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
- 24 grape tomatoes
- 12 cherry-size fresh mozzarella cheese balls
- 24 fresh basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
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.
Marinated Cheese with Peppers and Olives
- 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
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix gently. Refrigerate, covered, at least 4 hours or overnight. Yield: 12 servings.
Southern Style Shrimp Boil
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
- Roasted Corn and Tomatoes with Basil (thestoutsprout.wordpress.com)
- Cherry Recipe of the Month | Grilled Chicken & Fresh Cherry Salsa (shopcherrycreeknow.wordpress.com)
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.
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.
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 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.
Chickpea and Chestnut Soup
This ancient soup recipe of chickpeas and chestnuts is one of the typical dishes of the area.
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
- Small bunch mint, chopped
- Crushed red pepper flakes
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.
The whitefish sauce is served with fettuccine or spaghetti.
- 1 whitefish, filled
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup white wine
- 3-4 peeled and chopped tomatoes
- Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Cooked pasta
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.
Risotto with Perch Fillets
This risotto uses the freshwater perch in the starring role.
- 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
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.
Sweet Rice Fritters (Frittelle di Riso)
Makes about 40
- 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
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.
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.
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
Here are some of the recipes I used for this menu.
Eggplant Tomato Bake
- 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
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.
- 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
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
- 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
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
- 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)
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.
- 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
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
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
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
- Five Reasons to Join a CSA (viewsfromhere.com)
- Summer CSA: Week 1 (fitnessandfeta.com)
- Week 8: June 25, 2014 (sneadsfarm.wordpress.com)
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.
Dinner Party Menu For Six
Pepperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers)
- 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
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.
Taralli Scaldati (Dry Bread)
- 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
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.
Tubettini con le Cozze
(Small Pasta Tubes with Mussels)
- 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)
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.
Roasted Striped Bass
- 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
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.
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
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.
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.
- Delicious Everyday Puglian Wines (selectitaly.com)
- Calzone di cipolla alla pugliese (Puglian Onion Pie) (memoriediangelina.com)
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:
- Passion Fruit
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.
- 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
- 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
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 Soup
Makes about 4 cups; (serving size: 1 cup)
- 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
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.
Mozzarella, Basil and Nectarines with Balsamic Glaze
- 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
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.
Pork Tenderloin with 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
- 2 boneless pork tenderloins
- Vegetable oil
- Salt & Pepper
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.
Creamy Rice Pudding with Peaches
- 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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
- Sustainable Summer Grilling (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Radicchio and Orange Salad (drsusansolutions.wordpress.com)
- Mojito Fruit Salad (cityliciousrecipes.wordpress.com)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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:
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.
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
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.
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.
Gnocchi alla Romana
6 first-course servings
- 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
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.
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.
Vinegar Chicken with Olives & Linguine
- 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
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.
Basil comes in many different varieties, each of which have a unique flavor and smell. Described below are 12 varieties, but there are even more – well over sixty. I never realized that there were so many varieties of basil until I shopped at a nursery for my plants. If it weren’t for its distinctive smell, it would be difficult to recognize all the different kinds of basil. Leaves range from a mint color to dark green to purple and grow in size from tiny to large – some are even ruffled!
Basil is traditional in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cuisine. It is superb with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese and eggs. It blends well with garlic, thyme and lemon. Basil adds zip to mild vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, spinach and to the soups, stews and sauces that contain these vegetables. Basil is also one of the ingredients in the liqueur, Chartreuse.
Bring the wonderful fragrance of basil indoors by incorporating them in potpourri, sachets and dried winter bouquets. The sweet-scented Opal basil and Thai basil are particularly good for these projects. Other fragrant varieties include lemon, lime and cinnamon basil.
With 2-inch, glossy green leaves and purple flowers, Christmas basil adds fruity flavor to salads and drinks, and the plants are gorgeous in the landscape. A beautiful border plant, it averages 16 to 20 inches tall and combines the attributes of both Sweet and Thai basil.
This basil variety has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor. A beautiful, 25 to 30 inch tall plant with dark-purple stems and flowers accented with small, glossy leaves. it’s a favorite basil to use for fresh arrangements, garnishes and in fruit salads.
3. Dark Opal Basil
Dark Opal basil adds color to fresh summer floral displays and depth to dried arrangements and wreaths. Beautiful and spicy in a salad or as a garnish, it can also be made into pesto, which adds an unexpected color and flavor to your pasta or bruschetta. The plants are attractive in the herb garden, ranging from 14 to 20 inches in height with purple stems, flower and leaves.
