Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: March 2014

natural_sweetnersLooking for alternatives to refined sugars?

Natural sweeteners like unrefined brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt syrup, rice syrup, honey and agave nectar are common these days and for good reason. Each has a unique flavor and set of uses that’ll satisfy any craving for sweetness in everything from your salad dressings to your roasted pork loin.

Today, the main sources of commercial sugar are sugar cane and sugar beets, from which a variety of sugar products are made:

Granulated white sugar is common, highly-refined all-purpose sugar. Look for organic varieties for a more natural choice.

Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar) is granulated white sugar that’s been crushed to a fine powder that is used for icing and decorations.

Unrefined brown sugar (raw sugar) is slightly purified, crystallized evaporated cane juice. This caramel-flavored sugar comes in a variety of flavors, including demerara, dark muscovado and turbinado.

Unrefined dehydrated cane juice is generally made by extracting and then dehydrating cane juice with minimal loss of the original flavor, color or nutrients.

Turbinado sugar is a sugar cane-based, minimally refined sugar. It is medium brown in color and has large crystals. It’s often mistaken for traditional brown sugar because of its light brown color, but it’s made in a different way. Many people consider it to be healthier than both white and brown sugars, since it is generally less processed and less refined. Recipes that call for turbinado sugar tend to use it as a replacement for traditional brown sugar. It contains more moisture than regular white or brown sugars, which can be beneficial in things like cookies or muffins.

natural

Honey: – the world’s oldest-known unrefined sweetener. Honey’s flavor and color are derived from the flower nectar collected by bees. This accounts for the wide range of honey available around the world. Note that dark honey generally have a stronger flavor than lighter ones. Since bees can forage up to a mile from their hive and are indiscriminate in their nectar choices, so when a particular flower is named on the label of a honey container, it simply means that flower was the predominant one in bloom in the harvest area.

Here are a few of the most popular varieties:

Clover: mild flavored and readily available in colors ranging from white to light amber

Wildflower: generally dark with a range of flavors and aromas depending on the flowers that provided the nectar

Alfalfa: light in color with a delicate flavor

Orange Blossom:  distinctive citrus flavor and aroma and light in color

Blueberry: slightly dark with a robust, full flavor

Tupelo: fragrant, light and mild

Chestnut: dark, tangy and slightly bitter with a high mineral content

Storage tip: Keep honey in an airtight container and, if used infrequently, at temperatures below 50°F. Liquid honey will eventually crystallize but can be returned easily to a liquid state by placing the container in warm water for a few minutes.

Maple syrup is simply the boiled down tree sap of the sugar maple tree. As for maple sugar, it’s twice as sweet as white sugar and has a caramel flavor. Until the arrival of the honeybee (introduced from Italy in 1630) maple sugar was the only form of concentrated sweetener in North America. Both maple syrup and maple sugar are among the least refined sweeteners.

Storage tip: Refrigerate maple syrup to help it retain flavor, prevent slow fermentation and mold formation. When you store it right, maple syrup will keep for a year or more. If your syrup develops sugar crystals, simply warm the syrup to dissolve them.

Molasses: With its strong, fragrant dark caramel flavor, it is about 65% as sweet as sugar and is actually produced during the refining of sugar. (The syrup remains after the available sucrose has been crystallized from sugar cane juice.) Light molasses is from the first boiling of the cane, dark molasses is from the second and blackstrap, the third. Though molasses can be sulfured or unsulfured, unsulfured molasses is preferred because the fumes used in manufacturing sugar aren’t retained as sulfur in the molasses.

Date sugar is not extracted from anything. It’s just dried dates, pulverized into a powder. Date sugar is very sweet. It clumps and doesn’t melt, so it can’t be used in all the ways we use white sugar. Still you can usually substitute it in recipes that call for brown sugar. Some cooks suggest that you use only two-thirds the amount of date sugar in place of brown or white sugar called for in your recipe, otherwise, the end result may taste too sweet.

Barley Malt Syrup: Made from soaked and sprouted barley, which is dried and cooked down to make a thick syrup. Barley malt is a sweetener that’s slowly digested and gentler on blood sugar levels than other sweeteners.

Storage tip: I keep this sweetener in the refrigerator, so it does not develop mold.

Rice Syrup: Made in almost the same way as barley syrup and it is usually a combination of rice and barley. Some of the best Chai teas are sweetened with rice syrup.

Agave: Nectar is a multi-purpose sweetener obtained from the core of the Mexican Agave cactus, the same plant whose sap is a source of tequila. Agave nectar may resemble honey — its color ranges from pale to dark amber — but it’s slightly less viscous and dissolves more easily in liquids. Keep in mind that agave nectar is about 25% sweeter than sugar and that darker agave nectar has a more robust flavor with a hint of molasses.

So which one is the best?

The truth is that no sugar, regardless of where it comes from, will ever be optimal for regular consumption. From the above natural sweeteners, blackstrap molasses and pure maple syrup are the most nutritious. But whatever sweetener you choose, make sure that you get the least processed, pure version of it! In other words, if you are going to consume a sweetener, it is best if it comes from the fruit, herb or vegetable kingdom and be as raw/living as possible (not overheated and not overly processed) for optimum health.

Want to substitute natural sweeteners for refined sugar in recipes, keep this guide handy.

Sweetener

Substitution Ratio

Reduce Liquid?

Confectioners’ sugar

1 3/4 cups for each 1 cup sugar

No

Brown sugar

1 cup firmly packed for each 1 cup sugar

No

Turbinado sugar

1 cup for each 1 cup sugar

No

Maple syrup

3/4 cup for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 3 tablespoons

Honey

3/4 cup for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 1/4 cup

Barley malt or rice syrup

3/4 cup for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 1/4 cup

Molasses

1 1/4 cups for each 1 cup sugar

Reduce by 5 tablespoons for each cup used

wafflesOld-Fashioned Waffles (Barley Malt Syrup)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups almond milk or 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup (room temperature)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions

Preheat a waffle iron.

In a large bowl, use a fork or whisk to vigorously mix the milk, vinegar, oil and barley malt syrup.

Add remaining dry ingredients and mix together until the  batter is smooth.

Coat the waffle irons with non-stick cooking spray and cook waffles according to waffle iron instructions.

carrotmuff

Carrot Spice Muffins (Agave Nectar)

Dry ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or a mixture of 3/4 cups whole wheat and 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flours)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax-seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded carrots (about 3)
  • 1/4 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick spray or use muffin liners.

Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add the liquid to the dry and mix just long enough to combine. Add the carrots and raisins and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups–it will be very thick.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

ham

Ham with Maple Syrup and Orange Marmalade Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 (7-pound) pre-cooked spiral-sliced ham
  • 1 cup grade B maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 4-6 cinnamon sticks

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Using a sharp paring knife, make shallow crosshatch cuts all over the outside of the ham. Arrange ham in a large roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine syrup, marmalade, juice, ground cinnamon, pepper and cloves in a small bowl to make a glaze. After the ham has baked for 30 minutes, remove it from oven and increase the oven temperature to 425°F.

Arrange oranges and cinnamon sticks around ham in the roasting pan, then brush ham and oranges liberally all over with the glaze, pouring remaining glaze over the ham. Return to the oven and bake, basting about every 10 minutes, until ham is hot throughout and caramelized on the outside, about 45 minute more.

Transfer ham to a platter and set aside to let rest for 15 minutes. Arrange oranges and cinnamon sticks around the ham and serve.

honey-dressing-sl-1886379-x

Broccoli with Honey-Lemon Dressing

Serve this salad dressing over fresh garden greens, steamed green beans, asparagus or broccoli.

