Here are some suggestions on how to use July’s bounty to create delicious, seasonal meals. You may have noticed that in a few recent salad recipes, I have not cooked the corn before adding it to the salad. Corn, this year, has been plentiful and sweet and I found the salads taste better if the corn is uncooked. The dressing permeates the corn and it tastes quite fresh. Figs and Pecans are also in season here where I live, in fact, the figs are from a friend’s tree. If figs are not available in your area now, you can save this recipe until they are. Peppers and tomatoes are plentiful now and melons are at their peak.
Cold Salad Plate For 2
Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad
Cut 2 rounds from a the center of a ripe, peeled cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Center the rounds on 2 dinner plates.
Mix the tuna salad:
Combine one 6.4 oz package of tuna, ¼ cup diced onion, ¼ cup diced celery, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ½ cup mayonnaise.. Place half the tuna salad in each cantaloupe round.
Make the deviled eggs:
Cut 3 hard-boiled eggs in half. Remove the yolks to a small bowl and mash them. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery.
Add a little sprinkle of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
Mix well and use the fillings to stuff the egg whites. Arrange on the salad plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Add sliced fresh tomatoes to the salad plate and serve with warmed cornbread or rolls.
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Chopped parsley
- Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips, see recipe below
Mix the corn, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato and red onion in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, the lime juice, honey and salt. Mix well.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to marinate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with tortilla chips.
Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips
Bake at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, squeeze more lime juice over them. Serve with the corn salsa.
Summer Chicken Salad
- 8-9 oz boneless chicken breasts
- ½ sweet onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 cup red grapes, halved
- 1 tablespoon lemon Juice
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted
- Parsley for garnish
I like to poach chicken in broth for salads. Place 2 cups of water with a salt free chicken bouillon packet in a medium saucepan. Add a little salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.
Cool in the broth. Drain the chicken and dice. Save the broth for when you need chicken broth for a recipe.
Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients, except the pecans. Chill.
By hand, break half of the pecans into pieces and stir into the salad. Arrange the salad on a serving plate and decorate with the remaining pecans and garnish with parsley.
Makes 9-10 cakes
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Roasted tomato salsa, recipe below
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, honey and cooled melted butter.
Whisk together the wet ingredients, then incorporate the dry ingredients (do not over mix). Mix in the corn and cheese.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop heaping ¼-cup portions of the batter into the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cakes are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Serve the corn cakes topped with Roasted Tomato Salsa.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
- 8 oven roasted tomatoes, finely chopped, see recipe
- 1 jalapeño chili, finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.
Fresh Fig Tart
- One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.
Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.
Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.
Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.
It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers – all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.
Italian Cantaloupe Salad
This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.
- 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
- 12 Italian green olives
- 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad
Good side for grilled meats or fish.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
- 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.
Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.
- 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
- 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
- Basil leaves, sliced thin
In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,
Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.
Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad
Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.
For 2 servings
- 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery
- 1/4 cup finely diced onion
- 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup panko crumbs
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
- 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- Ranch Dressing, recipe below
- Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below
Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.
Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.
Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.
Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.
Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.
Summer Peach and Corn Salad
Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.
- 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
- 2 peaches, diced
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
- 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.
Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese.
You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.
The Province of Naples is a mixture of colors, culture and history. The beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean are like jewels in a necklace. In a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands can be found: Capri, Ischia and Procida. Mt. Vesuvius overlooks the city and the beautiful bay. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide. The entire area is interspersed with finds from a long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.
Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the area in the second millennium BC and Naples played a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Later, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.
Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd richest city by purchasing power and the port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe with the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Center.
Neapolitan cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. A vast variety of recipes are influenced by a local, more affluent cuisine, like timballi and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while some dishes come from the traditions of the poor, like pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) and other pasta dishes with vegetables. Neapolitan cuisine emerged as a distinct cuisine in the 18th century with ingredients that are typically rich in taste, but remain affordable.
