Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Monthly Archives: January 2017

 

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Florence is in the Tuscany region of Italy. Much of its area lies in the plain of the Arno River and it has become a suburban sprawl around the city of Florence. The northeastern part of the city, located in the Apennines, remains less developed.

Florence is a well-known cultural and tourist center and has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Major tourist attractions include the Piazza del Duomo, Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Loggia del Bigallo and Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, Ponte Vecchio and many others.

Sights in Barberino di Mugello include Cattani Castle and Palazzo Pretorio. The Certosa del Galluzzo houses artworks by Pontormo. Giovanni Boccaccio’s hometown, Certaldo, is home to the Palazzo Pretorio and Boccaccio’s House, while Vinci, the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, houses a museum dedicated to his work.

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Florence’s cobblestone streets are best navigated in relation to two landmarks: the Arno River, which splits the city in half from west to east and the old city doors, or porte, the remains of which mark the center of Florence, or centro storico. North of the Arno is where you’ll find the majority of famous sites and most of the tourists. The south side of the Arno is called the Oltrarno. It is similar to Paris’s Left Bank and is Florence’s bohemian quarter that is made up of art schools, artists’ studios and casual cafes. Florence is also a great base from which to take day trips into surrounding Tuscany or even nearby Emilia-Romagna, Liguria and Umbria. The best time to visit is late spring, early summer or early fall, when the streets are filled with locals and the weather is pleasant.

Corn, wine and silk are the chief products in the valley regions. Silk manufacturing was an important industry in the medieval times. Industrial complexes in the suburbs produce goods from furniture, to rubber goods, to chemicals and food. However, traditional and local products, such as antiques, handicrafts, glassware, leather work, art reproductions, jewelry, souvenirs, elaborate metal and iron-work, shoes, accessories and high fashion clothes also dominate a fair sector of Florence’s economy. The city’s income relies partially on services and cultural interests, such as annual fairs, theatrical and lyrical productions, art exhibitions, festivals and fashion shows.

Food and wine have long been an important staple of the economy. The Chianti region is just south of the city and its Sangiovese grapes figure prominently, not only in its Chianti Classico wines but also in many of the more recently developed Tuscan blends. The celebrated Chianti Rufina district, geographically and historically separated from the main Chianti region, is also a few kilometers east of Florence.

Florentine food grows out of a tradition of peasant eating. The majority of dishes are based on meat. The whole animal was traditionally eaten; tripe (trippa) and stomach (lampredotto) were once regularly on the menu and still are sold at the food carts stationed throughout the city.

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Antipasti include crostini toscani (sliced bread rounds topped with a chicken liver spread) and sliced meats (mainly prosciutto and salami) that are often served with melon when in season. The typically saltless Tuscan bread, made with natural leavening, is frequently featured in Florentine courses, especially in its soups: ribollita and pappa al pomodoro or in a salad of bread and fresh vegetables called panzanella that is served in summer.

While meat is a staple of Florentine cuisine, pasta is important in the cuisine. For example, pappardelle sulla lepre. which is pappardelle (a long, wide and flat pasta) served with a sauce made from hare or other meats, such as goose.

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Bistecca alla fiorentina is a large, 1.2 to 1.5 kg [40 to 50 oz] Chianina beef steak that is cooked over hot charcoal and served very rare over a bed of arugula with slices of Parmesan cheese on top. Most of these courses are served with local olive oil, also a local product that enjoys a worldwide reputation.

It Is Almost Carnival Time In Florence

The first day of Carnival is called “berlingaccio” in Florence and it comes from an old word describing a day spent around the table eating, drinking and being happy.
The parades draw thousands of visitors of all ages, who come to see both the spectacular floats and the parade, as well as participate in the festive masquerade processions.

The following photos were taken by friends and depict their favorite costumes:

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The “Carnevale di Viareggio” actually takes place over an entire month with 5 days of processions each year. These are held on 4 Sundays and on Fat Tuesday. The parades take in the fours weeks that precede Lent (which is the forty day period before Easter).

