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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: June 2014

July

The Declaration of Independence was the name adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as 13 newly independent sovereign states and no longer a part of the British Empire. They formed a new nation—the United States of America.

Times were much different when our founding fathers lived. They cooked over open wood fires and often had farms where they grew their own produce. Food was simpler for the,. but eating was a big part of their lives. What kinds of food did our founding fathers eat?

Thomas Jefferson was known for his culinary adventurousness. He was an avid gardener and trained his kitchen staff in French cooking techniques. Almost all of our founding fathers lived on large farms. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, had a deep love for farming and he published many books about it. In his Garden Book, he mentioned planting green beans often. Everyone knows the myth about George Washington and the cherry tree, but did you know that he actually had a cherry orchard on his property? Both he and Thomas Jefferson cultivated cherry trees on their land.

Seafood in general was popular amongst the founding fathers. Most of them spent a lot of their working lives near large bodies of water. Even though they enjoyed all seafood, oysters were by far their favorites. Martha Washington, the first First Lady, included many recipes for oysters in her cookbook, The Martha Washington Cookbook.

Benjamin Franklin loved turkey so much that he suggested it should be our national symbol. The bald eagle won that fight, but turkey continued to be popular. Dolley Madison, the fourth president’s wife, introduced ice cream to the United States in 1812, when she served it at her husband’s inaugural ball.

It’s common knowledge that George Washington had dental issues. For most of his life he wore dentures, so he often couldn’t chew foods properly. Because of this, he preferred soft, easy-to-eat foods. Cornmeal cake was one of his favorites. George Washington also brewed his own beer. He included molasses in his recipe.

John Adams, the second president, had a relatively simple palate. He preferred boiled meals with nothing too elaborate added. His wife, however, liked to cook more interesting meals. Each year, Abigail Adams would make apple pandowdy, which is very similar to apple pie, from the harvest from their orchard. Apple cider was John Adams’ drink of choice. It was also made from the apples that grew in his orchard and he drank at least one pint of cider before nine in the morning.

The colonists were not fond of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, they were considered unappetizing. Most of the time, a lot of sugar was added to the cooking water to make the vegetables more palatable to their taste.

Today, Independence Day, a national holiday, is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States.

Get Together Menu for 12

July 3

Caprese Kabobs

Ingredients

  • 24 grape tomatoes
  • 12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions

On each of 12 wooden appetizer skewers, alternately thread two tomatoes, one cheese ball and two basil leaves; place on a serving plate.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar together and drizzle over the kabobs just before serving. Yield: 12 kabobs.

July 4

Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 medium sweet red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cans (6 ounces each) pitted ripe olives, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Yield: 12 servings.

July 1

Southern Style Shrimp Boil

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds small red potatoes
  • 2 pounds Italian sausage (hot or sweet or a combination), sliced into 2-inch pieces
  • 6-8 corn on the cob, husks and silk removed, each cob cut into three portions
  • 1/4 cup seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 4 pounds shrimp, peeled if desired
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Place potatoes and sausage in the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill with 6 quarts cold water. Stir in the seafood seasoning, cover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and carefully add the corn; cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Drain.
Arrange on a large platter and garnish with chopped parsley.

July 2

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the green cabbage, red cabbage and carrots. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, buttermilk, mustard, salt and pepper.
Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the vegetables and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

July 5

Blueberry-Lemon Sorbet

Serves 12

This fat-free, all-fruit sorbet adds lemon for refreshing tartness. For a smoother texture, strain the blueberries through a fine-mesh sieve before freezing. For a blueberries-and-cream variation, substitute milk or cream for the juice, omit the lemon and add 1 cup Greek yogurt.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup apple juice or white grape juice
  • 1/2 cup organic honey
  • 36 ounces fresh blueberries (divided)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a small saucepan, warm the juice and add the honey; stir until completely dissolved.
Combine with 6 cups blueberries in a food processor and purée until smooth. Strain, if desired.
Zest and juice the lemons. Add lemon juice and salt to the blueberry mixture and pulse to combine. Pour into a prepared ice-cream-maker canister, stir in all but 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions.

To serve, place one scoop in each serving dish and garnish with remaining lemon zest and remaining blueberries. Serve immediately.

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Lake

Lake Bolsena is a crater lake of volcanic origin in central Italy, which began to form 370,000 years. It is the largest volcanic lake in Europe and is the fifth largest lake in Italy with a circumference of over 26 miles (43 km). Lake Bolsena’s bed was formed from a caldera in the extinct Vulsini volcano. A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. The underlying rock in the area where the lake formed, the caldera, collapsed into a deep bowl. This bowl was gradually filled by rain water and underwater sources.

Roman historical records indicate volcanic activity last occurred there in 104 BC and it has been dormant since then. The two islands, Bisentina and Martana, in the southern part of the lake, were formed by underwater eruptions following the collapse that created the caldera.

Lake 2

The lake is fed primarily by underground springs and rainwater and has a single outlet, the river Marta that flows into the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the vicinity of Tarquinia. The lake has an oval shape, typical of crater lakes. The long axis of the ellipse is aligned in a north-south direction. The entire lake is surrounded by hills and is a good vacation spot. It has beaches, a harbor, restaurants, hotels and a medieval historic center surrounded by walls with a castle at the top. On the lake one can enjoy water sports, from canoeing, water skiing, sailing to surfing. Unlike most lakes, Lake Bolsena displays tidelike movements, called “sessa” with the difference between low and high tides being as much as 50 cm or 20 inches.

Lake Bolsena is north of Rome in the Northern Lazio region, just south of Tuscany. Bolsena, the main town on the lake, is on the northeastern shore. In the 7th century BC, it was the site of a Villanovan settlement whose huts were built on stilts directly over the water, using reed platforms, hay roofs and cobbled floors. About four hundred years later, it was settled by the Etruscans after they fled from the Roman destruction of Velzna in 264 BC. Velzna eventually became Volsinii, a Latin name which has been transformed over the centuries into Bolsena.

