The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.
This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.
The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.
The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.
For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,
Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.
Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.
Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.
Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.
Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.
Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.
1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Red Pepper Hummus
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.
1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.
Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.
Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.
Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Peppers and Onions
6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.
Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.
Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).
Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper
Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.
3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.
Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.
Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.
Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.
Blueberry Yogurt Muffins
Any seasonal fruit will work in this muffin recipe. These muffins are perfect for a quick breakfast or take along to work.
12 -18 muffins depending on the size of your pans.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen blueberries
Chopped walnuts for the top of the muffins
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a 12 -18 cup muffin pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt. Whisk in the sugar and oil.
Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the blueberries.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top. Press them down lightly.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool slightly.
Store the muffins in a covered container for up to 1 day at room temperature or up to 1 month in the freezer.
Honey Oatmeal Bread
This bread is delicious toasted and it make wonderful French Toast.
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm milk
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a dough that holds together.
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 minutes or until it is smooth.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it’ll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape it into a log.
Place the log in a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it crests 1″ over the top rim of the pan.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F.
If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.
Yield: 1 loaf.
Blackberry Buckwheat Pancakes
Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, as it is not a grass or a cereal. Buckwheat is actually the seed of a flowering fruit that is related to rhubarb and sorrel. It’s completely gluten-free and unrelated to wheat and all the grasses in the wheat family. So it’s a popular substitute for wheat for those who are gluten-intolerant. When ground into flour, the flour makes delicious pancakes and waffles. If you find the taste too strong, you can use all-purpose flour for half of the recipe amount. I store the flour in my freezer to keep it from spoiling. For more information on the health benefits of buckwheat visit the World’s Healthiest Food site.
¾ cup fresh or frozen and thawed blackberries
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
Heat a well-seasoned griddle, cast iron skillet or nonstick pan on medium heat.
Whisk together the dry ingredients—the flour, baking powder and baking soda—in a mixing bowl. In Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and start stirring.
Beat the egg and honey into the buttermilk with a fork. Add in the buttermilk/egg mixture and melted butter into the dry ingredients and stir only until everything is combined.
Stir in blackberries.
For each pancake, pour a scant 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle. Spread the batter into a circle that’s about 4 inches in diameter.
Cook over medium heat until the pancakes are brown, turning to cook the second side when bubbles appear on the pancake surface and the edges are slightly dry for 1 to 2 minutes more.
Serve with Maple Syrup.
Sunday Breakfast-Huevos Rancheros
See directions below on how to cook dried beans and how to make refried beans.
For 2 servings
¼ of a medium onion, chopped
2 cups of your favorite salsa
2 tablespoons jarred chopped jalapenos
½ teaspoon chili powder,
2 corn tortillas
4 large eggs
2 ounces queso fresco cheese, crumbled
1 cup refried beans, see recipe below
Prepare the refried beans according to the directions below.
Heat the oven to 150°F, and place two serving plates in the oven to keep warm.
Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium high, coating the pan with the oil as it heats.
Add one tortilla to the pan, and cook until crispy on one side, turn over and cook the second side. Place the tortilla on a plate in the oven. Repeat with the second tortilla.
Using the same skillet that was used for the tortillas, add the salsa, jalapenos, chili powder and onion. Bring to a boil and reduce to a bubbling simmer.
Crack 4 eggs into the skillet with the sauce and cook for 4 – 5 minutes for runny yolks, more for firmer eggs.
To serve: spread a ½ cup of the refried beans over the tortilla. Top 2 fried eggs, half of the salsa mixture and half of the cheese.
Repeat with the second tortilla. Serve immediately.
This recipe can be prepared ahead and reheated in the microwave while you cook the eggs.
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ of a medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups cooked pinto or black beans or 1 (15-ounce) can, low-sodium, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or bean cooking water
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and chili powder and cook for 1 minute more.
Stir in the beans and chicken broth and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Mash the beans coarsely with the back of a wooden spoon, adding more chicken broth to moisten, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
How To Cook Dried Beans
1 pound dried beans
¼ teaspoon baking soda
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
Place the beans in a bowl or pot with the baking soda, cover with cold water and allow to soak overnight. Drain and rinse before proceeding.
In a medium pot, add the soaked beans, chicken broth, 2 cups water, the garlic and onion. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Then add the salt and stir. Cover and continue simmering until the beans are tender, about 30-45 minutes Taste for seasoning.
Set aside 2 cups for the refried beans and save the remainder for another recipe.
