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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Chicken Livers

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Valentino Collection

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Valentino Collection

Milan is a metropolitan city in the Lombardy region of Italy and it replaced the Province of Milan. It includes the city of Milan and other municipalities (comuni) and was first created by the reform of local authorities (Law 142/1990). It has been operative since January 1, 2015.

Italy’s fashion houses are legendary, from Dolce Vita to Prada and Versace to Valentino. The country has always been known for its meticulous craftsmanship and luxury materials, but it was only after Word War II that Italy emerged as a fashion destination. After the war Italy’s fashion industry got the confidence and the economic support to come into its own. In an effort to restore and stabilize the Italian economy after World War II, the Marshall Plan provided American aid for Italy’s textile businesses, which were mostly small, family owned operations. This investment spurred the production of leather, fur, silk and wool— the country’s most prized luxury materials to this day.

In 2009, this Italian city was named the fashion capital of the world. Every year, several major runway shows are held in Milan that showcase international fashion icons, buyers and models. The fashion industry in Italy is known for providing fashionable clothing and accessories that boast comfort, elegance, quality and fantasy. The purpose of Italian fashion is somehow different from the ones in New York, Paris and Tokyo. Italians prefer to buy clothes that will remain stylish longer, comfortable to wear and of good quality rather than fading trends.

Prada

Prada

Laura Biagiotti

Laura Biagiotti

During the ’50s and ’60s, while French labels like Christian Dior and Jacques Fath turned their focus fully on couture, only Italian fashion designers truly understood the need for women to have comfortable, versatile clothing that was also tailored and refined. Italian day wear took off in America and paved the way for the ready-to-wear collections coming out of Italy’s fashion houses today. Part of the reason Italy was the first market for day wear was a coterie of women designers who understood the needs of women. Germana Marucelli, Mila Schön, Simonetta and Galitzine: These women all came from Italian aristocracy and they found themselves without jobs and without any money after the war. What they knew were clothes and they had the technical know-how to create new designs.

Armani

Armani

Zegna

Zegna

In Italy, designers have shown excellence when it comes to creating clothes and accessories that are functional and practical. In terms of design, designers make sure that the fabrics and other materials used in producing clothes are of equal quality. The country’s fashion industry has remained competitive in the international fashion industry and the industry is playing a significant role in the recovery of the Italian economy from the recession that recently hit the country. Any improvement in the condition of the fashion industry will also be beneficial to other industries in Italy. This is because most of the regions and small factories in the country are involved in the production of fashion accessories, textiles, shoes and apparel.

Spring Fashion Week 2016

Laura Biagiotti

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Some of the largest fashion companies in the world are also headquartered in Italy. Many of the major Italian fashion brands, such as Valentino, Versace, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Marni, Iceberg, Missoni, Trussardi, Moschino, Dirk Bikkembergs, Etro, and Zegna are currently headquartered in the city. Among the newest labels are young designers, such as Sara Battaglia, Angelos Bratis and Aquilano.Rimondi.

Via Monte Napoleone, the leading thoroughfare in Milan's "golden quadrilateral". In 2010, it was ranked as the sixth most expensive shopping street in the world.

Via Monte Napoleone, the leading thoroughfare in Milan’s “golden quadrilateral”. In 2010, it was ranked as the sixth most expensive shopping street in the world.

Milan also hosts a fashion week twice a year in Milan’s main upscale fashion district, where the city’s most prestigious shopping streets (Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia) are found. Italy also is home to many fashion magazines, such as Vogue Italia, Vanity Fair, Elle, Glamour, Grazia, Amica, Flair and Gioia.

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In Milan not even the onslaught of the fall collections can prevent some of the city’s most stylish from preparing delicious, fresh food.

Want to feel like you are in Milan – make some of the recipes from their well-known cuisine.

Milanese Tripe Soup

milanotripe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) boiled veal tripe
  • 12 ounces (300 g) cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • 2/3 pound (300 g) carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) canned tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • Sage
  • 2 onions, minced
  • A small stick celery, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A sprig of sage

Directions

If you haven’t bought the tripe already boiled, wash it very well, then cut it into fairly large pieces and boil it in a large pot for 30 minutes. Drain and discard the liquid.

Cover the tripe again with water and add a carrot, a celery stalk, an onion and salt. Bring to a boil. Skim the surface often and simmer for 4 hours, adding water if needed.

Drain it well and cut it into the traditional thin strips. Fill a pot with water and simmer the sliced tripe for another hour.

When the hour is almost up heat the butter and the oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onions. When they are golden, add the tripe with its liquid, and, a few minutes later, the beans, celery, carrots, tomatoes and sage.

Season the pot with salt and pepper and add a little boiling water (just enough to cover). Cover and simmer on low for about three hours. Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese.

Milanese Ravioli

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Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 1/3 cups (400 g) flour
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 10 ounces (250 g) ground beef
  • 3 cups (150 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) softened unsalted butter, plus additional for the sauce
  • A few tablespoons of beef broth
  • Salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

Work the flour with a pinch of salt, two of the eggs and just enough water to obtain a smooth elastic dough. Knead it well, for 10-15 minutes, cover it with a damp cloth and set it aside.

Combine the ground beef with the butter and the grated Parmigiano. Add a pinch of nutmeg, the remaining 2 eggs, a few tablespoons of broth to moisten and mix well.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll them out into two very thin rectangles.

Lay one of the sheets on the work surface and dot it with tablespoons of filling, separating them by a couple of inches (5 cm).

Lay the second sheet over the first, press down between the filling, so the sheets stick together and then cut each ravioli free with a serrated pasta wheel.

Bring a pot of water to boil, salt it and cook the ravioli for a few minutes, remove them with a strainer to a serving bowl. Serve them with melted butter and grated cheese.

Involtini di Vitello alla Milanese

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Ingredients

  • 12 thin slices veal, about one and one-half pounds, cut for scaloppine
  • 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
  • 1/3 pound chicken livers, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 3 tablespoons,butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fine fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup fresh or canned chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped sage or parsley

Directions

Put the slices of veal between sheets of plastic wrap and pound with a flat mallet until even without breaking the tissues. Set aside.

Combine the prosciutto and chicken livers in a mixing bowl.

