San Marino was founded in 301 C.E. (A.D.) by a Christian stonemason, Marinus, who fled the island of Arbe to escape the anti-Christian persecution by the Emperor. Taking refuge on Mount Titano, Marinus founded a small community for Christians. In memory of Marinus, the area was named the Land of San Marino, then the Community of San Marino, and finally the Republic of San Marino. The state of San Marino was able to maintain its independence despite frequent invasions and in 1291 Pope Nicholas IV recognized San Marino as an independent state.
The territory of San Marino consisted only of Mount Titano until 1463 when the republic joined an alliance against Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini. As a reward for Malatesta’s defeat, Pope Pius II gave San Marino the towns of Fiorentino, Montegiardino, and Serravalle. In the same year the town of Faetano voluntarily joined the young state. The nation has remained the same size ever since.
San Marino has been occupied by invaders only twice, both for short periods of time. In 1503 Cesare Borgia occupied the country until the death of his father, Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI. The political unrest that followed the Pope’s death forced Cesare Borgia to withdraw his forces from San Marino. In 1739 Cardinal Alberoni, in an attempt to gain more political power, used military force to occupy San Marino. However, civil disobedience and clandestine communications with Pope Clement XII helped to ensure recognition of San Marino’s rights and restoration of its independence. Since 1862 San Marino has had an official treaty of friendship with Italy.
San Marino is tiny at only 24 square miles, and there’s very little about stepping into the Republic from Italy that would make you feel like you’ve left the country that surrounds it. This is, however, the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world.
San Marino is made up of a few towns dotted around the mountain sides. The capital of San Marino is itself called ‘San Marino’ and is situated high up on a mountain top. The capital is surrounded by a wall and three distinct towers that overlook the rest of the country. The towns surrounding the capital are more industrial than the main city.
San Marino has a Mediterranean climate – the warm summers and the mild winters being the most typical features. Although the steep slopes, cliffs and castles of San Marino are impressive, what really takes your breath away is the view from the town. On a clear day you can see the Adriatic Sea a few miles to the east, and in other directions the hilly land rises into central Italy where it is possible to make out small hill-top villages and other castles and fortresses.
The most popular sport in San Marino is, without a doubt, soccer and the San Marino national team has been taking part in international competitions since 1986.
The San Marino Formula 1 Grand Prix auto race takes place every year at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari Autodrome.
The Food Of San Marino
Food and meals are an important part of life in San Marino. The cuisine is Mediterranean, emphasizing fresh and locally grown produce, pasta, and meat. Although it is similar to that of the Italian Romagna region which borders San Marino, the cuisine of San Marino features its own typical dishes. Popular local dishes include bustrengo, a cake made with raisins; cacciatello, a dessert made with milk, sugar and eggs, similar to Crème caramel ; and zuppa di ciliege, cherries stewed in red wine and sugar and served on local bread.
San Marino also produces high quality wines, the most famous of which are the Sangiovese, a strong red wine; and the Biancale, a dry white wine.
There are many small family-owned restaurants, often providing outdoor seating in the summer, which play an important role in the lives of the Sanmarinese, as meals are a daily part of family life and socializing.
This is the famous cake, Torta Tre Monti, from the Republic of San Marino, that is completely hand made at La Serenissima, an ancient cake factory, located in San Marino.
The cake consists of five layers of round wafers filled with chocolate and hazelnut cream and topped with a rich dark chocolate. It has a very delicate and crispy taste. It is still made with the same original techniques that have been used since 1942.
Here is a video on how this cake is made: http://www.laserenissima.sm/eng/index.asp
Make Some San Marino Inspired Recipes At Home
Piadina with Ricotta, Prosciutto and Arugula
Piadina can be made with any filling ingredients that you like or normally put into a sandwich. The bread is usually a flatbread and, unless you want to make the bread from scratch, I recommend the pita as a good substitute. Tortillas are sometimes recommended but, I think, they are too thin.
- 6 whole wheat pita breads
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- Freshly ground pepper
- 4 ounces baby arugula (4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto, mortadella or salami (at least 12 slices slices)
Preheat the oven to 225°F. Heat a stove top griddle or skillet until hot. Brush both sides of each pita round very lightly with oil and grill over moderate heat, turning once, until brown marks appear on the bread’s surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Wrap in foil and keep the breads warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
In a small bowl, season the ricotta lightly with salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, toss the arugula with the 1 tablespoon of oil and the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Arrange breads on a work surface and spread each with 1/4 cup ricotta on one side of the bread. Top with prosciutto slices, followed by the arugula salad. Fold the uncovered side of the bread over the filling and cut in half. Serve warm.
Italian Baked Beans
- 4- 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 pound pancetta, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups store bought or homemade marinara sauce
- 2 cups beef or chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a 3 or 4 quart heavy-bottomed, oven-proof, lidded pot such as a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook slowly until lightly browned and crispy.
Add the chopped onions and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to brown. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
Add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and sage and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the honey. Stir well to combine. Add the marinara sauce and the stock. Bring to a simmer; add salt to taste and the drained beans. Stir well. Cover the pot and cook in the oven for an hour and fifteen minutes. If there is too much liquid in the beans after this time, remove the cover and cook for 15-30 minutes more or until desired consistency.
Pasta Roses with Cheese & Ham
Nidi di Rondine -” Swallow’s Nests” is a popular pasta dish in San Marino. It is a quick way of making a filled pasta. It is pretty and looks difficult to make but isn’t ! The classic rosettes are filled with a little bechamel sauce sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano and topped with sliced cooked ham and fontina cheese.
- 1 Package lasagna pasta noodles
- 1 cup bechamel sauce, directions below
- 3/4 lb. prosciutto or ham, sliced thin
- 1 1/3 cup Fontina or Emmenthal cheese, thin slices
- 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
- Parmigiano Reggiano to sprinkle on top
To make the Bechamel:
- 2 tablespoons (Wondra) flour,
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Whisk milk and flour in a saucepan together, add butter and place pan over moderate high heat.
Keep whisking until sauce thickens. Season with salt and the 2 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
To pre-cook the pasta:
Cook just 3 lasagna pieces at a time in salted boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towels. Turn them over to dry on both sides.
Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.
To fill and assemble the Rosettes:
Coat the bottom of a large baking dish with 1 cup of the marinara sauce.
Spread a thin layer of béchamel on the pasta pieces, then sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and place slices of prosciutto or ham and cheese on top.
Roll up each in piece into a cylinder. Place them close together cut side up in baking dish. Continue the process until the dish is full – if you have space left use crumpled balls of foil to fill in the space and keep the rolls upright.
Use kitchen scissors to nick the rolls in a few places and pull out pasta “petals” turning them down a little so they stay open during baking. See picture above.
Dot the top of the pasta roses with the remaining marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top of the “roses” are crisp and golden.
- San Marino (soarintosky.wordpress.com)
- The road trip to San Marino and Venice. – City of San Marino, Italy (travelpod.com)
When my children were young they loved pasta, as long as it was smothered in tomato sauce. It was a not a good dinner, in their estimation, if I added a vegetable or two. For this reason, I developed a marinara sauce with the addition of finely chopped vegetables, which has been a success in our family for many, many years. In fact, now that my children are grown, they make the sauce the same way. They are also more sophisticated as adults and enjoy the vast possibilities pasta can offer, even when they include vegetables.
Even though summer has past with its bounty of fruits and vegetables, there are still plenty of options for cooler days. Adding vegetables to pasta doesn’t have to be complicated or follow a rigid guideline. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your favorite pasta dish, even if the recipe doesn’t call specifically for vegetables. Try adding a vegetable you like to the dish, and see if they work well together.
What can you find at the fall Farmers’ Market?
Winter Squash One fall’s favorite vegetable, acorn squash, can be seen on seasonal menus across the country. Whether simply roasted with butter and sage or tossed with ricotta as a ravioli filling, acorn squash is versatile and simple to prepare, but has a limited season from October to December. Two other popular winter squashes include: spaghetti squash, a small, watermelon-shaped variety with a golden-yellow, oval rind and a mild, nut-like flavor and butternut squash with a soft inner flesh that tastes somewhat similar to sweet potatoes.
Brussels Sprouts, a diminutive member of the cabbage family, is available from late September through mid-February. Brussels sprouts hold up to almost any preparation, from oven roasting to braising and blanching.
Eggplant is a transitional berry (that’s right — it’s not actually a vegetable or even a fruit), and like most berries, peaks toward the end of summer and begins to decline in the fall. Look for firm eggplants with a shiny skin.
Carrots have long been considered a “cool weather” vegetable and are generally best in the late fall and early spring. Once thought of as a humble side dish, carrots have come into their own in recent years and are now widely available in their various natural hues, including red, purple, yellow and white.
Sweet potatoes are actually available year round, but are best in November and December. Sweet potatoes work well in both sweet and savory preparations, from mashed sweet potato to sweet potato pie. Not to be confused with yams, most sweet potatoes in the United States are characteristically orange, but can still be found in white and yellow varieties throughout the deep South.