Lake 1

The Rocca Monaldeschi della Cervara sits at the top of the hill, overlooking the medieval quarter of the town. The castle was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. It has been completely renovated and, since 1991, has housed the Museo Territoriale del Lago di Bolsena (Lake Bolsena Territorial Museum). Each of its three floors is dedicated to various aspects of Bolsena’s history, ranging from its prehistoric volcanic origins to its Etruscan-Roman period. The Church of St. Christine is the town’s other major site. It is a Romanesque church built in 1078 in a typical basilica style over the catacombs where St. Christine, a young woman martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, was buried.

The Cuisine

Lake 5

The territory of Lake Bolsena brings with it a whole host of ancient traditions that are also reflected in the local cuisine, with flavors and products typical of their ancient recipes and cooking methods. It is also famous for its clear lake waters and the nickname “the lake with a drink. Long ago, lake water was used in cooking. Fishermen prepared the Sbroscia in a clay pot using freshly caught fish; it was one of the few means of survival, when they had little more than what the lake could offer. It was prepared within the small hut on the shore that was used as a refuge and as a warehouse for their supplies.

Acquacotta is the name of a typical local soup prepared with chicory, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, hot pepper, dried cod, dry bread and olive oil. Other soups of the local cuisine are made with mushrooms, legumes, chestnuts, lake fish (sbroscia) and lamb. First courses often include rice and lentils, pasta and potatoes, rice and chicory, peas with quadrucci (small squares of hand-made egg pasta) and “minestrone alla Viterbese”.

Pasta dishes include maccheroni, ceciliani, lombrichelli (made with only flour and water), potato gnocchi, fettuccine, pappardelle, gavinelle or polenta. These dishes are often served with a classic ragout – meat sauces prepared with hare, wild boar, mushrooms, spare ribs and pork sausages or, in summer, with fresh garden vegetables, such as: zucchini, eggplant, turnip greens or sweet peppers.

For main courses, rabbit alla cacciatora, stewed chicken with tomatoes, wild boar with tomato sauce, stewed hare, baked lamb, tripe with tomato sauce, fried coratella (veal intestines), roasted pork or pignattaccia (a stew made with meat and vegetables) are most common. Main fish dishes, prepared with lake fish, include: fried perch fillets, stewed eels, fried lattarini, stewed or fried pike and baked or grilled whitefish.

Typical desserts include: sweet ravioli made with ricotta, ciambellone (simple white cakes), tarts made with ricotta or jam, crunchy biscuits and cookies made with hazelnuts and sweetened fritters made with rice.

Lake 4

Chickpea and Chestnut Soup

This ancient soup recipe of chickpeas and chestnuts is one of the typical dishes of the area.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 oz pancetta
  • 10 ½ oz chestnuts, chopped 
  • 4 peeled tomatoes 
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic,
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt

Directions

Cover the chickpeas with water in a bowl and soak for about 24 hours; drain and pour into a pot with water to cover. Cook until the chickpeas are softened, about an hour; add the salt. Drain the chickpeas; set aside a 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and puree half the chickpeas.

Chop together the garlic, rosemary and pancetta. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in the pot used to cook the chickpeas and cook the pancetta mixture for a few minutes.

Add the pureed chickpeas, the whole chickpeas, the cooking water and the chopped chestnuts. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes and the bay leaf.
Mix add the broth, stirring well; let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Lake 3

The Sbroscia of Lake Bolsena

Sbroscia is a stew of fresh fish from the lake. There are many species of fish that inhabit the lake: whitefish , eel , pike , tench , trout, perch and silversides are a few examples. Any combination of fish may be used in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 tench (minnow family)
  • 1 pike
  • 1 eel
  • 4 perch
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • Stale bread ( 3-4 slices per serving dish)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt
  • Small bunch mint, chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

Cut the fish into serving pieces.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch Oven or large soup pot. Add the garlic, mint and onion and cook until the onion softens.

Add the potatoes and tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Add all the fish, 6 cups of water and salt to taste, cover the pan, and cook for 30-35 minutes.

Place 3 to 4 slices of bread in each serving bowl and pour in the stew. Drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Lake 6

Whitefish (Coregone)

The whitefish sauce is served with fettuccine or spaghetti.

Ingredients

  • 1 whitefish, filled
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3-4 peeled and chopped tomatoes
  • Salt
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Cooked pasta

Directions

Saute the onion and garlic in a large skillet. Add the whitefish fillets and saute until cooked through. Break up the fish into smaller pieces.

Add the wine and cook until it evaporates. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook until no longer raw. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper.

Mix in the cooked pasta and garnish with chopped parsley.

Lake 7

Risotto with Perch Fillets

This risotto uses the freshwater perch in the starring role.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 7 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable stock)
  • 3 perch fillets (per person) – about 18 total
  • Flour or bread crumbs for coating

Directions

In a heavy saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon butter until it melts. Add the chopped onion and cook until it is tender. When the onion becomes transparent, add the rice to the pot and mix it well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add the wine to the pot. Mix the rice until the liquid evaporates, then add the broth, a small amount at a time, stirring it constantly to allow even absorption of the liquid. When the rice is just about tender, add the salt, pepper and cheese and allow to melt.

Meanwhile, to cook the fish – batter the fillets in the flour or bread crumbs and then cook the perch in batches in a hot skillet using some of the remaining butter. Turn the fillets over once and cook until each side is golden brown. Repeat with remaining fillets and butter.

Spoon the rice onto a serving dish and top with the fish fillets. Just a note to add an additional Italian twist to this risotto: heat some butter in a pan and add a handful of sage leaves. Let the butter melt and become infused with the herbs. When the risotto is ready to be served pou,r the butter sauce over the fish.

