Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Crooners

Crooner is an epithet given to a male singer of a certain style of popular songs. The singer is normally backed by a full orchestra or big band. Crooning is a style that has its roots in the Bel Canto of Italian opera, but with the emphasis on subtle vocal nuances and phrasing found in jazz as opposed to elaborate drama and acoustic volume found in opera houses. Before the advent of the microphone, popular singers, like Al Jolson, had to project to the rear seats of a theater, which made for a very loud vocal style. The microphone made possible a more personal style. Crooning is not so much a style of music as it is a technique in which to sing.

Some crooners, most notably Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby incorporated other popular styles into their music, such as blues, dixieland and even Hawaiian music. Crooning became the dominant form of popular vocal music from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, coinciding with the advent of radio broadcasting and electrical recording.

After 1954 popular music became dominated by other styles, especially rock ‘n’ roll, while the music of latter-day crooners, such as Perry Como and Matt Monro, were categorized as “easy listening”. Crooners have remained popular among fans of traditional pop music, with contemporary performers such as Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, Michael Bublé and Engelbert Humperdinck keeping the form alive.

Frankie Laine

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Francesco Paolo LoVecchio (1913-2007) was born to Giovanni and Cresenzia LoVecchio (née Salerno) in Cook County, IL. His parents had emigrated from Monreale, Sicily, to Chicago’s Near West Side, in “Little Italy,” where his father worked as a barber. The eldest of eight children, Laine grew up in the Old Town neighborhood (first at 1446 N. North Park Avenue and later at 331 W. Schiller Street) and got his first taste of singing as a member of the choir in the Church of the Immaculate Conception’s elementary school across the street from his North Park Avenue home. He later attended Lane Technical High School, where he helped to develop his lung power and breath control by joining the track and field and basketball teams. He realized he wanted to be a singer when he went to see Al Jolson’s talking picture, The Singing Fool. Even in the 1920s, his vocal abilities were enough to get him noticed by a slightly older “in crowd” at his school, who invited him to parties and to local dance clubs. At 17, he sang before a crowd of 5,000 at The Merry Garden Ballroom to such applause that he ended up performing five encores on his first night.

Laine was giving dance lessons for a charity ball at the Merry Garden when he was called to the bandstand to sing: “Soon I found myself on the main bandstand before this enormous crowd”, Laine recalled. ”I was really nervous, but I started singing ‘Beside an Open Fireplace,’ a popular song of the day. It was a sentimental tune and the lyrics choked me up. When I got done, the tears were streaming down my cheeks and the ballroom became quiet. I was very nearsighted and couldn’t see the audience. I thought that the people didn’t like me.”

Laine was the first and largest of a new breed of singers who rose to prominence in the post–World War II era. This new, emotionally charged style seemed at the time to signal the end of the previous era’s singing styles and was a forerunner of the rock ‘n’ roll performers that were to come. As music historian, Jonny Whiteside, wrote: “In the Hollywood clubs, a new breed of performers laid down an array of new sounds … Most important of all these, though, was Frankie Laine, a big lad with ‘steel tonsils’ who belted out torch blues while stomping his size twelve-foot.”

Laine began recording for Columbia Records in 1951, where he immediately scored a double-sided hit with the single “Jezebel” /”Rose, Rose, I Love You”. Other Laine hits from this period include “High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me)”, “Jealousy”, “The Girl in the Wood”, “When You’re in Love”, “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (with Jo Stafford), “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, “Granada and “Hey Joe!”.  Laine scored a total of 39 hit records on the charts while at Columbia.

Laine had become more popular in the United Kingdom than in the USA, as many of his hit records in the UK were only minor hits in the US. Songs like “The Gandy Dancer’s Ball”, “The Rock of Gibraltar” and “Answer Me, O Lord” were much bigger hits for him abroad. “Answer Me” would later provide the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s composition, “Yesterday”.  It was also there that he broke attendance records when appearing at the Palladium and where he launched his first successful television series with singer, Connie Haines.

He was a frequent guest star on various other television shows of the time, including Shower of Stars, The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, What’s My Line?, This is Your Life, Bachelor Father, The Sinatra Show, The Walter Winchell Show, The Perry Como Show, The Garry Moore Show, Masquerade Party, The Mike Douglas Show and American Bandstand.

Along with opening the door for many R&B performers, Laine played a significant role in the civil rights movements of the 1950s and ’60s. When Nat King Cole’s television show was unable to get a sponsor, Laine crossed the color line, becoming the first white artist to appear as a guest (forgoing his usual salary of $10,000.00 as Cole’s show only paid scale). Many other top white singers followed suit, including Tony Bennett and Rosemary Clooney. In the following decade, Laine joined several African-American artists, who gave a free concert for Martin Luther King’s supporters during their Selma to Montgomery marches. In 2005, he appeared on the PBS special, My Music, despite a recent stroke, performing “That’s My Desire”, and received a standing ovation. It proved to be his swan song to the world of popular music. Laine died of heart failure on February 6, 2007.

Tony Bennett

Anthony Dominick Benedetto (1926) was born in Astoria, Queens, New York City, to grocer, John Benedetto and seamstress, Anna Suraci. In 1906, John had emigrated from Podàrgoni, a rural eastern district of the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. Anna had been born in the U.S., shortly after her parents also emigrated from the Calabria region in 1899. Tony has an older sister, Mary, and an older brother, John Jr. With a father who was ailing and unable to work, the children grew up in poverty. John Sr. instilled in his son a love of art and literature and a compassion for human suffering, but died when Tony was 10 years old.

Young Tony grew up listening to Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby, as well as jazz artists, such as Louis Armstrong, Jack Teagarden and Joe Venuti. His Uncle Dick was a tap dancer in vaudeville, giving him an early window into show business. Drawing was another early passion of his and he became known as the class caricaturist at P.S. 141. He anticipated a career in commercial art. However, he began singing for money at age 13 and performing as a singing waiter in several Italian restaurants around his native Queens.

He attended New York’s School of Industrial Art, where he studied painting and music and, would later, appreciate their emphasis on proper technique. To help support his family, he dropped out of school at age 16 and worked as a copy boy and runner for the Associated Press in Manhattan and in several other low-skilled, low-paying jobs. However, he set his sights on a professional singing career and returned to performing as a singing waiter, winning amateur nights all around the city and having a successful engagement at a Paramus, New Jersey, nightclub.

He fought in the final stages of World War II as an infantryman with the U.S. Army in Europe. Afterwards, he developed his singing technique, signed with Columbia Records and had his first number-one popular song with “Because of You” in 1951. Several top hits, such as “Rags to Riches” followed in the early 1950s. Bennett then further refined his approach to encompass jazz. He reached an artistic peak in the late 1950s with albums, such as The Beat of My Heart, Basie Swings and Bennett Sings. In 1962, Bennett recorded his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. His career suffered an extended downturn during the height of the rock music era.

Bennett staged a comeback in the late 1980s and 1990s, putting out gold record albums again and expanding his audience to the MTV Generation, while keeping his musical style intact. He remains a popular recording artist and concert performer in the 2010s. Bennett has won 17 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Award presented in 2001), two Emmy Awards and has been named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has sold over 50 million records worldwide. Bennett is also an accomplished painter, having created works—under the name Anthony Benedetto—that are on permanent public display in several art institutions.

Frank Sinatra

Frank-Sinatra-Enterprises

Francis Albert Sinatra (1915 –1998) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was the only child of Italian immigrants, Natalina Garaventa and Antonino Martino Sinatra. Sinatra’s father was a lightweight boxer who fought under the name Marty O’Brien and served with the Hoboken Fire Department as a Captain. Sinatra left high school without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. In 1938 he worked as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper and later as a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard, but music was Sinatra’s main interest and he listened carefully to big band jazz. He began singing for tips at the age of eight, standing on top of the bar at a local nightclub in Hoboken. Sinatra sang professionally as a teenager in the 1930s, although he never learned how to read music.

Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra the group became known as the Hoboken Four and they appeared on the show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They attracted 40,000 votes and won first prize – a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.

After Sinatra left the Hoboken Four and returned home in late 1935, his mother helped him get a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week. The following June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one-year contract of $75 a week. It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record, “From the Bottom of My Heart”, in July, 1939.

Sinatra found success as a solo artist from the early to mid-1940s, after being signed by Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the “bobby soxers”, he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra in 1946. His professional career stalled in the early 1950s, but it was reborn in 1953 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity. He signed with Capitol Records in 1953 and released several successful albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records in 1961.

From his youth, Sinatra displayed sympathy for African-Americans and worked both publicly and privately all his life to help them achieve equal rights. He played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and led his fellow “Rat Pack” members (a group of entertainers led by Sinatra who worked together on a loose basis in films and casino shows featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop) and Reprise label colleagues in boycotting hotels and casinos that refused entry to black patrons and performers. He often spoke from the stage on desegregation and repeatedly played benefits on behalf of Dr. King and his movement.

On November 2, 1970 Sinatra recorded the last songs for Reprise Records before his self-imposed retirement. The final song recorded at the session was written by John Denver and titled “The Game is Over”. However, this song was not released officially until The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings suitcase box-set went on sale in 1995 to commemorate his 80th birthday. He was selected as one of the five recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors and President Reagan said, in honoring his old friend, that “art was the shadow of humanity” and that Sinatra had “spent his life casting a magnificent and powerful shadow”.

Perry Como

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Pierino Ronald Como (1912 – 2001) was born in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He was the seventh of 13 children of Pietro Como and Lucia Travaglini, who both emigrated to the US in 1910 from the Abruzzo town of Palena, Italy. Perry was the first of their children born in the United States. He did not speak English until he entered school, since the Comos only spoke Italian at home. His father, a mill hand and an amateur baritone, had all his children attend music lessons, even if he could barely afford them. In a rare 1957 interview, Como’s mother, Lucia, described how her young son took on other jobs to pay for more music lessons. Como learned to play many different instruments, but never had a voice lesson. Perry showed additional musical talent in his teenage years as a trombone player in the town’s Italian Brass Band, by playing guitar and singing at weddings and as an organist at church.

At the age of 10, Como helped his family by working before and after school in a barber shop for 50¢ a week. By age 13, he had graduated to having his own chair in the barber shop, although he stood on a box to tend to his customers. When Perry was 14, his father was unable to work because of a severe heart condition, so Como and his brothers supported the household.

In 1932, Como left Canonsburg, moving about 100 miles away to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where his uncle had a barber shop in the Hotel Conneaut that was about 80 miles from Cleveland. It was also the stop on the itinerary for dance bands who worked up and down the Ohio Valley. Como went to the Silver Slipper Ballroom where Freddy Carlone and his orchestra were playing one evening and Carlone invited anyone, who thought he might have singing talent, to come up and sing with his band. Young Como was terrified, but his friends urged him onto the stage. Carlone was so impressed with his performance that he offered him a job. Three years after joining the Carlone band, Como moved to Ted Weems’ Orchestra and his first recording dates. It was with Ted Weems as a mentor that the young Como acquired polish and his own unique style.

“Mr. C.”, as he was nicknamed, sold millions of records for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and pioneered a weekly musical variety television show, which set the standards for the genre and proved to be one of the most successful in television history. Como was seen weekly on television from 1949 to 1963, then continued hosting the Kraft Music Hall variety program monthly until 1967. His television shows and seasonal specials were broadcast throughout the world. Also a popular recording artist, Perry Como produced numerous hit records and his combined success on television and popular recordings was not matched by any other artist of the time.

Como’s appeal spanned generations and he was widely respected for both his professional standards and the conduct of his personal life. In the official RCA Records Billboard magazine memorial, his life was summed up in these few words: “50 years of music and a life well lived. An example to all.” One of the many factors in his success was Como’s insistence on his principles of good taste; if he considered something to be in bad or poor taste, it was not in the broadcast. Another was his naturalness; the man viewers saw on the screen was the same person who could be encountered behind a supermarket shopping cart, at a bowling alley or in a kitchen making breakfast.

Como received the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance; five Emmys from 1955 to 1959; a Christopher Award (1956) and shared a Peabody Award with his good friend, Jackie Gleason in 1956. He was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1987. Posthumously, Como received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Como has the distinction of having three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in radio, television and music.

Vic Damone

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Vito Rocco Farinola 1928) was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Italian immigrants from Bari, Italy—Rocco and Mamie (Damone) Farinola. His father was an electrician and his mother taught piano. Inspired by his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, Damone took voice lessons. He sang in the choir at St. Finbar’s Church in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. When his father was injured at work, Damone had to drop out of high school. He worked as an usher and elevator operator in the Paramount Theater in Manhattan where he met Perry Como. Vic stopped the elevator between floors, sang for him and asked his advice if he should continue voice lessons. Impressed, Como said, “Keep singing!” and referred him to a local bandleader. Vito Farinola decided to call himself Vic Damone, using his mother’s maiden name for his new-found career.

Damone entered the talent search on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and won in April 1947. This led to his becoming a regular on Godfrey’s show. He met Milton Berle at the studio and Berle got him work at two night clubs. By mid-1947, Damone had signed a contract with Mercury Records. His first release, “I Have But One Heart”, reached #7 on the Billboard chart. “You Do” reached the same peak. These were followed by a number of other hits, such as “You’re Breaking My Heart”, based on a turn-of-the-century ballad by Leoncavallo, the opera composer. Damone was also a sought after television guest performer. By the early fifties Vic was a successful recording star, however, it was his recording of “On the Street Where You Live” from the Broadway show, My Fair Lady, that put Damone into super-star status. His version of “An Affair to Remember”, one of the last songs written by Harry Warren, was a huge success.

Damone toured Las Vegas casinos as a performer and, although, he had to declare bankruptcy in the early 1970s, he earned enough as a casino performer to clear up his financial difficulties. He extended his geographical range, touring through the United States and the United Kingdom and, as a result of his popularity, decided to record albums again, releasing them on the RCA label. His final album was issued in 2002 with older albums being re-packaged and re-released. He recorded over 2,000 songs during his entire career. On June 12, 2009, Vic Damone released his autobiography titled, Singing Was the Easy Part, from St. Martin’s Press.

His final public performance was on January 19, 2002 at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. Damone did however step out of retirement on January 22, 2011, when he once again performed at the Kravis Performing Arts Center in Palm Beach, Florida to a sold out crowd. Damone dedicated this performance to his six grandchildren who had never seen him perform. In December 2, 2011, at the age of 83, Damone launched an official Facebook profile dedicated to his fans. In addition to posting recent photos, Damone writes that “besides spending time with his family he spends his retirement enjoying golf and football”.

Italian American Cuisine

As Italian-Americans moved to various regions of the United States, their recipes encorporated regional flavors into the classic recipes they brought with them from Italy.

Northeast US

NY Pizza

New York Style Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups marinara or pizza sauce
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions

Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 minute, then stir to dissolve. Mix in the flour, salt and olive oil. When the dough is too thick to stir, turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Knead in a little more flour if the dough is too sticky. Place into an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk. (You can also prepare the dough in an electric mixer or a food processor.)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C). If using a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven as well, setting it on the lowest shelf.