Makes about 3/4 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 head of broccoli, steamed

Directions

Whisk together chopped fresh parsley and next 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Use immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If chilled, let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Whisk before serving. Pour over cooked broccoli before serving.

gingerbread

Gingerbread Squares (Molasses)

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat (1% or 2%) milk
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • Cooking spray for the pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 inch baking pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper, letting paper extend about 1 inch over the short ends of the pan. Spray the paper and flour the pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat oil and brown sugar together until light. Beat in molasses. Beat in eggs one at a time. In 3 additions, stir in flour mixture, alternating with additions of milk, beginning and ending with flour. Stir in 2 tablespoons of crystallized ginger.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and level the top. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons crystallized ginger. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Lift gingerbread out with the edges of the paper and cut into 12 squares.

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Liguria can be found on the Italian Riviera, along the northwestern coast of Italy, and it is a landscape that will impress people on their journey through this historically rich and popular region. The capital Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state during the Middle Ages. Today, one can find architecturally impressive buildings, elegant mansions and historic churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past, yet blend in perfectly with modern times. Luxuriant Mediterranean vegetation exists in the mountain regions of Portofino and Cinque Terre and the climate in this mountainous region is mild, perfect for growing vegetables, olives and grapes. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place.

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On Saturday, March 29, 2014 the Pesto Championship will take place in Genoa. In the Hall of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, 100 competitors from around the world will compete in the preparation of Pesto Genovese using traditional ingredients and a pestle and mortar.

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Ligurian cooking is known for the simple flavors of fresh produce, especially the Pesto alla Genovese mentioned above. Liguria basil is blended with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano Reggiano to make this famous sauce. It is not only used for pasta, but can also be added to soups, vegetables or rice dishes.

Liguria is a region of vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent extra-virgin olive oils and quality wines, like Ormeasco and Rossese from Dolceacqua, Vermentino, Ciliegiolo and Bianchetta from Genoa, Albarola, and Pollera Nera from the Riviera di Levante and Pigato from Salea d’Albenga.

Seafood and fish dishes are typically fish soups like ciuppin and buridda made with stockfish, as well as stuffed and fried sardines.

Among the meat dishes to choose from are cima alla genovese (cold stuffed breast of veal) made ​​from the leftovers of slaughter such as brains and sweetbreads, etc. along with eggs, cheese, peas and greens or a stewed hare with taggiasche olives, pine nuts and rosemary. The famous stuffed pie of the region is Torta Pasqualina (Easter pie), a thin pastry stuffed with greens, cheese and eggs.

Cima alla Genovese

Cima alla Genovese

Fugassa, a soft and thick focaccia covered with onion slices and olive oil, and the thin farinata, a baked savory pancake made with chickpea flour, are very popular. The traditional desserts of this region are pandolce genovese, amaretti and cubeli (tiny butter cookies).

Antipasto

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La Focaccia Col Formaggio Di Recco – Focaccia with Cheese

The traditional version calls for locally made stracchino cheese–a soft, fresh, creamy cow’s milk cheese. You can substitute crescenza cheese, which is basically stracchino under a different regional name or even a burrata, which is made from fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy cheese filling in the middle. It bakes down to a stracchino-like texture. All of these are now available in the United States from Bel Gioioso Cheese. You will want something mild and creamy (soft enough to be spreadable, but not liquid) that will also melt. I also like the taste of creamy Italian fontina in this recipe. The King Arthur Flour Company sells 00 Italian flour.

Ingredients

Dough (will make two “14″ pans)

  • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces/ 284 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or 00 grade flour (this has slightly more gluten than American flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (0.125 ounce (3.5 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces/170 g) water, room temperature

Filling

  • Stracchino or similar cheese, 8 ounces for each 14-inch pan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Topping

  • Olive oil, about 1 tablespoon per pan
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

In a mixing bowl stir all the dough ingredients together and continue stirring until they form a ball of dough. Add more water if needed, a few drops at a time, to hydrate all the flour. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Dust the counter with a little flour and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead it for about four minutes, adding flour or water as needed to make a smooth, supple dough. It should not be sticky, but soft and only slightly tacky, almost satiny to the touch. You can also do this in an electric mixer or a food processor.

Cover the dough and let it rest for five minutes, then knead it again for about two minutes. This can also be done in an electric mixer using a dough hook.

Divide the dough into 4 balls of approximately 4 ounces each. Cover them and let them rest for about fifteen minutes before rolling and stretching them.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Lightly mist the baking pan or pans with olive oil spray.

Rub a small amount of olive oil on a smooth counter or work surface to make a circular lightly oiled spot of about the diameter of your baking pan. Take one of the dough balls and place it in the center of the oiled spot and flatten it with your hand. Flip it over so that both sides have touched the oiled surface. Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough, from the center to the outer edges, to the size of your pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and then continue rolling it (you can start on a second piece in the meantime–it will take 2 pieces per pan).

When the dough is the diameter of the pan, carefully lift it and gently stretch it with your hands, as if stretching pizza dough, to make it larger than the pan and as thin as you can get it without tearing it–it should look like fillo (phyllo) or strudel dough–nearly paper-thin. Lay one piece of stretched dough over the pan and tuck it into the corners to cover the whole surface as well as the inner walls of the pan, with some dough overhanging the pan.

Fill the dough-covered pan with pieces of cheese, spaced about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the cheese with a small amount of pepper and salt. Repeat the rolling and stretching of a second piece of dough and cover the pan with the dough, overhanging the outside of the pan so that the top and bottom crusts connect along the rim of the pan. Pinch the two doughs together and tuck the dough into the pan, crimping it with your fingers all around the circumference to make a pie-like edge. Crimp this edge with your fingers to seal the two doughs together to fully enclose the cheese filling. If necessary, trim off any excess dough with a paring knife.

focaccia-al-formaggio1

Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough and sprinkle a small amount of sea salt. Use a scissors or sharp paring knife to cut vent holes into the top crust. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the top crust is covered with deep golden brown streaks and sections. Remove the focaccia from the oven and allow it to cool for about three minutes. Cut the focaccia into large or medium size squares (not wedges) and remove the sections with a flexible spatula. Serve while still hot.

First Course

zuppa-di-riso-e-verdure-L-K_HkNj

Rice Minestrone with Pesto – Minestrone di Riso al Pesto

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200 g) rice (use medium-grained, if possible, not parboiled)
  • 1 – 15 oz can borlotti beans or similar beans
  • 12 ounces (300 g) mixed greens (e.g. spinach, chard, cabbage)
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 rib celery
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 quarts (2 liters) boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

Peel and dice the potatoes. Peel and slice the carrots, coarsely chop the mixed greens and dice the green part of the leek. Mince the celery, onion and white part of the leek. In a soup pot heat the olive oil and saute the onion, celery and white part of the leek until the onion is translucent. Add the remaining chopped and diced vegetables and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the beans, season the mixture with salt and pepper and carefully add the boiling water. Simmer the soup for one hour.

After an hour, stir in the rice and let it cook for 15 minutes more or until the rice is tender. Remove a ladle of just the broth to a mixing bowl. Stir the pesto sauce into the broth and, when the rice is done, stir the pesto mixture into the soup. Simmer for a minute more and serve it topped with grated cheese.

Second Course

fish and potatoes

Sea Bass Filets, Ligurian Style — Filetti di Orata Alla Ligure

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) sea bass fillets, bream or similar fish
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons (20 g) capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound (240 gr) green zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram or dill
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).

