Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tomatoes

shrimpcover

There are Gulf Shrimp, Farm Raised Shrimp, Tiger Shrimp, Imported Shrimp and Coldwater Shrimp. The flavor and texture of each type of shrimp are influenced by the waters they come from or are raised in, plus from what they eat or are fed. Wild shrimp feed on seaweed and crustaceans which gives them a more enriched flavor and thicker shells. The ability to swim freely also makes the meat firmer.

Shrimp are abundant in America, especially off the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards in inshore waters, wherever the bottom is sandy. Shrimp are in season from May to October and 95% of the shrimp caught come from the warm waters of the South Atlantic and Gulf states.

Fresh shrimp are highly perishable and should be eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Unless you live in the part of the country where you can actually buy “fresh” shrimp, it is best to buy frozen shrimp. All shrimp are frozen soon after they are caught, usually right on the fishing vessel. Those “fresh” shrimp in the store? They are previously frozen and thawed. The shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a couple of days, whereas shrimp stored in the freezer retain their quality for several weeks.

Avoid shrimp that smells of anything other than salt water. If there is any hint of the aroma of ammonia, it’s a sign they are way past their prime. Truly fresh shrimp will have almost translucent flesh. Do not buy shrimp with black spots or rings (unless it’s black tiger shrimp) as this indicates the meat is starting to break down.

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In the United States, shrimp are sold by count. This is a rating of the size and weight of the shrimp. The count represents the number of shrimp in a pound for a given size category. If you are grilling or serving the shrimp as a main course, you probably want 21-25 or larger (16-20). If you are stir-frying or adding to a soup or pasta dish, you probably want a smaller shrimp (31-35 or 36-40).

The terms “shrimp” and “prawns” can be confusing. In many restaurants, larger shrimp are referred to as “prawns,” while smaller shrimp are called “shrimp.” However, both shrimp and prawns can come from saltwater or freshwater and there is no absolute standard for measuring their size. Scientists say there are no real differences.

Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in America, with close to 1 1/2 billion pounds sold per year. I know it is my first choice and here are some of my favorite recipes:

As An Appetizer

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Shrimp with Garlic and Lemon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lemon cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the garlic, Italian seasoning and bell pepper.

In a skillet, sauté the shrimp in the oil over moderately high heat, turning the shrimp once, until just barely pink. Add the lemon juice and parsley and toss gently. Garnish with lemon wedges.

In A Sandwich

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Oven Fried Shrimp Sandwich

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 4 – 6 inch lengths of baguette, split in half
  • Olive oil
  • 2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (hot) sauce, more to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten to mix
  • 3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, shelled
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 tomato, cut into thin slices

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Put the bread, cut-side up, on a baking pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco sauce.

To prepare the shrimp:

Oil another baking pan and place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk and the egg. In another bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the salt, black pepper and cayenne.

Dip the shrimp into the flour, then into the egg mixture and then into the bread crumbs. Place on a plate until all the shrimp are breaded.

Transfer the shrimp to the preheated baking pan Bake the shrimp for 12-15 minutes until nicely browned, turning them over halfway through baking.

Place the bread in the oven with the shrimp after you turn the shrimp over and bake the pieces of baguette until they are lightly crisp, about 5 minutes.

Spread the sauce on both sides of the bread and add lettuce, tomato and shrimp.

In A Salad

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Grilled Shrimp Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 small heads Boston lettuce or any tender lettuce (about 1/2 pound in all), torn into bite-size pieces

Directions

In a blender, combine the anchovies, garlic and lemon zest. Pulse to chop. Add the mint, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan. Oil the grill or pan. Cook the shrimp until they just turn pink. Large shrimp will need about three minutes per side.

Transfer the shrimp to a medium glass bowl and toss with half the dressing.

Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl and toss with the remaining dressing.

Put the greens on individual serving plates; top with the grilled shrimp.

As A First Course

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Spaghettini with Shrimp, Tomatoes and Spicy Crumbs

Serves 6-8 as a first course

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds plum tomatoes, cored and scored on the bottoms with an X
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup coarse bread crumbs (about 2 ounces), made from stale bread
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces spaghettini
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded basil
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Put the plum tomatoes in a small baking dish and drizzle with the vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Roast for about 20 minutes, just until the skins loosen and the tomatoes are barely softened. Let cool slightly, then peel the tomatoes and finely chop or mash them in the baking dish.

Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lemon zest, a large pinch of crushed red pepper and season with salt. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl.

In the skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Season the shrimp with salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper and add them to the skillet.

Cook over high heat, tossing once or twice, until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Return the pasta to the pot and add the shrimp, basil and reserved pasta cooking water and cook, tossing, until the pasta is coated in a light sauce and the shrimp are evenly distributed.

Transfer the pasta to individual serving bowls and scatter the cherry tomatoes all around. Top each with tomato sauce and bread crumbs.

As A Main Course

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Stuffed Shrimp Oreganata

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra-large shrimp (16-20 per pound) 
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced 
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 2 cups of fresh breadcrumbs 
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 

Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact.

To butterfly them: make a slit along the back side, taking care not to slice all the way through the body.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick olive oil spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add garlic and sauté until soft and just beginning to turn golden – do not brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.

Spoon even portions of the breadcrumb mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp in the baking pan. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

While the shrimp are cooking, heat the minced garlic and olive oil in a saute pan until the garlic turns light brown, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the white wine and heat until almost dry; add the chicken stock and basil.

Heat the sauce for 3 minutes and place onto the bottom of a large platter. Place Shrimp Oreganata on top of the tomatoes sauce.

