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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: November 2013

 

leftovers 11-2013

Can’t imagine eating one more boring turkey sandwich? Extra roast turkey and the leftover side dishes make quick and thrifty dinners It’s important to remember that any food that you don’t intend to eat within a few days after Thanksgiving should be frozen. Food-borne illnesses don’t take a vacation over the holidays and food safety is just as important now as it is during any other time of the year. Take your time around the dinner table, but start packing up and refrigerating the leftovers within 2 hours of dinner. It may be tempting to keep any leftover sweet potatoes or green beans in the half-empty serving dish and just cover it with plastic wrap, but it’s best to put everything in a clean, smaller container. It will also save space in the refrigerator. Storing tips:

  • Refrigerate leftover Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, gravy and other cooked side dishes. It’s okay to place warm food in the refrigerator.
  • Carve leftover turkey meat off the bones before refrigerating. Place the leftover turkey and stuffing in separate containers.
  • Divide leftover turkey and other cooked dishes into smaller portions and refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Pack side dishes like stuffing and mashed potatoes into airtight freezer containers or plastic freezer bags.
  • Slice the meat from the turkey and wrap it in freezer paper or foil, then seal in plastic freezer bags (make sure to press out all the air before sealing).
  • Liquids, like soup or gravy, will expand slightly as they freeze, so leave a little space at the top of the container. It’s fine to keep leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days before deciding to freeze them, but to preserve their freshness, the sooner they go in the freezer the better.
  • Cool in the refrigeraor for a few hours before moving it to the freezer and avoid stacking the containers until they’re frozen solid.
  • Don’t forget to label and date your leftovers. Everything will look the same once it’s wrapped.
STORAGE TIME
    Item
Refrigerator
Freezer
Tips
•     Turkey  — whole, cooked
        3-4 days
      2-3 months
Cut whole bird into smaller pieces before refrigerating. Use carcus for soup.
•     Gravy — homemade
1-2 days
2-3 months
Bring leftover gravy to a full boil before using.
•     Cranberry sauce
10-14 days
1-2 months
Store leftovers in covered plastic or glass container.
•     Stuffing — cooked
3-4 days
1 month
Remove stuffing from turkey before refrigerating.
•     Mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes; green bean casserole
3-5 days
10-12 months
Mashed potatoes freeze well; whole baked potatoes don’t.
•     Pumpkin pie — baked
3-4 days
1-2 months
Keep refrigerated. Texture may change after freezing, but taste shouldn’t be affected.
•     Apple pie — baked
2-3 days
1-2 months
To freeze, wrap pie tightly with aluminum foil or plastic freezer wrap, or place in heavy-duty freezer bag.
•     Wine, red or white — opened bottle
3-5 days
1-2 months
Freeze leftover wine for use in cooked dishes such as sauces and stews.
•     Bread
2-3 months
Refrigerator storage is not recommended, as bread will quickly dry out and become stale — for longer-term storage, freeze bread instead.

Try these easy ideas to turn your leftovers into tasty new meals.

Turkey Tortellini Soup

6 servings Ingredients

  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped roasted turkey
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • One 9-ounce package refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 6 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese 

Directions

With A Slow Cooker

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker combine broth, the water, chopped turkey, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours. If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in tortellini. Cover and cook for 30 minutes more or until tortellini is tender. Stir in spinach. If desired, sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Without A Slow Cooker

Combine broth and water in a soup pot and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and return to a boil. Cook about 5 minutes. Lower heat and stir in turkey, tomatoes, seasoning and spinach. Simmer about 10 minutes. Garnish each serving with cheese.

Leftover Stuffing Cakes

Mix in leftover mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes if you like, using 1 egg for every 2 cups leftovers. Ingredients:

  • 2 cups leftover Thanksgiving stuffing
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Directions In a large bowl, stir stuffing and egg together until blended. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Shape 1/2 cup stuffing mixture into a ball, then flatten into a 3-inch patty. Repeat with remaining mixture. Place patties in the skillet and cook about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and heated through. Serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

Turkey and Wild Rice Pilaf

4 servings Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1-14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup long grain rice
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 8 ounces cooked turkey, cubed
  • 2 medium red-skinned apples, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • Butterhead (Boston or Bibb) lettuce leaves 

Directions In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery and onion; cook about 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add uncooked wild rice; cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in uncooked long grain rice. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 20 minutes more or until wild rice and long grain rice are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, adding carrot for the last 3 minutes of cooking. Stir in turkey breast and apple. Cook, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes more or until heated through. Stir in parsley. Line serving plates with lettuce leaves; spoon turkey mixture onto lettuce.

Butternut Squash Hash with Leeks and Turkey

If you have sweet potatoes leftover, you can use them in place of the squash. Serves 4 Ingredients:

  • 2 medium leeks, dark green parts removed, remaining light green and white parts cleaned and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups). Reserve a few sliced pieces of leek for garnish.
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, divided
  • 3 cups leftover butternut or acorn squash, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning.
  • 8 ounces chopped cooked turkey (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Poached or Fried Eggs

Directions Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add leeks and cook about 3 minutes or until beginning to brown and stick to the pan, stirring frequently. Stir in 1/2 cup broth and continue to cook 3 minutes longer or until leeks are tender and softened. Add squash, crushed red pepper and remaining broth, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in chopped turkey and Italian seasoning; cook 5 minutes longer or until squash and turkey are heated through. Remove from heat and stir in parsley. Place poached eggs on top of hash and garnish with reserved leeks.

Sage and Cream Turkey Fettuccine

2 servings Ingredients

  • 3 ounces dried spinach or plain fettuccine
  • 1/3 cup light dairy sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh sage or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces leftover cooked turkey breast, cut into bite-size strips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together sour cream and flour until smooth. Gradually stir in broth until smooth. Stir in snipped or dried sage and pepper; set aside. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, green onions and garlic to hot skillet. Cook and stir about 3 minutes. Stir in turkey and mix well. Stir sour cream mixture into turkey mixture in skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Serve turkey mixture over hot cooked pasta.

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AUTUMN ELEGY by Leonid Afremov

Does autumn find you missing summer’s sweet corn and juicy peaches? Nature has shifted gears. Hardy and slow-growing fall crops have come into their own. Some of these foods are grown from coast to coast; others are more regional.

Apples

There’s certainly an apple variety for every need, from snacks to stuffing. Some of the best-known and easiest to find are multitaskers, good for both eating and baking. These include Rome, McIntosh and Golden Delicious.

Pears

Anjou, Bartlett or Bosc, ranging from deep red to pale green to golden in color, are produce-department staples. Their firm texture is equally suited for eating fresh or cooked.

Grapes

Grapes fall into three main color types: red, green (also called white) and black (or blue-black). Each group includes seeded and seedless varieties, but the latter are most often found in supermarkets.

Citrus Fruits

Whether sectioned, sliced, juiced or zested, these fruits are a kitchen staple. Choose firm fruits that have smooth skins and are not moldy. Don’t worry about brown patches on the skin; this does not indicate poor quality.

