Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Light Spring Pastas

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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.

Fresh Spring Greens To Add To Your Menu

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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.

Mother’s Day Menu

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Many families go out to dinner on Mother’s Day. However, a home cooked dinner is a better way of honoring the greatest mother in the land-yours!. Let spring produce and warmer weather influence your menu decisions.

A Mother’s Day Menu

Appetizers

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Fruit Kabobs

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 16 each Red and Green Grapes
  • 8 ounces Sharp Cheddar cheese  
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
  • 8 each Strawberries
  • 8 each Wooden Skewers

Directions

Cut strawberries in half. If they are extra large you may want to cut them in quarters.

Cut cheese into 1 inch cubes

Thread each skewer with the grapes, cheeses and strawberries alternating between the ingredients.

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Pear and Cranberry Bellini

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pear nectar
  • 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 bottle Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine

Directions

In a small pitcher or large liquid measuring cup, combine pear nectar and cranberry juice cocktail.

Pour 1/4 cup juice mixture into each of eight champagne glasses. Dividing evenly, top with Prosecco or other dry sparkling white wine.

First Course

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Spring Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 6 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (1-pound) bunch asparagus, woody stems snapped off and discarded; spears cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions

Heat 1/2 cup of broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add leek and garlic and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 6 minutes. Add remaining broth, salt, pepper and potatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in asparagus and broccoli and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside to let cool slightly.

Puree soup with an immersion blender or carefully transfer soup to a blender and purée in batches until smooth. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with chives.

Second Course

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Roasted Chicken with Warm Tuscan Bread Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Two 3 1/2-pound chickens—cut in half, backbones discarded
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 cubes
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 4 small rosemary sprigs
  • 4 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 4 oz crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut through the core into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves
  • Romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces, about 6 cups
  • 4 anchovy fillets, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

On a work surface, cut the wings off of the chickens at the second joint, leaving the rest of the wing attached to the breasts.

Season the chickens liberally with salt and pepper and arrange skin side up on two rimmed baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over the chickens and top each half with 2 cubes of the butter.

Scatter the thyme, rosemary and garlic over the chickens; let them return to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden but still slightly chewy.

Increase the oven temperature to 425°F.

Fit the fennel, scallions and sage around the chicken on the baking pans. Roast in the upper and lower thirds of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh registers 165°F; switch the pans halfway through roasting. Let rest for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the bread with the roasted vegetables, romaine, anchovies, capers, vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fold in 1/4 cup of the cheese shavings and season the bread salad with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the bread salad to a platter and scatter the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese shavings on top. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and arrange on top of the salad.

Dessert

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Lemon Cheesecake with Blueberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter (melted)
  • 16 oz lower fat cream cheese (2 packages, room temperature)
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 lemon (juiced and zested), reserve 1/4 teaspoon of zest for sauce

Blueberry Sauce

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

Directions

Cook blueberry sauce ingredients in a small saucepan on medium heat about 4 minutes stirring occasionally; cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the crust:

Mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together.

Press the mixture onto the bottom of an ungreased 8 or 9-inch springform pan and chill.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, cream together the cream cheese and sugar.

Add the eggs, yogurt, lemon juice and zest and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into the crust.

Place the cheesecake on the middle rack of the oven.

Add a pan of water on the lower rack.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes being careful not to open the oven while the cheesecake is baking.

Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool for 30 minutes in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

Remove the cheesecake and continue to cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Serve slices of cheesecake with the blueberry sauce.

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A Mother’s Love…

How precious is the love
of a mother’s heart!
Even as a child… It’s there from the start.

A mother’s love knows
no boundary or limit.
It’s often shown by how
much the mother gives it!

Whether her children are
young or growing old…
And whatever circumstances
in life may unfold…

Her love is continually
a solid foundation…
That can’t be removed, torn or shaken.

Her love is what is
a “guiding force…”
Even if her children’s lives
stray “off course.”

I’m thankful for the love
my mother’s given…
It’s surely influenced
the way I’ve been livin’!

To all of our mothers across
our great nation…
May we show them our love
and appreciation!

Their love has stood and
endured the test of time…
I’m so glad that one of them is MINE!