When the dough has risen, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Roll or stretch out into a 12 inch circle and place on a baking pan. If you are using a pizza stone, you may place it on a piece of parchment while preheating the stone in the oven.

Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with oregano, mozzarella cheese, basil, Romano cheese and red pepper flakes. Transfer the pizza to the baking stone.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bottom of the crust is browned when you lift up the edge a little, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Cool for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Southeast US

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Herb-Roasted Pork Loin

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1 (2 1/2- to 3-lb.) boneless pork loin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs, cut in half

Directions

Combine first 10 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub over pork. Chill, uncovered, 8 to 12 hours.

Let pork stand at room temperature 30 minutes. (Bringing it to room temperature will help it cook faster and more evenly.)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Brown pork in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes on each side. Lightly grease a wire rack with cooking spray. Place pork on the rack in a roasting pan. Add the garlic halves.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 135°F.

Remove from the oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve with the roasted garlic.

Northwest US

salmon burger

Salmon Rosemary Burgers

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds king salmon fillet, skinned and de-boned
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 8 onion rolls
  • Lettuce and sliced tomatoes

Directions

Prepare the salmon by cutting into strips, cutting the strips crosswise and chopping the fish until well minced. Be sure to remove any remaining bones.

In a large bowl, mix the minced salmon with the bread crumbs, red onion, Dijon mustard, horseradish and eggs. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper.

Chill at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.

Form the salmon mixture into 8 burger patties. Lightly coat each patty with olive oil.

Place salmon patties on the grill and cook 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Serve in onion rolls with lettuce and tomato slices.

Southwest US

braised chicken

Italian-Style Braised Chicken and Artichoke Hearts

4 servings

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Generous pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups chicken broth, homemade or 
store-bought
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and mixed with a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of salt
  • 1 pkg thawed frozen artichoke hearts, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or cilantro

Directions

Pat the chicken dry and season salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, working in batches if necessary, and cook until well browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Decrease the heat to medium. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until soft and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, cinnamon stick and bay leaf and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/4 cup of the broth to deglaze the pot, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the pot. Stir in a pinch of salt and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in the remaining 1 3/4 cups of broth, the lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the chicken, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and olives and stir gently to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Garnish with the mint.

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prod_Whole_Chx

Why is buying a whole chicken better than buying one that is cut into serving pieces?

First, a whole chicken is cheaper per pound and is handled less along the way. It lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques and can be cut up at home exactly the way you want it: in half, quarters, eighths or tenths. Eating all of an animal not just the popular cuts, such as the breast, is the most sustainable way to eat. You get the added bonus of the back, neck, frame and gizzards, which can all be used to make broth for soup.

Second, you get several meals from one chicken. You can roast, braise or cook a chicken in the slow cooker. Once cooked, slice some of the chicken for the main meal and then use the leftovers in any number of dishes, such as risotto, chicken pie, a stir-fry, sandwiches or a salad, etc.

Simple Roast Chicken

  • One 4-5 pound whole chicken
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Using a roasting rack set in the baking pan will help the chicken cook more evenly, since air can circulate freely. With a roasting rack, the chicken won’t be resting in its own drippings, so you get a crisper skin. For easier cleanup, you can line the pan with aluminum foil.

Remove the packet of giblets from the cavity of the chicken ( save for use in a stock, if you like — but don’t include the liver, which will make the stock bitter). Pull any loose fat from around the opening. Rinse the chicken inside and out, then dry the chicken very well with paper towels, inside and out.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird (simply tie the legs together and tuck the wings underneath the body or tie kitchen string around them).

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt (around a ½ tablespoon) over the outer skin of the bird so that it has a uniform coating that will result in a crisp, flavorful skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Put the chicken, breast side up, on a V-shaped or flat rack and set the rack in a roasting pan just larger than the rack. Roast for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F and continue roasting for about 45 -60 minutes more. The chicken is done when the leg wiggles freely in its joint and when the juices run clear from the thigh area. (I roast mine until the it registers 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer. The chicken will continue cooking a bit after you remove it from the oven).

Baste the chicken with the juices that have collected in the bottom of the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Variations:

Convection Oven

Cook at 425 degrees F in a convection oven for about 50 minutes.

Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • Several sprigs of thyme and rosemary or a mixture of herbs you like
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Season liberally with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken. Put the herbs and garlic inside the cavity, together with the squeezed-out lemon halves—this will add a fragrant lemony flavor to the finished dish. Follow directions above for Simple Roast Chicken.

Roast Chicken and Vegetables

  • 6 whole small yellow onions
  • 4 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 6 potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Arrange the vegetables in the bottom of the roasting pan and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning; add chicken broth to the bottom of the pan. Place chicken on top of the vegetables and cover pan tightly with foil. Follow directions for Simple Roast Chicken and remove the foil when the oven is reduced to 375 degrees F. Turn the vegetables over occasionally while they are roasting to insure even browning.

Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

crock pot chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 large chicken (3-4 lbs)

Directions

Combine the dried spices in a small bowl.

Chop the onion and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker.

Remove any giblets from the chicken and then rub the spice mixture all over. You can even put some of the spices inside the cavity and under the skin covering the breasts.

Put prepared chicken on top of the onions in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it on to high. There is no need to add any liquid.

Cook for 4 – 5 hours on high (for a 3 or 4 pound chicken) or until the chicken is falling off the bone.

Stovetop Chicken

stovetop-chicken

Leftovers are great for chicken casseroles.

Ingredients

  • 1 (4-to 5-lb.) whole chicken
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth

Directions

Remove neck and giblets from chicken and reserve for another use. Sprinkle chicken with salt, garlic powder and pepper.

Melt butter with oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the whole chicken and cook, breast side down, 5 minutes or until golden brown. Turn chicken, breast side up, and reduce heat to medium-low.

Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup wine (you can use all chicken broth, if you wish) to the Dutch oven.

Cover and cook 1 hour or until a meat thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 165 degrees F.

Cutting Up a Whole Chicken

 

1. Remove the legs

Place the chicken breast side up on a solid cutting board. Pull one leg away from the body and cut through the skin between the body and both sides of the thigh.

Bend the whole leg firmly away from the body until the ball of the thighbone pops from the hip socket. Cut between the ball and the socket to separate the leg. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Divide The Legs

Place the chicken leg skin side down on the cutting board.

Cut down firmly through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh.

 

3. Remove The Wings

With the chicken on it’s back, remove a wing by cutting on the inside of the wing just over joint. Pull wing away from the body and cut down through the skin and the joint. Repeat with the other wing.

 

4. Cut Carcass in Half

Cut through the cavity of the bird from the tail end and slice through the thin area around the shoulder joint. Cut parallel to the backbone and slice the bones of the rib cage. Repeat on the opposite side of the backbone.

 

5. Remove The Breast

Pull apart the breast and the back. Cut down through the shoulder bones to detach the breast from the back. Cut the back into two pieces by cutting across the backbone where the ribs end.

6. Cut Breast In Half

You may leave the breast whole if your recipe requires. To cut in half, use a strong, steady pressure and cut downward along the length of the breastbone to separate the breast into two pieces. If the breasts are large you may want to cut each half into two pieces.

Save the parts, such as the backbone and wings, to make broth. I keep a bag in the freezer and add to it until I have enough to make soup.

chicken_in_vinegar_300

Chicken in Vinegar Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1-4 lb chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup cider vinegar mixed with 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup Riesling or other dry but fruity white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Rinse chicken pieces, pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, skin side down, and brown, turning once, about 10 minutes per side. Remove and set aside. Repeat the process with the remaining oil, butter and chicken.

Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

Deglaze the skillet with vinegar and wine, scraping brown bits off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Reduce vinegar mixture by about one-third, 3-5 minutes, then stir in tomato paste.

