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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: December 2013

After an overindulgent holiday, nothing gets you back on track like some healthy veggies that are packed with fiber and cancer-fighting carotenoids. Roasted winter vegetables are a perfect side dish for roasted meats or poultry. You can add as many vegetables as you can fit in your roasting pan or include only vegetables that you like or what’s available in the market. Make sure to cut all the vegetables to the same size for even cooking. It also makes the finished dish look nicer.

Choosing Your Vegetables

Some vegetables benefit from roasting more than others, such as onions, potatoes, carrots and hearty root vegetables, but most vegetables will work. Green beans, broccoli and other green-hue vegetables are less suited for roasting because they tend to turn olive green and green beans shrivel before becoming tender. A real benefit to roasting is the ability to cook a combination of colorful vegetables, resulting in a full-flavor side dish or meatless entree.

Roasting Pointers

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Roasting vegetables should be done at high heat so they caramelize on the outside. If the oven is too low, the vegetables will overcook before achieving the desired browning.

A heavy 13x9x2-inch roasting pan works well for roasting vegetables, but you can also use a large baking pan. To keep cleanup to a minimum, you can line the pan with foil. Place the vegetables that take the longest to cook in the pan. Do not crowd the vegetables or they will steam instead of roast. If you like, add 1 or 2 heads of garlic with the tops trimmed off, several sprigs of thyme, and/or snipped fresh rosemary, oregano or sage.

Tossing the vegetables with a seasoned oil mixture keeps them from drying out and helps to flavor the vegetables. In a small bowl combine several tablespoons of olive oil with lemon juice, salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle the seasoned oil over the vegetables in the pan and toss lightly to coat all of the vegetables. A basting brush also works well to help coat the vegetables with the oil.

If you prefer, you can omit the heads of garlic and fresh herbs from the vegetable mixture in the pan and add minced garlic and snipped fresh herbs or dried herbs (1 tablespoon snipped fresh herb equals 1 teaspoon dried herb) to the oil mixture.

Roast the longer cooking vegetables, uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring once. Remove the pan from the oven and add vegetables with shorter cooking times. Toss to combine and return to the oven. Continue to cook about 10 to 15 minutes more or until the vegetables are tender and brown on the edges, stirring occasionally. The timings here are approximate and will depend on the vegetables you choose.

Use the chart below for vegetable roasting time as a guide.

Vegetables for Roasting

Preparation

Approximate Roasting Times at 450 degrees F. Roast vegetables until crisp-tender.

Carrots

Trim and peel or scrub baby carrots or regular carrots. Cut regular carrots into bite-size pieces or julienne strips.

40 to 45 minutes (julienne strips may cook faster)

Parsnips

Trim and peel parsnips. Cut into bite-size pieces or julienne strips.

40 to 45 minutes (julienne strips may cook faster)

New potatoes or regular potatoes

Whole tiny new potatoes, quartered, work especially well. For large potatoes, cut into bite-size pieces. Peeling is not necessary, but scrub well before using.

40 to 45 minutes

Sweet potatoes

Scrub and peel. Cut into bite-size pieces.

40 to 45 minutes

Onions

Remove papery outer layer. Cut into fairly thin wedges.

30 to 45 minutes

Fennel

Trim the stalks and cut a thin slice from the bottom of the bulb. Cut bulb into fairly thin wedges.

30 to 40 minutes

Brussels sprouts

Trim stems and remove any wilted outer leaves; wash. Cut any large sprouts in half lengthwise.

30 to 40 minutes

Baby beets or regular beets

Scrub and peel beets. Trim off stem and root ends. If desired, halve or quarter baby beets. Cut regular beets into 1-inch pieces.

30 to 40 minutes (you may want to cover the beets if they start to burn).

Roma tomatoes

Wash and halve lengthwise.

20 to 30 minutes

Zucchini, pattypan, or yellow summer squash

Baby zucchini, patty pan or summer squash can be roasted whole. For larger squash, cut into bite-size pieces or slices.

10 to 15 minutes

Small eggplant

Peel if desired. Cut into quarters lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

10 to 15 minutes

Sweet peppers, regular size or small

For regular-size peppers, wash, seed and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. For small peppers, if desired, roast whole, then remove stems and seeds.

10 to 15 minutes

Asparagus

Wash and break off woody bases where spears snap easily. Leave spears whole or cut into 1-inch pieces.

10 to 15 minutes

Baby leeks

Trim and halve lengthwise. Rinse well and pat dry with paper towels.

10 to 15 minutes

Cauliflower

Wash and remove leaves and woody stem. Break into florets.

10 to 15 minutes

Basic Recipe For Roasted Winter Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 5 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled (or 1 bunch celery, trimmed)
  • 2 medium turnips, peeled
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled
  • 6 small new potatoes, peeled (see note)
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed
  • 8-10 shallots, peeled
  • 1 whole bulb garlic
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme or rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 450°F.

Separate the garlic cloves and peel them.

Pull the little leaves off of the fresh herb stems until you have a tablespoon. Set them aside along with another couple of whole sprigs of herbs.

Cut the carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, squash and celery (or celery root) into about 1-inch pieces. Cutting the vegetables the same size will help ensure even cooking.

Transfer the cut vegetables, along with the shallots and garlic, to a large baking pan.

Drizzle with olive oil, season with Kosher salt and black pepper, sprinkle with the herb leaves and toss to combine. Place the whole herb sprigs in the pan with the veggies.

Roast for 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender but not too soft.

Remove the whole herb sprigs from the pan and let the vegetables cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 generous servings.

 

Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

Roasting the vegetables gives them a slightly sweeter flavor that pairs nicely with the tangy dressing.

Makes 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato, about 8-oz, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 medium white potato, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (peeled parsnip may be substituted)
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 2 medium celery stalks, 3/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium beet, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Salad greens for serving

Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

In large bowl toss potatoes, carrot, onion, celery and beet with 1/2 tablespoon oil, coating well. Arrange vegetables in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast, stirring several times, until tender and beginning to brown, about 35-40 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, whisk vinegar, lemon juice and Dijon with remaining oil and stir in parsley, oregano and walnuts.