By Jim Pemberton

What is the Right Bread For A Sandwich?

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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.

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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.

Grilled Italian Sausage and….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Recipes From America’s Italian Communities – Part 6

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The Southeast

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.

Residents of St. Helena, all from Northern Italy, about 1908. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Residents of St. Helena, all from Northern Italy, about 1908. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Saint Helena, North Carolina

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Saint Helena began as one of six immigrant colonies established by Wilmington developer, Hugh Mac Rae. He attracted Italian farmers to Saint Helena with promises of 10 acres and a three-room home for $240, payable over three years.

St. Helena was named for an Italian queen, Elena, the wife of King Victor Emmanuel III and the daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro. In the Spring of 1906, eight immigrants from, Rovig, Veneto in Northern Italy, arrived. Within the year, they were followed by about 75 more adventurous individuals.

Planting a vineyard at St. Helena. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Planting a vineyard at St. Helena. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

The first group of immigrants cleared the wooded land for vineyards. Most of the immigrants had lived in the Italian wine country and were experienced vineyard dressers. One of their first tasks was to plant fields of grapevines. They also planted crops, such as peas and strawberries. The Italian ladies made plans to open a bakery.

By 1909, about 150 immigrants lived in St. Helena. The surnames included Bertazza, Yarbo, Trevisano, Laghetto, Berto, Borin, Ferro, Marcomin, Rossi, Fornasiero, Codo, Tasmassia, Rossi, Malosti, Tamburin, Santato, Ghirardello, Liago, Bouincontri, Canbouncci, Lorenzini, Garrello, Antonio, Martinelli, Canavesio, Perino, Ronchetto, and Bartolera.  From this group, fifteen musicians emerged who served as the Italian Brass Band that welcomed all newcomers to the Mac Rae settlements.

The Church of St. Joseph. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

The Church of St. Joseph. (Courtesy of Julia Morton and NC Dept. of Archives and History)

Most of the settlers were Roman Catholics and their first mass at St. Helena was held in a shed near the depot by the Rev. Joseph A. Gallagher in 1906. The newcomers, assisted by 2 or 3 carpenters from Wilmington, built the Church of St. Joseph. The church was held in great affection and served numerous waves of immigrants in St. Helena until it burned in 1934. Another Church of St. Joseph was constructed on Highway 17 in 1954 and it still exists today.

Prohibition put an end to their wine making venture. However, another great success story originated in St. Helena. James Pecora, a native of Calabria, Italy, brought the superior Calabria variety of broccoli and other vegetables to North Carolina to create a successful produce business.

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Italian Cabbage with Tomatoes and Pecorino Romano Cheese

This robust side dish is served as an accompaniment to meats.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound savoy cabbage
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, halved and cut into very thin rings
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 canned Italian plum tomatoes or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup tomato liquid from the can, or chicken stock or beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Pecorino Romano for serving

Directions

Remove the core of the cabbage and cut the remaining cabbage into 1/4-inch strips. You should have about 4 firmly packed cups of cabbage strips.

Place the olive oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the onion and sauté until they start to soften and brown. Add the cabbage and garlic, stirring to blend well.

Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the cabbage and add them to the pan. Add the tomato liquid (or stock), vinegar and thyme.

Season well with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes or until the cabbage is softened.

Stir the butter into the cabbage. Serve with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Charleston, South Carolina

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Giovanni Baptista Sanguinetti was a native of Genoa, Italy and immigrated to the United States in 1879.  He entered the country through New York and settled in Charleston, SC. Sanguinetti, like most Italian immigrants during this period, was young.  He was 25-years old.  In order for Sanguinetti to fit into the Charleston community, he “Americanized” his name. Giovanni Sanguinetti became John Sanguinett. This change was reflected in the city directory and on his death certificate. Sanguinetti, a sailor by trade, worked for the Clyde Steamship Line as a longshoreman. Italian immigrants were very commonly employed as longshoremen because they were willing to work for lower wages and this created a great conflict with the locals.

