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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States, so it is good to know that it is a naturally renewable and sustainable resource. I live in the heart of shrimp country on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. We are able to purchase wild-caught shrimp year round.  However, not all shrimp is sustainable and there is a big taste difference in the shrimp you buy frozen from the supermarket and US wild-caught shrimp. Most likely the shrimp you bought at the supermarket or the shrimp dish you ordered at a restaurant was not from the sea.

Ninety percent of the shrimp eaten by Americans is imported from countries such as Thailand, India and Ecuador, where industrial shrimp farms are harming the environment and coastal communities, and producing unhealthy, flavorless shrimp. Unlike imported shrimp, US wild-caught shrimp, are unlikely to contain the chemicals that are used heavily on many foreign shrimp farms. The impact on the environment from shrimping in the United States is far less significant than those of many foreign shrimp farms.  Most US shrimp spawn offshore in deep water from early spring through early fall and grow very quickly. Additionally, choosing shrimp from the Gulf, the Carolinas, Maine or Oregon supports the economic well-being of U.S. coastal communities.

There are four species of wild-caught shrimp commercially harvested in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic waters.  Shrimp species are categorized by shell color: pink, white, brown, and royal red. The majority of the shrimp harvested in my area are the pink species.The meat is white with pink skin tones, firm texture and mild flavor.


Wild-caught white shrimp has a sweet taste and firm, almost “crunchy” meat which makes it a favorite of local chefs to use in a variety of recipes. They are harvested primarily in the fall from October through December. With a lifespan of up to 24 months, they can grow as large as eight inches.

Florida brown shrimp are harvested year round in both the Atlantic and Gulf waters with the highest yields June through August. Brown shrimp are named for their reddish brown shells and have a firmer texture than other varieties due to a higher iodine content. They can grow as large as nine inches long and have a maximum life span of 18 months.

Florida royal reds with their deep red color and soft, delicate texture have a unique taste that you won’t find in any other shrimp. Royal Reds are frozen onboard the ships and contain more salt than other shrimp so do not add salt to the water when cooking. Royal red shrimp are harvested in the deep Atlantic waters off the coast of St. Augustine with peak season in late summer through fall.

Gulf Shrimp Boats

HOW MUCH TO BUY

  • Raw, headless and unpeeled shrimp: 1/3 pound per serving.
  • Peeled and deveined shrimp: 1/6 pound per serving
  • Two pounds of raw, headless, unpeeled shrimp will yield 1 pound of cooked peeled and deveined shrimp.
  • Shrimp are sized and sold by count (number of shrimp per pound) either whole or headless. For example, headless shrimp of 16-20 count means there are 16 to 20 headless shrimp per pound. Counts for headless shrimp range from under 10 (the largest shrimp) to 300-500 (the smallest. 
  • Store shrimp in the coldest part of your refrigerator at 32 degrees F and use within two days, or freeze at 0 degrees F for up to six months.
  • Remember to purchase seafood last and keep it cold during the trip home.

Some of My Favorite Shrimp Recipes

Appetizers

Shrimp with Garlic and Bread Crumbs

  • 1 cup Progresso Italian Panko Crumbs
  • 1/3 cup very finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • big pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Lemon wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a large baking pan.
2. In a bowl, combine the panko crumbs, parsley, garlic, red pepper, lemon juice and zest.  Add 2-3 tablespoons oil, just enough to moisten the crumbs.
3. Arrange the shrimp in the pan in a single layer, curling each one into a circle. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon a little of the crumb mixture onto each shrimp. Drizzle with a little more oil.
4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp, or until the shrimp turn pink and the crumbs are lightly browned. Serve with lemon wedges.

Grilled Garlic Tomato Shrimp

  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), shelled and deveined, with tails left intact
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and patted dry, chopped fine
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salsa Verde, recipe below

Mince together the tomatoes, garlic, parsley and basil. Turn into a medium bowl and stir in the hot pepper and olive oil. Toss shrimp with the tomato mixture. Keep cold in the refrigerator.
Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Cook the shrimp on a lightly oiled, medium-hot grill, about 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until pink and just firm. Serve with Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde

  • 2/3 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth


Put the parsley, capers, the garlic clove, the lemon juice, anchovy paste, mustard,  salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Pulse just to chop, six to eight times. With the machine running, add the oil and chicken broth in a thin stream to make a slightly coarse puree.


Main Dishes

How to Butterfly Shrimp for Stuffing

1. Use a sharp paring knife to cut along (but not through) the vein line, then open up the shrimp like a book

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2. Using the tip of the paring knife, cut a 1-inch opening through the center of  the shrimp.

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3. After the shrimp have been butterflied and the opening has been cut, flip the shrimp over when placing in the baking dish, so that they will curl around the stuffing.


4. Divide the stuffing among the shrimp, firmly pressing the stuffing into the opening and to the edges of the shrimp.

Crab Stuffed Shrimp

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

• 1/2 cup egg substitute
• 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
• 2 tablespoons light or low fat mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon oregano
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 pound lump crabmeat
• 1 pound large shrimp
• 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges

Peel shrimp, leaving tails on; devein and butterfly shrimp according to the directions above.
Place shrimp in a baking dish coated with cooking spray with the tail pointing up and the shrimp curved into a circle. (Fan the tail out for handle)
Mix first 7 ingredients and gently fold into crab meat. Place a spoonful of crab meat mixture on top of the circle. Top with fresh parmesan and place baking dish in 350 degree F. oven for 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Stuffed Shrimp Oreganata

  • 1 pound large shrimp (16-20 per pound)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
  • (made from Italian bread, crusts removed and processed into crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tail intact. To butterfly them, follow the directions above.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, spray with nonstick spray and arrange the shrimp in a single layer.
Heat the butter and the olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, soft and just beginning to turn golden – do not brown. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Mix well.
Spoon even portions of the breadcrumb mixture over each of the butterflied shrimp. Using your fingers, gently mold each portion of stuffing around the shrimp. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and opaque. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately.
Serves 4

Shrimp Parmigiana


 You will need the following amounts for 2 servings.  Recipe is easily doubled or tripled.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.  Spray a baking dish that fits the portion of shrimp you are making with cooking spray.

Place the egg substitute in a shallow bowl, and the Panko breadcrumbs in another.

Shrimp in Egg Bath.

Wash and dry the shrimp. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.   Put shrimp in the bowl with the egg substitute to coat and then into the breadcrumbs. Place in the baking dish.

Breading Shrimp with Panko

The shrimp can be prepared ahead up to this point.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.

Shrimp Ready to be Baked

Drizzle the top of the shrimp with the olive oil and bake on the middle oven rack for 12 minutes.

Shrimp after Baking in the Oven

 Pour sauce evenly over shrimp and then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Shrimp with sauce and cheese ready to return to the oven.

Return to the oven and heat just until cheese melts about 3-4 minutes.

