Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: September 2013

Marjoram is a sweet tasting herb that is used interchangeably with oregano. It has tender leaves and stems, grows well just about anywhere and is a great kitchen windowsill garden choice. It is a very tender plant and in most areas, it is considered to be an annual plant. It needs full sun to develop properly. Cut back the stems and leaves as they grow and marjoram will provide you with multiple cuttings in one season. The flavor of marjoram is most pronounced when it is not cooked for a long period of time. Add it fresh to a dish during the last 5 to 10 minutes of the cooking process.

Native to the Mediterranean and Eurasia areas, marjoram has been cultivated in Egypt for over 3000 years and has been grown in England since the 13th century. The name, marjoram, is thought by most authorities to have originated from the Greek words for mountains and brightness/joy/beauty. Oregano and marjoram were commonly called “joy of the mountains” due to their beauty and abundance on the Mediterranean mountain sides, where they grew wild.

Wild Marjoram

It is important to note that in much of the history and folklore of the genus, it is difficult to distinguish between sweet marjoram and oregano, since many authors have used the name marjoram to describe both plants, and historically, both (sweet marjoram) and (wild marjoram/oregano) have been called marjoram. The physical similarity of the plants and the difficulty with proper identification have been a historical problem that persists still today.

Sweet marjoram has long been an herb of love. According to Roman legend, the goddess of love, Venus, gave the plant its scent “to remind mortals of her beauty”.  A similar legend surrounds Aphrodite, Venus’s counterpart in Greek mythology, who is said to have created sweet marjoram and grew it on Mount Olympus. Marjoram has been used in love potions and spells and as a wedding herb in nosegays and bridal bouquets. In ancient Greece and Rome, a crown of marjoram was worn by the bride and groom during the wedding ceremony. There is more than one folk tradition linking marjoram to love and dreams. According to one legend, if a woman placed marjoram in her bed before going to sleep, Aphrodite would appear in a dream to “reveal her future spouse’s identity”.

Sweet marjoram was a popular culinary herb in Europe during the Middle Ages, when it was used in cakes, puddings and porridge. Records of its culinary use date back to the 1300s in Spain and Italy, when it was added to stews and shellfish. Marjoram was a common salad herb and was also used to flavor eggs, rice, meats and fish during the Renaissance. Both marjoram and oregano have been used to make teas and, prior to the introduction of hops, wild marjoram/oregano was an ingredient in beer and ale.

Sweet marjoram has a wide variety of culinary uses. It can flavor liqueurs and herbal vinegars and it is used in a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Leaves, flowers and tender stems can be added to stews, poultry stuffing, syrups, salad dressings, cheese mixtures for sauces and spreads, seafood, omelets, pizza and sausages. Sweet marjoram compliments mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, squash, peas and asparagus. It combines well with other herbs, especially garlic and parsley.

With its sweetness, marjoram is a natural addition to desserts. If you lived in the 16th century, you may have been treated to sugar flavored and scented with marjoram flowers. Many chefs use sweet marjoram for crème brulee, ice cream, custards, pies/tarts and other fruit desserts. The herb also complements apples, melons and tropical fruits like papaya and mango. Commercially, sweet marjoram is an ingredient in many processed foods, where the seeds are used in meat products, candy, beverages and condiments.

Italian Marjoram Flavored Tomato Sauce

In Italy, the most popular sauce herb is marjoram.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small red chili, dried
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 -26 to 28 oz containers Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 handful marjoram, roughly chopped

Directions:

Mix together all the above ingredients, except for the marjoram, in a saucepan and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Add marjoram and simmer for 5 minutes.

Note: This sauce is good on pasta with meat added to it, on vegetables and in recipes where a tomato sauce is needed. It also makes a good pizza sauce.

Red Pepper and Fennel Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 2 fennel bulbs, about 1¼ pounds
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds. Slice them into 1/4-inch slices.

Trim and clean the fennel and cut it lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices. Blanch in boiling salted water for one minute. Drain, cool to room temperature and pat dry.

Arrange the peppers and fennel in a serving bowl.

Pour the vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil to form an emulsion. Stir in the garlic, marjoram and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Marinate for an hour at room temperature before serving. Serves 4 as a salad or 6 as an appetizer.

Pasta and Squash with Marjoram

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Penne Pasta
  • 1 medium butternut squash, about 2 lbs.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh marjoram leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Using a large, heavy knife, cut off the ends of the squash and peel.

Cut squash in half, remove and discard seeds. Cut squash into 3/4-inch cubes.

Place squash in a mixing bowl and drizzle with oil. Add garlic and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat squash evenly.

Spread in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain.

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add marjoram to butter and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. (Do not allow butter to brown.) Stir in stock and season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in cream; simmer, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes.

Toss together cooked pasta, squash and sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Winter squash, including butternut, is hard and has a tough skin. To make it easier to cut, pierce the squash in several spots with a knife, then microwave on High (100%) power for 1 to 2 minutes. Let it stand 2 to 3 minutes before cutting.

Swiss Chard Torte

Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course served with a side salad.

For the crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and finely ground
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the filling:

  • 2 big bunches Swiss chard (or spinach), thick stalks removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup yellow raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons Marsala or white wine
  • 5 or 6 marjoram sprigs, leaves chopped
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the flour, the salt and the ground fennel. Add the Marsala, stirring it in briefly. Add the olive oil and stir until a sticky ball forms. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead quickly until it’s relatively smooth, only about a minute or so. The dough will feel a little oily. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest, unrefrigerated, for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the dough is resting, fill a large pot of water and bring it to a boil. Blanch the Swiss chard for about 2 minutes. Drain it into a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking. Squeeze as much water out of the chard as you can. 

In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until it softens, about a minute or so. Add the chard, seasoning it with salt, black pepper and the fennel seeds; sauté about 2 minutes longer. Add the raisins with their soaking liquid and the almonds. Take the pan off the heat and add the marjoram. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then add the eggs and the Grana Padano cheese, mixing them in well.

Roll out the dough and fit it into a 9-inch tart pan, leaving a little overhang all around. Pour in the filling, and smooth out the top. Trim the dough overhang neatly all around. Drizzle the top with a little olive oil. Bake until the crust is browned and the filling is firm, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Red-Wine Pot Roast with Porcini

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup low-salt beef broth
  • 1/2 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 4-pound boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks with some leaves, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 26-28-ounce container Italian peeled chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red wine

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300°F. Bring broth to simmer in saucepan. Remove from heat and add the mushrooms, cover, and let stand until soft, about 15 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a cutting board. Chop coarsely. Reserve mushrooms and broth separately.

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook until brown on all sides, about 15 minutes total. Transfer beef to large plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from the pot. Place pot back over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and reserved porcini mushrooms; sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently and scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add wine; boil 5 minutes. Add reserved mushroom broth, leaving any sediment behind. Boil 5 minutes.

Return beef and any accumulated juices to the pot. Cover; transfer to the oven. Cook 1 1/2 hours. Turn beef, add chopped marjoram. Cover and continue cooking until tender, about 1 1/2 hours longer. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and keep refrigerated.)

Transfer beef to a cutting board; tent with foil. Cut beef into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Transfer to a platter.

Remove any fat from the surface of the sauce in the pot and season with salt and pepper. Spoon a little sauce over the meat on the platter and garnish with additional marjoram. Serve the additional sauce on the side.