Many employers exploited this conflict so that they could take advantage of the Italians’ working for a lower wage. Immigrants in Charleston faced difficulties in finding housing. They were relegated to live in specific areas of downtown Charleston. They, along with other immigrants, were expected to live east of King Street and north of Broad Street. This area encompasses the current historical district, including the “market.”  Giovanni lived his entire life in this area and spent most of his working life on the wharf loading and unloading ships.

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In Italy and the Northern US cities, Italian workers were recruited for Southern states by padroni. The padroni were Italians who were paid to recruit Italian workers. Many Italians were recruited to be tenant farmers and work the fields or work in the Southern mills.

Italians were not desirable as immigrants in South Carolina. Ben Tillman, one of South Carolina’s most fervent politicians and later Governor, spoke very strongly against recruiting Italians to his state. Tillman preferred to recruit immigrants from Northern Europe.  As a result, South Carolina created its own Bureau of Immigration in 1881.

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Vegetarian Lasagna with Artichoke Sauce

Nancy Noble’s vegetarian lasagna with artichoke sauce won the 2011 Lasagna Contest sponsored by the local chapter of the Sons of Italy. From the Post and Courier.

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 to 6 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 4 (28-ounce) cans crushed Italian tomatoes
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (6-ounce) jars marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil in large pot. Saute onions with garlic, basil, oregano, parsley and pepper flakes for 5 minutes. Add black pepper.

Add tomatoes and tomato paste and season with salt.

Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Drain artichokes, reserving marinade and set aside. Add the artichoke marinade to sauce. Simmer another 30 minutes.

Cut artichoke heart pieces in half and add to the sauce. Simmer another 15 minutes.

Stir in grated cheese and adjust seasonings.

For the lasagna:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 pounds shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 recipe of artichoke sauce
  • 2 boxes of no-cook lasagna noodles

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two 9 x 13 inch baking dishes.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the ricotta cheese and eggs until smooth and creamy. Reserve a few handfuls of the mozzarella to sprinkle on top of the dish. Add the remaining mozzarella to the ricotta mixture along with the parsley, salt and pepper.

In a 9 x 13-inch pan, spread a thin layer of sauce. Cover with a layer of the lasagna noodles. Spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture. Continue layering until pan is full.

Repeat with a second 9 x 13-inch pan. Top both with sauce and sprinkle remaining mozzarella on top.

Bake about 30 minutes, making sure not to let the cheese brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Elberton, Georgia

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Beginning in the early twentieth century, millions of immigrants entered the United States from Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and the Middle East and some of these new arrivals found their way to Georgia. In many cases, the immigrants moved into neighborhoods where friends and relatives from their home country had already settled, and established themselves as members of the community. For example, Jewish Russian immigrants became prominent citizens of Columbus, Italian immigrants pursued opportunities in Elberton’s granite industry and Lebanese immigrants contributed to the growth of Valdosta.

Elbert County sits on a subterranean bed of granite in the Piedmont geologic province. It was identified at the turn of the twentieth century as the Lexington-Oglesby Blue Granite Belt that measures about fifteen miles wide and twenty-five miles long and stretches into nearby counties. In the county’s early history, the granite was seen more as a nuisance rather than as an industry, especially for residents primarily engaged in agricultural activities. Early uses of granite included grave markers and foundation and chimney stone.

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After the Civil War (1861-65), however, new possibilities for Elberton’s granite began to emerge. In 1882, Elberton’s first quarry was opened to get construction stone for use by one of the local railroads. By 1885 a second quarry was also opened. During the 1890s, Elberton’s potential as a producer of granite solidified as more quarries in the city and county were opened. On July 6, 1889, the Elberton Star, the local newspaper, christened the town the “Granite City.”

In 1898 Arthur Beter, an Italian sculptor, executed the first statue carved out of Elberton granite. A small building constructed to house the statue during its completion became the town’s first granite shed.

During the immigration period from Italy, skilled laborers came to Elbert County to pursue a livelihood in the granite business. Among the many new arrivals were Charles C. Comolli, founder and owner of the Georgia Granite Corporation and Richard Cecchini, a highly skilled stone sculpturer. The industry flourished with the creation of new sheds and the opening of additional quarries in the years following.