This is the right time of year to buy asparagus. They are in season and the price is low. Of course, you will get tired of them, if you cook asparagus the same way each time you serve them. Have you tried asparagus in a quiche or an omelet? Delicious – give it a try. Double the ingredients and make a second quiche for the freezer.
1 refrigerated pie crust for a 9 inch pie, at room temperature
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 slices bacon
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup half & half cream
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar
Heat the oven to 450°F.
Line a baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spread asparagus on the baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the bacon strips on one end of the pan.
Roast until the asparagus are tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and cut into one inch pieces. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and crumble.
Lower oven temperature to 350°F.
Place pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan. Place the pie pan on a clean baking sheet.
Arrange the roasted asparagus, crumbled bacon and shallots over the bottom of the crust.
In a mixing bowl, combine the chives, Dijon mustard, eggs, half & half, a large pinch salt and a large pinch black pepper. Whisk together until well combined.
Pour over asparagus.Top with the cheese.
Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Cabbage is beautiful this time of year – mild and tender – so take advantage of one of the season’s best vegetables. Colcannon is popular because it combines the cabbage with potatoes for a delicious side dish.
4 large baking potatoes, cooked, peeled and cut into small cubes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, minced
Half a large head of green cabbage, thinly shredded
1 1/2 cups half & half
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh chives
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a deep skillet with a cover over medium heat.
Add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8–10 minutes.
Add the shredded cabbage and cook, stirring often until the cabbage is soft and tender.
Add half & half and bring to a simmer.
Add potatoes and remaining butter and cook until the potatoes are hot and most of the half & half is absorbed.
Coarsely mash with a potato masher and season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the colcannon to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with chives.
This recipe can be prepared ahead and reheated in a moderate oven or in the microwave just before serving.
Grilled Chicken Over Greek Salad
This is one of my favorite dishes. So many delicious ingredients – all in one bowl. This salad works in any season and the chicken doesn’t have to be grilled. It can be sautéed or baked in the oven,
For the chicken marinade
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 ½ tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Large pinch sea salt
Dash black pepper
2 small or one large boneless chicken breast
For the salad
One heart of romaine lettuce, washed and shredded
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1 1⁄2″ pieces
Half a cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced crosswise into 1⁄4″ pieces
1⁄2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
½ bell pepper, sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon. red wine vinegar
1⁄8 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 oz. feta, crumbled
8 kalamata olives
4 Tuscan (pepperoncini) peppers
To prepare the chicken
In a glass measuring cup, mix the first seven ingredients together.
Place the chicken breasts in a storage dish with a cover and pour the marinade over the meat. Refrigerate for up to 3 hours.
Prepare an outdoor grill or heat an indoor grill.
Place the meat on the hot grill and turn the chicken about every 4 minutes until the chicken registers 165 degrees internal meat temperature. Set on a plate to cool while you prepare the salad.
To prepare the salad
Slice the chicken into thin pieces. Combine the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and onions in a salad bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar and oregano; season with salt and pepper and pour over the salad mixture. Toss and top with feta, olives, pepperoncini and sliced chicken.
Serve with warm pita bread.
Open-Face Reuben – My Way
This sandwich can be made with any leftover meat. I just happened to have corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day on hand. I have use sliced turkey, chicken and steak in the past for this sandwich and they all turned out well. I usually bake oven fries with this dish which take about 20 minutes. Put the sandwich in the oven after the potatoes have baked for ten minutes.
2 large slices rye bread; see link for my homemade rye bread recipe
10 slices cooked corned beef
4 slices swiss cheese
½ cup sauerkraut, drained
4 tablespoons mustard sauce, recipe below
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Toast the bread and place it on a foil lined baking pan. Spread 2 tablespoons of the mustard sauce on each piece of toasted bread. Arrange the meat slices on top.
Place 1/4 cup sauerkraut on top of each sandwich and top with two slices of cheese. Place the sandwiches in the oven for 10 minutes so the meat can heat and the cheese melt.
Serve with some great pickles.
For the Guinness Mustard Sauce:
1/4 cup stone ground mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
½ teaspoon horseradish powder (ground)
4 tablespoons Guinness beer
In medium bowl combine mustard, mayonnaise, horseradish and sour cream together. Slowly whisk in beer. Chill in the refrigerator.
Spring is here and so are luscious strawberries at very reasonable prices. Take advantage of this beautiful fruit and eat them as is or use them to make some delicious recipes. Below are some of my favorite ways to use strawberries. What are yours?