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The Burlamacco is the character shown above and is the official symbol for the Carnival in Viareggio. It is inspired by characters of Italian “commedia dell’arte” including Harlequin, Balanzone, Pierrot and Rugantino. Burlamacco is dressed in a long red and white checkered suit with a cocked hat and a long black cape at his shoulders.

In each of the parades, the Burlamacco is accompanied by a float composed of female participants called the “Ondina” in honor of Viareggio’s association with the sea (onda means wave in Italian).

Recipes For Carnival Time

The three most common, must-eat foods in Florence during Carnival are:

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Cenci

Cenci or Chiacchiere – Cenci meaning “rugs” are slices of fried dough that are drenched in powdered sugar and sometimes dark chocolate.

Ingredients

240 gr or 2 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs, large
20 gr or 1 oz butter, softened
20 gr or 1 oz sugar, granulated
1 espresso cup of Vin Santo, Marsala or milk
Pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon
Oil for frying ( I use extra virgin olive oil, but corn oil is fine)
Powdered sugar (icing sugar) for dusting.

Directions

Beat the softened butter with the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated. Add the lemon zest and the liquid (Vin Santo). Add the flour. Mix well. The dough will be hard.

Knead and when smooth, cover and let rest for one hour. Heat oil for frying. Roll out the dough as thin as possible or use a pasta machine. Cut into 3 inch wide strips.

Then cut a slit in the middle of the strip, leaving the ends attached. Deep fry in hot oil until lightly golden. Remove to a paper towel, let drain and serve dusted with powdered sugar.
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Frittelle di riso (Rice Fritters)

Frittelle di Riso – Imagine rice pudding that is rolled up, fried and immersed in sugar. That is what a frittelle di riso is. Sometimes, the bakers inject custard cream or chocolate nutella into the center of the pastries. These sweets are also bite-size, so they are easy to pop in your mouth.

Ingredients

400 gr or 2 cups short grain rice, Arborio
1 litre or 4 cups milk
4 tablespoons sugar
Peel of one lemon, grated (zest, only the yellow part)
1 ounce liqueur (sherry, brandy or amaretto)
80 gr or 3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (lievito in polvere)
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated

Directions

Bring the rice to a slow boil in the milk with sugar and lemon zest. Stir occasionally to avoid the rice sticking. When the rice is cooked, it will have absorbed all the milk.

Place the rice in large bowl, add the liqueur, egg yolks, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well and let cool. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

Whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the rice mixture.

In a heavy pan, heat 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop the fritters by teaspoons into the hot oil. Fry quickly and remove them when they are golden. Do not brown.

Drain on paper towels and serve sprinkled with granulated sugar. They are best hot but can also be served cold or reheated.

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Schiacciata alla Fiorentina

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a sweet flatcake, traditional to Florence, made with citrus flavors and sometimes spread with chantilly cream in the middle. It is also coated in powdered sugar and in Florence, you find the fleur de lis “giglio” crest of Florence etched in with powdered cacao.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups (300 grams) plain flour
3/4 ounce (20 grams) fresh yeast dissolved in some warm water
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) lard (or, less traditional, butter)
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar and powdered bittersweet cocoa for dusting (optional)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour and fresh yeast (along with the water) until a dough forms. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, dry spot to rise for about one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Beat in the lard, sugar, eggs, orange zest, vanilla and salt until well combined. Place the dough in a buttered rectangular tin. It should be about 2 cm or 2/3 inch in height.

Cover with a tea towel and let the schiacciata rise for 2 more hours. Bake at 350 ºF (180ºC) for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Turn onto a wire rack to cool and when cooled completely, dust liberally with powdered sugar. If you like, cut out a mask of the Florentine lily and dust with cocoa powder.

If desired, cut through the middle of the cake and fill with some slightly sweetened, freshly whipped cream or pastry cream before dusting with powdered sugar.

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Ribollita

This very simple Tuscan peasant soup is commonly called ribollita because it is served the day after its preparation when it is warmed up in a pot with extra-virgin olive oil and reboiled. Ribollita is simple, inexpensive and its base is made with stale unsalted Tuscan bread and a variety of winter vegetables including Tuscan kale.

It is good to have on hand to make a quick supper on Carnival days.