Heat one teaspoon of the butter in a small skillet and cook the onion, stirring, until it is wilted. Add this to the mixing bowl. Add the garlic, bread crumbs, nutmeg, pepper, lemon rind, egg and cheese. Blend well.

Lay out the pieces of veal in one layer on a flat surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon an equal portion of the filling on each slice.

Wrap the meat around the filling, folding and tucking the ends in envelope fashion. Tie each bundle neatly in two pieces of kitchen string. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Dredge the bundles all over in flour and shake off the excess.

In a heavy skillet large enough to hold the rolls, without crowding, in one layer, heat the remaining three tablespoons of butter and add the veal bundles.

Cook, turning the bundles occasionally, until they are browned all over, about three or four minutes. Reduce the heat and continue cooking over moderately low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the veal rolls to a serving plate.

Add the wine to the skillet and stir to dissolve the brown particles that cling to the bottom and sides of the pan. Add the chicken broth and herbs. Bring to the boil and let cook over high heat about five minutes.

Remove the strings from the veal rolls and pour the sauce over the rolls. Serve immediately.

Torta Paradiso

milanocake

From La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by Academia Italina Della Cucina, 2009.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks room temperature butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups potato starch

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch circular cake pan.

Beat the butter in an electric mixer until soft.  Mix the egg yolks into the butter one at a time.  Slowly add in the sugar.  Add the zest, flour and potato starch.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes and insert a toothpick into the center of the cake to check if it is cooked.  If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. If not, cook for a few minutes more until the toothpick is clean.

Remove the cake from the pan and set on a wire rack to cool.  Top with Mascarpone Cream.

Mascarpone Cream

From La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by Academia Italina Della Cucina, 2009.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur

Directions

In an electric mixer, combine the 2 egg yolks with the sugar.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg white until still.  Fold the egg white into the egg yolk and sugar mixture.

Mix the egg and sugar mixture with the mascarpone cheese.  Add the Amaretto and stir to combine.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set.  Spread over the cooled Torta Paradiso.

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The Province of Siena is located in central-southern Tuscany. The main agricultural products are wheat, grapes, fruit and silk. Chianti wine is produced here, as well. The town’s 13th-century main square, the Piazza del Campo, is still the city’s symbolic and physical heart. Piazza del Campo is the ideal Italian piazza, a huge space reached by winding streets that suddenly converge in front of the city’s town hall. The twice-a-summer bareback horse race, Il Palio, are popular events. The city’s Museo Civico is in the Piazza del Campo, where you’ll find beautiful frescoes, like the collection painted by Simone Martini and the Allegory of Good and Bad Government created by Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Sala della Pace. Commissioned by the city council in the 14th century, at the height of the city-state’s power, the frescoes depict on one side a city at peace and, on the other, a tyrant-ruled Siena in ruins with armies descending on one another. In the Piazza Grande in Montepulciano, a festival of love stories in the Tuscan tradition is held, where players dressed in costume, narrate the stories. The Medieval folklore is continued in Montepulciano, with the combat of the Bravio delle Botti, during which athletes compete by pushing 176-lb barrels.

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Few dishes are more Tuscan than Bistecca Fiorentina, grilled steak from the prized Chianina cattle.  Other typical delicacies are pici (a thick, handmade spaghetti), ribollita, a vegetable, bread and bean soup, roasts, stewed or grilled game, cacio pecorino – a hard, salty Italian cheese, often used for grating and made from sheep’s milk, mushrooms, tripe, wild boar and cold cuts made from the Cinta Senese, the famed black pig with a white stripe, depicted in some famous 15th Century paintings.

Italy / Italia - Siena (Toscany / Toscana) / FLR : on Piazza del Campo - Palazzo Pubblico - Unesco world heritage site - photo by M.Bergsma

Italy / Italia – Siena (Toscany / Toscana) / FLR : on Piazza del Campo – Palazzo Pubblico – Unesco world heritage site – photo by M.Bergsma

Osteria-style lunches tend to be simple meals of small plates containing sausage, local meats, such as prosciutto and salami, panzanella, meatballs and different types of frittata accompanied by carafes of the house wine. Seafood from the Tuscan coast, may consist of Calamari Eggplant Parmesan (crispy strips of battered calamari with chunks of aubergine topped with cheese) or fresh fish, such as  amberjack baked with potatoes, zucchini and olives.

Sienese sweets are not particularly well-known, but two treats — Panforte and Ricciarelli are typical of the province’s desserts. The former, with its spices and dry fruit, is reminiscent of a slightly hard Christmas fruit cake. The Ricciarelli are soft almond-based cookies with a crunchy top and the flavors of honey and vanilla.

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Some Traditional Recipes From Siena

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Crostini With Chicken Livers

Ingredients

  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sage sprigs
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 anchovy fillet, minced
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1 large baguette, thinly sliced

Directions

Trim the chicken livers of any sinews and veins and set them on paper towels to dry for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large skillet, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the chopped onion, sage and rosemary and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the minced anchovy and capers and cook over low heat until the onion is lightly browned, about 8 minutes longer. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl.

Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper, add them to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken livers over and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the onion mixture. Add the cognac and carefully ignite it with a long match. Cook the livers until the flames subside.

Discard the herb sprigs and scrape the contents of the skillet into a food processor; let cool slightly. Pulse until chunky, then season with additional salt and pepper, if it is needed.

Place the baguette slices on a large baking sheet and toast them for about 15 minutes, until they are golden and crisp. Spread the baguette toasts with the chicken liver and serve.

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Tuscan Roasted Game Hens

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 Game Birds or Rock Cornish Game Hens, each about 3/4 pound each and at room temperature
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 6 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 12 black olives (preferably small Gaeta or Nicoise)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 thin slices pancetta or prosciutto
  • Roasting pan or baking dish large enough to accommodate the hens

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a piece of pancetta inside each hen, along with a sage leaf, a bay leaf and 2 of the olives.. Sprinkle salt and pepper all over the outsides of the hens and rub into the skin, along with some of the olive oil at the same time. Wrap a slice of pancetta or prosciutto around each hen, stretching the meat to cover as much of the hen as possible. Set the hens in the baking pan.

Roast for 45 minutes, then turn down the oven to 325 degrees F. and continue roasting 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the hens  are cooked.. Serve with the pan juices as a sauce.