Sauté the potatoes until lightly browned in half the olive oil and then place them with the zucchini slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Lay the fish filets over them, sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the fish and season everything to taste with salt and pepper. Roast the fish for 15-20 minutes and serve each portion of fish with the vegetables beneath it.

Dessert Course

Olive_Oil_Cake-2

Ligurian Olive Oil Cake

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons or oranges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the 1 3/4 cups of flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk the melted butter with the olive oil and milk.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and citrus zest until pale and thickened, about 3 minutes. Alternately, beat in the dry and wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side pulls away from the pan. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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saute-pan-demonstration

Skillets were originally deep, much like the sauce pans we use today. A frying pan, often referred to as skillet these days, is a shallow, long-handled pan used for frying food. Frying pans are not for slow cooking or braising. Often they do not have lids because they do not have the need to seal in juices as a pan for braising must do. The sides of these pans flare out while the height remains shallow. A frying pan should not be too heavy to lift or move around easily. It should have a long handle that stays cool, so that you feel safe when cooking. The frying pan is the one to turn to when you want to sear and brown something fast and then bring the heat down quickly. These pans are what you need to use when you want to cook foods like pork chops, potato pancakes or soft-shell crabs, as well as peppers and onions.

You may also use a frying pan to sauté, which involves rapid frying in a small amount of fat followed by the addition of other ingredients to the pan, but that technique is better left to a true sauté pan with high straight sides.

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Sauté pans have straight sides and a lid. They are also very versatile. The added height on the sides allows for cooking with more liquid or keeping moisture in the dish. This type of pan is well-suited for braising, pan-frying, sautéing, searing, or even making small amounts of sauce.

A 7-8 inch skillet is appropriate for cooking an omelet or scrambled eggs, sautéing garlic or your favorite vegetables. A 10-12 inch skillet can be used for frying greater volumes of the same items and for stir-frying, if the pan is made from heavy material that conducts heat well so there are no hot spots.

A French Skillet is a saute pan with sloped sides. An omelette pan has sides that are more flared than an ordinary frying pan to enable the omelette to slide easily out of the pan.

copper

copper

A copper pan that is lined with tin or stainless steel is the first choice for delicate items that needs precise timing. Copper is the quickest responsive metal; it picks up heat immediately, but it will also lose heat as soon as the pan is removed from the burner.

Nonstick Omelet

Nonstick Omelet

If you purchase any non-stick aluminum pans, you should make certain they are anodized. Inexpensive non-stick pans will not wear well nor will they hold up to high heat. The editors of Cook’s Illustrated warn that even the best nonstick skillet will eventually become scratched and roughened from use, voiding its nonstick properties. Treating your skillet gently can delay this deterioration, but not prevent it. For this reason, they recommend choosing a lower-priced nonstick skillet, provided you can find one that performs well.

cast iron skillet

cast iron

For everyday cooking, whether sautéing mushrooms, hamburgers or chicken cutlets, pans made from stainless steel-wrapped aluminum and anodized aluminum are excellent choices.

Some foods require steady, even heat to brown. An old-fashioned cast iron skillet that doesn’t cool down when you take it off the heat would be a good choice for hash browned potatoes, bacon or a grilled cheese sandwich.

Although it is better to use a potholder when you are cooking, it is also important that the frying pan handle stay as cool as possible. You can look for metal handles that are hollowed in some way or that are made of a different metal than the pan itself. If you place your pan in the oven to finish cooking a dish, then you want handles that are oven proof.

fingerlings

Lemon-Thyme Chicken with Fingerlings

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon regular salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise, or tiny new red or white potatoes, halved
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 pounds total)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions

In a very large saute pan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Stir 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, the salt and pepper into the oil. Add potatoes; toss to coat. Cover and cook for 12 minutes, stirring twice.

Stir potatoes and push them to one side of the pan. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the other side of the pan. Add chicken breast halves to the side with the oil. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Turn chicken. Spread garlic over chicken breast halves; sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Arrange lemon slices on top of chicken. Cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F) and potatoes are tender.

beef skillet

Italian Beef Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound beef round steak
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Hot cooked spaghetti for 4, optional

Directions

Trim fat from round steak, then cut meat into 4 serving-size pieces. Heat oil in a large saute pan. Add meat pieces and brown both sides of each piece. Remove meat to a platter.

Add mushrooms, onion, green pepper, celery, and garlic to the pan. Cook until vegetables are nearly tender. Then, stir in undrained tomatoes, herbs and red pepper. Return meat to the pan, spooning vegetable mixture over the meat. Cover and simmer about 1-1/4 hours or until meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer meat to a serving platter. Spoon vegetable mixture over the meat and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve over pasta, if desired.

sausage

Sausage and Pepper Skillet

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage links
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 – 14 1/2 ounce can low-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

In a 12-inch saute pan, cook sausage links over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until browned, turning frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and cook about 10 minutes more or until juices run clear. Transfer sausage links to a cutting board; thinly slice sausage links. Set aside.

Add the olive oil to the same pan and increase heat to medium. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and onion; cook about 5 minutes or until crisp tender, stirring occasionally.

Add the sausage slices, undrained tomatoes, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper to the pan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

italian-three-bean-and-rice-skillet-12243-ss

Italian Three-Bean and Rice Vegetarian Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 – 15 ½ ounce can small red beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 – 14 ½ ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, cut up
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking brown rice
  • 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen baby lima beans (1 cup)
  • 1/2 of a 9 ounce package frozen cut green beans (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed or dried Italian seasoning, crushed
  • 1 cup meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

Directions

In a large saute pan combine beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, rice, lima beans, green beans and basil or Italian seasoning. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until rice is tender.

Stir in spaghetti sauce. Heat through. Top with mozzarella. Place lid on pan just until cheese melts. Serve.

Fast-Fish-Skillet-45308

Fish and Vegetable Skillet

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tilapia or any white fish fillets (1 lb.)
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite Italian Vinaigrette made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon homemade or prepared pesto sauce
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, cut lengthwise, then crosswise into slices
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Brush fish with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette; cook in a frying pan (skillet) on medium heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with fork. Transfer fish to a serving plate; cover to keep warm.

Add remaining dressing, pesto, vegetables and tomatoes to the skillet; cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Spoon over fish and top with basil and Parmesan cheese.

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violinoAntonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was a crafter, like no other, of string instruments, violins, cellos, guitars, violas and harps. He created about a thousand Stradivarius instruments and about 650 survive today, mostly violins. The violin was originally designed to imitate the human voice and was used for ballet and dance music. It became the most prized instrument for orchestra and melody.

Stradivari or Stradivarius?

Both are used regularly and they actually mean exactly the same. The famous maker’s name was Antonio Stradivari, but it was customary at the time to latinise names, hence Stradivarius. He used Stradivarius on his violin labels and, therefore, it has become almost customary to refer to a violin made by Stradivari, as a Stradivarius. In fact it has almost become a superlative expression, meaning the absolute best, i.e. to be the “Stradivarius” of any field means “to be the best there is”.

Antonio’s ancestry goes back to the 12th century in Cremona, Italy, the capital of violin makers, since the 16th century. Antonio’s parents were Alessandro Stradivari and Anna Moroni. Stradivari likely began an apprenticeship with Nicolò Amati between the ages of 12 and 14, although a minor debate surrounds this fact. One of the few pieces of evidence supporting this is a label in his 1666 violin, which reads, “Alumnus Nicolo Amati, faciebat anno 1666”. However, Stradivari did not usually put the master’s name on his labels, unlike many of Amati’s other students. M. Chanot-Chardon, a well-known French luthier, asserted that his father had one of Stradivari’s instruments with a label stating, “Made at the age of thirteen, in the workshop of Nicolò Amati”. This label has never been found or confirmed. Amati, though, would have been a logical choice for Antonio’s parents, since the master was from an old family of violin makers who were far superior to most other luthiers in Italy at the time.

purfling

An alternative theory is that Stradivari started out as a woodworker because the house he lived in from 1667 to 1680 was owned by Francesco Pescaroli, a wood-carver. Stradivari may even have been employed to decorate some of Amati’s instruments, without being a true apprentice. This theory is supported by some of Stradivari’s later violins, which have elaborate decorations and purfling ( a narrow decorative edge inlaid into the top plate and often the back plate of a stringed instrument).