10 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 celery stalks, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1- 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound cavolo nero (lacinato kale, Tuscan kale), stems trimmed off and leaves well chopped
4 cups cooked white beans, such as cannellini
1/2 pound Italian bread (such as ciabatta), crusts removed
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Zest of one lemon
Parmesan Cheese

Directions

In a thick-bottomed soup pot over medium heat combine the olive oil, celery, garlic, carrot, and onion. Cook for 10-15 minutes sweating the vegetables, but avoid browning them.

Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and simmer for another 10 minutes or so, long enough for the tomatoes to thicken up a bit. Stir in the kale, 3 cups of the beans, and 8 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the greens are tender, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, mash or puree the remaining beans with a small amount of water until smooth. Tear the bread into bite-sized chunks. Stir both the beans and bread into the soup.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the bread breaks down and the soup thickens, 20 – 30 minutes. Stir in the salt, taste and add more if needed. Stir in the lemon zest.

Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate overnight. Serve reheated the next day and finish each serving with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.

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Panini di Lampredotto

The lampredotto sandwich is real Italian street food! The Florentines eat it at any time: breakfast, lunch with a glass of wine or dinner with friends.

The tradition of eating tripe and entrails in Florence is very old and probably arises from the need to combine simple bread with something inexpensive but nourishing.
Typically, tripe wagons offer a couple of options for their sandwiches: salt and pepper, salsa verde (a green sauce commonly made with parsley, capers, garlic and anchovies, among other ingredients); and salsa piccante (basically, chili oil). Also, you can opt to have the roll briefly dipped ( bagnato ) in the cooking broth.

1 – 1.5 kg will make about 8 hearty panini or about 20 mini ones. You don’t often find lampredotto in small portions, as it is generally sold whole, so if you have leftovers, you can freeze it.

For the lampredotto:

1 kg lampredotto (abomasum tripe or stomach)
3 litres of water
1 stalk of celery
1 brown onion
1 carrot
1 tomato
5 whole black peppercorns
Salt

For the salsa verde:

2 anchovy fillets
¼ of an onion
1 garlic clove
Bunch of parsley
Handful of basil leaves
2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

For the lampredotto:

Prepare a broth by roughly chopping the vegetables and adding them to the water in a large pot with a generous amount of salt and the peppercorns. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the lampredotto, whole, and cook until soft, covered with a lid. The cooking time is really a case of checking and testing, it may take about one hour.

Make sure the lampredotto is always submerged under the broth, you can add more water as necessary. Keep the lampredotto warm, in the broth, until you are ready to use it.

For the salsa verde:

Chop the anchovies, onion, garlic, capers and herbs together finely (with a knife or a food processor) and add olive oil and lemon juice to bind it into a paste-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the panini:

Roughly slice the tripe and chop enough to generously heap onto the panino roll. The bread rolls are normally, split open in half and a bit of the bread in the middle is taken out to have more space for the filling.

Add a heaping spoonful of salsa verde on top and season with extra salt and pepper. Dip the top half of the roll into the broth if desired.

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This past week my husband celebrated his birthday. It is tradition in our family that the person celebrating their birthday gets to request their favorite foods for dinner. My husband asked for ham, one of his favorites, that I rarely make because I am not a fan. But it was his birthday. Friends who were celebrating with us, were happy with his choice. We were so busy celebrating that I forgot to take photos of the dishes when they came out of the oven. You will just have to use your imagination. The birthday menu is below and includes his favorite cake.

First Course – Celery Bisque

You can view the recipe in a previous post – see the link.

Glazed Ham

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack on the bottom shelf of the oven.

Place an 8 lb. bone in, spiral cut ham in a roasting pan.

Score shallow cuts in a diamond pattern the fat on the top of the ham. Place whole cloves in the ham where the diamond cuts intersect.

Bake the ham for one hour.

Mix 1/4 cup of orange marmalade with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in a small mixing bowl.

Remove the ham from the oven. Attach pineapple slices to the outside of the ham with toothpicks. Brush the glaze on the ham and pineapple.

Return the ham to the oven and cook for another hour or until the internal temperature of the ham registers 140 degree F. Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.

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Scalloped Potatoes

Place the potato casserole in the oven with the ham, after the ham has baked for 30 minutes.