Lake 8

Sweet Rice Fritters (Frittelle di Riso)

Makes about 40

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) short grain rice (arborio)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) milk
  • Zest of 1 lemon or orange (or a mixture of both)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons Italian dessert wine: Vin Santo
  • 1/3 cup (40 grams) flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

Directions

Cook the rice in the milk, watching very carefully that it doesn’t burn or overflow – don’t take your eyes off it! You will need to stir it quite often to make sure it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom. When the milk has been mostly absorbed and the rice is very soft, take the pan off the heat and add the citrus zest and sugar.

Set aside. Once completely cool, add the wine, eggs, baking powder, salt and flour. Combine thoroughly then cover and let the mixture rest for several hours or overnight in the refrigerator before using. The mixture may look quite runny, like a pancake batter.

Drop tablespoons of batter into hot oil, and fry, turning to cover all sides evenly until a deep brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain before rolling in powdered sugar. These are best eaten the day they are made.


 

100_0722

When you become a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you purchase a “share” of vegetables from a regional farmer. Weekly during the growing season in your area, your farmer will deliver that share of produce to a convenient drop-off location in your neighborhood. CSA members pay for an entire season of produce upfront and shares usually include 7-10 types of vegetables; enough for a family of 2-3 people.

This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. The farmers receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow and the farmers have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow. The consumer gets to eat fresh picked food with all the flavor and vitamin benefits, learn more about how the food is grown and develop a relationship with the farmer who grows the food.

Jeta farms

Jeta Farms

My CSA is Jeta Farms, a family owned and operated farm located in Elberta, Al. They offer a variety of vegetables and some specialty and heirloom varieties. They do not plant GMO vegetable crops. I pick up my share on Saturday mornings and the produce is truly fresh and delicious. As soon as I get my share home, I start planning the week’s menu.

See the photo at the top of the post for last Saturday’s share, which included: a dozen ears of corn-on-the-cob, 2 eggplant, 4 plum tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, a package of blackberries, 2 large bell peppers, 4 patty pan squash, a pound of Italian green beans, a sack (about 5 lbs) of potatoes, lots of zucchini and yellow squash.

I was able to create a whole week’s worth of meals using these vegetables. All the herbs used in the recipes come from my garden.

  • Sunday: Grilled Italian sausage, 2 grilled corn on the cob (from the corn share) and potato salad (from the potato share)
  • Monday: Eggplant-Tomato Bake (recipe below) and sautéed zucchini (from the zucchini share) over Orecchiette pasta
  • Tuesday: Stuffed peppers (recipe below) and cucumber (from the cucumber share) salad 
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish, grilled summer squash (recipe below) and potato salad
  • Thursday: Chicken Oreganata, Italian green beans (recipe below) and eggplant bake
  • Friday: Corn Chowder (recipe below) and hash-browned potatoes (from the potato share) with eggs
  • Saturday: Grilled shrimp, grilled patty pan squash (recipe below) and tomato salad
  • The blackberries became dessert; see the Blackberry Crumble recipe in my post on Using Summer Fruit
Potato Salad

Potato Salad

Hash Browns

Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Eggs Over Hash Browns

Orecchiette Pasta

Orecchiette Pasta

Here are some of the recipes I used for this menu.

Eggplant Tomato Bake

100_0726

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/4” round slices (from the eggplant share)
  • 3/4 lb package fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4”slices (from the tomato share)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Egg Beaters (refrigerated egg substitute)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh or dried oregano

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil two baking sheets.

Dip eggplant slices in the egg substitute and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place the slices on the prepared pans and bake until brown, about 20 minutes, turning the slices over halfway through baking.

Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices and add half the tomatoes and half of the cheese. Add another layer of eggplant slices, tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle the top layer with oregano.

Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Stuffed Peppers

100_0739

 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • Fresh corn kernels, cut off 2 cobs from the corn share
  • 1/2 cup yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 large bell peppers: halved and seeded (from the bell pepper share)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of your favorite prepared BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the ground turkey until browned..
Add the chopped garlic, onion, corn and squash; stir and heat through. Season mixture with sea salt and pepper. Stir well to combine the flavors. Remove from heat. Add in the chopped parsley and cheese.

Coat a shallow baking dish that will fit the halved peppers with cooking spray. Stuff the halved peppers with the turkey mixture, pressing it in firmly. Place the stuffed peppers in the baking dish. Top each pepper with a spoonful of BBQ sauce.

Pour about an inch of hot boiled water into the bottom of the baking pan, around the peppers, and loosely cover the pan with a foil tent. This helps to cook the peppers. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender.

Grilled Summer Squash

100_0758

 

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs green and yellow squash, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick ovals (from the squash share)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire.

In a colander, toss the squash with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and drain for 30 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, put the basil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1/4 cup of the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor and purée until smooth.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until syrupy and reduced to about 2 tablespoons., 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Grill, turning once, until golden and tender, 8 to 12 minutes.

Arrange the squash on a platter, dot with the pesto and balsamic syrup. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.

Italian Flat Green Beans With Tomatoes and Garlic

100_0736

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian flat green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 3-inch pieces (from the green bean share)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, cut into very thin slices ( a 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice ( 8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
  • 6 -8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade ( stacked, then rolled tightly and cut into very thin strips)

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain immediately.

While the beans are cooking, heat the oil in a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the garlic slices, distributing them evenly. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the slices become almost translucent and start to brown on the edges; be careful not to let the garlic burn.

Add the diced tomato and salt and pepper to taste, then reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, so that the tomato is heated through. Add the cooked green beans and heat through for 1 to 2 minutes; mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with the basil, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Corn Chowder

100_0732

Ingredients

  • 8 corn on the cob from the corn share
  • Corn Stock, see below
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups) 
  • 2 large carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced 
  • 1 yellow squash, diced (from the squash share)
  • 2 lbs potatoes, diced (from the potato share)
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay)
  • 2 fresh whole sprigs of thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 can) evaporated whole milk

Directions

Cut the corn kernels from the 8 cobs and reserve the corn and cobs separately. Place the corn cobs and 4 quarts water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the cobs and discard.

