Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Cheese

 

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Portrait of Antonio Stradivari by Alton S. Tobey, 1971. Collection of Oberlin College Library, Oberlin Ohio. To learn more about the artist: http://www.altontobey.com/AA.html#ago

Cremona is a province in the Lombardy region of Italy and occupies the central section of the Padana Plain, so the whole territory is flat, without mountains or hills, crossed by several rivers and artificial canals, most of which are used for irrigation. The river Po, which is the longest Italian river, is a natural boundary adjoining the Province of Piacenza. The area is about an hour south of Milan by train.

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cremonaviolinmaker

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The city of Cremona has a strong musical tradition. The cathedral, built in the twelfth century, provided a focus for musical activity and, by the sixteenth century, the town was the musical center of the region. Even now it attracts people to hear performances by ensembles and attend the many musical festivals and concerts. The city of Cremona is the birthplace of Stradivarius. The town became renowned for the violins and other musical instruments that were made here by many members of the Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri and Bergonzi families of luthiers, who were all prominent citizens of Cremona.

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The principal economic resources of the province are agricultural. Rice is grown with the help of water drawn from the canals. Other crops include maize (corn) and barley and to a lesser extent, soya and sugar beet. Grapes are cultivated, wine is produced and there is also a silk industry. The farms in the province are some of the most productive in the country. Beef and dairy cattle are raised here. Beef serves as a main ingredient for local dishes and the milk is used to create traditional cheeses, as well as butter and cream. The area is famous for its food specialities, such as nougat (Italian: torrone) and mustard, the famed Mostarda di Cremona, a sweet and spiced fruit preserve, served with the classic stew called bollito misto.

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Cremona’s location at the border of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna brings influences from both: charcuterie like cotecchino and salame; grana padana cheese; stuffed pasta specialties like marubini and tortelli di zucca and the tramezzini sandwich, made on spongy, white bread stuffed with ham, tuna, eggs and artichokes and slathered with mayonnaise.

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Rice became known in Europe, after being imported from Egypt and west Asia. It was known to Greece (where it is still cultivated) by returning soldiers from Alexander the Great’s military expedition to Asia. Large deposits of rice from the first century A.D. have been found in Roman camps in Germany and the Moors brought Asiatic rice to the Iberian Peninsula in the 10th century. Records indicate it was grown in Valencia and Majorca. In Majorca, rice cultivation seems to have stopped after the Christian conquest, although historians are not certain.

Muslims brought rice to Sicily, where it was an important crop long before it is was grown in the plains of Pisa (1468) or in the Lombard plains (1475), where its cultivation was promoted by Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, and demonstrated in his model farms. After the 15th century, rice spread throughout Italy and then to France, eventually reaching all the continents during the age of European exploration. Rice is a main component in Italian cuisine.

Veal and Rice Croquettes

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups (440g/14 oz) short-grain rice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ cup (50 g/l⅔ oz) grated Parmesan
  • All-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Dry breadcrumbs

Meat Filling

  • 1 dried porcini mushroom
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 125 g (4 oz) minced veal
  • 2 slices prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz) white wine
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Directions

Cook the rice in boiling salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain, without rinsing and cool.

Put the rice in a large bowl and stir in the egg, egg yolk and Parmesan. Stir until the rice sticks together. Cover and set aside.

To make Meat Sauce: Soak the mushroom in hot water for 10 minutes to soften, squeeze dry and finely chop.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the mushroom and onion; cook for 2–3 minutes until soft. Add the meat and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until browned.

Add the prosciutto, tomato paste, wine, thyme and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the parsley. Set aside to cool.

With wet hands, form the rice mixture into 10 balls. Wet your hands again, pull the balls apart and place 3 heaping teaspoons of the meat sauce in the center of each.

Remold to enclose the filling; roll in flour, beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Chill for 1 hour.

Deep-fry the croquettes in oil, two at a time, for 3–4 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm while frying the remainder. Serve immediately.