Leafy Greens

Some leafy greens cope with cold weather better than most people do. Temperatures near freezing slow plant metabolism. Using fewer carbohydrates — that is, sugar — for maintenance, results in sweeter leaves in the cold weather.

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Collards

Leafy greens should be crisp and fresh-looking. Avoid those with brown speckles, large, tough stems and wilted edges. Collards absolutely must be cooked, but other greens can be eaten fresh in salads, quick sautéed as a side dish or simmered in soups. Cook chard stems separately from the leaves, as stems are more fibrous and take longer. Greens will keep refrigerated in a plastic bag, damp-dry, for three to five days. Wash them very well just before using.

Parsnips

Pale yellow and slightly bumpy, the parsnip resembles a large carrot. Compared to carrots, parsnips are less sweet and more nutty. They respond well to the same culinary treatments (except being eaten raw). As a side dish, parsnips take well to roasting and also hold their own in baked casseroles and slow-cooked stews.

Potatoes

Of the thousands of potato varieties known, only a few varieties have gone mainstream. Fall is the ideal time to try some lesser-known varieties in your market.

Sweet Potatoes

Look for sweet potatoes that feel solid and nick free. For cooking success, try to pick those that are uniform in shape, since fat bodies with tapered ends can lead to overcooked ends and semi-raw centers.

Winter Squash

With so many different shapes and sizes and colors, fall is definitely the time to cook with squash. The varieties described below barely scratch the surface:

  • Acorn can be small, round and ridged and they might have variegated orange and green skin; its deep orange flesh is sweeter than pumpkin.
  • Butternut is typically long-necked and pot-bellied with creamy beige skin. The orange flesh is mildly sweet and slightly nutty.
  • Spaghetti –  when baked and scraped out with a fork, the flesh forms golden strands that look like spaghetti and taste like zucchini.
  • Sweet dumpling has yellow flesh that looks and tastes something like sweet corn.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Consider some of these diverse examples:

  • Round-headed cabbage has flat leaves of pale green or reddish-purple; Savoy cabbage has frilled leaves.
  • Cauliflower has stalks that are topped with bunches of florets.
  • Turnips, a rounded, cream-colored root, are most flavorful in autumn.
  • Rutabagas, a round root with pale orange flesh, is thought to be a cross between a turnip and wild cabbage.

Cruciferous vegetables have assertive flavors and can take strong seasonings. Cabbage pairs well with vinegar. The sweeter rutabaga can be spiced with cloves. Try turnips with garlic and onions. These veggies have a reputation as being smelly when cooked. Actually, it’s overcooking that releases their unpleasant aroma. If steamed or braised until just fork-tender, not limp, they actually smell lightly sweet.

Here are some healthy fall family recipes that make use of some these seasonal foods:

Italian Cabbage and Bean Soup

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • Two 19 ounce cans cannellini beans ( or 5 cups home cooked) divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups green cabbage, (1/2 medium head)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Thick slices day-old Italian country bread
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella or Italian fontina cheese

Directions

Mash 1 1/2 cups beans with a fork and set aside. Thinly slice cabbage.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add cabbage and minced garlic; cook, stirring often, until the cabbage has wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add broth, mashed beans and whole beans; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover and simmer until the cabbage is tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Shortly before the soup is ready, toast bread lightly and rub with the cut side of the halved garlic. Place bread in a soup bowl. Ladle soup over the bread and sprinkle with cheese. Drizzle a little oil over each serving.

Frittata with Chard and Feta Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups swiss chard, washed and stems removed
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 large egg whites (or egg substitute)
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 6 small potatoes, cooked and halved

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an  8″ or 10″ ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chard and season with salt and pepper. Toss quickly until leaves are wilted. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Whisk the eggs, egg whites, cheese, oregano, salt and pepper together in a bowl until thoroughly combined.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and add the chard and halved potatoes (cut side down).

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet (do not stir) and cook over low heat until the eggs are set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the skillet under the broiler for 30 to 45 seconds to finish cooking the top of the frittata. Serve with a tomato salad.

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

Servings: 6

  • 3 acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey breast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place squash halves cut side down in baking pans. Fill pans with about 1/2 inch water. Bake squash 40 minutes or until tender.

While squash bakes, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onions and celery and cook until tender. Stir in the ground turkey, garlic powder and dried herbs. Cook and stir until evenly brown.

Remove squash from the oven and carefully scrape the pulp from the rinds. Set rinds aside on a baking sheet. Place the pulp in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Mix in the cooked turkey mixture, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Fill the reserved rinds with the stuffing mixture and bake 25 minutes or until heated through.

Citrus Fish Fillets

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces white fish fillets, such as tilapia, flounder, halibut, etc.
  • 1 medium orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup peeled, diced mango or pears or apples
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green or red bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2-1 fresh hot chile pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a small bowl combine orange pieces, mango, the 3 tablespoons orange juice, the bell pepper, the parsley and the chile pepper. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

In a medium shallow nonmetal bowl stir together the 1/2 cup orange juice, the oil and cayenne pepper. Place fish in the bowl; turn to coat well. Marinate fish in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Drain fish, discarding marinade.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place fish in a small baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Bake about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Top fish with the fruit sauce and serve. This entre goes well with brown rice.

Lasagna with Spinach Ricotta 

Ingredients

  • 1 box no boil lasagna or homemade fresh noodles or 1 pound regular, boiled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • Two 10-ounce packages of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 pounds Ricotta cheese
  • 3 cups lowfat milk gently warmed
  • 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated and divided
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

In a large skillet saute the onion in olive oil over moderate heat for 4-5 minutes. Add spinach and season with salt and pepper; sauté for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and cool.

Ricotta mixture: Combine ricotta and 3/4 cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled spinach mixture.

Prepare béchamel sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour, continuously stirring, cook for 2-3 minutes

Add warm milk slowly, whisking well, so that there are no lumps. Season with salt and pepper. When the sauce comes up to barely a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Coat a 13” x 9” lasagna dish with cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup of béchamel sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.

Top with 4 lasagna noodles, 1 cup ricotta mixture and a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Continue the same procedure for 3 more layers.

Spread remaining béchamel and ricotta mixture on the top layer of noodles and sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly on top. Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting the lasagna.


Renaissance Italians dined on mixtures of beef, raisins and spices baked in a crust. Sixteenth-century Brits created the first fruit “pasties,” that found their way to America when settlers brought their recipes to the colonies. By the time the Pennsylvania Dutch perfected the art in the early 18th century, pies had become an American tradition.

A homemade pie has become the mark of a great baker and a popular dessert for the end of a meal. Yet, pie baking does not need to be intimidating. The secret is in fresh, seasonal ingredients and in following a few simple tips:

First, start with a reduced-fat crust to trim calories and fat.

Fill the crust with an assortment of healthy fruits: apples, pears, figs and cranberries and heart-healthy nuts.

Sweeten the mix with honey, date sugar, maple syrup or unrefined cane sugar instead of empty-calorie white sugar.

Top off your creation with low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Easy, You-Can-Do-It Pie Crust

This easy crust with only four ingredients stirs together in minutes and it rolls out perfectly every time. That’s because it’s made with oil instead of butter—also reducing the saturated fat content. This recipe makes one pie shell; double the recipe, if you need both a bottom and a top crust.