Drizzle dressing over vegetables and gently toss. Serve over salad greens and top with crumbled feta.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Honey-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/4 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • One 1 1/4 pound celery root—peeled, quartered and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 1/4 pounds golden beets, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450° F. In a large bowl, toss the root vegetables with the oil, honey, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Divide between 2 large, sturdy rimmed baking sheets. Cover with foil and roast for 35-40 minutes, shifting the pans once, until the vegetables are tender. Remove the foil and roast for 10 minutes longer, until glazed. Return them to the bowl and stir in the vinegar then adjust season with salt and pepper, if needed.

MAKE AHEAD The vegetables can be cooked early in the day and kept at room temperature before rewarming.

 

Chicken and Pan Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds butternut squash, cut in 1-inch cubes (from one 2 1/2-pound squash)
  • 1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 large red onions, cut into thin wedges
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • Warm flatbread, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F and position rack in the upper middle third.

In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the brussels sprouts, onion wedges and 1/4 cup of the oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on a large, sturdy rimmed baking sheets.

In the same bowl, combine the cup of yogurt with the garlic, lemon juice, oregano and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil; season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated. Arrange the chicken and yogurt mixture on top of the vegetables.

Roast for about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the vegetables are nearly tender and the chicken is nearly cooked through. Pour off any accumulated liquid in the pan and roast for about 20 minutes longer or until the the vegetables are tender and the chicken is lightly browned. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and serve with warm flatbread and additional yogurt.

MAKE AHEAD The chicken and vegetables can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently before serving.

 

Beef Tenderloin and Winter Vegetables

Ingredients

Vegetables

  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
  • 1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound mini carrots, well cleaned
  • 2 bunches mini beets, scrubbed, tops trimmed and halved
  • 2 red onions, quartered
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Beef Roast:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (6-pound) whole beef tenderloin (filet mignon)
  • Kosher salt

Directions

Cook’s Note: You can use any combination of vegetables or whatever looks good at the market. You want about 1 1/2 cups of vegetables per person.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Vegetables: Combine all the vegetables, garlic, olive oil, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste in a large bowl. Toss until well coated. Arrange in single layers on 2 baking sheets.  Roast until all the vegetables are golden brown and tender, about 35-40 minutes. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and keep warm until serving.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Roast: Combine the oil, mustard, garlic, rosemary and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the tenderloin with the mustard mixture. This can be done the day before and left in the refrigerator overnight. Just before roasting, season generously with salt, to taste. Set the tenderloin in a large roasting pan and put it in the center of the oven on the middle rack.

Roast until an instant-read meat-thermometer registers 135 degrees F, about 20 minutes. Remove the roast from the oven to a cutting board. Allow it to rest for 10 minutes, tented with aluminum foil. Slice the meat and arrange on a serving platter. Serve alongside the warm roasted vegetables.

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A.P Giannini 

The Bank of America, the largest bank in the country, was established in 1904 by Amadeo Pietro (A.P.) Giannini (1870-1949) in San Francisco. Originally called the Bank of Italy, it changed names in 1928 and in 1998 merged with NationsBank Corp. Giannini financed the Golden Gate Bridge and the film industry, including Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments” and Disney’s “Snow White,” as well as, California’s aerospace and agricultural industries.

A.P Giannini was the first son of Luigi and Virginia Giannini. Luigi Giannini immigrated to the United States from Favale di Malvaro near Genoa, Liguria (at that time the Kingdom of Sardinia, later part of Italy) to prospect in the California Gold Rush of 1848–1855. Luigi continued in gold prospecting during the 1860s and returned to Italy in 1869 to get married. He brought his wife, Virginia, back to the US and settled in San Jose. Luigi Giannini purchased a 40 acre farm at Alviso in 1872 and grew fruits and vegetables. Four years later Luigi Giannini was fatally shot by an employee over a pay dispute. Virginia (a widow at the age of 21 with two children and pregnant with a third child) took over the operation of the produce business, bringing the adolescent Amadeo into the business. Virginia later married Lorenzo Scatena, who established L. Scatena & Co. (which A.P. Giannini would eventually take over). Amadeo realized at the age of 13, he could do better in business than at school. He dropped out and took a full-time position as a produce broker for L. Scatena & Co.

He moved up to commission merchant and later to a produce dealer in the Santa Clara Valley. He was very successful in that business and married Clorinda Cuneo, daughter of a North Beach real estate magnate in 1892. Eventually he sold his interests in the produce business and at the age of 31 turned to administering his father-in-law’s estate. He later became a director of the Columbus Savings & Loan in which his father-in-law owned an interest. At the time banks were run for the benefit of the wealthy and Giannini observed an opportunity to service the increasing immigrant population that were without a bank. At odds with the other directors who did not share his sentiment, he quit the board in frustration and started his own bank.

He founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco on October 17, 1904. The bank was housed in a converted saloon as an institution for the “little fellow”. It was a new bank for the hardworking immigrants other banks would not serve. He offered those ignored customers savings accounts and loans, judging them not by their wealth but by their character. Deposits on that first day totaled $8,780. Within a year, deposits soared above $700,000 ($13.5 million in current dollars).

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires leveled much of the city. In the face of widespread devastation, Giannini set up a temporary bank, collecting deposits, making loans and proclaiming that San Francisco would rise from the ashes. Immediately after the earthquake, he moved the vault’s money to his home outside the fire zone in then-rural San Mateo, 18-miles by horse and wagon. The money was moved in a garbage wagon, owned by Giobatta Cepollina, also a native of Italy (Loano). The cargo was disguised beneath garbage to protect against theft. The fires severely heated the vaults of the city’s other big banks. Opening them immediately would ruin the money, so they were kept closed for weeks. Because of this, Giannini was one of the few who was able to provide loans. Giannini ran his bank from a plank across two barrels in the street where he made loans on a handshake to those interested in rebuilding. Years later, he would recount that every loan was repaid.

By 1916, Giannini had expanded and opened several other branches. Giannini believed branch banking was a way to stabilize banks during difficult times, as well as expand the capital base. He bought banks throughout California and eventually had more than five hundred branches throughout the state. In 1928, Giannini approached Orra E. Monnette, president and chairman of the Bank of America-Los Angeles, about a merger of the two financial institutions. Upon finalizing the merger, Giannini and Monnette concurred that the Bank of America name idealized the broader mission of the new bank. The new institution continued under Giannini’s chairmanship until his retirement in 1945.