Shrimp after Cheese has Melted

Shrimp Parmigiana served with Spaghetti


Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Spaghetti

In Italy the phrase “alla fra diavolo”, which means “in Brother Devil’s style,” refers to a dish in which chicken is sprinkled heavily with black pepper and then grilled.  In America, lobster fra diavolo became a popular restaurant dish in the 1930s—it was unknown in Italy, where they do not have American lobsters. The reference to “brother Devil” refers both to the red color of the lobster and the tomato sauce and to the hot bite provided by the chile pepper,  which suggests that this sauce might have originated with Abruzzese cooks who came to this country. Abruzzo is renowned for its hearty and spicy dishes that use hot red peppers, called diavolini (little devils) that grow well in that region of Italy. Crushed red chile peppers give this sauce a better flavor than cayenne pepper but you may need to adjust the amount based on your tolerance for hot peppers. I choose to make this dish with shrimp instead of lobster.

Sauce:
2 (28-ounce) containers Pomi chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt, taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Shrimp:
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 fresh basil leaves, torn into quarters
1 lb.spaghetti

In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the bay leaves and stir them in the oil until they begin to brown, about 10 seconds. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the onions, carrots, and oregano. Cook the vegetables until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent them from scorching.
Add the tomatoes, the tomato paste, salt and pepper, and clam juice.  Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered until the sauce thickens, about 1 to 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  Remove bay leaves.
Cook spaghetti according to package instructions.

Stir crushed red pepper into sauce and lay the shrimp in the sauce, increase the heat to medium, and simmer until the shrimp turn pink, 4 to 6 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, add basil and serve over spaghetti.

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As a child, I remember my father taking me with him when he went shopping on a Saturday morning, in what was, “the little Italy” neighborhood in our city. We would visit the Italian deli for cold cuts, Sorrento’s Bakery for bread, Sacco & Sons for sausage and a quick lunch trip to Spirito’s for a slice of pizza. I didn’t mind the excursion during the warm months because my father always bought me a lemon ice from one of the push cart venders. The neighborhood that I remember is no longer there, but eating lemon ice or sorbetto or gelato is timeless. The recipes for frozen ices and other Italian treats will keep you cool in the coming months, but light enough so you do not have to worry about the calories.

Gelato (Italian Ice Cream) has a very low butterfat content, which makes the flavors more intense on the tongue. In addition, less air is introduced into the mixture before it is frozen, creating a much more dense dessert that adds a surprising richness to the flavor. Gelato may be made with or without eggs, cornstarch or cream in its base and, frequently, has other ingredients such as fresh fruit or coffee added for flavor. I prefer to make gelato without raw eggs yolks, so another thickener, such as cornstarch, is needed.  There are numerous recipes around but the best recipe, I found for this version, is from Mark Bittman in The New York Times. It is easy, healthy and offers many flavor ideas but does not sacrifice taste.

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Gelato

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Ice Cream Maker

Put 2 cups milk, the sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into liquid, then add pod. Cook until mixture begins to steam.
In a bowl, blend cornstarch and remaining milk; there should be no lumps. Remove bean pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture to pot. Cook, stirring, until it starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in vanilla extract, if using.
If mixture has lumps, strain it into a bowl. Chill for 2 hours. When cool or if there are no lumps, pour into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yield: 1 generous pint.

Additions:

  • Honey-Jam Variation –  Substitute honey for half the sugar. Add 1/2 cup good jam to mixture before freezing.
  • Yogurt-Substitute yogurt for half the milk.
  • Cherry-Vanilla-Add 1 cup halved, pitted cherries just before freezing.
  • Strawberry, Blueberry or Peach-Add 1 cup hulled, sliced strawberries, blueberries, or peeled and chopped peaches before freezing.
  • Coffee-Substitute 1/2 cup very strong coffee for 1/2 cup milk.
  • Coconut-Substitute 1 cup coconut milk for 1 cup milk; add 1/2 cup toasted dried coconut.
  • Mint Chocolate Chip-Add 1/2 cup minced mint and 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate just before freezing.

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Fresh Strawberries With Limoncello

Limoncello has long been a staple in the lemon-producing region of the Italian Amalfi Coast, especially in Capri and Sorrento. Authentic Limoncello is made from Sorrento lemons that are grown in that region. Families in Italy have passed down recipes for generations, as every Italian family has their own Limoncello recipe.
When my son and daughter-in-law returned from a trip to Capri several years ago, they brought me back a bottle. Until that time, I had never heard of the product. I find it compliments many fruit desserts or adds another dimension to fruity drinks. Bottles of limoncello should be kept in the freezer until ready to serve.

Ingredients

  • 20 whole large fresh strawberries, cut into halves
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • fresh ground pepper
  •  Biscotti

Directions

Place cut strawberries in a bowl.

Pour over the liqueur, orange juice and sprinkle over with freshly ground pepper. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. 

Serve as is or with biscotti.

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Citrus Sorbetto

Makes a perfect palate cleanser.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice, fresh
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, fresh
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Zest of 1/2 orange

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil reduce and simmer just until the sugar is dissolved, let cool.

Stir together all the juices, zest and vanilla and add in the sugar syrup.  

Chill syrup & juice blend in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

You may serve the sorbetto right away or store it in the freezer.

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Ricotta With Berries

2 servings

Berries

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 10 strawberries, hulled and chopped ( or sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 

Ricotta

  • 6 ounces skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto
  • Garnish with mint leaves

Directions

Combine the berries with lemon juice and sugar. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 

Mix ricotta ingredients together. This may be done in a food processor, if a finer texture is desired.

Serve berries over a scoop of the ricotta and garnish with mint. Serving it in a martini or other decorative glass makes for a nice presentation.

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Strawberry and Ricotta Crepes

Serves 4

The crepes can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer, so that you can pull this dessert together quickly. This recipe also makes more crepes than you’ll need for the servings below.  Allow the extra crepes to cool, place waxed paper between them, stack and place in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

Other fresh seasonal fruits can be used instead of strawberries.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 ½ teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 2 cups (about 10 ounces) cleaned and sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh mint
  • Small pinch of salt

Crepes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Measure all crepe ingredients and place into a blender; blend for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Blend for 15 seconds more. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. (This helps the flour absorb more of the liquids.)  

Heat a crepe pan (or use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet). Lightly grease the pan.

Measure about 1/4 cup batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to spread the batter. Once the crepe has lots of little bubbles, loosen the edges with a spatula and turn the crepe over. The second side cooks quickly, so after about 15 seconds, slide the crepe from the pan to a plate. Repeat with remaining batter (yield: about 20 crepes).

Mix ricotta with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Mix strawberries gently with sugar, mint and salt. Set aside.

If the crepes were prepared earlier in the day or frozen and defrosted overnight, reheat them in the microwave for a minute or two until warm.

Spread 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture on one half of each of 8 warm crepes and fold to cover. Place two crepes on each serving plate.

