or until tender. Remove to a serving platter and pour any remaining sauce over grilled vegetables.

Pizza Chicken Kabobs

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb uncooked chicken breast tenders (not breaded)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 package (8-oz size) fresh whole mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
  • 1 teaspoon pizza seasoning or Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store bought)

Directions:

Heat gas or charcoal grill and oil the grates.

On each of two 12-inch metal skewers, thread chicken, bell pepper and mushrooms alternately, leaving 1/2-inch space between each piece. Brush kabobs with salad dressing and sprinkle with pizza seasoning.

Grill kabobs, covered, over medium heat 9 to 11 minutes, turning once, until chicken is no longer pink in the center (160 degrees F. on a meat thermometer.). Remove to a serving platter and sprinkle with cheese.

Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat pizza sauce over low heat. Serve kabobs with warm sauce for dipping.

Rosemary Swordfish Skewers with Sweet Pepper Salad

Use a colorful assortment of bell peppers in this salad.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 small assorted sweet peppers, 2 sliced into 1/4” rounds, 2 cut into strips
  • 1/2 small onion, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced, soaked in ice water
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 4 ounces arugula (about 8 cups loosely packed)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound 1”-thick swordfish steaks, trimmed, cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 bamboo skewers (soaked in water for 1 hour before using) or 4 metal skewers

Directions:

Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Oil the grill grates.

Bring oil and garlic to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until garlic is toasted and light golden brown, about 6 minutes (remove from heat if garlic is cooking too quickly). Pour oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl and let cool. Discard garlic.

Combine peppers, onion, jalapeño, vinegar and 1/4 cup garlic oil in a large bowl. Add arugula; toss to coat. Season salad with salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Place an equal number of swordfish cubes on each of  4 skewers. Brush fish with remaining garlic oil; sprinkle with rosemary and season with salt and pepper.

Grill swordfish until opaque in the center and lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes on each of the 4 sides.

Divide salad among 4 plates. Place a skewer atop each. Garnish with lemon quarters.

 


Grilling vegetables is not difficult. With so many possible vegetable choices and recipes, the biggest challenge is narrowing them down to just a few special recipes that take advantage of the outdoor grill flavor. Many different kinds of vegetables can be grilled with great results. Beets become sweet on the grill. Potatoes get crisp on the outside and stay sweet and moist on the inside. Carrots and onions caramelize.

Select vegetables that are firm and that can hold up to slicing and grilling. Slice them in large, thick (at least 1/4-inch) sections, since small pieces can easily fall through the grid and into the fire. Cut zucchini lengthwise or on a long diagonal, for example. If you plan to prepare a recipe that calls for smaller pieces, try grilling them on skewers or wrapping them in foil packets. Vegetables such as peppers can simply be grilled whole, then peeled and sliced.

Soak vegetables in cold water for about 30 minutes before you grill them to keep them from drying out. Pat dry.

Because vegetables lack fat, they need oil, liquid, or some sort of marinade to prevent them from burning and sticking and to keep them moist. Brush vegetables with oil (preferably vegetable oil because it has a high smoke point) or a flavored oil mixture, such as a salad dressing or your own mixture of oil and herbs or other seasonings. Marinate the vegetables for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

White wine, oil, garlic, onion and celery salt make a good marinade, as do beer, oil, garlic and cloves. Lemon juice also makes a good base for a grilling marinade. Try pineapple juice, soy sauce, lemon juice and garlic for firm vegetables. Orange juice, turmeric, ginger, garlic and lemon zest make a light marinade for summer squash or softer vegetables.

Consider the texture of the ingredient to determine marinating time. Mushrooms, summer squash, and tomatoes may need only 30 to 40 minutes to marinate. Tougher ingredients, such as, sliced carrots or potatoes can marinate for a couple of hours.

To further prevent food from sticking to the grill and to aid in cleanup, spray the grid with nonstick cooking spray before heating (never spray into the fire) or wipe the grill rack with oil before you start cooking.

Special equipment is minimal. A special grill top basket is useful to keep small veggie foods from falling into the fire. Metal or wood skewers are useful for making kebabs that are easily rotated on a grill. (Wood skewers should be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to threading the vegetables so they won’t burn on the grill.) Heavy-duty foil is the best type to use for lining grills or for wrapping food in packets for grilling.

Some Popular Vegetables For The Grill

Asparagus: Cut off ends. Soak in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Pat dry and brush with olive oil. Place on grill, turning every minute. Remove when tips start to turn brown. You can add some extra flavor to asparagus by mixing a little sesame oil in the olive oil before you brush them.

Bell Peppers: Cut through the middle of the pepper top to bottom. Remove stems, seeds and whitish ribs. Brush lightly with oil and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Corn on the cob: Gently pull back the husks but don’t remove. Remove the silk and cut off the tip. Soak in cold water for about 30 minutes. Dry and brush with butter. Fold the husks back down and tie or twist the ends. Place on the grill for about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn oten to avoid burning.

Eggplant: Cut lengthwise for smaller eggplants or in disks for larger eggplants. Soak in water for 30 minutes. Pat dry, brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes on each side.

Garlic: Take whole bulbs and cut off the root end. Brush with olive oil and place cut side down over a hot fire. Grill garlic bulbs for about 10 minutes or until the skin is brown. Use to flavor other grilled vegetables or meats.

Mushrooms: Rinse off dirt and pat dry. Brush with oil and grill. 4-5 minutes for small mushrooms, 6-8 minutes. Use a grill basket for small mushrooms.

Onions: Remove skin and cut horizontally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Brush with oil and grill 3-4 minutes on each side. Use a wide spatula to turn onion slices, so they do not fall apart.