Ingredients

4 (about 2 lbs) baking potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small onion, sliced into thin rounds
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups half & half or cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
8 oz grated Gruyère cheese

Directions

Use the butter to grease a 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Place a half of the sliced potatoes into the dish. Top with all the sliced onion. Sprinkle the potatoes and onions with half the salt and pepper.

Top with half the cheese. Repeat with a second layer of potatoes, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the top with the remaining cheese. Pour in the cream. Sprinkle with some paprika for color. Cover the dish with foil.

Bake covered at 350°F. for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake the casserole for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender

Orange Broccoli Sauté with Almonds

Serves: 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 crushed garlic clove
4 cups broccoli florets
2 teaspoons orange zest and 1 tablespoon orange juice from 1 orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon slivered almonds

Directions

Heat a deep skillet over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and toast lightly. Remove to a plate.

Add the oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest, orange juice and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.

Remove from the skillet, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

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Italian Rum Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat the bottoms of two 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray and cut parchment paper into circles to fit the bottom of the baking pans. Spray again. Set aside.

Ingredients

For the layer cake:

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature and soft
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups milk
1 cup finely ground hazelnuts (almonds or pecans can be used if you cannot find hazelnuts)
1/4 cup light rum

For the cake filling:

1 cup Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread or other chocolate cake filling)
8 oz. Mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

For the topping:

2 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup rum
Shaved chocolate

Directions

For the layer cake:

In an electric mixer beat together the sugar, butter and vanilla for 5 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture alternating with the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk are incorporated; end with flour.

Stir nuts in on low-speed.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Do not over-bake or the cake will be dry. Cool 10 minutes and remove layers to a cooling rack and carefully peel off the paper. Cool thoroughly.

Drizzle each of the layers with the rum and let sit for a while to absorb the rum.

For the filling:

Beat together the Nutella and the Mascarpone cheese until very smooth.

For the topping:

Whip the cream until very stiff. Add powdered sugar and blend. Add rum on low-speed until incorporated.

To assemble:

Cover one cake layer with filling and place on a cake plate. Place the unfrosted layer on top. Completely cover the cake with the whipped cream mixture.

Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Just before serving, decorate the cake with chocolate shavings.


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I often plan my meals by what looks good in the market each week. This week fresh spinach and plum (Roma) tomatoes were a good buy. I had fish in the freezer and thought the spinach would make a good stuffing to give the flounder some interest. A simple side of pasta, lightly sauced made a good addition to this meal – all the while keeping this dinner healthy.

Spinach Stuffed Flounder

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Ingredients

1 lb flounder fillets
1 pkg (10 oz) fresh spinach or a 10 oz package frozen, thawed and drained
1/4 cup Feta cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
1/4 cup diced scallions
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to season

Directions

Heat oil in skillet. Add garlic and scallions and saute for a minute or two.

Add spinach to the pan and saute for about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and add the feta and Parmesan cheese. Season with black pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each piece of fish.

Roll fish around stuffing. Place fish seam side down into an oiled baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil Sprinkle fish with oregano and paprika.

Bake at 400 degrees F uncovered for 30 minutes.

Spaghetti with Lemon Sauce

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Ingredients

1 pound/457 g spaghetti or fettuccine
1 clove garlic, grated
2 lemons (zest of 1 lemon, juice of 2 lemons)
5 tablespoons/74 ml extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
1 cup/235 ml finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped

Directions

Place the spaghetti in a pot of boiling salted water and cook the spaghetti al dente.

Place the grated garlic in a warm pasta serving bowl. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil while whisking.

Whisk until the ingredients have emulsified and add the cheese. Drain the spaghetti and add to the serving bowl. Mix the pasta with the lemon sauce to coat evenly.

Sprinkle the pasta dish with fresh parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Baked Plum Tomatoes

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The tomatoes can bake in the oven with the flounder.

4 servings

Ingredients

4 plum tomatoes, halved horizontally
¼ cup dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place tomatoes cut-side up in an oiled baking dish. Top with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with oil.

After the fish has baked for 15 minutes, place the tomatoes in the oven. Bake until the tomatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.