Ligurian Chickpea and Vegetable Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 14 ½ oz. can diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves shredded
  • ¾ oz dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

Directions

Sauté the chopped onion, celery and drained mushrooms in the olive oil.

Add tomatoes, garlic and the shredded Swiss chard leaves.

Add the drained chickpeas to the sautéed vegetables and simmer for five minutes. Then add the chicken broth, season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about ten minutes.

 Generoso Pope

The first Italian American millionaire was Generoso Pope, who came to America from Benevento, Italy in 1904. He began as a railroad laborer, later worked for a small construction firm called the Colonial Sand and Stone Company, which he bought out in 1925 and made into the largest supplier of building materials in the country. In 1929, he bought Il Progresso Italo Americano, the first Italian-language daily newspaper in the U.S., founded in 1880. Pope’s son, Fortunato, became its publisher. His other son, Generoso, Jr., was the publisher of The National Enquirer and was one of Forbes’ 400 wealthiest Americans.

Generoso was born with the name Generoso Antonio Pompilio Carlo Papa. He was the son of farmers, Fortunato and Fortunata Papa. After coming to America, he fathered three sons with his wife Catherine. His eldest son, Fortunato (“Fortune”), (1918–1996) graduated from Columbia University and became an executive in the family construction business. Anthony (1919–2005) who was the middle son, took over the family business and quadrupled the size of Colonial Sand and Stone Company in less than four years. Generoso Pope, Jr. (1927–1988) graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age 19.

Generoso Pope arrived in America at age 15 in 1906 with $10 in his pocket and got his first job carrying drinking water to construction workers for $3 per week. He rose to construction supervisor and, eventually, owner of Colonial Sand & Stone, which was one of the largest sand and gravel companies in the world. Colonial built much of New York City’s skyline, including Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the Empire State Building, the George Washington Bridge and the original Yankee Stadium.

In 1912, Generoso established Pope Foods to bring to America the unique Italian flavors which he had enjoyed as a young child in Italy. He bought the Italian-language daily newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano in 1928 for $2,050,000. He doubled its circulation to 200,000 in New York City, making it the largest Italian-language daily in the country. He purchased additional papers in New York, including Il Bollettino della Sera, Il Corriere d’America and the Philadelphia daily L’Opinione. Generoso also acquired a small newspaper company and transformed it into The National Enquirer. He also owned the radio station, WHOM. He became the chief source of political, social and cultural information for the community.

Pope encouraged his readers to learn English, become citizens and vote. His goal was to instill pride and ambition to succeed in modern America. A conservative Democrat, Pope was closely associated with Tammany Hall politics in New York and his newspapers played a vital role in securing the Italian vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democratic ticket. With his presidential friendships, Generoso was able to make Columbus Day into a national holiday. He established the Columbus Day Parade in New York City, which is still the world’s largest Columbus Day Parade.

Almond Cookies from Benevento

Makes about 5 dozen.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 3/4 cups almonds, toasted and finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 dgrees F. Butter and flour 2 large cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the zest, eggs, vanilla and butter and mix until you have a dough that comes together in a ball.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.

Roll each piece under the palms of your hand until a 12-inch rope is formed. Carefully place the ropes on the cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes. The rolls should be firm to the touch, but not so hard that slicing them will be difficult.

As soon as the ropes come out of the oven, use a sharp or serrated knife to cut diagonal cookies about 3/4 of an inch wide. Spread the individual cookies on the cookie sheets and bake them for 5 additional minutes.

Cool the cookies on wire racks and store in layers separated by wax paper or plastic wrap in a tightly sealed tin.

Edward J. DeBartolo

Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr. began as a construction worker and became one of the largest real estate developers in the nation. During the 1960s, the DeBartolo Corporation developed shopping malls and suburban office parks.

The second of six children, DeBartolo was born in Youngstown, Ohio, a center of steel production that was also a major destination for immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. DeBartolo’s parents, Anthony Paonessa and Rose Villani, had immigrated to the United States from Italy. DeBartolo would never know his biological father, who died suddenly before his birth.

After Anthony Paonessa died, Rose Villani Paonessa married Michael DeBartolo and Edward took his stepfather’s family name. Michael DeBartolo emigrated from Bari, Italy with his family at age 17 and became a paving contractor and a builder of warehouses. While a teenager, Edward DeBartolo began transcribing paving contracts for his stepfather, who did not read or write English.

DeBartolo went on to earn a degree in civil engineering at the University of Notre Dame. Next came a decade of construction jobs with his stepfather. In view of his engineering skills, DeBartolo found himself serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and it was during the war while stationed in Italy that he married Marie Patricia Montani. After the war ended, DeBartolo served as president of Michael DeBartolo Construction and he was able to take advantage of dramatic changes occurring across the United States after World War II. As more Americans moved into suburbs, there was a corresponding increase in demand for convenient access to stores. His first retail development was the construction of Gray’s Drug Store and a Sears Roebuck department store in the “uptown” area of Youngstown.

DeBartolo’s company was one of the first companies in the United States to build shopping centers in suburban communities. These shopping centers were initially plazas built as long strips, but soon DeBartolo began developing enclosed shopping malls with his brother Frank DeBartolo acting as architect and he formed the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation. It became the undisputed leader in the shopping mall industry, comprising almost one-tenth of all mall space in the United States. DeBartolo also branched out into other types of urban development and construction, such as hotels, office parks and condominiums. He established a work ethic of fifteen-hour days and seven-day weeks. He once told his senior executives, “My wife has never seen me lie down while the sun was up.” By 1990, DeBartolo was estimated to have more than $1.4 billion in personal wealth.

DeBartolo purchased the San Francisco 49ers football team in 1977 and gave the team to his son, Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., who devoted significant resources to the team, became an expert in team management and player relations and made it one of the most successful NFL franchise during the 1980s. The family also owned the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League from February 1977 until November 1991. The team would win the Stanley Cup in 1991 and DeBartolo said at a rally after the first win that the occasion was “possibly the happiest moment of my life”. While DeBartolo was unsuccessful in his attempt to purchase the Chicago White Sox in 1980, he owned and developed three thoroughbred racetracks – Thistledown in Cleveland, Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Louisiana Downs in Bossier City, Louisiana.