4. Holy Basil
A revered plant in the Hindu religion, Holy basil is also referred to as Sacred basil or Tulsi. Its leaves can be used to make tea for boosting your immune system. It is a beautiful plant in the garden with mottled green and purple leaves and grows to about 12 to 14 inches tall.
5. Lemon Basil
This basil variety can be added to salads and fish dishes. A sprig of Lemon basil in a glass of iced tea is particularly delightful on a hot summer day. The 20 to 24 inch plants are light green with white flowers and 2½ inch long leaves.
6. Lime Basil
With small green leaves on compact 12 to 16-inch plants with white flowers, this basil variety’s lime scent and flavor makes it great in fish and chicken dishes. A simple syrup infused with Lime basil is a delicious addition to tea and margaritas.
7. Spicy Bush Basil
Spicy Bush basil has tiny leaves on small, mounded plants, which are perfect for pots or lining the garden in bonsai-like fashion. It only takes a few of Spicy Bush basil’s intensely flavored leaves to add a punch to a sauce or soup. The plants are a soft green and about 8 to 10 inches in height and width, with 1/2 to 1 inch long leaves.
8. Purple Ruffles Basil
A feathery variation of Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles adds another dimension to the landscape, floral arrangements or garnishes. It has the same flavor as Opal basil and can be used similarly. It is a 16 to 20 inch-tall plant with 2 to 3 inch long leaves.
9. Sweet Basil
This basil cultivar is the best choice for Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto. Varieties include Genovese, Napoletano, Italian Large Leaf and Lettuce Leaf. Plants range from 14 to 30 inches tall and are prolific in hot, sunny locations. Harvest the top four leaves often to keep the plant growing and sweetly flavored.
10. Sweet Thai Basil
An Asian variety with a distinct, spicy, anise-clove flavor, quite unlike common sweet basil, sweet Thai is a must for Asian cuisine and makes a nice addition to the herb garden for fragrance and color. It has purple stems and blooms with green leaves reaching 12 to 16 inched tall.
11. Greek Columnar
Greek Columnar’s attractive appearance is in the plant’s dense columnar shape. It does not flower, so the plant can be maintained throughout the year. It can be grown indoors in the winter. This basil has a pungent flavor that is best for stews and hearty dishes.
12. Lettuce Leaf Basil
Lettuce Leaf Basil has the look of green, wrinkly lettuce but packs a bigger punch. The spicy flavor is typical of basils and tastes great with fresh tomatoes, in salads (your guests will be surprised by the rich flavor of what looks like a regular salad leaf!) and in any type of Mediterranean dishes. Pinch back the flowers to make a fuller plant.
Resources: Pantry Garden Herbs and Hobby Farms.
Basil Herb Dip
A cool and refreshing dip for fresh vegetables and even chips and pretzels.
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon country-style mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice into a blender, then add the basil leaves.
Pulse until the basil is incorporated throughout the mixture.
Chill for at least 20 minutes. This will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Italian Large Leaf
Tuscan Bread Salad
- 2 teaspoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 slices of thick, whole grain or crusty bread cut in chunks
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 1/2 cucumber, diced
- 4-5 jarred artichoke hearts, diced
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese cut in chunks
- 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
- 1/3 cup torn basil leaves
Gently combine the bread, vegetables, basil, and cheese together.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with vinegar and oil. Chill.
Use one of these varieties:
Basil, Italian Large leaf
Basil, Purple Ruffle
- 1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup chicken broth
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter.
After draining the cooked pasta, return the pasta to the cooking pot and place over medium heat.
Toss the pasta with the onion mixture, add chicken broth.
Beat the eggs and pour over the hot pasta stirring constantly to coat pasta and cook for about 3 minutes.
Add Parmesan, bacon and torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Use one of these varieties:
Italian Large Leaf
Zucchini Basil Soup
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ cups roughly chopped sweet onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 1 cup seeded and chopped sweet bell pepper (any color)
- 2½ cups coarsely chopped zucchini
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, loosely packed
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh sweet basil
- Any number of toppings can add additional flavor: chopped fresh tomato, diced squash, croutons or Parmesan cheese.
Heat the olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, garlic and salt until vegetables start to soften. Stir in pepper, zucchini and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the pepper is soft, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the spinach and basil just until wilted. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth. Add a topping and serve
Makes about 6 servings.