Cauliflower may be grown, harvested, and sold year-round, but it is by nature a cool weather crop and at its best in fall and winter and into early spring.
Cabbage is more than just the base for your backyard-barbecue coleslaw. It adds texture to a tossed salad, makes a great topping for your taco and, when sautéed with apples and bacon, is the perfect accompaniment to roast pork.
Broccoli like many cruciferous vegetables, can be grown year-round in temperate climates, so we’ve forgotten it even has a season. But, like the rest of its family, it tastes best when harvested in the cooler temperatures of fall in most climates. Broccoli rabe (rapine) is a more bitter, leafier vegetable than its cousin, broccoli, but likes similar cool growing conditions.
Fennel‘s natural season is from fall through early spring. Like most cool weather crops, the plant bolts and turns bitter in warmer weather.
Winter Greens: swiss chard has more substance than spinach and kale, like all hearty cooking greens, are less bitter in the cooler weather.
Mushrooms, while most mushrooms are available year-round, many are at their peak in fall and winter. The produce aisle routinely offers white button, portobello and, their younger sibling, cremini (also sold as “baby bellas”), oyster and shiitake mushrooms.
Try these vegetable based pasta dishes for a change of pace.
Bucatini with Mushroom and Roasted Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and then thinly sliced
- 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
- 1/2 pound button mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
- 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup white wine
- Flat-leaf parsley
- 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
- 8 ounces uncooked bucatini
Preheat oven 425 degrees F.
Place a large skillet on the stove top with the extra-virgin olive oil and the sliced garlic, spread out the garlic so it is in an even layer in the oil. Slowly brown the garlic stirring until golden all over, 4 to 5 minutes.
Place the tomatoes on a cookie sheet and pour garlic and olive oil from the skillet over the tomatoes. Season with some salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes start to burst.
Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt and cook bucatini according to package directions. Drain pasta.
In the same skillet that was used to brown the garlic, add the mushrooms and shallots. Let them cook for about 4 minutes, then add the thyme sprigs and season with some freshly ground black pepper, continue to cook for another 5 minutes stirring a few times. Add the white wine and cook until it has almost completely evaporated. Salt to taste and stir to combine.
Remove the stems of thyme and add the roasted tomatoes with their cooking juices from the baking sheet and the parsley and stir to combine. Add cooked pasta,mix well and garnish with cheese.
Pappardelle With Greens and Ricotta
- 1 pound greens, such as swiss chard, kale or broccoli rabe, stemmed and washed well
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves, to taste, minced
- 3/4 cup skim ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 3/4 pound pappardelle or fettuccine
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the greens (you may have to do this in two batches). After the water returns to a boil, boil two to four minutes until the greens are tender. Using a deep-fry skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the wilted greens to a bowl. Do not drain the hot water in the pot, as you’ll use it to cook the pasta. Cut the greens while in the bowl into bite size pieces. ( I like to use kitchen scissors for this.)
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the garlic, cook for about a minute just until fragrant, and stir in the greens. Toss in the hot pan for about a minute, just until the greens are lightly coated with oil and fragrant with garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
Place the ricotta in a large pasta bowl. Bring the greens cooking water in the large pot back to a boil, and add the pappardelle. Cook al dente. Ladle 1/2 cup of the cooking water from the pasta into the ricotta and stir together. Drain the pasta, and toss with the ricotta, greens and cheese.
Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
- Cooking spray
- 4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 8 ounces uncooked tube-shaped pasta
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (Wondra dissolves instantly)
- 2 cups reduced-fat milk
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Italian Fontina cheese
- 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425°F for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450° F.
Cook the pancetta in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Add onions and sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in roasted squash. Remove to a bowl and cover while pasta cooks.
Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.
In empty skillet used to cook pancetta and squash combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Turn on heat and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add fontina cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.
- 20 Ways to Eat Fall Vegetables for Dinner – Recipe Roundup (thekitchn.com)
- What Can I Do With Winter Squash? (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Cooking Acorn Squash | How to Cook Acorn Squash (faithfulprovisions.com)
- Brown-Butter-Sage-Roasted-Winter-Squash-Sweet-Potato Lasagna (tgipaleo.com)
- How To Make Homemade Gnocchi (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- 25 Winning Ways to Enjoy Winter Squash (wisebread.com)
- Maple Roasted Vegetables (thismamacooks.com)
- Holiday Entrees For Vegetarians And Non-Vegetarians (jovinacooksitalian.com)
Eat more fiber. You’ve probably heard it before. But do you know why fiber is so good for your health?
Helps Control and Fight Disease
Because fiber clears unwanted material out of your colon, it helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. If this isn’t enough of a benefit, a high fiber diet has also been advocated for people with high cholesterol because it has been shown to lower overall cholesterol levels.
Keeps Your Blood Sugar Steady
Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the body and reduces the insulin response, keeping our blood sugar at reasonable levels instead of bouncing it up and down throughout the day. High fiber foods are recommended for people with hypoglycemia and diabetes to help steady blood sugar levels.
Helps Control Hunger
In addition to making us store fat, our insulin response leaves us feeling drained, tired, and wanting another sugar pick me up. The more sugar we have, the lower our blood sugar drops, and the faster we get hungry again. Fiber is a great way to stop this cycle in its tracks. It keeps us feeling fuller longer so we end up eating less.
Selecting tasty foods that provide fiber isn’t difficult. Try these suggestions:
Add fiber to your diet slowly: Make the following changes over at least a few weeks.
Start with breakfast: Eat a cereal with 5 or more grams of fiber per serving.
Leave the skin on! Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet will add fiber, but only if you eat the skin.
Try some split pea soup: Just one cup contains 16.3 grams of protein
Add crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to casseroles, salads, cooked vegetables, and baked products (meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, cakes, cookies)
Eat whole grains: Whole grains are higher in fiber because they haven’t had the outer skin removed through processing.
Eat more beans:. Add them to soup or salads.
Eat more nuts: Peanuts and almonds are especially great sources of fiber.
Which Foods Have Fiber?
Examples of foods that have fiber include:
Breads, cereals, and beans
- 1/2 cup of navy beans 9.5 grams
- 1/2 cup of kidney beans 8.2 grams
- 1/2 cup of black beans 7.5 grams
- 1/2 cup of All-Bran 9.6 grams
- 3/4 cup of Total 2.4 grams
- 3/4 cup of Post Bran Flakes 5.3 grams
- 1 packet of whole-grain cereal, hot 3.0 grams (oatmeal, Wheatena)
- 1 whole-wheat English muffin 4.4 grams
- 1 medium apple, with skin 3.3 grams
- 1 medium pear, with skin 4.3 grams
- 1/2 cup of raspberries 4.0 grams
- 1/2 cup of stewed prunes 3.8 grams
- 1/2 cup of winter squash 2.9 grams
- 1 medium sweet potato with skin 4.8 grams
- 1/2 cup of green peas 4.4 grams
- 1 medium potato with skin 3.8 grams
- 1/2 cup of mixed vegetables 4.0 grams
- 1 cup of cauliflower 2.5 grams
- 1/2 cup of spinach 3.5 grams
- 1/2 cup of turnip greens 2.5 grams
If switching from white rice to brown sounds like a bore, try one of these alternative whole grains:
It has a nuttier taste and a firmer, chewier texture than white or brown rice. (It’s actually not a true rice—it’s technically a grass!)
It’s also called roasted buckwheat groats. Coat it with a little raw egg or a bit of oil before cooking so the grains don’t fall apart. Try mixing it into ground turkey or lean beef instead of bread crumbs when making meatloaf.
Though it’s considered a whole grain, quinoa is actually a protein-rich seed that contains about twice as much protein as other grains. It’s also rich in essential minerals like iron and magnesium. Add sautéed onions or carrots to it for extra flavor and texture.
It’s loaded with fiber and cooks very quickly. People often combine it with lemon juice, mint, parsley, salt and pepper to make tabbouleh (a Middle Eastern grain salad).
Look for the “hulled” kind (check the label). It contains the same type of fiber found in oatmeal, so it can help lower cholesterol. Try it in stuffings or vegetable soup.
Whole Wheat Couscous
Couscous is a good base that takes on the flavor of your add-ins. Look for the whole-wheat variety (regular couscous is not whole-grain)
Fiber Rich Recipes
Grain-Filled Bell Peppers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2/3 cup brown basmati or brown jasmine rice
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup medium grind bulgur
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
- 1/2 cup quick cooking barley
- 1 1/4 cups grated Fontina cheese (about 5 ounces)
- 6 bell peppers (yellow, orange, green and/or red)
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with oil, 1 minute. Add salt, pepper, 2 cups chicken broth, water and tomato paste. Stir well to dissolve tomato paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, 35 minutes.
Add bulgur, quinoa and barley and stir. Simmer, covered, until grains are tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes. Let cool. Stir in cheese.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice 1⁄4 inch off the top of each pepper; reserve tops. Using the tip of a paring knife, remove seeds and membranes from peppers, leaving shells intact.