1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

2. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons ice water. Whisk them together until creamy. Immediately pour all at once into the flour and toss with a fork. Form into a ball. Dough will be moist.

3. Wipe your counter with a wet cloth and place a 12-inch square of waxed paper on top. (The wetness keeps the paper from sliding around.) Place the dough ball on top and cover with a second 12-inch piece of waxed paper. Roll out the dough between the waxed papers into a circle slightly bigger than your pie plate.

4. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and invert dough over the pie pan; peel off the bottom paper. If you’re pre-baking the crust, prick the entire surface with a fork.

If you’ve doubled the recipe and are rolling out a second crust for the top of the pie, use new sheets of waxed paper.

Proceed with the rest of your pie recipe.

Gluten Free All Nut Crumb Crust

Makes one 9-inch pie shell

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups finely ground blanched almonds or walnuts or pecans or hazelnuts
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or sweetener of choice
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or butter alternative

Directions

Thoroughly mix together all ingredients in a medium bowl. Using fingers, press dough into a 9-inch pie plate, evenly pressing up the sides. Place the pie plate on a cookie sheet (helps to keep the bottom from burning)

For pies that call for a pre-baked shell, bake at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and then fill with desired pie filling.

For baking pies directly in this crust, keep oven temperatures down to 325 to 350°F to prevent burning and adjust cooking times as needed.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients

1 pre-baked nut pie crust, recipe above

Filling

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons gluten-free pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Follow instructions above for making the gluten free prebaked nut crust.

Mix together all the filling ingredients.

Pour the filling into the pre-baked crust. Keep the pie on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes. The center of the pie should be fairly firm and only jiggle a tiny bit if you shake the pan.

Let the pie cool completely before cutting it.

Apple-Cranberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds peeled baking apples, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
  • 2 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crusts, unbaked (recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl combine apple slices, brown sugar, cranberries and lemon juice. Toss to blend. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Let rest while you prepare the pastry.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make a 12-inch round. Fit into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate, leaving an overhang. Spoon apple mixture into shell. Top with the diced butter.

Roll the second pastry into a thin, 10-inch round and, with a fluted pastry wheel, cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Carefully weave dough strips in a lattice pattern over the pie.

Bring dough overhang from bottom pastry up over the lattice edges and crimp decoratively. Brush top with milk and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake pie in the middle of the oven on a cookie sheet for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is golden and the filling is bubbly. Cool on a rack and serve warm.

Pear Pie with Crumb Topping

Ingredients

Pie Filling

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (1-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 6 peeled Anjou pears, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crust, unbaked (recipe above)

Crumb Topping

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Position oven rack in the lowest third of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.

To prepare pie filling:

Combine 1 cup water and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Add cranberries, fresh ginger slices and orange zest; return to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat; discard ginger slices. Cool.

Combine orange juice and pears in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Combine flour and 1/3 cup brown sugar in a separate bowl. Add flour mixture to pear mixture; toss to coat. Stir in cooled cranberry mixture.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make an 11-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under and flute. Spoon pear mixture into prepared crust.

To prepare topping:

Combine butter and orange juice in a bowl, stirring well. Add flour, oats and remaining ingredients; toss. Sprinkle oat mixture over pear mixture. Place pie plate on a baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until browned. Cool on a wire rack 1 hour.

Buttermilk Pie

Ingredients

1 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crust, unbaked (recipe above)

Filling

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Ground nutmeg

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Using wax paper roll out one pastry disk to make a 11-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fold edges under and flute. Place pie plate on a baking sheet.

To make filling:

Whisk together 3/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together eggs in another bowl until frothy. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla. Gradually whisk the liquids into the dry ingredients. Pour into the crust and grate nutmeg over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake 40-45 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then in the refrigerator until completely cool, about 2 hours. Serve with fresh seasonal fruit.

Apple-Pear Pie

Ingredients

2 Easy, You Can Do It Pie Crusts, unbaked (recipe above)

Fruit Filling

  • 4 large baking apples , peeled, cored and sliced
  • 4 large ripe pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut up

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the filling:

In a large bowl, toss together apples, pears, brown sugar, cornstarch, orange zest, and cinnamon until evenly coated. Let filling sit for at least 5 minutes before assembling pie.

For the pastry:

Follow directions for making the Easy Pie Crust recipe at the top of this post. Roll out one pastry disk into an 11-inch round on wax paper, as directed above. Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, leaving an overhang. Spoon apple mixture into shell. Top with the diced butter.

Roll second pastry into a thin, 9-inch round and invert over the filling. Seal and flute the pie edges.

Cover edges of the pie loosely with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 30-35 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.


I can assure you, public service
is a stimulating, proud and lively
enterprise. It is not just a way of
life, it is a way to live fully. Its
greatest attraction is the sheer
challenge of it – struggling to
find solutions to the great issues
of the day. It can fulfill your
highest aspirations. The call to
service is one of the highest
callings you will hear and your
country can make.
Lee H. Hamilton
Chairman of 9/11 Commission

Filippo Mazzei

The words in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal” were suggested to Thomas Jefferson by Filippo Mazzei, a Tuscan physician, business man, pamphleteer and Jefferson’s friend and neighbor. Mazzei’s original words were “All men are by nature equally free and independent.” Philip Mazzei (December 25, 1730-March 19, 1816) was a promoter of liberty and acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.

Mazzei was born in Poggio a Caiano in Tuscany. He studied medicine in Florence and practiced in Italy and in the Middle East for several years before moving to London in 1755 to take up a mercantile career as an importer. While in London he met the Americans Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Adams of Virginia. They convinced him to undertake his next venture. In 1773 he led a group of Italians, who came to Virginia to introduce the cultivation of vineyards, olives and other Mediterranean fruits. Mazzei became a neighbor and friend of Thomas Jefferson. Mazzei and Jefferson started what became the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They shared an interest in politics and libertarian values and maintained an active correspondence for the rest of Mazzei’s life.

In 1779 Mazzei returned to Italy as a secret agent for the state of Virginia. He purchased and shipped arms to them until 1783. After briefly visiting the United States again in 1785, Mazzei travelled throughout Europe promoting Republican ideals. He wrote a political history of the American Revolution, “Recherches historiques et politiques sur les Etats-Unis de l’Amerique septentrionale” and published it in Paris in 1788. After its publication Mazzei became an unofficial roving ambassador in Europe for American ideas and institutions.

He later spent more time in France, becoming active in the politics of the French Revolution under the Directorate. When Napoleon overthrew that governmen,t Mazzei returned to Pisa, Italy. He died there in 1816. After his death the remainder of his family returned to the United States at the urging of Thomas Jefferson. They settled in Massachusetts and Virginia. Mazzei’s daughter married the nephew of John Adams.

Gemelli with Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1” florets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 oz. dried gemelli pasta or other short pasta
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted

Directions

Heat the oven to 500° F. Mix together ¼ cup oil, oregano, garlic, cauliflower and salt and pepper in a bowl and spread out evenly on a baking sheet.