Quarter the lemon into 4 pieces and serve with the shrimp.


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Keeping your ingredient list simple is often the most effective way to prepare pasta sauces. A simple sauce highlights only one or two different flavors, enabling you to enjoy the texture of the pasta. While basic tomato sauce is a classic choice, sauces featuring olive oil as the primary ingredient also lend themselves to a simple but flavorful preparation. Use an extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Grated Parmesan cheese adds a distinct flavor and creamy texture when mixed through the hot pasta. Sprinkling some chili flakes on the dish adds some spice. You can also add sautéed shrimp or diced chicken to make the dish more substantial.

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Pasta Cooking Tips:

Use a tall, deep cooking pot rather than a wide, shallow one. Remembering that the pasta will swell, generously fill up the pot with about 4 quarts of water.

Season the water with salt before you add the pasta. It’s the best way to bring out the pasta flavor.

Do not add olive oil to the cooking water. If you’re trying to keep the pasta from clumping as it cooks, make sure you have plenty of water in the pot and stir frequently, especially early in the cooking process. Don’t add it to drained pasta, either… it will only make your carefully prepared sauce slide right off the pasta.

There’s no need to rinse your cooked pasta with water. The starch helps the sauce bind to the pasta. Pasta for a salad can be quickly cooled by spreading out the pasta on a baking pan.

Before draining, save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce. Add enough to help loosen the sauce.

To reheat cooked pasta, place pasta in a colander and pour hot or boiling water over it or immerse it in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds. Cooked pasta will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

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Shrimp Scampi over Whole-Grain Spaghetti

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add garlic, crushed red pepper, wine and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet and simmer 1 minute. Stir in shrimp and heat.

Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Toss pasta with the shrimp mixture, lemon juice and parsley. Add reserved cooking water 1 tablespoon at a time to moisten.

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Linguine with Pancetta and Peas

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz linguine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano, grated
  • 3 slices pancetta or bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat; add garlic, stir occasionally until they begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add peas; season with salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with peas. Toss well and add some reserved pasta water, a little at a time to coat the pasta. Add the Pecorino Romano. Toss with the pancetta or bacon and garnish with black pepper.

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Thin Spaghetti with Sausage and Spring Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 8 oz thin spaghetti
  • 8 oz link of Italian pork sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup asparagus, sliced into 2″ lengths
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest

Directions

Cook pasta al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water and drain pasta.

Mix together the parmesan cheese, mint, basil, parsley and lemon zest. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until brown. Remove from pan and drain on a paper towel. Cut into thin slices.

Add the olive oil to the pan and heat over medium. Add the mushrooms, peas and garlic and cook 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring.

Return the sausage to the pan and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until everything is warmed through.

Add the cooked pasta and sprinkle with the reserved pasta cooking water.

Serve in individual pasta bowls. Drizzle each lightly with olive oil and top with a tablespoon of the herb-cheese mixture.

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Pasta with Grilled Chicken and Artichokes

6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extras for the grill
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, rinsed or a package of frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted.
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano, plus extra for serving.

Directions

Light an outdoor grill or heat a grill pan. Oil the grill or grill pan.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken until just about cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Let the chicken rest and, then, slice into 1/4-inch thin slices.

Cook pasta al dente in a large pot of salted boiling water. Reserve about 2/3 cup of the cooking water before draining.

Cut the artichoke hearts into smaller wedges.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute.

Add the artichoke hearts and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Add the pasta, chicken and some of the reserved pasta water to the pan. Toss and cook an additional minute.

Add the fresh parsley and Romano cheese and serve immediately with more grated cheese on the side.

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Spring Vegetable Pasta Salad

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Pasta

  • 12 ounces cavatappi pasta, cooked al dente
  • 4 ounces asparagus, blanched and thinly sliced on the bias
  • One 10 oz package frozen peas, defrosted
  • One 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced into thin strips
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Parmigiano- Reggiano, for garnish

Directions

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the pasta:

Mix the pasta with the asparagus, peas, roasted peppers, tomatoes, fennel, shallots and basil.

Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat.

Let the salad rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to absorb the flavors before serving.

When ready to serve, toss and shave cheese over the top.


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In spring the focus is on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of the season. The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by greens on your plate, including some of the ones listed below.

Arugula is a dark green, peppery green that is used both raw and cooked. Arugula is sold either by the bunch or as loose leaves (much like spinach). Look for dark greens leaves of a uniform color. Avoid yellowing leaves, damages leaves, wilted leaves, or excessively moist-looking leaves

Spinach – it is easy to forget that the small, tender leaves of spring spinach are a real treat. There is a sweetness to their dark green leaves that is perfect in spinach salads.

Broccolini is actually a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. Broccolini is tender and somewhat sweet, without the bitterness you might find in regular broccoli or broccoli rabe.

Collard Greens are leafy green vegetables that belong to the same family that includes cabbage, kale and broccoli. Like kale, collards are one of the non-head forming members of the Brassica family. Collards unique appearance features dark blue-green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively broad.

Spring Escarole is sweeter and more tender than at other times of year. It is delicious sautéed with garlic as a side dish, in soups or in a salad.

Chard comes in Swiss (white ribs), red, golden, and mixed rainbow versions. Each has its own flavor, but an earthy edge defines them all. Chard is usually cooked, but certainly can be chopped up and added to salads raw.

Arugula Fennel Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 cups arugula leaves
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

In a large salad bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice and salt. Set aside.

Wash the arugula well and spin or pat it thoroughly dry. Set aside.

Trim fronds and root end of the fennel bulb. Cut the bulb in half, lay each half flat on a cutting surface and slice as thinly as you can.