Fill peppers with grain mixture. Place in a deep baking dish close together. Place tops on peppers. Pour remaining chicken broth into bottom of dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until peppers are almost soft, 20 to 25 minutes.
Beef and Barley Stew
- 2 pounds extra lean beef stew meat, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1-inch pieces
- Pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
- 5 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks*
- 1 cup coarsely chopped roma (plum) tomatoes
- 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup medium barley
- 1 cup frozen peas
Season meat to taste with pepper and thoroughly coat with flour. In a 6-quart nonstick Dutch oven coated with nonstick cooking spray add olive oil and heat. Add meat and cook meat over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes.
Add onion and garlic, sauteing for several more minutes. Add carrots, parsley, and thyme; saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of the pan.
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, and barley. Return to boiling; reduce heat and continue cooking, covered, over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are tender. Add peas, stirring for one minute.
Kamut Pilaf with Cashews and Apricots
Serves: 4 to 6
- 1 cup Kamut, soaked 8 hours or overnight in cold water to cover
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup diced dried apricots
Drain Kamut and place in a medium saucepan with broth, onion, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat; stir well, cover, and lower heat until the mixture just simmers. Cook until Kamut is fairly tender, about 1 hour. Discard bay leaf and add cashews and apricots. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Toss with a fork and serve hot or room temperature.
Farro with Sausage and Mushrooms
- 1 cup farro
- 3 cups water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1/2 pound button mushrooms,cut into small pieces
- 1-pound Italian pork or turkey sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium tomato juice
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- Fine sea salt to taste
Place the farro in a 2-quart saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In the same saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion until lightly brown. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until they soften. Stir in the sausage and cook it until it loses its pink color.
Return the farro to the pot and stir to combine well.
In separate bowl, combine the tomato juice, tomato paste and red wine. Pour the ingredients into the pot and stir the ingredients well.
Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium low and cook about 20 minutes, or just until the liquid is almost absorbed and the farro is cooked through but still chewy.
Stir in the cheese and salt to taste and serve hot in soup bowls.
Pass extra cheese on the side to sprinkle on top.
Whole-Wheat Nut and Fruit Biscotti
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup walnut halves or sliced almonds or other nuts
- 1/2 cup dried fruit, such as cranberries
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir in nuts, chips and dried fruit. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Add to flour mixture; stir just until combined.
On a lightly floured surface, with floured hands, divide dough in half and pat one part of dough into a log about 1 inch thick, 2 1/2 inches wide (and about 7 inches long); transfer to one baking sheet. Repeat with second half. Bake until risen and firm, 20 to 25 minutes; cool completely on baking sheets. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place logs on a cutting board, and using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices; place slices in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake, turning once after 15 minutes, until dried and slightly golden, 30 minutes; cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 month.
- Fiber, Leptin, and Weight Loss (toneit.wordpress.com)
- Foods High In Fiber And Protein (answers.com)
- Best High Fiber Foods (answers.com)
- What is the Function of Dietary Fiber in the Body (wanttoknowit.com)
- Counting Calories? Add In Fiber (everydayhealth.com)
- Five on Fiber Quiz: Which Foods Help You Feel Fuller? (aarp.org)
- Five Easy and Frugal Ways to Increase Dietary Fiber Intake (savings.com)
Rice was a common ingredient, actually a cereal, in ancient China and India. According to archaeologists, rice originated fifteen thousand years ago on the Indian side of the Himalayas. Rice is an important ingredient for the populations of the Far East who base their diet on this food. Alexander the Great introduced rice to the Persians and then scientists brought it to the Middle East. Over the centuries, rice finally made its way to Europe, first in Greece, then in the Roman lands, where it was never cultivated, but imported. Rice remained an expensive food for Western Europeans who used it in small doses as a cosmetic or to fight against intestinal disease or fevers. Wealthy Romans used rice flour to make a cream that they would spread all over their faces and necks to soften and brighten their skin.
Today. Italy is the leading producer of rice in Europe, with the majority of it being grown in the Po River Valley. Lombardy is home to the best rice-growing area, the Lomellina, while Piedmonte and Veneto also have abundant rice harvests. Rice thrives so well in the Po Valley that first courses of risotto are more common than pasta and are a great way to serve whatever is in season, from seafood to wild mushrooms (such as Porcini) to meat and game. Anyone who has had a perfectly prepared risotto dish knows just how serious the people of this area take their rice. That is not to say that other regions of Italy do not eat rice, as there are wonderful recipes for using the many varieties grown throughout Italy. From soups to desserts, Italian rice is well utilized.
Rice, like eggs, comes in different sizes and grades. Italian rice is graded according to length (short or long), shape (round or oval) and size (small, medium or large), as well as wholeness (broken grains are appropriately downgraded). Italy grows mostly short, barrel-shaped rice that is different from the long-grain rice that is usually boiled or steamed in other parts of the world. The four main categories based on grain size are comune, semifino, fino, and superfino. The superfino rice is the type most used for risotto, with Arborio being the most recognized outside of Italy. However, Venetian cooks prefer the Carnaroli variety, which was invented in the 1950’s. Baldo is another variety well-known for making excellent risotto and classified as semifino.
- *Comune or originario: The cheapest, most basic rice, typically short and round. It is used mostly for soups and desserts, never risotto. The rice most often seen with this grade is the Balilla variety. It cooks faster than other grades.
- *Semifino: This grade, of medium length, maintains some firmness when cooked. Risotto can be made with a semifino grade, although semifino is better used in soups. The rice variety most often seen with a semifino grade is Maratelli.
- *Fino: The grains are relatively long and large, and they taper at the tips, creating an oval shape. Fino-grade rice remains firm when cooked. Several varieties are commonly graded fino, including Vialone Nano, Razza 77, San Andrea and Baldo.
- *Superfino: This grade represents the fattest, largest grains. Superfino is the province of the two best risotto varieties, Carnaroli and Arborio. They take the longest to cook, as they can absorb more liquid than any of the others while still remaining firm.
I recently discovered nutty black rice that is grown in Piedmont in Italy. It has a chewy texture and the color is a standout on the dinner table. It is mostly served in salads, but it is equally good served warm, with drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. I like to cook this rice in chicken broth and serve grilled shrimp on top. For another recipe to check out is Erica De Mane’s recipe on her website: http://ericademane.com/2008/11/05/my-black-rice-dream/
Italian rice is not just limited to risotto; one of the more famous non-risotto rice dishes is Minestrone alla Milanese. The city of Milan’s hearty vegetable soup makes use of Lombardy’s abundant rice. In the Veneto, Peas and Rice (Risi e Bisi) is a popular “wet” risotto that is like a soup made with rice and peas, but thick enough to eat with a fork. Riso al Salto is a way to use up leftover risotto – pressed into patties and fried in butter. Another frugal use of leftovers is to add the rice to eggs for an Omelette di Riso. Suppli and Arancini (little oranges) are fried rice balls with a filling usually of cheese; they are a popular snack found in Italian cafes and bars. Rice stuffed tomatoes make an excellent antipasto, especially with the large tomato varieties grown around the Bay of Naples. Rice is also used in desserts, such as Sicily’s – Dolce di Castagne e Riso – a rice pudding flavored with chestnuts.
When Italians are not making Risotto, they treat their rice like pasta. They immerse it in a large pot of water, boil it, salt it and strain it. Unlike many Asian and Indian rice varieties, Italian rice is never rinsed or soaked before use. The rice is sold in vacuum-packed bricks which stops the grains from rubbing against each other during transport (breaking and scraping the kernels). This unique packaging also keeps the grains “fresh” and ensures no debris or insects entered the bag after the rice was cleaned, aged and dried under the controlled conditions.
Italian Rice Dishes
Italian Rice Salad
Arborio rice is great for most cold rice dishes, just be sure not to over cook it.
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Sea salt, preferably gray salt, and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and rice, stir, and adjust heat to maintain a simmer.
Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent any grains from sticking to the pot, until the rice is just barely done, about 15 minutes. It will continue to cook as it cools.
Drain the rice in a fine mesh colander and spread it out on a baking pan brushed with olive oil to cool quickly.
Put the lemon juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled rice and any combination of ingredients from the list below. Toss. Pour the dressing over the salad (you may not need it all) and toss gently. Taste and adjust seasoning.
The following is a list of some of the classic ingredients you might want to add to your salad (sliced or cut into small cubes):
- Marinated Artichoke Hearts
- Tuna fish
- Boiled eggs
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Fresh Mushrooms, thinly sliced
- Roasted eggplant
- Celery stalks
Italian Rice Omelet
Add a green salad to round out the meal.
- 3/4 cup cooked Arborio rice
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup diced cheese of choice
- 2 oz. salami cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 finely chopped green onions
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Garnish with Marinara Sauce or Diced Plum Tomato or Shredded Cheese
Beat eggs with salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat, Add butter and let it melt. Pour eggs directly over the butter. Tilt the pan to spread the uncooked eggs in the pan. Put the remaining ingredients: rice, salami, cheese and onions in the center of the omelet.