Bake until the cauliflower is golden brown and tender, 25–30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, about 13 minutes. Drain.

Toss cauliflower mixture with remaining oil, pasta, almonds, raisins, parsley, lemon juice and zest. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve topped withthe toasted bread crumbs.

John Orlando Pastore

John Orlando Pastore (March 17, 1907 –July 15, 2000) was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Rhode Island from 1950 to 1976. He previously served as the 61st Governor of Rhode Island from 1945 to 1950. He was the first Italian American to be elected as a governor or as a senator.

John Pastore was born in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island. The second of five children and the son of Michele and Erminia (née Asprinio) Pastore, who were Italian immigrants. His father, a tailor, had moved from Potenza to the United States in 1899 and he died when John was nine. His mother went to work as a seamstress to support the family. She married her late husband’s brother, Salvatore, who also ran a tailoring business. As a child, Pastore worked delivering coats and suits for his stepfather, as an errand boy in a law office and as a foot-press operator in a jewelry factory. Pastore graduated with honors from Classical High School in 1925 and earned a Bachelor of Law degree in 1931. He was admitted to the bar the following year and established a law office in the basement of his family’s home, but attracted few clients due to the Great Depression.

In over 50 years in public office, Pastore never lost an election. He began his political career as a state assemblyman in 1934. As governor, he was reelected in 1946 and then again in 1948 by a record 73,000 vote margin over his opponents. As a senator, Pastore served as the chairman of United States Senate Subcommittee on Communications. He is probably best remembered for taking part in a hearing involving a $20 million grant for the funding of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which was proposed by Former President Lyndon Johnson. The hearing took place on May 1, 1969. President Richard Nixon had wanted to cut the proposed funding to $10 million due to Vietnam War expenses and Fred Rogers, host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, appeared before the committee to argue for the full $20 million. In about six minutes of testimony, Rogers spoke of the need for social and emotional education that Public Television provided. Pastore was not previously familiar with Rogers’ work and was sometimes described as a gruff and impatient man. However, he told Rogers that the testimony had given him goosebumps and after Rogers recited the lyrics to “What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?”, one of the songs from his show, Pastore finally declared, “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful. Looks like you just earned the $20 million.” The following congressional appropriation, for 1971, increased PBS funding from $9 million to $22 million.

Fiorello Enrico La Guardia 

Fiorello Enrico La Guardia (December 11, 1882 – September 20, 1947) was the 99th Mayor of New York City for three terms from 1934 to 1945. Previously he had been elected to Congress in 1916 and 1918 and again from 1922 through 1930. Irascible, energetic and charismatic, he craved publicity and is acclaimed as one of the greatest mayors in American history. Only five feet tall, he was called “the Little Flower” (Fiorello is Italian for “little flower”).

LaGuardia, a Republican, appealed across party lines and was very popular in New York during the 1930s. As a New Dealer, he supported President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, and in turn Roosevelt heavily funded the city and cut off patronage from LaGuardia’s foes. La Guardia revitalized New York City and restored public faith in City Hall. He unified the transit system, directed the building of low-cost public housing, public playgrounds and parks, constructed airports, reorganized the police force, defeated the powerful Tammany Hall political machine and reestablished merit employment in place of patronage jobs. The former lawyer was a champion of labor unions and campaigned in English, Italian, Yiddish, German and Spanish.

LaGuardia was born in Greenwich Village in New York City to two Italian immigrant parents. His father, Achille La Guardia was from Cerignola and his mother, Irene Coen, was from Trieste. His maternal grandmother, Fiorina Luzzatto Coen, was a member of the prestigious Italian-Jewish family of scholars, kabbalists and poets and had among her ancestors, the famous Rabbi Samuel David Luzzatto. It was in Trieste that Achille La Guardia met and married Irene. The family moved to Arizona, where his Achille had a bandmaster position at Fort Whipple in the U.S. Army. LaGuardia attended public schools and high school in Prescott, Arizona.

After his father was discharged from his bandmaster position in 1898, Fiorello went to live in Trieste, where he joined the State Department and served in U.S. consulates in Budapest, Trieste (Austria-Hungary-now Italy) and Fiume (Austria-Hungary-now Rijeka,Croatia), (1901–1906). He returned to the United States to continue his education at New York University. In 1907–10, he worked for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, as an interpreter for the U.S. Bureau of Immigration at the Ellis Island immigrant station in New Jersey. He graduated from New York University School of Law in 1910. He was admitted to the bar the same year and began a law practice in New York City.

LaGuardia married twice. His first wife was Thea Almerigotti, whom he married in 1919. In November 1920 they had a daughter, Fioretta Thea, who died May 8, 1921 of spinal meningitis. His wife died of tuberculosis six months later at the age of 26. He married Marie Fisher in 1929 and they adopted two children, Eric Henry and Jean Marie.

Valle D’Aosta’s Traditional Beef Stew

Carbonade is one of the classic Valdostan stews.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean beef, cubed
  • 2 medium-sized onions
  • A bay leaf
  • A few cloves
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • A pinch of powdered cinnamon
  • A pinch of sugar
  • All-purpose flour
  • Beef broth
  • 2 cups full bodied dry red wine, ideally from Valle D’Aosta
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Marinate the beef in the wine for 4-6 hours (at the most, overnight), adding the bay leaf and spices to the wine. When it is time to prepare the recipe, remove the meat from the wine with a slotted spoon and pat the pieces dry. Reserve the wine mixture.

Flour the beef and brown the pieces in the butter in a Dutch Oven, taking them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and setting them aside as they brown.

Slice the onions into rounds and brown them in the same pot; add a ladle of broth and simmer until the broth has evaporated. Add the meat, salt to taste and a pinch of sugar.

Then add the reserved wine with the spices, bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook covered, adding more broth as necessary to keep it from drying out.

After about an hour, grind black pepper over the stew and serve it over polenta or boiled potatoes.

Geraldine Anne Ferraro

Geraldine Anne Ferraro (August 26, 1935 – March 26, 2011) was an American attorney, a Democratic Party politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives. She was the first female vice-presidential candidate, representing a major American political party. She was elected to the House in 1978, where she rose rapidly in the party hierarchy while focusing on legislation to bring equity for women in the areas of wages, pensions and retirement plans. In 1984, former vice-president and presidential candidate, Walter Mondale selected Ferraro to be his running mate in the upcoming election. In doing so, she became the only Italian American to be a major-party national nominee in addition to being the first woman. In the general election, Mondale and Ferraro were defeated in a landslide by incumbent President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush.

Ferraro was born in Newburgh, New York, the daughter of Antonetta L. Ferraro (née Corrieri), a first-generation Italian American seamstress and Dominick Ferraro, an Italian immigrant and owner of two restaurants. She had three brothers born before her, but one died in infancy and another at age three. Her father died of a heart attack in May 1944, when she was eight. Ferraro’s mother soon invested and lost the remainder of the family’s money, forcing the family to move to a low-income area in the South Bronx, while Ferraro’s mother worked in the garment industry to support them.