Assuming that Stradivari was a student of Amati, he would have begun his apprenticeship in 1656–58 and produced his first decent instruments in 1660 at the age of 16. His first labels were dated from 1660 to 1665, which indicated that his work had reached a quality sufficiently high enough for him to sell directly to his patrons. However, he probably stayed in Amati’s workshop until about 1684, so as to use his master’s reputation as a launching point for his career.

antonio

Stradivari was first married to Francesca Feraboschi with whom he had 5 children. After her death, he married Zambelli Costa with whom he had another 5 children. He lived on what is now Piazza Roma 1, where other famous violin-maker’s families lived at the time. Two of his sons, Omobono and Francesco, became violin makers.

Though the violins’ construction was influenced by Amati, Stradivari soon developed his own style. His carved heads showed what a skilled craftsman he was and his violins became very popular throughout Europe. It was said that his secret formula for the varnish gave his violins their unique sound. He experimented with the shape and design of the violins and, in the 1690s, the Long Stradivarius with a larger pattern, flatter form, reclined sound holes and a darker, richer varnish emerged that all proved to be a crtical modifications. There were ornate violins, such as the collection made for the Spanish court in 1687, inlaid with ivory and with scrollwork round the sides. In 1688, Stradivari outlined the heads in black, one of the famous features of a Stradivarius’ violin from that period. Noblemen of the time commissioned him to make instruments for them and, as a result, Stradivari became famous during his own lifetime. Violins were considered fashionable and when the virtuoso violinist, Niccolò Paganini, played a Stradivarius, he was treated like the equivalent of one of today’s rock stars!

Some of the earlier violins are referred to as “Amatise” and the later ones as “Long Strads” or “Grand Pattern.” They are all better known by their interesting names which they acquired due to the fame of the owner and by their appearance and sound. In 1698 Antonio began making a slightly shorter model and, between the years 1700-1720, which is considered his “Golden Period,” the violins had higher quality curves, rich varnish, gracefulness and a number of variations.

stradivari

The violins themselves are like characters, each unique, each having a name and a history, each with its own beauty – names like “Sleeping Beauty,” “Firebird,” “Lincoln,” “Spanish,” “Emperor” and “Leonardo da Vinci”. The “Davidoff” Stradivarius cello is owned by YoYo Ma, the “Barjansky” Strad belongs to Julian Lloyd Webber and “Soil” to Itzhak Perlman. The “Dolphin” is with the Nippon Music Foundation. The “Mendelssohn” sold in 1990 for £902,000, the “Kreutzer” sold in 1998 for £947,500. “Lady Tennant” sold for an enormous $2 million in 2005 through the Christie’s Auction House and “The Lady Blunt” (dated 1721) raised $15.9 million for the Japan Earthquake fund in 2011. The well-known “Molitor” was bought by Anne Akiko Meyers in 2010 at the Tarisio Auctions for $3.6 million, the “Hammer” (1707) sold in 2006 for $3.5 million and in 2012 the “Baron van der Leyen” Stradivarius sold at the Tarisio auction for $2.6 million.

It is not surprising that because of the great value attached to the violins there are a number of forgeries, so these instruments must always be authenticated before purchasing. Museums and orchestras own and house many of the violins and violas but not all the violins are in use. However, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra owns several that are in use. The Library of Congress, the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Royal Academy of Music, the Musée de la Musique (Paris), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Music Museum (South Dakota) all have instruments safely kept in good condition. The “Messiah” Stradivarius is not played but is housed at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.

Antonio Stradivari was a master of his trade and for over sixty years he produced suburb instruments. The last recorded violin was produced in 1737 the same year he died at the age of 93. Both Stradivari and Guarneri instruments are highly regarded today and judging by the value placed on them by society, these instruments are considered a treasure. George Eliot, the poet, captured this sentiment in a line from the poem, “Stradivarius” (1873): “When any master holds twixt chin and hand a violin of mine, he will be glad that Stradivarius lived, made violins and made them of the best’’.

Stradivari_statue_cremona

Statue in Cremona honoring Stradivarius.

Cremona, Italy

The city of Cremona is situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po River. It is the capital of the province of Cremona and the seat of the local city and province governments. The city  is especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers. The Province consists of vast plains broken up by woods and large meadows that, thanks to the canals built by inhabitants in centuries past, has been transformed into an extensive, fertile countryside ideal for agriculture. The cuisine of Cremona brings the characteristic tastes of local farms to the table. Cured pork and sausages, including garlic-scented salami, cotechino with lentils, culatello ham and all types of pork that are important ingredients for local recipes.

Pickled fruit (mostarda), made here since the Middle Ages, has become well-known. Large slices or whole candied fruit are mixed with mustard and cooked until thick. Mostarda is served with the rich, boiled meat dishes of the region.

A typical Cremonese pasta is filled with boiled meats, mortadella and liver and it is served in broth. Tortelli are also a popular dish, as are Salva cheese, Bertolina (a sweet focaccia with egg) and the local dessert, Spingarda.

From the ancient origins of this area comes torrone, nougat candy. Torrone was first made in 1441 to celebrate the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti (the daughter of the Duke of Milan) and Francesco Sforza.

Mostardadicremona

Mostarda di Cremona

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (300 g) pears
  • 8 ounces (200 g) quinces
  • 6 ounces (150 g) cherries
  • 8 ounces (200 g) apricots
  • 10 ounces (250 g) figs
  • 8 ounces (200 g) peaches
  • 3 tablespoons powdered mustard seed
  • 3 1/2 cups (800 g) sugar
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar

Directions

Preparing the fruit:

Keep the individual kinds of fruit separate. Wash and dry the cherries and figs. Wash the apricots and remove the pits; do the same with the peaches and cut them into halves or quarters if they’re large. Peel, core and quarter the pears and quinces.

Heat a quart of water in a large pot and when it begins to simmer slowly stir in the sugar. When it has dissolved, add the quinces. Simmer 20 minutes, then add the pears. Then the peaches, apricots, cherries and figs, at five-minute intervals. When you’ve added everything, simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.

In the meantime, heat the vinegar and stir in the mustard. Let the mixture cool.

Transfer the fruit from the syrup to sterile jars with a slotted spoon. Mix the syrup and the vinegar mixture, pour the combined sauce over the fruit, seal the jars in a processing bath and store them in a cool dry place.

tortelli-zucca

Tortelli di Zucca

Ingredients

For the filling:

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) squash (butternut, pumpkin or sweet potatoes)
  • 4 ounces (100 g) amaretti (almond macaroons)
  • 4 ounces (100 g) raisins
  • 4 ounces (100 g) Mostarda di Cremona, recipe above
  • 2 cups (100 g) grated Parmigiano cheese
  • Salt
  • A little (1/8 teaspoon) freshly grated nutmeg

For the pasta:

  • 3 cups (350 g) flour
  • 2/3 cup (100 g) semolina
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk

For the sauce:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Directions

Peel and cube the squash and roast in a hot oven until it’s fork-tender.