Fold one side of the omelet over the ingredients and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes over low heat until the filling gets heated enough. Turn out onto a serving plate.
Minestrone with Tomatoes and Rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium Idaho potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1/2 cup Arborio rice
- One 28-ounce container Pomi Italian chopped tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/2 of a small head of cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
- 2 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 cup frozen baby peas
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat the olive oil in a large nonreactive saucepan. Add the onion and red bell pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the carrot, potato, zucchini and yellow squash and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
Add the rice to the saucepan and toss well to coat the grains with oil. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the crushed red pepper and 6 cups of water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the cauliflower, celery and peas and cook, stirring, until all the vegetables and the rice are tender, about 35 minutes. Season the soup to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with Parmesan.
Italian Three-Bean and Rice Skillet
- 1- 15 or 15 1/2 ounce can small red beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1- 14 1/2 ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, cut up
- 1 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 3/4 cup quick cooking brown rice
- 1/2 10 ounce package frozen baby lima beans (1 cup)
- 1/2 9 ounce package frozen cut green beans (1 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed or dried Italian seasoning, crushed
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet combine red beans or kidney beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, rice, lima beans, green beans, and basil or Italian seasoning. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in marinara sauce. Heat through. Top with Parmesan cheese.
Arborio Rice Pudding
Serves: 4 servings
- 1 cup water
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 cup Arborio rice
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Few dashes ground cinnamon
Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the rice, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook until the rice has absorbed the water but still al dente, about 15 minutes. Pour into a bowl.
Bring milk, sugar, vanilla, and a few dashes of cinnamon to a simmer in the saucepan. Add the cooked rice and cook at a simmer over medium-low heat until the rice absorbs most of the milk and mixture starts to get thick and silky, about 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer pudding to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. Place in the refrigerator until cold and set. Serve with a dash of cinnamon.
Italian Rice Cake
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- lemon zest from 1 lemon
- 1/3 cup citron or light raisins
- 1/3 cup almonds
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups water
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- Pinch of salt
- Maraschino Cherry liqueur
- Powdered sugar
Spray a 9 inch round cake pan with cooking spray and flour the bottom.
Heat oven to 400°F.
In a large saucepan, add the milk, 2 cups water, sugar, grated lemon peel and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then add the rice and cook until it has absorbed all the liquid, 25-30 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the butter and let cool.
Once the rice is cool, pour into an electric mixer bowl and add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the almonds and citron. Mix well, then pour into cake pan.
Bake for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and brush with maraschino cherry liqueur. Slice the rice cake into serving pieces in the pan when cool. Dust with powdered sugar.
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Florence is above all – a city of art. It is the birthplace of many famous people such as Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei. Artists like Botticelli , Michelangelo and Donatello made Florence one of the artistic capitals in the world.
It was during the reign of Julius Caesar that Florence came into existence. In the year 59 B.C. he established a colony along the narrowest stretch of the Arno, which is the point where the famous Ponte Vecchio crosses the Arno. After conquering the Etruscans during the third century A.D., the Romans established Florence as an important trading center.
In the fifth century, the Roman Empire crumbled after invasions from northern European conquerors. The “Dark Ages” had begun and Italian unity was lost for nearly 1400 years. After these hard times, Charlemagne’s army crushed the last of the foreign kings of Italy. However, this reprieve was short-lived. In giving thanks, Pope Leo III gave Charlemagne the title of Holy Roman Emperor to secure his loyalty.
Most of Italy came under the rule of Charlemagne and this led to future conflicts between the Emperor and the Pope that eventually led to civil war. The population of Florence became divided over their loyalty between the two factions: Guelf, those who supported the Emperor, and Ghibelline, those who supported the Pope. Over the following centuries, control of Florence changed hands many times between these two groups and families built towers to provide protection from their enemies within the city. At the end of the 13th. century, with the Guelfs in control, the conflict came to an end.
Despite this turbulent history, the region and Florence enjoyed a booming economy. At the end of the 14th. century, led by members of the wealthy merchant class, Florence became a gathering center for artists and intellectuals that eventually led to the birth of the Renaissance. During this period, the Medici family rose to power and fostered the development of art, music and poetry, turning Florence into Italy’s cultural capital. Their dynasty lasted nearly 300 years. Cosimo de’ Medici was a successful banker, who endowed religious institutions with artworks. He generously supported the arts, commissioning the building of great cathedrals and commissioning the best artists of the age to decorate them. Many artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Correggio, trained and completed some earlier work in Florence. One painting in particular done by Leonardo da Vinci captures the Renaissance essence of the 16th century: The Last Supper. The last of the Medici family, Anna Maria who died in 1743, bequeathed all the Medici property to the city.
The Food of Florence
Florentines call their cuisine il mangiare fiorentino—“Florentine eating”— and la cucina fiorentina, meaning both “Florentine cooking” and “the Florentine kitchen.” This language emphasizes what is important to them about food—its eating and cooking—both of which have traditionally taken place in the kitchen – the heart of family life.
The typical Florentine antipasto consists of crostini, slices of bread with chicken liver paté. The crostini are also served with cured ham and salami. Fettunta is another typical Florentine antipasto: a slice of roasted bread with garlic and Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. Last but not least, cured ham and melon are extremely popular even outside Florence.
Florentine First Courses
Panzanella is a typically summer first course. Panzanella is a salad made of water-soaked and crumbled bread with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and basil. Reboulia, a winter course, is a vegetable soup with bread. Another famous Florentine soup is Pappa al Pomodoro, a hot soup made of bread and tomatoes. Pappardelle alla lepre (pasta dressed with a hare sauce) and pasta e ceci (pasta with chick-peas) are two Florentine specialties.
Florentine Second Courses
A main course favorite is the bistecca alla fiorentina ( a grilled T-bone beefsteak ). For a long time, the beef only came from Val di Chiana area steers but nowadays it comes from several Tuscan areas because it is in much demand.
Since the Florentine cuisine has peasant origins, people use every part of an animal; therefore, entrails are fundamental in the local cuisine and dishes like kidney, tripe and fried cow udder served with tomato are very common, as well as dishes based on wild animals like wild boar, rabbit, pigeon and pheasant.
A typical Tuscan dessert consists of almond biscuits, such as, Cantucci di Prato , that are often served with Vin Santo (a dessert wine). The Schiacciata con l’uva , a bun covered with red grapes is prepared in autumn, during grape harvest. Other Tuscan desserts are: the Brigidini di Lamporecchio – crisp wafers made of eggs and anise, the Berlingozzo – a ring-shaped cake prepared during Carnival time in Florence – and Zuppa Inglese, made of savoy biscuits soaked in liqueur.
Many desserts boast medieval origins. One of the most famous is the Panforte, cakes made of almonds, candied fruit, spices and honey, Buccellato, a cake filled with anise and raisins and “confetti di San Jacopo”: little sugar balls filled with an anise seed that have been produced there since the 14th. century.
Florence stands at the heart of one of the most famous wine regions in the world. During the month of May, many Florentine wine producers open their cellars to visitors, who can taste some of the wines from their vineyards. Tuscany is renowned not so much for the quantity but for the quality of its wines. In fact, despite being the third Italian DOC wine-producing region, Tuscany ranks only eighth, as far as the quantity is concerned. Only a small part of the Tuscan territory can be cultivated with vineyards; this is the reason why since the 1970’s Florentine and Tuscan wine producers have decided to aim for quality of their product instead of quantity. Of the 26 Italian DOCG wines, six are produced in Tuscany: the Brunello di Montalcino, the Carmignano, the Chianti, the Chianti Classico, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
The flower of Tuscan oenology is the red Chianti Classico, which is produced in seven areas with different procedures. The Sangiovese vine is the basis of all Chianti Classico wines; to that, several other species of vines are added in variable quantities. The emblem of the Chianti Classico is the Gallo Nero (the black cock).
The Sangiovese vine is the basis of another Tuscan wine: the Brunello di Montalcino, a red wine produced in the province of Siena. The Brunello, one of the most refined and expensive Italian wines, ages four years in oaken barrels and two more years in its bottle. A third wine, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is produced with Sangiovese vines. Like the Brunello, the Vino Nobile comes from the province of Siena. In the late 1980’s, many wine producers began to use different species of vines and procedures to produce a new generation of wines, called super Tuscans. The first representative of this new generation of wines is the Sassicaia, that a branch of the Antinori family began to produce with some cabernet vine shoots coming from Bordeaux, that the family had planted in 1944 in its estate in Bolgheri, on the southern coast of Tuscany. The Antinori family created Tignanello using Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon vines.
At present, wine producers increasingly blend Sangiovese with Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and other foreign vines. Tuscany also produces white wines. The most famous Tuscan white wine is the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Another excellent Tuscan white wine is the Bianco di Pitigliano, which is produced in southern Tuscany.