Ferraro attended Marymount Manhattan College with a scholarship, while sometimes holding two or three jobs at the same time. During her senior year she began dating John Zaccaro, who had graduated from Iona College with a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps. Ferraro received a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1956 and she was the first woman in her family to gain a college degree. She also passed the city exam to become a licensed school teacher. Ferraro began working as an elementary school teacher in the public schools in Astoria, Queens

Dissatisfied with teaching, she decided to attend law school and earned a Juris Doctor degree with honors from Fordham University School of Law in 1960 going to classes at night, while continuing to work as a second-grade teacher during the day. Ferraro was one of only two women in her graduating class of 179 and she was admitted to the New York State Bar in March 1961.

Ferraro’s first full-time political job came in January 1974, when she was appointed Assistant District Attorney for Queens County, New York. At the time, women prosecutors in the city were uncommon. The following year, Ferraro was assigned to the new Special Victims Bureau, which prosecuted cases involving rape, child abuse, spouse abuse and domestic violence. She was named head of the unit in 1977 with two other assistant district attorneys assigned to her. In this role she became a strong advocate for abused children. Ferraro found the nature of the cases she dealt with debilitating, grew frustrated that she was unable to deal with the root causes and talked about running for legislative office. Ferraro ran for election to the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 9th Congressional District in Queens in 1978 and captured the election in a contest in which dealing with crime was the major issue.

She became a protégé of House Speaker Tip O’Neill, established a rapport with other House Democratic leaders and rose rapidly in the party hierarchy. She was elected to be the Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus for 1981–1983 and again for 1983–1985. This entitled her to a seat on the influential Steering and Policy Committee and she was named to the powerful House Budget Committee. As Mondale’s vice-presidential candidate, Ferraro was the first woman to run on a major party national ticket in the U.S.and the first Italian American, her nomination at the 1984 Democratic National Convention was one of the most emotional moments of that gathering, with female delegates appearing joyous and proud at the historic occasion. In her acceptance speech, Ferraro said, “The daughter of an immigrant from Italy has been chosen to run for vice-president in the new land my father came to love.” Convention attendees were in tears during the speech, not just for its significance for women, but for all those who had immigrated to America.

Tuna, Pepper and Cannellini Bean Salad

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 5 oz lettuce, shredded
  • 5 oz cooked cannellini beans
  • 3 ½ oz yellow bell peppers, diced
  • 1/2 lb fresh cooked tuna
  • 2 tomatoes, cut in eighths
  • Half a red onion, sliced thin
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Arrange the cannelloni beans on the bed of lettuce. Next, add the tuna broken up into small pieces. Add the tomatoes, peppers and onion.

Mix together the salad ingredients with a dressing made from whisking together the lemon juice, oil, a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper.

Anthony Joseph Celebrezze

Anthony Joseph Celebrezze, Sr. (born Antonio Giuseppe Cilibrizzi, September 4, 1910 – October 29, 1998) was an American politician in the Democratic Party, who served as the 49th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, as a cabinet member in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and as a U.S. appeals court judge. Celebrezze was born to Dorothy (née Marcogiuseppe) and Rocco Cilibrizzi in Anzi, a town in the region of Basilicata, Italy, one of thirteen children. The family moved to the United States when he was two years old and the surname was Americanized to “Celebrezze”. Having been a shepherd in Anzi, Rocco learned of work on the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad as a track laborer in Cleveland.

Like many of his generation, Celebrezze did odd jobs as a youngster, shining shoes and selling newspapers. He attended Cleveland Public Schools, graduating from Central High School and Fenn College (later renamed Cleveland State University). He graduated from John Carroll University in 1934, during which time he worked as a railroad laborer and freight truck driver, as well as a boxer to pay his way. He later attended Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio, where he received a Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) in 1936. Celebrezze began working for the Ohio Unemployment Commission and in 1938 he passed the bar and entered the general practice of law. That same year, he married Anne M. Marco, a teacher in the Cleveland Public School system. With the on-set of World War II, Celebrezze enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Upon his discharge at the end of the war, he returned to private practice.

In 1950, Celebrezze ran for a seat in the Ohio State Senate and won. He served as an Ohio state senator from 1951 to 1953. In 1952, when Celebrezze sought re-election to the state senate, he ran into trouble when he crossed the Democratic party chairman Ray T. Miller, by supporting fellow Italian American Michael DiSalle for the U.S. Senate instead of James M. Carney. Celebrezze was, nevertheless, renominated by his party and won the general election. Ironically, he would face off against DiSalle six years later in his bid for the statehouse. In 1952, after continuing battles with the Democratic leadership in the Senate, Celebrezze resigned to run for Mayor of Cleveland. Celebrezze was the first foreign-born mayor and was elected an unprecedented five two-year terms as mayor, from 1953 to 1962. Celebrezze drove efforts to upgrade the city’s infrastructure, a massive $140 million urban-renewal program. Major portions of the rapid-transit system were constructed during this time, most notably the Red Line, which connected much of the city to the existing Blue and Green Lines. There was also extensive work done on the city’s freeway system, the Port of Cleveland and Burke Lakefront Airport. In 1961, President John Kennedy offered Celebrezze a lifetime appointment to a federal judgeship. Celebrezze turned it down to run for a record breaking fifth consecutive term as mayor, which he won by an unprecedented 73.8 percent, sweeping every one of the city’s thirty-three wards. During this period, Kennedy appointed him to the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and the Commission on the Status of Women. In 1962, he also was named the president of the U.S. Conferences of Mayors. In 1962, President Kennedy returned with an offer of a cabinet appointment and Celebrezze resigned as mayor On July 31, 1962, Celebrezze took the oath as the U.S. Secretary for Health, Education, and Welfare, which is now known as the Department of Health and Human Services. He would continue his service in the cabinet of President Lyndon Johnson following Kennedy’s death.

Living in Washington on a $25,000 salary apart from his family, Celebrezze asked Johnson to return to Cleveland. “We are going to lose the house in Cleveland if I continue to live here, Mr. President,” Celebrezze told Johnson. The President replied that Celebrezze was too honest for Washington because he was the first cabinet secretary “to go broke while working for the White House.” Celebrezze resigned as HEW Secretary on August 17, 1965. Two days later on August 19, Johnson appointed him to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit where he authored numerous distinguished opinions. He served as a federal appeals court judge until 1980, when he retired from active service on the bench and assumed senior status.

Mario Matthew Cuomo

Mario Matthew Cuomo, born June 15, 1932, is an American politician and member of the Democratic Party. He served as the Secretary of State of New York from 1975 to 1978, as the Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1979 to 1982 and as the 52nd Governor of New York for three terms, from 1983 to 1994. He was known for his liberal views and public speeches, particularly his keynote speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention. He was born in the Briarwood section of the New York City borough of Queens to a family of Italian origin. His father, Andrea Cuomo, was from Nocera Inferiore, Italy and his mother, Immacolata (née Giordano), was from Tramonti. The family owned a store in South Jamaica, Queens, in New York City. Cuomo attended public school and later earned his bachelor’s degree in 1953 and a law degree in 1956 from St. John’s University, graduating first in his class. He was sent to clerk for the Honorable Judge Adrian P. Burke of the New York Court of Appeals. Additionally, he was signed and played baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system until he was injured by a ball. Subsequently, he became a scout for the team.