Put the sliced fennel in the dressing. Use salad tongs, salad fork and spoon or clean hands gently toss the fennel and coat it evenly with the dressing. Add the arugula and cheese and toss to evenly coat the leaves. Serve.

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Cheddar Broccolini Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccolini, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 bunch (6 to 8) green onions, with green, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan, bring broccolini and vegetable broth to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer for about 5 minutes or until just tender.

In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat; add bell pepper, garlic and green onions and continue cooking for about 2 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Stir in flour and mustard until well blended. Slowly stir in milk. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbly.

Pour broccolini and vegetable broth into the sauce mixture. Add cheese and the remaining seasonings, to taste. Serves 6.

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Spring Spinach and Cheese Pizza

Ingredients

  • One pound of your favorite pizza dough, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves,chopped and lightly packed
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Oil a 14 inch pizza pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan. Let rest while you prepare the topping ingredients

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the spinach, garlic and green onions to the pan and toss for about two minutes until spinach is slightly wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Spread sliced mozzarella over the surface of the dough. Top with the spinach mixture, Sprinkle with the asiago cheese and black pepper.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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Swiss Chard with Tomatoes, Feta and Pine Nuts

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped separately, divided
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes or 1 tomato, cored and chopped
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Directions

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chard stems and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Cover and cook 5 minutes more.

Uncover, add chard leaves, salt, pepper and broth and cook, covered, until chard leaves are bright green and tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and gently stir in tomatoes. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over the top and serve.

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Rigatoni with Ricotta and Collard Greens

You certainly can use any type of greens you like but this is a great recipe to give collards a try.

4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz rigatoni or penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound collard greens, washed, drained, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs, optional

Directions

Cook pasta to the al dente stage. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; sauté onion 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and add greens; cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until the greens are tender, stirring occasionally.

Sprinkle the flour over the greens. Cook uncovered, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring well. Cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and smooth.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the cooked pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, if using, over the top of the casserole.

Bake for 20 minutes.or until the center of the casserole is hot.

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Sautéed Escarole with White Beans and Garlic

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 1/2 pounds escarole, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add escarole (in batches, if needed), and cook, tossing often, until wilted and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a colander as done and drain well.

Return skillet to heat and add garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, about 2 minutes.

Add broth to the skillet and deglaze; add beans and simmer until hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Return greens to the skillet, toss gently and season with salt and pepper to taste.


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Sometimes, only a sandwich will do. Pasta seems too complicated and meat too fussy. A sandwich is simple and easy — bread, fillings – done. However, have you ever had a burger with a too-crusty bun or a multi-layered hero on bread that falls apart? Then you know what it means to choose the wrong bread for a sandwich. The basic rule of sandwich-making is that textures need to work together. You just need some basic knowledge and a bit of creativity.

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Some breads work with almost everything, and challah — like its sweeter French cousin, brioche — is one of them. If you’re looking for fluff or sweetness as a balance to salty flavors, these breads are perfect: Both will also stand up to savory, salty prosciutto, condiments and even mayonnaise-based salads.

Heartier sandwiches, like pulled pork or meatballs, require more support, so go with a bun or roll. If you’re set on slices, remember that soggy fillings — like marinated steak or tomatoes for — benefit from thick-cut slices of bread.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum are those sandwiches that require a lighter touch, especially if you’re thinking about making an open-faced sandwich. While baguettes are versatile, they also allow for thinner slicing. Baguettes are a wonderful base for a variety of toppings, especially if you’re feeding a crowd and they toast well.

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Though some would argue that a wap is not a sandwich, they are popular for typical sandwich fillings, like salads, cold cuts and scrambled eggs. Just be sure the fillings are soft enough to be rolled up.

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Are you thinking about making a Mediterranean type sandwich? You might want to choose an olive oil bread like focaccia or ciabatta. An olive oil bread  is ideal to support, tomatoes, olives hummus, feta, pickles and capers. These breads also make the best paninis.

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Want a healthy midday sandwich to get you through the day?  Earthy, multi-textured loaves are a perfect match for good-for-you fillings like leafy greens, spreads, and tofu. They are also perfect for PB&J.

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Maybe you are in the mood for a BLT or grilled cheese? Stick to the classics for these sandwiches, like a loaf of crusty sourdough. These types of sandwiches are all about what’s in the middle (cheese, bacon, tomatoes) and you want bread that will compliment them. The balance of soft chew, crusty crust and a slight tang make sourdough a good choice.

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Chicken Panini with Tapenade, Roasted Peppers and Onions

Makes about 4 large sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread thinly sliced or focaccia sliced in half
  • Artichoke and olive tapenade (recipe below)
  • 6 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, sliced
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers from a jar
  • 3/4 cup sautéed onions
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil
  • 1 pound cooked chicken breasts, sliced thin
  • Olive Oil

Directions

Spread 1 slice of bread with tapenade, and layer the cheese and peppers on top. Spread cooked onions on another slice and top with basil and chicken.

Put the two halves together, brush the outsides of the bread with olive oil, and grill on a Panini maker or on a cast iron pan with another cast iron pan pressed on top. Repeat with all remaining sandwiches.

Olive and Artichoke Tapenade

  • 4 ounces (113 g) of pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 ounces (113 g) marinated artichoke hearts
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

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Open-Faced Roasted Vegetable Sandwiches

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 medium eggplant, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, sliced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • One small baguette cut in half and then in half again to make 4 pieces or use 4 – ½ inch thick slices of challah bread
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 4 slices Muenster cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toast bread.

In a large bowl, combine oil, garlic, salt, oregano and basil. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Transfer to two 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pans.