Roast Beef Wraps with Garlic Basil Aioli
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, loosely packed fresh basil (any variety will work in this sandwich)
- 4 8-inch whole-grain sandwich wraps
- 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
- 6 ounces roast beef (Italian-style if available), thinly sliced
- 6 ounces Provolone cheese, thinly sliced
To make the aioli, place mayonnaise, garlic and basil in a blender; purée until smooth.
Divide the mixture into four portions and spread each wrap evenly with aioli. Lay the spinach leaves evenly over the aioli.
Place beef, then Provolone in single layers over the spinach. Roll up tightly.
Chill until ready to serve.
- Cooking With Italian Herbs – Basil (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Cheesy Tomato Basil Quesadilla (cookingwithawallflower.wordpress.com)
- Basil, So Many Choices, So Little Time (simplylovegardening.wordpress.com)
The grill or fire pit has held an important place in virtually every country and culture throughout history. Although we often use the terms “grilling” and “barbecuing” interchangeably, there is a difference! Barbecuing involves cooking foods slowly at a low temperature using indirect heat. Often, barbecue is cooked in a smoker or fire pit. This method provides a delicious, smoky flavor and exceptional tenderness, but it takes time — from a few hours to all day. Barbecuing works best for large cuts of meat or turkeys and for tougher cuts like brisket or spareribs that benefit from long slow cooking.
Charcoal grills provide a more distinctive flavor and backyard aroma and it’s easy to combine wood chips or other natural ingredients with the coals for additional flavor. However, charcoal is messy and sometimes difficult to ignite and, once lit, it takes a little while to reach the desired temperature. (Hint: To avoid lighter fluid, try using a starter cone or chimney starter.) Gas grills ignite easily and maintain an even temperature from start to finish, but they are more expensive than charcoal grills, they do not provide a smoky flavor and they are not suited for burning wood chips. To cook indirectly on a gas grill, leave one burner off and place the meat on the grate directly over the cool burner. For a charcoal grill, pile all the coals along the sides of the grill and place the food in the center, away from the hot coals. Place a metal drip pan beneath the grate where the food will sit, to collect juices as it cooks.
Tips for Prepping and Heating the Grill
- Clean your grill, especially the rack, before each use.
- Oil the rack prior to heating to prevent food from sticking.
- The area of the fire needs to be wider than the area of the food you’re grilling. If you are cooking a variety of items using charcoal, pile coals at different levels to achieve the right level of heat for each item.
- Preheat your charcoal grill and don’t skimp on the charcoal. Light the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to begin cooking. Do not put foods on the grill until the fire dies down to glowing coals.
- Even gas grills need to preheat. Turn on the flame at least 15 minutes before putting food over the fire.
Grilling Beef & Pork
The appropriate heat level and cooking time are crucial for grilling meat that is tender and juicy. Each type of cut has its own rules:
- Use direct heat for sausages, chops, steaks and hamburgers and indirect heat for roasts and larger cuts of meat.
- Slash the edges of steaks and chops on the diagonal, about ¼ inch into the center to prevent the edges from curling.
- Resist the urge to squeeze or press down on your meat! This will result in a tougher, less juicy cut.
- Steaks like filet mignon, rib eye, top sirloin and New York strip are naturally tender and need nothing more than a seasoning rub or a bit of salt and pepper.
- Pork needs a marinade or a rub before being placed on the grill.
- Pork spare ribs and baby back ribs can be pre-baked and then grilled to achieve a smoky flavor.
- Start sausage on high heat to get a grill marks on the outside, then move it to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.
Whether you choose chicken, duck, turkey or game hen, using a dry rub or marinade will maximize flavor. Once you’ve selected your specific poultry and seasoning method, prep the grill and cook accordingly:
- Thin pieces of poultry can be cooked over direct heat; larger pieces of chicken should be cooked over indirect heat.
- Cook whole and butterflied poultry breast-side down.
- Place a drip pan under a whole chicken and turkey breast to catch juices.
Quick-cooking seafood is a great choice for grilling on a busy weeknight. When grilling seafood take extra care not to overcook it. When it comes to seasoning, it’s best to select lighter marinades and seasonings that do not mask the delicate flavor of seafood.
- Oil fish well with a neutral-flavored oil such as canola to help keep it moist.
- Fish cooks quickly using the direct heat method. Remove it from the grill as soon as it’s done; it will continue to cook once it has been removed from the fire.