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You don’t always have to serve meat as a main course in order to make a delicious dinner.
Plant-based recipes consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, but no dairy, eggs or meat. While I would not be happy with a diet devoid of dairy, eggs or cheese, I am very happy to eat whole plant food meals a few times a month. I am not a purist, so I include olive oil in my cooking preparations. We really liked these recipes and did not think they needed the addition of meat.

Try some plant-based recipes every once in a while. They are good for you and the planet.

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Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Basil leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and garnish with basil leaves. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.

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Mushroom Ragu

Serve over cooked pasta, polenta or rice.

Ingredients

2½ pounds fresh mixed mushrooms, small and firm
1/2 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1 1/4 cups warm water
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary, a tender stem about 4-inches long
1 sprig fresh sage, with 4 big leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable broth
1 cup shallots, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 1/2 cups canned finely chopped Italian tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

Directions

Squeeze out the soaked porcini and slice them into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. Strain the soaking water and set aside

Clean, trim and slice the fresh mushrooms into thin slices, barely 1/4-inch wide.

Tie all the fresh herb sprigs together with piece of kitchen twine or enclose the leaves in cheesecloth.

Put the oil or vegetable broth into a large, deep skillet with a cover or Dutch Oven and place over medium heat. Add the onions and shallots and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and stir well.

Cook for 6 minutes or more-stirring often-until they’re soft without any browning.

Add all the porcini and sliced mushrooms into the pan.. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon salt and add in the herb bouquet, toss briefly, raise the heat a bit and cover the pan.

Cook, covered, for about 3 minutes-shaking the pan now and then to sweat the mushrooms.

Uncover and continue to cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms shrink and the liquid evaporates, 5 minutes or more.

When the mushrooms begin to brown, clear a spot and add the wine and stir constantly until the wine thickens and evaporates. Pour in the porcini water, vegetable broth and  Italian tomatoes.

Bring to a boil, stirring and then lower the heat to keep the sauce bubbling gently and cover the pan. Cook for one hour, stirring occasionally.

If after one hour the mushrooms are thoroughly tender and the saucy liquid has thickened, remove the herb bouquet. If you want the sauce thicker, cook for another 30 minutes.

Taste and add salt, if needed, and freshly ground black pepper.

Use the sauce immediately or let it cool. Store it in the refrigerator for a week or freeze, for use within several months.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

Vegetables that will hold up to long cooking times are the best choices for stews. If you use more delicate vegetables, they should be added toward the end of cooking. Good veggie choices for stews are sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and parsnips, green beans, pumpkin, winter squash and cauliflower. Cutting the vegetables into uniform pieces helps them cook evenly.

I used purple and red potatoes in this recipe to give the stew some added color.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable broth or water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel bulb, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs mixed small purple and red potatoes, cut in half
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
One 26 oz container strained Italian tomatoes (Pomi) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups frozen Italian or regular green beans, partially defrosted

Directions

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Heat the oil (or water) in a Dutch Oven and add the garlic and onions. Saute over low heat for a few minutes until the onion softens.

Add all the remaining vegetables, except the Italian green beans, and stir until coated with the onions. Add the red wine and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Add the seasonings, strained tomatoes and tomato paste. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the sauce starts to bubble.

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Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook the stew for 30 minutes. Add the green beans, cover and cook for 10 or 15 minutes more.

Don’t forget the crusty Italian bread to dunk in the sauce.

 

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salernocanaloneOften overshadowed by its proximity to Naples and by the beauty of the Amalfi coast, Salerno is often overlooked. The province has a Mediterranean climate, with a hot and relatively dry summer (30 °C (86 °F) in August) and a rainy fall and winter (8 °C (46 °F) in January). The strong winds that come from the mountains toward the Gulf of Salerno make the area very windy but also one of the sunniest areas in Italy.

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The province is one of the largest in Italy and the Port of Salerno is one of the most active on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It handles about 10 million tons of cargo per year.

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Today, Salerno is an important cultural center and is divided into three zones: the medieval sector, the 19th century sector and the more densely populated post-war area, with its numerous apartment complexes.