Long ago, it was customary for a housewife to keep a pot on the fire into which all scraps of meat and vegetables were thrown. She kept the pot boiling all day. Stew was always available when hungry family members or neighbors stopped in for a visit. Even though the stew was always available, what it tasted like was a matter of “potluck.”

From “Little House in the Big Woods”
by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Sketch by Garth Williams.

The word potluck was used in 16th century England to mean “food provided for an unexpected or uninvited guest, the luck of the pot.” In the U.S. in the late 19th century or early 20th century, it was a “communal meal where guests would bring their own food.”

A potluck was a meal with no particular menu for the Irish. Everyone participating brought a dish for all to share. Irish women would gather together and cook dinner. They had only one pot so they cooked the meal together with whatever ingredients they happened to have that particular day.

Potluck dinners are often organized by religious or community groups. Smaller, more informal get-togethers such as family reunions, may also be called potlucks.

A Typical Potluck:

  • Each dish must be large enough to be shared among a good portion, by not necessarily all of the expected guests.
  • Guests may bring in any form of food, ranging from the main course to desserts.
  • In the United States, potlucks are associated with crockpot dishes, casseroles, dessert bars and jello salads.

Here are some synonyms for the word “potluck” used around the world.

  • potluck dinner
  • spread
  • Jacob’s join,
  • Jacob’s supper
  • faith supper
  • covered dish supper
  • bring and share
  • shared meal
  • pitch-in
  • carry-in
  • bring-a-plate
  • smorgasbord
  • dish-to-pass

Smart, Healthy Choices:

Potluck buffet spreads can be loaded with temptations, but with the right approach, you can serve up some healthful choices and not feel deprived. For example:

Grilled veggies — served hot or cold — add nutritious variety to the table. Vegetable skewers with zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms and peppers are easy to make and with the addition of cubes of lean meat, they make an entree. Even casseroles can be healthy options with the right ingredients.

Remember salads, too, such as coleslaw, potato salad or macaroni salad made healthy with generous amounts of colorful chopped vegetables and low-fat mayonnaise or plain low-fat yogurt.

For a sandwich buffet, think about whole wheat pita pocket halves. You can serve them with stuff-it-yourself fillings such as lean meats, fish, reduced-fat cheese, tomato and spinach leaves.

Once you arrive at the gathering, take a walk around the table to decide which foods will work for you, then aim for a balanced and colorful plate.

Choose veggies first so you won’t overdo other foods. For starchy vegetables, such as potato salad, keep in mind portion control. Portions at a potluck should be much smaller than at a regular meal because you’re eating a wider variety of foods.

For meat entrees, stick to lower-fat basics such as oven-“fried” skinless chicken, grilled fish or lean ground beef or turkey burgers on whole wheat buns.

For barbecue prepared food, practice moderation — no more than two saucy spareribs because many purchased sauces contain ingredients that are high in fat.

Throughout the potluck, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Make sure sodas, iced tea and lemonade are sugar-free.

Be discerning about desserts. Try to avoid packaged cookies or other sweet treats that are loaded with fat and sugar. Seasonal fruits are a good choice, or bring your favorite dessert to share.

Make sure hot foods stay hot (above 140 degrees F) and cold foods stay cold (below 40 degrees F).

What is your favorite dish to bring to a “Potluck”?  Here are a few of mine:

Crowd-Sized Minestrone

20 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth or 8 cups water
  • 8 cups low sodium tomato juice
  • 2 cups dry red wine or 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium green cabbage, chopped ( 6 cups)
  • 4 small zucchini, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, sliced ( 1 cup)
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 56 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 (15 ounce) cans beans, rinsed and drained ( such as kidney, garbanzo or great northern)
  • 20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain
  • 2 cups small pasta (orzo, ditalini, alphabet, elbows)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook garlic and onion in oil about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender.

Stir in remaining ingredients except cheese. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Serve with cheese.

Make Ahead:

Refrigerate tightly covered no longer than 48 hours.

To Reheat: Cover and heat soup to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Italian Sausage, Peppers and Onions for a Crowd

Serves 20-25

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs Italian hot and sweet lean pork or turkey sausage, cut into 3 inch pieces
  • 8 mixed colors bell peppers, sliced into strips
  • 4 vidalia onions, sliced thin
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

Put sausage in a roasting pan large enough to fit the ingredients.

Top with onions, peppers, garlic and oregano. Add water

Cover pan with heavy duty foil and bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees F.

Cheesy Spinach Lasagna Rolls 

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1 pound (16-18) uncooked lasagna noodles
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 cups prepared marinara sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and gently transfer to kitchen towels on the countertop.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl to blend.

Spray two 9 x 13 inch casserole dishes with cooking spray; set aside.

Working with one noodle at a time, spread with 1 tablespoon of marinara sauce and about 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture.

Starting at one end, roll up noodle snugly then arrange in pan either seam-side down or standing with the rolls close enough together to hold each other closed. Repeat with the remaining noodles.

Pour remaining marinara over assembled rolls, then sprinkle the remaining 4 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover each dish tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Braised Italian Steak

Serves 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for browning meat
  • 1 lb fresh sliced mushrooms
  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 5 pounds boneless round steak, 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups crushed Italian  tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Saute the garlic, onions and sliced mushrooms in the oil for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Cut round steak into serving-size portions ,about 4 inches by 4 inches. Pound the flour into the steak pieces and transfer to the Dutch oven. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; brown round steak thoroughly on both sides, adding more oil if needed. You may need to do this in batches, removing browned meat to a plate.

When browned, return all the meat to the pot and add the beef broth, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, onions and mushrooms. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours, or until meat is very tender.

Check for drying out and add a little water if needed. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.

Italian Fruit SaladItalian Fruit Salad

Makes: 16 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes or balls (8 cups)
  • 6 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon honey

Directions:

In a large bowl combine watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

For dressing, in a small bowl whisk together vinegar and honey.

Pour dressing over fruit; stir gently to coat. Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.


 

The exact history of quick bread is not known, but most quick breads were not developed until the 18th century, after the discovery of the first leavening agent, ‘pearlash’. The first published recipe to call for pearlash — a type of gingerbread — was published in 1796 by Amelia Simmons. It was the beginning of a chemical leavening revolution that would spread around the world.

The early colonists had hardwood forests as a resource. Aside from being a logical building material and fuel, hardwoods provided another important resource, ashes. Ashes were a major export two hundred years ago, both to Canada and Britain. They were valuable for sweetening gardens and for providing lye for making soap. They were also a source of potash and its derivative, pearlash, which proved to be a leavening agent.

To make pearlash, you first have to make potash and to make potash, you first have to make lye. To make lye, you pass water through a barrel of hardwood ashes over and over. To make potash, you evaporate the lye water until you have a solid. Pearlash is a purified version of potash. It is an alkaline compound and when paired with an acidic ingredient, such as sour milk, buttermilk or molasses, will produce carbon dioxide bubbles, the very same thing that yeast produces. Pearlash was used primarily in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but because of its bitter aftertaste, it not did not replace yeast and was eventually replaced by saleratus (baking soda).

Baking soda comes from several sources, but the bulk of it is derived from an ore called “trona” which is mined in the Green River Basin in Wyoming. (Technology is being developed now to produce baking soda from sea water.)

When baking soda is heated, it slowly breaks down into sodium carbonate, water and carbon dioxide. When mixed with something acidic and wet, it starts producing carbon dioxide right away without waiting to be heated.