Return chicken to skillet, pour in the stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn chicken and continue cooking until juices from chicken run clear, about 15 minutes. (If the sauce becomes too thick, thin with a small amount of chicken stock or water.)

Remove chicken from skillet with tongs to a deep serving bowl. Pour sauce from the skillet over the chicken and garnish with parsley.

100_0521

Roasted Chicken with Bell Peppers and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, cut into eighths
  • 6 medium potatoes, quartered
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the chicken, onions, peppers and potatoes in a large baking pan. Make sure not to crowd the pieces together in the pan. Scatter the garlic slices over the mixture and drizzle some olive oil on top of the ingredients. Sprinkle with the parsley, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper.

Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil and put in a preheated oven at 275 degrees F (135 C) for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees F (190 C) and cook the casserole for 15-20 minutes more, until the chicken and potatoes brown and a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

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crostini-mistakes-646

Crostini is just another name for slices of bread that have been brushed with oil and baked until golden brown. Crostini make for an endless variety of near-instant hors d’oeuvres. Just spoon on your pick of toppings and watch the crostini disappear!

Crostini is the Italian word for “little toasts”. Crostini are believed to be a kind of Italian peasant food that originated in medieval times. The Italians, too poor to possess ceramic plates, preferred to eat their food by keeping it on the surface of slices of bread. The Italians, not a group to waste anything, often ate stale bread which had to be soaked in juices or wine in order to chew it properly.

Bruschetta and crostini are both bread preparations used in antipasti – but what is the difference?

The difference between bruschettas and crostini is the type of bread used. Bruschetta, from the Italian word “bruscare” meaning “to roast over coals”, is made by toasting whole, wide slices of a rustic Italian or sourdough type bread. Crostini are sliced from a smaller, round, finer-textured bread, more like a white bread baguette. In Italy you might find yourself offered an antipasto of four or five different crostini, no more than a couple of mouthfuls each, accompanied by some olives, but only one or two of the larger bruschetta would be plenty.

crostini_vert

Some do’s and don’t I picked up from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen to ensure successful crostini.

Not starting with good bread

The bread you use should be high quality; look for fresh baguettes, boules and hearty country bread, preferably from a local bakery (as opposed to supermarket brands). Texture is very important–it shouldn’t be too dense.

Slicing the bread too thick or thin

The bread needs to be thin enough to bite, but thick enough to support toppings -1/2-inch thick is just right.

Skipping the oil

Brush olive oil on each piece before toasting it. Why? It makes the surface of the bread less dry. And it just tastes better.

Over-toasting the bread

If the crostini are too hard, they will hurt your guests’ mouths and flake all over their clothes. The ideal texture: crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. To achieve it, bake, grill or broil bread over high heat, making sure to toast both sides. (If you cook on too low a heat, the bread will dehydrate and crumble upon first bite.) You’ll know it’s finished when the edges are browned but the center is lighter in color and still has a little spring to it.

Forgetting the flavor

Flavor your crostini right after toasting. Things you can rub on the bread: a raw garlic clove, a tomato half – cut side-down or a whole lemon or orange–rind. The crispy bread will pick up the fruit’s essential oils.

Going overboard with your topping

If you pile on the topping, it’s going to fall off when you bite into the crostini. You should be able to take bites without worrying about staining your shirt or dress.

Overdressing your topping

Wet topping = soggy bread. Use a slotted spoon when working with a wet topping (tomatoes, etc.) so that extra liquid is left behind. If using greens, dress them lightly.

How To Make Crostini Toasts

Using a serrated knife, cut one 8 ounce baguette diagonally into ½ inch slices. Makes about 20 slices.

Baked Crostini

Baked Crostini

Bake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the bread on 2 large baking sheets and brush each slice on both sides with olive oil. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the bread are golden brown. Turn the slices over half way through the baking time. Let cool completely. Store at room temperature.

toast_on_the_grill

Grilled Crostini

Broiled Crostini

Broiled Crostini

Grill or Broil

Brush bread slices lightly on both sides with olive oil.

Grill for 15 to 20 seconds on each side, until lightly brown, then remove with tongs and set aside.

For broiling, position the rack so the slices are 2 inches from the flame and turn them over when the crostini start to brown at the edges.

Here are some of my favorite combinations. They are easy to prepare and are always a big hit when I entertain. The recipes are based on 20 slices of crostini.

Shrimp and Pesto

Cut 10 medium peeled and deveined shrimp in half lengthwise.

In a skillet saute 1 minced garlic clove and the shrimp in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the shrimp turn pink.

Spread each crostini with homemade or store bought basil pesto. Place one shrimp half on each crostini and sprinkle each with shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Mediterranean Spread

Drain two 6 ounce jars of marinated artichoke hearts, reserving 2 tablespoons of the marinade.

Finely chop the artichokes and place in a mixing bowl with the reserved marinade.

Stir in ½ cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes packed in oil and drained, 2 tablespoons pitted and chopped Kalamata olives and 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley.

Mix well and spread mixture on the crostini slices and sprinkle the top with feta cheese.

Caprese

Rub crostini with a garlic clove or two as soon as they come out of the oven. Sprinkle each with a little balsamic vinegar.

Top each with the following

  • 1 slice of plum (Roma) tomato
  • 1 thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 fresh basil leaf

Grind fresh black pepper over each crostini.

Olive Orange Spread

In a food processor combine:

  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Pulse until coarsely chopped.

Spread on the crostini, top each with an orange segment and a small piece of arugula.

Roasted Red Pepper and Prosciutto

In a food processor combine one 12 oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained, with a large pinch of cayenne pepper. Process until almost smooth.

Spread pepper mixture on the crostini.

Top with a piece of prosciutto and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake crostini until the cheese melts. Serve warm.

Cannellini Bean Spread

In a food processor coarsely process one drained 15 oz. can cannellini beans. Remove to a mixing bowl.

Stir in ¼ cup shredded zucchini, 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and ½ teaspoon coarse grained mustard.

Spread on crostini slices. Top each with a half of a grape tomato and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.

Cremini Mushroom Spread

Thinly slice 12 oz cremini mushrooms. In a skillet heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook 3 minced garlic cloves for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.

Stir in 1/3 cup white wine. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until wine evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread crostini with a thin layer of mascarpone cheese. Top with mushrooms and sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.

Caramelized Sweet Onions and Gorgonzola

Halve and thinly slice 3 sweet onions. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter. Add onions and cook, covered, on medium low for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the onions turn golden. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon onions on the crostini and sprinkle with crumbled gorgonzola cheese.

Lemon Ricotta with Fruit and Honey

Stir together 1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese, 1 teaspoon shredded lemon peel and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Spread mixture on crostini.

Top each with thinly sliced fresh strawberries or figs.

Drizzle with honey and top each with a mint leaf.

What Are Your Favorite Toppings For Crostini?

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gnocchi headerIt seems that nearly every nation has some form of dumpling and it’s easy to see why. They are tasty, versatile and make excellent use of leftover ingredients. In Italy, dumplings are collectively known as gnocchi and are made in several different styles. In the family run trattorias of Rome, you can sample some of the best gnocchi every Thursday night in a citywide tradition. Just like most Italian cooking, these delicious lumps do not just vary from region to region, but from household to household as well, depending upon what is available. The most common way to prepare gnocchi is to combine potatoes (boiled, peeled or mashed) with flour to form soft bite-size lumps of dough. Each gnocco is then ridged along one side like a seashell. Gnocchi also come in different sizes, with gnocchetti being the smallest version.