Strawberry Breakfast Cake
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup self-rising flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
Grease a 9 inch springform pan and sprinkle the inside with a little granulated sugar. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the topping ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. With your fingers, rub the mixture into crumbs. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together until creamed. Add the eggs, one at a time.
On low-speed add the sour cream and vanilla. Gradually add the flour, mixing until incorporated.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Top the batter with the sliced strawberries and sprinkle the topping over the berries.
Bake the cake in the center of the oven for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool in the pan for several hours and then remove the cake pan ring. The cake can also be served warm.
Preserves are cooked the same way jam is, however, the only difference is that the fruit in preserves is cut into chunks, whereas with jam, the fruit is crushed. The texture of preserves is not as stiff as jelly or jam. It is easy to spread and makes a great topping for ice cream or pancakes.
1 quart of strawberries
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 long strip of lemon zest
Fill 4 pint jars with boiling water and place the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you make the preserves.
Wash the strawberries and remove the leaves. Cut them in half and place the berries in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Stir well.
Bring the mixture to a boil and stir occasionally until mixture thickens, about 20-25 minutes or a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees F.
Remove the pan from the heat. Empty the pint jars and remove the lids from the water.
Fill the jars with the preserves and place the lids on the jars. Cool for a few hours at room temperature. Store the jars in the refrigerator for a few weeks or freeze them for future use.
Strawberry Almond Scones
Self-rising flour can be used for a quicker preparation. Leave out the salt and baking powder in the recipe, if using.
1 cup fresh hulled and finely chopped strawberries
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for brushing on the scones
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping the scones
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
½ teaspoon almond extract
Coarse sugar for the topping
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the chopped strawberries and cream and set aside while you make the dough.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Using a pastry blender or 2 table knives in a scissor motion, cut butter into flour until the size of small peas.
Add the almond extract to the strawberry-cream mixture. Add the mixture to the flour/butter mixture and stir together with a fork, just until combined.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch circle. Cut into 8 triangles.
Lightly brush the tops of the scones with a little cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Immediately place the scones on a rack to cool completely.
Strawberry Fruit Salad
1 pint strawberries, trimmed and sliced
2 large red mangoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 orange, zested, white pith removed and sliced
1 teaspoon honey
In a medium bowl, stir together the strawberries, mangoes, orange slices, zest and honey. Chill, covered, until ready to serve.
Reggio Emilia is one of the nine provinces in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and it is situated in Northern Italy, in the Po Valley area. Reggio is a center of art, whose symbols include the seventeenth-century Basilica della Ghiara (a Baroque style church built in 1597) and the famous Teatro Municipale. (a theater).
The economy of the province was for a long time based on agriculture and the province is known for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Lambrusco wine and Balsamic Vinegar. In the twentieth century Reggio Emilia saw a rapid development of small industries, particularly in agricultural mechanics. A few of those industries became large companies, with an international market. Reggio Emilia is also home to some fashion companies and the ceramic tile industry, For more than 100 years, a strong tradition supports building and banking cooperatives in the province, as well as consumers’ cooperatives. This industrial growth has attracted immigration from North and Central Africa, East Europe and the Far East (China, Pakistan, India).
The Autostrada A1 bridges were designed by Santiago Calatrava and opened in 2005-2006. A central arch bridge spans the Milan-Bologna high-speed railway line and the Autostrada del Sole A1 motorway, while twin cable bridges are at either end. The twin bridges pass over service roundabouts and access roads to allow connections with the adjacent Reggio Emilia AV Mediopadana high-speed railway station. In 2009, the European Convention for Constructional Steelwork gave the three bridges a European Steel Design Award, stating that the twin bridges’ original visual effects at different angles give the two bridges “the aspect of huge musical instruments.
In 1991, the American magazine, Newsweek, named the Diana Preschool in Reggio Emilia, Italy, one of the 10 best schools in the world. As a result, the early childhood centers in this city gained international attention. So what did this little Italian community do to create a world-renowned system of early learning and how does it work?
Until World War II, Reggio was known more for the quality of its wine and ham than for the excellence of its schools. The Reggio Emilia preschools have their origins post-World War II when a small group of women set up a preschool that was the first established secular school for young children. This break with the Catholic church forged a new kind of school. Today, Reggio Emilia has over 35 of these preschools and educators around the world attend conferences and seminars in Reggio Emilia to learn about the system.