Insalata di Riso

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Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 kilo / 1 pound of rice
  • 1 jar Italian condiriso (or half cup of canned corn and some chopped green olives and cocktail onions), drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of lemon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth

Directions

Bring chicken broth and enough water to fill a pot large enough to cook all the rice, to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Add the rice and cook until tender. Drain.

While the rice is cooking, put the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and lemon juice.

Add warm, drained rice to the vegetable mixture. Stir and let come to room temperature.

Taste and adjust for seasonings. Add as much pepper and lemon juice as you’d like.

Variations: You can add other herbs like basil and chives. Also add any other chopped raw vegetables, like zucchini or scallions, and/or tuna and feta cheese.

Risotto Ubriaco (Drunken Risotto)

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Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1  onion, finely chopped
  • 4  cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2  tablespoons/30ml olive oil
  • 1  cup/250ml smoked pork belly, diced into 1/2 inch (5mm) pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups/875 ml carnaroli rice, unwashed
  • 2  cups/500ml full-bodied red wine
  • 6  cups/1.5L light chicken stock
  • 2  tablespoons/30ml butter
  • 4  tablespoons/60ml grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Heat the onion and garlic in the oil. Add the diced pork belly and stir to mix well.

Add the rice and toast it, stirring constantly to prevent sticking, for 2-3 minutes, until it is very hot but not browned.

Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid is absorbed or evaporated.

Add the chicken stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb most of the liquid before adding more stock until the rice is tender but firm.

Be careful toward the end not to add too much stock –  the risotto should be creamy, not soupy. This process should take 16-18 minutes in total.

When the rice is cooked, remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano; stir vigorously to fluff. Serve at once in individual bowls.

Italian Rice and Bean Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped fine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked or 2 (15-ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini white beans, drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried  Italian seasoning
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 cup rice
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Cook rice according to package instructions.

While the rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add garlic, onion and celery and cook until soft, for about four minutes.

Add stock, tomatoes and seasoning and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, stir in the beans and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cooked rice and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese,

Radicchio and Fennel Risotto

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Ingredients

  • 1 litre (1¾ pints) vegetable stock
  • 90 g (3½ oz) butter
  • 225 g (8 oz) fennel, finely sliced
  • 6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 350 g (12 oz) arborio or carnaroli risotto rice
  • 120 ml (4 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 175 g (6 oz) radicchio, shredded
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 15 g ( ½ oz) fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 75 g (3 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra to serve if liked
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan and keep hot.

Melt half the butter in a large, deep frying pan, add the fennel and shallots and cook gently for 5 minutes, until tender.

Add the rice and stir well until it is covered with butter. Add the wine and shredded radicchio and season with pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the wine has evaporated.

Add a ladleful of hot stock to the rice and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, until it has been absorbed.

Continue adding the stock by ladle, stirring constantly, until it has all, or nearly all, been used and the rice is just tender. This should take about 18-20 minutes.

Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the lemon zest, parsley, basil, Parmesan and the remaining butter.

Cover and leave to rest for 1 minute, then stir again. Serve with more Parmesan if required.

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Summer is a wonderful time to entertain and enjoy the outdoors with your friends. Serving appetizers and drinks are a great way to entertain when it is hot. You want easy to prepare recipes so you are not in the kitchen for hours and you want to use simple, common ingredients that you usually have in your pantry or refrigerator. Below are a few of my easy to make suggestions.

Mediterranean Bruschetta

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for the bread
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped oil cured Italian olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 1 baguette, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch-thick slices

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl; except the bread slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Lightly grill the bread slices and then brush them with olive oil. Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of the tomato mixture onto each bread slice and arrange on a serving plate.

Oven Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash Rounds

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Homemade Marinara Sauce, (see recipe here)
  • 2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 2 medium yellow squash, ends and neck trimmed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cut the squash into ¼ inch thick slices.

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In a plastic bag, combine the flour, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

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In a shallow bowl, beat the eggs and milk together.

In another shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and cheese.

Place the squash slices in the bag with the flour and shake until they are coated.