The majority of Italian immigrants who went to the United States during the great migration were from southern Italy. They brought with them their culinary traditions and much of what Americans call Italian food originated in Naples and Sicily.
Naples is traditionally credited as the home of pizza. Pizza was originally a meal of the poor, but under Ferdinand IV it became popular among the upper classes. The famous Margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after her visit to the city. Cooked traditionally in a wood-burning oven, the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated by law since 2004, and must include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
Spaghetti is also associated with the city and is commonly eaten with a sauce called ragù. There are a great variety of Neapolitan pastas. The most popular variety of pasta, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are paccheri and ziti, long pipe-shaped pasta usually topped with Neapolitan ragù. Pasta with vegetables is also characteristic of the cuisine. Hand-made gnocchi, prepared with flour and potatoes are also popular.
Other dishes popular in Naples include Parmigiana di melanzane, spaghetti alle vongole and casatiello. As a coastal city, Naples is also known for its numerous seafood dishes, including impepata di cozze (peppered mussels), purpetiello affogato (octopus poached in broth), alici marinate (marinated anchovies), baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) and baccalà fritto (fried cod), a dish commonly eaten during the Christmas period.
Popular Neapolitan pastries include zeppole, babà, sfogliatelle and pastiera, the latter of which is prepared for Easter celebrations. Another seasonal dessert is struffoli, a sweet-tasting honey dough decorated and eaten around Christmas.
The traditional Neapolitan flip coffee pot, known as the cuccuma or cuccumella, was the basis for the invention of the espresso machine and also inspired the Moka pot.
Naples is also the home of limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced in southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. The lemon liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity and flavor.
Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th century Naples, resulting in the export to all parts of the world of the famous “pelati”(peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste). There are traditionally several ways of preparing tomato preserves, bottled tomato juice and chopped tomatoes. The famous “conserva” (sun-dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes a dark red cream with a velvety texture.
Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo. It is a product traditionally produced in the region. The term mozzarella derives from the procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”, that is, the process of the separation of the curd into small balls. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture. The buffalo mozzarella sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC – “Controlled designation of origin”) since 1993. Since 1996 it is also protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.
Neapolitan ragù is one of the two most famous varieties of Italian meat sauces called ragù. It is a specialty of Naples, as its name indicates. The other variety originated in Bologna. The Neapolitan type is made with onions, meat and tomato sauce. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese versions use very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan versions use large pieces of meat, taking it from the pot when cooked and served it as a second course. Ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter is replaced with olive oil and lots of basil leaves are added. Bolognese ragù has no herbs. Milk or cream are not used in Naples. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday Gravy”; the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, including meatballs, sausage and pork chops.
- 1 pound rump roast
- 1 large slice of brisket (not too thick)
- 1 pound veal stew meat
- 1 pound pork ribs
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, pureed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to help them keep their shape. In a large pot heat the oil and butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.
On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a wooden spoon and start adding wine if necessary to keep them moist.
Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.
Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and stir. Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar. (You can place a wooden spoon under the lid.)
The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.
During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in a while and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Serve with your favorite pasta.
Pizza Dough Ingredients
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (350 cc) warm water
- 3 1/2 cups (500 g) flour (Italian OO flour)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
Topping for 1 pizza
- 1 cup (250 g) tomatoes, puréed in a blender
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 5 fresh basil leaves
- 2 oz (60 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
For the pizza dough:
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles, about 5 minutes.
Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Form the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mix in the center, then the olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the pizza dough on the floured surface.
Knead the pizza dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour and until it no longer sticks to your hands.
With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl.
On the top of the pizza dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
When the dough is about double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.
On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. On the work surface, using a rolling-pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin 12 inch round layer.
Transfer the dough to a pizza pan. Using your fingertips, push from the center to the sides to cover the entire surface of the pan.
For the pizza
Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). In a mixing bowl place the tomatoes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the pizza.
With your hands, break the basil leaves into small pieces. Distribute the basil uniformly over the pizza. Spread the rest of the olive oil on the pizza. Add salt to taste.