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A little bit of Georgia folklore:

Labor-Inducing Eggplant Parmigiana

Nearly 300 baby pictures decorate Scalini’s old-fashioned Italian restaurant. All of the babies pictured on the Italian restaurant wall were born after their mothers ate the Scalini’s eggplant parmigiana. The breaded eggplant smothered in cheese and thick marinara sauce is “guaranteed” to induce labor, the restaurant claims. The eggplant legend began not long after the restaurant opened 23 years ago.

“Two or three years after we began, a few people had just mentioned to us they came in when they were pregnant, and ate this eggplant and had a baby a short time after that,” said John Bogino, who runs the restaurant with his son, Bobby Bogino. “One person told another, and it just grew by itself by leaps and bounds.”

To date, more than 300 of the pregnant women customers who ordered the eggplant have given birth within 48 hours, and the restaurant dubs them the “eggplant babies.” If it doesn’t work in two days, the moms-to-be get a gift certificate for another meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized eggplants
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups fine Italian bread crumbs (seasoned)
  • Olive oil
  • 8 cups marinara sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup Romano cheese (grated)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese

Scalini’s Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 cups tomatoes (fresh or canned), chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sweet basil, chopped
  • Pinch thyme
  • Pinch rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slices. You may choose to peel the eggplant before you slice it. Place the eggplant slices on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with a little salt, then cover with another layer of paper towels and hold it down with something heavy to drain the excess moisture. Let them sit for about an hour.

Working with one slice of eggplant at a time, dust with flour, dip in beaten eggs, then coat well with breadcrumbs. Saute in preheated olive oil on both sides until golden brown.

In a baking dish, alternate layers of marinara sauce, eggplant slices, ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, until you fill the baking dish, about 1/8 inch from the top. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, and bake for 25 minutes in a 375 degree F oven. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Scalini’s Marinara Sauce Directions

Lightly saute the onions in olive oil in large pot for a few minutes.

Add garlic and saute another minute. Add tomatoes and bring sauce to a boil, then turn heat to low. Add remaining ingredients, stir, cover and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Recipe courtesy of John Bogino, Scalini’s Italian Restaurant, Georgia (scalinis.com).

Miami, Florida

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Julia DeForest Tuttle (1849-1898), Henry Morrison Flagler (1830- 1913), James Deering, (1859-1925) and other American pioneers were busy displaying their understanding of Italian culture as they built railways, planned a city and erected palatial estates in Miami and Southeast Florida. The hotels and the villas built in Miami replicated the symbols of status of the early modern European courts.

The landscape and architecture of Villa Vizcaya were influenced by Veneto and Tuscan Italian Renaissance models and designed in the Mediterranean Revival architectural style with Baroque elements. Paul Chalfin was the design director.

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Vizcaya was created as James Deering’s winter home and, today, it is a National Historic Landmark and museum. The planning and construction of Vizcaya lasted over a decade, from 1910 to 1922. Deering modeled his estate after an old Italian country villa. This involved the large-scale purchase of European antiques and the design of buildings and landscapes to accommodate them. Deering began to purchase the land for Vizcaya in 1910 and, that same year, he made his first trip to Italy to acquire antiquities.

Deering purchased an additional 130 acres of land and construction on the site began in the following year. About a thousand individuals were employed at the height of construction in creating Vizcaya, including several hundred construction workers, stonecutters and craftsmen from the northeastern states, Italy and the Bahamas.

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James Deering died in September 1925 and the property was passed to his relatives. In 1952 Miami-Dade County acquired the villa and formal Italian gardens, which needed significant restoration, for $1 million. Deering’s heirs donated the villa’s furnishings and antiquities to the County-Museum. Vizcaya began operation in 1953 as the Dade County Art Museum.

The village and remaining property were acquired by the County during the mid-1950s. In 1994 the Vizcaya estate was designated as a National Historic Landmark. In 1998, in conjunction with Vizcaya’s accreditation process by the American Alliance of Museums, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust was formed to be the museum’s governing body.

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Linguine Frutti di Mare

Serves 2 as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 5 oz.fresh linguine pasta
  • 4 jumbo shrimp
  • 12 small scallops
  • 6 mussels
  • 6 clams
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1.5 oz. white wine
  • 1 tablespoon. garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon. lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon basil, chopped and a sprig for garnish
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a hot pan. Add garlic, then sauté for about two minutes. Add shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, tomatoes and kosher salt. Add the wine and cover the pan to steam another two minutes.Add tomato sauce to the pan of seafood and stir.