Next, place each slice in the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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Place the squash rounds on the prepared baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake for another 10 minutes or until crispy.

Serve with warm marinara sauce.

Marinated Cheese

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4-ounces of cream cheese, quartered
  • 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 packed teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped pitted black and green Italian olives
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Toasted crostini, pita chips or crackers for serving

Directions

Place the cheese quarters in a medium container. Sprinkle the thyme, lemon zest, olives and sun-dried tomatoes over and around the cheese. Sprinkle the cheese with a little sea salt.

Pour the olive oil over the mixture. Squash the mixture with a fork and cover the container. Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.

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Bring the cheese mixture to room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Put the marinated cheese mixture into a serving dish.

Arrange crostini, pita or crackers around the dish with a couple of small knives for serving.

Tuna Dip

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Serve with fresh celery, radishes, carrots and thin, crispy crackers.

Makes 8 servings.

  • 8-ounces canned tuna
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, washed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, parsley, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Place the tuna in a food processor and pulse to break it up.

Turn the speed to low speed and add the olive oil mixture, a little at a time, until the ingredients are thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into a small serving bowl and chill. Serve with fresh-cut vegetables and crackers on the side.


BrindisiSailorsMonument

Brindisi, a province in the Apulia (Puglia) region of Italy, is dominated by vineyards, artichoke groves and olive trees. The province is also a major sailing port for the southern part of Italy and seafood plays a big role in its cuisine. In dining tn the area’s restaurants, you will notice an abundance of dishes from the sea. Mussels, white fish, prawns and octopus are just some of the items you can expect to find on the menu.

 artichoke groves

artichoke groves

olive trees.

olive trees

vineyards

vineyards

The region is well-known for orecchiette. A type of pasta whose name comes from its shape which resembles that of a small ear and is usually served with a simple (often spicy) red sauce. Fresh vegetables, tomatoes and peppery olive oil are easily the most common local ingredients. Fava beans, eggplants and bell peppers all find their way into pastas, gratins and stews. Stuffed aubergines, lamb and pea stew and  turnip greens are a few popular dishes.

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Great produce markets are plentiful and you will find, daily, fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood just waiting to be cooked. Olives are another essential food in the Brindisi area. You see them everywhere. Running wild along the dry countryside roads, the olive trees grow to massive sizes.

BrindisiFoodMarket

Some of the best values in Italian wine come from this sunny, dry region. Most of the wine is red, full-bodied and pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Producers have focused on making great red wines from local grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo and Bombino Nero. The two most popular and widely available wines from the province are Salice Salentino and Primitivo.

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Half of Italy’s olive oil is produced in the dry heat of the area. The warm climate and fertile soil make it easy to grow almost anything.  It is surrounded by water on three sides allowing cool breezes off the Mediterranean to moderate vineyard temperatures.

Brindisi Spa

Brindisi Spa

Located in the province is Torre Canne, a famous health spa. Several streams feed into a small lake that, over the ages, has deposited mud that is now used for therapeutic purposes. Its water springs are touted to be good for kidney and liver illnesses  While you enjoy the spa treatment, you can stay in a luxury hotel and visit the stunning local beaches.

Brindisi Fish Soup

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs whole fish, large bones removed
  • 3/4 lb squid
  • 1/2 lb cuttlefish or octopus
  • 1/2 lb mussels
  • 8 oz clams
  • 1/2 lb plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Chili pepper, diced
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices rustic bread, stale
  • Salt
  • Parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced

Directions

Thoroughly wash all the fish and seafood. Cut the fish into large pieces and the squid and cuttlefish into small pieces.

In a large soup pot, saute the onion and celery in a few tablespoons of oil. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cuttlefish and squid and, after 10 minutes, the remaining fish and shellfish.

Add the chili pepper, cover the pan and cook over low heat for 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and sprinkle a handful of parsley and finely chopped garlic onto each serving.

Grilled Eggplant

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4-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely minced, plus extra leaves for garnish
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 4 small eggplant
  • 3/4 cup burrata cheese, cut into small pieces

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the oil, basil, shallots and vinegar.