Bake the pizza for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 10 more minutes. Lift one side to check for readiness. Pizza is ready when the bottom surface is light brown. Top with few more fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.
Pasta con i Calamari
Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.
- 2 whole fresh squid
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 peperoncino
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh basil
- 1 cup white wine
- Olive oil
- 8 oz paccheri pasta
Cut the squid body into slices and halve the tentacles if they are large.
Clean, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Rinse and chop the parsley. Peel and slice the garlic.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the peperoncino. Stir in the calamari and cook 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes and parsley and stir through. Salt to taste.
Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
While the calamari is cooking, cook the pasta al dente. Remove some of the pasta cooking water.
Stir a bit of the pasta water into the sauce and cook a few minutes longer.
Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and stir through.
Garnish with a few basil leaves.
At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.
These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.
- 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
- 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
- 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
- 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons relish
- Sweet paprika for garnish
Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.
Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.
Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.
Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
- 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
- Olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.
Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.
Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.
Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.
Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder
Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.
- 12 ears fresh corn
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups southern field peas
- 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
- Chopped fresh herbs for garnish
Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.
Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.
Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.
Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.
Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.
Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.
Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.
- One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan. You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.
Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.
Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.
Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake
The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.
Simple Sponge Cake Mixture
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
Gluten-Free Cake Mixture
- 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons milk
Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling
2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers
1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)
6 strawberries, cut into thin slices
1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin
12 whole small strawberries, stems removed
Whipped Cream Topping
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon light rum
Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Directions for making the simple sponge cake:
Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.
Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.
Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.
Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:
Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.
Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.
Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the whipped cream topping:
Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.
Directions for assembling the cakes:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.
Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.
Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
Parma is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Parma is famous for its Prosciutto di Parma. The whole area is renowned for its sausage production, as well as for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some kinds of pasta like gnocchi di patate, cappelletti (or anolini) in brodo and tortelli with different stuffings (potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms or chestnuts). Prosciutto or Italian ham is an Italian dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced and served uncooked. This style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto.
There’s a reason why these foods developed in the Emilia region. It’s one of the few areas of Italy that isn’t mountainous, so there are plains and pasture. The farmers of the region were able to raise cows and therefore produce milk and with milk came butter, cream and cheese. Add ham to the dairy ingredients and you have the central core of the region’s cuisine.
Parma is also home to one of Italy’s longest established pasta factories, Barilla. The Barilla Center for the Propagation of Gastronomy has several state-of-the-art kitchens for demonstrations and a large auditorium for lectures, as well as a huge library of books on food and cooking, some as early as the 15th Century.
Prosciutto is made from either a pig’s or a wild boar’s hind leg or thigh. Prosciutto may also be made using the hind leg of other animals, in which case the name of the animal is included in the name of the product, for example “prosciutto cotto d’agnello” (“lamb prosciutto”).
The process of making prosciutto can take from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham. First, the ham is cleaned, salted and set aside for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully, so as to avoid breaking the bone and to drain it of all liquid. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt and is hung in a dark, well-ventilated area. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham and the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until thoroughly dry. The time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to 18 months.
Prosciutto is sometimes cured with nitrites (either sodium or potassium), which are generally used in other hams to produce the desired rosy color and unique flavor, but only sea salt is allowed in Protected Designation of Origin hams.
Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), certain well-established meat products are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The two famous types of Italian prosciutto are: prosciutto crudo di Parma, from Parma and prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs’ diet. The prosciutto di San Daniele is darker in color and sweeter in flavor.
Sliced prosciutto crudo in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto, wrapped around grissini or melon. It is also eaten as accompaniment to cooked spring vegetables, such as asparagus or peas. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream or in a dish of tagliatelle with vegetables. It is used in stuffings for meats, as a wrap around veal or chicken, in a filled bread or as a pizza topping. Saltimbocca is an Italian veal dish, where thin slices of veal are topped with a sage leaf before being wrapped in prosciutto and then pan-fried. Prosciutto is often served in sandwiches and sometimes in a variation of the Caprese salad with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese. The name “Parmesan” is often used generically for various versions of this cheese. It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna) and Mantua (in Lombardy). Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name as a protected designation of origin. According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created during the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to the product produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to an even earlier time.
Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass-fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years and cheese is produced daily. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Whole milk from the morning milking is mixed with naturally skimmed milk (which is made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats.
Starter whey is added and the temperature is raised to 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Calf rennet is then added and the mixture is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically into small pieces and the temperature is raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided in two and placed in molds. The remaining whey in the vat is traditionally used to feed the pigs from which “Prosciutto di Parma” is produced.
The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt, imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number and the month and year of production is put around the cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves and the cheese and the shelves are cleaned manually or robotically every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this time.
At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every wheel. The cheese is tested by a master grader who taps each wheel to identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Wheels that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio’s logo. Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm (7–9 in) high, 40–45 cm (16–18 in) in diameter and weighs 38 kg (84 lb).
Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos or eaten sliced as an appetizer. It is often shaved over other dishes like salads. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup.
Prosciutto Parmesan Pasta
- 8 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the prosciutto in the skillet over medium heat until just brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the skillet and set the prosciutto aside on paper towels. Drain the skillet of any remaining fat.
Add the cream the skillet and heat on low. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese in small amounts. When all the cheese has been melted, stir in the peas and prosciutto.
Allow to heat for 2 minutes more. Add the drained pasta and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cheese and Prosciutto Panini
- 4 whole slices Italian bread
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- Unsalted butter
Cover two slices of the bread with a layer of grated cheese. Generously grind black pepper over the top. Place two slices of Prosciutto di Parma over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top.
Cook in a panini maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or:
In a large frying, add enough butter to provide a generous covering, about 2 tablespoons. Heat the butter over medium-low heat until foamy.
Add the cheese sandwiches, pressing them onto the pan; slowly fry, regulating the heat so the butter does not burn.
Once light brown, turn the sandwiches over and press down with a spatula to compress slightly. Brown the other side.
When done, transfer the sandwiches to a paper towel to drain. Cut in half diagonally and serve.
- 1 pound prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 cups baby arugula
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- Shaved Parmesan cheese, for topping
Place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round.
Transfer the round to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or another upside-down baking sheet; slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.
Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl with the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pizza from the oven, brush with the olive oil mixture and top with the ricotta and mozzarella.
Return the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven.
Toss the arugula and shallot in a large bowl with the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Top the baked pizza with the arugula salad, prosciutto and shaved parmesan cheese. Cut into slices and serve.
Belluno is a province in the Veneto region of Italy and is almost entirely occupied by mountain areas. The climate is among the most severe in the Alps. The Belluno area is representative of a typical alpine environment and a people who are proud of their traditions passed down from generation to generation through experience and oral narrative.
Belluno is one of the most important industrial sectors of northern Italy. The production of eyeglasses (Luxottica), home appliances (Zanussi and others) and bathroom fixtures (Ceramica Dolomite, Ideal Standard) are major industries.
Luxottica Group S.p.A., an Italian company, is the world’s largest eye wear company and is a designer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer of eye wear. Leonardo Del Vecchio and two financial partners launched Luxottica in Agordo, Italy in 1961.
Luxottica is the owner of Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. Its best known brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. Luxottica also makes sunglasses and prescription frames for designer brands such as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney and Tory Burch. Luxottica produces more than 130,000 eyeglass frames each day from six factory sites.
The cultivation of beans in the Lamon highlands and the production of Piave cheese in the Dolomites are important to Belluno’s economy. Large scale dairy cattle breeding in Belluno, began centuries ago by small mountain owners and valley sharecroppers. In more recent times, the Belluno area, like many other mountain areas in Italy, was hit with a serious economic crisis. In order to deal with the socio-economic downfall, a local parish priest, suggested a new form of joint management and the first social cooperative dairy was organized.