He first became known in New York City in the late 1960s when he represented “The Corona Fighting 69”, a group of 69 homeowners from the Queens neighborhood of Corona, who were threatened with displacement by the city’s plan to build a new high school. He later represented another Queens residents group, the Kew Gardens-Forest Hills Committee. Cuomo became more well-known across and beyond New York City, when Mayor John Lindsay appointed him to conduct an inquiry and mediate a dispute over low-income public housing slated for the upper-middle-class neighborhood of Forest Hills.

In 1978 Cuomo easily won the primary for Lieutenant Governor and was elected in the general election. In 1982, Governor Carey declined to run for re-election and Cuomo declared his candidacy. Cuomo won the primary by ten points and faced Republican nominee businessman, Lewis Lehrman in the general election. With the recession aiding Democratic candidates, Cuomo beat Lehrman by 50.91% to 47.48%. Cuomo was re-elected in a landslide in 1986 against Republican nominee Andrew P. O’Rourke by 64.3% to 31.77%. During his 12 years in office, Gov. Cuomo pushed through landmark programs in criminal justice, education, the environment, health care, human rights, housing and health care that were national firsts.

Cuomo has been outspoken on what he perceives to be the unfair stereotyping of Italian Americans. He also opposed the move of the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets to the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, choosing instead to attend the home games of the Buffalo Bills while serving as governor, referring to the Bills as “New York State’s only team.” Since 1996, Cuomo has served on the board of Medallion Financial Corp., a lender to purchasers of taxi medallions in leading cities across the U.S. Cuomo was the first guest on the long-running CNN talk show Larry King Live in 1985 and Neal Conan described Cuomo as both the most intelligent and wittiest politician he has ever interviewed.

Mozzarella in Carrozza

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 8 slices soft white bread, crusts removed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil

Directions

Slice the mozzarella and divide among 4 slices of bread. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread.

Whisk the eggs with the milk in a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the flour in another shallow dish. Dust the sandwiches in the flour and then dip into the egg mixture.

Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sandwiches to the pan and fry on both sides until golden and crisp, about 10 minutes. The mozzarella should be completely melted. Slice the sandwiches in half to make 2 triangles.


Wine has a long, rich history as a cooking liquid. One of the early “cookbooks,” compiled in the first century, “De re Coquinaria” (“On Cooking”), included dozens of recipes that used wine. Since the beginning of recorded history, wine has been considered one of the essential ingredients in cooking. The ancient Greeks used wine and there are numerous references to its use in their meal preparation. When the Romans came along, they spread the practice of cooking with wine throughout Europe and developed special varietals, such as Marsala. The Romans also prepared a concentrate of grape must (unfermented grape juice) called defrutum, which was kept around the hearth and used both to color and sweeten foods. In the East, centuries of Japanese and Chinese cooks have made wine from fruits or rice and used these liquids in cooking.

Italians take wine very seriously and, just as they eat regionally, Italians drink regionally. Go to Tuscany where you will find Chianti, Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Brunello di Montalcino. Head to Abruzzo and you will find Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo or Trebbiano d’Abruzzo on the table. The characteristics of a given wine are reflective of the culture in which it is made. Each of Italy’s 20 wine-producing regions proudly claim their own sub-cultures and cuisines, leading to many variations of wine. Piedmont and Tuscany are the Italian leaders in quality wines. Italy is respected as a wine-producing country and no other country can boast as many varieties. They use their 350+ varieties of domestic grapes, along with international varieties to produce wines in a class of their own. Approximately one-fifth of the world’s wine comes directly from Italy’s vineyards and there are over one million throughout the entire country.

The Major Types of Italian Red Wines

Amarone is made from air-dried Corvina grapes and is produced in the northern Veneto region near Venice, using the “recioto” method. This technique involves picking the grapes that grow on the outside of a cluster and have the most exposure to the sun. The result is a full-bodied wine in a style more common to warm growing areas. Amarones are aged for five years or more before bottling. Some, but not all, are aged in oak barrels. Amarone (the name means big, bitter one) has a powerful, concentrated, almost Port-like texture with hints of mocha. Amarone is ideal with roasted beef or pork and also with cheese.

Barolo is a powerful and full-bodied wine with a complex mixture of tastes and textures – wild strawberry, tobacco, chocolate and vanilla. Barolo gets better with age and is frequently referred to as “the king of wines”. Barolo requires many years (three years minimum by law) of aging to soften it and it is improved by decanting. Barolo is made in the Langhe Hills region of Piedmont, entirely of Nebbiolo grapes. Nebbiolo is a difficult grape to grow well. It thrives in the region’s clay, limestone and sandy soil, preferring to be planted on sunny, south-facing hillsides. Barolo is a perfect accompaniment to meat, rich pastas and creamy risottos.

Chianti has come a long way from its image of wicker-wrapped bottles with candle drippings alongside a plate of spaghetti. Today’s Chiantis are produced in Tuscany, in central Italy near Florence and Chianti has a government-controlled wine designation. That means all of the wine called Chianti has to be made within the Chianti area. Chianti is produced from primarily Sangiovese grapes, sometimes combined with Cabernet Franc, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It has high acidity with hints of plum and wild cherry. Chianti and any tomato-based sauce are a classic wine and food pairing, but Chianti also goes well with steak or other grilled meat.

Barbaresco is also produced from Nebbiolo grapes, but tends to be a more softer wine than Barolo. There are just three, small growing regions for Barbaresco compared to Barolo’s eleven regions, so there is less Barbaresco available each year. Barbaresco, too, requires aging – a minimum of two years and up to twenty years – to meet its full potential. It also pairs well with red meat and the rich food of Piedmont.

Bardolino is a light, fruit-filled wine made in the Veneto region of Italy. Named after the town of Bardolino on Lake Garda, this wine has faint cherry flavors with a hint of spiciness. Like Amarone, Bardolino is crafted, primarily from Corvina grapes. Sometimes made into a dry, rose or sparkling wine called “chiaretto,” Bardolino is best served chilled and goes nicely with fish, seafood, light meat entrees, pasta and pizza.

Montalcino is Tuscany’s second most famous wine zone, after Chianti. Montalcino is a small, medieval town just outside of Siena. The wine district there is a warm, sunny, hilly area with few extremes in temperature. The cool evenings  insure high acidity. Brunello di Montalcino is created entirely from Sangiovese grapes. By Italian wine law, Brunello must be aged longer than any other wine – a minimum of four years. Brunello is subtle with overtones of blackberry, black cherry, chocolate and sweet vanilla. Drink it with the hearty dishes of Tuscany.

Cooking with Wine

Using wine in cooking is so natural, it probably would have occurred anywhere grapes could be grown and turned into wine. Wine can accent, enhance and intensify the flavors and aromas of food. The ways of using wine in cooking are numerous: marinate, saute, poach, boil, braise, stew or deglaze. Some cooks use wine for stir-fries, steaming or blanching. A splash of it straight out of the bottle is an added flavor in vinaigrettes or sauces.