In another small bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the basil mixture. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Trim the eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Place them on a tray or a plate. Brush both sides of the eggplants with the remaining basil mixture and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over high heat. Place the eggplant on the grill.  Cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes per side. Don’t let them burn.

Using a metal spatula, carefully transfer the eggplant to warmed plates. Divide the cheese among the eggplant halves and spoon the tomato mixture over each. Garnish with extra basil leaves

Cardoons Brindisi

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4 servings

Cardoons are members of the thistle family, as are artichokes, and bear a strikingly similar taste to them. Cardoons are quite fibrous and the fibers run lengthwise, like those in celery stalks, and must be stripped off. Once they have been cut, they darken quickly (like artichokes) unless put in water with added lemon juice.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cardoons
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped oil cured black olives
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons capers in salt, well rinsed
  • 3 anchovies packed in oil, minced
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Salt to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash and peel the outer layer of the cardoons, then cut them into 5 inch lengths. Cook them in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl combine the olives, parsley, capers and anchovies.

Place the cardoons in an oiled casserole baking dish and top with the olive and parsley mixture. Sprinkle enough grated cheese and bread crumbs over the top to cover.

Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Spicy Orecchiette

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Ingredients

  • 12 oz (350 gr) orecchiette pasta
  • 1 lb (500 gr) plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 hot chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently sauté the garlic and chili peppers for one minute.

Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan with two tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until a sauce consistency is reached.

Add the chopped oregano with salt and pepper to taste and let simmer for a few minutes more.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until it is al dente. Drain and toss with the sauce. Serve immediately.

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I look forward to this time of year because the CSA I belong to (Jeta Farms) begins its distribution of shares to its members. As you can see from the cover photo, my share contains beautiful produce.

CSAs (community supported agriculture programs), provide a direct link between local farmers and consumers by allowing members to purchase a share of a farmer’s crop before it’s produced each season. This allows the farmer to pay for seed, water, equipment, etc., up front.

Each week of the share season, the farmers deliver great tasting, healthy food to predetermined locations or members pick up their shares at the farm. CSA members share in the harvest and everyone benefits. This type of arrangement helps people to connect back to the earth and the food they eat.

Here are recipes for how I used some of the produce in my first share.

Corn Stock

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Did you know that you can make delicious vegetable stock with corn cobs? The stock can be used to add flavor to soups, risotto or any recipe calling for vegetable stock.

Ingredients

  • 12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed)
  • 2 chive stalks
  • 2 stems fresh parsley
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions

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Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours.

Strain, discard solids and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use the stock.

Grilled Corn on the Cob

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For each ear of corn:

  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • ½ tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • One ice-cube
  • Heavy duty aluminium foil

Directions

Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Center the corn on a piece of foil large enough to enclose the entire cob.

Dot with the butter and sprinkle on the chives. Add an ice-cube.

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Bring up the foil sides. Double fold the top and ends to seal making one large foil packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside.

Grill, turning frequently, until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the corn from the grill. Be careful opening the foil and wear oven mitts as the corn will be very hot!

Green Bean Salad

green beans

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Directions

To make the vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a serving bowl; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil; add the beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water. Drain well and toss with the vinaigrette, oregano, feta and onion. Chill before serving.

Stuffed Summer Squash Boats

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 medium yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, heated (see recipe link here)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions

Cut off the stems on the squash and cut a slice off the top of each squash. I used the top and the scooped out flesh in the relish recipe below.

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Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and enough flesh from each squash to create room for the stuffing.

Place the squash in a greased baking dish or in individual baking dishes and brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil.

Season the squash lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the stuffing:

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In a small mixing bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon olive oil, minced basil and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta and mozzarella in another mixing bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Evenly distribute the ricotta cheese mixture in the squash boats.

Evenly sprinkle the breadcrumb topping mixture on top of the ricotta filled squash.

Bake the squash for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender and the topping is golden brown.