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Panforte Di Siena Recipe – Italian Siena Cake

Panforte is an Italian confection that is a cross between fruitcake, candy and honey cake and is a specialty of Siena, Italy that dates back to the 13th century.

Ingredients

Bread Crumb Crust

  • 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds or hazelnuts

Cake

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup candied citron or candied melon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup almonds or hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped*
  • Powdered (confectioner’s sugar) sugar

* To toast nuts, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Place nuts in a single layer in an ungreased shallow pan or rimmed baking sheet. Bake 5 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice during toasting to aid in even browning, or until they are golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and place the nuts on a plate to cool

Directions

Brush an 8-inch Springform Pan with the butter. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom. Brush with paper with butter and fit into pan bottom.

In a small bowl, combine cake flour, bread crumbs and almonds or hazelnuts; evenly scatter over sides and bottom. Pat gently into place and set aside..

Preheat the oven to 300° F and adjust the oven rack to the center position.

In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup cake flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, coriander, cloves and nutmeg; set aside.

In another small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of cake flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon; set mixture aside and save for the top.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the honey and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture comes to a full boil; remove from the heat. Stir in candied fruit and almonds or hazelnuts. Sift in flour mixture; stir until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Smooth the top with the slightly wet palm of your hand. Sift reserved cinnamon-flour mixture over the top.

Place cake in the center of the oven rack. Bake 30 minute or until panforte just starts to simmer around edge of the pan. Remove from the oven; cool completely on a wire rack.

Loosen the cake from the pan by running a small knife around the perimeter and remove the sides of the springform pan. Invert onto a wire rack, letting excess cinnamon flour fall away. Use a knife to peel away the parchment paper. Invert panforte again and transfer onto a wire rack. Dust top with powdered sugar.

When cool, it can be wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil and stored in an airtight container for several weeks or frozen for up to six months. Serve at room temperature. Before serving, dust lightly with additional powdered sugar. Cut into small wedges to serve.

Makes 16 servings.

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The region of Abruzzo is hilly and mountainous and stretches from the Apennines to the Adriatic Sea. In this part of the Adriatic, the long sandy beaches are replaced by steep and rocky coasts. L’Aquila is the regional capital. Pescara, Chieti and Teramo are other important cities.

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Abruzzo boasts the title of “Greenest Region in Europe” thanks to one third of its territory, the largest in Europe, being set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. In the region there are three national parks, one regional park and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of all of Europe’s living species and are also home to some rare species, such as the small wading dotterel, golden eagle, Abruzzo chamois, Apennine wolf and Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe’s southernmost glacier.

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The Abruzzo region has two types of climate: the first is strongly influenced by the presence of Abruzzo’s Apennines range. Coastal areas have a Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters, rainy hills and a climate where temperatures progressively decrease with increasing altitude. Precipitation is also strongly affected by the presence of the Apennines mountain ridges with increased rain on the slopes of the mountains in the region.

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Until a few decades ago, Abruzzo was a region of poverty in Southern Italy. Since the 1950s, Abruzzo has had steady economic growth. In 1951, the Abruzzo per capita income or GDP was 53% of that of Northern Italy, the nation’s richest region. By 1971, Abruzzo was at 65% and, by 1994, the per capita income was at 76% of Northern Italy’s per capita income, giving Abruzzo the highest per capita GDP of Southern Italy and surpassing the growth of every other region in Italy. The construction of superhighways from Rome to Teramo (A24) and Rome to Pescara (A25) opened Abruzzo to easy access. Abruzzo also attained higher per capita education levels and greater productivity growth than the rest of the South.

The 2009 L’Aquila earthquake led to a sharp economic slowdown. However, according to statistics at the end of 2010, it seems that the economy of Abruzzo is recovering, despite the negative data regarding employment. At the end of 2010, Abruzzo’s growth was placed fourth among the Italian regions with the highest annual growth rates after Lazio, Lombardy and Calabria.

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Abruzzo’s industrial sector expanded rapidly, especially in mechanical engineering, transportation equipment and telecommunications. Both pure and applied research are carried out in the region where there are major institutes and factories involved in research, especially, in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biomedicine, electronics, aerospace and nuclear physics. The industrial infrastructure is spread throughout the region in industrial zones, the most important of which are Val Pescara, Val Sangro, Val Trigno, Val Vibrata and Conca del Fucino.

A further activity worthy of note is seaside and mountain tourism, which is of considerable importance to the economy of the region. In the past decade, tourism has increased due to Abruzzo’s wealth of castles and medieval towns, especially around L’Aquila. Beach-goers also flock to places like Tortoreto, Giulianova, Silvi Marina, Roseto and, further south, Ortona, Vasto and San Salvo. Ski resorts are equally popular.

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Abruzzo Beach tourism destinations

Agriculture has succeeded in modernizing and offering higher-quality products. The mostly small, agricultural properties produce wine, cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, olives, vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Traditional products are saffron and liquorice. Most famous in the wine world is Abruzzo’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy.

Abruzzo has a rich culinary tradition, with various traditions attached to each province.

Battered and fried zucchini blooms, spit-roasted scamorza cheese, vinegar-poached lobster, salame di pecora (a rare sheep’s meat salami), crepes loaded with cheese and vegetables in a rich mutton broth, hearty ragus, ricotta cheese drizzled with honey and dusted with saffron powder .… are just a few of the complex and elegant flavors to be found on Abruzzi tables.

Ragus are a generalized term for any type of meat-based sauce. Ragus are heavily associated with the cooking of Southern Italy, as well, and seem to have begun their migration southward from the Abruzzi region.

This is a cheese-loving region and mozzarella and scamorza take center stage on the dairy scene. Both cow’s milk cheeses are young, mild, creamy and sweet with smooth textures and a stringiness that allows them to hold up equally well in baked dishes or on their own as table cheeses.

The maccheroni alla chitarra are highly renowned (homemade pasta cut on a machine with thin steel blades) and scrippelle are thin strips of pasta eaten in soup. On the coast, most first courses are fish-based, often made with tomato to enhance the taste of “poor man’s fish,” that are caught off the shores of ancient fishing villages.