DeBartolo’s contributions to the campus at the University of Notre Dame include DeBartolo Hall (the main classroom building) and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC), both located on a quad that students refer to as the “DeBartolo Quad”. There is also a DeBartolo Hall on the campus of Youngstown State University, where he has given many endowments to the University. The DeBartolo Corporation continues to be based in nearby Boardman, Ohio.

Bari Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 center-cut loin pork chops, cut 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • ½ bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup drained canned tomatoes pureed through a sieve or food mill
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut in 2-by-1/4-inch strips (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, quartered or sliced if large

Directions

In a heavy 10-to 12-inch skillet with a cover heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the chops for 2 or 3 minutes on each side and transfer them to a plate. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and boil briskly to reduce it to about ¼ cup, scrapping in any bits of meat or herbs in the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and return the chops to the skillet. Baste with the sauce, cover, and simmer over low heat, basting once or twice, for 40 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in another skillet with a cover. Cook the green peppers for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer.

To serve, arrange the chops on a heated platter and spoon the vegetables and sauce over them.

 Steve Geppi

The owner of the world’s largest distributor of English-language comic books is Baltimore’s, Steve Geppi, who dropped out of high school to support his family. Today, Geppi’s Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc. has a 52 percent market share of this $500 million comic book industry. Geppi is also a minority owner of the Baltimore Orioles and the publisher of Baltimore Magazine.

Steve Geppi was born January 24, 1950 in Baltimore’s Little Italy and completed the 8th grade before leaving school. Geppi’s first job was handling the comics for a local store, where the nine-year-old avidly read comics including his favorite Archie comics. Ever the entrepreneur, Geppi asked to be paid in comics because he could sell them to other kids and make a better “buck”. He left school in 1964 to support his mother and undertook a number of manual-labor jobs while dodging truant officers. He later enrolled in vocational school, but did not feel challenged.

Geppi passed the Postal Service’s carrier exam and achieved the “mailman’s dream” route in suburban Maryland. Geppi’s pay tripled in five years, allowing him to move his growing family out to the suburbs. In the summer of 1972, his nephew, George Kues, was reading an old Batman comic book and Geppi found himself back in his childhood memories of comics. He still loved comics and figured there “were a lot of guys who would feel the same way.” Buying a batch of old comics from a woman on his mail route, he was soon spending weekends at comic shows, buying and trading with other fans. After setting up as a part-time dealer at comic book conventions, he ultimately realised that he could make more money that way than at his job with the postal service.

He opened his first Geppi’s Comic World store under a TV repair shop in Baltimore and, while specialising in older collectible comics, began carrying new comics, chiefly as a means of attracting regular customers to the store each week. Geppi stocked his store with collections he found through the classifieds. One of the first specialty comic retailers in Maryland, Geppi built his business, as the comics industry grew. By 1981/82 he had four stores. In June 1994, Success Magazine featured Geppi on its cover, celebrating his “$250 Million Empire,” and highlighting his co-ownership of the Baltimore Orioles.

Old-Fashioned Italian-American Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • Three 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, drained
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 18 lasagna noodles, parboiled
  • 1 pound mozzarella, grated (about 3 cups)

Directions

Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Purée plum tomatoes and add to the pan. Add 2 teaspoons of coarse salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

In a bowl mix ricotta, eggs, 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, basil, remaining salt and pepper and nutmeg. Stir well to combine.

Generously oil the bottom and sides of a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.

Take 3/4 cups of tomato sauce and spread it on the bottom of the pan. Place 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Spread a 1/2 cup of ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Spread 3/4 cups tomato sauce on top of this. Sprinkle with a heaping 1/3 cup of mozzarella.

Repeat this process 4 times. Then place the last 3 noodles on top and sprinkle with any remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point in advance and stored in the refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

 Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca

Lido Anthony “Lee” Iacocca, born October 15, 1924, is an American businessman known for engineering the Ford Mustang and Ford Pinto cars and his revival of the Chrysler Corporation in the 1980s. He served as President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 and as Chairman from 1979 until his retirement at the end of 1992.

Iacocca was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania to Nicola Iacocca and Antonietta Perrotta, Italian immigrants who came from San Marco dei Cavoti, Benevento, Italy and settled in Pennsylvania’s steel-making belt where they operated the restaurant, Yocco’s Hot Dogs. Iacocca graduated from Allentown High School in 1942 and Lehigh University in neighboring Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in industrial engineering. After graduating from Lehigh, he won the Wallace Memorial Fellowship and went to Princeton University for additional studies. He then began a career at the Ford Motor Company as an engineer. Eventually dissatisfied with that job, he switched career paths entering the company’s sales force. He was very successful in sales and he moved up through the ranks at Ford, eventually into product development. Iacocca participated in the design of several successful Ford automobiles, most notably the Ford Mustang, the Lincoln Continental Mark III, the Ford Escort and the revival of the Mercury brand in the late 1960s, including the introduction of the Mercury Cougar and Mercury Marquis. Eventually, he became the president of the Ford Motor Company, but he clashed with owner, Henry Ford II. He was fired on July 13, 1978 although the company posted a $2 billion profit for that year.

Iacocca was strongly courted by the Chrysler Corporation, which was on the verge of going out of business. At the time the company was losing millions, largely due to recalls of its Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare. Iacocca joined Chrysler and began rebuilding the entire company from the ground up, laying off workers, selling the Chrysler European division to Peugeot and bringing in many former associates from his former company. Realizing that the company would go out of business if it did not receive a significant amount of money for a turnaround, Iacocca approached the United States Congress in 1979 and asked for a loan guarantee. While some have said that Congress lent Chrysler the money, the government only guaranteed the loans. Most observers thought this was an unprecedented move, but Iacocca pointed to the government’s bailouts of the airline and railroad industries. He argued that there were more jobs at stake, if Chrysler failed. Iacocca received the loan guarantee from the government, whose decision caused controversy, but the company made a successful turn around. Throughout the 1980s, Iacocca appeared in a series of commercials for the company’s vehicles, using the ad campaign, “The pride is back” and he also used what was to become his trademark phrase: “If you can find a better car, buy it.”

Campana’s Pizza Margherita

Makes 4 individual pizzas or 1 large pizza

ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm (105-115°F) water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for coating
  • Cornmeal for sprinkling (optional)

Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 4 plum (Roma) tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 1/4 oz part-skim mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Combine the water, yeast and honey in a large bowl. Stir in just enough of the bread flour to make a batter about the consistency of buttermilk (about 1/3-1/2 cup). Cover and let proof in a warm place until the surface is puffy, about 1 hour.