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Remove the baking dish or dishes from the oven and pour some warm marinara sauce over the squash boats before serving.

Small Batch Summer Relish

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Sweet-and-sour squash relish is a great condiment for burgers and summer sandwiches. You won’t believe how delicious summer squash is in this relish.

Makes: 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (chili)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 lbs zucchini and/or yellow squash
  • Half a medium onion
  • Half a red or yellow bell pepper

Directions

Finely dice the vegetables with a knife. I don’t like using the processor for relish because it makes the squash watery and a grater makes them too fine for relish.

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In a large saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, crushed red pepper and salt to boiling on high, stirring. Stir in squash, onion and bell pepper.

Simmer 60 minutes or until very tender and very soft, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to airtight containers and refrigerate until cold. Store up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze in small containers.

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torinocover

Turin (Torino in Italian) is an important business and cultural center in northern Italy and the capital of the Piedmont region. The city has a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theaters, libraries, museums and other venues. The city currently hosts some of Italy’s best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the six-century-old University of Turin and the Turin Polytechnic. It is often referred to as the Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy, as it is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.

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Alfa Romeo Automobiles, an Italian car manufacturer, has been involved with car racing since 1911. The company was owned by Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986. It became a part of the Fiat group In 2007 and the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.

Originally, the company was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. In 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A.who  ventured into motor racing with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models.

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The firm’s initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and a tract of land was purchased in Lombardy where a new factory was erected.

In 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, a backer for Nicola Romeo & Co, went bankrupt and the government stepped in to support industrial companies affected by the failed bank, among which was Alfa Romeo.

Touring Spider (1937)

Touring Spider (1937)

In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the name of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars but struggled to make a profit and so it was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986.

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Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motor sport, including the Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and rallies. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motor sport, along with a sporty image. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins in the world.

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.

Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new Formula One for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 158 Alfetta and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa’s second consecutive championship in 1951.

torinorooftoptrack

The track in the photo above was built on the roof of the factory that opened in Turin’s Ligotto district in 1923. The factory’s assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top-level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms. The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building and London’s “vertical city,” the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater to interested business travelers. You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of cars looping around the course are gone.

Alfa Romeo Giulia The new generation Giulia was unveiled to the press at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese, on 24 June 2015. This coincided with the company's 105th anniversary and saw the introduction of a revised logo.

Alfa Romeo Giulia
The new generation Giulia was unveiled to the press at the Museo Storico Alfa Romeo in Arese, on 24 June 2015. This coincided with the company’s 105th anniversary and saw the introduction of a revised logo.

Turin cuisine shows the influence of its closeness to France in its use of butter and complex sauces. This area is also the home of solid chocolate, bread sticks (called grissini) , risotto and some of Italy’s most renowned wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. Italian vermouth, in Italy an aperitif, is another product of Turin and Turin is still the headquarters of many vermouth manufacturers, the most famous of which is Martini and Rossi.

Turin Chocolate Shop

Turin Chocolate Shop

Anchovies are used in many dishes. Bagna Caôda is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles. The sauce is served in a small earthenware pot that is kept hot while it is served. Vegetables are then dipped in the sauce.

A typical beef stew, bollito misto is usually made with four or more meats. Beef and chicken are staples of the dish, as is some type of sausage. These ingredients are often mixed with other meats that are available. The stew is served with a green sauce made from parsley, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and other ingredients according to the preference of the cook.

Turin, Italy is perhaps best known for the white truffle, a rare food that is sought by cooks around the world. Rare is the person who can afford white truffles as they generally sell for between $2,500 and $3,500 per pound. The white truffle season runs from September through December. During the season many towns around Turin have truffle fairs and auctions where you can often get tastes of regional dishes made with truffles.

torinoanchovies
Anchovies with Salsa Verde

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 10 anchovies in salt
  • 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • Two handfuls of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 peperoncino (small hot chilli)
  • 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup of good virgin olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic

Directions:

Wash the anchovies very well under cold running water to remove the salt. Remove the bones and allow the anchovies to dry.