Add half the reserved corn and all the vegetables to the soup pot and return the broth to a boil; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

With an immersion blender, puree the soup right in the soup pot. Add the seasonings, remaining corn and milk. Heat on low for about 15 minutes or until the corn is tender.

Grilled Patty Pan Squash with Italian Salsa Verde

Pattypan Squash 004001

 

4 servings

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 large garlic clove, halved, 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (tightly packed) parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the squash:

  • 4 small to medium patty pan squash from the squash share
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Combine the garlic, salt, anchovy fillet and capers in a food processor. With the motor running add the olive oil with the parsley and blend to a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If serving within a few hours, allow to sit at room temperature. Otherwise, refrigerate and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Prepare an outdoor grill.

Slice the patty pan squash in half horizontally and coat with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill the squash for about 5 minutes on each side or until they are tender all the way through.

Transfer the squash to a serving platter. Top each one with a teaspoon or two of the salsa verde and serve.

Yield: 4 servings


puglia-italy

Puglia is a flat, fertile, sun soaked region in southern Italy which, together with its iron rich soil makes it one of the most productive agricultural regions in the country. It is famous for its olive oil and produces between 250,000 and 300,000 tons each year. Puglia provides around 40 percent of the country’s extra virgin olive oil.

Durum wheat grows in abundance and is used for making pasta and bread. The pasta from Puglia is made without eggs as they were once considered to be a luxury. The most famous pasta made in Puglia is ‘oricchiette’ (meaning little ears) which is still made daily by the elder women in most of the small villages.

The bread in Puglia, which accompanies all meals, is more diverse than many other regions in Italy and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. It is cooked in traditional wood burning bread ovens and some of the villages still have a communal bread oven where the locals go to bake their bread every day.

Vegetables obviously grow well in the warm climate and are used in abundance, always fresh and always seasonal. Tomatoes are used for making sauces to go with the local pasta and aubergines, peppers and courgettes are roasted and grilled as an accompaniment to meat.

The interior of Puglia is rocky and many sheep and goats are bred there for their meat as well as their milk which is used for a variety of cheeses. Lamb is the most popular meat, followed by pork.

Puglia has many delicious local cheeses, perhaps the most famous being Burrata which is made from mozzarella and cream. Others include Cacioricotta – a seasonal Ricotta cheese made from unpasteurized ewes’ milk, Canestrato – a hard cheese which is a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, Fallone di Gravina and Caciofiore.

Fish plays a large part in the cuisine of Puglia and the long coastline offers a large array of fresh fish on a daily basis. Sea bass, red mullet, anchovies, mussels and cuttlefish are among the favorites.

In spite of this excess of food, the daily cuisine in Puglia, as in the other southern regions of Italy, tends to be simple, fresh and wholesome with most locals growing, rearing and making enough for their individual needs.

Puglia 6

Dinner Party Menu For Six

Antipasto

Puglia 1

Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 8 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 10 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Place the peppers in a hot oven (400 degrees F) for about half an hour or under the broiler until the skins start to blacken. Take them out of the oven, cool and then peel off the skins.
Cut the peppers into strips, about 2 inches wide.

Grease the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and place a layer of peppers. Sprinkle a few capers, a few slices of garlic, some of the chopped anchovy fillets, a sprinkle of bread crumbs and a little salt and pepper on the peppers. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients are used.

When the top layer is finished, drizzle with olive oil. Then place the pan in a 400 degree F oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the peppers are tender and the bread crumbs are brown.

puglia 5

Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)

Ingredients

  • 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 14 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm water

Directions

Combine the all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix until thoroughly combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for a few minutes. Soften the dough by adding a little warm water, if it seems too dry.

Turn the dough out onto a bread board and roll pieces of the dough into long thin stripes about 4-5 inches long. Loop the ends around to form circles or pretzel shapes and space them out on wax paper to rest for to rise for 15 minutes covered with a clean kitchen cloth.

Heat the oven to 400° F.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan and drop a few of the taralli in the boiling water for a minute, turn with and cook another minute. Remove the boiled taralli with a slotted spoon to a wire rack to dry for a minute or two.

Place them on an oiled baking sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until brown and crispy. Cool completely.

First Course

Puglia 2

Tubettini con le Cozze

(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lb tubettini pasta (little tubes)

Directions

Wash the mussels well under running water and pull out the beards (the stringy bits hanging out of the shell) and place them in a bowl of cold water.

Heat a large pot of water for the pasta and when it comes to the boil add salt and the pasta tubes.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet with a cover and add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute and add the cherry tomatoes. Once they soften, add the white wine and bring to a boil so the alcohol evaporates. Season with salt and the crushed red pepper and add the mussels. Cover with the lid and cook until all the mussels open.

Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the mussels in the skillet, along with the chopped parsley and reserves pasta cooking liquid. Mix well on a low heat for a minute and serve.

Second Course

Puglia 3

Roasted Striped Bass

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4-6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large fresh fennel bulbs with fronds attached, trimmed; bulbs quartered lengthwise, then thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 1 large red onion, halved lengthwise through root end, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 – 1 1/2-pounds whole striped bass or fish that is available in your area, cleaned, gutted, scaled 
  • 1/4 cup (about) all-purpose flour
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted, halved

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400°F.

Boil wine in a medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve.

Generously brush an 18 x 12 x 1 inch baking sheet with olive oil. Arrange fennel slices in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Top with onion slices in single layer. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons oil over the vegetables.

Rinse fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle fish inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly dust outside of fish with flour. Pour enough olive oil into extra-large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan; heat over medium-high heat until pan is very hot.