- Once you put the fish on the grill, don’t touch it until a crust forms on the outside, which will allow the fish to naturally pull away from the grates. Once the crust has formed, it can be turned over without sticking or falling apart.
- Thin pieces of fish can be wrapped in foil, so they do not fall apart or use an oiled grill basket or skewers for shrimp and scallops.
- Firm fish, such as swordfish, are ideal for cooking on the grill.
- Placing fish on cedar planks when grilling imparts a subtle wood flavor. (Try different woods for slightly different flavors!) Soak the plank in water for at least an hour prior to grilling to prevent it from catching on fire. Most fish fillets will cook on a plank, without turning, in about 20 minutes.
- Fish is naturally tender and should not sit in an acid-based marinade (like lemon juice) for longer than 20 minutes, or it will start to “cook” the fish, turning it mushy.
- Shrimp should be marinated (with or without the shells) or brushed lightly with oil.
- Cook shrimp until it turns pink and opaque, about 5-7 minutes. Turn it halfway through cooking. Take care not to overcook or it will become tough.
Grilling Veggies and Fruits
Grilling intensifies the natural sweetness and flavor of most veggies and fruits. To achieve good results:
- Use a light brushing of oil on vegetables and fruits to prevent sticking. A grilling basket or foil packets lightly coated with oil can also be helpful.
- Leave the husks on corn to act as a natural insulator, keeping the steam in and preventing the corn from drying out.
- Some veggies (including artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash) can be pre-cooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly.
- Veggies like eggplant, fennel, onions, mushrooms, peppers, sweet potatoes, summer squash and tomatoes should be raw when placed on the grill.
- Watermelon, pineapple, apples, peaches and pears can all take the heat. Soak them in liquor or drizzle with honey before grilling for added flavor.
- Meaty portabella mushrooms are a great burger substitute; while button mushrooms make for tasty kabobs.
- Cook all fruits and vegetables directly over moderately hot coals or use the indirect heat method. Rotate or move them to a cooler part of the grill during cooking as necessary to ensure that the outside doesn’t cook too quickly.
Quick Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can No-Salt-Added Diced Tomatoes
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoons onion, minced
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Put all ingredients into a small saucepan, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer to a blender and process, adding a few tablespoons of water as needed to make a smooth purée. Set aside to let cool, cover and chill until ready to serve. Reheat, if desired.
Grilled Chicken with Homemade Barbecue Sauce
Serve with coleslaw.
- 6 chicken legs with thighs attached or small bone-in breast halves (3 3/4 lbs. total)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Homemade barbecue sauce, recipe above
Coat chicken with the oil.
Build a charcoal or heat a gas grill to medium (350°F to 450°F); you can hold your hand 5 inches above the cooking grate only 5 to 7 seconds.
Grill chicken until browned all over, about 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Generously brush with some of the barbecue sauce and cook a few minutes; repeat turning and brushing 2 more times, until chicken is well-browned and cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes total.
Barbecued Beef Ribs
Serve with Potato Salad and Sliced Tomatoes.
- Rack of 6 beef ribs, at room temperature
- Homemade Barbecue Sauce, recipe above
Light a grill. Cut in between the bones to separate the rack into individual ribs. Grill the ribs over moderate heat, turning, until crusty and sizzling, about 10 minutes. Brush generously with the barbecue sauce and grill, turning, until deeply glazed, about 5 minutes longer. Serve the ribs, passing extra sauce on the side.
Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Garlic
Serve with a Cannellini Bean Salad.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 garlic clove, minced, plus 2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
- 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 8 lamb loin chops
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large, shallow dish, combine the 1/4 cup of olive oil with the thyme, minced garlic, rosemary and oregano. Add the lamb chops and turn to coat with the marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set the halved heads of garlic cut side up on a large sheet of foil and drizzle with oil. Wrap the garlic in the foil and roast for 1 hour.
Light a grill. Remove the chops from the marinade; discard the herbs and scrape off the garlic. Season the chops with salt and pepper and grill over moderate heat until lightly charred and medium-rare, 5 minutes per side. Grill the lemon slices until light grill marks appear. Serve the chops with the roasted garlic and lemon slices.
Grilled Swordfish with Tangy Onions & Fennel
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
- 4 red onions (1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 small fennel bulbs, cut through the cores into 3/4-inch-thick wedges
- Four 6-ounce swordfish steaks, about 3/4 inch thick
In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until lightly golden, about 4 minutes.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and light golden, about 15 minutes. Add the wine, vinegar, sugar and bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaf and keep the onions warm.