Top with strawberries, dust with powdered sugar and serve.

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Lemon Biscotti With Lemon Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2  cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1  cup pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl.

Combine zest, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, lemon extract, oil and eggs. Add to the flour mixture, stirring until well-blended.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 to 8 times. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into an 8-inch-long roll.

Place rolls 6 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; flatten each roll to 1-inch thickness. Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the rolls from the baking sheet; cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 15 (1/2-inch) slices.

Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F; bake for 10 minutes.

Turn cookies over; bake an additional 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool).

Remove from baking sheet and cool completely on wire rack.

Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice and powdered sugar; drizzle over the biscotti.

If you’re making enough to freeze, store them in the freezer without the drizzle, then make it just before serving.

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Tangerine and Prosecco Sorbet

“Italian Champagne” – Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from late-ripening white grapes from the Veneto – Conegliano – Valdobbiadene region of Italy.

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups chilled tangerine juice or tangerine orange juice
  • 1 cup chilled Prosecco
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated tangerine peel

Directions

Combine sugar and water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and bring to boil.

Transfer syrup to medium bowl and chill until cold, about 2 hours.

Add tangerine juice and Prosecco to syrup; whisk to blend well. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Transfer sorbet to a freezer container. Cover tightly with a lid and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. 

DO AHEAD:  Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen. Divide sorbet among wine goblets or dessert glasses.


The cuisine of Italy changes as you move from region to region (even sometimes, from city to nearby city), with each area having unique recipes, specialties and culinary traditions. Most households in Italy reserve a meal or two for beans, just as they include specific days for meat, pasta or fish. Beans play an essential role in Italian cooking and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture.  

Beans contain a wealth of fiber both soluble and insoluble and contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein contentItaly, also, boasts a rich tradition of bread soups, which was born out of necessity.  In the past people were much too poor to throw away stale bread, therefore, they had to devise ways to make it edible, such as working it into a soup.  Vegetables also play an important part in Italian soups. Soups are always made from scratch and include the freshest of ingredients, so the soup recipe can change, depending on what vegetables are in season. That is why you will often see recipes for Summer, Fall or Winter Minestrone. Pasta and rice are also common additions.

Soups in the Italian cuisine can be light, clear ones or thicker purees and even stews-like. Vegetable soups are usually served during spring and summer and somet are served cold. Hearty soups include minestrones, bean and sauerkraut soup, garlic bread soup, chickpeas and string-beans soups, Supa de Scigol, a specific Milanese onion soup, and Zuppa di Primavera, an Italian specialty made with vegetables, potatoes and bits of pasta. Meat is also used in Italian soups, especially pancetta. Beef, chicken and pork are used for thick hearty soups served with cream, while fish is used for lighter spicier soups served with pasta bits and onion rings. Most soups are accompanied by bread, and are seasoned with cheese and parsley, dill, basil or oregano.  The soup recipes included in this post are classic, hearty, country soups that have been part of the Italian cuisine for centuries.

Italian Wedding Soup

The Italian Wedding Soup, is one of those Old World dishes that comes complete with a colorful story. Serve a bowl, fill your head with images of folks in colorful native dress, dancing in circles to celebrate wedding joy while somebody plays the accordion and grandfathers smoking cigars and clapping their hands.

Great story, great image. There’s just one little problem. It is not really true. This hearty soup is Italian all right, but at least historically, it has nothing to do with weddings. With regional variations from Rome to Abbruzzi to Naples, this peasant dish earned the Neapolitan name “Minestra Maritata” or “married soup,” not because of any connection with weddings but simply because it brings together meat and greens in a happy marriage.

But the old name stuck, and over time – more in Italian-American culture than in the Old Country – it became the custom to serve it at wedding feasts, simply because the name prompted the tradition. It’s certainly not restricted to wedding meals and is often served during the holidays, on cold winter days, or just about any time you’re in the mood for a hearty, healthy soup.

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots (3 carrots)
  • 3/4 cup diced celery (2 stalks)
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2-32 oz cartons low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup small tubular pasta, such as ditalini
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
  • 10 ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Meatballs
Pour the milk over the bread crumbs and rest ten minutes. Add the ground turkey, garlic, parsley, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, egg substitute, ½  teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork.
With a teaspoon, form 1 inch meatballs and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 30 minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Soup
Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, zucchini and celery and saute until softened, 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the pasta to the simmering broth and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

Add the fresh basil and meatballs to the soup and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the fresh spinach and cook until the meatballs and spinach are hot.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls and sprinkle each serving with extra grated Parmesan.

Ribollita

Tuscan Farm


Most Tuscan food is rustic and hearty; nothing fancy. Grilled meats, brothy soups and beans are featured prominently, for example, the simple ribollita. While this is now a staple in restaurants in Tuscany and elsewhere, its roots are clearly in the home — or the farmhouse.
Classic ribollita is actually not one dish, but three. It started out as a minestra, a simple vegetable soup with greens and white beans. The next day, leftovers of of the minestra were extended with pieces of stale bread to make minestra di pane. On the third day, the soup was reheated (ribollita means “reboiled”).  As is typical with most soups, the flavors meld and improve with time. No matter which phase of its life you are consuming, be sure to serve it with a drizzle of very good, fresh, fruity olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1- 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound cavolo nero (lacinato kale, Tuscan kale), stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
  • 4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini, see post https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/23/how-to-use-beans-in-italian-cooking/
  • 1/2 pound Italian bread (such as ciabatta), crusts removed
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions

In a thick-bottomed soup pot over medium heat combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and onion. Cook for 10-15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid browning them. Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up a bit. Stir in the kale, 3 cups of the beans, and 8 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a small amount of water until smooth. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Stir both the beans and bread into the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 – 30 minutes. Stir in the salt, taste and add more if needed. Stir in the lemon zest.

Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate overnight. Serve reheated the next day and finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes 10 servings.

Pasta e Fagioli

Palladio’s Bridge

Fagioli, also known as” pasta fazool”, is a typical dish of the Italian table. In nearly every region, province and village you will find a version of this pasta and bean soup.
Pasta e Fagioli originated as a peasant dish, due to the wide availability of pasta and beans.  Italians, often, use legumes in their cooking, but they are most widely used in the regions of central Italy: Tuscany, Abruzzo, Umbria and Lazio.  However, the Veneto region, located in the northeastern corner of the boot, is well known for their version of Pasta e Fagioli. The traditional bean variety used in Pasta e Fagioli is the borlotti bean (also known as the cranberry bean).  Many specialty grocery stores,
such as Whole Foods, sell cranberry beans.  Cranberry beans have a white and deep pink marbled pattern on their skins, and when cooked, their taste is similar to that of chestnuts, however, any white bean will be good in this soup.