As for second courses, a typical recipe is scapece, which is pickled fried fish. Guazzetto or fish broth is also popular in coastal towns. Other than sea fare, one will find plenty of lamb, kid and mutton on the dinner table, while pork is used for prosciutto, lonza, ventricina and other typical salamis that are produced locally. Abruzzi lamb, in general, is considered superior in flavor to other lamb found elsewhere because of the animals’ mountain-grazed diets rich in herbs.

Among the desserts, often made with almonds and honey, you will find nougat or torrone; confetti (typical sugared almonds) and cicerchiata, small balls of fried dough covered in honey.

Traditional Recipes from Abuzzo

abruzzosoup

Potato Soup with Saffron

Ingredients

6 servings

  • 1 ¼ lb potatoes
  • 10 oz cannarozzi – spaghetti cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Saffron threads
  • 2 ½ oz extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Celery leaves for garnish

Directions

Lightly sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil. As soon as the mixture has cooled, add the saffron, mix well and then let rest to dissolve the saffron.

Boil and peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.

Add 8 ¼ cups of water to the pot containing the saffron mixture and then salt to taste. Bring to a boil and add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, add the potatoes. Heat and serve garnished with celery leaves.

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Timballo di Crespelle

This recipe is often served at wedding lunches, where it generally follows the soup course.

Ingredients

For the crespelle (crepes):

  • 50g [2 oz] all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil, for the pan
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons water

For the filling:

  • 125g [4 oz] ground meat
  • 100g [3 1/2 oz] spinach
  • 75g [2 1/2 oz] mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 20g [1 scant oz] butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 artichokes
  • 2 tablespoons grated Grana or Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 chicken liver
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt

Directions

To make the filling.

Mince the chicken liver and combine it with the ground meat.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and gently brown the ingredients over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Set aside.

Clean the spinach, blanch in a little salted water for 5 minutes; drain, squeeze out any excess water and lightly cook it with the butter for 4 minutes. Set aside.

Clean and trim the artichokes, discard the tough outer leaves and trim off the tips; cut in half, discard the inner fuzz and slice them. Sprinkle with the parsley and a dash of salt and cook in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons olive oil for 20 minutes, moistening with a little water, if need be.  Set aside.

Break the egg into a mixing bowl, add the milk and egg yolk and whisk with a fork. Set aside

To make the crespelle.

Put the flour, eggs and 6 tablespoons water into a mixing bowl and beat with a fork. Take a small frying pan, the bottom should be as wide as the ovenproof dish to be used for the timballo, and heat a little olive oil in it over a moderate to low heat.

Place 2 tablespoons batter into the pan, tilting to make sure it spreads out to cover the bottom; let it set and then flip. When the crespelle is ready, remove it from the pan and continue until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan each time with a little oil.

To assemble the timballo.

Butter an ovenproof dish and lay a crespelle on the bottom.

Make separate layers of sliced mozzarella, meat, spinach and artichokes, separating each with a crepe, adding a sprinkling of Grana cheese each time and a couple of tablespoons of the egg and milk mixture.

Make sure there are at least 2 layers of each ingredient, cover with another crespelle and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and egg-milk mixture.

Place the dish in the oven and bake at 220°C/425°F for 30 minutes.

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Penne with Abruzzi-Style Lamb Ragu

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 pound boneless lamb, cut into very fine dice
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juices
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

Directions

Put the oil and onion in a large skillet and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is pale gold. Add the pancetta and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta fat is rendered; the pancetta should remain soft.

Add the lamb and cook until browned, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the wine and simmer until evaporated, 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the fat begins to separate from the sauce, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarse salt, cover and return to a boil.

Add the pasta to the pot and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon. Cover and bring back to a boil. Uncover and cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until it is al dente.

Drain the pasta and immediately transfer it to a warmed bowl. Toss with the lamb sauce and the 1/3 cup of grated cheese. Serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.

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Parrozzo

But among Abruzzo’s desserts, Parrozzo is the most remarkable. In ancient times, Abruzzo peasants made cornmeal bread in the shape of a dome and baked it in a wood-fired oven. They called this “pan rozzo” meaning ‘unrefined bread,’ as opposed to the regular and more expensive white flour bread eaten at the time only by higher classes. At the turn of the 19th century, pastry chef Luigi D’Amico re-invented that recipe by using eggs instead of cornmeal to obtain the bread’s golden hue. He kept the dome shape and topped it with a dark chocolate coating to reproduce the bread’s charred crust.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 70% dark chocolate  
  • 1/2 cup sugar  
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature  
  • 1/4 cup sweet almonds
  • 10 bitter almonds
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch  
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour  
  • 5 eggs, separated  

Directions

Blanch almonds in boiling water and peel off the husk, and grind them with 2 tablespoons of sugar in a processor. Work butter with a fork, add the remaining sugar and the egg yolks and whisk well. Fold in the ground almonds and then the flour and cornstarch. Beat the egg whites in a mixer until soft peaks form and then and fold into the almond mixture.

Pour mixture in a buttered Bundt pan or dome-shaped cake mold and bake at 450° F for 45 minutes.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and once the parrozzo has cooled, spread the chocolate sauce over the entire surface. Allow the chocolate to set before cutting.


Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.


 

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The self-portrait of master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini. An Italian Renaissance painting that disappeared from view for 450 years was yesterday declared to be the previously unknown self-portrait of the 16th century master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini. The painting was unveiled in Paris after a team of experts concluded during 11 months of art detective work that it was genuine. Although the value of the work is said to be difficult to calculate, its owner, a private collector who apparently has no wish to sell, is insuring it for £60 million. He found the painting in an antiques sale in France a year ago, paying an undisclosed sum. Convinced that the painting was Cellini’s, the collector approached Italian art authorities, offering it for research and display, only to be turned away. He then commissioned the Parisian art laboratory Cosmo di Medici to conduct a detailed study. By a process involving comparison with the only other known portrait of Cellini, physio-chemical analysis and even psychological profiling, the experts agreed that the work was Cellini’s, painted in his native Florence between 1555 and 1565. (colin.randall@telegraph.co.uk)

Benvenuto Cellini was a Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, soldier and writer. He was born in 1500 in Florence, Italy and his parents were Giovanni Cellini and Maria Lisabetta Granacci. They were married for eighteen years before the birth of their first child. Benvenuto was the second child of the family. The son of a musician and builder of musical instruments, Cellini was pushed towards music,but when he was fifteen his father reluctantly agreed to apprentice him to the goldsmith, Antonio di Sandro. However, at the age of sixteen, Benvenuto attracted attention in Florence by taking part in an altercation with his companions. He was banished for six months by the magistrates and went to live in Siena, where he worked for a goldsmith named Fracastoro. From Siena he moved to Bologna, where he became a more accomplished flute player and made progress as a goldsmith. After a visit to Pisa and a period of studying sculpture in Florence, he moved to Rome.