Grind the amaretti in a food processor and mince the raisins. When the squash is done, blend or process until mashed. Combine the pulp with the amaretti, raisins, cheese and nutmeg; mix well. Cover the filling with a damp cloth and let it sit in a cool place for several hours.

Prepare the pasta:

Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, mix the ingredients to obtain a firm dough. Knead quite well, for 10-15 minutes or more.

When you are ready to make the pasta, roll the dough out very thin with a rolling-pin or with a pasta maker (about 1 mm) and cut it into 4-inch (10 cm) squares.

Put a tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square and top with another pasta square tamping down with a fork along the edges to seal them.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then salt it. Cook the tortelli, a few at a time, for a few minutes, (usually they rise to the surface when cooked al dente) and then remove them with a slotted spoon or spider. They’re delicate and will break if you pour the pot into a colander to drain them. Put them in a serving bowl, sprinkling them with melted butter and grated cheese, as you add more cooked pasta to the bowl.

Beef-With-Fruity-Mustard-Sauce-Mostarda-Di-Frutta

Boiled Beef With Fruity-Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2-3 lb piece of stewing beef
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 stalk rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • A few dill and parsley stalks, chopped
  • Salt
  • “Mostarda di frutta” to taste

Directions

Put the whole piece of meat into a pan with water to cover. When the meat starts to boil, add some salt and the diced onions and carrots. Add the rosemary, oregano and bay leaves.

Cook the meat, until tender, about 2 hours over low heat.

Add the fresh parsley and dill. Turn the heat off and leave the meat in the pan for another 15 minutes.

Remove the meat and slice it. Put some meat slices on each serving plate and top with some fruit-mustard syrup and slices of fruit.

Torrone

Homemade Torrone

Torrone, the classic Italian nougat. This traditional recipe is scented with honey, orange and almond flavors. As with many egg white-based candies, nougat does not do well in humidity, so try to choose a low humidity day to make this candy. Traditionally, nougat is made with edible rice paper, to make it easier to slice and serve. If you cannot find any, line your pan with foil and spray it thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. Smooth the top as best you can and skip the compacting step described below.

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups toasted almonds
  • Edible rice paper

Directions

Prepare an 8×11 inch pan by lining it with plastic wrap that extends over the sides of the pan, then spraying it with nonstick cooking spray, taking care to spray the sides well. (For thinner nougat, a 9×13 inch pan can be used instead.) Place the edible rice paper in a single layer on the bottom of the pan—you may need to cut the pieces to fit the pan.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a large stand mixer that has been thoroughly cleaned and dried. Any traces of grease on the bowl or whisk will prevent the egg whites from beating properly.

Combine 3 cups of sugar, honey, corn syrup and water in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. The mixture will foam up as it cooks, so be sure your pan is large enough to safely handle the rising mixture. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any stray sugar crystals. Insert a candy thermometer and cook the syrup, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees Fahrenheit (143 C).

When the syrup reaches 270 F (132 C), start beating the egg whites and salt with the electric mixer using the whisk attachment. When the whites form soft peaks, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, a little at a time, until the whites are shiny and can hold firm peaks. Ideally, this stage should be reached when the sugar syrup reaches 290 degrees F (143 C), but if the whites are at stiff peaks before the syrup is ready, stop the mixer so the whites are not overbeaten.

Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the sugar into a large 4-cup measuring cup or similarly sized heat proof container with a spout. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly and carefully stream the hot syrup into the egg whites. (If you don’t have a container with a spout, be very careful when pouring the hot sugar syrup directly from the saucepan into the mixer.)

Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and continue to beat the egg whites for 5 minutes, until very thick, stiff and shiny. Add the three extracts and beat briefly to incorporate them.

Add the toasted almonds and stir until they’re well-incorporated. The candy will be very sticky and stiff.

Scrape the candy into the prepared pan, then use an offset spatula or knife sprayed with nonstick cooking spray to smooth the top. Cover the top completely with another layer of rice paper, cut to fit. Place a pan of the same size on top of the nougat and place a large book or other heavy object in the pan to weigh it down. Let sit at room temperature for several hours.

When you are ready to cut the nougat, lift it from the pan using the plastic wrap as handles. Spray a large sharp chef’s knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the nougat into small squares. If the knife gets too sticky, periodically wash it with hot water, dry it between cuts and re-spray.

Nougat can be served immediately or stored in an airtight container at room temperature. It is sticky and will gradually lose its shape once cut, so for storage purposes, wrap individual squares in nonstick waxed paper.

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pizza header

First offered at a few big-city Italian restaurants in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, pizza started to come into its own at Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno – the first restaurant built around this “foreign dish” – in 1943. Nationally franchised takeout pizza was born at Pizza Hut in 1958, Little Caesars in 1959 and Domino’s in 1960 and from then on, pizza was an established part of the American culinary landscape.

But what about homemade pizza? When did Americans start making their own pizza at home, from scratch, rather than driving down to the pizza parlor for takeout?

According to The Food Timeline, the first known American cookbook pizza recipe appeared in 1936, in Specialita Culinarie Italiane, 137 Tested Recipes of Famous Italian Foods. But it wasn’t until nearly 10 years later that pizza made it out of the Italian neighborhoods and into the American mainstream. In 1945. American GI’s were coming home from Europe and some of them returned with a new-found love for Italian food – such as pizza – at that time a treat available only at Italian restaurants. By 1954, the first yeast-crust pizzas were making an appearance, as evidenced in The Betty Furness Westinghouse Cookbook. See the recipe page below – hardly the “real thing”. Source: (http://www.foodtimeline.org/)

first cookbook

Have a pizza party. Make the dough, sauces and toppings ahead of time and let your guests have fun making their own pizzas.

Pizza Doughs

All-Purpose Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon fast-rising or instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
  • Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients except the cooking spray. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with the spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead. Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in the bowl, turning once to coat the surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch surface of dough. Let dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate the dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in the bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Mist a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough into four portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough come to room temperature.

Multigrain Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup rye flour (or cornmeal or additional whole wheat flour)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast or fast-rising yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water, at room temperature

Directions

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook or in a large bowl using a large spoon, combine all ingredients. Mix on low or by hand about 3 minutes, until ingredients are combined and all the flour is moistened. Dough will be soft.

If using an electric mixer, increase speed to medium; mix 2 minutes longer. If working by hand, continue mixing with spoon; or turn dough out onto a counter and knead. Mix long enough to form a smooth, supple dough, about 3 minutes. If dough seems very stiff, incorporate more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, as you mix. If dough is wet and sticky, sprinkle in more flour as you mix. Dough should be tacky but not sticky.

Lightly coat an 8-quart bowl with cooking spray or oil. Form dough in a smooth ball and place in bowl, turning once to coat surface with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, without letting wrap touch the surface of dough. Let dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then refrigerate dough overnight or up to 3 days. (Dough will continue to rise in bowl until nearly doubled, then will go dormant from the cold.)

Two hours before assembling the pizzas, remove chilled dough from the refrigerator. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray or lightly rub with olive oil. Cut dough into four portions. Form each portion in a smooth round ball.

Place each ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly mist with cooking spray, then lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let dough come to room temperature.

Tips:

  • At this point, extra dough may be placed in freezer bags that have been lightly coated with nonstick cooking spray. Seal, label and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • As a substitute for a baking stone, use an inverted baking sheet placed on an oven rack. For easy pizza assembly, invert another baking sheet on the counter and cover the underside with parchment paper (for baking). Mist the paper with cooking spray, then prepare the pizza on the paper.
  • Closely watch pizzas that are placed on parchment paper while baking. The high heat from the oven can cause some papers to ignite. Carefully read labels and instructions to avoid using papers in a hot oven that could cause fires.