The next step after developing baking soda (which only worked when there was something acidic in a batter) was to create a “combination” powder which just needed to get wet to become active. To do this, baking soda was combined with a powdered acid, along with a little cornstarch, to keep the two dry and inactive. Scientists next added a second powder, cream of tartar, (a fruit acid that accumulates on the inside of wine casks as a wine matures) to the combination.  When baking soda and cream of tartar are moistened in a batter or dough, they begin to react to each other right away producing carbon dioxide bubbles.

This combination powder is still a very effective leavening agent, although it has a couple of drawbacks. It is “single acting, meaning that when it’s mixed into a batter or dough, it starts and finishes its reaction then and there. When you bake with it, you must get whatever you’re making into a preheated oven as quickly as possible before the bubbles begin to disappear. The second drawback is, that no matter how dry these combination powders are kept, they lose their potency after a short time.

Double acting baking powder is single acting baking powder taken one step further. The baking soda is still there, but the cream of tartar has been replaced by two acids, one like cream of tartar that reacts to the baking soda as soon as it’s wet and the other agent that doesn’t begin to react until it’s heated. This means you can be more leisurely about getting a dough or batter into the oven.

Like single acting baking powder, double acting baking powder contains a little cornstarch to prevent the baking soda and acids from reacting. However, it too will lose its leavening ability after about six months. Baking powder should be stored at room temperature in a dry place. A cabinet or pantry away from the sink or heat source is a perfect place. Do not store baking powder in the refrigerator, as it may shorten the shelf life due to condensation that occurs on the can.

Make Your Own Baking Powder

If you have run out of baking powder you may be able to make a substitution by using the following:  for one teaspoon baking powder = mix 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. If you are not using the mixture immediately, add 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch to absorb any moisture in the air and to prevent a premature chemical reaction between the acid and alkali.

When baking powder was fairly new, bakers felt that it was going to replace yeast for all bread baking. It produced the same gas that yeast did (carbon dioxide) and its action was indeed “quick” compared to that of yeast. It has, in fact, replaced yeast as a leavening agent for cakes almost entirely, but not in bread dough. Quick breads cover a wide range of baked goods from biscuits and scones that are made from a dough,to muffins and loaves that are made from a batter. They can be large or small, savory or sweet. The major thing that identifies them is the fact that they are, as their name implies, quick to make.

Quick breads can be made from many kinds of ingredients. Banana bread and pumpkin bread are popular, but for the gardener with too much zucchini, a good zucchini bread recipe is a great way to use up some of that surplus squash. Zucchini, a green striped squash with a sweet flavor, is excellent to use in a quick bread. Modern squash, like zucchini, are descendants of plants that were first cultivated around 10,000 years ago, in what is today Mexico and Guatemala. Evidence suggests these ancient squash were originally grown for their seeds before eventually being bred as a vegetable. Shortly after Europeans arrived in the Americas, they began bringing squash back to Europe. The Italians are credited with breeding today’s modern zucchini from the original American squash.

How to keep your Zucchini Bread healthy:

  • Substituting whole wheat flour for white flour adds fiber and you’ll get about 3 grams of fiber in each serving.
  • Applesauce is a naturally fat-free ingredient that can be substituted for oil in many recipes.
  • Yogurt, an excellent source of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and iodine, is another ingredient that can be substituted for some of the oil in recipes.
  • Use sugar (Truvia or Domino Light) and whole egg substitutes (Egg Beaters) to reduce fat and calories in baked goods.
  • Zucchini is the low-calorie, naturally fat-free secret ingredient and hidden vegetable in the recipes below. A cup of zucchini used in a recipe contributes essential nutrients and keeps the bread moist.
  • Add nuts. They are lower in saturated fats, higher in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids and an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Zucchini Chip Bread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour and 1-1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute blend equivalent to 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. In a small bowl combine egg substitute, applesauce, oil, orange peel and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened. Fold in zucchini, walnuts and chocolate pieces.

Divide mixture evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool completely on wire racks. For easier slicing, wrap and store overnight before serving. Makes 2 loaves (24 servings).

Vegan Gluten Free Zucchini Bread

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini
  • 1 cup organic applesauce
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup white sorghum flour
  • 1 cup gluten free all purpose flour (Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine zucchini, applesauce, sugar, oil, vanilla and apple cider vinegar.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and sprinkle over the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into a lightly greased (9×5) loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Zucchini-Carrot Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup of all purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 2 eggs or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 small zucchini, shredded (3/4 cup)
  • 1 small carrot, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degree F. Coat the wells of a standard-sized (12)  muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl.

Mix eggs, oil and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve sugar. Stir in shredded zucchini and carrot.

Stir egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir in sunflower seeds. Divide batter equally among muffin cups, a slightly heaping 1/4 cup in each.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan to wire racks to cool.

Zucchini Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream with chives (optional)

Directions:

Combine the zucchini and salt in a large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes. Place zucchini in a strainer and press firmly with a rubber spatula to force out water.

Combine zucchini, 1/2 cup red onion, the Parmesan cheese, flour, egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic powder and pepper in a large bowl. If the batter is not thick enough to hold together, add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the right consistency.

Lightly coat a large skillet or griddle with nonstick cooking spray. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to skillet and heat over medium heat. Using 1/4 cup zucchini mixture per pancake, drop zucchini mixture onto hot skillet, leaving 2 to 3 inches between mounds. Flatten mounds to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cook pancakes about 4 minutes or until golden brown, carefully turning once halfway through cooking.

Keep pancakes warm in a 300 degree F oven while cooking the remaining pancakes. If desired, top pancakes with sour cream .

Zucchini Scones

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl,  stir together all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center of the flour mixture.

In a small bowl, combine egg and buttermilk; stir in zucchini and chocolate pieces or pecans. Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Using a fork, stir just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough by folding and gently pressing it for 10 to 12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut dough circle into 12 wedges.

Place dough wedges, 2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Remove scones from the baking pans and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm. Makes 12 scones. Scones freeze and reheat well.

Zucchini Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or butter alternative, such as Smart Balance (or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup applesauce)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten or 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large zucchini (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup medium-grind cornmeal

Directions:

Position a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Coat a 9 x 5 x 3″ loaf pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat or in the microwave. Set aside and let cool. Whisk in (applesauce if using) eggs and buttermilk.

Trim zucchini ends. Thinly slice five 1/8″ rounds from 1 end of the zucchini and reserve for garnish. Coarsely grate remaining zucchini. Add to the bowl with the butter mixture and stir until well blended.

Sift both flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Whisk in cornmeal. Add zucchini mixture; fold just to blend (mixture will be very thick). Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top. Place reserved zucchini slices on top of the batter down the center in a single layer.

Bake bread until golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pan; let cool completely on a wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar or sugar substitute equivalent
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 ounces reduced fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan.

Combine egg whites, applesauce, sugar, grated zucchini and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until well mixed.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon in a large measuring cup and add to the egg mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes.

To make the frosting:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla in the bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Spread on the top of the cake. Chill before serving.


Little Italy in Canada

Montreal

Along St. Lawrence Boulevard, a short drive north of downtown is Petite Italie, the Italian Canadian neighborhood in Montreal. Petite Italie dates to the late 19th century with another large influx of Italian immigrants arriving after World War II. It is still home to the largest ethnic group in predominantly French speaking Montreal. One of the main attractions of the neighborhood is the La Difesa Church with its beautiful frescoes and brick facades. Other highlights include the numerous Italian shops and restaurants along St. Lawrence Boulevard with some of the best coffee shops in the city. The Jean Talon outdoor market offers imported Italian products, fresh produce, cheeses and local Quebec specialties.