Add the remaining bread flour, the semolina flour and the salt. Knead in a stand mixer fitted with dough hook on medium speed, or by hand, until the dough is smooth, springy and elastic, 4 minutes with the mixer or 10 minutes by hand. Rub the dough lightly with oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal pieces for individual pizzas or leave it whole for a large pizza. Form the dough into smooth ball(s), cover and let rise again until doubled in volume, 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a 16-inch pizza pan or two large baking sheets with oil and scatter with cornmeal.

On a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch out the ball(s) of dough to an even 1/4-inch thickness on a floured work surface and place on the baking sheets or press the dough onto the pizza pan. If the dough has not relaxed properly, it may spring back as you stretch it.

For the topping, mix together the olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic and pepper to taste. Spread this mixture evenly over the pizza dough. Spread evenly with the tomato purée and top with the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Scatter the Parmesan over the top.

Bake until the dough is golden brown and the toppings are very hot, 20-30 minutes for 1 large pizza or 10-12 minutes for individual rounds. Cut into wedges and serve.


In many countries, new year celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. On this day revelers often enjoy foods that are thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people eat a dozen grapes right before midnight-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and insure future financial success, as in Italy where lentils are eaten and in the southern United States where black-eyed peas are served for dinner. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary and Portugal. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, are found on the table in the Netherlands, Mexico and Greece. In Sweden and Norway rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve. It is said that whoever finds the almond can expect 12 months of good fortune.

Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular, “Auld Lang Syne”. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot.

Times Square

In the United States, the most well known New Year’s Eve tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere, 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of symbolic items ranging from pickles to pelicans to possums at midnight.

New Year’s Eve is a perfect opportunity to show your softer side by planning a romantic dinner for the special person in your life. Enjoying delicious food in a romantic setting with someone you care about is the perfect way to help make sure your New Year’s Eve is special. Here is a suggested festive dinner menu for two, that is intended to inspire your planning for a special evening.  The cooking of this dinner comes together quickly, if you do most of the preparation ahead of time, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy the evening with your loved one.

Italian Rice Balls

Rice symbolizes prosperity and wealth, so rice balls are good for New Year’s and wedding celebrations in many cultures. Another nice touch you can use with these is to put a small cube of mozzarella cheese in the middle of each rice ball. The rice balls can be prepared ahead of time and reheated in a moderate oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, in cubes (optional)
  • Marinara Sauce

Directions

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil, pepper and salt; cover and refrigerate.

Pour the chicken broth and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil; stir in the rice, cover and reduce the heat to low.

Cook the rice until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Remove the pan the from heat and gradually pour in egg mixture, continually stirring rapidly to coat the surface of the rice and prevent the egg from scrambling; allow rice mixture to cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Pour bread crumbs into a shallow dish.

Dampen your hands with water and roll 1-inch balls from the rice mixture. If using the mozzarella, insert a cube in the center of the rice ball. Be sure the rice completely covers the mozzarella.

Coat each rice ball with bread crumbs.

In a small, deep skillet, heat enough oil to an adequately brown the rice balls. Fry the balls 4 to 6 at a time, turning as needed to ensure even browning. Drain on paper towels.

Serve warm with heated marinara sauce.

Arugula and Tomato Salad 

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups arugula
  • 1 tomato, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Champagne Vinaigrette

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper

Directions

Champagne Vinaigrette

In a jar with a screw top lid, combine shallots, oil, champagne vinegar, lemon peel, salt and ground black pepper. Cover and shake well.  Makes about 1/2 cup.

Salad

Arrange greens, tomatoes, cheese and hazelnuts on two serving plates. Dress with some of the salad dressing.

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca

Ingredients

  • 2 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 4 thin strips
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • Lemon wedges (optional)
  • ½ bunch asparagus

Directions

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place asparagus on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven to roast until desired tenderness, usually 15 minutes.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken to the pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. 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 the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk.

Place chicken and asparagus on serving plates and spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Chocolate Truffles With Liqueur

The truffle yield will depend on how small you roll the truffles; You should get at least 15.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature ( do not use margarine)
  • 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted through a sieve to remove lumps
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for coating or rolling

Directions

In a microwave using medium-low power, melt chocolate in a medium-sized bowl– about 1 minute.

Whisk in butter and egg yolk until blended; then whisk in liqueur and powdered sugar until smooth.

Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.

Shape mixture into small balls, roll balls in cocoa, then place in tiny foil or paper cups.

The rolling process can be a bit of a messy job; if mixture gets too soft, return it to the refrigerator to stiffen up again.

Keep truffles refrigerated in a covered container; remove about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off them.


Sometimes it seems that there are as many types of coffee in Italy as there are pastas. And just like pasta, Italian coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. Whether it’s a caffè corretto thrown back like a shot, a cappuccino and brioche for breakfast or a granita di caffè con panna to cool off from the hot midday sun, in Italy there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood. It would be fair to say that Italians are passionate about coffee. So much so, you would think they had discovered it. They didn’t.

Around 600 CE Ethiopian goat herders noticed their hyperactive goats were eating leaves and berries from a strange tree with glossy green leaves. Coffee was discovered and cultivation soon spread to Yemen. Around 900, Arab physician, Rhazes, first mentions coffee in print but as a medicine. Around 1400 Ethiopians were roasting, grinding and brewing coffee beans. Coffee as we know it was born.

When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a uproar and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began in the 16th century. Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black drink, which was until now solely consumed as medicine, achieved status and it became a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society. However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and, as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it’s popularity increased.

With over two hundred coffee houses along its canals, the reputation of this new drink soon spread to the neighboring cities of Verona, Milan and Turin. Coffee consumption soon spread to Rome, Naples, Bari and Sicily. The spread nationwide escalated and it wasn’t long before every household in Italy became familiar with the drink, eventually evolving in a culture that is still relevant today.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable images that depicts the importance of coffee in Italian society is the ‘macchinetta’. The famous aluminum stovetop percolator, designed and produced by Bialetti in 1933, can be found in most Italian kitchens. However, times change and now electric coffee machines stand on bar counters that force scalding water over ground coffee beans to create a rich, frothy drink.