Working with one fish at a time, add fish to the skillet and cook until a golden crust forms on the skin, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining fish. Add more oil, only if necessary.Carefully place fish on top of the vegetables on the baking sheet. Gently stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 crushed garlic cloves and then 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Pour reserved wine over vegetables on the baking sheet.

Roast fish uncovered until vegetables begin to soften, 35 to 40 minutes. Scatter tomato halves and olives around the fish; bake until fish is just cooked through, about 15 minutes longer. Transfer fish to large platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

Increase oven temperature to 475°F. Continue to bake vegetables uncovered until tender and tomatoes are very soft and beginning to color in spots, about 15 minutes more.
Arrange vegetable mixture around the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle chopped fennel fronds and serve.

Dessert

puglia 4

Baked Zeppole

Ingredients for the pastry dough

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 large eggs

Ingredients for the custard filling

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Jam

To make the pastry:

In a heavy saucepan, heat the water. Add the butter and the salt and remove from the stove once the butter has melted. Add the flour all at once. Beat with a wooden spoon. Return the pan to medium heat and beat the mixture until it forms a ball. Remove the pan from the heat again. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating the dough with a wooden spoon or hand mixer.

Note – make sure to blend in each egg well before proceeding to add in the next one.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Drop 1 1/4-inch portions of dough about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the puffs about 15 minutes at 400 degrees F and then for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Transfer the pastries to cooling racks.

To make the custard:

In a medium bowl, mix the cornstarch and sugar for the filing. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium-high heat until it’s almost boiling. Add the 6 eggs to the sugar and the cornstarch and gradually add a couple of large spoonfuls of the warm milk. When it’s well-blended, pour it into the pot with the rest of the milk and continue to cook until the mixture thickens.

To serve:

Use a small knife to cut each zeppole in half. Fill each zeppole with some custard, replace the top half and put the zeppole on a serving dish. Add a teaspoon of jam to each zeppole and dust them with confectioner’s sugar.


summer fruit

You think fruit, then dessert: fruit pies, fruit crumbles, fruit crisps, fruit compote on spongecake, fruit in ice cream or fruit on its own. When it’s hot and you need something refreshing, summer fruit fills the need– from tart blackberries to sweet strawberries to juicy peaches. However, there’s a savory side to summer fruit, that definitely deserves your attention.
Fresh fruit, summer fruit in particular, can really add something special to your recipes. When combined with the right ingredients, summer fruit can take on a savory flavor that’s far from a dessert — and just as good. I have included both desserts and savory dishes in the recipes in this post.
These summer fruits celebrate the freshest flavors of the season:

  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Cherries
  • Blackberries
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Passion Fruit
  • Melons
  • Lemons
  • Limes

summer fruit 1

Vegetable Salad With Blackberry-Shallot Vinaigrette

Chopped salads add a splash of color to a meal. If you’re making this salad in advance, keep the salad and dressing separate and hold off adding the tomatoes and avocado until just before serving. You can substitute vegetables that are in season for some of the ones listed in the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped green beans or asparagus, steamed just until tender
  • 1 orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped radishes
  • 1/2 head radicchio, chopped
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 10 blackberries, halved

Dressing

  • 10 whole blackberries
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In large bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, green beans, bell pepper, radishes and radicchio. In a separate small bowl, toss avocados with lemon juice to coat and then fold into the salad.

For the dressing:

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a small bowl and place whole berries for the dressing in the strainer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash berries through the strainer to separate the juice from the pulp and seeds. Discard pulp and seeds. Whisk together the blackberry juice, shallot, olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle desired amount over the salad. You may not need to use the entire amount of dressing. Top with pine nuts, the halved blackberries and serve. Serves 4.

summer fruit 3

Summer Fruit Soup

Makes about 4 cups; (serving size: 1 cup)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups ripe cantaloupe chunks (about 1 inch)
  • 3-4 ripe peaches (1 lb), peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup white Zinfandel wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Honey (optional)
  • 1 cup raspberries, rinsed and drained
  • Mint sprigs, rinsed

Directions

In a blender or food processor, puree cantaloupe, peaches, white Zinfandel and lemon juice until smooth. Taste and add honey if desired.
Pour soup into a container, cover, and chill until cold, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day. To chill faster, nest container in a bowl of ice water and stir soup often until cold, about 30 minutes.
Pour the soup into shallow bowls. Scatter raspberries on top. Garnish with mint sprigs.

summer fruit 4

Mozzarella, Basil and Nectarines with Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients

  • 4 large nectarines
  • 12 large basil leaves
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 thick round slices
  • 1 cup plain panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

Directions

Combine vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid is slightly syrupy. Remove fromthe  heat and pour the vinegar into a glass measuring cup. Set aside to cool and thicken.

Cut the nectarines into ¼ inch thick circles, going around the pit and keeping the slices whole.

Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sear both sides of the nectarines for 1 minute or until warmed, but still firm. Alternately, you can grill the nectarines directly on the grill. Keep the nectarines warm while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a large bowl, combine the panko crumbs, flour, parmesan, salt, pepper and cayenne, mixing thoroughly to combine.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Take each slice of fresh mozzarella and coat it in the beaten egg, then dredge it through the bread crumb mix, pressing on both sides to adhere. Repeat with the remaining slices.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet and when hot, saute the coated mozzarella slices, turning carefully once, until golden and the cheese starts to melt but still retains its shape, about 1 minute on each side. Drain on paper towels.

To assemble: place one nectarine slice on a plate, top with 1 slice of mozzarella and then a basil leaf. Repeat the layer one more time and finish with a nectarine slice. Garnish with basil and freshly grated pepper. Drizzle on the balsamic glaze.

Food 52

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

Plum Sauce

  • 1 pound pitted, chopped plums 
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 minced hot pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • Salt & Pepper

Pork

  • 2 boneless pork tenderloins
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

To make the sauce:

Bring all ingredients except the plums to a boil. Stir in the chopped plums. Reduce the heat and simmer very slowly until thick and syrupy, about 45 minutes. Depending on your preference for consistency, either puree in small batches in the blender, blend with an immersion blender or mash with a potato masher. The sauce may be made two days in advance.