Other types of gnocchi are made with semolina flour, milk and cheese – also known as Gnocchi alla Romana. Some versions are made with regular flour and other kinds can be made with leftover bread. Florence’s strozzapreti are gnocchi made from a combination of spinach and ricotta. Another spinach/ricotta gnocchi is from Lombardy called malfatti, meaning “malformed”, since these gnocchi are made from leftover ravioli filling and do not have a uniform shape. What makes gnocchi so popular is its versatility – simple ingredients like potatoes and semolina flour, vegetables, mushrooms and cheeses can be combined to make endless variations.

See two of my previous posts on the different types of gnocchi and how to make them:

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/10/16/how-to-make-homemade-gnocchi/

https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/05/23/need-some-new-potato-recipes/

Woodcut from Maccaronee, by Merlin Cocai, 1521. Revelers eating gnocchi. From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 1986)

Woodcut from Maccaronee, by Merlin Cocai, 1521. Revelers eating gnocchi. From Pasta Classica: The Art of Italian Pasta Cooking, by Julia della Croce (Chronicle Books, 1986)

In early writings, gnocco (singular for gnocchi) is sometimes replaced by maccherone, a generic term for pasta. The Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini De Vita tells us that gnocchi is one of the earliest pastas and is originally a Germanic word describing the distinctive shape of gnocchi. Gnocchi was originally from the Middle East, but when the Romans explored the area, they took back with them the recipe for gnocchi. Thus, it was brought with them when they settled European land, in particular, Italy. Here, gnocchi most strongly rooted itself. Various regions began to invent their own form of the dish and introduce them to other neighboring countries. When Italians immigrated into South America by way of Argentina and North America, the recipe for gnocchi went with them.

Recipes for gnocchi have been documented back to the 1300’s. In some parts of Italy, gnocchi was made of fine durum wheat. Elsewhere, it was chestnut, rye, rice or barley flour. When poverty struck, gnocchi might mean leftovers bound with breadcrumbs. We do know that potatoes came in very late as an ingredient and were slow to gain a following. An early recipe for potato gnocchi, circa 1834, calls for just one part potato to three parts flour. It takes another century for modern gnocchi to emerge—where the potato is the main ingredient, with only enough flour to bind it into a workable dough.

Commercial gnocchi is readily available, but it’s worth the effort to make your own. Essentially, you mix cooked, riced potatoes with egg, then knead in some flour. There’s no special equipment required; the familiar grooved pattern is made with a table fork. Gnocchi’s delicate flavor pairs well with robust sauces, from tomato to pesto to gorgonzola. Because they cook more quickly than traditional pasta, gnocchi are a great meal idea for weeknights. Just keep an eye on them, because as soon as they float to the top, they’re ready to sauce and serve!

CrispyGnocchi_04_mini

While gnocchi are simple enough to make from scratch, there are several varieties that can be found pre-made in supermarkets or in Italian specialty stores. Pre-packaged gnocchi, depending upon ingredients, can be found fresh (refrigerated) or frozen. Pre-packaged gnocchi should not be avoided since there are several very good brands. When buying gnocchi in the store, look for the “fresh” looking kind in the refrigerated section (usually next to the fresh pasta), preferably in a well-sealed or vacuum container. The package should be heavy for its size, as dense gnocchi will be less likely to fall apart when cooking. There are also several brands of frozen gnocchi that cook up well, so long as they remain frozen before dropping them in the boiling water, otherwise they will turn into soggy mashed potatoes if allowed to thaw.

Gnocchi in the dried pasta section is usually of the semolina variety, but you may also find vacuum-sealed potato gnocchi as well. Dried semolina gnocchi are convenient and can be tasty, but its taste and texture resembles more of a pasta than fresh semolina gnocchi. With dried potato gnocchi, there just does not seem to be enough moisture left in the dumplings, making them lighter than other varieties. Because of this lack of moisture, the gnocchi tend to fall apart somewhat and often loose their shape. The rule of thumb for buying gnocchi is: get the closest thing to making it yourself – fresh/refrigerated or frozen.

Making Homemade Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs potatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup or more for the work surface
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

A General Rule of Thumb: 1 medium-sized potato per serving or person. For every potato, you want to use approximately 1/2 cup of flour.

Directions

First, clean and peel potatoes. Remove any brown spots. Cut potatoes into 1” cubes; be sure to cut them into cubes consistent in size so that they cook evenly. Place cut potatoes in a medium-sized pot; fill with water just to cover. Add salt and cover with a lid. Stirring occasionally, boil potatoes for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. Over-boiling will cause potatoes to become mushy and too wet.

Drain the potatoes well. Allow them to cool in a colander. Rice potatoes using a potato ricer into a kitchen towel to remove excess water.

Combine potatoes, 2 ½ cups flour, egg and salt in the work bowl of a processor. Pulse just until the dough comes together.

Once the dough come together, turn out onto a floured board (using as much of the ½ cup flour as needed) and knead into a wide rectangle shape.

Gnocchi step 1

Cut the dough into about 8 pieces, 4 inches long.

Gnocchi-step 2

For shorter, heavy gnocchi, roll dough into thick ropes and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Gnocchi-step 4

Use a fork to make ridges on the side of each gnocchi.

Gnocchi-step 5

For thinner gnocchi, roll long ropes. Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place on a floured tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Gnocchi-step 3

Note: While you are shaping gnocchi, finished gnocchi should be kept on a heavily floured tray as to prevent sticking together. Also, keep them in a cool place until ready to cook for no longer than 45 minutes or else place them in the freezer.

Cooking Gnocchi:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and then gnocchi. Gnocchi are finished once they float to the top, approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss in a saucepan with your favorite sauce.

For best taste and texture, allow gnocchi to “sit” in their sauce once cooked for about 5 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

gnocchi and peas

Fresh Peas with Lettuce and Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 (16-ounce) package frozen potato gnocchi or homemade
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1 head Boston or other loose-leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook gnocchi until they float to the top; drain and keep warm.

Place butter in a large, heavy pan; heat over medium heat until melted. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Wash lettuce and trim away the stalk end. Shake water off lettuce (it’s OK if some water remains) and add to the pan. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and the peas. Cook about 3 minutes or until the peas are warm.

Remove pea mixture from the pan and keep warm. Add cream to the pan and cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Return pea mixture to the pan, add gnocchi and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

gnocchi and sausage

Gnocchi with Italian Sausage 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 teaspoon loose saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 26-28 oz container of Italian diced tomatoes
  • 1 (1-pound) package potato gnocchi  or homemade
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Add the garlic and sausage. Saute, stirring frequently, until the sausage is cooked through. Add the saffron threads, basil and diced tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and continue simmering for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi to the boiling water and cook gnocchi until they float to the top. Once finished, drain and toss with the sauce in the saucepan for about 2 minutes to coat. Serve topped with Pecorino Romano cheese.

Serves 4

olivegardenchickengnocci

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 (14-ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
  • 1 (16-ounce) package gnocchi or homemade

Directions

Melt the butter into the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth followed by the milk. Simmer until thickened.

Stir in a 1/2 teaspoon salt, the thyme, nutmeg, carrots, spinach, chicken and gnocchi. Simmer until the soup is heated through.

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Like other art forms that aim to attract a mass audience (movies, television, Broadway shows), pop music has been and continues to be a melting pot that borrows and assimilates elements and ideas from a wide range of musical styles. Rock, r&b, country, disco, punk, Latin and hip hop are all specific genres of music that have influenced and been incorporated into pop music in various ways over the past 5 decades. Italian Americans have helped shape American popular music as composers and performers.

Louis Prima (1910-1978)

a trumpeter, composer and bandleader, who successfully crossed the line from jazz to swing, then to R&B and finally to rock n’ roll. Some of his famous compositions are “Brooklyn Boogie” and “Oh Babe.” His greatest achievement was his 1936 composition “Sing, Sing, Sing” which was later recorded by Benny Goodman and stands as the most powerful big band/ jazz hit of all time.