Toronto

Toronto’s Little Italy is along the west end of College Street and is known as a popular shopping district. The large Italian population arrived in the early 20th Century with another wave arriving after World War II. The Italian presence lives on in the cafes, restaurants, social clubs and a vibrant nightlife. Another Italian neighborhood is the Corso Italia, with its high-end shops and cafes. Every July this neighborhood hosts the Corso Italia Toronto Fiesta.

Vancouver

After World war II many Italian immigrants settled in eastern Vancouver where a Little Italy was found along Commercial Drive.  An Italian Cultural Centre opened nearby on the Grandview Highway in the 1970s. Italian Canadians still have a distinct presence in the neighborhood, as they do near East Hastings Street, between Boundary and Duthie. There are multiple Italian cafés and delis along the street. Every year during June, Vancouver’s “Little Italy”  celebrates Italian Day on The Drive where everything that is Italian is embraced: food, music, fashion, dance, art, sport, history and community interaction.  

Immigration to Canada

The first explorer to North America and to Canada was the Venetian, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot). His voyage to Canada and other parts of the Americas was followed by his son, Sebastiano Caboto and Giovanni da Verrazzano. During the New France era, France also occupied parts of Northern Italy and there was a significant Italian presence in the French military forces in the colonies. Notable were Alphonse de Tonty, who helped establish Detroit and Henri de Tonti, who journeyed with La Salle in his exploration of the Mississippi River. Italians made up a small portion of the population and quickly lost their ethnic identities. In 1881, only 1,849 Canadians claimed to be Italian.

Giovanni da Verrazzano

Giovanni Caboto 

Around 1880 Canadian immigration policy became less restrictive when construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway increased the demand for unskilled labor. As a result, Italians began to emigrate in large numbers, increasing from an average of 360 per year to more than 1,000 per year, with a peak of 27,704 in 1913.

Another substantial influx took place in the early twentieth century when over a hundred thousand Italians moved to Canada. These were largely peasant farmers from rural southern Italy and the agrarian parts of the north-east (Veneto, Friuli). They mainly immigrated to Toronto and Montreal, both of which soon had large Italian communities. Smaller communities also arose in Hamilton, Vancouver, Windsor, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Sherbrooke, Quebec City, Sudbury and the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean area. Many also settled in mining communities in British Columbia, Alberta, Cape Breton Island and Northern Ontario. The Northern Ontario cities of Sault Ste. Marie and Fort William were quite heavily populated by Italian immigrants. This migration was largely halted by World War I and new immigration laws in the 1920s limited Italian immigration.

The Amatuzio family, Clark Street, Montreal, 1914

A second wave occurred after the Second World War, when Italians, especially from the Lazio, Abruzzo, Friuli, Veneto and Calabria regions, left the war-impoverished country for opportunities in a young and growing country. Many Italians from Istria and Dalmatia also immigrated to Canada during this period as displaced persons.

It was not until the Canadian mines began to close in the 1940s that the numbers of Italians in the Canadian urban areas, particularly Edmonton and Winnipeg, began to accumulate in appreciable numbers. Between 1945 and 1960, in both Canada and Italy, immigration policies encouraged a new wave of immigration to Canada, consisting mainly of skilled laborers. Although as many as two-thirds of these new immigrants stayed in the larger eastern cities, urban centers on the Plains, such as Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg experienced substantial population growth. 

As of 2006, 1,445,330 Canadian residents stated they had Italian ancestry, in which 741,045 had sole Italian origins, while the other 704,285 were of partial Italian origin. Canadians of Italian ancestry make up 4.6% of the population of Canada, a rise from 4.3% in 2001. The majority live in Ontario (867,980) where they constitute more than seven per cent of the population, while another 300,000 live in Quebec.

The first Italian newspaper in Canada was published in Montréal in the late 19th century. By 1914, several others had been founded across the country from Toronto to Vancouver. After 1950, dozens of Italian newspapers and magazines, many aimed at particular regional, religious or political markets, proliferated across Canada. By the mid-1960s, Italian-language publications had a readership of 120,000. The most influential of these: Il Corriere Italiano of Montréal and, prior to its demise in May 2013, Il Corriere Canadese of Toronto, which carried an English-language supplement to reach younger Italian Canadians. In 1978, the owner of Il Corriere Canadese launched a multilingual television station in Ontario, CFMT (renamed OMNI TV in 1986 after being sold), which transmits in Italian and other languages daily. A few years later, the Telelatino Network commenced operations as a national cable system for Italian and Spanish programming.

MARIO BERNARDI

Italian Canadians have altered their society’s tastes in food, fashion, architecture and recreation and they have also made important contributions to the arts. MARIO BERNARDI of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, for example, was appointed the first conductor of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in 1968 and helped guide it to international stature. The avant-garde paintings of GUIDO MOLINARI of Montréal now hang in leading galleries. The popular, BRUNO GERUSSI, a former Shakespearean actor, became a well-known radio and TV personality. Among the many writers of Italian background are J.R. COLOMBO, a best-selling author of reference works and literature and the Governor General’s Award-winning author, NINO RICCI. A few other famous Italian Canadians are Umberto Menghi, restaurateur and TV personality, Nat Bosa, real estate developer and Mike Colle, Ontario minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Windsor’s (Ontario) Community Museum is housed in the François Baby House, one of the oldest buildings in Windsor. The Museum has a wide array of collections that document the rich history of Windsor and Essex County including artifacts, paintings, drawings, prints, postcards, photographs, books, newspapers, maps and archives. The Museum offers exhibitions, public programs and educational programs for schools and community groups that wish to explore the many individuals, cultures and events that contributed to the development of Windsor. The Italian Community Exhibition at the Windsor’s Community Museum was developed by Madelyn Della Valle – Curator.

Suggested Reading:

Kenneth Bagnell, Canadese: A Portrait of the Italian-Canadians (1989); Roberto Perin and Franc Sturino,Arrangiarsi: The Italian Immigration Experience in Canada (1992, 2nd ed); Robert F. Harney, If One Were to Write a History: Selected Writings (991); Franc Sturino, Forging the Chain: A Case Study of Italian Migration to North America, 1880-1930 (1990); John E. Zucchi, Italians in Toronto: Development of a National Identity, 1875-1935 (1988); Franca Iacovetta, Such Hardworking People: Italian Immigrants in Postwar Toronto (1992).

In Italy, cooking is an art. The essence of the food is found in the perfect combination of the ingredients. Olive oil, sauces, spices, herbs and Parmesan cheese play an important role in Italian food, as does the use of pasta, rice, beans and vegetables. Fresh ingredients are the essential part of the meal. In a typical meal, pasta, rice or soup is served as “il primo piatto”.  Meat or fish will be the “il secondo piatto” accompanied by vegetables. An espresso coffee and dessert usually end the meal. Italian immigrants might have forgotten their native language, but they never forgot how to cook Italian food.

Canadian Italian Specialties

Calamari in Tomato White Wine Sauce

Here is a link to a video on how to clean the squid:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM2R_evubhI

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (454 g) fresh calamari
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) hot pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) drained seeded chopped canned plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) salt

Directions:

Holding the calamari tube, pull off the head and tentacles; set aside. Rinse squid tubes under cold water, rubbing off any purplish skin. Pull out and discard the “pen” (long clear plastic-like skeleton) from the centre of the tubes.