To prepare the pork:

Heat an outdoor grill. Bank the coals on one side, so that one half is very hot and one half can be used for indirect cooking. If you have a gas grill, turn off one burner after the grill heats. Brush the hottest part of the grill with a little oil so the pork won’t stick.

Pat pork tenderloins dry with paper towels. Lightly salt and pepper them on all sides. Sear the pork on all sides over the hot side of the grill. Move the pork to the indirect heat, brush liberally with some plum sauce and cover the grill for about 8-10 minutes. Total cooking time, including searing is 15-18 minutes. If you have a thermometer, cook to 155 degrees F.

Heat some plum sauce in a small saucepan on the stove or the grill. Remove the pork from the grill and tent with foil, allowing the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Slice the tenderloins. Pool the plum sauce on the plate and serve with the sliced tenderloin fanned out on top. This dish goes well with garlicky, sautéed greens.

summer fruit 2

Creamy Rice Pudding with Peaches

Ingredients

  • 5 cups whole milk (or any combination of whole and 2 percent reduced-fat milk), divided
  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 ripe peaches, peeled and mashed

Directions

Combine 4 cups milk, rice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Whisk egg yolks and about 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture together in a small bowl. Whisk back into the pan and add the remaining 1 cup milk. Place over medium heat and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool and chill at least 2 hours before serving. Top with mashed peaches.

100_0723

Blackberry or Blueberry Crumble

Blackberries were plentiful this year where I live. I had more than enough to use in fruit salads and decided to make this dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 cups mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons King Arthur clear gel for fruit pies or cornstarch

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar,the  1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt and oats. Using a pastry blender, a fork or your hands cut in the butter. Keep mixture cold until ready to use.

In a large bowl combine berries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and clear gel or cornstarch; toss to coat. Pour the blackberry mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Top with the crumble topping. Bake until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.


carpet flower_festival_italy

The “Infiorata Festival” is an Italian tradition that sees the streets paved with flowers during the month of May and June, from North to South, they are held in various Italian towns where these festivals take place. Individual artists display their talents on side streets and the public is invited to browse the “street gallery”. Three festivals in particular are worth noting: Noto – Sicily, Genzano – Lazio and Spello – Umbria.

carpet

The word “infiorata” literally means “decorated with flowers” and this is exactly how the paintings created for the occasion are made, using flower petals, earth and, sometimes, even beans or wood cuttings. Tracing its origins to the 13th century, the Infiorata flower tradition, as we know it today, dates back to the seventeenth century.

carpet 1

The infiorata artists use flower petals of varying colors to create both simple and elaborate designs on the streets leading up to their churches and abbeys. After months of work on the actual designs, the next step is to sketch them on the floor in chalk and mark each line with soil or coffee grounds. Then comes the job of filling in the designs with flower petals, using individual petals the way painters use the colors on their palette. Some tapestries also use entire flowers and other greenery, making for three-dimensional scenes.

carpete noto 1

carpet noto

Noto

One of the most famous infiorata festivals is in Noto and takes place between the 16th and 18th of May. Noto is a beautiful town in southeast Sicily and, over the three festival days, the city is quite literally covered in flower petals for the “Infiorata di Noto”. This event has taken place since 1980 and it’s a celebration of Spring and a chance for local artists to display their skills while using the most natural materials possible: flower petals, earth and, sometimes, beans or wood cuttings. The entire town of Noto takes part in the design of these unbelievable creations that have a maximum life span of 48 hours – since they are prepared between a Friday and Saturday and are showcased on Sunday. The main viewing area is in the Via Nicolaci, where people can look down to enjoy the flower images.

carpet Genzano 1

Genzano

Genzano

Genzano

June is really a beautiful time of year in Genzano di Roma. This small town is located about 18 miles (29 kilometers) away from Rome. The tradition of making flower carpets along the route of the Corpus Christi procession started in 1778. In 2014, the infiorata will be held on the 22nd and 23rd of June. During this festival the whole Italo Belardi street is covered with flower carpets. In the past there were carpets dedicated to women, ecology, the late Pope John Paul II, Italian history, etc. In the 1990’s, several Italian fashion designers, for example Gianni Versace and Laura Biagiotti, participated in the festival.

Spello

Spello

Spello

Spello

Spello’s Infiorate takes place every year on the occasion of the Corpus Domini feast. On that night, thousands of people work nonstop to create carpets and pictures made of flowers along the narrow town’s streets. The floral creations cover the streets throughout the historical center in preparation of the passage of a religious procession by the bishop on Sunday morning. The result is a unique mile-long carpet path of beautiful floral creations.

The custom of throwing flowers or creating flower compositions is a dateless event in many areas of the world. In Spello this tradition, which has gone from first throwing flowers, then to placing them in art forms on the pavement, is documented in the Municipal archives for the first time in 1831. As techniques evolved, what was once a long uninterrupted carpet of flowers characterized by a relatively simple design, morphed into sophisticated and larger compositions. Distinct groups of creators emerged, focusing on improving artistic execution and addressing more complex religious and social messages. Spello’s Infiorate creators compose their carpets using only flowers collected in the wild. While the use of other parts of the plants, like leaves and berries is allowed, the preference is given to the use of petals only, either fresh or dried. The use of wood and any kind of synthetic material is prohibited.

From Sicily to Liguria, these Italian artistic carpets with flower petals are the pride of the citizens and local artists, who make use of local resources in their designs. During the course of the events, there are artistic and educational workshops, thematic conferences and many musical events.