Piave is an Italian cow’s milk cheese, that is named after the Piave river. As Piave has a Protected Designation of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP), the only “official” Piave is produced in the Dolomites area in the province of Belluno.
Piave is a hard, cooked curd cheese, offered at 5 different ages:
Piave Fresco (20 to 60 days aging – blue label)
Piave Mezzano (61 to 180 days aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio (more than 6 months aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro (more than 12 months aging – red label)
Piave Vecchio Riserva (more than 18 months aging – black label).
Piave cheese has a dense texture, without holes, and is straw-yellow in hue. It has a slightly sweet flavor. Once fully aged, it becomes hard enough for grating and it develops an intense, full-bodied flavor.
Piave’s rind is impressed repeatedly in a vertical direction with the name of the cheese. Piave is sold throughout Europe and even in the US as a hard cheese. Its taste resembles that of a young Parmigiano Reggiano. The red label is aged at least 1 year and is called Vecchio (Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro), while the blue label is softer.
Piave Broiled Tomatoes
Makes 2 – 4 servings
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” slices
- 3/4 cup | 175 mL panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon | 15 mL fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup | 150 mL Piave cheese, finely grated
- 1/4 cup | 60 mL olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each | 5 mL each fresh herbs like sage, basil and parsley, finely chopped
Place tomato slices on paper towels to drain. In a medium bowl combine panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sage and Piave Cheese; stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to broil.
Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Equally sprinkle breadcrumb mixture onto each tomato; drizzle with olive oil and place under broiler.
Broil for approximately 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with fresh herbs and serve.
Makes 2 rounds
- 1 pound Pizza Dough, divided in half
- 6 ounces Piave cheese, shaved, divided in half
- 12 very thin slices lemon, seeds removed, divided in half
- 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced, divided in half
- 2 tablespoons small sprigs fresh rosemary, divided in half
- Freshly ground pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place a pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven (remove racks) or the bottom rack of electric oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 1 hour.
Stretch half the dough into a large round on a wooden pizza peel.
Arrange half the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half the lemon and onion slices. Sprinkle with half the rosemary and season with pepper. Drizzle with oil.
Turn the oven to broil. Align the edge of the peel with the edge of the stone. Tilt the peel, jerking it gently to move pizza onto the stone. When the edge of the pizza touches the stone, quickly pull back the peel to transfer the pizza to the stone. (Do not move the pizza once it is on the stone.)
Broil until bubbles begin to form in the crust, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the oven temperature to 500 degrees F and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. (If not using the broiler, bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes total.) Remove the pizza from the oven with the peel. Repeat with the second pizza. Slice and serve.
Piave Orzo with Peas and Asparagus
- ½ cup | 125 mL heavy cream
- 1 cup | 250 mL chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon | 5 mL lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon | 10 mL lemon zest, grated
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL Piave Cheese, shredded
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed into 2” lengths
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL fresh or frozen peas
- 2 cups | 500 mL orzo | rice shaped pasta
- ¼ cup | 50 mL Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional shredded Piave cheese for garnishing
In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring cream, chicken or vegetable broth to a slow boil. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and Piave cheese, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add orzo and cook for approximately 5 minutes; add asparagus and fresh peas (add frozen peas the last two minutes of cooking), continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are tender – approximately 4 additional minutes.
Drain pasta and vegetables and return to pasta pot; stir in cream cheese sauce and parsley. Garnish with additional Piave cheese and serve.
Figs, Piave Cheese & Honey
- Wedge of Piave cheese
- 4 large figs
- Honey to drizzle, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 sprig of fresh mint leaves, optional
- Fresh cracked pepper
Cut the cheese in half and slice off the rind on both sides. Cut into 12-15 thin triangle slices.
Cut the top of the figs off and then into quarters. Place the Piave slices on a plate with the figs.
Sprinkle the cheese and figs with cracked pepper. Then, drizzle with honey – about a teaspoon on each fig – and garnish with fresh mint leaves, if using.
Serve on individual plates with a dessert fork and knife.