His first artistic works were a silver casket, silver candlesticks and a vase for the bishop of Salamanca, which won him the approval of Pope Clement VII. Another celebrated work from his time in Rome is the gold medallion, “Leda and the Swan”, created for Gonfaloniere Gabbriello Cesarino that is now in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. He also took up the flute again and was appointed one of the pope’s court musicians.

In the attack on Rome by Charles III, Duke of Bourbon, Cellini gained fame as a soldier. According to his own accounts, he shot and injured Philibert of Châlon, Prince of Orange. His bravery led to a reconciliation with the Florentine magistrates and he soon returned to his hometown of Florence. Here, he devoted himself to crafting medals in gold, the most famous of which are “Hercules and the Nemean Lion” and “Atlas Supporting the Sphere”, the latter eventually falling into the possession of Francis I of France.

He returned to Rome and this time he was employed in the craft of making jewelery and in casting dies for medals and the papal mint. In 1529 his brother, Cecchino, killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and, in turn, was wounded. He later died. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother’s killer – an act of blood revenge, but not justice, as Cellini admits that his brother’s killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to escape the consequences. Through the influence of several cardinals, he later obtained a pardon. Cellini next went to Venice, where he was restored with greater honor than before.

At the age of 37, after returning from a visit to the French court, he was imprisoned on a charge (apparently false) of having embezzled the gems of the pope’s tiara during the war. He was confined to the Castel Sant’Angelo, escaped, was recaptured and treated severely. The intercession Cardinal d’Este of Ferrara, eventually secured Cellini’s release, in gratitude for which he crafted d’Este a gold cup.

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Bust of Benvenuto Cellini on the Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Besides his works in gold and silver, Cellini created sculptures of a grander scale. One of the main projects of his French period is probably the “Golden Gate” for the Château de Fontainebleau. Only the bronze tympanum of this unfinished work, which represents the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Paris, Louvre), still exists, but the complete spectrum of his work can be known through archives,his preparatory drawings and reproduced casts. His most distinguished sculpture, the bronze group of “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” now in the Loggia dei Lanzi at Florence, was his attempt to surpass Michelangelo’s, “David” and Donatello’s, “Judith and Holofernes”. The casting of this work caused Cellini much trouble and anxiety, but it was called a masterpiece as soon as it was completed. By 1996, centuries of environmental pollution exposure had damaged the statue. In December 1996 it was removed from the Loggia and transferred to the Uffizi for cleaning and restoration. It was a slow, years-long process and the restored statue was returned to its home in June 2000.

The autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini was started when he was 58 and ended just before his last trip to Pisa around the year 1563, when Cellini was approximately 63 years old. The memoirs give a detailed account of his career, as well as his loves, hatreds, passions and enjoyments, that is written in an energetic, direct and racy style. They show a great self-regard and self-assertion, sometimes running into extravagances which are impossible to credit. Despite its exaggerations and its often boastful tone, it is a document of surprising frankness and incomparable authenticity and, thanks to it Cellini’s character, is more intimately known than that of any other figure of his time.

He died in Florence in 1571 at the age of 71 leaving behind a magnificent legacy of work. For all his exploits, Benvenuto Cellini remains a hero of Florence, in the Piazzale Degli Uffizi, outside the famous Uffizi Gallery, a life-size sculptor of him stands alongside the great masters of renaissance art, Da Vinci, Raphael and, of course, Michelangelo.

Still in the news today, Cellini’s gold and enamel masterpiece the “Saltcellar of Francis I” executed in 1540 for the King of France and valued today at $60,000,000, was recovered recently after being stolen from a museum in Vienna. Being chosen as a member of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno shows the respect he commanded: not just as an artist but as a patron of Florence.

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Some Florentine Specialties

Much of the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine was born out of necessity. Wild herbs and greens were used in simple soups. Every part of the animal was used–cibreo is a popular Florentine chicken stew that features cockscombs. Tuscan bread, a rustic sourdough baked in a wood-fired oven, traditionally was made without expensive salt. That meant it quickly went stale and so ribollita was born, a vegetable soup thickened with bread. Panzanella is a summer salad made from stale bread cubes, fresh tomatoes, basil and Tuscany’s famed olive oil. Wheat flour was another expensive ingredient and so Tuscans created dishes like castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, pine nuts, orange zest and olive oil.
Dishes here have hearty, rustic flavors, well-matched to the area’s famous wines, and Florentines enjoy eating their regional cuisine in friendly, warm, informal settings.

Typically, Florentine people never start a meal from the main course but always have a starter first. Whether eating in a restaurant or at home with friends, you will always find liver crostini (thin sliced toasted bread with liver patè) on the table. Alongside liver crostini the usual antipasto also offers different types of sliced salamis and hams.

Pappardelle (similar to spaghetti, but a thicker pasta made with egg) with boar or hare sauce. It can be seasoned with other classic ingredients: porcini mushrooms, meat sauces, artichokes and sausages, etc. Other first course dishes are the soups: pappa al pomodoro, ribollita, carabaccia and black cabbage. These are all variations of a single base made from vegetables, bread and tomato.

The hills around Florence abound with game, including wild boar which is used in locally made salamis and air-dried hams. Duck and rabbit appear on the table grilled. Fish from the region’s lakes and seafood from the coastal areas appear on the table. Porcini, wild mushrooms, are another favorite served in the fall after foragers have combed the woods around the city.

Bistecca alla fiorentina (a T-bone steak) is served rare with a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil and often accompanied by white beans, roasted potatoes or a green salad. Porchetta is a suckling pig, stuffed with garlic and herbs and brushed with a rosemary branch while its roasts. Trippa alla fiorentina, tripe cooked with wine, tomatoes and herbs, is another signature dish.