 Pizza Sauces

All-Purpose No Cook Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk together all the ingredients. If necessary, add more water to thin. It should easily spread over the dough. For an 8 to 10 inch pizza, use 1/4 cup of the sauce.

Pesto alla Genovese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium skillet, heat 1/4 cup of the oil; add garlic. Cook and stir for 10 seconds; remove pan from heat. Immediately add to remaining oil.

In a food processor combine the garlic oil, basil, cheese, lemon juice and half the nuts; cover and process 20 seconds or until mixture resembles a thick green sauce. (If the contents are very thick and pasty, drizzle in a little water and process for a few more seconds. If too thin, add more shredded cheese)

Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the pepper and the remaining nuts.

For pizza: top dough with mozzarella cheese slices, drizzle some pesto sauce over the cheese, top with sliced plum tomatoes and bake.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto sauce and refrigerate (the plastic wrap will help keep the pesto a bright green). Chill for up to 5 days; for longer storage, transfer to freezer containers. Seal, label and freeze up to 3 months.

Multipurpose Herb Oil

Ingredients

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic (or 1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried or fresh rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika, mild or hot
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together for about 15 seconds, long enough to evenly distribute the ingredients. Because most spices and herbs settle quickly, always whisk the oil mixture before drizzling or pouring. Let the herb oil stand at least 30 minutes at room temperature for flavors to meld.

Store, tightly covered, in a cool dark place up to 2 weeks.

Sauce Variations

  • Spicy Puttanesca Sauce: Add 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata or ripe olives, 1 tablespoon capers and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the all-Purpose Pizza Sauce.
  • Tomato Basil-Pesto Sauce: combine All-Purpose Pizza Sauce and Pesto alla Genovese
  • Garlic Sauce: Add 2 to 3 tablespoon of garlic oil (see Caramelized garlic recipe) and 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper to any pizza sauce.
  • Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage: thinly slice 3 Roma tomatoes and drain on a paper towel; saute 1/2 bunch of chopped broccoli rabe with olive oil and garlic;  saute 1/4 lb diced Italian sausage and thinly slice 1/2 lb mozzarella cheese. Layer cheese, tomatoes, broccoli and sausage on a 14 inch round of All-Purpose pizza dough and bake until crust is brown.

Toppings

Cheese

To any one of the above pizzas add: 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella, provolone, Fontina cheese, Parmesan or 1/4 cup feta, chevre or blue cheese.

Meat

Add 1/4 cup sliced cooked chicken, salami, pepperoni, crisp-cooked bacon or pancetta, ham or any type of cooked sausage to each of the above pizzas.

Seafood

Marinate seafood in 1/2 cup of Multipurpose Herb Oil (see recipe). Place 1/4 cup cooked shelled clams, scallops, shelled mussels, shrimp, tuna, calamari or octopus strips to each of the above pizza.

 Some Of My Favorite Pizzas

artichoke

Marinated Artichoke Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe All-Purpose Pizza Dough or Multigrain Pizza Dough 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ounce marinated artichoke hearts, drained and sliced thin
  • 1 ounce fire-roasted red peppers, drained and sliced thin
  • 6 small Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick and marinated in 1/2 cup Multi Purpose Herb Oil (see recipe); drain before using.
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Remove dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before assembling pizzas. About 45 minutes before baking, place an oven rack one-third the distance from the bottom of oven. Place a pizza stone or invert a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Cook onions in hot oil about 10 minutes, until translucent. Stir in sugar and balsamic vinegar; cook until juices bubble. Transfer onions to a strainer set over a bowl. Drain for 3 minutes. Return drained juices to the skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until the consistency of honey. Remove from heat. Return onions to the skillet. Stir to coat, then set aside.

For pizzas, stretch each dough portion into an 8-10 inch circle. One at a time, transfer to a pizza peel (pizza-size spatula) or rimless cookie sheet dusted with flour. Evenly divide onion mixture, artichokes, peppers, tomatoes and olives and spread on each circle. Sprinkle top with cheese.

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until toppings bubble and pizza edges are golden brown. Rotate pizzas halfway through baking time. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

mushroom

Mushroom-Garlic Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe All-Purpose Pizza Dough or Multigrain Pizza Dough
  • 1 recipe Caramelized Garlic, recipe below
  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 ½ cups sliced cremini or button mushrooms
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 4 teaspoons Multipurpose Herb Oil, see recipe 
  • 1/4 cup of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped

Directions

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before assembling pizzas. About 45 minutes before baking, place an oven rack one-third the distance from bottom of oven. Place a pizza stone or invert a heavy baking sheet on the rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons oil from the Caramelized Garlic recipe. Cook and stir mushrooms in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to glisten. Remove from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

For pizzas, stretch each dough portion into an 8-10 inch circle. One at a time, transfer to a pizza peel (pizza-size spatula) or rimless cookie sheet dusted with flour. Top each pizza with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, one-fourth of the sautéed mushrooms (about 1/2 cup) and 6 to 8 cloves of garlic (from Caramelized Garlic).

Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, until toppings bubble and pizza edges are golden brown. Rotate pizzas halfway through baking time. Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Just before serving, drizzle each pizza with 1 teaspoon Multipurpose Herb Oil and sprinkle with parsley.

Caramelized Garlic

Place 1 cup of peeled garlic cloves (3 to 4 bulbs) in a small saucepan with enough olive oil to cover the garlic (about 1 cup). Simmer over medium heat about 20 minutes, until garlic is a rich dark golden brown on the outside. They should develop what resembles a crust. Stir occasionally to prevent garlic from sticking to the pan and burning. Remove from heat. Let garlic stand in the oil for 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer garlic cloves to a plate lined with paper towels. Transfer remaining oil to a jar with a tightly fitting lid. Separately refrigerate garlic cloves and oil, tightly covered, up to 2 weeks.

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755451_26574043

Many seafood sellers are working to raise awareness about the need for sustainable, eco-friendly fishing and the importance of not purchasing seafood on the endangered list. However, it does have one downside: a glut of eco-labels that can make for confusion at the seafood counter. When you’re grocery shopping and you’ve forgotten your Monterey Bay Guide, look for these two labels: Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea. Fish and seafood with these labels came from certified sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s standards for sustainable fishing meet the world’s toughest best practice guidelines. With their practices and diligent efforts, they are transforming the way seafood is sourced—and helping you get the best produce for you and the Earth.

Friend of the Sea is a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) working to conserve marine habitats. Products stamped with the Friend of the Sea logo come from sustainable seafood fisheries and aquaculture where the harvesting of seafood leaves no lasting impact or damage to the surrounding environment.

Types of Fish

1. Dark and oil rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna.

2. White, lean and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sand dab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish.

3. Medium color and oil rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna.

4. White, lean and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting.

5. White, firm and oil rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon.

Whole-Foods-

Budget-conscious families can eat fish. The key is strategic shopping.

Your seafood seller can point you to budget buys or specials. Grocery stores sell large packs of individually wrapped, frozen fish fillets, usually at a rate discounted from fresh varieties. In-season, fresh varieties are also a good buy; you can enjoy them now and freeze some for later.

For top quality, look for “Frozen-at-Sea” (FAS)―fish that has been flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures in as little as three seconds onboard the ship. When thawed, sea-frozen fish are almost indistinguishable from fresh fish, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Frozen wild Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is a good alternative when fresh wild salmon are out of season. Ask your seller for guidance when considering frozen options. Some processors use tripolyphosphates, a type of phosphate sodium preservative that increases moisture in frozen fish fillets (which are often defrosted for sale). The price may be lower, but you’re buying water and preservatives along with your fish.