On a cutting board, pull off and discard the fins from the tubes. Cut off and discard the eyes and head from the tentacles, keeping the tentacles attached to the ring on top. Squeeze the hard beak from the centre of the tentacles and discard.

Cut tubes crosswise into 1/2-inch (1 cm) wide rings; pat dry.

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and hot pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add squid rings; simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve with Italian bread.

Adapted from Canadian Living Magazine

Canadian Three-Cheese Spinach Pizza

What is Canadian Mozzarella?

The Canadian Dairy Commission created a new milk class for mozzarella cheese used on fresh pizzas, a move that is expected to drop the cost of pizza. The new classification, approved by the commission recently, went into effect on  June 1, the CBC News reported. The cost of mozzarella cheese in Canada is high when compared to the world market, however, this new classification is expected to lower the price of Canadian-made mozzarella.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (500 g) pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper
  • 1 bag baby spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Canadian Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup (75 mL) grated Canadian Parmesan cheese
  • 4 oz (125 g) Canadian Blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 14-inch (35 cm) round; centre on a greased pizza pan. Brush the dough with oil and sprinkle with garlic, pepper and the mozzarella, Parmesan and blue cheeses. Lay the spinach leaves on top.

Bake in in bottom third of the oven until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden and puffed, about 18-20 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces.

Adapted from Canadian Living Magazine

Roasted Stuffed Lobster

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 2 live lobsters, 1-1/4 to –1-1/2 lbs each (or you can buy steamed lobsters from your fish store)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 anchovy fillet, finely chopped
  • A pinch of hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/3 cup dry Marsala

Directions:

Parboil Lobster:

Fill a large pot with 1 inch of salted water and heat on high. Once the water boils, the lobster is ready to be cooked. Plunge the lobster head first into the pot and close the lid. As soon as the lobster begins to turn red (3-4 minutes), remove it to a large bowl filled with ice. Leave the lobster in the ice bath until it is cool to the touch. This stops the cooking process.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

Prepare Stuffing:

Cook the breadcrumbs and garlic in 3 tablespoons of the oil until very lightly browned (stir continuously to precent burning). Add the anchovy and pepper flakes in the last 30 seconds, then take the pan off the heat and add two-thirds of the parsley and the Marsala to moisten the mixture.

Split the lobsters in half down the middle (head end first – all you need is a large, sharp knife). Place them cut-side up on a large baking sheet. Cover the lobsters (heads and tails) with breadcrumbs, spreading them evenly and pressing down lightly. Drizzle with the remaining oil.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the breadcrumbs have turned brown on the top. Serve the lobsters sprinkled with the remaining parsley and a lemon wedge.

Sausage with Broccoli Rabe

Adapted from Canadian chef, David Rocco’s Dolce Vita television show which is seen in more than 150 countries worldwide, including Food Network Canada, BBC Food, Discovery Travel and Leisure, Nat Geo Adventure Channel and Cooking Channel. The series has also produced a best-selling cookbook (Harper Collins Canada), which won a Canadian Gourmand award. David was also named one of Canada’s 20 Stylemakers by Canada’s national fashion magazine, Flare. David’s first television series, Avventura, an Italian travel and food program, is still seen in syndication in more than 40 countries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of rapini or broccoli rabe, cleaned and cut in half
  • Salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Whole chilies to taste
  • 8 (3 ounces each) pork sausage links

Directions:

In a saucepan, cook the rapini in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain.

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the sausages. Cook the sausage for a few minutes, turning frequently, before piercing with a knife in order to release some of the fat. If the sausages are sticking to the pan, add a few tablespoons of water instead of adding more oil. Continue cooking until the sausages are golden brown and fully cooked. Remove to a plate and discard the fat in the pan.

Add 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the same pan, heat and add the garlic and chili peppers. Cook until the garlic is golden brown. Add the rapini and saute for a few minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the cooked sausages to the rapini and cook together for a few minutes. Transfer the mixture to a warm plate and serve hot with italian bread.

Italian Almond Cookies

Makes about 40 cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups blanched almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 extra-large egg whites
  • 1 3/4 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

In a food processor, grind the almonds and granulated sugar to a very fine powder, about 3 minutes. Pour the almond/ sugar mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the honey and almond extract with a fork. In a measuring cup beat the egg whites lightly, just to blend, and stir 1/4 cup of the beaten egg whites into the almond mixture; if the dough is not soft enough add more egg whites by the teaspoon (do not add too much or the dough will be too wet).

Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar on the counter and turn the dough out onto the sugar. Roll the dough into a log over the confectioner’s sugar. Snip into walnut-sized pieces and roll each into a ball, coating the outside well with the confectioner’s sugar. The confectioner’s sugar should remain on the outside of the dough rather than be incorporated into it.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the cookies on the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 minutes or until the surface cracks and blisters. The cookies will be pale and soft and flatten a bit; do not over bake or they will be dry. Cool the cookies to room temperature on a rack. Dust with the remaining 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar before serving.


sage5

The Italian word for sage, salvia, derives from the Latin salus, which means health, safety or wellbeing. Sage was sought, studied and used for medicinal purposes long before it was used in the kitchen. Today, this not often used herb is beneficial in relieving sore throats (if you gargle with it or drink it as a tea); and, if you rub some of its leaves on your teeth, it is said to whiten them. It’s also touted as a great natural insect repellent. Sage helps digestion and aids in the absorption of fatty food. In ancient times and especially during the Roman Empire, sage was considered to be a “miracle herb” that could not only save you from a snake bite, but give you longevity as well.

The varieties of sage used as a spice originated in Asia Minor and quickly spread all over the Mediterranean. Since the Middle Ages, sage has been grown in Central Europe and, today, there are at least 500 varieties of this genus all over the world. Some sage plants are just ornamental and some are even used as hallucinogens (Salvia divinorum). The flowers of this perennial herb are blue and it has gray-green suede-like leaves on woody stems that can grow up to 2 feet high.

Sage is a great plant to have in your garden and a great spice for your kitchen. A member of the mint family, culinary sage is highly aromatic and is best used fresh. The leaves have a lemony fragrance and a slightly bitter taste. Dried sage is also perfectly fine to use when fresh isn’t available. To dry the leaves, just hang the sprigs upside-down in a dry place away from sunlight. Use seedlings or cuttings from existing sage plants for your garden; sage seeds are generally unreliable and take a long time to germinate. Plant them in partial sunlight and don’t let the plants get too dry. As your sage plants grow, trim them back to keep them from getting woody and to encourage new shoots, which have the best flavor. Trim off the stems and strip the leaves to use fresh. Sage leaves are fairly thick, so they will not dry hard and crumbly like other herbs. Chop or crush the leaves to use for cooking.

North Americans most commonly associate sage as a spice used for turkey or pork stuffings. In Italy, however, sage is used generously in dishes such as saltimbocca (saltimbocca alla romana) and with any grilled or roasted meats and sausages, in general. Sage is excellent with gnocchi (Gnocchi or agnolotti burro e salvia), in a risotto (Risotto con la zucca), pasta and bean soups (Pasta e fagioli), on focaccia, in marinades and aromatic oils. It also blends well with mild cheeses; try a little sage on a grilled cheese sandwich made with smoked mozzarella or fontina cheese on whole wheat bread. To add a wonderful aroma to your favorite grilled dishes, place the stems or leaves on the hot charcoals while cooking. or in a grill box on a gas grill.

Some Of My Favorite Recipes Using Sage

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 8 thin strips
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Lemon wedges

Directions:

Sprinkle the chicken lightly with salt. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet; wrap 2 prosciutto slices around each cutlet, securing sage leaves in place.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the chicken to the pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Combine broth, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, linguine and broccoli.