Prima was from a musical family in New Orleans. His father, Anthony Prima, was the son of Leonardo Di Prima, a Sicilian immigrant from Salaparuta, while his mother, Angelina Caravella, had immigrated from Ustica as a baby. Louis was the second child of Angelina Caravella and Anthony Prima. His older brother, Leon, was born in 1907. He had two younger sisters: Elizabeth and Marguerite. Louis’s mother, Angelina made sure that each child played an instrument. Louis was assigned the violin and started out playing at his church. He became interested in jazz when he heard the black musicians playing at Italian owned and operated clubs, such as Matranga’s, Joe Segretta’s, Tonti’s Social Club and Lala’s, where Blacks and Italians played together.

According to author, Garry Boulard, in his book, Louis Prima, Prima paid attention to the music coming from the clubs and watched his older brother, Leon, play the cornet. After dropping out of high school, Prima had a few unsuccessful gigs and he got a temporary job playing on the steamship, Capital, that docked on Canal Street. From 1931 to 1932 Louis occupied his time by performing in the Avalon Club owned by his brother Leon. His first break was when Lou Forbes hired him for daily afternoon and early evening shows at The Saenger.

New York was an attraction for hungry musicians during the Great Depression. Prima headed to New York City next to further his music career. While there he met Guy Lombardo, who was a positive influence on Prima’s career. In 1934, Prima was offered a contract with Brunswick label and recorded the songs: “That’s Where the South Begins,” “Long About Midnight,” “Jamaica Shout” and “Star Dust.” Prima generated positive responses from growing fans and critics alike with his records and formed his band called, The New Orleans Gang, which consisted of Frank Pinero on piano, Jack Ryan on bass, Garrett McAdams on guitar and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The band played gigs in and around New York and Prima’s stage presence became an attraction to the band’s live shows.

Prima’s style fused Dixieland and swing by the late 1930s. By 1935 Prima relocated to Los Angeles, where he found moderate success. Due to a knee injury, Proma was not drafted during WWII and continued to perform and build up a following. By the mid-1940s, Prima’s music was a huge success with the general public. When the war was over, the music industry had been affected and big bands were becoming a thing of the past as the 1950s emerge.

1954 saw Prima embark on the Vegas circuit with singer Keely Smith. The duo enlisted the legendary saxophonist, Sam Butera to perform with them. They also recorded “Old Black Magic,” which earned them a Grammy Award.

Harry Warren (1893-1981)

was born Salvatore Guaragna in Brooklyn and was the son of a Calabrian boot maker. One of Hollywood’s most successful and prolific composers during the 30s, 40s and 50s, he wrote “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “A Love Affair to Remember” and “That’s Amore,” among many other songs. Between 1935 and 1950, he wrote more hit songs than Cole Porter, Irving Berlin or George Gershwin, three of which earned him Academy Awards: “Lullaby of Broadway,” “You’ll Never Know” and “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

Warren was one of eleven children of Italian immigrants Antonio (a bootmaker) and Rachel De Luca Guaragn and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His father changed the family name to Warren when Harry was a child. Although his parents could not afford music lessons, Warren had an early interest in music and taught himself to play his father’s accordion. He also sang in the church choir and learned to play the drums. He played the drums professionally at age 14 and dropped out of high school at 16 to play with his godfather’s band in a traveling carnival. Soon he taught himself to play the piano and by 1915, he was working at the Vitagraph Motion Picture Studios, where he did a variety of administrative jobs, such as props man, played mood music on the piano for the actors, acted in bit parts and eventually was promoted to assistant director. He also played the piano in cafés and silent-movie houses.

Warren wrote over 800 songs between 1918 and 1981, publishing over 500 of them. They were written mainly for feature films. His songs eventually appeared in over 300 films and 112 of Warner Brothers, “Looney Tunes” cartoons. 42 of his songs were on the top ten list of the radio program “Your Hit Parade”, a measure of a song’s popularity. 21 of these reached #1 on “Your Hit Parade”. “You’ll Never Know” appeared 24 times. His song, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, is listed as one of the 25 most-performed songs of the 20th Century, as compiled by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Warren was the director of ASCAP from 1929 to 1932.

He collaborated on some of his most famous songs with lyricists Al Dubin, Billy Rose, Mack Gordon, Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. In 1942 the Gordon-Warren song, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”, performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, became the first gold record in history. It was No.1 for 9 weeks on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1941–1942, selling 1.2 million copies. Among his biggest hits were “There Will Never Be Another You”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Forty-Second Street”, “The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Serenade In Blue”, “At Last”, “Jeepers Creepers”, “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”, “That’s Amore” and “Young and Healthy”.

Guy Lombardo (1929-1977)

was born in London, Ontario, to Italian-Canadian immigrants, Gaetano Sr. and Lena Lombardo. His father, who had immigrated to Canada from Italy and worked as a tailor, was an amateur singer with a baritone voice and had four of his five sons learn to play instruments, so they could accompany him. Lombardo and his brothers formed their first orchestra while still in grammar school and rehearsed in the back of their father’s tailor shop. Lombardo first performed in public with his brother, Carmen, at a church lawn party in 1914. Forming “The Royal Canadians” in 1924 with his brothers Carmen, Lebert and Victor and other musicians from his hometown, Lombardo led the group to international success, billing themselves as creating “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.” The Lombardos are believed to have sold between 100 and 300 million phonograph records during their lifetimes.

In early 1932, the band signed with Brunswick records and continued their success through 1934, until they signed with Decca (1934–1935). They then signed with Victor in 1935 and stayed until mid 1938, when again they signed with Decca. In 1938, Lombardo became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Although Lombardo’s “sweet” big-band music was viewed by some in the jazz and big-band community of the day as “corny”, trumpeter Louis Armstrong famously enjoyed Lombardo’s music.

Guy Lombardo is best known for his New Year’s Eve big band performances, first on radio and then on television. Lombardo’s orchestra played at the “Roosevelt Grill” in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959 on New Year’s Eve and continued at the Waldorf Astoria until 1976. Broadcasts (and later telecasts) of their performances were a major part of New Year’s celebrations across North America; millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties. Because of this popularity, Lombardo was calleed, “Mr. New Year’s Eve.”

On December 31, 1956, the Lombardo band did their first New Year’s TV special on CBS; the program (and Lombardo’s 20 subsequent New Year’s Eve TV shows) would include a live segment from Times Square (long the focal point of America’s New Year’s Eve celebrations) showcasing the arrival of the New Year. While CBS carried most of the Lombardo New Year’s specials, there were a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the special was syndicated live to individual TV stations instead of being broadcast on a network. By the middle 1970’s, the Lombardo TV show was facing competition, especially for younger viewers, from Dick Clark’s, “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”, but Lombardo remained popular among viewers, especially older ones. The Royal Canadians were noted for playing the traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne” as part of the celebrations. Their recording of the song still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.

Al Caiola (1920-)

was born Alexander Emil Caiola in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is a guitarist who plays jazz, country, rock, western and pop music. He has been both a studio musician and a stage performer. He has recorded over fifty albums and has worked with some of the biggest stars of the 20th century, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Percy Faith, Buddy Holly, Mitch Miller and Tony Bennett.