This Italian soup–which has as many variations as there are cooks—is chock full of pasta, beans, and vegetables, making it a hearty one-dish meal. Serves 8.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups dried white beans cooked
  • see post for instructions:  https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/23/how-to-use-beans-in-italian-cooking/
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium celery ribs, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon. dried rosemary
  • 1 quart lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1-28 oz. container Italian chopped tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup ditalini (or other small pasta)
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste 

Serving garnishes:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • Chopped basil

Directions

In a 6-quart (or larger) soup pot over medium heat oil and add the onions, carrots and celery to the pot and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, beans, tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the ditalini according to the package directions and drain. Add to the soup with the parsley and crushed red pepper. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with garnishes: olive oil, cheese, basil and parsley

Pappa al Pomodoro

Siena in Tuscany

Pappa al pomodoro is a traditional farmer recipe invented by peasant housewives in Tuscany to avoid wasting stale bread. The recipe was also made famous thanks to a hit song by Rita Pavone, “Viva la pappa col pomodoro” (1965)
Pappa al pomodoro – a rustic Tuscan tomato bread soup – is an excellent example of the Italian belief – “never throw anything away, especially bread!”

Most likely created in the Sienese hills, pappa al pomodoro can now be found throughout central Italy.  Authentic pappa al pomodoro requires the unsalted Tuscan bread as a base, and the extra virgin olive oil of the region.  Pappa al pomodoro is delicious cold or hot, and  is never eaten with Parmesan or any other cheese in Italy, but in the US cheese has become customary.
The preparation varies from family to family, and some variations may include onion, leek, carrot, celery, chili or rosemary. This version is more of a basic ‘pappa al pomodoro,’ which can be modified to suit your preference.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced Italian bread cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) containers Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • Diced Italian bread cubes, toasted
  • Whole fresh basil leaves
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.

Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
Puree the soup with a hand blender or in the processor. Reheat and serve with the soup sprinkled with the toppings and olive oil drizzled over the top.


           Grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook, if you do it right!

By choosing foods that are low in fat, high in nutrients and full of flavor you can get great meals that are also healthy. Use marinades, not only to add extra flavor, but also to reduce the formation of cancer causing substances on foods. A marinade containing olive oil and/or citrus juices can reduce the formation of these chemicals by as much as 99% and, since, marinades tenderize meats, you will have a much better meal.

There has been a lot of talk about grilling and cancer. While the risk is real and you really need to keep this in mind, there are some simple things you can do to greatly reduce the cancer risk.  Two primary substances, Heterocyclic Amines (HCA) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are chemicals that form on  food, primarily meats, when they come  in contact with intense heat and flame. They are known cancer causing agents, so you need to reduce their formation, as much as you can. HCAs and PAHs are formed mostly from fat. Either by fat being heated to extreme temperatures or by the smoke created by fat burning. For the most part, this applies to meat fats and not just the grease and fat from what you are cooking, but from the build up on the bottom of your grill.

Scientists at the Food Safety Consortium project at Kansas State University have discovered that herbs of the Lamiaceae family (basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage) used in marinades, reduced HCA formation dramatically.   These herbal antioxidants reduce the formation of chemicals when meat is grilled and, also happen to be,  herbs traditionally used in Italian cooking.


To reduce the risks follow these basic tips:

  • Keep your grill clean. A clean grill not only cooks better it is safer in every way.
  • Trim excess fats from foods. These fats are the troublemaker, so keep it to a minimum.
  • Use marinades based on olive oil and/or citrus juices.
  • Avoid flare-ups. Flare-ups burn foods and this increases HCA formation.
  • Don’t overcook foods. The charred bits on foods are the largest sources of PAHs and HCAs, so if you have charred sections of meat cut them off.
  • Use herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sage to add flavor and reduce HCA formation in foods.
  • Grill extra vegetables to accompany meats. They do not form HCAs like meats do, plus the antioxidants they contain may help to lessen some of the damage HCAs and other cooking toxins cause in your body.

 Appetizers

Clams Oreganato on the Grill

Serves 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 cup Progresso Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped very fine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 cherrystone or littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 3-4 tablespoons low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat grill and coat the rack with vegetable oil.  Dip each closed clam in water (this will add steam) and place on the grill so that none of the clams are overlapping. Close cover and grill for approximately 4-5 minutes or until clam shells open. Check often for clams that have popped open. Remove clams  with tongs to a platter as soon as they open their shells.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt. Add the olive oil and stir until well combined. Add enough of the chicken stock to moisten the bread crumbs..

Top the bottom half of the clams with the bread crumb mixture, dividing mixture evenly on top of each clam, and place back on the grill. Close grill cover and for about 1 minute or until just heated through. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Origins of Bruschetta

Bruschetta comes to us from Central Italy where it’s chiefly eaten as an appetizer or snack. The most basic bruschetta begins with tomatoes, good quality olive oil, garlic, vinegar, and onions.  Depending on the combinations of ingredients you use, you can take this dish, from such a basic foundation, to one that is a uniquely- flavored creation.

Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta

1 small eggplant (1/2 – 3/4 pound)
1 small zucchini summer squash
1 large meaty tomato (about 1/2 pound)
1 red bell pepper
1 Vidalia onion, peeled
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
6-1″ thick slices fresh Italian bread
1 cup (about 4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
Balsamic vinegar

Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the squash into long diagonal 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the  onion and tomato into crosswise 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the pepper into quarters.  Season vegetables with kosher salt, pepper and brush with olive oil. Brush bread slices with a little oil.
Put all the vegetables on the grill, except the tomato. Grill on medium high heat until cooked through and grill marks are formed, about 10 minutes. Grill the tomato slices about 2 minutes.
Grill one side of bread until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Remove bread and vegetables from grill.  While the bread is hot, rub the toasted side of each piece with garlic .
Chop vegetables into very small dice and add basil. Serve chopped vegetables on bread slices, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Main Dishes

Spinach Pesto

  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy.  Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper to taste.  This pesto freezes well if you have it leftover.

Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts

Prepare grill and oil grates.
Brush 4 boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  

Grill 5 minutes each side..  Top with a tablespoon or two of Spinach Pesto.
Spinach Pesto is also goes well with grilled scallops.

Grilled Fennel-Garlic Pork Chops

Fennel seed and pork are a fairly typical Italian combination.

  • 1 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons  olive oil
  • 4 (¾-inch-thick) loin bone-in pork chops
  • Vegetable oil for brushing grill rack

Grind the fennel seeds and crushed red pepper flakes in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (or, if you don’t have either of those, in a plastic bag with a rolling pin). Combine them in a  bowl with the garlic, salt and enough of the olive oil to make a paste.

Pat the chops dry with paper towels, then spread the fennel-garlic paste over both sides of the chops. Let sit for 30 minutes (or up to a few hours, if you put them in the refrigerator;  bring back to room temperature before cooking).