Meanwhile, preheat a grill. Brush the fennel wedges with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fennel over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Brush the swordfish steaks with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fish over moderately high heat until browned on the outside and just white throughout, about 3 minutes per side. Spoon the onions onto a serving plate and arrange the swordfish steaks and fennel on top. Scatter the capers and pine nuts over the fish.
Grilled Sausage and Pepper Salad
- 4 fresh pork or turkey Italian sausages
- 1/2 white onion, cut into thick rings
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- 3 jarred fire roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
- Italian vinaigrette, recipe below
Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill sausages and onion, turning occasionally, until onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes, and sausages are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, slice sausages thickly on the bias and cut onion into chunks. Toss romaine, feta and red peppers in a large bowl. Drizzle with the Italian Vinaigrette. Spoon romaine mixture onto plates and top with sausages and onion.
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian mixed herbs
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard
- 3 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Whisk all ingredients together, drizzling olive oil in at end, a little at a time.
Yields: 3/4 cup
- Tips for grilling out safely (rockrivertimes.com)
The city of Pompeii was an ancient town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania. Pompeii and much of the surrounding area, was mostly destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Researchers believe that the town was founded in the seventh or sixth century BC by the Oscans and was captured by the Romans in 80 BC. By the time of its destruction, 160 years later, its population was probably around 20,000 and the city had a complex water system, an amphitheatre, gymnasium and a port. The eruption was cataclysmic for the town. Details of the destruction originally came from a surviving letter by Pliny the Younger, who saw the eruption from a distance and described the death of his uncle Pliny the Elder, an admiral of the Roman fleet, who tried to rescue stranded victims.
A multidisciplinary volcanological and bio-anthropological study of the eruption remains, merged with numerical simulations and experiments, indicate that at Vesuvius and the surrounding towns, heat was the main cause of death of people, who previously were thought to have died by ash suffocation. The results of the study, published in 2010, show that exposure to at least 250 °C (482 °F) hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death, even if people were sheltered within buildings. After thick layers of ash covered the two towns, they were abandoned and eventually their names and locations were forgotten.
The first time any part of them was unearthed was in 1599, when the digging of an underground channel to divert the river Sarno ran into ancient walls covered with paintings and inscriptions. An architect, Domenico Fontana, was called in; he unearthed a few more frescoes, then covered them over again and nothing more came of the discovery. Fontana’s act of covering over the paintings has been seen as censorship due to the sexual content of the paintings that were not considered in good taste in the climate of the religious reformation of the time.
A broader and intentional rediscovery took place almost 150 years later by Spanish engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre in 1748. Charles of Bourbon took great interest in the findings, even after becoming king of Spain, because the display of antiquities reinforced the political and cultural power of Naples, when Naples was under Spanish rule. The artifacts provided a detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana ( a peaceful period during the Roman Empire). Giuseppe Fiorelli took charge of the excavations in 1863. During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realized these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to recreate the forms of Vesuvius’s victims. This technique is still in use today, with a clear resin now used instead of plaster because it is more durable and does not destroy the bones, allowing for further analysis.
The objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved for almost two thousand years. The lack of air and moisture allowed for the objects to remain underground with little to no deterioration, which meant that, once excavated, the site had a wealth of sources and evidence for analysis, giving detail into the lives of the Pompeians. However, once exposed, Pompeii has been subject to both natural and man-made forces which have rapidly increased their rate of deterioration. Weathering, erosion, light exposure, water damage, poor methods of excavation and reconstruction, the introduction of plants and animals, tourism, vandalism and theft have all damaged the site in some way. Two-thirds of the city has been excavated, but the remnants of the city are rapidly deteriorating. Today, funding is mostly directed into conservation of the site; however, due to the expanse of Pompeii and the scale of its problems, this is inadequate in halting the slow decay of the site. An estimated US-$335 million is needed for all necessary work on Pompeii. A large number of artifacts from Pompeii are preserved in the Naples National Archaeological Museum.
The ruins of the ancient Roman town of Ostia Antica about 18 miles southeast of Rome aren’t nearly as well-known as those of Pompeii. However, Ostia Antica has its own allure. Not only is it the second-best-kept ancient Roman city anywhere in the world (after Pompeii), but archeologists have also just discovered that there is far more of it than anyone ever knew. If the new discoveries are excavated, Ostia Antica will be far larger than the ruins of Pompeii and possibly provide an even better window into the past. The problem – there are no funds to do the digging and the site is adjacent to Rome’s busy Fiumicino airport runways, so it will likely stay buried.