Minestrone with Barley and Beans

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onions (including green tops)
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped Savoy cabbage
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 (14-oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
  • 1 cup frozen, cut green beans
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In large pot heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, sage, thyme, parsley and garlic. Sauté 5-6 minutes.

Add cabbage, salt, pepper and cannellini beans and stir. Add broth, bring to a boil and stir in potato and barley. Reduce heat and simmer, covered 20-22 minutes or until potato pieces are tender when pierced with a fork, gently stirring occasionally.

Stir in green beans. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish by sprinkling Parmesan cheese over the top before serving.

Fish Fillets with Tomato Sage Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, sliced
  • Sea salt
  • 6 skin-on lean white fish fillets (such as, striped bass, halibut, snapper or grouper, each about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons diced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 tomatoes, preferably 2 or 3 varieties (about 2 pounds), sliced thin

Directions:

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic, sage and 1/2 teaspoon of salt until combined and fragrant and set aside.

Season the fish fillets with sea salt.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Put the vegetable oil in the hot pan and immediately add the fillets, skin sides down. Lightly press each fillet to ensure the skin makes contact with the hot pan. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the flesh nearest the bottom of the pan begins to turn brown.

Use a thin spatula to turn the fillets over. Add the shallots and the softened butter to one side of the pan while tilting the pan towards you slightly. The butter will immediately melt and bubble and collect with the shallots in the side of the pan closest to you. Use a large tablespoon to baste the fillets with the butter and shallots and continue to baste for about 2 minutes.

Transfer the fillets to a warm, oven-proof platter. Check the doneness of the fillets. If they need a little more cooking, put the platter in a 250-degree oven for 2 to 3 minutes. The fish should be cooked through but not over-cooked.

To make the sauce:

Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the tomato slices, cold butter and garlic-sage paste to the skillet. Cook at a simmer, gently moving the ingredients around the pan with a wooden spoon to distribute the butter and garlic paste evenly until the sauce comes together.

To serve, spoon the sauce on a warm serving platter and set the fillets on top.

Fingerling Potatoes with Sage & Garlic

Choose fingerlings that are all about the same thickness (length doesn’t matter) so that they will cook in about the same amount of time.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 25 large sage leaves
  • 8 garlic cloves, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 1 lb fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon sherry or malt vinegar

Directions:

In a large (10-inch) straight-sided skillet with a lid, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is foaming, add the sage leaves and cook, stirring a bit, until the sage leaves turn a crispy, darker color and the butter is golden brown, about 2 minutes. (Watch carefully so that they don’t burn.) Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the sage leaves with a fork or tongs to a plate.

Put the pan back over medium heat and immediately add the garlic and potatoes. Season them with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss them in the butter/oil mixture. Rearrange all the potatoes cut side down, cover the pan loosely with the lid (leaving the lid a bit askew for some steam to escape), and cook until the bottoms of the potatoes are well browned, 8 to 10 minutes. (Move the pan around occasionally for even browning.)

Add the chicken broth and cover with the lid partially askew again. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer and cook until the broth has reduced to just a tablespoon or two, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the heat off and transfer the potatoes and garlic to a serving dish. Add the vinegar to the pan and stir and scrape with a wooden spoon to get up any browned bits. Immediately pour the pan drippings over the potatoes and garlic and garnish with the crispy sage leaves. Sprinkle a little more kosher salt over all.

Pasta With Butternut Squash And Sage

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices bacon , halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 8 large fresh sage leaves plus 1 tablespoon minced leaves
  • 1 medium medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 6 scallions, sliced thin (about 1 cup) or shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Table salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound penne pasta or other short, tubular pasta
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 4 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds or pignoli (pine nuts), toasted

Directions:

Cook bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add whole sage leaves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl, reserving bacon fat and bacon-sage mixture separately.

Return the skillet to high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat (adding olive oil if necessary) and heat until shimmering. Add squash in an even layer and cook, without stirring, until the squash begins to caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the squash is spotty brown, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Add butter and allow to melt, about 30 seconds. Add scallions, nutmeg, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper and the 1 tablespoon minced sage; cook, stirring occasionally, until scallions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; continue to cook until squash is tender, 1 to 3 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook until just al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Transfer pasta back to the empty Dutch oven and add squash mixture to the pasta; stir in 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, lemon juice and reserved bacon-sage mixture, adjusting consistency with reserved pasta liquid. Top with almonds and serve passing Parmesan separately.


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Lake-Finland

Finland – Lakes and Islands  (Finland picture book/saimaa)

My Experiences With Finland’s New Nordic Cuisine:

When I was selected to contribute to the NORTH Festival Food Blogger Outreach campaign by writing about Finland’s cuisine, I asked myself – what do I know about Finland and what would I want to write about? Well, my knowledge about this beautiful Nordic country was superficial, I quickly realized. I knew, right away, though, that I would write about Finland’s food culture, since my point of view in my blog writing centers on understanding the culture and history behind a food group or recipe. I like to tell stories. It can be a story about the origin of a food or the culture of the people who eat this food or about the traditions surrounding a particular meal. So, the story for this post is what I learned about Finland’s Nordic cuisine and how to tranfer what I learned to my kitchen.

Wintertime in Finland  http://www.flickr.com/photos/visitfinland/

Wintertime in Finland (Flickr photo/visitfinland)

As I began my research, I realized that weather and geography have had a major impact on the Finnish cuisine. Finland is known as the “land of a thousand lakes”, so fish and seafood are an important part of their cuisine. The climate includes a short summer with long days and hot temperatures and a long winter where frost penetrates deep into the ground. Only the hardiest of plants and wild animals survive these conditions, so planning dinner is based on what is available at a particular time of the year.

Cloudberries

Cloudberries

scandmap

Nordic Countries

Warm weather foods generally include wild berries, mushrooms, fresh vegetables, game and fish, while winter foods are generally hearty whole grain porridges, potatoes, carrots, swede (also known as a turnip or in America as a rutabaga) and meat casseroles or stews. 

Cheese is usually made in the summer, when the production of milk is plentiful. Also popular at this time of year is a dessert called Juhannusjuusto, which is cooked cheese curds that are served cold and sprinkled with sugar.

In the past, very few spices, other than salt, were utilized and fresh herbs, like dill, were limited to the summer months. Fish and meat, including reindeer, are often cooked on an outdoor grill. Several ways of preparing fish are used, including frying, boiling, drying, salting, fermenting and smoking. Salmon is very popular and is usually served smoked or raw with lemon juice.  It is common to smoke fish for use during the colder months. 

Crayfish

Crayfish

Another popular seafood in Finland, much to my surprise, is crayfish, better known where I live, not far from New Orleans, as crawfish. The highlight of the summer for many Finns is the opening of the crayfish season in late July. Many head to the restaurants for traditional crayfish parties, where they get together to enjoy this treat and toast each other with Aquavit (a liquor made from potato or grain mash, fermented traditionally with caraway seeds and herbs). In keeping with the New Nordic Cuisine initiative, it is becoming popular to use crayfish as an ingredient when creating other entrees. This new focus can be seen in many restaurants, especially in Helsinki, where crayfish is on the menu, but not in its traditional form. 

aquavit

So how did this New Nordic Cuisine initiative come about? Close to ten years ago, a group of Nordic chefs rededicated themselves to cooking with local, seasonal ingredients. These forward thinking chefs felt that their cuisine should explore the region’s overlooked local products and utilize healthier methods of cooking. This movement has become a widespread maifesto, not just for restaurants, but for home cooks, also.