Florentine desserts: cantucci (small almond biscuits) to eat at the end of a meal dipped in Vinsanto or in the colder seasons the castagnaccio, that takes its name from the nearby mountains , is a thin cake made of chestnut flour and pine nuts. During Carnival or after the Epiphany, you can find schiacciata alla fiorentina, a soft sweet, sponge cake which can be filled with cream or chocolate and covered with powdered sugar.

Sometimes Florentines like eating a sandwich in the street for lunch. In addition to steak, Florence offers other meat specialties such as tripe and lampredotto. These are foods that are eaten in kiosks on the street, even in winter.They can be seasoned with green sauce and enriched with other vegetables, such as leeks.

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Chicken Liver Crostini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • Baguette, sliced thinly and toasted
  • Sea salt, optional

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the onions, capers and garlic and sauté just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the thyme, Marsala, anchovies and chicken livers. Season with salt, pepper and chili and cook until the chicken livers are just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor. Add the butter and purée until smooth. 

To serve, spread the chicken liver on toasted baguette slices and garnish with sea salt, if desired.

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Pappa al Pomodoro

Many Florentine recipes make use of leftover ingredients. Pappa al Pomodoro, a thick, hearty soup made with dry bread, is one of the city’s classic dishes.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4–8 cloves of garlic, according to taste
  • 1 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes
  • 1 pound of dry, stale (preferably unsalted Tuscan) bread, broken into small pieces
  • 4–6 cups of water or warmed vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch (20 leaves) of basil, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half teaspoon of crushed and dried chili pepper
  • 1 leek (white flesh only), finely chopped

Directions

Place the bread in a bowl and add water or broth. Cover and put aside for at least an hour.

Sauté the garlic and leek in oil. Add dried chili pepper, the tomatoes, half the basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Squeeze excess broth from the soaked bread and add to the oil and tomatoes. Cook for at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot with remaining basil and a swirl of olive oil.

Minestra

Ribollita

Ribollita means “reboiled,” because to make this rich, thick vegetable soup correctly, it must be cooked and recooked. Ribollita appears with many variations, but the key ingredient is cavolo nero ( winter black cabbage), though kale, chard, or green and Savoy cabbage can also be used. Add zucchini, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and other vegetables according to taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 leek (white flesh) finely chopped
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 fresh or canned peeled plum tomatoes
  • 2 cups canned white cannellini beans
  • 1 quarter cavolo nero or equivalent
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard and/or spinach
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk and leaves
  • 4 chopped zucchini 
  • 2 peeled and cubed potatoes 
  • 1 pound stale Italian bread 
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano, rosemary and hot chili pepper as desired

Directions

Sauté the onion, leek, and garlic in a Dutch Oven in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add carrots, celery, chili pepper and cook for ten minutes. Add tomatoes, cabbage, beans, herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes.

Add tomato paste, zucchini, potatoes or other vegetables of choice and water to cover the ingredients. Cook gently for 90 minutes, adding water as necessary,

Chill the soup overnight. The next day purée half the mixture, return to the pot. Bring to a boil and reheat.

Ladling the soup over a thick slice of toasted dry bread and add a swirl of olive oil to each serving.

ganugi-pappardelle-gross

Pappardelle with Duck

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound duck breast, skin removed
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf, broken into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound dried pappardelle pasta

Directions

Rub the meat with the orange zest, lemon zest, rosemary and bay leaf. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the duck breast from the herbs and dice the meat.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery until soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the diced duck meat. Cook until the meat has changed color, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the red wine; cook until the alcohol has reduced and evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and mix with the sauce to serve.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Traditionally, a T-bone from local Chianina beef cattle is preferred, but an ordinary T-bone (or porterhouse) can also be used.

Serves at least four

Ingredients

  • 2-pound T-bone steak, three fingers thick
  • Sea salt (coarse)

Directions

Florentines grill the meat over a very hot wood or coal, but it can also be cooked on a hot skillet or griddle.

Grill the steak, without seasoning, for three to five minutes. Florentines often grill the steak standing up on the bone for a few minutes at the end to cook around the T-bone.

The meat should be seared and crispy on the outside and red, almost raw at its heart. Allow to rest for ten minutes then cut the meat off the bone into large chunks.

Season with coarse sea salt and serve.

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Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Powdered sugar, for topping

Directions

Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.

In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk and oil and pour into bowl with flour.

Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the batter to the greased pan and bake for about 25 minutes.

Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

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La Scala Opera House – Milan

Italian opera is a musical art form that had its beginnings in Florence in the late 1500s. It was based on a number of performance genres that preceded it, including Greek drama, poems sung by a solo vocalist with single instrument backing and madrigals (a capella singing by 3-6 harmonizing vocalists). The earliest known opera composition is Dafne, written by Jacopo Peri (1561–1633) in 1597. Peri was born in Rome but relocated to Florence to study music. In the 1590s, he met Jacopo Corsi, the leading patron of music in Florence and they invited the poet, Ottavio Rinuccini, to write a text for a new composition. Dafne was the result. Peri’s later composition, Euridice, written in 1600 with Giulio Caccini, is the earliest surviving opera and was initially performed as part of a celebration for a Medici wedding, thereby propelling opera into the mainstream of court entertainment. Claudio Monteverdi was a native of Mantua, Lombardy, who wrote his first opera, La Favola d’Orfeo (The Fable of Orpheus), in 1607 for the court. Moving to Venice in 1613, Monteverdi subsequently enriched the performance of opera by adding an orchestra, more lavish costumes and sets and a more dramatic vocal style. Several decades later, opera had spread throughout the Italian peninsula, the result of touring companies who performed in all the major cities. The first public opera house, the Teatro di San Cassiano, opened in Venice in 1637. Opera was no longer a court entertainment but a commercial enterprise open to the paying public. Additional opera houses soon opened throughout the city, performing a variety of works during Venice’s Carnivale season. In the early 19th century composer, Gioacchino Rossini’s (1792–1868) first success was a comic opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio (1810), followed by The Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola (Cinderella). Vincenzo Bellini (1801–35) born in Catania, Sicily, was known for his long-flowing melodies. Bellini is considered the first composer to develop bel canto (a style of singing) opera. Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848) was born in Bergamo, Lombardy, but wrote in Rome, Milan and Naples. Donizetti achieved some popular success in the 1820s but became famous throughout Europe when his Anna Bolena premiered in Milan. L’Elisir d’Amore, produced in 1832, is considered one of the masterpieces of 19th-century opera buffa (comic opera), as is his Don Pasquale (1843). Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), is his most famous opera and one that best represents the bel canto style of singing.