Spaghetti with Peas and Prosciutto
- 1/4 lb. Prosciutto, in one piece
- 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
- 15 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound fresh peas, shelled or 1 pound “tiny tender” frozen peas
- 2 cups chicken broth
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound spaghetti
- Italian parsley for garnish
Cut prosciutto into small pieces. Finely chop the garlic and coarsely chop the parsley.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. When the oil is warm, add the prosciutto, garlic and parsley; saute for five minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the peas and the broth. Simmer until the peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
To cook the pasta: bring a large pot of water to boil over medium heat. When water comes to full boil, add salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan with the peas. Mix very well. Cook for one minute more, mixing continuously, while the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. Transfer to a large warmed serving platter and sprinkle with parsley leaves.
Braised Pork Loin
- 1 lb. boneless pork loin
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1 oz. capers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or use canned)
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- salt and pepper
Slice the pork loin three-quarters of the way through lengthwise and flatten slightly with a wooden mallet.
Chop 2 of the cloves of garlic finely, mix with the raisins, pine nuts and capers. Place this mix over the pork and roll the pork into a cylinder. Tie with string.
Brown the remaining garlic in oil, and then remove it. Add the pork roll, brown on all sides, add tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste , cover and cook for 25 min. over a low flame. Add parsley, remove from heat. Let rest a few minutes before cutting into one inch slices.
- Sponge Cake, recipe below
- 3 tablespoons liqueur (Grand Marnier, Benedictine, Framboise)
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh ricotta
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
- 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 2 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Cut the sponge cake into 1/2 inch thick strips. Spray a 1 1/2-quart bowl lightly with vegetable spray. Line bottom and sides with cake strips, ensuring a tight fit to completely encase the filling. Sprinkle with liqueur and set aside.
Whip cream until it holds soft peaks. Separately, beat ricotta and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Fold together whipped cream and ricotta. Fold in half the nuts.
Pour half the mixture into the cake lined bowl. Make a well in the center large enough to hold the remaining cream mixture.
Thoroughly blend remaining cream mixture with chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, then spoon mixture into the center. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top, cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze until very firm, at least 6 hours.
Fifteen minutes before serving, remove from freezer and invert onto a plate. Slice into 8 servings.
Sponge Cake Recipe
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- A pinch of salt
- A teaspoon vanilla extract
Spray a 10-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and flour bottom of the pan. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Separate the yolks and put them in a bowl with the sugar. Beat the mixture until very fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, add a pinch of salt and gently fold them into the beaten yolks. Fold the flour into the batter and pour it into the pan.
Put the cake in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake the cake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake is dry and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Turn the oven off. Open the oven door and let the cake cool for one hour in the oven. Turn out onto a wire rack and let rest for an hour before cutting
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The meat-like texture of Porcini, with its earthy and somewhat nutty flavor, is unequaled among mushrooms and lends itself to any number of dishes. Porcini can be found the world over, however, American consumers are not able to utilize Porcini in all its forms because fresh porcini mushrooms are more difficult to find in the US. Nevertheless, while dried Porcini are excellent, fresh are even better.
Porcini belong to the Boletus genus of mushrooms, characterized by a soft, meaty white body that does not change color after it is cut. Mycologists (mushroom scientists) cannot agree on the finer points of the Porcini Genus, therefore,they can take on a range of shapes and colors while growing under similar conditions. Porcini live in a symbiotic relationship with the trees they grow under. Many mushroom foragers find Porcini living under pine trees, poking up through the dead needles, however, it is well known, that the best Porcini are picked in chestnut woods. These Porcini are known for a light-colored top and are the best eaten fresh. As the Porcini gets older, it turns a darker color. All species of Porcini are characterized by a big, round, fleshy cap that is supported by a short round stalk.
There are several different types and qualities of porcini mushrooms. Autumn Porcino is one of the most sought after species in the world. Referred to as the “King”, this Porcino is found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Brisa is an Italian variety that grows mainly in the Apennines near Parma and in other mountain areas. Porcini with dark tops, known as Porcino Nero, grow in under beech or fir trees and are more suitable to be preserved, but are less tasty. Porcino d’ estate is found in the summer near evergreens, while Porcino del Freddo are found in the colder areas.
Gathering wild Porcini is still the preferred way of getting fresh mushrooms but, is not suggested, unless you are properly trained. California and New Mexico in the US are major areas for Porcini gathering, with large harvests available in the pine forests and mountain areas. In Italy Porcini are almost too popular, so gathering is strictly regulated to prevent them from becoming endangered from over-harvesting. A permit is required and a strict quota of two kilos per week is enforced. Porcini harvesters in Italy are also required to gather the mushrooms in open baskets to let spores escape and ensure the survival of the mushroom.
Farmers are often seen selling Porcini on the side or the road in Italy, but not as likely in the United States. Farmer co-ops may have them, if they grow nearby and the Internet is a growing marketplace for many species, with Russia and Asia being the leaders in exporting fresh varieties of Porcini. The other forms of Porcini products – dried or jarred in oil – are much easier to find, but fresh Porcini are always superior.
Fresh Porcini Mushrooms
When buying fresh Porcini, carefully examine the mushroom for signs of age. If the undersides of the caps have a yellowish-brown tinge to them, the mushrooms are over-ripe. Do not buy Porcini if they have a dark under-cap or black spots on them. Also look for tiny holes in the stem, which is a sign of worms. If you do notice some signs of worms after purchasing them, stand the Porcini on their caps for a time to allow the worms (they are harmless) to escape out of the stalk. Brush off any dirt you may find and wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth. You can wash them in cold water, if you want, but only if you plan to use them right away.
In Italy fresh Porcini mushrooms are preferred grilled and served with extra virgin olive oil and parsley. Often known as a “poor man’s steak”, grilled Porcini are much more flavorful than grilled Portobello. Fresh Porcini are also excellent fried, stewed with tomatoes (Porcini in Umido), used as the base of a pasta sauce or for bruschetta topping.
Porcini in Olive Oil
In Italy the Porcini that are not ideal for eating fresh are often jarred or canned in olive oil. The Porcino Nero, with its dark cap, as well as other Porcini that grow under fir trees, make the most likely candidate for preserving. The oil preservation seems to make dried Porcini mushrooms much tastier than plain dried. When looking for Porcini mushrooms jarred in oil choose jars with extra virgin olive oil .
Besides the actual mushroom, there are several Porcini flavored products that are worth trying. Porcini infused olive oils are excellent to drizzle on pasta, risotto or salads, but are too delicate to use in cooking. Porcini pastes and spreads can be found in gourmet stores or on the Internet and have an intense mushroom flavor that is ideal for an antipasto recipe. There are porcini flavored pastas on the market, also.
Porcini Mushroom Crostini
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 long, thin loaf of Italian bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing on bread
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, (about 5 sprigs)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 pounds assorted wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, oyster, and chanterelle, cut into thin slices
In a bowl, combine the dried porcini and 1 1/2 cups hot water. Let sit until soft, about 15 minutes. Remove from the soaking liquid. Strain liquid and reserve. Coarsely chop porcini and reserve in a small bowl. Chop together garlic, parsley and salt and set aside in a separate bowl.
Make crostini by grilling or toasting bread under the broiler. Then, brush lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low heat. Add porcini, shallots, and thyme, and cook, stirring often, until shallots wilt, about 10 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Add wine, and cook over medium-high heat until liquid is almost completely reduced, 5 to 7 minutes. Add reserved porcini liquid, and cook until almost completely reduced again, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.
Return skillet to high heat and add remaining oil. Add fresh mushrooms and season well with salt and pepper, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until mushrooms are nearly tender, about 10 -15 minutes.
Add porcini mixture and parsley mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, and remove pan from heat.
Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and serve with crostini, or spoon a bit of the mushroom mixture on each slice of crostini and arrange on a plate.
Mushroom Ragu Over Pasta
Makes about 4 cups
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup (1/2 ounce) dried mushrooms, preferably porcini
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms such as shiitake, cremini, oyster, porcini, morels, or Portobello’s, in any combination
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- One 28-ounce can Pomi Italian chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover and set aside to soak until softened, at least 15 minutes.
Wipe the fresh mushrooms dry a damp paper towel.Trim off the tough ends and discard. If you are using portobellos, cut out the black gills and discard. Cut larger mushrooms into 1/4-inch-thick slices through the stem; leave smaller ones (under 1 inch) whole.
In a medium saucepan, combine the olive oil, onions, and garlic, cover, and cook over moderate heat until the onions begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Uncover and sauté until they are just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
Pour the dried mushrooms into a strainer, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse them under cool water to remove any grit and press them with the back of the spoon to squeeze out the water. Coarsely chop them and reserve.
Carefully spoon about 3/4 cup of the strained soaking liquid into the saucepan with the onions, leaving behind any grit. Add the red wine, oregano and thyme and boil for 1 minute. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the canned tomatoes and their juices, the tomato paste, the dried mushroom mixture and salt and pepper. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and the ragù is thick, about 15 minutes.
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 pound tubular pasta, such as ziti or penne
- Wild mushroom ragù, recipe above
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons dried Italian bread crumbs
Spray a shallow 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well and stir in the pasta. Cook the pasta until slightly underdone, a little firmer than al dente, (the pasta will continue cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
Add the ragù to the pasta and toss until they are thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and pepper to taste; toss again. Pour half the mixture into the prepared casserole. Arrange the mozzarella slices over the top and cover with the remaining pasta. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and the breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over the top of the pasta.