Look for recipes that use less expensive varieties or smaller amounts of pricier seafood. Look for meaty heads, tails and trimmings of larger fish, like salmon, cod and halibut, which are often sold at bargain prices. Simmer or steam, pick off the meat and add to chowder and casseroles. (Don’t forget the cheek meat under the gills). Heads and trimmings are essential to making fish stock, which is more flavorful and lower in sodium that ready-made varieties. Use homemade fish stock in place of water or clam juice in your recipes.

If whole fish seem intimidating, try steak-cut or skin-on fillets. The bones and connective tissue of steak-cut fish, like salmon, cod and halibut help retain moisture and prevent shrinkage when cooked. For the same reasons, skin-on fillets are a better choice than skinless fillets. Since these options are less processed, they’re often less expensive.

fish_market_

How To make Good Seafood Choices

Choose a fish market with knowledgeable salespeople. Fish should be displayed attractively and surrounded by plenty of clean crushed ice.

The best approach to buying and eating fish is to aim for variety. Let freshness be your guide. It’s easy to substitute one fish for another, so if the mahimahi looks and smells fresher than the pompano, buy it instead.

When shopping, ask for your fish to be packed with a separate bag of crushed ice to keep it cold. Refrigerate whole fish up to two days; fillets and steaks one to two days. Place the fish in a plastic bag, then top with a zip-top plastic bag filled with ice. Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator.

Farmed seafood, also called aquaculture, can provide high-quality fish, can be environmentally friendly and can be a way to supplement the supply of wild-caught fish.

Ways to Save

When local fish are in season, the price goes down and the quality goes up. Here is a simple guide to what is generally in season but you can also check your State Fish and Game website for additional information on fish from your region.

http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com/afreshapproach/whats-in-season.aspx

Try fish that you have not eaten before. If you live in the East, try Atlantic black sea bass and weakfish; in the Gulf states try amberjack and black drum; in the Great Lakes region try walleye and smelts and on the West Coast try Pacific sardines and sablefish (black cod).

Whole fish shrink less than fillets when cooking, giving you more value for your per-pound price. Whiting, croaker, porgy and Pacific rockfish can be great values. Also, consider summer flounder (sometimes called fluke), red snapper and farmed striped bass and Arctic char.

Canned fish is an excellent budget-friendly option. It can also be a nutritious one, particularly varieties like canned tuna and salmon that are low in sodium and rich in omega-3s. Keep them―along with flavorful sardines and anchovies―on hand for fish cakes and salads.

Save extra fish from the previous night’s dinner. Leftover fish works well in cold preparations like salads, sandwiches and wraps. Add leftovers to cooked pasta mixed with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and olives. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Panko-Crusted-Fish-Sticks

Panko Crusted Fish Sticks

Panko crumbs, or Japanese bread crumbs, are flake-like, coarsely ground bread crumbs used to make crisp, light fried foods and crumb toppings for casseroles. Here is a very simple and inexpensive way to make your own. FYI, these crumbs are also gluten-free.

  • 3 cups Rice Chex Cereal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional seasonings, as desired

Place the Rice Chex cereal in a plastic bag. Use a rolling-pin to crush the cereal into coarse flakes. You can also pulse the cereal in a processor until it is the right consistency. Don’t overprocess. Season with salt and pepper and any herb blend that you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs

Directions

Heat the oven to 450º F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil.

In a shallow bowl, beat the egg, onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until foamy. Place the panko in a second shallow bowl and add the Italian seasoning.

Cut the fish pieces crosswise into finger size pieces. Dip each piece of fish in the egg mixture then coat in the panko crumbs, pressing gently to help them adhere; transfer to the baking pan. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve with a sauce of your choice.

tilapia-piccata-l

Tilapia Piccata

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

Directions

Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pasta pot; stir in tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, parsley and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside and keep warm.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and flour in a large shallow dish. Dredge fish in the flour mixture. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish to the skillet; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork and is lightly browned. Remove fish from the pan; keep warm.

Add wine, juice and capers to the skillet; cook 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet; stir until butter melts. Pour sauce over the fish and serve with the orzo.

cod chowder

Cod Chowder

Great dinner for a cold, rainy night.

Ingredients

  • 3 slices pork or turkey bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice or 1 cup homemade fish stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound frozen cod, defrosted and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat a heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is golden brown and crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and reserve, leaving the fat in the pot.

Add the onion, celery, thyme and bay leaf to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, another 2 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth and clam juice and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are tender yet still firm, 5 to 7 minutes.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the cod and corn. Do not stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow the chowder to sit for 10 minutes (the fish will finish cooking during this time).

Return chowder to low heat and stir in the warmed half and half, gently to avoid breaking the fish into small pieces. Bring chowder to serving temperature over gentle heat, uncovered. Sprinkle reserved crisped bacon and parsley on top and serve with a side salad and cornbread.

Lemon & herb fish kebabs.

Fish Kebabs

Stretch your fish dollars with kebabs. Add several vegetables to make this dish even more economical. Zucchini and different colored peppers are good additions.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds halibut or any fish fillet that is on sale, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, cut in eighths
  • 3 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the broiler. Weather permitting, you can grill the kebabs on an outdoor grill.

Place fish and bell pepper in a shallow dish. Combine the pesto with the vinegar and drizzle over the fish and vegetables; toss to coat. Let mixture stand 5 minutes.

Thread fish, onion and pepper alternately onto each of 4 (12-inch) skewers; sprinkle evenly with salt. Place skewers on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Broil for 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning once.

baked trout

Baked Trout Fillets

Trout is a fish that you’ll be able to buy at many markets without hurting your wallet. The flavor of trout is outstanding.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound trout fillets
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Paprika
  • Lemon wedges 

Directions

Place fish in a greased shallow 3-qqart baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, cheese, lemon juice, onion and salt; spread over fish. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° F for 20-25 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with lemon wedges.

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Carnevale, also known as Mardi Gras, is celebrated in Italy and many places around the world 40 days before Easter, a final party before Ash Wednesday and the restrictions of Lent.

The Carnival of Venice was for a long time the most famous celebration. From Italy, carnival traditions spread to the Catholic nations of Spain, Portugal and France. From France, they spread to the Rhineland of Germany and to New France in North America. From Spain and Portugal, they spread with Catholic colonization to the Caribbean and Latin America.

The most widely known, most elaborate and most popular events are in New Orleans, Louisiana. Carnival celebrations, usually referred to as Mardi Gras, were first celebrated in the Gulf Coast area of the United States, but now occur in many other states. Customs originated in the onetime French colonial capitals of Mobile (now in Alabama), New Orleans (Louisiana) and Biloxi (Mississippi), all of which have been celebrated for many years with street parades and masked balls. Other major U.S. cities with celebrations include Miami, Florida; Tampa, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri; Pensacola, Florida; San Diego, California; Galveston, Texas and Orlando, Florida.

For information on how Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans read my post: Mardi Gras Time !

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/02/04/mardi-gras-time/

Carnevale in Italy is a huge winter festival celebrated with parades, masquerade balls, entertainment, music and parties. Children throw confetti at each other. Mischief and pranks are also common during Carnevale, hence the saying, “A Carnevale Ogni Scherzo Vale”, or anything goes at carnival.

Carnevale has roots in pagan festivals and traditions and, as is often the case with traditional festivals, was adapted to fit into Catholic rituals. Although Mardi Gras, sometimes called “Fat Tuesday” or “Shove Tuesday”,  is actually one date – the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – but in Venice and New Orleans and in some other places, the carnival celebrations and parties may begin a couple of weeks before.