In Trentino ask for a ‘Cappuccino Viennese’ and you’ll be served a creamy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, stop for a ‘Caffè Anisette’, an aniseed-flavored espresso, in Naples enjoy coffee flavored with hazelnut cream and in Sicily, a ‘caffè d’u parrinu’, is coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder.

The Italian Coffee

Like many hot coffee drinks, The Italian Coffee is defined by a single liqueur. In this case – Strega, an Italian digestif. Strega brings a distinct herbal blend to coffee with hints of juniper, saffron and mint. When made with dark roasted beans this drink makes an excellent after dinner cup of coffee.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Strega liqueur
  • Hot black espresso coffee
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Nutmeg for garnish

Directions

Pour the Strega into a glass coffee mug.

Fill with hot coffee.

Top with whipped cream

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Handmade Cappuccino

Makes 1 large mug

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/4 cup espresso ground coffee
  • 8 ounces milk
  • Sugar (optional)

Directions

Pour the water into the bottom chamber of a stovetop espresso pot. Fill the filter basket that fits over the water with the coffee, tamping down gently. Place on the stovetop burner over medium-low heat. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as all the water has boiled through the filter into the top part of the pot.

Meanwhile place the milk in a 16-ounce coffee mug. Heat in the microwave until hot but not starting to bubble on the sides. (Alternatively, you may heat the milk on the stovetop in a small pan, then transfer to a mug.)

Hold the handle of a small 4-inch whisk between the palms of both hands. Put the whisk in the hot milk and twirl rapidly back and forth until foam appears on the top, about 20 seconds. Pour the coffee into the mug. Sweeten if desired and serve immediately.

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup brewed espresso coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add buttermilk, eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes with the mixer at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the baking pan on wire rack.

This plain chocolate cake is very moist.

Optional: Frost it with sweetened whipped cream with a teaspoon of cinnamon added to the cream or use your favorite chocolate frosting.

Coffee Granita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) freshly brewed espresso coffee
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions

Put espresso and sugar into a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves completely. Let rest until room temperature.

Pour coffee mixture into a medium baking dish and transfer to the freezer. Using the tines of a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping edges and breaking up any chunks as the mixture freezes, until granita is slushy and frozen, about 4 hours.

Divide granita into individual serving glasses or transfer into a plastic container, cover, and freeze until ready to serve.

Espresso Souffle

If you want your soufflé to rise above the dish, you can make this in a 4-cup soufflé dish. Make a collar by wrapping a strip of buttered parchment paper around the outside of the dish and securing it with a string. Serve this soufflé with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Ingredients

  • Butter to coat baking dish
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons espresso brewed coffee
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4 egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Thoroughly butter a 2-quart soufflé dish or 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

Combine espresso and chocolate in a glass bowl. Microwave about 1 minute; stir until chocolate melts.

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with a mixer until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Stir about 1 cup egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold remaining egg white mixture into chocolate mixture.

Spoon into the prepared souffle dish. Place on a baking sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes (soufflé dish) or 20 to 25 minutes (ramekins), until soufflé rises. Serve immediately.

Espresso Pudding Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups hot brewed espresso coffee
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Coat a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Whisk all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Mix hot coffee and brown sugar in the measuring cup and pour over the batter. (It may look strange at this point, but during baking, cake forms on top with sauce underneath.)

Bake the pudding cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm.


It is tradition that the Sicilians (and many Italians) have a seven fish dinner on Christmas Eve. Some think that each fish represents a day of the week, but most traditions come from the observance of the Cena della Vigilia (the dinner of the vigil), the wait for the birth of Christ in which early Christians fasted on Christmas Eve. Other theories include: the number represents the three Wise Men or the Holy Trinity, or in some areas, there may be as many as thirteen fishes, one for each of the apostles plus one for Jesus. Each family and each region in Italy are different and it also depends on what kind of fish is available. In most of the southern coastal regions in Italy and Sicily, seafood is abundant and so it makes sense to include fish in the menu for this festive day. The dishes and the types of fish served for La Vigilia are ultimately dictated by geography. In Naples, for instance, the devout leave certain treats on the table overnight for the angel who heralds Christ’s birth; for this reason, many dishes are vinegar-based to preserve them. Around Lake Como in the north, large trout, which are only fished during the holiday season, are common.

In America, one can find a variety of fish to celebrate the feast according to his or her tradition. Just before Christmas, markets in New York’s Italian neighborhoods, for instance, stock up on a variety of Mediterranean and Adriatic products, such as triglia or red mullet; seppie called cuttlefish or inkfish in English (similar to squid but with a rounder body and thicker flesh); cicale a relative of shrimp; langostino a small, spiny lobster; tiny vongole or clams; baby eels for frying; fresh sardines and fresh anchovies. In my fish market located in Florida, Italian fish varieties are abundant this time of year.

While this Italian American Christmas Eve dinner menu does not include seven fishes, it is a menu in the spirit of the Sicilian Christmas Eve tradition.

Appetizers

Serve with Garlic Bread

Roasted Peppers and Anchovies

Ingredients

  • 12 oil-packed anchovy filets
  • 6 jarred roasted red bell peppers, skins, stems and seeds removed, cut into large strips
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Alternately, lay anchovy filets and strips of roasted pepper on a serving platter in one layer. Combine parsley and garlic on a cutting board and finely chop together; sprinkle parsley-garlic mixture evenly over anchovies and peppers. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper; let sit 10 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, unpeeled, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 6 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped (or 1 large can crushed tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large enameled or stainless steel pot and mix well. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. You can cook this over low heat uncovered for about an hour, or cover it and cook over very low heat for several hours. The slow stewing method blends the flavors and the caponata is great reheated. This is an easy dish to make ahead of time.

First Course

Linguine with Clams and Chilies

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta, preferably linguine
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 hot chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • Littleneck clams (about 30-36), scrubbed clean
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water and set aside.

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet with a cover over medium heat and add garlic and half the chiles; cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add clams and wine, increase heat to high and cook, covered, swirling pan occasionally, until clams open and release their juices, 5–10 minutes. Using tongs, transfer clams to a bowl; set aside.

Bring sauce to a boil over high heat and add reserved cooked pasta and 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Cook, tossing pasta occasionally, until sauce clings to the pasta, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in some more of the pasta cooking water, if the pasta seems dry. Add 2 tablespoons parsley, season with salt and toss to combine.