Bake the pasta until heated through and the top is lightly browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes.
Braised Turkey Roulade with Porcini Sauce
- 2 cups boiling water
- 3/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 3/4 ounce)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 5 thin slices of pancetta, divided
- 2 cups chopped onions, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 (1 1/4-pound) skinless, boneless turkey breast halves
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Combine 2 cups boiling water and porcini mushrooms in a bowl; cover and let stand for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft. Drain through a sieve over a bowl, reserving soaking liquid. Chop the porcini mushrooms.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil to the pan, and swirl to coat. Coarsely chop 1 pancetta slice and add to pan; cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 3/4 cups onions, 2 teaspoons rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook for 7 minutes or until the onions are tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in reserved mushrooms. Cool slightly.
Slice 1 turkey breast half lengthwise, cutting to but not through the other side. Open halves, laying turkey breast flat (like a book).
Place plastic wrap over turkey breast; pound to 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small heavy skillet. Spread half of onion mixture over turkey breast; roll up jelly-roll fashion, starting with long sides. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange 2 pancetta slices evenly on top of turkey roll. Secure at 2-inch intervals with twine.
Repeat procedure with remaining turkey breast half, shallot mixture, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 pancetta slices.
Preheat oven to 325° F.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add turkey rolls to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, turning after 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup onions, carrot, celery, and wine to pan. Bring to a boil; cook until liquid is reduced by half (about 2 minutes). Stir in reserved porcini liquid and remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons rosemary. Cover and transfer pot to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the turkey roll registers 160°. Remove rolls from pan; let stand 15 minutes. Cut each roll crosswise into slices.
Strain cooking liquid through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Combine 1/4 cup water and flour, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Return remaining cooking liquid to pan; add flour mixture and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute or until thickened, stirring constantly. Serve sauce with turkey slices.
- Porcini Mushroom Risotto (bellacorea.wordpress.com)
- Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Wild Porcini Demi-Glace (ediblearia.com)
- Time to head to the woods: looking for Porcini mushrooms (mylittleitaliankitchen.wordpress.com)
- Creamy tagliatelle with fresh mushrooms (mylittleitaliankitchen.wordpress.com)
- Slightly Wild Mushroom Barley Soup (howtofood.net)
- Costolette di Agnello all’oregano con Porcini (massiskitchen.wordpress.com)
- Spaghetti with a gorgonzola cream sauce and porcini mushrooms (thefoodieteacher.com)
- Edible mushroom foraging and dining in Mid Wales (visitwales.co.uk)
- The new vegetarian: funghi carbonara with artichokes and sage (telegraph.co.uk)
Essentially, a stew is any combination of two or more ingredients, cooked slowly in a liquid. Before the invention of pottery, ancient people were using turtle shells and large mollusk shells for stewing. Cooking became easier after the development of pottery and there have been many references to stew throughout history. The first actual recipe for a stew, a ragout, can be found in a 14th century French cookbook.
Every culture has its own version of stew. The traditional Irish stew consisted of mutton and root vegetables. After the Irish immigrated to North America, the Irish stew was made with better cuts of meats and Guinness stout. The benefits of stewing are numerous. In times of famine and hardship, it was a good way to make a substantial meal out of available ingredients with the cheapest cuts of meat. Stewing makes otherwise tough cuts edible, and also disguises their appearance in the gravy. How else could you serve an oxtail? Goulash has sweet paprika; Bourguignon has red wine, the New England Boiled Dinner is corned beef, onion and cabbage. But they are all stews.
Stewing is a great way to free you from the kitchen while dinner cooks. It is also a good way to make use of your crock pot. The longer, slower cooking allows all of the flavors to develop and mingle. In fact, many stew lovers would argue that the stew is better the second time it is heated up, which makes it a great meal, when you have a large crowd coming and you need to get all of your preparations done the day before. The very best part is that there is only one pot to clean after dinner.
Italian stew is usually a main dish and is often served in a bowl alongside bread. Some stews are served on top of polenta. Italian stew is usually one of two things: a meat with or without vegetables or a chunky sauce to pour over Italian pasta dishes. Common stews served in Italy include osso buco, stracotto, and spezzatino. These dishes are served year-round in Italy, becoming more common in wintertime, especially around Christmas. The sauce in Italian stew can range in texture from thin, watery broth to a thickness similar to mashed potatoes. Typical Italian stews are simply meat braised in broth or wine over low-heat. Italian stews can also contain any type of meat and/or vegetables and can be made on the stove, in the oven, or in a slow cooker. Vegetables used in this type of stew can be numerous, but, most often, include carrots, celery, and fennel. Potatoes, onion, and garlic are also common additions depending on the region of origin. Italian stew, sometimes, contains beef, but other meats are more typical, such as, chicken, pork, or veal. Rabbit is a popular stew meat in Northern Italy and sausage is a common stew meat in southern Italy.
Many Italian stew recipes that are popular did not actually originate in Italy. Since the cuisine of Italy has been influenced by nearby cultures, typical stews in Italy, include some that originated in Hungary and Croatia. The Italian stew called jota containing beans, bacon, garlic, potatoes, and meat, originally came from Croatia. In countries other than Italy, particularly in the United States, some dishes labeled as Italian stew are simply pasta dishes with Italian flavors that have been converted into stews, generally by reducing the broth or thickening the sauce in the mixture and adding pasta.
Italian Sweet and Sour Eggplant Stew
This stew of eggplant and vegetables is usually prepared agrodolce meaning sweet and sour because of the addition of sugar and vinegar. However, like so many traditional dishes, there seems to be an infinite number of variations. Usually the savory mixture contains tomatoes, capers, and olives along with the eggplant. In some areas of Italy, potatoes, fish, anchovies, pignoli nuts, raisins, bell peppers, asparagus or carrots might be included.
- 1 pound eggplant, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces, peel according to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 4 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 small red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup chopped plum tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 6 large black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sugar or a sugar alternative
- 4 large fresh basil leaves
- 5 stems fresh parsley, leaves only
- Salt to taste
In a large, deep skillet or Dutch Oven (large enough to hold the cut eggplant in a single layer), heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes or until the pieces are golden brown and tender. Season with salt. Remove to a separate bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, potatoes and celery and cook, stirring often, for 7 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add the eggplant to the tomato mixture. Turn the heat to medium. Add the vinegar and sugar and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed.
Chop the basil and parsley together. Stir them into the eggplant mixture.
Chicken Stew with Olives and Lemon
- 1 pound boned, skinned chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons each salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 and 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-in. cubes
- 1 package thawed frozen artichoke hearts, quartered if large
- 1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup pitted medium green olives
- Lemon wedges
In a resealable plastic bag, combine flour, salt, and pepper.
Cut each chicken thigh into 2 or 3 chunks. Add chicken to the plastic bag, seal, and shake to coat.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken (discard excess flour) in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, capers, and lemon zest and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and simmer, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, and chicken and return to a simmer. Lower heat slightly to maintain simmer, cover, and cook 10 minutes.
Add artichokes to the pan and stir. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, lemon juice to taste, and olives. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with lemon wedges on the side.
Italian Sausage Stew
- 2 pounds pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage links, cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 ounces) container Pomi chopped tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounces) container Pomi strained tomatoes
- 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 3/4 cup short pasta
- 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven heat oil and brown the sausage. Drain the sausage on paper towels. Add the onion, green pepper and garlic to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, water, broth and wine. Bring to a boil, add pasta and browned sausage to the pan. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour. Top each serving cheese. 8 servings.
White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes
- 2 pounds Swiss chard, large stems discarded and leaves cut crosswise into 2-inch strips
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1-14 1/2 oz. can low sodium diced tomatoes
- One 16-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add the chard and simmer over moderate heat until tender, 8 minutes. Drain the greens and gently press out excess water.
Return the saucepan to the stoves, add oil and heat on medium. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is golden, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the beans and simmer over moderately high heat for 3 minutes. Add the chard and simmer over moderate heat until the flavors meld, 5 minutes. Season the stew with salt and thyme.
Tortellini Spinach Meatball Stew
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 can (16 ounces) low sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) low sodium diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
In a large bowl, combine the egg, spinach, bread crumbs, salt and
pepper. Add beef and mix well. Shape into 3/4-in. balls.