To understand what this new approach to cooking looked like, I watched a few videos of some of Finland’s well known chefs demonstrating their application of the New Nordic cuisine. For example, Chef Petteri Luoto prepared a Roasted Salmon entree topped with a shrimp sauce for a presentation at the Kennedy Center in February. All the ingredients he used were fresh and readily available, such as salmon, shrimp, dill, lemon and honey mustard and prepared with healthy cooking techniques. You can see the demonstration by clicking on this site: 

http://www.kennedy-center.org/explorer/artists/?entity_id=87986&source_type=B).

Pike with Fennel

Pike with Fennel

On his blog, Sasu Laukkonen owner-chef of Chef & Sommelier Restaurant in Helsinki, writes about Finland’s culinary focus, “It made us think about our own backyards.” Laukkonen collects locally grown berries for dessert. He prepares bisque with locally caught crayfish and tops it with local apples. He roasts lamb from the Baltic Sea’s Aland Islands. He uses nontraditional ingredients, such as pike with fennel, beef tartare with parmesan mayonnaise and organic celeriac with hazelnuts and pistachios. “Ten years ago we wouldn’t have dreamt of serving Finnish lamb,” says Laukkonen. “Now that is all we serve, as well as locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. We have started to believe in our own produce.”

As part of developing this post, the NORTH Festival campaign sent me reading material and photos about Finland and two Finnish products: Ruis bread (rye) and Spelt Laku (spelt licorice). The food items were sent so that I could sample these products, write about them and possibly develop a recipe. I immediately thought sandwich, when I saw the bread. I had read that voileipä (sandwiches) are popular in Finland. Usually, a simple preparation with butter, lettuce, smoked salmon, crab or crayfish and served open-faced on hearty rye bread.

The licorice was a surprise. If I were to develop a recipe using these ingredients, how would licorice fit? 

Finnish Rye Bread and Spelt Licorice

Finnish Rye Bread and Spelt Licorice

Finnish Ruis bread is hand made from 100% whole grain and spelt licorice does not cause sugar-like effects in the body.

A look inside the packages.

Now my expertise is in Italian cooking, but I wanted to create a recipe for this post that demonstrated the flavors of Finland for my readers. At first, I wasn’t sure how I could incorporate the licorice, short of just eating it and describing the taste. However, drawing on my knowledge of Italian seasoning, I recalled that anise is an often used spice in Italian cooking. So, why not use the spelt licorice as a flavoring ingredient in the recipe I was going to create.

I decided on using  the following ingredients:

  • Organic pork tenderloin: pork is a popular meat choice in Finland and readily available in the U.S.
  • Reduced fat sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar and mustard: ingredients often found in Finnish cuisine
  • Butterkäse, a smooth, semi-soft, lower fat cheese (in place of butter)
  • Cucumbers and red onions
  • Ruis rye bread

The healthy cooking techniques I used:

  • Spice rub for the pork
  • Pickling 
  • Oven roasting

The recipe that follows demonstrates the concept behind the New Nordic Cuisine initiative and one that can easily be made by a home cook.

Finnish Open-Faced Sandwich

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 organic pork tenderloin (about 1 lb) trimmed of fat
  • 1/2 of a cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1/4 of a red onion, sliced very thin
  • 8 thin slices Butterkäse cheese
  • 1/2 of a Ruis round rye bread, sliced horizontally (4 slices)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Pickling Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

Spice Rub:

  • 2 tablespoons grated spelt licorice (about 4 pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Sour Cream Sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons reduced fat sour cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

To pickle the cucumbers and onions:

Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar. Add the thinly sliced cucumbers and onions. Mix well. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight.

Pickle thinly sliced cucumbers and red onions.

Pickle thinly sliced cucumbers and red onions.

To make the sour cream sauce:

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill and salt in a small dish. Chill in the refrigerator while you cook the pork.

To make the spice rub and pork:

Grated spelt licorice

Grated spelt licorice

Spice rub for the pork.

Spice rub for the pork.

Grate the licorice over a piece of waxed paper and add the remaining spice ingredients. Mix well.

Place the trimmed pork on top of the spice mixture and rub it all over the surface of the pork.

Press rub on pork tenderloin

Press rub on pork tenderloin

Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides.

Brown pork on all sides in an ovenproof skillet.

Brown pork on all sides in an ovenproof skillet.

Place the skillet in the oven and roast the pork for about 15 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees F.

Transfer skillet to the oven.

Transfer skillet to the oven.

Remove the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Then, slice thinly.

Assemble the ingredients for the sandwich and layer them in the following order:

Sandwich ingredinets: pork, cheese, cucumbers/onions, sour cream sauce and rye bread

Sandwich ingredients: cheese, pork, sour cream sauce and cucumbers/onions on rye bread

Place 2 slices of the cheese on top of the bread.

Place 3-4 pork slices on top of the cheese; then 1/4 of the sour cream sauce on top of the pork slices and spread evenly.

Distribute 1/4 of the pickled cucumbers and onions on top of the sauce. Repeat with remaining bread and sandwich ingredients. Serve this sandwich with your favorite fruit.

Finnish style open-faced sandwich

Finnish style open-faced sandwich

My adventure into Finnish Nordic Cuisine was ………delicious! My husband agreed.

Learn more about Nordic cuisine at the NORTH Festival 2013 in New York City. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and NORTH Festival 2013.

NORTH Festival


Challah

The Jewish presence in Italy dates to the pre‑Christian Roman period (more than two thousand years ago) and continues to this day. There are approximately 28,400 Jews in Italy today. They are concentrated in Rome (13,000) and Milan (8,000), with smaller communities situated in Turin (900), Florence (1,000), Venice (600) and Livorno (600). Other Jewish communities numbering a few hundred members can be found in several other cities. The community’s umbrella organization, the Unione delle Comunita Ebraiche Italiane (Union of Italian Jewish Communities), provides religious, cultural and educational services to Italy’s Jewish population and also represents the community on the national-political level.

The Great Synagogue of Rome.

When the edict of expulsion was issued in 1492, many Jews from Spain and Sicily (which, along with Naples and points south, were under Spanish control at the time) fled north, traveling up the Italian peninsula. The refugees brought their favored foods and flavorings to their new communities, among them marzipan, eggplant, artichokes, a taste for sweet-and-sour and the raisin and pine nut garnish used with meats and vegetables, as well as fish. Caponata, now used throughout Italy, was another Sicilian-Jewish dish. A sweet-savory cold salad of fried eggplant, onions, garlic, olives and capers (and tomatoes—a later addition from the Americas). It is still labeled alla giudea, Jewish-style, on some menus.

Italian Jews have always been exceptionally fond of vegetables and developed countless ways to use them. Spinach is a particular favorite: even the stems might be slowly braised for a side dish or the leaves combined with almonds in a dessert. Pumpkin and other golden squashes—introduced from the New World by Spanish and Portuguese Jews—are often included on the Yom Kippur break-the-fast menu, either pureed with onion and a touch of crystallized citron (etrog) or flavored with Parmesan and raisins as a filling for pasta.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Much of Italian-Jewish cooking is “cucina povera”, cuisine of the poor and vegetables were often used to stretch—or even replace—meat and fish. Sometimes, as in polpettine di pollocoi sedani (chicken meatballs with celery) a Roman Rosh Hashanah specialty, the vegetables are cooked alongside the meat. In other recipes, olives, potatoes, cooked spinach or other vegetables are mixed into ground meat, creating meatballs and loaves that not only make the meat go further, but are more tender and flavorful.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. The themes of this solemn holiday are self-reflection and repentance. There are ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in which Jewish people are charged with taking a reflective look at the past year, repenting for misdeeds, asking for forgiveness and working on ways to become better people.