Bake, uncovered, 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Combine mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard; spread over toasted bread. Place on a baking sheet. Top with vegetable mixture, tomato and cheese.

Broil 6-8 in. from the heat for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted.

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Turkey Salad on Whole Wheat

4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped cooked turkey or chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup chopped cored apple or chopped seeded cucumber or finely chopped celery
  • 1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread
  • 4 lettuce leaves

Directions

In a medium bowl stir together turkey, apple and egg. Add yogurt and mayonnaise; stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 4 hours.

Spread chicken mixture on half of the bread slices. Top with lettuce leaves and remaining bread slices. Cut each sandwich in half.

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Healthy Everything Hoagie

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 1 regular or whole wheat hoagie roll, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 fresh basil leaves , chopped
  • 1 large lettuce leaf
  • 1 slice deli oven roasted beef
  • 1 slice deli oven roasted turkey breast
  • 1 slice deli lean ham
  • 2 thin slices provolone cheese
  • 2 slices ripe tomato
  • 1 thin slice red onion
  • 2 thin slices green bell pepper
  • Sliced pickles, optional

Directions

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar and basil.

Drizzle mixture on the inside top half of the roll.

On the bottom half of the roll, layer ingredients in the following order: lettuce, beef, turkey, ham, cheese, tomato, onion, peppers and pickles, if using.

Cover with the top of the roll.

sandwichfish

Crispy Fish Fillet Sandwiches

This sandwich is oven fried and the sauce is made with yogurt to keep it healthy. Coleslaw goes well with this sandwich.

2 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • Nonstick spray
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Two 6-ounce fish fillets (tilapia, halibut, cod, snapper, grouper, etc.
  • Two 6-inch soft rolls or baguette, split and toasted
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • Lettuce, shredded

Sandwich Spread

  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon prepared horseradish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a heavy-duty baking pan sprayed with nonstick spray in the oven to heat.

Combine the sauce ingredients and refrigerate until ready to make the sandwiches.

Mix together the melted butter, Dijon mustard and dill in a pie plate. In another pie plate, combine the panko, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Dredge the fish through the melted butter mixture and then through the panko. Place on the hot baking pan in the oven and bake until cooked through and lightly golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Assemble the sandwich by slathering the toasted split roll with the Sandwich Sauce, topping with the breaded fish fillet and adding  tomato slices and shredded lettuce.


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Warmer weather means BBQ time.

Getting started:

Prepare an outdoor grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). If using a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom of the grill, then light the charcoal. When the charcoal turns grayish white about 15 minutes after lighting, the grill is ready. If using a gas grill, preheat the burners on high, covered for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat if specified in the recipe.

Keep a third of your grill fire-free. On a charcoal grill, this means spreading the coals over the rear two-thirds of the firebox and leaving the front third coal-free. On a gas grill, leave one burner off. Sausages should be grilled over indirect heat.

Do not boil sausages before grilling because it diminishes flavor and moistness  Pre-boiling is unnecessary, if you grill carefully.

There’s no need to prick sausages with toothpicks or a fork before grilling. Perforating the casing only releases flammable fats, juices and flavor.

Lightly brush or rub the casings with olive oil. This prevents sticking and makes them extra crisp.

Handle with care. The key to a juicy sausage is to keep the casing intact. Use tongs and don’t break the sausage skin when turning.

Grill the sausages over the indirect part of the grill until crusty and golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 30 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes.

The safe internal temperature for ground meats—sausages included—is 160 degrees F. The casing will be crisp and brown, the filling plump and bubbling. But the only way to check, if the sausages are cooked, is to insert an instant-read meat thermometer through one end of the sausage toward the center.

sausages1

Warm Pepper and Onion Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 mixed colored large bell peppers, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 large red onion, quartered lengthwise and separated into layers
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Toss peppers and onion with 1 tablespoon oil. Grill on a lightly oiled grill sheet or a sheet of heavy-duty foil set directly on the grill rack (with grill covered if using a gas grill), turning occasionally, until slightly softened and charred, 9 to 15 minutes (onion will cook faster), transfer vegetables to a platter when cooked.

Add vinegar, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the peppers and onion, tossing to coat. Let stand 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Place grilled sausages on top.

sausages2

Potato and Green Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces green beans
  • 2 pounds peeled small potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • Coarse salt

Directions

Simmer green beans in salted water until barely tender and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or wire-mesh skimmer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and pat dry.

Add potatoes to the same pot of salted water and simmer until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and halve them.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and thyme in a large bowl. Add potatoes, beans and red onion. Gently toss. Season with coarse salt.

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Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Cannellini Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 600 gr (1.3 lbs) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • A generous handful of mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground white or black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 19 oz can cannellini beans, well-drained and rinsed (if using dried beans, 450 gr or 1 lb)
  • Arugula

Directions

If using dried beans, start this recipe a day ahead. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, place them in a pot well covered with water, add some herbs and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the beans in the cooking liquid, taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 160 C/320 degrees F.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Season with oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Mix well.

Pour the tomato mixture onto a large roasting pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until they begin to blistered. Place the tomato mixture in a serving bowl.

Add the well-drained beans to the tomatoes while they are still warm, taste for seasoning.

Serve warm as a side dish over arugula leaves.

sausages5

Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 pound sliced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush two rimmed baking sheets with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil each. Arrange eggplant slices on the baking sheets. Brush tops with 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the eggplant is golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

On a serving platter, layer eggplant with sliced mozzarella and tomatoes. Top with basil leaves and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Tortellini Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette

8 servings

Ingredients

Tortellini

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
  • One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, rinsed and quartered
  • 1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 4 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Arugula or baby spinach, for serving

Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 2 ripe tomatoes, halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook tortellini until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the tortellini along with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, scallions and basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomato Vinaigrette:

Working over a bowl, rub tomato halves on the large-holed side of a box grater until only the skins remain. Discard the skins.