Grill the chops for 1-2 minutes per side over a hot fire, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 5-10 minutes, turning once or twice, until the internal temperature reaches at least 137 F. Let sit for a few minutes. Serve with a green salad.   4 servings

Grilled Bone-in Chicken Breasts and Legs with Tomato Olive BBQ Sauce

Tomato Olive Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup Kalamata olives, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tablespoons steak sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Sambuca, (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste

Instructions:

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, reduce heat, cover, sweat in the oil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic,  stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the red wine and balsamic vinegar, tomato puree, tomato paste, olives, honey, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, Sambuca, and salt and pepper.
  • Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and let cool down to room temperature.

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in chicken breasts and 4 chicken legs with thighs attached

Instructions:

  • Prepare grill for medium indirect grilling.
  • Brush each piece of chicken with barbecue sauce.
  • Grill indirectly until juices run clear, about 15 to 20 minutes.  The chicken needs to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill, cover and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
  • Serve with remaining BBQ sauce for dipping.

Swordfish Kabobs

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds swordfish steaks, cut into 1-inch pieces (try to get 12 evenly cut cubes.)
4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
12 (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper
12 cherry tomatoes
Vegetable oil

Combine first 10 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; add swordfish fish cubes. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.
Prepare grill and oil grates. Remove fish from bag; discard marinade. Thread swordfish cubes, onions, and bell pepper alternately onto each of 4 (10-inch) skewers. Thread cherry tomatoes on a fifth skewer and set aside.
Place swordfish kabobs on grill and grill 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once. After 4 minutes, place the tomatoes on the grill and rotate after two minutes. Serve tomatoes with fish kabobs and garnish with lemon slices. Serve with rice.
Serves 4.


Florentine Steak

Bistecca alla Fiorentina is traditionally made using T-bone or Porterhouse steaks, but you could make it with rib eyes, strip loins, sirloin, or even fillet steak.
As long as the meat is of a very high quality (organic, grassfed is best), it will taste delicious, even if it’s not entirely authentic!  It is healthy only if you keep portions small – about 4 oz. per person.
The marinating time is quite long, so make sure you start this dish at least a day before you want to eat it.


  • 2 10 oz. T-bone steaks
  • 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar or lemon
  • High quality extra virgin olive oil


Put the steak in a shallow dish. Mix together the olive oil, rosemary, and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the steak, cover  and let rest in the refrigerator to marinate for 24 to 48 hours.
Heat a grill until it is very hot. Grill the meat to taste, turning to cook the steak evenly on both sides. Traditional Bistecca alla Fiorentina is served rare to medium-rare; test for doneness using an instant-read thermometer.  Cook to an internal temperature of 130 to 135°F for medium-rare or an internal temperature of 120 to 125°F for rare.

Remove steaks from grill, and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice steak across grain, then place slices on heated dinner plates.   Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil and shave some parmesan cheese over the top. Season to taste and serve. Good with an Arugula Salad.
Serves 4 or more

Dessert

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese

  • 4 firm, ripe peaches, pitted and halved
  • olive oil for brushing the cut sides of the peaches
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 8 teaspoons fig jam
  • Mint leaves

Brush peaches lightly with olive oil. Place the peaches on a greased grill rack, cut side down, and do not move the peaches in order to get grill marks on them. It takes about 2 to 3 minutes per side to get those grill marks.  Continue grilling the peaches until slightly softened and heated through, about 5 to 6 minutes total. Turn the peaches over and warm a minute or two.

Mix together the mascarpone cheese, Amaretto and honey.
To serve peaches, place a teaspoon of fig jam in the hollow where the pit had been and top each with a tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture.  Decorate with mint leaves.


Making_Olive_Oil_HeaderImage

The pressing of olives to make olive oil dates back to about 3000 B.C.. Historians generally believe that the olive tree originated in Ancient Greece and spread throughout the Mediterranean region as the Greeks and Phoenicians explored the territory. Cato, a Roman author, described the agricultural techniques for growing olives in his writings about the second century B.C.
The olive tree is a unique type of evergreen that grows in subtropical climates in both the northern and southern hemispheres. It grows between 10 and 40 feet tall and produces small clusters of white flowers in late spring which eventually grow into olives. Similar to grape vines, olive trees do not start producing olives until the age of eight; however, even then these olives cannot be used. The olive tree must mature until the age of at least fifteen for it to produce a worthwhile crop, but once this stage is hit, the olive tree will produce olives for the next 65 years and continue to live for long after that, even for several hundred years. There are hundreds of varieties of olive trees, each excelling in the production of different products. Italy is the second leading producer of olives following Spain.A Man Harvesting an Olive Tree

Olive harvesting takes place at different times depending on the area. In most of the Mediterranean olive harvesting occurs in the months of November, December, and January; however, in the more Northern areas such as Tuscany, olive harvesting must be carried out earlier due to early frosts.  The different times in which olives are harvested results in the different tastes of each region’s olive oil. The younger olives of Tuscany result in a peppery taste. Similarly their young age produces less oil making their olive oil a premium commodity. Since each olive contains about 20 percent oil it takes an average of around 200 olives to produce one liter of olive oil.


Unlike most products these days, olives are one of the few industries in which mechanization is not usually present. This is due to the fact that olives are easily damaged resulting in a lower quality of oil. It is believed that the quality of oil decreases with the increase of mechanization. Since olives must be treated gently, better olive oils are more expensive because they must be hand picked. There are two different ways to hand pick olives. The first way is considered to be the best method because it will result in the less damage to the olives which will produce the best quality of olive oil; however this also means that it is the most expensive. This method involves hand picking the olives and placing them directly into a basket. The second method involves handing picking the olives but letting them drop to the ground onto a net.Farm worker with fresh olives

Immediately after the harvesting is completed the olives are taken to a frantoio, which is a communal mill. Since the frantoio is  communal, each farmer must make an appointment for his pressing. It is important that the olives do not stay in the baskets for too long, since the risk of spoiling is very high.  Olives are usually stored in their baskets, for no longer, than a day. Each farmer has great pride for his olives and his olive oil, therefore, it is very common for the farmer to accompany his own olives throughout the production process to ensure that only his olives go into his pressing.  A farmer’s main concern when going to the frantoio is the yield of oil obtained per olive and the percent of acidity.

Before any processing can occur, the olives must first be washed to remove extra leaves and stems. The next step is the grinding of the olives. This grinding process involves the crushing of the entire olive including the skin and the pit by a large granite wheel. This process results in a sort of olive paste which is then put through the mixing stage. This stage is most important, since it has the most effect on the outcome of the olive oil. This process is done very slowly to ensure the consistency of the oil. Next the liquid must be extracted from the remaining paste through the process of pressing. Pressing results in a liquid that must be separated into water and oil. Once this process is completed, the olive oil will be stored in steel tanks and stored in a cool place before bottling.