The home ceremony takes place at sundown and the main event of this special day is a festive seder meal. There are three categories of symbolic foods for Rosh Hashanah and each has its own meaning. The first is sweet tasting foods, such as apples and honey, which represent the desire for a sweet year to come. The second which includes pomegranates and fish, represent one’s wish to be fruitful and multiply. The third category which includes foods such as carrots, beets, leeks and cabbage, represent the destruction and eradication of one’s sins and one’s enemies.

Giuliana Ascoli Vitali-Norsa, author of La Cucina nella Tradizione Ebraica, says that, “among other things, the standard Italian Rosh Hashanah meal will include ricciolini, triglie alla mosaica, polpettone di tacchino, fried yellow squash or other vegetables prepared without vinegar and either a honey cake, sfratti or apples and bananas cooked with rum. Ricciolini are pasta served in broth, a sort of noodle soup, while triglie alla mosaica are reef mullet cooked in a tomato sauce, sometimes with a jolt of hot pepper; you also find them referred to as triglie alla livornese and by extension other kinds of fish cooked in this sauce can be called “alla livornese” too. Polpettone di tacchino is turkey loaf and it can be simple or extraordinary.”

I have put together a menu for an Italian Rosh Hashanah dinner for you to try with the help of some famous Jewish chefs.

Antipasto:

carciofi alla giudia - Picture of Rotonda Restaurant, RomeThis photo from Rotonda Restaurant in Rome is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Carciofi alla Giudia (Artichokes Jewish Style)

A very old recipe, these artichokes became famous in the Jewish community in Rome.

Adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 12 small artichokes
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Olive oil for deep frying
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Matzoh meal or flour for dredging

Directions:

Trim the tops off the artichokes, working around the globe to retain the shape. Halve the lemons, juice them and cover with cold water. Soak the artichokes in this lemon water until ready to use, then drain and dry.

Hold the artichokes by the stems and bang them a little against the countertop to open the leaves.

Combine 1/2 cup of the olive oil, the parsley, basil, salt, pepper and garlic and sprinkle the mixture between the leaves. Roll each artichoke in matzo meal or flour.

Heat a large pot, wok, or Dutch oven with a cover, filled with about 3 inches of oil, to sizzling. Deep-fry 2–3 artichokes at a time for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally with a tongs; they will puff up as they cook. Serve hot, sprinkled with additional sea salt.

Yield: 6 servings

First Course:

Three Bean Minestrone

Joy of Kosher by Jamie Geller

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 cup cooked (or canned, drained & rinsed) white kidney, cannellini or Great Northern beans
  • 1 cup cooked (or canned, drained & rinsed) pinto beans
  • 8 cups Water or Vegetable Broth
  • Rind from a small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
  • 1 cup Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 2 medium red tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated, optional

Directions:

In a large stock pot over low heat, combine the olive oil and onions. Sweat the onions until wilted and soft, about 10 minutes. Add carrots and cook 3 minutes. Add celery, beans, water and Parmigiano rind and cook for about 20 minutes.  

Add diced potatoes and zucchini and cook for another 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes and their juices, cover, and cook at a low simmer for at least 30 more minutes. Add spinach, season with kosher salt and black pepper, and cook 2-3 minutes longer.  Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if using.

Main Course:

Ezekiel’s Olive Chicken

Alessandra Rovati was born and raised in Venice, Italy and she writes and teaches about Kosher and Jewish Italian food.

Several Jewish Italian recipes for poultry have Biblical names. Here is one of the most popular examples, which appears in different variations in most cooking books on the topic, from Vitali Norsa, to Servi-Machlin to Joyce Goldstein. It’s not a surprise, because chicken cooked with this technique stays moist and juicy. It’s a variation on the basic “pollo in umido”, which Americans call “chicken cacciatore”.

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • One chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced (depending on your tolerance)
  • 1/3 cup green or/and black olives, pitted
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons mix of freshly chopped herbs (sage, rosemary and basil or mint or parsley)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 or 3 peeled tomatoes (I use the canned type)
  • 1/3 cup dry wine, red or white

Directions:

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Heat the olive oil, add the chicken and saute until golden. Add the salt, pepper, olives, garlic, herbs and the chopped (and drained) tomatoes.

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, then lower the flame and cook covered until tender (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Now uncover, add the wine and allow it to evaporate it on high heat.

This dish can be made ahead and reheated just before serving.

Spinach With Pine Nuts and Raisins

From Joyce Goldstein’s Cucina Ebraica: Flavors of the Italian Jewish Kitchen

So, how did kosher find its way to the land of pasta and polenta? ‘Through persecutions and emigrations,’ Goldstein says. ‘The Jews carried their culinary traditions with them and shared them with the world.’ They brought ingredients like tomatoes and squash and peppers to Italy, as well as styles of cooking — preparing room temperature dishes, for example, was their way around cooking on the Sabbath. In Italy these traditions were embraced and absorbed completely; something Goldstein is proud of. ‘Perhaps his is the positive side of the ‘Wandering Jew,’ ” she considers. ‘Food is a strong cultural continuum, and it’s nice to be able to rediscover some of these dishes as Jewish.'”

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 pounds spinach
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small yellow onions or 6 green onions, minced
  • 4 tablespoons raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse the spinach well and remove the stems. Place in a large sauté pan with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat, turning as needed until wilted, just a few minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Add the olive oil to the now-empty pan and place over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the spinach, raisins and pine nuts and sauté briefly to warm through. Season with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature.

Dessert:

Sfratti (Honey And Nut Pastries)

The Italian police, as the legend goes, used sticks to forcibly evict the Jews from their homes. Sfratti, the Italian word for stick, was a pastry the Jews of that region created to resemble those sticks. These honey and nut pastries (a cross between rugelach and biscotti) are baked as sticks and then sliced into cookies. The honey-laden pastry is traditionally served for dessert on Rosh Hashanah.

Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sweet white wine
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted margarine

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 pound walnuts, finely chopped

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, add the flour and make a well in the center. Place the sugar and salt in the well. Add the wine and oil gradually while mixing with a fork until you form a smooth dough. Empty the dough onto a floured cutting board and knead for 5 minutes. Return the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the refrigerator.

To make the filling, bring the honey to a rapid boil in large saute pan over high heat and cook for 2 minutes without stirring. Add the spices, orange zest and nuts and cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is cool enough to handle. Divide into 6 equal portions. On a floured cutting board, roll each portion into a thin log, about a foot long, and set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 equal portions. Using a rolling pin, roll one piece of dough to form a 4 x 14 strip. Place one honey/nut log at the edge of the dough and fold the sides over the ends of the log. Then wrap the dough around the filling, covering it completely. Place on a sheet pan, seam-side down.

Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Allow the sfratti to rest only for 5 minutes before removing from the sheet pan, then immediately wrap in foil. Once completely cool, cut on bias into 1-inch slices, just before serving.

Sfratti keep for several weeks without refrigeration when wrapped in foil. In fact, they taste better after they have been allowed to age for a few days.

I wish you all l’shana tova (a good year) filled with many years of life and happiness.



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