Add vinegar, oil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper to the tomato juice and whisk until blended.

Add the Tomato Vinaigrette to the tortellini salad and toss. Serve the salad on a bed of arugula or baby spinach.


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As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

The South

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Birmingham

Italians arriving in New Orleans often went to work first on Louisiana citrus farms or one of the state’s sugar cane plantations. But word got around that Birmingham offered a chance to earn wages in one of its factories. Attracted by the promise of better pay, many Italian immigrants left Louisiana for Birmingham. They were joined by fellow Italian immigrants who came directly from Sicily or other parts of Italy, or who may have spent some time in a northern city before deciding to head south to seek better paying jobs.

By 1910, Birmingham’s Italian population numbered almost 2,000 and was spread out over several neighborhoods. There was Little Italy in Ensley, a working class neighborhood associated with Tennessee Coal and Iron. There was the Italian community of Thomas, where Republic Steel was located. To the west lay another Little Italy, in West Blocton, where Italian immigrants mined coal and the town is known to this day for its Italian Catholic cemetery. Each community was anchored by a Catholic parish, supplying social and spiritual support and operating schools for Italian speaking children. Corner grocery stores, some of which grew into major supermarket chains, supplemented their owners’ income. Fig trees, small family gardens and even livestock kept Italian food traditions alive.

La Storia: Birmingham’s Italian Community exhibition at Vulcan Park and Museum

Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue and is considered one of the most memorable works of civic art in the United States. Both the Vulcan statue and the pedestal it stands upon, display the Italian heritage that is prevalent throughout Vulcan Park and the Birmingham community. Designed by Italian artist, Giuseppe Moretti, and cast from local iron in 1904, Vulcan has overlooked Alabama’s largest city from atop Red Mountain since the 1930s. Vulcan Park and Museum features spectacular views of Birmingham, an interactive history museum and Birmingham’s Italian immigrant story.

Italian Americans had a huge impact on not only Vulcan Park and the Museum, but also on the city itself. La Storia tells the story of Italian immigration to the city of Birmingham from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century.  While the exhibit showcases prosperity for Italian immigrants, it also documents the hardships these immigrant families endured as a community and how they relied on faith and family to hold them together.

Cassoeula

part55

A traditional dish that is popular in Northern Italy—particularly in Lombardy. Alabama Italian chef/owner, Marco Morosini shares his expertise in cooking this comforting recipe. B-Metro Magazine December 2013

Ingredients

  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 Spare ribs
  • 8 Italian sausages
  • 8 pieces pork rind (optional)
  • 1 large head Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • Salt

Directions

Place the extra virgin olive oil, carrots, celery and onion in a large pan over low to medium heat. Brown for approximately five minutes. Add and brown the spare ribs. Add the pork rind. After five more minutes add the sausages. Cook for approximately 10 minutes. Add the Savoy cabbage. Stir until all are well mixed. Sprinkle with salt and continue cooking for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Serve over polenta. Serves eight.

part56

Mississippi Delta

Few people associate the South with Italian immigration to America, assuming immigrants settled only in the urban Northeast. Yet, many communities throughout the United States have a significant proportion of Italian Americans. Immigrants gravitated to places where they could find work, whether it be in the garment industry, coal mines, farms, fisheries, canning factories or lumber mills. In the peak immigration years (1880–1910), the American South attracted its share of Italian immigrants.

The first immigrants to the Delta in the 1880s, were hired to repair levees or as farm laborers on the plantations. Some of these families became peddlers selling goods to farmers. In 1895, some Italians crossed the Mississippi River to work in the Arkansas Delta. They were mostly from central Italy and experienced in farm work.

The late 19th century saw the arrival of larger numbers of Italian immigrants, who left Italy seeking economic opportunities. Some Italians from Sicily settled as families along the Mississippi Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Ocean Springs and Gulfport, preserving close ties with those from their homeland. They worked in the fishing and canning industries. Others were merchants, operating grocery stores, liquor stores and tobacco shops. The seafood (and small shipyard) industry of Biloxi was mainly owned by the family of Andrew H. Longino – Governor of Mississippi from 1900 to 1904, who was the first governor of a southern US State to be of Italian heritage.

Life was very challenging for the immigrants. They found the adjustment to the South’s climate especially difficult; Italian farmers did not have experience with cotton and sugarcane crops and many immigrants died as a result of  malaria. While some of the settlers remained in the Delta, bought land and became cotton farmers, others moved to Italian communities in northern Missouri, Alabama and Tennessee.

The Italian Americans were often victims of prejudice, economic exploitation and violence. The Delta states were no exception. Mississippi and Louisiana became a worldwide symbol of Anti-Italianism. In the twentieth century, mainly after World War I , the Italians were slowly accepted and integrated into society. The food and restaurant industry was one of the areas where they gained acceptance and economic success.

Italians developed a distinctive cultural life in the Delta, preserving traditional ways from their Italian ancestry and, yet, adapting to the culture of the American South. Families continued to make wine and cook Italian food with recipes long passed down from their grandmothers.

part57

Italians established restaurants that helped popularize Italian food in the region. Greenwood, in particular, has several restaurants with deep Italian connections. Lusco’s and Giardina’s both trace their ancestry to families from Cefalu in Sicily. Charles and Marie Lusco were first generation Italian immigrants, who established a grocery store in 1921. Local cotton farmers spent time there, playing cards in the back of the store, eating the dishes that Marie prepared and drinking Charles’s homemade wine. Lusco’s emerged from a grocery store into a restaurant because their food became popular. Patrons and customers began requesting the sauces made in the restaurant to take home. As a result, Lusco’s began bottling and marketing the three most requested salad dressings and sauces.