Transfer pasta to a serving bowl, arrange clams over pasta and pour any clam juices from the plate over pasta. Drizzle pasta with more olive oil and garnish with remaining chiles and parsley.

Second Course

Serve with Broccoli Rabe or other green vegetable.

Swordfish with Tomatoes and Fennel

Ingredients

  • 2 ( 3/4 – to 1-pound) swordfish steaks
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 pound whole cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons slivered basil leaves

Directions

Pat the swordfish steaks dry with a paper towel on both sides. Season each side with a pinch each of salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat the olive oil, garlic and fennel seeds in a skillet with a cover over medium heat until the garlic softens and becomes fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Lay the swordfish steaks on top of the garlic and fennel seeds and cook until they turn white on the cooked side, 5 minutes. Turn the steaks over and cook another 5 minutes.

Add the white wine and tomatoes, cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the swordfish is easily penetrated with a skewer or paring knife. Timing will vary depending on the thickness of the steaks — thin steaks may take less than 5 minutes while very thick steaks may take as long as 15 minutes.

Remove the lid and transfer the swordfish to a heated platter. Increase the heat under the skillet to high and cook until the liquid in the pan reduces to a syrupy sauce, about 5 minutes. Stir in the basil leaves and pour the sauce over the swordfish steaks.

Dessert

Struffoli

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup honey
  • Rainbow (multi-colored) sprinkles
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Heat 2″ of cooking oil in a deep pan until its very hot.

Place flour and salt into a large bowl. Make a well (indentation) in the center of the flour and add the eggs one at a time, mixing slightly after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well to make a soft dough. Turn dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and elastic.

Divide dough into halves and lightly roll each half 1/4 inch thick to form a rectangle. Cut dough with a pastry cutter into strips 1/4″ wide. Use the palm of your hand to roll strips to pencil thickness. Cut into pieces about 1/4″ to 1/2″ long.

In the heated oil, fry only as many pieces of dough as will float one layer deep for 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning occasionally. Scoop out with a slotted spoon or spider and let the oil drain before removing and then place fried dough pieces on several paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

In a different pan heat the honey until it is hot. Add in the drained fried dough pieces. Stir constantly and carefully until all the pieces are coated. Remove, place in a bowl and keep it in the refrigerator to cool slightly. Remove and decorate with the sprinkles.


Seasonal eating is easy in summer when produce at the local farmers’ markets and supermarkets is abundant. But in winter, across wide areas of the world, the options tend to dwindle after the fall harvest. However, with a little creativity, you can create satisfying meals with seasonal ingredients – root vegetables, winter squashes, kale and other winter greens. Cooking greens range from the very tender and quick-cooking spinach to the hearty fibrous varieties of kale. These nutritious, tasty recipes are fairly quick to prepare and are useful on these busy days while you are getting ready for the holidays. You can use any type of pasta that you have in your pantry for these recipes. You can even combine 2 half packages to use them up.

Pasta with Kale and Anchovy Sauce

Use the same pot of water to blanch the greens before boiling the pasta and then finish the dish in the same pot. This dish is quick, easy, nutritious and works with any type of greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch kale (collard greens, turnip greens, chard also work)
  • 1 tablespoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cups freshly shredded Parmesan, Asiago or aged Pecorino cheese

Directions

Trim and wash greens, leaving the leaves whole.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to the boiling water. Add greens and blanch until wilted, from 30 seconds for chard to 2 minutes for kale. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the leaves to a colander and rinse them under cool water.

Reboil water and add pasta. Cook pasta until tender to the bite. Drain, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.

Chop anchovies, garlic and cooked greens separately.

Once pasta is drained, return pot to medium high heat. Add oil, garlic, pepper flakes and anchovies. Cook, stirring, until the garlic just turns golden.

Add chopped greens and stir to combine. Add reserved pasta cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Add pasta, stir to combine. Take off the heat.

Stir in half of the shredded cheese. Taste and add salt, if you like.

Divide between plates or pasta bowls, garnish with remaining shredded cheese and serve.

Broccoli Walnut Pasta

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. pasta shells, penne, or fusilli or a combination (whole wheat is better)
  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded pecorino, parmesan, or other hard grating cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon salt for pasta water, 1/2 teaspoon salt for sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roughly chop the walnuts and spread them on a baking sheet or piece of foil and bake until toasted, 5 to 10 minutes. Set a timer and check on them – walnuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly. Set the walnuts aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender to the bite. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out 1 cup of the cooking water and reserve it. Drain the pasta.

Trim the broccoli, peel the stalks and separate the crowns into large florets. Cut the florets into smaller ones, about 1/2-inch across. Chop the stems into small pieces. Set aside.

Peel and finely chop the garlic and set aside.

In a large sauté pan with a cover over medium-high heat, add the oil, the broccoli and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli turns bright green, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta-cooking water to the broccoli. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the broccoli in tender to the bite, 3 to 5 minutes. Add more pasta-cooking water if the pan gets dry.

Add the drained pasta to the broccoli, toss to combine well. Add the walnuts and toss to combine. Add the cheese and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt, if you like. Serve hot, topped with more cheese.

 

Creamy Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 10-oz. bag of spinach leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 8 oz. fusilli, corkscrew or rotini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Directions

If baking as a casserole, preheat oven to 375°F. Butter an 8-by-8 baking dish, if you’re making the casserole version.

Rinse and trim spinach. Chop garlic finely.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until pasta is tender to the bite. Drain pasta and return pot to the stove over medium-high heat.

Add olive oil and garlic to the pasta pan, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until spinach wilts, cover, and cook until completely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in cream and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.

Add nutmeg and black pepper. Add pasta and stir to combine thoroughly – the greens will want to stick together, so you will need to break them up a bit, if you want them evenly distributed in the pasta. Cover and cook so the pasta can soak up some of the liquid, about 2 minutes.

Stir in half of the cheese. Either serve as is in pasta bowls topped with the rest of the cheese or transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and the mixture is bubbling and starting to brown on top, about 15 minutes.

Zucchini Pasta

Ingredient

  • 2 lbs. zucchini
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup (pignoli) pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 lb. fusilli or similar pasta
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut each zucchini into 3-inch long matchsticks 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Chop the garlic and cut the basil leaves into thin ribbons.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring constantly, until just turning golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl or plate and set aside.