Olive oil is graded according to factors in the pressing process and the quality of the oil. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the finest grade, and this grade is given to oil that comes from the first pressing. In Italy, the method used, is cold pressing (in which no heat is used above about 60 degrees Fahrenheit). Heat destroys antioxidants, so cold pressed oils are the healthiest.

Today, olive oil has gained importance for the health benefits it provides, but to the people of the Mediterranean, olive oil has always played a leading role in their diet and way of life. The Mediterranean Diet is based on the use of olive oil, which is believed to be the reason for their lower rate of heart disease. It is considered a healthy oil because it is a mono-unsaturated fat with high amounts of antioxidants and low amounts of cholesterol.  However, this is not the reason that olive oil plays such a large role in the Mediterranean regions.  Olive oil is what gives such a distinct taste to the Italian cuisine. While the recent popularity of olive oil is based on the newly discovered health benefits, olive oil is valued in Italy for its taste above everything else. The Italian diet is heavily based on the use of olive oil and would not be the same without it.Milling_Yield

Olive oil lasts about 18-24 months. If stored in a sunny spot, expect less than 12 months. If stored in a dark spot and cooler than room temperature, the oil will last a long time. For best every day storage, find a spot in your kitchen close at hand, but away from heat and light. For longer storage, refrigeration is best.  Exposure to light and heat can turn olive oil rancid. This destroys the healthy, antioxidant properties of the oil. Most oils are sold in darkly tinted bottles.

‘Olive Oil History’ The Global Gourmet ®. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.    

How to Use Olive Oil in Your Cooking

When you are using less fat in your cooking, you want the fat, you do use to be flavorful and add taste to your food. This can be accomplished with a fruity, extra-virgin olive oil, especially if the oil will be used in salad dressings or drizzled on a dish just before serving or on grilled bread for bruschetta.  When using olive oil for sauteing ingredients as the foundation of a dish, I generally use a lighter, less expensive oil.

Flavored  and infused oil can be expensive but they have great flavor.  You can make such specialty flavored oils at home and save money. Homemade infused oils will not keep as long as processed ones. Use your herb-infused olive oil within two months.

To begin, you need to first determine what type of mixtures you would like. Try to think of what herbs usually work well together.  A blend of savory herbs such as thyme and rosemary can also benefit from some peppercorns and a bay leaf or two, resulting in a savory blend for roasting meats. You will also need to determine whether you will be using fresh herbs or dry herbs. You’ll receive a better flavor from fresh herbs, but the potential for spoilage is greater after a few months time; while oils mixed with dry herbs can last far longer, but the flavor will not be as strong.  For storage, you will want to find jars that can be sealed completely. I have found that jars with rubber stoppers are better than metal lids and stoppers, as the metal can corrode over time or affect the taste of the oil.

Herb-infused Olive Oil

  • Choose your herbs and spices.  Some suggestions for herbs and spices are rosemary, garlic, basil, bay, chives, dill, mint, marjoram, tarragon and thyme.  Try a few different combinations and make a few different bottles. Gather together the herbs you will be using. You should have enough to fill 1/4 of the jar or bottle.
  • Wash and dry your herbs. After washing, leave your herbs out to dry. Pat; soaking up as much moisture as you can. Leave the herbs to continue to dry in the sun or overnigh on your counter, if you can. Bacteria cannot grow in the olive oil, but it can grow on any water left on the herbs over time, therefore, the problem of spoilage and foodborne illnesses when using fresh herbs, can develop. As long as you allow time for your herbs to have completely dried, your mixture will be fine.
  • Slightly tear or chop the herbs so that they begin to release their aroma and flavors.
  • Heat the extra-virgin olive oil over a low flame until it is warm. Not hot, simply warm. This can best be done in a small stock pot or saucepan.
  • Stuff the herbs into a sterilized bottle or bottles. A little goes a very long way, so there’s no need to overly stuff each bottle.
  • Pour the warm oil into the bottles over the herbs and spices. Let the bottles sit for a while until cool. If you use garlic, be sure to refrigerate the oil, rather than store it in a cool dark place, to avoid botulism.
  • Place a cork or rubber stopper into the bottle. Then set the bottle in a cool dark place for about a week.
  • After a week, strain out the herbs and spices.  Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer, discarding solids. This oil should continue to be stored out of direct sunlight and in a cool dark place.
  • Don’t use infused oils for frying. If heated, the flavor compounds can break down and become bitter. Instead, add them at the end of cooking or to cold dishes.
How to use infused oils
  • As a dip for bread.
  • Drizzle over tomatoes.
  • Toss cooked pasta or rice.
  • Brush fish or chicken with infused oil before grilling.
  • Drizzle over popcorn for snack

Italian Herb Flavored Oil      

2 cups extra virgin olive oil, warmed on the stove
4 sprigs fresh oregano
4 sprigs fresh basil
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons crushed dried red pepper
Follow directions above.


Some sample recipes for infusing oil:

Basil Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh basil.
Mint Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh mint
Dill Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh dill.
Oregano Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh oregano.
Thyme Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh thyme leaves.
Chive Oil: Use 1 cup chopped fresh chives; reduce oil to 3/4 cup
Sage Oil: Use 1/2 cup chopped fresh sage.
Rosemary Oil: Use 1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary.
Black Pepper Oil: Use 1/2 cup coarsely ground black pepper.
Ginger Oil: Place 1/3 cup chopped fresh ginger in a heatproof container. Heat oil, and
pour over ginger.
Chile Pepper Oil: Crumble 2 dried red chile peppers, and place in a heatproof container.
Heat oil, and pour over chiles.

Lemon Infused Olive Oil

This is excellent drizzled over cooked vegetables

  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup olive oil

Preparation:

  1. Scrub lemon clean and dry thoroughly. Use a very sharp paring knife or peeler to remove the zest – just the bright yellow part of the peel, avoiding the bitter white pith immediately below – from the lemon.
  2. Put lemon zest and olive oil in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. Do not allow oil to simmer. Keep the oil just below a simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove oil from heat and let cool.
  3. Strain lemon zest out of the oil and put the now lemon-infused oil in a clean jar. Store in a cool, dark place.

Roasted Carrots with Lemon Infused Olive Oil

Yield: 2

1 bunch fresh whole carrots
1 tablespoon Lemon Infused Olive Oil
Couple pinches of Kosher salt
Couple turns of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim and scrub the carrots with a vegetable brush. Dry them and them place on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and black pepper. Toss with your hands to coat the carrots with the oil.
Roast at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. you will want to check the carrots after 10 minutes and turn them over to ensure that they brown evenly. Remove when they are nicely caramelized.

Lemon Olive Oil Cake                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

2 small lemons
1 cup sugar
Scant 1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with olive oil cooking spray.. Grate zest from 2 lemons and place in a bowl with sugar. Using your fingers, rub ingredients together until lemon zest is evenly distributed in sugar.

Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into a measuring cup; you will need 1/4 cup. Add yogurt to juice until you have 2/3 cup liquid altogether. Pour mixture into bowl with sugar and whisk well. Whisk in eggs and olive oil.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake cake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until it is golden and a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then unmold and cool to room temperature right-side up.
Good with sliced strawberries.

Quinoa, Corn, and Tomato Salad with Chive-Infused Oil

Flavored oil coats the quinoa grains and lends the salad a fresh chive flavor. Refrigerate leftover oil to use as a dressing or to drizzle over grilled fish or summer vegetables. Garnish with whole fresh chives, if desired.
6 servings (serving size: 2/3 cup)

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa ( or any grain of your choice)
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Chive-Infused Oil, see below
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced


Combine 1 1/2 cups water and quinoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Combine quinoa, corn, tomatoes, and parsley in a medium bowl. Combine Chive-Infused Oil and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over salad; toss well to coat. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Chive-infused Oil

or you can use the chive infused oil made according to the directions above

3/4 cup (serving size: 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (1-inch) slices fresh chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a blender; pulse 6 times or until chives are very finely minced. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard solids. Store in refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.



       ” The shapes pasta takes are numbered in the hundreds, and the sauces that can

              be devised for them are beyond numbering, but the principles that bring pasta

  and sauce together in satisfying style are few and simple.”

      Marcella Hazan

Pasta comes in many shapes and lengths and there are hundreds of combinations of pastas and sauces. These pairings may seem random, but to Italians, there’s a surprisingly logical process that goes into choosing the perfect pasta shape for a given sauce.

You would not want to pair a chunky sauce with thin noodles because the sauce will separate from the noodles and wind up in the bottom of the bowl. Meat sauces or other chunky sauces are best with larger hollow tubes such as rigatoni and penne, or in the cupped shape of conchiglie (shells). Spaghettini, thin spaghetti, is usually the best vehicle for an olive oil based seafood sauce. Many tomato sauces work better with thicker, hollow strands known as bucatini or perciatelli.  Fusilli is excellent with a dense, creamy sauce, that clings to all its twists and curls.
Here is a link to a chart that gives you a picture of the various pasta shapes and the sauces that go well with them:. http://www.chow.com/assets/2009/03/pasta_chart.pdf

Did you know there is a reason why you might use ruffle-edged lasagna noodles instead of flat-edged? In the book, The Geometry of Pasta, is the explanation that lasagne ricci, the ruffled noodles, may allow lighter sauces to penetrate the dish better. It is also more decorative, which may be why it is a staple of the Christmas table in Sicily. http://www.geometryofpasta.co.uk/index.php

Here are some well-matched pasta and sauce recipes for you to try.

eggplant2bbolognese-close

Eggplant Bolognese

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • Kosher salt, divided
  •  1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground sirloin or ground turkey, (leave out for a vegetarian meal)
  • 8 cups chopped eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) container Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 10 ounces uncooked rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Directions

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and beef; cook 10 minutes or until the beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef.

Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding kosher salt to the cooking water. Drain. Toss pasta with the eggplant sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

fettuccine asparagus

Creamy Fettuccine With Asparagus

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound fettuccine
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and diagonally sliced
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Italian Fontina
  • Salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted walnuts

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fettuccine and cook for 6 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the asparagus, and cook 4 to 6 minutes more, or until the fettuccine is al dente and asparagus crisp-tender. Scoop out 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water and reserve. Drain the pasta and asparagus and return to the cooking pot; cover to keep warm.

Combine milk and flour, whisking until smooth.  Meanwhile, in a medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat oil and garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, about 5 minutes, or until thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Whisk in the cream cheese and Fontina until smooth and blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss, adding pasta water to moisten, if necessary. Sprinkle with the walnuts.

angelhair

Angel Hair Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

Optional: add 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp to the skillet when adding the tomatoes

Ingredients

 

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered 
  • 5-6 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • Salt to taste
  • 16 oz. package angel hair pasta
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
Directions
Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and pepper flakes to the skillet.
Add the cherry tomatoes and basil. (Add shrimp, if using.)  Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt.
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with the sauce.
Garnish with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.
lasagna

Spinach Mushroom Lasagna

Ingredients      

  • 9 uncooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) finely shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon water or red wine
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced (or large Portabellas, chopped)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
  • 1 recipe homemade marinara sauce, see post for recipe: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain noodles and lay out on clean kitchen towels.

In a large bowl stir together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and black pepper; set aside.

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray, add 1 tablespoon water (or wine) and sauté mushrooms and onion over medium heat 5–6 minutes, or until onion is tender.

 Stir in spinach and set aside.

Coat an 11″ x 7″ baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer 3 noodles, half of the cheese mixture, half of the spinach mixture and 1/3 of pasta sauce. Repeat layers.

Top with remaining 3 noodles and remaining pasta sauce.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes more, or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 8 servings.

tuna

Italian Style Pasta with Tuna

 Ingredients                         

  • 4 oz. whole-wheat spiral pasta
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, preferably red, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup seeded and diced fresh plum tomatoes
  • 12 sun-dried tomato-halves, packed in oil, drained and minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 can (15 oz.) rinsed and drained cannellini beans, or cooked dried beans, see post
  • https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/23/how-to-use-beans-in-italian-cooking/
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tuna, well-drained
  • 1 tablespoon small capers, rinsed and drained
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, about 1 minute.

Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside. Mix the sun-dried tomatoes and plum tomatoes with the onion mixture. Add oregano and pepper flakes to taste.

Add beans, tuna and capers to the skillet and cook, breaking up tuna, until the mixture is completely heated through. Mix in the tomatoes and the onion/garlic mixture.

Cook, stirring often, until completely heated through. Add cooked pasta and heat through, tossing to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with parsley.

Makes 6 servings.   


When I was growing up, my maternal grandparents lived in the same city as I did in New Jersey.  They had a large house ( because they needed it for 7 daughters) and a large yard. My grandfather was a great gardener and he loved it.  He could make anything grow and was eager to share his bounties with you.  He had row after row of stunning roses, gladioli and lilies of the valley. Whenever I went to his house, he would send me home with a big bunch of whatever flowers were in season or a bag of zucchini and tomatoes.  I loved that my grandfather had such a gift. After my husband and I bought our first house that was not too far from his house, he would come over and spruce up my yard for me. He saved a great, little magnolia tree in the center of my yard and, boy, did my tomato plants thrive. Wish I could remember, now, what he did to those tomatoes to make them so fine.

Italians have had a very close relationship with food throughout history, but the famine endured by most Italians during World War II, shaped their cuisine into a more simple and inexpensive one. The hardship of war meant that Italians grew vegetables in their own backyard gardens, even if the garden was only 10 yards across. Owning land and the cultivation of a vegetable garden have always been popular for Italians and a right they have taken full advantage of in Italy and in the US.