Potatoes: There are many ways to grill potatoes. You can do them whole for a baked potato. Rub with oil. Wrap in aluminum foil and grill 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally. Or, cut into thick wedges, brush with olive oil and grill until browned.

Tomatoes: Cut in half, top to bottom. Brush with a light coating of oil and grill cut side down 2-3 minutes.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Slice into 1/2 inch pieces. Brush with oil and grill 2-3 minutes per side. They can also be cut down the middle into halves and grilled.

The following grilled vegetable recipes will make great sides for your next barbecue.

Grilled Ricotta Basil Tomatoes                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 6 round large tomatoes or 12 small round tomatoes
  • One pound of ricotta cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 12 small, whole basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

 Directions:

Preheat your grill to medium and grease the grill grates with oil.

Combine the ricotta cheese, whole egg, parsley, marjoram, chopped basil and garlic, mixing well.

Rinse the tomatoes and cut into halves. Scoop out the seedy pulp, leaving the outer flesh and skin of the tomatoes intact. If using small tomatoes, do not cut in half, just hollow out the center of each tomato.

Coat the tomatoes lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon some of the ricotta filling into each tomato half.

Place the stuffed tomatoes directly on the grill grate, making sure they are placed securely between the grates.You can also place the tomatoes in a grill top basket.

Grill for five to ten minutes over medium direct heat, until the filling has firmed up and you see some bubbling around the tomato edges.

Insert whole basil leaves into the filling of each tomato and serve immediately.

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries

3-4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

Set up your grill in a 2-zone configuration, one side hot, the other side cool.

Peeling isn’t necessary, but you can do it if you prefer. Cut potatoes into halves lengthwise and then into thick fries. Place in a large bowl. Drizzle the oil over the top and toss to coat.

Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over potatoes. Toss to coat.

Lay fries on the grill so they’ll get horizontal grill marks and close the lid. Cook about 3 minutes, or until potatoes have brown grill marks on one side. Turn the potato fires over. Cook and turn until all sides are marked. 

Potatoes are done when easily pierced with a fork. You may need to move the fries to the indirect-heat side, if they’re not done after good grill marks are formed.

Grilled Summer Fresh Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 each yellow, orange and red pepper
  • 18 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 18 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinaigrette, divided (recipe below)

 Directions:

Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Cut each pepper lengthwise in half. Remove and discard seeds.

Make the filling: Combine the chopped tomatoes, chopped basil and 2 tablespoons of the Balsamic dressing,

Fill each half with some of the tomato filling and, then, top each pepper half with mozzarella cheese.

Grill 8 to 10 minutes or until peppers are crisp-tender.

Place peppers on a platter and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

 Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard and garlic. Add the oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 3/4 cup

Grilled Artichokes                                                

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 small artichokes, trimmed and halved
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Salt to taste
  • Spicy Lemon Aioli, recipe below

Directions:

Preheat grill and oil the grill grates.

Cut lemon in half and squeeze out the juice into a bowl. Save for later. Cut lemon into quarters.

Boil artichokes in water with 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, lemon quarters and thyme. Cook until artichokes are just tender (about 20 minutes).

Remove from the water and set aside for about 5 minutes, allowing them to dry.

Brush with olive oil and place on the grill cut side down. Grill for about 3 minutes or until they start to brown. Turn and grill for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with the reserved lemon juice and salt.

Serve with the Spicy Lemon Aioli, if desired.

Spicy Lemon Aioli

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Whisk together all ingredients and season to taste.

Grilled Zucchini-and-Summer Squash with Citrus Splash

4 servings

 Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 3 oranges)
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 red onions
  • 4 zucchini, each halved lengthwise (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 4 yellow squash, each halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

 Directions:

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Peel onions, leaving root intact; cut each onion into 4 wedges. Add onion, zucchini, and yellow squash to bag.

Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning bag occasionally.

Prepare grill and oil grill grates.

Drain vegetables in a colander over a bowl, reserving marinade. Place vegetables on a the grill and cook for 8 minutes or until tender; turn and baste occasionally with the reserved marinade.

Place the vegetables on a serving platter; sprinkle with the basil. Serve the vegetables with any remaining marinade.

Marinated Mushrooms

The mushrooms are a great side for grilled meats.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of small crimini mushrooms
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Preheat your outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp towel and trim the tips from the stems.

Juice and zest the lemons and combine with the olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Whisk the dressing thoroughly.

Lightly brush the mushrooms with a little of the dressing. Set the rest of the dressing aside.

Grill the mushrooms over medium-high heat for two to three minutes. Turn mushrooms over and grill another 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the grilled crimini mushrooms to the reserved dressing. Mix well.

Allow the mushrooms to marinate for about one hour on the countertop. You can make this recipe the day before and refrigerating overnight.

Bring to room temperature before serving.

Parmesan Garlic Corn                                                    

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 ears of fresh corn on the cob
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane grater
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley

Directions:

Preheat grill and grease grill grates with oil.

Remove husks and silks from the corn. Combine grated garlic and butter in a small glass bowl.

Place bowl in the microwave for 10 – 15 seconds on high.

Grill corn until lightly charred and deep, bright yellow (about 15 – 20 minutes). Turning often to keep from burning.

Brush garlic butter over corn and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Italian parsley.

Crusty Grilled Onions                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 Vidalia onions or other sweet onions, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup canola oil

Directions:

Heat the grill to medium-high and grease the grill grates.

Pulse seasonings in the processor until thoroughly combined and place in a shallow bowl.

Brush onions on all sides with oil and coat in the seasoning mixture.

Place onions on the grill and cook until golden brown and a crust has formed, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until thoroughly cooked and crusty.

 



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