Put the fresh pasta into boiling salted water. When the pasta is al dente, drain, add to the seafood pan and mix well. Add the chopped basil, mix and divide between two pasta serving bowls. Garnish with a sprig of basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Party Foods For Spring Entertaining

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Hosting a spring party soon for the mother-to-be//bride-to-be or the graduate or for a special birthday/anniversary? Spring celebrations are a great time of year for gathering with family and friends.

The first flowers of the season make perfect centerpieces. Grocery stores and home improvement stores have bulbs, like crocus, tulips and daffodils, in pots and blooming and these can add a feeling of spring to your party area.

Take advantage of the spring produce in the market. Make dishes ahead of time, if you can. Set up the drinks/cocktails in a special area. Small bites are the easiest and most functional way to serve party foods. Even if you are going to serve a main course, keep the appetizers and desserts simple finger foods. Here are some easy recipes to get you started.

Appetizers

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Antipasto Skewers

24 skewers

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces Italian salami, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • One 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces 
  • One 14 -ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • Small wood or bamboo skewers

Directions

Thread 1 small or 1/2 of a large basil leaf onto a small wooden skewer. Add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke and salami, arranging them in that order on the skewer so that it can stand up on the salami end. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.The skewers can be assembled ahead and refrigerated until serving time.

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Crab Salad Rolls

Makes 16

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 2 large celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds lump crab meat, picked over and lightly broken up
  • Salt
  • 16 mini brioche or mini hamburger rolls, split
  • 16 small Boston lettuce leaves

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the celery and lemon juice and season with cayenne. Gently fold in the crab meat and season with salt. Fill the buns with the lettuce and the crab salad and arrange on a decorative tray. The crab salad can be refrigerated overnight. Fill the rolls just before serving.

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Eggplant Compote

Serve with crostini, flatbread or pita chips.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce, (marinara)
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Directions

Place the diced eggplant in a steamer basket. Set the basket over 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and steam the eggplant until tender, about 12 minutes; drain well.

In a large skillet, combine the tomatoes with the garlic, oregano and paprika and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, 5 minutes.

Add the tomato sauce and the eggplant and simmer, gently stirring a few times, until the eggplant is flavored with the sauce, no more than 3 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper; add the lemon zest and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The compote can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Desserts

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Chocolate-Zucchini Bites

Makes 24

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 24 walnut or pecan halves
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup finely grated zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped or chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugar, salt and egg until combined. Add vanilla, zucchini and sour cream and stir until incorporated.

Sift flour, baking soda and cocoa powder into another bowl and stir until combined. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Spray two mini muffin pans or one 24 cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Fill each cup with 2 tablespoons batter and top with a walnut.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes.

Let muffins cool slightly in pans on wire racks before removing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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Strawberry Tartlets

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ground toasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • One 4-serving-size package (Jello) instant pudding mix (vanilla or cheesecake flavored)
  • 1 cup evaporated whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/3 cup strawberry preserves
  • Sliced strawberries and toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Directions

For the tart shells:

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar and ground almonds. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until pieces are pea-size.

In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Gradually stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until combined.

Gently knead just until smooth and form the dough into a ball. If necessary, cover and chill about 1 hour until dough is easy to handle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Divide the dough into 24 pieces.

Shape pieces into balls. Press dough evenly into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 ungreased 1-3/4-inch muffin cups.

Bake in the preheated oven about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix, evaporated milk, vanilla and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.

Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling into each tart shell. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours.

Before serving, top each tart with a 1/2 teaspoon of the preserves and a strawberry slice and a few sliced almonds. Makes 24.

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Carrot Cupcakes

Yield: 20 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded carrots

Frosting:

  • 12 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Beat in applesauce and vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in another bowl and gradually beat into the sugar mixture until blended. Stir in carrots.

Fill 20 paper-lined muffin cups half full.

Bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

In a small bowl, combine frosting ingredients and beat until smooth.

Frost cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until serving time.


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