In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven, brown meatballs in batches in the 1 tablespoon oil. Remove meatballs to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add onion to the pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots; saute 2 minutes longer. Stir in the broth, beans, tomatoes, basil and oregano. Add meatballs; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Return to a boil. Add tortellini; cook for 7-9 minutes or until tender, stirring several times. Garnish with Parmesan cheese. 6 servings
- Italian Casseroles And Braises (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Crock Pot Beef Stew (ssimplyme.com)
- Come Into My Kitchen | Manny Pedram shares Middle Eastern culture through cooking (kansascity.com)
- Sweet Potato and Tomato Beef Stew (unihomemaker.com)
- Coastal Flavors: Stirring the pot with local seafood stew (caller.com)
- Moroccan lamb stew with an Irish twist – a perfect warming recipe for fall (irishcentral.com)
- Irish Stew (365days365recipes.wordpress.com)
- Stew (and frost) on the Pumpkin (manyhorsesmane.wordpress.com)
“According to an Aegean legend and praised in song by the poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus, the first artichoke was a lovely young girl who lived on the island of Zinari. The god, Zeus was visiting his brother Poseidon one day when, as he emerged from the sea, he spied a beautiful young mortal woman. She did not seem frightened by the presence of a god, and Zeus seized the opportunity to seduce her. He was so pleased with the girl, whose name was Cynara, that he decided to make her a goddess, so that she could be nearer to his home on Olympia. Cynara agreed to the promotion, and Zeus anticipated the trysts to come, whenever his wife Hera was away. However, Cynara soon missed her mother and grew homesick. She snuck back to the world of mortals for a brief visit. After she returned, Zeus discovered this un-goddess-like behavior. Enraged, he hurled her back to earth and transformed her into the plant we know as the artichoke.”
The Sensuous Artichoke, by A. C. Castelli and C. A. Catelli, published by A. C. Castelli Assoc., 1998.
A Little History:
Beginning about 800 A.D., North African Moors begin cultivating artichokes in the area of Granada, Spain, and another Arab group, the Saracens, became identified with artichokes in Sicily. This may explain why the English word artichoke is derived from the Arab, “al’qarshuf” rather than from the Latin, “cynara.” Between 800 and 1500, the artichoke was improved and transformed, perhaps in monastery gardens, into the plant we would recognize today.
Artichokes were first cultivated in Naples around the middle of the 15th century and gradually spread to other sections of Europe. After Rome fell, artichokes became scarce but re-emerged during the Renaissance in 1466 when the Strozzi family brought them from Florence to Naples.
In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici, married to King Henry II, is credited with making artichokes famous. She is said to have introduced them to France when she married. They were later brought to Louisiana by French colonists and to California in the Monterey area by the Spaniards in the late 1800’s.
In 1922 Andrew Molera, a landowner in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, just south of San Francisco, decided to lease his land, previously dedicated to the growing of sugar beets, to Italian farmers that he encouraged to try growing the “new” vegetable. His reasons were economic, as artichokes were selling at high prices and farmers could pay Molera triple what the sugar company did for the same land.
In Italy, artichokes (carciofi) are served in a myriad of forms and preparations—fried, baked, braised, boiled and frittatas. Sometimes the same recipe can be served as an antipasto, a side dish (called a “contorno” in Italian) or as a first course (the “primo”)—for example, Carciofi al forno con patate, which is a combination of roasted artichokes and potatoes. For main dishes artichokes go very well with roasted meat or fish; they are also used as a main ingredient in pasta sauces and risotto. Carciofi gratinati (baked artichokes with melted cheese and breadcrumbs) is a typical dish in many parts of the central southern regions of Italy. Artichokes are often combined with other ingredients like cheese, ground meat and béchamel, and then baked. One of the most popular artichoke dishes comes from an old Roman Jewish recipe, called Carciofi alla Giudea, in which the artichokes are deep fried and served with lemon.
Types of Artichokes
Fresh: Artichokes should be firm and heavy for their size, with the outer leaves just beginning to open. Store unwashed, sprinkled with water and refrigerated in airtight bags for up to a week.
Canned: Artichoke hearts in cans are usually packed in brine. Their soft texture makes them ideal for creamy dips and casseroles. Rinse and pat dry before using to remove any excess salt.
Marinated: Hearts marinated in oil and dried herbs (like oregano and thyme) have a strong flavor. Use them in a recipe only if specifically called for, as they can overpower a dish. They can be used in salads, or as a pizza topping or added to a sandwich.
Frozen: Artichoke hearts from the freezer case are the healthiest option after fresh as they have no added calories or fat. They’re only partially cooked, so they keep their texture better than canned or jarred when they’re roasted or sautéed. Thaw and pat dry before using to avoid ending up with too much liquid in your dish.
Personally, I only use fresh or frozen artichokes because I do not care for the additional ingredients in the canned and marinated products. I can easily make marinated artichoke hearts with the frozen product by defrosting the artichoke hearts and dressing them with my own fresh dressing. (See recipe below) No additional preservatives here. They are also a great, healthy convenience food. Traditional cooks make their own artichoke hearts by trimming fresh artichokes down to the heart but this is a very time consuming preparation.
How To Select Artichokes
Choose globes that are dark green, heavy, and have “tight” leaves. Don’t select globes that are dry looking or appear to be turning brown. If the leaves appear too “open” then the choke is past its prime. You can still eat them, but the leaves may be tough. (Don’t throw these away. They can be used for artichoke soup). Artichokes are available throughout the year with the peak season being from March to May and a smaller crop in October. It is best to use them within 4 days of purchase.
How To Eat an Artichoke:
Pull each leaf off the choke and hold the pointed end between your fingers and drag the leaf between your teeth. Most of the edible portion is on inside bottom 1/3 of the choke leaf. When you serve artichokes, put a bowl on the table for the discarded leaves. Once you’ve eaten all the leaves you’ll see the heart or flower of the choke. The rest of the base of the choke is edible, referred to as the heart.
How To Clean and Prepare Artichokes For Stuffing
1. Before doing any trimming, wash the artichoke thoroughly. Hold the artichoke under cold running water. Rinse in between the leaves without pulling on them. Turn the artichoke upside down (stem side up) and give a good shake. Dry the artichoke with a clean towel.
2. Cut off the stem and pull off lower petals which are small or discolored.
3. Cut stems close to the base. Use a stainless knife to prevent discoloration.
4. Cut off the top 1 1/2″ to 2″ of the artichoke. This is where the leaves are most tightly bunched.
5. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut off the sharp points from the leaves.
6. Open up the artichoke so that you can see the purple-topped leaves. Pull out the purple leaves. Use a serrated spoon to scrape the fuzzy choke out of the artichoke heart:
7. After you have scraped out as much as you can, rinse the artichoke well and either rub it with lemon juice or dip it in a combination of lemon and water to keep the cut edges from becoming brown.
8. Stuff the artichoke leaves right over the bowl. Starting at the bottom, working your way up and around until you get to the top, tighter leaves. Gently pull out each leaf and use your hand to scoop some of the mixture into the leaf.
Stuffed artichokes ready for baking.
How To Make Homemade Marinated Artichoke Hearts
- 1 9-oz. box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Rinse artichoke hearts under cold water. Combine artichokes, oil, salt, thyme, oregano, and pepper flakes in a 1-qt. saucepan set over medium-low heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, 10 minutes.
2. Let cool to room temperature and stir in lemon juice. Serve or refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.
Stuffed Artichokes With Lemon Zest, Rosemary and Garlic
This makes a wonderful appetizer that can be prepared in advance.
- 1 1/2 lemons, zested, then halved
- 4 large globe artichokes (about 12 ounces each before trimming)
- 2 1/4 cups Italian bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus 4 whole sprigs
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped capers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a large bowl with water and squeeze juice from the two lemon halves into water. Cut off artichoke stems, peel them with a vegetable peeler, rub them all over with remaining lemon half (this prevents browning) and drop them into water.
Use a heavy, sharp stainless knife to cut the top 1 1/2 inches off an artichoke. Pull out the pale inner leaves from center. At the bottom, where the leaves were, is a furry bed, the choke. Use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well) to scoop out choke.
Next, using kitchen shears or a pair of scissors, trim the pointy ends from outer leaves of artichoke. As you work, rub a lemon half over cut parts of artichoke. When you are finished trimming, drop the artichoke into the bowl of lemon water. Repeat with remaining artichokes.
To prepare stuffing: in a large bowl combine lemon zest, bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped parsley and rosemary. Mince 6 garlic cloves and add to the bowl. Add capers, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss.
In a small roasting pan or baking pan large enough to hold the artichokes, scatter onion slices. Add reserved artichoke stems, 4 sprigs parsley and remaining garlic cloves.
Holding artichokes over the stuffing bowl, stuff choke cavity and in between the leaves with bread crumb mixture. Stand stuffed artichokes upright in pan and generously drizzle olive oil over the center of each artichoke.
Fill the baking pan with water until it reaches 1/4 way up the artichokes. Add wine and remaining salt and pepper to water. Cover pan with foil and poke several holes in the foil. Bake artichokes for about 1 1/2 hours, or until tender; when done, a knife should slide easily into an artichoke and a leaf should pull out easily.
Yield: 4 servings.
Spinach Fettuccine with Artichokes and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- 6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
- 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato olive oil from the jar
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 -9 oz package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 pound fresh spinach fettuccine, cooked and drained (1/4 cup pasta water reserved), use dried if fresh is not available
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- Grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until tender. Add artichokes, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and cook until artichokes are tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and simmer until just thickened. Stir in reserved 1/4 cup pasta water, sun-dried tomatoes and thyme; then add pasta, salt and pepper and toss well. Transfer pasta to bowls, garnish with cheese and serve.