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Salerno is located at the geographical center of a triangle nicknamed the “Tourist Triangle of the 3 P” (namely a triangle touching the corners of the towns of Pompei, Paestum and Positano). The characteristics of this area make Salerno attractive to tourists.

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Some of these sites include:

  • Lungomare Trieste (Trieste Seafront Promenade). This promenade was created from the sea during the 1950s and it is one of the best in Italy, similar to those in the French Riviera.
  • Castello di Arechi is a massive castle created by Arechis II during the Roman-Byzantine era.. Today, it houses rooms for exhibitions and meetings. The Castle offers a spectacular view of the city and the Gulf of Salerno.
  • Centro storico di Salerno. The “Historical Downtown of Salerno” is believed to be one of the best maintained in the Italian peninsula. Its Merchant Street is one of the main shopping streets in the city.
  • Giardino della Minerva, “Minerva’s Garden,” was the first European “orto botanico” (botanical garden).

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Salerno’s cuisine is rich in vegetables, legumes, olive oil, cheese and fish which are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. The star of Salerno’s cuisine is without any doubt the Campana DOP Buffalo Mozzarella and their San Marzano Tomatoes that are exported around the world. Some other culinary specialties include the White Fig, the Giffoni Hazelnut and the Amalfi Coast Lemon.

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Fruity Tomato Sauce (Pummarola) Salerno Style

Makes approximately 2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups (28 ounces) canned, peeled plum tomatoes in juice. (D.O.P San Marzanos are preferred.)
  • 4 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil, or more, to taste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 medium celery stalk, including leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Small handful of chopped fresh basil
  • Scant ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly milled black or white pepper

Directions

Drain the tomatoes in a colander, reserving their juice; chop and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in the garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley and sauté the vegetables until they are completely soft, about 12 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s coppery-colored, about 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and their juice, cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally and gently, until thickened about 45 minutes.

Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and blend in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more to taste.

Note:

If a smooth sauce is desired, take the pan off the stove and allow it to cool somewhat. Position a food mill over a clean saucepan and pass the sauce through it, being sure to press out as much of the pulp as possible. Place over medium heat just long enough to heat through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon olive oil.

The sauce can be made 4 to 5 days in advance and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Whether storing it in the refrigerator or the freezer, leave out the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir it into the sauce after reheating.

spaghetti-with-breadcrumb

Linguine or Spaghetti with Anchovies

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 400g linguine or spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 tablespoons olive oil
  • 60g pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 small red chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 60g fresh breadcrumbs

Directions

Add the linguine to a large pan of boiling salted water and boil until al dente.

Heat half of the olive oil in a pan, add the olives, chilies, capers and anchovies and heat, stirring to dissolve the anchovies.

Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss with the sauce.

At the same time, heat the rest of the olive oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the breadcrumbs until slightly brown.

Mix the dressed pasta into the breadcrumbs.

Fry for a few minutes, until a crust forms underneath. Invert onto a warm plate, so the crushed side is on top.

Cut into portions with a knife and serve.

477

Saddle of Pork with Milk and Giffoni Hazelnut

Ingredients

  • 1 kg saddle of pork
  • ½ liter of warm milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 100 gr of chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of potato starch
  • Sage and rosemary
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • Olive oil and salt as needed

Directions

Brown the onion with some sage and rosemary in warm olive oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides; add the wine and let the pork steam in it for a few minutes.

Then add the warm milk and let it cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the potato starch, stirring until thickened; then mix in the hazelnuts. Let the meat cool.

Slice the pork and place it into a baking dish. Pour the sauce over the meat and warm it into preheated moderate oven for 5 minutes. Serve it warm with mashed potatoes as a side dish.

825-lemon-gelato-recipe

Lemon Gelato

Ingredients

  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/ 7/8 cup) lemon juice
  • 350 ml (generous 12 1/4 fl oz/ 1 1/2 cups) milk
  • 150 ml (5 1/4 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) single cream
  • 170 g (6 oz/ 7/8 cup) sugar

Directions

Bring the milk almost to a boil, then add the sugar and, off the heat, stir it until it dissolves.

Pour in the cream and lemon juice. Place the pan in a bowl of ice and, when the mixture is cold, transfer it to the ice cream maker. Follow directions for your ice cream maker.