Cook the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.

Put the garlic into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the anchovies and puree until smooth.

Put a little of the sauce onto a serving dish and layer the anchovies over it. Put some more sauce on top.

Let rest at room temperature for at least 1 or 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.

spaghetti with creamy sauce with chanterelle, bacon and parsley

Pasta with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 oz pancetta, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lb assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Crimini, Common White, etc.), thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lb. long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
  • 4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped

Directions

Combine the dried porcini and the wine in a small bowl and soak for thirty minutes.

Fill a large pot with four to six quarts of water and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to the water and stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain and pour onto a serving bowl.

Heat a large saute pan to medium high heat and add the pancetta. Cook until slightly crisp.

Add the butter and allow it to melt. When the bubbles have subsided, add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until the juices have all but evaporated.

Raise the heat to high and add the porcini and wine. Add in the shallots and the thyme. Saute, stirring frequently until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add salt & pepper to taste and the cream.

Allow the sauce to boil until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.

Pour all of the mushroom sauce over the pasta and toss well. Garnish with the chopped parsley.

torinochicken

Chicken Torino Style

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 slices prosciutto
  • 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
  • 2 slices mozzarella cheese
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking dish.

Sauté the garlic in a medium ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until light brown.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cut a slit in each chicken breast and fill the pocket with 1 slice of mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and half of the sautéed garlic.

Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken breast.

In the same skillet used for the garlic, brown the chicken in the butter and remaining oil for about 2 minutes on each side.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

torinodessert

Gianduja Budino

Makes eight 6-ounce servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
  • 12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Topping

  • 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts

Directions

Heat the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a saucepan.

Whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color.  Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.

Once the milk mixture is hot, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.

Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated.

Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together.

Add the vanilla extract and combine.

Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.  Garnish with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.

*Cooking Notes: Gianduja chocolate is  available at most gourmet food stores. If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatin.  Follow the manufacturer’s directions for softening the gelatin in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.

torinomap


Memorial-Day-6

This coming weekend is Memorial Day and the official start of BBQ season. That means lots of ribs, burgers, steaks, kebabs and corn on the cob. If you are going to invite friends over, it will take some planning. What if you are not in the mood for cooking for lots of folks this weekend? Well don’t. You can still have that BBQ shindig, but for just 2 or 3. This is what we will be having at our Memorial Day BBQ.

Grilled Ham Steak with Pear Topping

IMG_0004

For Two

I am not a huge fan of ham steak, but my husband is, so over the years I have worked on making ham steaks taste good. I learned that to make the meat tender, it is important to marinate the steaks overnight. To avoid a dry end result, cook them quickly on the grill and make a flavorful topping. Here is my recipe and it works for us.

Ham Marinade

IMG_0016

  • Juice of one orange – (save the orange rind for the braised carrot recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 fully cooked boneless ham steak (1- 3/4 pounds)

Pear Topping

IMG_0002 (2)

  • 1 Bartlett pear, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ cup of pecans

Directions

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the marinade ingredients. Add ham; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat an outdoor grill. Brush the grates with oil

On a sheet of heavy-duty foil large enough to hold the diced pears, place the diced pears and pecans in the center of the foil. Dot with the butter and sprinkle on the brown sugar and ginger.

Close the foil into a package and place on the grill  Cook for 10 minutes before placing the ham on the grill.

Drain the ham from the marinade and reserve the marinade. Rotate the pear packet on the grill.

Grill the ham steak over medium-hot heat for 3 minutes on each side, basting frequently with the reserved marinade.

Remove the pear packet and spoon the pear sauce over the ham.

Cheddar Cornbread

IMG_0006

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking soda, salt and pepper; make a well in center of flour mixture.

Whisk together the  buttermilk, honey and eggs. Add to the flour mixture and gently incorporate the dry ingredients. Mix in the cheese.

Place the butter in an 8-inch baking pan and place the pan in the oven until the butter melts. Remove the pan from oven and tilt to coat bottom and sides.