My grandfather certainly espoused that philosophy and most of his yard was dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables. He even grew grapes – for wine, of course. The grapes, he grew, were white and light red, but I don’t recall what kind of grapes they were. He would cut off a bunch, usually the white ones, with his pocket pen knife and hand them to me for a snack.  I would eat a couple but they tasted awful – tart and full of seeds. I would eat a few because I did not want to hurt his feelings.  He was very proud of those grapes.

The grapes were grown on a trellis that overlooked a large bench he had for sitting in his yard. The trellis was impressive and I would sit there under all those grapes and feel quite cozy in what felt like another world.  My grandfather did make wine with those grapes and he would bring the wine to Sunday dinner, usually in a big jug. My father would put the jug on the floor near his feet and occasionally hoist the jug up and fill the glasses on the table – not mine, of course. You may have heard that European children drink wine with dinner, but not in our house. Wine was for grown-ups.  I remember my mother passing on my grandfather’s wine, saying, it was a bit too strong for her, but my father and grandfather enjoyed it.

Using Wine in Your Recipes

The function of wine in cooking is to intensify and enhance the flavor and aroma of food – not to mask the flavor of what you are cooking but rather to fortify it.  Use wines in your cooking that you would drink for dinner.   Wines, labeled cooking wines, are not quality wines and they often contain salt and food coloring.
When you take some of the fat out of dishes, you usually need to add another ingredient to replace the lost moisture. Here are some examples of how wine can do just that:

  • Instead of sauteing veggies in butter or oil, you can saute them in a smaller amount of oil plus some wine for flavor and moisture.
  • Instead of making a marinade with 1/2 cup of oil, decrease the oil to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup wine.
  • You can add wine to the pan while fish is cooking or drizzle fish with a tablespoon or two of wine and bake it in a foil package
  • For certain types of cakes, using wine or sherry in place of some of the fat not only lightens up the cake but adds flavor.
The following recipes use wine in their preparation and range from appetizers to desserts.

Appetizer course 

Italian Octopus Stewed in Wine and Tomatoes

This is a recipe for Southern Italian stewed octopus with white wine and tomatoes. Octopus requires long, slow simmering over low heat to keep it tender. Serve with crusty bread. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb small octopus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes or peeled, chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the octopus to the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove. Discard water.
Cut the octopus into pieces and saute in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and saute for another minute or two.
Add the wine and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir well and let it cook down for 3-4 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and chili flakes and bring to a simmer.
Add the salt and the honey.  Mix well, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the capers and half the parsley.
Check the octopus — sometimes small ones will be tender in just 30 minutes.
If they are still super-chewy, cover the pot again and simmer for up to another 45 minutes.
When you think you are about 10 minutes away from being done, uncover the pot and turn the heat up a little to cook down the sauce.
To serve, add the remaining parsley, basil and black pepper.

Soup Course

Zuppa di Cipolle:  Italian Onion Soup

Ingredients:

  • 5 large yellow onions 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 6 cups beef stock, low sodium
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices country-style bread, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated or shaved

Directions:
Peel the onions and cut in half.  Thinly slice the onions crosswise.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the diced pancetta and cook for about 3-5 minutes until some of the fat has been rendered.
Add in the sliced onions, stir. Cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and slowly cook the onions until tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir often.
Stir in the stock and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Toast the bread slices.  Rub the toasted slices with garlic. Place the bread slices in individual soup bowls. Pour the soup over the bread.
Either sprinkle grated cheese or shave cheese over the soup. If your bowls are oven proof, you can then place them under the broiler until the cheese melts.

Second Course

Osso Buco is another traditional dish that uses veal, in this case, veal shanks. There are many recipes for Osso Buco that also use pork, beef or lamb shanks. Turkey thighs are not traditional but create the same effect and contain less fat than shanks.

Turkey Osso Bucco

Ingredients

  • 6 turkey thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 carrots, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 5-6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 large sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Pat the turkey with paper towels to dry and ensure even browning. Season the turkey with salt and pepper and dredge the turkey in the flour to coat.

In a heavy roasting pan large enough to fit the turkey thighs in a single layer, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the turkey and cook until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer the turkey to a plate and reserve.

In the same pan, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season vegetables with salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer about 3 minutes.

Return the turkey to the pan. Add enough chicken broth to come 2/3 up the sides of the turkey. Add the herb sprigs, and bay leaf to the broth mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan tightly with foil and transfer to the oven.

Braise until the turkey is fork-tender about 2 hours, turning the turkey after 1 hour. Serve this dish over risotto or polenta with a side of green peas.

Side Dish

Broccoli Sautéed in Wine and Garlic – Roman Style

Makes 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 pounds broccoli, cut into spears
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium-high heat until just sizzling. Add the broccoli and cook, tossing frequently and gradually adding the wine to keep the garlic from browning until the stalks are tender 8 to 10 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes lemon and orange zest and toss well.

Dessert Course

Biscotti, means twice-baked, and these cookies have grown to become an Italian classic.  As its name implies, the cookies are baked twice, first in the form of a log. They are then baked again after the log is sliced into diagonal strips. The crisp, crunchy cookie is perfect for dipping in coffee or dessert wine or even simply for snacking. Because they don’t need to be moist, biscotti are naturally low in fat.
It is said that biscotti were originally created as a provision for Venetian sailors and businessmen who went to sea for long periods of time and required foods that wouldn’t spoil. Many Italians eat the cookies as part of their breakfast with café latte. The varieties of biscotti differ throughout the many regions of Italy, but they are famous for their classic anise, almond or hazelnut flavor.

Vin Santo ( the wine of saints) is a late-harvest wine from Italy, generally Tuscany. It’s usually made from white grapes, namely Trebbiano or Malvasia, that are semi-dried before being pressed and fermented; then the wines are stored in small barrels for up to 10 years, usually in attics which turn hot and cold with the seasons. There is a wide diversity in styles, from sweet dessert versions to dry, sherry-like styles, and quality varies.

Biscotti al Vin Santo

Makes about 20 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) sliced almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz butter), cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup sweet white wine, (substitute a sweet Madeira or sweet Marsala for Vin Santo, if unavailable in your area)

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Let them cool.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir in the sugar and lemon zest. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, then stir in the almonds. Make a well in the center and add the wine and almond extract. Stir gradually drawing in the flour to make a smooth soft dough that holds together. If it seems dry, add a little more wine.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and shape the dough into a log about 1 inch thick, 4 inches across and 12 inches long. Wrap it in plastic wrap, then flatten it slightly. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours and longer if you wish. The dough can also be frozen.

For the first baking:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap the log, set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until lightly browned and firm on the outside 35 to 40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the log cool on the baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

For the second baking:

When cool, cut the log with a serrated knife into 1/2-inch slices – they will be quite soft, almost cake-like in the center. Space the biscotti on the parchment lined baking sheet and bake, turning halfway through,  until they are dry and lightly browned on the cut surfaces, 20 to 25 minutes. Let them cool on a rack and store them in an airtight container.



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