Pour into a freezer container and freeze overnight. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.

7f4b1ed42e5c80d7036835f094df42f7


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It may seem like “slim pickens”, when you look at what fruit is available in the winter in your market. With a second look, however, there are plenty of choices and they great choices for cooking or baking. Look for citrus fruit, apples, bananas, pears and dates. These are all good choices for salads, pancakes and muffins or to garnish main dish meats and fish.

Meyer Lemon Bread

img_0004

1 loaf

Ingredients

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 lightly beaten egg
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons finely shredded Meyer lemon peel
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice

Lemon Glaze

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon lemon zest

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Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together flour, 3/4 cup sugar, the baking powder and salt. Make a well in center of the flour mixture; set aside.

In another medium bowl or measuring cup combine the egg, milk, oil, lemon peel and the 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture.

Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Spoon batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

To make a glaze: Combine the glaze ingredients until smooth and spread over the cooled cake. Let harden before wrapping the ;oaf.

Citrus Salad

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Turn this salad into a main course by adding cooked shrimp or chicken. I especially like shrimp in this salad.

Orange Vinaigrette

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 shallots, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Grated zest of 1 orange,

Salad

1 bulb fennel, halved, cored, and thinly sliced
1⁄2 small red onion, thinly sliced
! grapefruit
1 orange
1 tablespoon olive oil

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Directions

To make the vinaigrette:

Whisk the shallots, raspberry vinegar, honey and salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle in the oil in while whisking. Add the orange zest. Set aside

Peel the fruit and cut into segments.

In a large bowl, cover the fennel and onion with ice water and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to paper towels to dry thoroughly.

Transfer the fennel and onion to the bowl with the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Lift the fennel and onion from the dressing and transfer to a serving platter.

Arrange the citrus segments evenly over the fennel and onion. (If adding shrimp, arrange it on top of the salad.) Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the top, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Baked Apple Sauce

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Applesauce can be flavored with maple syrup or cinnamon. You can also add cranberries to the cooking apples to make a cran-applesauce. It makes wonderful tasting pancakes and muffins and is a great side to roasted pork.

Makes 12 servings.

Ingredients

4 lbs. (about 10 medium) assorted apples, such as Macoun, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Jonagold and Honey Crisp, peeled, cored, and quartered
1/3 cup fresh apple cider or apple juice
4 lemon slices, cut paper-thin
2 tablespoons honey, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place apples, cider or juice and lemon slices in a large heavy, ovenproof casserole with a cover and mix well.. If using honey add it in and toss again.

Bake apples, covered, for 60 to 75 minutes, until very soft and moist. Stir to combine. If it is too wet, bake applesauce, uncovered, for 15 minutes longer.

Cool to room temperature before serving; applesauce thickens as it cools. The applesauce keeps, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days or 6 months in the freezer.

Coconut Banana Pudding

img_0005-2

Ingredients

1 ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 dash salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Honey Bananas

1 tablespoon butter
1 banana, sliced into ¼ inch slices
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon hot water

Directions

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and stir in the mashed banana.

In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the salt, eggs and coconut milk. Stir well and add to the banana in the saucepan.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; cook until thickened.

Remove from the heat; add vanilla and mix well. Pour into a storage bowl or 4 individual dessert dishes.

To make the honey bananas:

Melt the butter in a small skillet.

Arrange the banana slices in the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until lightly brown.

Whisk together the honey and 1 tablespoon of water.

Remove the skillet from the heat and pour the honey mixture over the bananas. Shake the pan to distribute.

Divide the bananas and syrup over the top of the pudding. Chill for several hours before serving.

 


january_thaw

I live in a climate that is hot about nine months out of the year, so winter time, especially January, is a great time of the year to bake. I can get some extra baking in and save the baked goods in the freezer for when it gets hotter. The recipe for one of our favorite breakfast scones is below.

Soup is another favorite and while tomatoes are not in season, Roma Tomatoes are plentiful and are great for cooking. Salads are hearty at this time of year and chicken salad is a great option. Stuffed vegetables or stuffed meat entrees are very comforting when there is a chill in the air. Try some of the recipes below to warm you up.