Cooks use wine instead of water because wine adds flavor. But just as the four vinegars made from cider, sherry, red wine or white wine differ from each other, so do wines differ in what they add to a recipe. “Wine adds acidity to sauces,” says Jeff Mosher, chef for the Robert Mondavi Winery. “Food that has a level of acidity goes better with wine than food that is flat.” A careful cook, however, needs to consider the cooking preparation when utilizing wine. For example, wine could concentrate and become too tart after boiling down a marinade into a sauce. So, likewise, would any sweetness in wine; too much can be cloying. “It’s best to use red wines that don’t have huge tannins,” says Mosher. “When reduced, they leave a bitter flavor. I usually cook with merlot or pinot noir … never all cabernet sauvignon. Avoid wines labeled “cooking wine.” Not only are such wines often oxidized, but they are also packed with salt.

Finally, it isn’t necessary, as the old adage has it, to cook with the same wine that you will serve. According to Mosher, the flavor compounds and nuances of a very fine wine simply don’t survive the heat of most cooking. For example, preparing boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin doesn’t require an expensive red Burgundy. For these dishes, any of well-made, balanced, medium- to full-bodied red wine will do.

Red Wine Bagna Cauda

Ingredients

  • One 750-milliliter bottle Italian dry red wine, such as Nebbiolo
  • 1/4 cup marinated anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Assorted crudités, such as carrots, radishes, fennel and bell peppers, for serving

Directions

In a large saucepan, boil the wine over high heat until reduced to 1 cup, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

In a blender, combine the reduced wine with the anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice and blend until smooth. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a thin stream. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the bagna cauda to a medium saucepan and rewarm over low heat. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with the crudités.

Red Wine Glazed Meatloaf

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of sandwich bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • Chopped basil for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush a medium oval baking dish with oil.

In a large bowl, combine the bread pieces with the milk and mash to a paste. Add the egg, chopped parsley, sage, thyme, salt, black pepper and cayenne and stir until smooth. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and dry bread crumbs and stir until thoroughly combined.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Let cool, then transfer to the bowl with the bread mixture. Add the meat and knead in until evenly combined.

Transfer the meat loaf mixture to the prepared baking dish and pat it into a 4-by-12-inch oval loaf. Bake for about 50 minutes or until firm but not quite cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the red wine with the honey, chopped tomato and molasses and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring to dissolve the all the ingredients. Boil until the glaze is thick and syrupy, about 10-12 minutes.

Brush half of the glaze over the parially cooked meat loaf. Continue baking for about 20 minutes longer until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150°F; brush once more with the remaining glaze. Let the meatloaf rest for 15 minutes, garnish with chopped basil, slice and serve.

Red Wine Risotto with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound fresh porcini or cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice (6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as Amarone
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • One 2-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for shaving
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mixed herbs, such as basil, chives, parsley, etc.

Directions

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring, until browned. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer; cover and keep warm over low heat.

In the skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated.

Pour in 1 cup of the hot stock, or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until the stock has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Repeat, adding 1 cup of stock at a time and stirring until all of the stock has been absorbed.

The risotto is done when the rice is cooked al dente, about 25 minutes. Stir in the butter and mushrooms and heat until the butter is melted and the mushrooms are heated. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon the risotto into serving bowls and shred Parmigiano-Reggiano over the risotto, sprinkle with herbs and serve.

Chicken Parmesan with Red-Wine Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces uncooked linguine
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Large pich of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cups homemade or store bought pasta sauce
  • 4 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Chopped Basil, optional

Directions

Sprinkle chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and the salt. Combine bread crumbs and Italian seasoning in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg and dredge in breadcrumbs.

Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

Add wine to the pan and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and red pepper, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 1 minute. Add pasta sauce; cook 1 minute or until bubbly.

Combine the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Arrange chicken over sauce; top each breast with a portion of the cheese and a spoonful of sauce.

Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked and cheese has melted.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta. Garnish with basil, if desired.

Chocolate-Red Wine Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter or butter alternative, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar or the equivalent of a sugar alternative
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups Italian dry red wine
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer.

Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, just until incorporated.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack; let cool completely. Dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar and serve.


The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America, who thought the cranberry flower resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called “bearberries” as bears were often seen feeding on them.

In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. The Pilgrims learned about cranberries from the Native Americans, who recognized the natural preservative power in the berries and often mixed them into pemmican (dried meat mixture) to extend its shelf life. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe where they became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. Cranberry sauce came into the picture via General Ulysses S. Grant who ordered it served to the troops during the battle of Petersburg in 1864. Cranberry sauce was first commercially canned in 1912 by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company which marketed the product as “Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce.” A merger with other growers evolved into the well-known Ocean Spray corporation now famous for their cranberry products. Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.

Cranberry bog in NJ

Cranberries grow on vines in boggy areas. Fresh whole berries are hand-picked and are more expensive. The remainder is harvested by machine. Damage to the berries from the machines is unavoidable, making them suitable only for juices, sauces and drying. The bogs are kept dry until harvest time and then are flooded with water to a knee-deep level. Special machines run through the bog, shaking the vines to loosen the berries and they are skimmed off. The collected berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to separate out the old berries (which do not bounce) from the fresh berries.

Purchase cranberries that are quite firm to the touch. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Dried berries are also available and are similar to raisins. Canned cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite and is available in a smooth or a whole-berry sauce. Frozen cranberries are also available year-round. One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries will yield about 3 cups of whole berries or 2-1/2 cups chopped.

Cranberry Storage

Store fresh cranberries for up to two months in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft or show signs of decaying, it will quickly spread to the rest. Be sure to sort them out, if you plan on storing them for any length of time.

Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. If a liquor or liqueur is added to the cooked mixture, it can last up to a year in the refrigerator.

Fresh whole berries may be washed, dried and frozen in airtight bags up to one year at 0 degrees.

Cranberry Cooking Tips

• Cranberries are not only good in desserts, but also in savory dishes.

• To help neutralize their acidity, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda when cooking cranberries. You’ll find you will need less sugar.

• Try substituting sweetened, dried cranberries in place of raisins in recipes for a tangy change.

• Reconstitute dried cranberries just as you would raisins, by soaking them in hot water and letting them stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

• Cranberries should be cooked only until they pop. Otherwise, they will become mushy and bitter.

• Frozen cranberries need not be defrosted before using.

• Cranberries are easily chopped by pulsing in a food processor.

Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 3 tart apples – peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries
  • 12 cups Italian bread, cubed, baked until slightly dry
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Cook and stir sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling coarsely, for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Clean out the pan.

Into the same pan heat the oil. Add the onions, apples, celery and poultry seasoning; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cranberries and cooked sausage.

Mix the sausage mixture with the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken stock.

Pour stuffing into a large covered greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top.

Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • Salt & pepper 
  • 2 cups cranberries – fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium heat.

Brush chicken breasts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan or outdoor grill, cook until both sides are browned and the center is no longer pink, about 7 minutes each side or until a meat thermometer reaches 160 degees F (depending on thickness).