The Reggio Emilia Municipal Infant-Toddler Centers provide early childhood programs for children from birth to 3 years and 3-6 years. The philosophy supports a new way of thinking about children and families – where all children, especially those who could be marginalized, are considered full of potential and possibilities – and this seems to have struck a chord with educators around the world who are looking for different ways of providing education.
The Reggio Emilia approach promotes a rethinking of childhood and calls for society to value children’s possibilities, potential, capabilities and competencies. The Reggio Emilia Approach values:children’s relationships with other children, teachers, parents and their classroom environment. Project work, where children are engaged in explorations of their world and make choices about what they will investigate are encourages., Then together with their teachers and peers, students express themselves in what is called the “100 Languages” that place a strong emphasis on visual arts and active listening, where children’s voices, thoughts and opinions are valued (as much as the teachers’). Through these approaches to teaching and learning, the educators challenge and extend each child. They see all of the children as capable and that a teacher’s role is to enable children to reach their potential – not to fix children.
A Foodies’ Paradise
Among the first courses typical of the Reggio Emilia cuisine are cappelletti stuffed with meat and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and pumpkin tortelli. Second courses include local specialties of meatloaf, rabbit alla reggiana and roasted stuffed pork. Typical of this area is also the fried gnocco served with salami and cheeses and erbazzone, a torte made with spinach and chard. Among the desserts, the favorites are sweet rice cakes and spongata reggiana with dried fruits, honey and raisins.
For the pasta
700g/1½lb ’00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
3 medium eggs
Semolina, for dusting
For the filling
200g/7oz spinach, cooked in salted water and chopped
30g/1oz grated Parmesan
Large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
Small handful of pine nuts
Handful of sage leaves
Parmesan, grated or in shavings
For the pasta:
Pour the flour into a mound onto a flat surface and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well and gradually mix with either a blunt knife or your hands.
When the dough becomes a thick past,e use your hands to incorporate more of the flour. Be careful not to make the dough too dry.
Knead until well blended and the dough is soft and flexible.
Let the pasta rest for about 20 minutes with a bowl inverted over it or leave it covered in plastic wrap.
For the filling:
In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To make the tortelli:
Divide the fresh pasta into four pieces and keep three portions under a bowl while you roll and stuff one-quarter.
Roll out the pasta into a long, wide strip either by hand or using a machine. When you can see your hand through it, it is ready for stuffing. Cut the strip in half.
Place teaspoons of the filling in a line down the center of one of the strips about 5 cm/2 in apart. Place the other strip directly on top.
Press the air out from around the filling by pushing down the pasta around them and sealing them in.
Take a small glass or round cutter with a decorative edge measuring about 7 cm/3 in across and cut out circles of pasta around each mound of filling.
They can be cooked immediately in boiling water or stored in fine semolina for up to two hours. You can also freeze them at this stage and then cook them frozen.
To cook the tortelli:
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and gently lower in the tortelli. Cook for about four minutes or until the pasta is soft but not floppy.
For the sauce:
Toast the pine nuts in a dry, deep frying pan. Add the sage leaves and butter and melt the butter taking care not to burn it.
Add about a tablespoon of the pasta cooking water and stir together to emulsify the sauce. Add twist of black pepper. Remove from the heat.
When the pasta is done, drain it gently and toss with the sauce in the deep frying pan.
Let the pasta rest in the sauce for a few minutes. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
Roast Pork with Balsamic Vinegar
By Kathy Bechtel (http://www.chefbikeski.com/)
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 5-lb bone-in pork roast
Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl.
Place the roast in a sealable plastic bag – it should just fit into a gallon bag. If not, place in a roasting pan. Pour in the marinade and seal the bag.
Turn the bag over a couple of times to move the marinade around and cover the meat on all sides. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Remove the pork from the bag and place in a roasting pan. Put into the preheated oven. After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 375F°.
Roast until the internal temperature of the meat is 130F°, about 90 minutes in total. Check at 60 minutes, just to see what the temperature is.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
Torta di Riso
4 cups whole milk
3 large pieces of lemon rind (only the yellow of the rind)
Quarter of a vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Arborio Rice
1 tablespoon Sassolino Liquor or rum
Zest from a whole lemon
4 teaspoons of brown sugar
2 tablespoons bread crumb
1.5 tablespoon brown sugar
In a medium sized pot, add the milk, lemon rind, cinnamon stick, quarter of a vanilla pod, and a half cup of sugar.
Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat, occasionally stirring so that the sugar dissolves in the milk.
When the milk begins to boil, lower the heat to a simmer, remove any skin from the surface of the milk, and mix in the rice.