Caiola was an active studio musician in the 1950s centered in the New York City area. He released some minor records under his own name during that decade. In 1960 he became a recording star on the United Artists (UA) label for over least ten years. He had prominent pop hits in 1961 with “The Magnificent Seven” and “Bonanza”. His style was inspired by Duane Eddy’s twangy bass guitar sound. The arrangements were typically by Don Costa, using a large orchestral backing. Caiola continuously released singles and albums throughout the 1960s and beyond, though no others appeared on the charts except for an entry in 1964 with “From Russia with Love”. UA used him to make commercial recordings for many movie and television themes. His popular and sought-after album was 1961’s, “Hit Instrumentals From Western TV Themes”, which included “Wagon Train (Wagons Ho)”, “Paladin”, “The Rebel” and “Gunslinger”. Solid Gold Guitar, probably his most impressive album, contained the popular songs of “Jezebel”, “Two Guitars”, “Big Guitar”, “I Walk the Line” and “Guitar Boogie”.

The Magnificent Seven album, other than the title track, consisted of a variety of pop songs with a jazzy bent. Guitars Guitars Guitars was similar. There was a wide variety to his albums — soft pop, Italian, Hawaiian, country and jazz. In the early 1970s he continued with the Avalanche Records label, producing similar work including the album, Theme From the ‘Magnificent 7 Ride’ ’73. Later, on other labels, came some ethnic-themed instrumental albums, such as Spanish Mood in 1982 and other Italian instrumentals. In 1976, Al Caiola accompanied Sergio Franchi, Dana Valery and Wayne J. Kirby on a concert tour to Johannesburg, South Africa.

During World War II Caiola played with the United States Marine Corps 5th Marine Division Band and also served in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a stretcher bearer.

File:Bill Conti.jpg

William “Bill” Conti (1942-)

is an American film music composer, who is frequently the conductor at the Academy Awards ceremony. Conti, an Italian American, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Lucetta and William Conti. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and also studied at the Juilliard School of Music.

His big break into celebrity came in 1976, when he was hired to compose the music for a small United Artists film called, “Rocky”. The film became a phenomenon and Conti’s training song, “Gonna Fly Now” topped the Billboard singles chart in 1977. He also composed music for the sequels “Rocky II” (1979), “Rocky II”I (1982), “Rocky V” (1990) and “Rocky Balboa” (2006). Conti also worked on some other films and, eventually, for television. In 1981, he wrote the music for the James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only” and provided the score for playwright Jason Miller’s film version of his Pulitzer Prize winning play, “That Championship Season”, the following year.

In 1983, he composed the score for HBO’s first film, “The Terry Fox Story”. Conti composed music for the films “Bad Boys” and “Mass Appeal”. Then in 1984, he received an Academy Award for composing the score to 1983’s “The Right Stuff” followed by composing music for the TV series, “North and South” in 1985. He also composed the score for “The Karate Kid”, as well as, “Masters of the Universe”. Another Conti score was the 1987 film “Happy New Year”.

In 1991, he composed the score for” Necessary Roughness”, a college football movie starring Scott Bakula, Sinbad and Héctor Elizondo. In 1993, he composed and wrote the music for “The Adventures of Huck Finn” starring Elijah Wood. In 1999, he composed the score for “The Thomas Crown Affair” remake, starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo and, in the same year, he composed the original music of “Inferno”, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. He also composed the classic themes to television’s “Dynasty” as well as, writng the score for “The Cosby”s, “Falcon Crest”, “Cagney & Lacey” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.  Conti also composed the theme song to the original version of “American Gladiators” and the themes for “Inside Edition” and “Primetime Live” for ABC News. Bill Conti was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Classic Italian American Recipes

634-italian-stuffed_calamari_480

Stuffed Calamari in Gravy

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, basil, and marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomato
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup mixture of parmesan cheese and romano cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2–3 lbs. small squid bodies (3″–4″), cleaned

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy pot and cook the onions and 6 cloves garlic over medium heat until soft. Add oregano, basil, marjoram and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and 2 cups water. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, adding half the parsley when the sauce is cooked.

Combine bread crumbs, cheese mixture, remaining garlic, 1/3 cup parsley, eggs and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Stuff squid with bread-crumb mixture and the secure tops with toothpicks.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet and sauté squid in small batches until browned on all sides, about 2–4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Place the squid in the tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes longer. Garnish with remaining parsley.

634-italian-veal_parmesan_480

Chicken Parmesan

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a little water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (about 3-4 oz.)
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat oven to broil and place a rack 10″ from the heating element. Season chicken cutlets lightly with salt and pepper.

Place flour, eggs and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge in flour, eggs and bread crumbs and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 pieces of breaded chicken and cook, turning once with tongs, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to an

aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Wipe out skillet and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

Top each piece of chicken with 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, 1 slice provolone cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons parmesan. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

manicotti

Baked Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 8-oz. box dried manicotti shells (about 14)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 7 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions

Coat a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce across the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the manicotti and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain manicotti and set aside on kitchen towels.

Heat oven to 450°F. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 5 tablespoons chopped parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs and stir to combine.

Spoon some of the filling into both openings of each manicotti shell. (Alternatively, transfer the ricotta mixture to a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, snip off a bottom corner of the bag, and pipe filling into pasta.) Repeat with remaining manicotti shells.

Transfer stuffed manicotti to prepared baking dish, making 2 rows. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

Lightly dredge shrimp in flour and set aside on a plate.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, sauté shrimp until just pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel–lined plate to absorb excess oil. Repeat process until all shrimp have been sautéed.

Wipe excess oil from the skillet, then stir in wine, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice and stock. Heat over high heat to boiling and whisk in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and add shrimp to reheat, tossing to coat well with the sauce, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Serve with linguine, if you like.

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Whole_wheat_penne,_

Penne

There are approximately 350 different dried pastas produced in Italy that are made from durum wheat and semolina flour. Penne is a tube-shaped pasta that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy, and comes in two main varieties: penne lisce and penne rigate, with the rigate having ridges on each noodle. The name “penne” comes from the Italian word for “pen” (penna), a reference to the angled ends of the tube, which resemble the tip of a quill pen.

This pasta can be used in a wide assortment of dishes, from casseroles to soups. The tubes are relatively short, around the length and width of a pinkie finger. Cooks may also hear penne pasta referred to as mostaccioli, in a reference to an Italian dish that traditionally features this pasta.

ziti

Ziti

And, there is also ziti, which are hollow long wands, with a smooth texture and square-cut edges. When they are cut into shorter tubes, they are called cut ziti. Telling the difference between penne variants can be difficult, especially in countries outside of Italy, because there is a tendency to name ridged and smooth penne subtypes the same. Basically, the difference is penne is cut on the diagonal and is longer and thinner than ziti.

Penne is probably one of the more well-known pasta shapes, available in most markets and grocery stores that stock pasta. Dishes made with it are frequently on the menu at Italian restaurants, especially in the United States, where consumers have a fondness for this shape.

Whole wheat and multigrain versions are available, along with gluten-free pastas made from rice, corn or other ingredients. Many producers also make flavored varieties by adding ingredients, such as spinach or sun dried tomatoes. The best tasting penne is made with durum wheat because it will remain chewy and resilient throughout the cooking process.

baked penne

Ridged penne pasta pairs very well with many pasta sauces, because the ridges can be used to hold thin sauces or to support thick, chunky sauces. Its hollow nature also helps distribute the sauce, ensuring that pasta dishes are evenly and appealingly sauced.

Penne is traditionally cooked al dente and served with pasta sauces such as pesto, marinara or arrabbiata. In addition to being plated with sauce, penne holds up well when baked in a casserole. You will also find penne used cold in salads, added to soups or used as a side dish.

Dried pasta is essentially indestructible as long as it is stored in a cool, dry place. This makes it a useful staple to keep around the house, because as long as the pasta is not exposed to moisture, it will be perfectly usable.