In a saucepan combine cranberries, water, sugar and balsamic vinegar and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 more minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Serve warm over grilled chicken breasts.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup dried or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped pistachio nuts or almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and orange extracts; then beat in the eggs and orange zest.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts.

Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky so wet your hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.

Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven or until logs are light brown. Remove baking pan from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay slices on their sides back on the parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry.

Cool before storing.

Fig and Cranberry Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 2 3/4 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/3 cup dried Calimyrna figs, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

Blackberry Sauce

  • 1 16-ounce bag frozen unsweetened blackberries, thawed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry brandy (optional)

Directions

Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending the wrap over the sides by 3 inches. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and white wine in a metal bowl to blend. ( I use the electric mixer bowl.) Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; whisk egg mixture constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in orange peel.

Beat chilled whipping cream in a separate bowl until peaks form. Add egg mixture and gently fold together. Fold in chopped figs, chopped cranberries and minced ginger. Transfer mixture to the prepared loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang; freeze overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)

To make Blackberry Sauce: Puree all ingredients in processor. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and cover and refrigerate liquid until cold. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

To serve:

Turn semifreddo out onto platter. Peel off plastic wrap. Let stand 5 minutes to soften slightly. Slice semifreddo. Place slices on serving plates and drizzle Blackberry Sauce over each slice and serve.

Cranberry Almond Crostata

ingredients

For pastry dough:

  • 1/4 pound whole raw almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For filling and assembly:

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Make dough:

Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour just until finely ground.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg to a small bowl and refrigerate the for egg wash. Beat the remaining egg into the butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well.

At low speed, mix in almond mixture, lemon zest, salt and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture forms a dough consistency.

Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Make filling:

Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking dish and chilling in the refrigerator until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

Bake crostata:

Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on the middle rack. Generously butter a 9 inch springform pan.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into the springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up the side of pan. Chill crust lined pan in the refrigerator.

Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in the same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with a pastry wheel while still on the parchment paper and slide the paper onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.

Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart diagonally across the first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with the edge of the pan. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place the crostata pan on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry gets too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).

Cranberry Granita

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Let sugar syrup cool completely.

Combine cranberries and juices in a food processor and process until pureed. Combine pureed mixture and cooled sugar syrup in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; stir well.

Cover and freeze at least 8 hours or until firm.

Remove mixture from the freezer; scrape entire mixture with the tines of a fork until fluffy.  Place in serving dishes and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.


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This Parma Ham sponsored post is about helping you with some holiday entertaining ideas.

What does “entertaining” mean to you? Take a moment and think of what comes to mind.

The best advice I have is that, when it comes to holiday parties, nothing beats the power of planning.

Begin early:

  • Set the Date
  • Make a Guest List
  • Get the Word Out Early
  • Plan the Food and Drinks
  • Decide the Set Up for Beverages, Food and Decorations
  • Set Aside Time for Shopping, Preparing the Food, Cleaning and Decorating
  • Once the Doorbell Rings Have Fun

Holiday appetizer recipes are a must-have in your party plan book. They help tide over your guests until the main event or make for great eating on their own, along with a few cocktails and some desserts. Simple finger foods work the best. Instead of worrying about finding out whether anyone attending your party has a particular dietary restriction, prepare a variety of hors d’oeuvres that will suit any taste and diet. Make two or three meat-based dishes ( red meat and poultry), two fish dishes (one fish, one shellfish) and three vegetarian dishes (one with dairy, two without). You might consider gluten-free choices, as well.

Here is a tip – when Italians entertain guests, they are often greeted with a platter of prosciutto, crisp breadsticks and fruit. It’s an effortless but elegant crowd-pleaser that you can put together quickly. The famous Prosciutto di Parma brand is the one to use for this dish.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced in Parma, Italy for at least two thousand years, gaining recognition in 100 BC when Cato the Censor remarked on the extraordinary flavor and sweetness of the ham. Its production follows the same traditions, today, as the ones used then. By law Prosciutto di Parma can only be made in the hills around Parma where the unique conditions of the Parma region have made it possible to produce ham of the highest quality. All Parma Ham authorized producers must be located within the geographical boundaries of the Parma region and meet the requirements set by the Consorzio, in order to receive the official certification mark – the Parma Crown. Through the long and carefully controlled curing process, the meat becomes tender and the distinctive aroma and flavor of Parma Ham emerges. This year the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Parma Ham is a naturally gluten free product, so are the recipes I developed for this post. If you’d like to try something more impressive for your guests, try one of these Parma party bites at your next party.

Stuffed Vegetables and Parma Ham

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You can double the recipe or use all mushrooms or use all mini bell peppers.

Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 12 mini bell peppers
  • 12 mushroom caps
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Prosciutto di Parma slices cut into 1 inch squares (about 5-6 slices)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Cut the bell peppers in half, lengthwise; remove the seeds and stems. Lightly oil the bell peppers by tossing them in a bowl with some olive oil. Place the peppers on a baking sheet skin-side down.

Remove mushroom stems (reserve for another use) and brush mushroom cavities lightly with olive oil. Place them on the baking sheet with the peppers. Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges begin to show some color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

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While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the stuffing.

Place the cream cheese, ricotta, sundried tomatoes, basil, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, salt and black pepper in a bowl or in a processor and mix until creamy. Refrigerate until ready to make the appetizers.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stuff the peppers and mushroom caps liberally with the filling and place them back on the baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes.

Change oven setting to high broil and bake an additional 2 minutes, until the top of the cheese stuffing begins to brown. (If they’re already brown at this point, you can skip the broiling).

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Top each pepper and mushroom with a square of prosciutto. Serve immediately.

Parma Ham-Wrapped Shrimp

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Makes 18 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 extra-large shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 18 thin slices prosciutto
  • 18 fresh basil leaves
  • 18 bamboo skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Directions

In a bowl, gently combine the shrimp, olive oil, lemon juice, honey and garlic and marinate for 5 minutes.

Place 1 prosciutto slice on your work surface, short end parallel to the edge. Place 1 basil leaf at the short end of the prosciutto slice. Place 1 shrimp on top of the basil leaf. Roll up shrimp in the prosciutto. Thread shrimp on a skewer.

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Repeat with remaining prosciutto, basil, shrimp and skewers. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate.)

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Prepare barbecue grill (medium-high heat) or preheat a broiler. Grill or broil wrapped shrimp until opaque in the center, turning frequently, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Herbed Frittatas with Prosciutto di Parma

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Makes 36 appetizers

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup chopped, seeded, drained tomato
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (chives, tarragon, parsley, basil, etc.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Prosciutto di Parma, about 12 slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish.

Dry the chopped tomatoes on a paper towel.

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Beat eggs and water with wire whisk in a medium bowl. Stir in tomato, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the herbs.

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Pour into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake 30 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Cool.

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Loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and gently turn it out onto a cutting board.

Cut the frittatas into 1-inch squares and top with a piece of prosciutto. Serve at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD:  The frittatas can be baked up to 3 hours ahead.

Follow Parma Ham on Twitter for a chance to win $50 worth of the world’s most famous ham. Click on the banner below to participate. This post is a collaboration between the blogger and Parma Ham.

Win Parma Ham



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