Breakfast

img_0002-2

Almond Scones

Makes 8 scones

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2 tablespoons sugar
One 7 oz tube almond paste
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup half-and-half (cream and milk)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Sugar for sprinkling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter, cut the almond paste and the butter into the dry ingredients until a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the almonds.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, egg and almond extract and add to the flour mixture. With a fork gradually stir the dough until the mixture comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently pat into an 8-inch round about 1 1/2 inches high. Sprinkle the top of the dough with sugar.

Using a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut the dough round into 8 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet, spacing the scones at least 1 inch apart.

Bake in the top third of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden. Transfer the scones to a wire rack to cool.

img_0003-2

Roasted Red Pepper and Egg Wrap

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large, jarred roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
2 medium tortilla wraps

Directions

Cut the pepper into one inch pieces.

In a measuring cup beat the eggs with a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the Italian seasoning. Add the peppers and mix.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Stir and cook until the eggs are set.

img_0002-3

Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Divide the cheese in half and sprinkle over each tortilla. Divide the egg mixture in half and place on top of the cheese. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt.

Roll up each tortilla tightly, cut in half and serve.

Lunch

img_0001-2

Winter Tomato Soup

If you don’t like peeling tomatoes as much as I do, here is a technique I use to get around it. I usually purchase fresh Roma tomatoes for cooking and put them in the freezer when I get home from shopping. One day before I am going to cook with them, I place the amount I need in the refrigerator to defrost. The next day, the skins slip right off and are ready for the pot.

Ingredients

6 ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
Two 26 oz containers finely chopped Italian tomatoes (Pomi)
1 teaspoon honey
4 cups organic broth (chicken or vegetable)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: add ½ cup half & half to make a creamy version
Basil for garnish

Directions

img_0007

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, cover and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the the fresh and canned tomatoes, honey, salt and pepper to taste and the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes with the cover ajar. Remove the pot from the heat.

With an immersion blender or in a processor, puree the soup. If adding cream, add it here and warm the soup. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve hot garnished with basil.

img_0004

Open-Faced Chicken Salad Sandwiches

Slow-poaching the chicken breasts keeps them extra moist.

6 servings

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 scallions, minced
2 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
¼ of a green bell pepper finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
6 slices whole wheat or rye bread, lightly toasted

Directions

In a large saucepan, cover the chicken breasts with water. Bring to a very slow simmer and cook over low heat until white throughout, about 18-20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch dice.

In a large bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the mustard and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the onion, celery, bell pepper, parsley and chicken until evenly coated.

Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Spread some of the chicken salad onto the toasted bread slices and top with tomato slices to serve.

Dinner

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Crab-Stuffed Flounder

This is a hearty entree and only needs one vegetable as a side. flounder comes in large sizes here on the gulf and mine weighed 14 oz. Substitute an equal amount of smaller fillets.

For 2-3

Ingredients

Crab Filling

1 tablespoon each of minced onion, celery and bell pepper
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon seafood seasoning (Old Bay)
1/2 pound lump crab meat

Flounder

12-14 oz flounder fillet or fillets
Paprika
Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the crab. Then, gently fold in the crab. Place the flounder in a baking dish coated with olive oil.

img_0013

Spoon the crab mixture evenly over the fillet or fillets. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley.

Bake at 400°F for 20-24 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

img_0001

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

January is a good time to try different ethnic cuisines. They can spice up some typical winter produce. While I find an occasional taco or quesadilla tasty, I am generally not a fan of Southwest recipes. This recipe turned out quite well, though, and is a nice change from regular stuffed peppers. It is also good served with a green salad with ranch dressing.

2 servings

Ingredients

1 large green bell pepper
¼ lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 scallion, chopped
½ cup of corn kernels
¼ cup salsa
½ cup Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds. Place the pepper halves in a small baking dish.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook the ground beef until brown.

Turn off the heat and add the scallion, corn and salsa; stir to combine. Spoon this mixture into the pepper shells. Add water to cover the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the peppers are fork tender. Drain the water from the baking dish. Sprinkle the peppers evenly with the shredded cheese. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake just until the cheese melts.



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