Healthy Penne Dinners

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Whole-grain Penne with Onions and Walnuts

Ricotta salata (also called “hard ricotta”) is a firm white Italian cheese made by salting, pressing and drying sheep’s-milk ricotta. In flavor, it’s like a very mild, less tangy feta, which makes it a good addition to pastas and salads (it can be grated). Look for ricotta salata in specialty stores, Italian markets or any supermarket with a good cheese department.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium onions (about 4 lbs.), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 10 ounces whole-grain penne pasta
  • 1 pound ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a large skillet over high heat, cook onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sugar and 2 teaspoons salt, stirring and turning often, until onions begin to release their juices and turn golden, 10 to 13 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn a caramel color and become quite sweet, 35 to 40 minutes more. If onions begin to stick to the pan or char during cooking, reduce heat.

Meanwhile, in a dry small frying pan over medium-low heat, toast walnuts, stirring frequently, until golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour walnuts into a zip-lock plastic bag and lightly crush with a rolling pin. Set aside.

When onions are nearly done, cook pasta in boiling salted water until tender to the bite, 9 to 12 minutes or according to package instructions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water.

Mix caramelized onions with pasta, walnuts, ricotta salata, parsley, reserved cooking water, lemon juice, pepper and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt.

steak-salad-ck-554716-x

Sirloin Steak Over Penne and Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked penne 
  • 1/4 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 3/4-pound boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic-pepper blend
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese, optional

Directions

Preheat broiler.

While the broiler preheats, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add pasta; cook 5 1/2 minutes. Add beans and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain well.

Sprinkle steak with the garlic-pepper blend. Place on a broiler pan; broil 3 inches from heat for 10 minutes, turning after 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Combine onion and next 8 ingredients (onion through black pepper) in a large bowl. Add pasta mixture; toss well to coat. Place steak slices on top. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

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Penne with Spinach and Shrimp

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
  • 1 (10-ounce) package fresh spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onions
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté 2 minutes or until the shrimp are pink. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

While you make the pasta sauce, cook penne according to package directions. Drain well; return to pan. Stir in spinach; toss well until spinach wilts.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring often. Stir in broth, vermouth and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 8 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken. Reduce heat to medium. Add cream cheese; stir until well blended. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg and pepper; remove from heat. Stir in shrimp to rewarm. Add mixture to pasta and spinach; toss to combine.

sausage-penne-ck-1041902-x

Penne with Sausage and Eggplant

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 6 cups hot cooked penne (about 10 ounces uncooked)
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) finely diced mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Cook eggplant, sausage and garlic in olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until sausage is browned and eggplant is tender. Be sure to stir often to keep eggplant from sticking to the pan.

Add tomato paste and the next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl. Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well.

raisin-pasta-ck-780432-x

Penne with Greens, Almonds and Raisins

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped, trimmed greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, escarole, etc.)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cracked black pepper

Directions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Retain 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Drain.

While pasta cooks, place raisins in a small bowl; cover with hot water. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain.

While pasta cooks and raisins soak, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add greens and garlic; sauté 3 minutes or until greens are tender.

Stir in pasta, raisins, almonds, salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; toss to combine. Moisten with pasta cooking water. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper according to taste.

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You can find berries and melons in the supermarket in the winter, but these fruits do not have much taste. So instead, spend your money on fruit that actually tastes good now. We all know the winter holiday season is prime time for cranberries and yams, but have you considered persimmons, kiwi, citrus or pears? Winter is when most citrus fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest. Winter fruits are also excellent for baking. Here’s how to choose the best fruit, why it’s good for you and how to save money.

Oranges

How to buy:

In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season wears on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Try them! Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.

Why it’s good:

Oranges are loaded with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value of vitamin C), which may help smooth your skin. If you bite into a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks. If you stumble across a few fruits with a grainy texture, use them for juicing or cooking.

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still far from ripe. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.

Why it’s good:

Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

How to save:

Though bananas are relatively economical—ripening bananas cost about 70 to 90 cents per pound—overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet, ripe and unblemished. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before sticking them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread, pancakes and smoothies.

Pineapples

How to buy:

Avoid green pineapples—they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present—starting at the base—and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.

Why it’s good:

Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation.

How to save:

Cutting into a pineapple for the first time may be intimidating. But where your wallet is concerned, it may be worth learning how to do. Prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section cost more per pound—about 50 cents an ounce more—than a whole pineapple. Check your market for whole, peeled and decored pineapples. My market sells these pineapples at the same price as an unpeeled pineapple.

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.

Why it’s good:

Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful compounds that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get a bit of fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.

How to save:

Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores, and buy the cheapest you can find.

Grapefruit

How to buy:

Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying ripe grapefruit can be tricky—the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness.

Why it’s good:

Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories. One exception: if you take statins to lower cholesterol levels, consuming grapefruit juice or the fruit may prevent the statins from breaking down in your system, causing the drug to accumulate in high amounts in the body.

How to save:

If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

tangerine

Tangerines

How to buy:

Choose tangerines with a deep orange color that are firm to semi-soft and heavy for their size. Avoid tangerines that have dull or brown coloring or soft spots.

Why it’s good:

One tangerine contains 2.3 grams fiber, 13% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 40% of vitamin C. Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. They are great for eating and you can also juice tangerines. Tangerines are less acidic than most citrus fruits. Use them as you would oranges in salads, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese or as a topping for dessert.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim or lowfat milk
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pudding cakes can be refrigerated for 2 days.

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water

Orange Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest from 2 oranges, cut into very thin strips

Filling: 1 cup frozen yogurt (vanilla or flavor of choice)

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon oil and water in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

To make orange syrup:

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add orange zest, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened and the zest is tender. Several times during the cooking, brush the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to keep sugar crystals from forming on the sides. Remove from heat and let cool.

To cook and assemble crepes:

Heat a small nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when sprinkled on the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush pan with a little of the remaining 1 teaspoon oil as needed to prevent sticking. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter on the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Cook 30 to 40 seconds until the top of the crepe has a dull surface and the edges begin to curl. Flip and cook for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the crepe is firm. Remove to a plate and cover with a dry cloth. Repeat with remaining crepes. (The crepes may be stacked between wax paper sheets until serving time.)

Place a crepe on a dessert plate. Spread 2 tablespoons of frozen yogurt across the middle. Fold in half and spoon 1 tablespoon Chocolate Sauce over the top or beside it. Spoon 2 teaspoons orange syrup and zest over the folded crepe. Repeat with remaining crepes.

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 1 1/2 tablespoons agave necter
  • 1/4 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Sift together cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in honey. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in oil and vanilla.

Garcia Studio, Inc. 933 Fielder Avenue NW Atlanta, GA 30318 404-892-2334

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup smooth, unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in pecans and dried cranberries.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, applesauce, oil, orange zest and juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Roll the dough with floured hands (it will be very moist) into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies until barely golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

apple-cake-ck-222502-l

Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

The cream cheese in the batter makes the cake quite moist. Because it’s so tender, use a serrated knife for cutting.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces block style low fat cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped, peeled baking apples (about 2-3 apples)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons or the cinnamon mixture to the apples and mix. Fold apple mixture into the batter.

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

NOTE: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 8 fresh pears (about 2-1/2 lb.), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Frozen yogurt, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

Grate enough lemon peel to measure 1/2 teaspoon zest. Squeeze enough juice to measure 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in large bowl. Add pears, lemon zest and juice; toss until pears are evenly coated.

Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Mix brown sugar and remaining flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and sprinkle over the pears.

Bake 40 to 45 min. or until topping is golden brown and pears are hot and bubbly. Serve warm topped frozen yogurt, if desired.

NOTE: You can also bake this dessert in 9-inch square baking dish or shallow 2-qt. casserole instead of the 8-inch square baking dish.



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