Beef and Spinach Lasagna

part58

Mississippi Farm Families recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 32 oz (4 cups) homemade spaghetti sauce
  • 14 ½ oz can Italian style diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and well-drained
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 10 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground beef 8 – 10 minutes until no longer pink. Pour off the drippings.

Season with salt. Add tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and red pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese and egg.

Spread 2 cups beef sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Arrange 5 lasagna noodles in single layer completely covering the bottom. Press noodles into sauce.

Spread entire ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and top with 2 cups beef sauce.

Arrange remaining noodles in a single layer and press lightly into sauce. Top with remaining beef sauce.

Bake in 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until noodles are tender. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella cheese on top. Tent lightly with foil. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting into 12 servings.

part51

Galveston

Galveston was called the “Ellis Island of the West” as it was the primary point of entry for European immigrants settling in the western United States. By 1910, there were more than 1,000 Italian immigrants living in Galveston.  The language barrier and discrimination caused the Italian immigrants to stick together. Most of the southern Italians were fishermen, laborers and farmers, while the northern Italians tended to be businessmen. The northern Italians used their business skills to set up small, family owned shops. At the time, half the grocery stores in Galveston were owned by Italian families, who made up only 2 percent of the population. “There was an Italian grocery store on every street corner,” said Anthony Piperi, 89, who remembers those days well. Piperi said those who did well in business formed benevolent societies to help the new immigrants and the less fortunate get a foothold. “Fifty percent of them owned some kind of small business,” Piperi said. “By the second generation, everybody had a lawyer or doctor in the family.”

The reason the Italian community did so well, he said, was that it put a premium on education. Everybody in the second generation tried to get an education, he said, because their parents knew what it was like to try to make it without one. The emphasis on education allowed those children to have great mobility and freedom — a mixed blessing. “The families spread out,” Piperi said. “A brother would get a job in Houston. Somebody else would get a job in New York.” An American Army captain whose father was an immigrant, said one of the many things about the Italian experience in Galveston was how quickly many of the immigrants succeeded in their new American life.

Joe Grasso from Sicily pioneered the shrimp industry along the Texas Gulf Coast. Arriving in Galveston in 1906, he worked as a fisherman and saved his money to buy a boat. For 15 years he sold shrimp as bait to fishermen and, then in the 1920s, he began freezing shrimp to export to Japan, creating a successful business.

The Galveston Shrimp Company was founded in 1978 by Rosario Cassarino, an immigrant from the Italian island of Sicily. For twenty years he and his wife, Giovanna, unloaded  fish and shrimp boats at the historic Pier 19 and sold the catch of the day to Galveston locals and the visiting tourists. In 1994 their son, Nello, took over the daily  operation and moved the company to a larger facility that was more accessible to highway transportation. The company began to shift its focus from a retail operation to a wholesale seafood company that now supplies  retailers and distributors around the nation.

Texas Cioppino

part52

Chef Maurizio Ferrarese from Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook

Cioppino is an Italian-American seafood stew that originated in San Francisco. This Gulf version using brown shrimp, redfish and blue crab make it a Texas-Italian Cioppino.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds uncooked heads-on shrimp
  • One 4 pound whole redfish
  • 8 live crabs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • Small can (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 3 bay leaves

Directions

Shell the shrimp and filet the fish. Make a stock with the fish bones and head and the shrimp shells and heads. When the stock boils, add the crabs and cook until done, about ten minutes. Remove the crabs and allow to cool. Reserve the crab bodies and claws and return the rest of the crab including the innards to the stockpot. Simmer the stock for a total of 30 minutes adding water as needed, then turn off the heat. You should have 8 cups of stock.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the green onion, garlic and jalapeño; saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes, wine and bay leaf.

Strain the stock and pour the strained liquid into the soup pot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

Cut the fish into 2 inch chunks. Add the shrimp, reserved crab and fish to the soup. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through. Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and some hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Serve with crusty bread and nutcrackers for the crab claws.

part59

New Orleans

Italians flocked to New Orleans in the late 1800s because of the growing business of importing Mediterranean citrus into the port city. Many of these immigrants worked on the docks in the fruit district and, eventually, these workers opened grocery stores and restaurants around the city. Italians made up about 90 percent of the immigrants in New Orleans at the time and dominated the grocery industry. Italian contributions to the cuisine include “red gravy”, a red sauce thickened with roux that is used in everything from Creole Daube to grillades, stuffed artichokes and peppers. Today, the Italian influence in shaping Creole cuisine is unmistakable – Southern Italian and Sicilian ingredients fundamentally transformed the cuisine.

Joseph Maselli was a catalyst for countless American Italian activities in Louisiana, founding the first state-wide organization of American Italians that later became the Italian American Federation of the Southeast, an umbrella organization with over 9,000 members from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Ten years later, he founded the Italian American Renaissance Foundation Museum and Research Library, the first of its kind in the South, which contains more than 400 oral tape histories, vertical files on 25,000 individuals and 5,500 American Italian books. Today, it has been renamed the American Italian Cultural Center. To honor Louisiana Italian Americans who have excelled in athletics, he founded the Louisiana Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Maselli focused his energy on civic endeavors and, in particular, on preserving the Italian culture and heritage and fighting against prejudice on behalf of all nationalities. Mr. Maselli was the publisher of the Italian American Digest which he founded to preserve immigrant values of family tradition, hard work and education.