Carnevale Di Venezia was first recorded in 1268 with mention of masks, parties and rich food. In the height of the masquerade, mascherari (maskmakers) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and guild. Masks made the Venetian carnival unique, as it took away social status and inhibition. In this way, the social order was temporarily non-existent. However, when Venice fell under Austrian rule after Napoleon’s Treaty of Campo Formio in 1798, the city and all its culture went into decline. This pre-Lent celebration didn’t enjoy a revival until almost 200 years later when, in the 1970’s, a group of Venetians decided to revive the tradition.

carnival_venice_italy_424759

Masks or maschere are an important part of the carnevale festival and Venice is the best city for traditional carnival masks. Carnival masks are sold year round and can be found in many Venetian shops, ranging from cheap to elaborate and expensive. Walking through the streets of Venice, one can view a variety of masks on display in shop windows. People also wear elaborate costumes for the festival and there are numerous costume or masquerade balls, both private and public.

What foods are popular in Italy during Carnevale?

Almost every Italian town and region has some specialty in recognition of Carnevale, though in Venice, the specialty is frittelle. These fritters are fried golden brown and filled or topped with a variety of treats, bursting with sweet or savory flavors, like chocolate, jelly, fruit or meat. The enticing smells drift through the city and can be found in the cichéti stalls along the streets, where it is easy to pick up these “small bites”.  In the other regions, similar fare can be found under different names, like the Lombard chiacchere, Tuscan cenci and Roman frappe. But under any name, they are all the highlight of the season for Italians and visitors alike. Other Venetian carnevale foods include “Pasticcio di Maccheroni” (a baked pasta, ricotta, meat pie), “Pizza Sfogliata con Salsiccia e Pancetta” (filled, rolled baked dough), “Migliaccio di Polenta” (polenta and sausage) and steaming plates of lasagnas and pastas, filled with pancetta, prosciutto, salami and sopressata.

Naples has the sumptuous Lasagne di Carnevale. In the past poorer families could only afford to make this dish once a year, therefore, it became very special and every family had their own secret recipe. There was a great deal of competiton in the local towns over whose lasagna was best. Throughout much of Italy, however, Carnevale is an occasion for eating pastries, fritters of one kind or another that are quick to make and fun to eat. During the weeks of Carnevale, it is a tradition to eat a lot of sweets because they will not be able to eat them during Lent.

Traditional Carnevale Recipes

lasagne-di-carnevale_1

Grande Lasagna di Carnevale

Some versions of this recipe add sliced hard-boiled eggs to the layers along with the meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried Lasagna noodles
  • 1/4 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 12 oz. drained canned plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/3 pound mozzarella
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto

Directions

Cook the lasagna noodles in abundant, slightly salted water until they’re al dente, run them under cold water and lay the sheets out on a kitchen cloth, covering them with a second cloth.

For the sauce:

Sauté the onion in the oil until soft. Add the Italian sausage and after it has browned add the tomatoes. Simmer over moderate heat for about an hour, adding the beef broth a little at a time. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the meatballs:

Combine the ground beef with the bread crumbs, egg, parsley, ricotta and half the grated Parmigiano cheese. Make 1-inch diameter meatballs from the mixture and dredge them in the flour. Heat a little oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs on all sides, about 10 minutes, then remove them with a slotted spoon, place them on paper towels and keep them warm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Dice the prosciutto and mozzarella. Oil a baking pan about the length of the pasta noodles. Place a layer of pasta in the bottom of the pan, then a few meatballs, some of the sauce, some of the diced ingredients and a sprinkling of Parmigiano. Continue until all the ingredients are used; then bake the lasagna for 15-20 minutes until bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for ten minutes before serving.

carnavale pizza

Pizza Sfogliata con Salsiccia

Rolled up pizza with sausages and pancetta is a specialty for Carnevale.

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/5 cups (500 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 ounces (250 g) mild Italian sausage
  • 6 ounces (150 g) thinly sliced pancetta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of powdered cinnamon
  • Black pepper 

Directions

Make a mound of the flour on your work surface, form a well in the middle of it, crack the eggs into the well, add a pinch of salt and mix together with your hands; knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, then cover it and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet. Remove the sausages from their casings and crumble them into the skillet, together with the pancetta. Brown the meat for 4-5 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

Roll the dough out about 1/8 of an inch thick (3 mm). Spread the remaining oil over the dough, then distribute the sausage and pancetta evenly over the dough as well.

Sprinkle the meat with black pepper to taste, dust very lightly with cinnamon and roll the dough up to make a snake.

Coil the snake, pressing gently in the center section of the snake to give the pizza a uniform width, put the snake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake it for 30-40 minutes, or until the pizza is evenly browned.

frittelle

Frittelle di Riso

There are many types of Carnival (Mardi Gras) pastries in Italy. Traditional rice fritters, frittelle di riso, are also popular on March 19th, to celebrate San Giuseppe.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup (350 g) rice — not parboiled
  • 1 quart (1 liter) milk
  • The zest of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 jigger of rum or vinsanto
  • 3/4 cup plus 1½ tablespoons (100 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Oil for frying
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Simmer the rice in the milk until it’s quite soft and begins to give off its starch, then stir in the sugar, lemon zest and butter. Let the mixture cool.

Separate the eggs and whip the whites to soft peaks. Combine the yolks and the rum or wine and stir into the rice mixture, then fold in the egg whites, flour and baking powder.

Heat about 3 inches of oil to 375° F in a 4 to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Drop the batter, a teaspoon at a time, into hot oil and fry the frittelle until they are golden brown.

Drain them on absorbent paper and, when they have cooled, dust them with confectioner’s sugar.

castagnole5-637x477

Castagnole

In Umbria these little fried pastries are called castagnole and, in some places, zeppole. In Milan they are tortelli. They are called castagnole because their shape resembles a chestnut. They are best eaten while still warm.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon anise extract
  • 1-1/2 cups cake or italian flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 small eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pkg yeast (lievito, in Italy)
  • Oil for frying
  • Powdered sugar to dust them

Directions

Mix flour, eggs, sugar, butter (cut into small cubes), vanilla, anise, salt, lemon zest and yeast. Combine the ingredients and transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until

soft and very smooth. Rest the dough for 20 minutes. Then form long and thick noodles of dough an inch thick, rolling the dough with your fingers.

Cut into pieces the size of a chestnut. Roll into balls.

Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a deep-frying pan and drop about six balls in at a time, frying over low heat and turning them as they brown. Use a spider or large slotted spoon to turn them until they are puffed up, golden and begin to float. Scoop them out and place them on layers of paper towels. Repeat with remaining balls and then sift powdered sugar over them.

chiacchiere (1)

Carnival Chiacchiere

Depending on where you are in Italy, you might find these chiacchiere under the name of crostoli (or grostoli), sfrappole, galani, frappe or cenci with different regions substituting the white wine with marsala, acquavite or anisette.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 heaping tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 glass white wine
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • ¼ cup (50 g) powdered sugar

Directions

Place flour in a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. Slowly work in the butter and the eggs followed by the white wine. Knead until the dough becomes soft and pliable. If it feels too sticky to the touch add a little more flour. Dust a work surface with a little flour. Roll dough out thin and cut it into triangles about 4 inches (10cm) long.

Heat about 3 inches of oil to 375°F in a 4 to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat and when hot, fry the chiacchiere in small batches. When they are golden brown all over, remove them from the oil and drain well on paper towels. Before serving, dredge with powdered sugar.

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