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi

(1813–1901) was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. Verdi produced many successful operas, including La Traviata, Falstaff and Aida, and became known for his skill in creating melody and his use of theatrical effect. Verdi experimented with musical and dramatic forms and transformed the whole nature of operatic writing during his career. In 1877, he created Otello which is described by critics as one of the best romantic operas.

Risotto Giuseppe Verdi

The great opera composer was humble when it came to his music, but not so when the subject was cooking. In Ira Braus’ book, Classical Cooks, he includes a letter from Verdi’s wife regarding a possible Iron Chef-style cook off between Verdi and an actress by the name of Ristori. This recipe is said to be one he created for the challenge. Ingredients

  • ¾ lb Carnaroli rice
  • 2 oz butter
  • 3 oz mushrooms
  • 3 oz asparagus tips
  • 3 oz Prosciutto di Parma
  • 3 oz canned tomatoes
  • 3 ½ tablespoons light cream
  • 4 cups meat broth
  • grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to taste
  • ½ onion, thinly sliced

Directions Clean and finely mince the onion. Clean and thinly slice the mushrooms. Clean and blanch the asparagus in salted water: cool them in water and ice. Finely mince the Prosciutto. Blanch the tomatoes, peel, seed and cut them into cubes. In a pot melt ¼ of the butter, add the onion and slowly cook it until soft and golden. Add the rice and toast it for about 1 minutes. Add the stock, 1 ladle at the time, waiting until it has been absorbed before adding the next one. After 10 minutes add mushrooms, Prosciutto, asparagus and tomatoes. Stir well, cook for another 2 minutes and add the cream. When the rice is “al dente” (about 18 minutes) add butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, stir well and cover with a lid. Let it rest for 2 minutes before serving.

Giacomo Puccini

(1858–1924) wrote some of the greatest Italian operas of the 20th century, including Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca and Madame Butterfly. Born in Lucca, Tuscany, he enrolled in the Milan Conservatory in 1880. Manon Lescaut (1893), his third opera, was his first great success. La Bohème (1896) is considered one of his best works, as well as, one of the most romantic operas ever. Italian opera remains a popular form of entertainment throughout the world. In the 1960s and ’70s, opera’s popularity in the United States grew. As a result, opera companies were established in cities of all sizes and fans no longer needed to travel to a major metropolis to see a performance. With the increased number of opera houses and with growing audiences, companies began commissioning new works, a trend that continues to this day. There is a legend that Puccini was a ladies man and when his wife suspected that he was about to stray, she would prepare his favorite dishes and use plenty of garlic. Here is a dish that Mrs. Puccini may have prepared.

Fettuccine in Garlic Cream Sauce

Serves 6 Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 ½ cups of cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan type cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and fresh, coarse ground black pepper to taste

Directions Cook pasta according to package directions. Melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the garlic until it is golden. Add the cream and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Place the cooked pasta in a serving bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Sprinkle on the grated cheese, chives and parsley and gently toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Adelina Patti

(1843 –1919) was a highly acclaimed 19th century opera singer, earning huge fees at the height of her career in the music capitals of Europe and America. She first sang in public as a child in 1851 and gave her last performance before an audience in 1914. Along with her near contemporaries Jenny Lind and Thérèse Tietjens, Patti remains one of the most famous sopranos in history, owing to the purity and beauty of her lyrical voice and the unmatched quality of her bel canto technique. The composer, Giuseppe Verdi, writing in 1877, described her as being the finest singer who had ever lived and a “stupendous artist”. Verdi’s admiration for Patti’s talent was shared by numerous music critics and social commentators of her era.

Portrait by Franz Winterhalter (1862)

She was born Adela Juana Maria Patti in Madrid, the last child of Sicilian born tenor, Salvatore Patti and soprano, Caterina Barilli. She made her operatic debut at the age of 16 on 24 November 1859 in the title role of Donizetti’s, Lucia di Lammermoor, at the Academy of Music in New York. In 1862, during an American tour, she sang John Howard Payne’s “Home, Sweet Home” at the White House for the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary. The Lincolns were mourning their son Willie, who had died of typhoid. Moved to tears, the Lincolns requested she sing the song again. After that, it became associated with Adelina Patti and she performed it many times as an encore at the end of recitals and concerts. Patti’s career was one of success after success. She sang not only in England and the United States, but also in Europe, Russia and South America, inspiring audience frenzy and critical superlatives, wherever she went. Her beauty gave her an appealing stage presence, which added to her celebrity status. A dish that includes her name is “Poularde Adelina Patti”, a recipe created by the famous chef, Auguste Escoffier, who created many other dishes named after opera singers. This recipe is particularly difficult to find and one must buy his cookbook to gain access to it. Briefly described, however, “Poularde Adelina Patti” is a chicken dish covered with a cream sauce, flavored with paprika, surrounded by artichokes, garnished with truffles and coated with a meat glaze. If any readers desire to find the full recipe, I would recommend searching for The Escoffier Cookbook and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery.