In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and the olive oil and increase heat to high. Add half of the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini is soft and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much of the fat in the pan as possible. Repeat with other half of the zucchini and another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set the pan and the zucchini aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and cook the pasta until tender to the bite. Drain the pasta.

Return the reserved pan to medium heat, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and add the garlic, cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the reserved zucchini and pine nuts and cook, stirring, until combined. Add the zucchini mixture and the basil to the cooked pasta. Toss to combine thoroughly. Add half of the cheese and toss to combine well—the cheese will melt a bit to make a sauce. Divide the pasta among serving plates and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pepper. Serve immediately.

Gnocchi With Chard & Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch green Swiss chard (golden, red or rainbow chard are ok, but know that they will tint the entire dish)
  • Salt
  • 1 package (approx. 1 lb.) potato gnocchi
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Cut stems out of chard leaves (make a “v” around the stem to cut out as much of the stem as possible). Chop stems and leaves separately and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt to boiling water and add chopped chard stems. Cook until almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add gnocchi and chopped chard leaves. Cook until gnocchi are cooked through and float to the top of the water, about 3 minutes. Drain.

Put gnocchi and chard in a large bowl and toss with ricotta. Add nutmeg, pepper and salt to taste. Toss to combine.

Put gnocchi mixture in a generously greased 9×13 inch baking dish. Heat broiler on high.

Sprinkle gnocchi with Parmesan cheese. Broil until cheese melts and the entire dish gets browned and crispy.


Homemade vegetable broth is easy to make and great to have in your freezer to create nutritious meals in a pinch. A cornerstone of many vegetarian dishes, a good vegetable broth can be the base for risottos, soups and stews. Freeze homemade vegetable broth, so you have it on hand in various proportions to use in your everyday cooking. You can even make vegetable broth easily using leftover scrap pieces of vegetables, including onions, celery, carrots, herbs and a variety of greens. While homemade vegetable broth will stay safe to eat indefinitely, freezer storage of the broth beyond two to three months can impart some off flavors in the finished dish.

Vegetable broth should be slightly cooled before packing into bags, containers or jars for storage. Allow broth to cool no longer than an hour before using a ladle to pour it into your storage containers. If you are using an upright storage container, be sure to leave an inch of headspace to accommodate for expansion. Seal the containers, jars or bags and label them with the date and name of the item. Cool completely in the refrigerator before arranging the vegetable broth containers in the freezer.

Freeze broth in containers of many sizes. Go for a mix of quart, pint and half- pint jars, containers or bags and be sure that whatever you are using is freezer-safe. Some wide-mouth canning jars are labeled as freezer safe and are a good choice for storing vegetable broth. For smaller portions, fill an ice cube tray full of vegetable broth, freeze it, remove the cubes and store them together in a freezer-safe bag. Using freezer-safe bags is also a good way to save space; fill them up, seal them and lay them flat in your freezer.

Make a batch regularly to replenish your supply and ensure that you always have some on hand. Thaw vegetable broth in the refrigerator overnight. Or run cool water over the bottom of the container, remove the frozen broth and heat it in a saucepan. Once thawed, use vegetable broth within three to four days for best quality and safety.

This vegetable broth recipe has a delicate flavor and is ideal for making light soups. Something you may want to make this week before all the rich food appears.

Homemade Vegetable Broth

Use this broth to make the soups below. Don’t add salt. Salt can be added when you use the broth to make a soup recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium yellow onions, sliced in chunks
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced in chunks
  • 1 leek, sliced in chunks
  • 1 bulb garlic, halved
  • 1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs parsley

Directions

Place all ingredients and 1 gallon water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook 2 hours, then strain and discard solids. Strain once more through a fine mesh sieve. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Stir before using if broth separates. Freeze in smaller containers for use with a soup recipe.

Vegetable Broth From Scraps

It’s a shame to waste food and you really don’t have to ? Just get yourself some large freezer bags and start saving virtually everything to make great vegetable broth. Basically you don’t have to throw away the top of a bell pepper, just toss it in a freezer bag, stem and all, to eventually add them to your broth pot. Use the end of carrots or celery that may be going bad soon, just cut them all into 2 inch pieces and add them to your freezer bag collection. Spinach, red cabbage, potato peels, parsley stems or whatever, don’t throw anything away.

1. Place a large freezer bag of vegetable scraps and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, bay leaves, herbs, etc.) in a large pot and cover completely with water.

2. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat and simmer for at least an hour, two is better.

4. Then, strain out the vegetable pieces and your broth is ready for use or freezing.

Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups collard greens (or greens of choice), chopped
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store bought marinara sauce
  • 1 – 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 1 can Borlotti beans (or beans of choice) drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb small pasta shells
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Sauté garlic and onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot until onions are translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add parsley and collard greens, cover and cook until completely cooked down, about 10 minutes.

Add beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to boil and simmer 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring 6 quarts water to boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook pasta 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain and pour pasta into soup mixture. Stir to mix well. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serve hot drizzled with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil over the top of the soup.

Chick Pea Soup with Spaghetti

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. spaghetti, broken into thirds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 15 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 quarts vegetable broth
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

Sauté onions and rosemary with oil in a large pot over medium heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 additional minutes. Stir in chick peas and broth.

Bring mixture to a boil, season with salt and pepper and then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cut spaghetti and cook until spaghetti is al dente. Garnish with parsley.

Winter Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 (10-ounce) packages (or 4 cups from a larger bag) frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium zucchini, (about 1/2 pound) diced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Directions

Put 2 cups of the corn and the milk into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over  medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and zucchini and cook, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of corn and the broth and bring to a boil. Add the pureed corn and the diced tomatoes and cook until warmed through, but not boiling. Add the salt and season with pepper. Serve garnished with the basil ribbons.

Acorn Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 3 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • Garnishes: yogurt or shredded cheese or croutons and sliced chives

Directions

Preheat oven 400 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, roast the acorn squash, cut side down, until soft, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the squash flesh and set aside.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute carrot, apple and onion until soft. Season with ginger and allspice. Add the squash and the broth. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree with a hand-held immersion blender. (Alternatively, in batches, puree in a blender or food processor and return to the pot.)

Remove from the heat, ladle the soup into serving bowsl and top with garnishes of choice. Serve with warm bread, if desired.



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