Cook over low heat (approx. 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once the rice soaks up the milk and becomes congealed and sticky, take the mixture off of the heat.
Allow the rice mixture to cool and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Remove the lemon rinds, cinnamon stick, and vanilla pod from the rice pudding and add the remaining half cup of sugar and the Sassolino liquor. Combine thoroughly.
Zest a whole lemon into the rice pudding. Be careful to only zest the yellow of the rind and none of the white pith.
Using a fork, whisk 1 egg in a separate bowl and slowly mix it into the rice pudding.
Repeat this step with the remaining eggs. Do not try to add all 4 eggs at the same time or the cake won’t hold together.
Butter the interior of an 9 inch springform pan.
Sprinkle on a thin layer of 2 teaspoons brown sugar and bread crumbs on the pan as evenly as possible.
Pour the cooked rice mixture into the pan and sprinkle on a thin layer of 2 teaspoons of brown sugar on top.
Bake until the torta is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
Allow the torta to cool for 20 minutes.
Using a butter knife, cut along the edges of the pan. Remove the pan ring. Turn the torta over onto a serving plate and remove the pan bottom.
Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Torta di Riso is better made one day ahead.
A survey of my freezer containers, indicated leftover pork and turkey breast were getting old. Time to use them up. I also had 2 cooked baking potatoes in the refrigerator. Since I hate just heating up leftovers, I had to get creative. Sandwiches are always a good meal and so is pasta. I had plenty of dried pasta shells in the pantry, so I decided to come up with a filling for them using the leftover turkey breast meat. Potatoes and eggs – one of my favorites. So here is what I came up with for a few brand new meals.
For leftover pork.
Leftover pork from a roast or scaloppini dish makes an excellent sandwich.
See original recipes for pork
Ingredients for each sandwich:
2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
2 slices sourdough or ciabatta bread or rolls
2 slices provolone cheese
2 thin slices leftover cooked pork
½ jarred roasted red pepper, drained and sliced
2 large basil leaves
2 teaspoons butter
Prepare the sandwiches:
Brush one side of each slice of bread with pesto. Place the pork slices on top of the pesto covered side of the bread. Add the roasted red pepper, basil leaves and cheese.
Place the second piece of bread, pesto side down, on top if the cheese. Press the sandwich together. Spread the butter on the outside of the bread slices.
How to cook the sandwiches:
In a Panini Press:
Preheat the press. Place the sandwich in the press and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions until golden and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.
On the stove:
Preheat a skillet to medium low. Add the sandwich and press a heavy pan on top to weigh it down. Cook until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Turkey or Chicken Stuffed Pasta Shells
32 large dried pasta shells
4 cups milk
4 tablespoons instant flour or all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups finely diced, cooked chicken or turkey
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 clove garlic, grated
½ cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
In a large saucepan combine the milk with the instant flour, butter and salt, Put the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often.
Once the mixture boils, stir constantly until slightly thickened. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the shells. Cook them for a few minutes less than the package directions say. They should be pliable but not soft.
Drain and place the shells on kitchen towels on the counter.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish that can accommodate the 32 shells or use two smaller dishes.
To make the filling:
Combine all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and add i cup of the white sauce. Stir well.
To assemble the dish:
Pour half of the remaining white sauce into the prepared baking dish.
Fill the shells with the turkey mixture, about 1 tablespoon for each. If you have any filling left over, you can add to the shells in the dish later.
You want to be sure you have filling for all the shells distributed evenly.
As you fill the shells, place them in the baking dish. When all the shells are in the dish, pour the remaining sauce over the shells and sprinkle lightly with paprika.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake the shells for 45 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Potato, Onion and Rosemary Frittata
This recipe is a good way to use leftover cooked potatoes. This frittata makes a delicious, quick dinner and all you need is a green salad to complete the meal.
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
2 baking potatoes, cooked and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
6 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat the broiler. While you prepare the fritatta.
In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs. Add the cheese and mix.
In an oven-proof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add potatoes and rosemary and sauté until the potatoes are golden.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the vegetables from the pan to a plate and set aside.
Add the butter to the skillet clean and melt over medium heat.
Add the beaten egg mixture and cook for a minute. Spread the sautéed vegetables on top of the eggs,.Let cook for 7-8 minutes or until the edges are set and the top is still slightly wet.
Place the frittata under the broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the top is set and golden.
Remove the skillet from the oven and let rest 5 minutes. Turn the frittata out onto a platter or serving dish and cut into wedges.