Fish Fillets with Potatoes and Artichokes
- 1 lemon
- 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted
- 1 pound Idaho potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (3 cups)
- 4 teaspoons sliced garlic
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oi, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fish stock
- Four 6-8 ounce bass, snapper, cod or grouper fillets
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
Preheat the oven to 400° F.
In a large bowl combine the artichokes, potatoes, garlic, rosemary, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat.
Place the potato mixture in a large ovenproof baking dish, add the fish stock, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Spoon out a quarter of the vegetables into a bowl. Reserve.
Season the fish with salt and pepper and rub the fillets with the remaining olive oil. Arrange the fillets on the potato and artichoke mixture and add the wine. Cover the fish with the reserved potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.
- Roasted Tomato and Artichoke Flatbread Pizza (news.health.com)
- Carciofi in Padella Sauteed Artichokes (lasesana.wordpress.com)
- Artichokes With Garlic, Thyme And Parmesan (putneyfarm.com)
- Stanley Tucci’s Recipe: Concetta’s Stuffed Artichokes (wnyc.org)
- Artichoke Dip (fromnonawithlove.com)
- Risotto di asparago, carciofi e funghi (paconero.wordpress.com)
- artichoke and white bean fusilli (inasmallkitchen.wordpress.com)
- Meatless Monday with Asparagus Artichoke Salad and Eggplant Provolone Panini (planetforward.ca)
- Artichoke in the raw (piedtype.com)
Soup and sandwich pairings are a great go-to choice when you’re looking for warm, comforting meals in a hurry. You can make delicious soups and substantial sandwiches that are tastier, healthier, and cheaper than eating out or picking up fast food meals.
While you might think of sandwiches or soup as just for lunch, they are a good dinner choice when you get home after a hectic day. Sandwiches are endlessly versatile—you can pile lots of delicious, healthy toppings on whole-grain bread and many hearty soups can come together in 30 minutes or less with just a little advance planning.
How To Keep Sandwiches Healthy:
Pick a bread with has three to five grams of fiber per serving
- High-fiber whole wheat bread
- High protein bread
- Wraps and pita bread (they are thin and have fewer calories)
- Reduced calorie bread
- Multi-grain bread
- Lean deli meats preferably without nitrates : Turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef or homemade meatloaf
- Vegetarian spreads: Hummus, peanut butter, cashew butter, tahini or vegetarian patties
- Salads: Tuna fish salad, seafood salad, chicken salad made with low-fat dressing
- Harder cheeses (such as Swiss and Cheddar) usually have less fat.
- Softer cheeses (like light cream cheese) may have more fat, but if spread thinly, can add overall less fat than slices of hard cheese
- Mustard, nonfat salad dressings, salsa, and nonfat mayonnaise all add little calories and lots of flavor.
- Avoid high-fat salad dressings, regular mayonnaise and oil-based dressings.
A sandwich is a great way to slip vegetables into a meal.
- Sliced tomatoes
- Cucumbers or pickles
- Onions: Sweet, hot, or red
- Peppers: sweet or hot
- Apples or pears (especially good with ham and turkey)
- Herbs (Basil with toasted cheese and tomato)
How To Keep Soups Healthy:
Most soups begin with a fat, such as oil, to saute vegetables and bring out their flavor. Fat isn’t always unhealthy; monounsaturated fats can help improve your blood cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats reduce your risk of type-2 diabetes and can help improve your blood cholesterol. Healthy fats are usually liquid at room temperature: Peanut oil, corn oil, safflower oil and olive oil are healthy choices. Always use the least amount of oil as possible in your cooking. I believe that you never need more than 1 tablespoon of oil in a recipe to saute ingredients.
In high-sodium soups, the base is often a salty stock. Keep the sodium low by using a salt-free stock. Chicken, beef, vegetable and fish stock often are available in salt-free varieties. Canned low sodium tomatoes are readily available and make a fine base for soup on its own or mixed with stock, depending on how thick you want the broth. Milk or fat free half works for creamy soups. Do not add salt or use full-sodium broth. There are 860 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup of full-sodium chicken stock and only 72 milligrams in low-sodium chicken stock. If you add 1 teaspoon of salt to the base, you increase the soup’s sodium content by 2,325 milligrams.
Protein and Fiber
Most soups include a source of protein, either meat or legumes. Legumes are also an excellent source of fiber. Lean beef, chicken, pork, turkey or fish are good choices. For legumes, don’t choose a sodium canned variety — they can have as much as 818 milligrams of sodium per 1-cup serving. There are many no salt added canned beans in the markets today. Almost any legume works in soup. For additional fiber, add whole grains, such as barley, quinoa or brown rice, all of which are low-sodium. If your soup recipe has noodles, choose a whole grain variety. In addition, use only fresh — not canned — veggies to avoid excess sodium. Onions, carrots, garlic, celery, corn, spinach, kale and potatoes are good choices for soup.
The seasonings make lower sodium soup tasty. They complement the flavor of the other ingredients and finish your soup. Add seasonings to taste — stir, taste and then add more if necessary. Most spices and herbs do not contain sodium. Provided it does not have added salt, any seasoning works. Rosemary, thyme and marjoram make a tasty combination, so do chili powder and cumin. Parsley and basil complement almost any type of soup.
Quick Soups and Healthy Sandwiches
Vegetable Beef Barley
Saute 1 pound lean ground beef in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil; drain fat.
Add 4 cups low-sodium beef broth, 1 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 2 minced garlic cloves. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.
Add 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, and 1/2 cup quick-cooking barley. Cover; simmer 15 minutes.
Warm Prosciutto-Stuffed Focaccia
- 1 (9-ounce) round loaf focaccia bread, whole grain if possible
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- 4 ounces thinly sliced Provolone cheese
- 1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
- 1/4 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers, drained
- 2 tablespoons light balsamic vinaigrette
Cut bread in half horizontally, using a serrated knife. Top bottom bread half with prosciutto and next 3 ingredients.
Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette; cover with top bread half. Wrap in aluminum foil; place on a baking sheet.
Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until warm. Cut focaccia into six wedges. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Many markets sell butternut squash peeled and cut into cubes in the produce section of the market, usually next to the cut up fruit.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1 and 1/2 pounds after trimming)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1/2 cup fat free half half
Melt the butter in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and cook 10 minutes, covered. Add the chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring once in awhile. Remove the bay leaf.
Purée the soup with a hand blender and add the half and half. Warm gently, and serve immediately.
Grilled Eggplant Pita Sandwiches with Yogurt-Garlic Spread
- 2 (1-pound) eggplants, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Cooking spray
- 4 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half
- 2 cups arugula
Combine remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, yogurt, and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
Brush eggplant and onion slices with oil. Place eggplant and onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
Fill each pita half with 1 1/2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, one quarter of eggplant slices, one quarter of onion slices, and 1/4 cup arugula.
6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced onion
- 1 cup cored fennel bulb, finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds, divided
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups diced red potatoes, unpeeled
- 28 oz container Pomi strained tomatoes
- 1 pound pasteurized crabmeat
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, diced fennel, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are just starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add broth, water and potatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, crabmeat and fennel fronds. Return to a boil, stirring often; immediately remove from heat.
Turkey, Apple, and Swiss Melt
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 sandwich)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 8 (1-ounce) slices whole-wheat bread
- 4 (1-ounce) slices Swiss cheese
- 5 ounces thinly sliced Granny Smith apple (about 1 small)
- 8 ounces thinly sliced lower-sodium deli turkey breast
- Cooking spray
Combine mustard and honey in a small bowl. Spread one side of each of 4 bread slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard mixture.
Place one cheese slice on dressed side of bread slices; top each with 5 apple slices and 2 ounces turkey. Top sandwiches with remaining 4 bread slices.
Coat both sides of sandwiches with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches to pan.
Cook 2 minutes on each side or until bread is browned and cheese melts.
Black Bean Soup
Saute 1 chopped onion, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Add one 32 oz. carton (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth, 1- 14 ½ oz can no salt added diced tomatoes, two 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, and one 1.4-ounce can diced green chili peppers. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.
Add 1 tablespoon snipped fresh cilantro and 1 tablespoon light sour cream. Garnish with baked tortilla chips.
Avocado Tomato Wraps
- 1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 whole wheat tortillas (10 inches), room temperature
- Lettuce leaves
- 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
In a small bowl, mash a fourth of the avocado with a fork; spread over tortillas. Layer with lettuce, tomato and remaining avocado.
Sprinkle with cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper; roll up. Serve immediately. Yield: 2 servings.
- Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese: What Are the Very Best Soup & Sandwich Combos? (thekitchn.com)
- Soup + Sandwich Sister Pairing (abeautifulmess.com)
- Better-For-You Golden Gate Grilled Cheese (news.health.com)
- Gluten Free Turkey Panini (talesofinspiration.wordpress.com)
- Pumpkin Pesto Grilled Cheese (thesmartcookiecook.com)