Sampling the Cuisine of These Regions:

Spello

Umbria

The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located almost in the center of the country and there are no metropolitan cities in the region. With the Apennine Mountains to the east and Tuscany to the west, Umbria’s terrain is a mixture of pastureland, hills and forests. Wheat, spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer and wild pigs, providing game meats and venison as hearty elements to many Umbrian dishes. Pork products in particular are the reason chefs worldwide seek out meats from this area. Prosciutto di Norcia is made exclusively from the meat of pigs fed only acorns to give the meat a distinctive woodsy flavor.

carpet soup

Minestra Di Zucca, Farro E Verdure

(Squash And Farro Soup With Greens)

Farro is a member of the wheat family and is related to emmer, spelt and similar grains. It has a nutty taste and a chewy texture. Farro tolerates poor soil and high altitudes, which is why it has been grown for centuries in the mountains of Tuscany, Umbria and Abruzzi. Farro labeled “semiperlato (partly pearled)” will cook faster than ordinary farro and farro labeled “perlato (pearled)” will cook even faster. If you encounter completely untreated farro, soak in water overnight before cooking.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1 to 2 sage leaves)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups farro
  • 1 medium butternut squash (or almost any eating pumpkin or squash), peeled, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups roughly chopped greens (cabbage, kale or escarole)
  • 12 cups stock (meat, chicken or vegetable)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a soup pot, warm the garlic in the olive oil over low heat for a few minutes without browning the garlic. Discard garlic.
Add herbs, bay leaf, celery and onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and just turning golden.
Add the farro and squash, turn the heat to medium and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Add the greens and stock and simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the farro is tender, but still a little chewy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Genzano

Lazio

The region of Lazio is often seen as the center of Italian culture. Its mountain-to-sea terrain offers a rich variety of landscapes with growing and producing conditions close to ideal. Oxtail, veal, pork, lamb, spaghetti, gnocchi, bucatini, garlic, tomatoes, truffles, potatoes, artichokes, olives, grapes, buffalo mozzarella and pizza … the choices are overflowing.
Lazio has developed food that is a great example of how the simple dishes of the poor working classes influenced the cuisine of the country. Add to this a heavy influence of Jewish culture and delightful and unexpected combinations emerge: pork with potato dumplings or artichokes stuffed with mint. Very little is wasted in Lazian cooking. Almost any bit of this or that leftover – vegetables, herbs, oils, cheeses, cream, meats – can be combined with each other and with spaghetti for a delicious meal that can range from light to hearty.

carpet Gnocchi-alla-romana

Gnocchi alla Romana

6 first-course servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup semolina (sometimes labeled “semolina flour” and resembles fine yellow cornmeal)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 1/2 cups), divided
  • 1 large egg

Directions

Whisk together milk, semolina and 1 teaspoon salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking. Simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until very stiff, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Beat in egg.
Spread gnocchi mixture 1/2 inch thick on an oiled baking sheet and chill, uncovered, until very firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Cut out rounds from the gnocchi mixture with a 2-inch round cookie cutter (push scraps into remaining mixture as you go) and arrange, slightly overlapping, in a well-buttered 13 by 9 inch baking dish. Make a small second layer in the center of dish with any remaining rounds. Brush gnocchi with remaining 1/4 cup melted butter and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bake in the middle of the oven until gnocchi are beginning to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

noto-1

Sicily

The island region of Sicily is located in the warm Mediterranean waters right off the toe of southern Italy’s “boot”. The mountains and hills provide excellent locations for growing a wide variety of food products. The western part of the island is devoted to growing grapes and is rich in the winemaking tradition. Wheat grows well on the high plains areas. The southern tip of Sicily is known for almonds and the northern hills for chestnut and walnut trees. The citrus orchards are some of the most abundant on the planet. Swordfish, sea bass, cuttlefish and tuna are coastline staples. Deer roam wild and pigs are raised for pork and sausage dishes.

Cow, sheep and goat herding is a traditional practice, providing plenty of meat, as well as, milk for local cheeses. Caciocavallo (“cheese on horseback”), a cow’s milk cheese, gets its distinctive teardrop shape from being left hanging to dry in pouch-like bags. Many of the flavors introduced into Sicilian cuisine have taken influence from African trade coming through the region and so the additions of apricots, melons, pine nuts, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and saffron are not unusual in Sicilian dishes, including the more traditional Italian elements of tomatoes, olives, eggplants, beans and peppers. Sicily is home to many sweets the world has come to equate with Italian cuisine. This region is master of the well-known cannoli, fried pastry tubes most often filled with smooth and sweetened ricotta cheese.

carpet ChickenOlivesLinguine

Vinegar Chicken with Olives & Linguine

4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz dried Linguine
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 large cloves garlic
  • 1 medium bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
  • 1/4 cup pitted olives (Kalamata, green or other favorite)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, chives)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Additional fresh herbs for garnish 

Directions

Trim any excess fat and skin from the chicken and set aside.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Place the chicken in the skillet; cook 2 to 3 minutes until browned. Turn the chicken; sprinkle with black pepper. Scatter garlic cloves around the chicken; cook 2 to 3 minutes until browned, stirring garlic as needed.
Add bell pepper and olives to skillet; sprinkle herbs over the chicken and peppers. Pour wine into skillet. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain and place in a serving bowl or a platter.
Remove chicken and peppers from the skillet and arrange over the pasta. Stir vinegar into the pan. Bring to a boil and pour over the chicken and pasta. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired.


hazelnuts

Hazelnuts have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. The hazel part of its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “haesel” meaning a headdress or bonnet, referring to the shape of the outer shell covering. Hazelnuts are native to Asia Minor and they spread to Italy, Spain, France and Germany via Greece. Prior to the 1940s, hazelnuts were imported to the United States. Today, they are grown commercially in the Northwest US. In the food industry, hazelnuts are currently eaten raw, roasted, blanched, minced, sliced, powdered and pureed. Hazelnuts are also used as a premium ingredient in chocolates, biscuits, confectionary products, sweets, pastries and ice cream and in sauces and salads.