Archeologists have already learned a lot from Ostia Antica, which was an important river port for goods traveling to and from ancient Rome. Historians have long thought that Ostia Antica’s border was the Tiber River, which winds through Rome and into the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of the new section of the ruins, which was led by the British Universities of Southampton and Cambridge, extends the city to the other side of the Tiber, meaning the river actually ran through the town, which changes everything. “This city was not just seafaring but also an emporium,” Darius Arya, an American archaeologist based in Rome who founded The American Institute for Roman Culture said, “We’ll learn a lot more about the goods shipped to and stored in this massive, sprawling town en route to Rome. There will be much more evidence of the warehouse and storage mechanisms and the associations that ran them.”
Like many discoveries, the new part of Ostia Antica was found by accident. Last summer, archeologists discovered a Roman mausoleum and ancient dwelling while cleaning up a landfill on an adjacent dig. “They found a circular mausoleum covered with travertine blocks, built between the end of the first century B.C and the start of the first century A.D.”, Paola Germoni, Ostia’s superintendent, said when she presented the project. A wall structure was discovered under the park’s humus layer and the illegal dump site revealed a beautiful marble-covered pavement. The “secret” part of the ancient Roman port of Ostia Antica that was unearthed by British archaeologists showed that Ostia was larger than the Pompeii site. The team discovered a building twice the size of a football field, a boundary wall and large defensive towers under fields near the Rome airport – making the area 35 per cent larger than previously thought.
The findings change the way we think about how Rome’s port worked and how emperors kept one million Romans supplied with food. It shows Rome was importing significantly more food through the port than was thought. “It also sheds light on how important Ostia was to trade in the first 200 years of the millennium,” said Mariarosaria Barbera, superintendent of Rome’s archaeological heritage. Using handheld magnetic scanners and software to create images similar to aerial photographs, the team discovered three warehouses and the large building, that may have been a warehouse or a public building.
A slow decadence began in the late Roman era, around the time of Constantine I, with the town ceasing to be an active port and instead becoming a popular country retreat for rich aristocrats from Rome. The decaying conditions of the city were mentioned by St. Augustine when he passed there in the late 4th century. The poet Rutilius Namatianus also reported the lack of maintenance of the city in 414. With the end of the Roman Empire, Ostia fell slowly into decay and was finally abandoned in the 9th century due to the repeated invasions and sackings by Arab pirates.
Ostia’s small museum offers a look at some of the city’s finest statuary — tangled wrestlers, kissing cupids and playful gods, to name just a few. Most of the statues are second and third century A.D. The portrait busts are of real people — the kind you’d sit next to in the public baths. Surviving frescoes, while scant, give a feeling for how living quarters may have looked. One display in the museum showed how the original Ostia Road was constructed: heavy posts buried deep and cemented in as a base, then a layer of stones, more concrete and finally the paving stones. Much of what had remained of these well-built roads was dug up and used for construction elsewhere.
The Cuisine of Pompeii and Ostia Antica
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 bunch dandelions (about 3/4 pound), bottom quarter of stems removed, washed and shredded
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat and when the butter melts add the garlic and the dandelions. Cook until the dandelions wilt and the water evaporates, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Pasta with Fried Eggs
- 1/2 pound perciatelli (bucatini) or spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated black pepper
- Finely chopped fresh parsley
Bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat, salt abundantly and add the pasta in handfuls. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally so the pasta doesn’t stick together, until al dente. Drain.
A few minutes before the pasta is done, melt the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops bubbling and turns a light brown, crack the eggs into the pan and cook until the tops set.
Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and toss with the cheese and pepper. Divide the pasta into two bowls and slide an egg on top of each. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve.
Grilled Pork Chops over Soft Bread
- 6 pork chops with some fat on them (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
- 1/4 cup melted lard or olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Six 1-inch-thick slices good-quality Italian bread, crusts removed, and a little larger than the pork chops
- Rosemary sprigs for garnish
Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high.
Brush the chops with some melted lard and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill, turning once and brushing several times with melted lard, for 10 minutes. Grill, turning and basting occasionally, until golden brown and the ring of fat is slightly crisp, about another 30 minutes. Place the bread on a platter and place the grilled chops on top. Sprinkle with more pepper, garnish with rosemary and let rest a few minutes before serving.