Enrico Caruso

(1873 –1921), born in Naples, was an Italian tenor, who sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas, appearing in a wide variety of roles on stage. Caruso also made approximately 290 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920. All of these recordings, which span most of his stage career, are available today on CDs and as digital downloads. Caruso’s 1904 recording of “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo’s opera, Pagliacci, was the first sound recording to sell a million copies. Caruso’s 25-year career included 863 appearances at the New York Metropolitan Opera before he died at the age of 48. He was married to socialite, Dorothy Park Benjamin, the daughter of a wealthy New York patent lawyer. Dorothy lived until 1955 and wrote a biography about Caruso (Enrico Caruso: His Life and Death). A fastidious dresser, Caruso took two baths a day and liked good Italian food and convivial company. Caruso was superstitious and habitually carried good-luck charms with him when he sang. He played cards for relaxation and sketched friends, other singers and musicians. His favorite hobby was compiling scrapbooks. He also amassed a valuable collection of rare postage stamps, coins, watches and antique snuff boxes. Caruso was a heavy smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes. This habit, combined with a lack of exercise and the punishing schedule of performances that Caruso willingly undertook season after season at the Met, may have contributed to the persistent ill-health which afflicted the last 12 months of his life

Bucatini Caruso

The recipe was created by the tenor, who loved pasta and loved to cook. This dish is typical of his native Naples. A story that circulates is that he was given a cold reception in his early singing days by his fellow-citizens and Caruso swore he would never sing in Naples again, but he would return there only to enjoy his favorite macaroni dishes. Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb bucatini pasta
  • 3 or 4 San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • flour
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chili pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • oregano
  • basil
  • parsley

Directions Stir-fry the garlic cloves, cut in quarters in oil.  When they start to turn golden, remove them and add the chopped tomatoes and the pepper, cut in chunks. Turn up the heat and add the oregano, crushed chili and a generous amount of basil to the sauce. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini into rounds, coat them with flour and deep-fry in a skillet. Cook the pasta al dente in salted boiling water, drain and dress with the tomato sauce, the deep-fried zucchini and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Mario Lanza

(1921-1959) born Alfredo Arnold Cocozza in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was exposed to classical singing at an early age by his Abruzzese-Molisan Italian parents, Maria and Antonio Cocozza. By the age of 16, his vocal talent had become apparent. Starting out in local operatic productions in Philadelphia for the YMCA Opera Company while still in his teens, he later came to the attention of Boston Symphony conductor, Serge Koussevitzky, who in 1942 provided young Cocozza with a full student scholarship to the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Reportedly, Koussevitzky told him, “Yours is a voice such as is heard once in a hundred years”. His performances at Tanglewood won him critical acclaim, with Noel Strauss of “The New York Times” hailing the 21-year-old tenor as having “few equals among tenors of the day in terms of quality, warmth and power”. His budding operatic career was interrupted by World War II, when he was assigned to Special Services in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He resumed his singing career with a concert in Atlantic City with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in September 1945 under Peter Herman Adler, subsequently his mentor. The following month, he replaced tenor Jan Peerce on the live CBS radio program “Great Moments in Music” on which he made six appearances in four months, singing extracts from various operas and other works. In April 1948, Lanza sang two performances as Pinkerton in Puccini’s, Madama Butterfly, for the New Orleans Opera Association. A concert at the Hollywood Bowl in August 1947 brought Lanza to the attention of Louis B. Mayer, who signed Lanza to a seven-year film contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. This proved to be a turning point in the young singer’s career. The contract required him to commit to the studio for six months and, at first, Lanza believed he would be able to combine his film career with his operatic and concert career, but this proved to be a difficult goal. In May 1949, he made his first commercial recordings with RCA Victor. His rendition of the aria “Che gelida manina” (from La Bohème) from that session was subsequently awarded the prize of Operatic Recording of the Year by the (United States) National Record Critics Association. In 1951, Lanza portrayed Enrico Caruso in “The Great Caruso”, which proved an astonishing success. Some of his other famous films were:

  • Because You’re Mine, MGM 1952
  • The Student Prince, MGM 1954
  • Serenade, Warner Bros. 1956
  • Seven Hills of Rome, MGM 1958
  • For the First Time, MGM 1959

Pizzelle

Lanza was reportedly partial to Italian waffle cookies called pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), that are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Makes about 36 pizzelle Ingredients

  • 1¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)

Directions Pre-heat a pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well. Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version). Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the pizzelle iron, and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Anna Moffo

(1932 – 2006) was an Italian-American opera singer, television personality and award-winning dramatic actress. One of the leading lyric-coloratura sopranos of her generation, she possessed an accomplished voice of considerable range and agility. In the early 1960s, she hosted her own show on Italian television, was acclaimed for her beauty and appeared in several operatic films and in other dramatic non-singing roles. In the early 1970s she extended her international popularity to Germany through operatic performances, TV appearances and several films, all while continuing her American operatic performances. Due to an extremely heavy workload, Moffo suffered a serious vocal-breakdown in 1974, from which she never fully recovered. In later years, she gave several master classes through the Met. Her death at age 73 was preceded by a decade-long battle with cancer. Anna Moffo was born in Wayne, Pennsylvania to Italian parents, Nicola Moffo (a shoemaker) and his wife Regina Cinti. After graduating from Radnor High School, she turned down an offer to go to Hollywood and went instead to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. In 1954, on a Fulbright Program scholarship, she left for Italy to complete her studies at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She became very popular there after performing leading operatic roles on three RAI television productions in 1956. Moffo made her official operatic debut in 1955 in Spoleto as Norina in Don Pasquale. Shortly after, still virtually unknown and with little experience, she was offered the challenging role of Cio-Cio-San in an Italian television (RAI) production of Madama Butterfly. The telecast aired on January 24, 1956, and made Moffo an overnight sensation throughout Italy. Offers quickly followed and she appeared in two other television productions that same year. Moffo returned to America for her debut as Mimì in La Bohème next to Jussi Björling’s, Rodolfo, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on October 16, 1957. Her Metropolitan Opera of New York debut took place on November 14, 1959 as Violetta in La Traviata, a part that would quickly become her signature role. She performed numerous soprano roles at The Metropolitan Opera for seventeen seasons before her retirement. Anna was quoted in the press saying, she enjoyed cooking and especially liked to prepare Italian style chicken livers for herself and her husband. Here is a similar recipe to the one she liked to prepare.

Sicilian Sautéed Chicken Livers

opera1

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cups dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds chicken livers, each cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons flour
  • 3 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Polenta

Directions Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast pine nuts in the oven until golden brown, about 8 minutes. In a small stainless-steel saucepan, combine raisins, broth and vermouth. Bring to boil and simmer until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Set aside. In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil over moderately high heat. Season livers with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook, in two batches if necessary, until almost done, about 3 minutes. The livers should still be quite pink inside. Remove from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and reduce heat to moderately low. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring, 15 seconds longer. Stir in raisin-and-vermouth mixture and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer, scraping bottom of pan to dislodge any brown bits. Add livers and any accumulated juices, pine nuts and parsley and simmer until livers are just done, about 1 minute longer. Serve mixture over polenta.



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