Hazelnuts are about the size of a small marble. The nut meat is encased in a hard shell that resembles an acorn without its cap. The nut meat has a bitter brown paper-thin skin that is removed before eating. These nuts contain 88 percent unsaturated oil, which is pressed for use and known as the delicately flavored hazelnut oil. Although it cannot be heated to high temperatures, this oil is favored by gourmets worldwide and is relatively expensive. Hazelnut cooking oil has a similar composition to extra virgin olive oil with high content in Omega 9 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This makes hazelnuts another healthy cooking oil option with flavorful taste.

Why are hazelnuts sometimes called filberts?

Well, there doesn’t seem to be one explanation. The most commonly accepted explanation is because hazelnuts mature on or around St. Philibert’s Day on August 20. Other historians believe the term filbert derives from the German, vollbart meaning full beard, a reference to the appearance of the husked shell. Hazelnuts are also known as cob nuts in some areas. Other experts claim these are all different varieties of the nut, but once shelled, they are quite difficult to tell apart.

Buying and Storing Hazelnuts

Check hazelnuts for freshness by picking up a nut and shaking it. If it rattles inside the shell, this is an indication it has lost moisture due to age or mishandling and is now stale. The shells should be free of cracks or holes. Most markets now carry shelled and ground hazelnuts, which can be quite a timesaver in the kitchen.

At room temperature, unshelled hazelnuts seldom last more than a month. Once shelled, they should be eaten as soon as possible. Shelled hazelnuts should last unopened up to 4 months in the refrigerator or 1 year in the freezer.

Hazelnut oil is more fragile. Store the oil in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Hazelnut oil should be used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Avoid heat when using hazelnut oil so as not to sacrifice its delicate flavor. When adding to sauces, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in at the last moment.

Hazelnut Preparation

  • For full flavor, roast and cool raw shelled hazelnuts before grinding or chopping.
  • To remove the paper skin, spread shelled hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast at 275 degrees F (130 C), stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the skins begin to break. Roll in a clean kitchen towel, let rest for 10 minutes, and then gently rub back and forth to remove the skins. Some bits of the skin may remain.
  • Bring hazelnuts to room temperature before using.

Equivalent Amounts

  • 2-1/4 pounds hazelnuts in the shell = 1 pound shelled nut meats.
  • 1 pound hazelnuts in the shell = 1-1/2 cups nut meats.
  • 1 pound shelled hazelnuts = 3-1/2 cups.
  • 1 cup shelled = 5 ounces.
  • 4 ounces ground, lightly packed = 3/4 cup.
  • 1 ounce ground, lightly packed = about 3-1/2 Tablespoons.
  • Macadamia nuts may be substituted for hazelnuts.

hazelnut 5

Arugula Salad with Poached Pears & Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 pears, peeled, stems attached, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 2 cups grape juice
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 5 oz baby arugula leaves
  • 3 oz red lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

Directions

To make the poached pears:

Remove the core of each pear using a melon baller keeping the pear intact.

Place the wine and grape juice in a large saucepan. Add the pears, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 25 minutes or until tender turning them as needed, then remove pan from the heat and cool the pears for about 10 minutes in the liquid. Remove pears from the poaching liquid, transfer to a plate and let cool. Discard liquid.

To toast the nuts:

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake until the nuts are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove pan from the oven and set the nuts aside to cool; then rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.

To make the dressing:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the shallots and vinegar. Slowly add the oil while constantly whisking to blend. Whisk in the water and season the dressing with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To make the salad:

Cut each of the poached pear halves into 4 wedges.
Toss the arugula, red lettuce, parsley, pears and half of the nuts in a large mixing bowl with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and gently mound the salad onto a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining nuts and Parmesan cheese and serve.

hazelnut 4

Chicken Scaloppine with Hazelnut-Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup Madeira
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, chopped 

Directions

Slice each chicken breast half into 2 cutlets. Place cutlets between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using a mallet, pound each piece to about 1/3-inch thickness. Sprinkle pounded chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.

Melt butter with oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

Transfer chicken to plate; cover to keep warm. Add the shallot to the same skillet and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the Madeira and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add cream; boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over the chicken and serve.

hazelnut 2

Lentil and Hazelnut Patties

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups dry lentils or use 1½ cups canned lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 of a medium onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Tzatziki Sauce, recipe below

Directions

Rinse the dried lentils and place them in a medium saucepan with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Add water, if needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered. Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy. Older lentils may take longer to cook and shed their outer skins as they cook. (The best way to tell if they are cooked is to taste one.) Drain the lentils. Return the lentils to the saucepan and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Combine lentils, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, egg and hazelnuts. Stir in thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Mold into 4 burger-sized patties.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add patties and brown on both sides. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Transfer onto a serving platter and serve with Tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated peeled, seeded cucumber 
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Pat cucumber dry with paper towels. Combine cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill 1 hour.

hazelnut 1

Hazelnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 (12 ounces each) boneless pork tenderloins
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Wine Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the pork:

Trim the pork of its silverskin and cut each tenderloin in half crosswise. (You will have 4 pieces.)

In 3 separate shallow bowls, place the flour, egg and hazelnuts. Add the salt and pepper to the flour. Dip the pork, on all sides, including the ends, first in the flour, then the egg and finally the hazelnuts. Make sure to coat the pork pieces completely with the nuts.

In a 10-inch skillet over moderate heat, heat the vegetable oil and saute the pork on all sides until golden brown. Transfer the browned pork to a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees F.

For the sauce:

Add the olive oil to the pan used to brown the pork. Saute the shallots over medium high heat until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour over the shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the white wine, chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
Cut the pork tenderloins into 1/2-inch slices and place on a serving platter. Top the pork with the sauce and garnish with rosemary.

hazelnut 3

Italian Hazelnut Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 275°F oven, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.

Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; and turn the oven up to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a large bowl.

Beat egg whites and the salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.

Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through the baking time, 25 to 30 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.



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