Parmesan Crusted Breast of Chicken

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Vincent’s Italian Cuisine/New Orleans

Vincent’s Italian Cuisine was founded in 1989 by native New Orleanian, Vincent Catalanotto. From a large, close Sicilian family, Vincent grew up eating wonderful food prepared by his parents who were both great cooks. The “little Italian place on the side street” quickly became Metairie’s hidden jewel. Vincent developed a menu that showcased the finest and freshest ingredients available. In fact, there are no walk-in coolers or freezers at Vincent’s – produce, seafood, meats and cheeses are delivered fresh daily. It wasn’t long before Vincent had more customers than chairs. A second location was added in 1997 on St. Charles Avenue near the Riverbend.

CREAMED SPINACH

  • 2 boxes (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, squeezed dry
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Sambuca Liqueur
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese

Mix ingredients together and set aside.

CHICKEN

  • 6 Chicken Breast Halves – boneless, skinless, pounded thin
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil

Dredge chicken in flour, dip in beaten eggs, then in parmesan cheese, pressing cheese into chicken until well coated.

Heat oil in a large sauté pan; add chicken and sauté until golden brown.

While cooking chicken, heat creamed spinach in a small saucepan or in the microwave.

Spread approximately 3 tablespoons of heated spinach on each dinner plate, then top with a cooked chicken breast.

Finish the dish with lemon butter sauce (as follows).

LEMON BUTTER SAUCE

  • Juice of 2 small or 1 Large Lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup dry White Wine
  • 1 stick butter, cut up
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Green Onions (tops only)

Mix lemon juice, wine and Worcestershire in a small saucepan and cook until reduced.

Add butter and green onions, stirring until butter is melted.

Drizzle over chicken and serve.

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sicilia7

Mainland Sicilia is the largest island in the Mediterranean and Italy’s southernmost region. Famous for its blue skies and mild winter climate, Sicilia is also home to Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano. This fertile land was settled by the Siculi, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spaniards and Bourbons among others and the remnants of these cultures cover the entire island, from the temples of Agrigento to the priceless mosaics of Piazza Armerina and the ancient capital of Siracusa. Smaller islands, such as the Aeolian, Aegadian and Pelagian chains, as well as Pantelleria, just 90 miles off of the African coast, are also part of Sicilia, offering superb beaches.

Sicily has long been noted for its fertile soil due to the volcanic eruptions. The local agriculture is also helped by the island’s pleasant climate. The main agricultural products are wheat, citron, oranges, lemons, tomatoes, olives, olive oil, artichokes, almonds, grapes, pistachios and wine. Cattle and sheep are raised. Cheese production includes the Ragusano DOP and the Pecorino Siciliano DOP. The area of Ragusa is known for its honey and chocolate productions.

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Sicily is the third largest wine producer in Italy after Veneto and Emilia-Romagna. The region is known mainly for fortified Marsala wines. In recent decades the wine industry has improved. New winemakers are experimenting with less-known native varietals and Sicilian wines have become better known. The best known local varietal is Nero d’Avola, named for a small town not far from Syracuse. The best wines made with these grapes come from Noto, a famous old city close to Avola. Other important native varietals are Nerello Mascalese used to make the Etna Rosso DOC wine, the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG wine, the Moscato di Pantelleria used to make Pantelleria wines, Malvasia di Lipari used for the Malvasia di Lipari DOC wine and Catarratto mostly used to make the white wine Alcamo DOC. In Sicily, high quality wines are also produced using non-native varietals like Syrah, Chardonnay and Merlot.

Sicily is also known for its liqueurs, such as the Amaro Averna produced in Caltanissetta and the local limoncello.

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Improvements in Sicily’s road system have helped to promote industrial development. The region has three important industrial districts:

  • Catania Industrial District, where there are several food industries and one of the best European electronic’s center called Etna Valley.
  • Syracuse Petrochemical District with chemical industries, oil refineries and important power stations, such as the innovative Archimede solar power plant.
  • Enna Industrial District in which there are food industries.

In Palermo there are shipyards, mechanical factories, publishing and textile industries. Chemical industries are also in the Province of Messina and in the Province of Caltanissetta. There are petroleum, natural gas and asphalt fields in the Southeast (mostly near Ragusa) and massive deposits of halite in Central Sicily. The Province of Trapani is one of the largest sea salt producers. Fishing is a fundamental resource for Sicily with tuna, sardine, swordfish and anchovy fisheries located there.

Trapani Salt Fields

Trapani Salt Fields

Although Sicily’s cuisine has a lot in common with Italian cuisine, Sicilian food also has Greek, Spanish, French and Arab influences. The use of apricots, sugar, citrus, melon, rice, saffron, raisins, nutmeg, cloves, pepper, pine nuts, cinnamon and fried preparations are a sign of Arab influences from the Arab domination of Sicily in the 10th and 11th centuries.

Norman and Hohenstaufen influences are found in meat preparations. The Spanish introduced numerous items from the New World, including cocoa, maize, peppers, turkey and tomatoes. In Catania, initially settled by Greek colonists, fish, olives, broad beans, pistachio and fresh vegetables are preferred. Much of the island’s cuisine encourages the use of fresh vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with fish, such as tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish and swordfish. In Trapani, in the extreme western corner of the island, North African influences are clear in the use of couscous.

Caponata is a salad made with eggplant (aubergines), olives, capers and celery that makes a great appetizer or a side to grilled meats. There is also an artichoke-based version of this traditional dish, though you’re less likely to find it in most restaurants.