Pour the batter into the buttered pan and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cornbread cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Braised Carrots and Fennel

IMG_0005

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¾ lb carrots (1 fresh bunch; about 6 or 7) – cut into matchsticks
  • 1 fennel bulb – ends trimmed, bulb cut in half, each half cored and cut lengthwise in 1/8″ slices
  • 2 strips of orange zest – 1″ x 4″ long
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a mortar
  • 5 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

Directions

IMG_0001

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add the butter, olive oil and honey. Stir well and add the carrots, fennel, orange zest and fennel seeds.

Toss until the slices are well coated with the oil. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes until the fennel starts to soften, tossing occasionally.

Add the orange juice, salt and pepper. Toss quickly and reduce heat to between medium and medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Uncover the pan. Raise heat to high and fast-simmer until the juices have all evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove orange zest and stir in the dill.

Lemon Coconut Cupcakes

IMG_0007

20 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cake

  • 18.5 oz pkg. Lemon Supreme cake mix
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and very soft
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Cupcake liners

Coconut Topping

This frosting is very stable and does not melt or weep at room temperature like many standard whipped cream frostings or change in any way under refrigeration.

  • One 8 oz pkg low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 cups cold heavy (whipping) cream
  • Sweetened shredded coconut

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Coat muffin cups with cooking spray and place a cupcake liner in each.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cake ingredients. Then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Using an ice cream scoop fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.

IMG_0002

To make the frosting

Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and coconut extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.

Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times, while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.

Spread each cupcake generously with the frosting and top each with sweetened coconut. Press the coconut lightly, so it sticks to the frosting. Chill until serving time.


IMG_0023

Now that summer is here in my part of the world, the swimming pool is in full swing. I know that it is probably not summer hot in May where you live, but here is it about 85-86 degrees every day. The 90s will be here next month. This time of year, I like to invite friends over for swimming and either lunch or a BBQ supper. Lunch is a good idea because it can be served easily poolside and most of the food preparation can be done in advance. Seasonal soups are always a big hit with my friends. I usually like to prepare a sandwich or a salad that complements the soup. Here are some of my ideas for lunch that you can make for your family or for guests.

Corn Chowder

IMG_0362

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish

Directions

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot. Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.

Add 3 cups of the corn, the vegetable broth, chili powder and the thyme. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender. Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.

Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.

Serve in individual soup bowls with any or all of the garnishes.

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

IMG_0010

For each sandwich

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Place the eggplant on the bottom half of a ciabatta roll. Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese and the roll top.

IMG_0009

Wrap the sandwich in foil and place on a baking tray. Bake the sandwich for 15 minutes or until hot and the cheese has melted.

Cut the sandwich in two and serve with Tuscan peppers and olives.

Fresh Tomato Basil Soup

IMG_0003

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 6 oz can  tomato paste
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil for garnish

Directions

Combine the  first 6 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir in salt and pepper and the cream. Return the pot to low heat and warm the soup. Do not boil.

Serve in individual soup bowls with basil for a garnish.

Shrimp Pie

IMG_0022

Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated or frozen deep dish pie crust, at room temperature
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay (seafood) seasoning
  • ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, diced
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth or white wine
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1⁄2 cups grated cheddar cheese or your favorite cheese
  • Hot sauce, a few dashes

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie pan coated with cooking spray and flute the edges. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Cook the shallots in the butter for 1-2 minutes over moderate heat until tender, but not browned.

IMG_0017

Add the shrimp and stir gently for 1 minute. Sprinkle on the seafood seasoning.

Add the wine, raise the heat and boil for a minute. Allow to cool slightly. Stir in the roasted red peppers.

IMG_0018

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with the cream, tomato paste and hot sauce. Gradually fold in the cooled shrimp mixture.

IMG_0019

Spread 1 cup of the cheese on the bottom of the pie crust.

Pour the shrimp mixture into the pastry shell and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

IMG_0020

Bake in the upper third of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pie has puffed and browned on the top.

Cool for 15 minutes before cutting.

IMG_0005



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