Sfincione

Sfincione

Sfincione is a local form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies. Prepared on thick bread and more likely found in a bakery than in a pizzeria, sfincione is good as a snack or appetizer. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and then fried .

Panella

Panella

Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same ceci bean. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Arancine are fried rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese.

Grilled swordfish is popular. Smaller fish, especially snapper, are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finnochio con sarde (fennel with sardines). Many meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat. Chicken “alla marsala” is popular.

Cassata Cake

Cassata Cake

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Sicilian desserts are world-famous. Cannoli are tubular crusts with creamy ricotta and sugar filling and may taste a little different from the ones you’ve had outside Italy because the ricotta is made from sheep’s milk. Cassata is a rich, sugary cake filled with the same cannoli filling. Frutta di Martorana (or pasta reale) are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit.

Sicilian gelato (ice cream) flavors range from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese). Granita is sweetened crushed ice made in summer and flavored with lemons or oranges.

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Spicy Clams with Tomatoes

The clams used in Sicily for this dish are tiny vongole veraci.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes,peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds small clams or cockles, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook over moderately high heat until they begin to break down, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil and let reduce by half.

Add the clams and cook over high heat, stirring, until they open, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread rubbed with garlic.

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Pasta alla Siciliana

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary or 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces dried pasta, cooked and drained
  • 3/4 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)

Directions

In a large skillet, cook eggplant, onion and garlic in hot oil over medium heat about 10 minutes or until the eggplant and onion are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, wine, oregano, salt, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve eggplant mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with cheese.

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Steak Palermo Style (“Carne alla Palermitana”)

This is a traditional Palermo dish, consisting of breaded, thinly sliced beef, which is first marinated and then quickly broiled, grilled or cooked in a very hot uncovered heavy pan.

In Sicily, calves live in the open field, building meat and strength, at times they are used to work the fields and are butchered when they are well over a year old, resulting in a tough and muscular meat, mostly eaten boiled or chopped; hence the reason that Sicilian meat cuisine usually consists of meatloaf, meatballs and stews. The preparation of this dish makes the meat tender.

A very important part of this preparation is to soak the meat for a few hours in a marinade not only to compliment the taste of the meat with the flavor of the marinade but most importantly to tenderize the meat by breaking down its fibers.

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless sirloin steaks (about 3 lb.)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup wine, white or red
  • 3 whole garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Pinch of oregano
  • Other preferred herbs (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprigs of fresh parsley and lemon quarters for garnish
  • Wide container with 1 lb. of fine Italian breadcrumbs

Marinade:

In a plastic or stainless steel  bowl that will fit in your refrigerator, whisk the olive oil and wine; add the crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, lemon, chopped parsley, oregano, any other herb(s) and a little salt and pepper.

Steaks:

Trim off any fat and place each piece of meat between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten the meat to an even thickness with a mallet . Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place steaks in the marinade and turn to coat. Make sure that the marinade covers the meat; if needed add some more wine.

Seal the container or cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to 12 hours or more, turning steaks occasionally to absorb the flavors.

Prepare and heat a grill or a heavy frying  pan. Drain steaks and place one at a time in the container with the breadcrumbs. Press the breadcrumbs into the steaks, pushing heavily with your hands.

Set the breaded steaks onto a pan or dish until they have all been breaded. Place them on to the grill or in the dry heated pan. Cook for 7 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side for rare or to the degree of desired doneness. Turn steaks only once.

Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley sprigs and lemon quarters.

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Orange Salad (Insalata d’Arance)

This Sicilian salad is usually served as a side dish or as a separate course leading into dessert.

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 4 large navel oranges
  • 1 large fresh fennel bulb
  • 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweet Marsala wine
  • 1 head of lettuce 
  • Fresh peppermint leaves

Directions

Separate the mint leaves from their stalks. Clean the fennel well and remove the core, stalks and leaves. Peel the oranges and lemon.

Cut the fennel, oranges and lemon into thin slices. Toss together with almonds and mint leaves in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar, olive oil and Marsala wine and toss again.

Chill for a few hours. Toss again before serving on a bed of lettuce leaves.

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Authentic Sicilian Cannoli

The cannoli should be filled right before serving. If they are filled several hours before serving, they tend to become soft and lose the crunchiness which is the main feature of this dessert’s attraction.

Makes 10 cannoli

Ingredients

For the Shells

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 oz sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 oz butter, melted
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Marsala wine
  • Lard or olive oil for frying

For the Filling

  • 2 lb ricotta cheese, (preferably from sheep)
  • 1 lb sugar (2 cups)
  • Milk to taste
  • Vanilla to taste
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 3 ½ oz mixed candied fruit (citron), diced
  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate, chopped

For the Garnish

  • Pistachio nuts, finely ground
  • Confectioners sugar

Directions

To make the shells

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, melted butter and eggs in a bowl. Then add the Marsala.. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth, then wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for half an hour.

Roll out the cannoli dough and cut it into squares, about 4 inches per side. Then wrap the squares around the metal tubes to shape the cannoli.

Fry the dough, still wrapped around the tubes, in a large pot of boiling lard or olive oil. Let the cannoli cool on paper towels. Once cool, slide out the metal tubes.

To make the ricotta filling:

With a fork mix the ricotta and sugar, adding a little milk and a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pass the mixture through a sieve and blend in diced candied fruit and bits of dark chocolate.

Fill the crispy shells with the ricotta filling and sprinkle the crushed pistachio nuts over the ends. Sprinkle the outside with powdered sugar.

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