Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Crepes

I have family visiting, so this week I will share with you some of our main dish entrees. Complete this meal with meatballs or Italian sausage, salad and bread.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti

Makes 8-10. Double the recipe for the crepes and filling to make two dishes.

Crespelle Batter
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Butter for crepe pan

To make the crepes:

Add the flour gradually to the milk with a whisk in a medium bowl with a cover. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the salt.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the crepe pan and butter the pan.
Pour a scant ¼ cup of batter into the hot pan. Tilt the pan around with a circular motion so that the batter thins out and forms a round crêpe about the size of the pan. Cook until the edges of the crêpe become whitish and the inner portion yellow and partially solid.
Using a wide spatula, turn the crepe over and cook briefly (about 30 seconds).
Remove to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the pan for each crepe. Place a sheet of wax paper between the layers to keep them from sticking together.

Marinara Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (26-ounce) cartons Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
4 fresh basil leaves, minced

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a cover. Add the garlic and onion. Sauce for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer the sauce with the cover ajar for 1 1/2 hours or until thickened.

Spinach and Ricotta Filling
2 cups cooked spinach, squeezed dry
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for baking
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the manicotti.

To assemble the manicotti:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly brush a 9×13 inch baking dishes with olive oil.
Spread a thin layer of sauce across the bottom of the baking dish.
Place 4 tablespoons of the filling down the center of a crepe. Roll it up and place it, seam-side-down the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling. Top with marinara sauce spreading it evenly over the manicotti and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake the manicotti for 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.


Manicotti in many regions of Italy are actually called Crespelles. They are a perfect light start as a “primo” (first) course for a special Italian meal.
In America, manicotti are often made with pasta tubes. But for true manicotti made the Italian way, the shells should be light crepes, not made from boiled pasta. Cheese or meat stuffings enclosed in pasta are called Cannelloni in Italy.

The best recipe for Italian crepes comes from Marcella Hazan. In her book, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, she includes a variety of recipes for stuffing crepes. I use her crepe recipe for Manicotti, but the Marinara Sauce and Ricotta Filling are my long time standard recipes.

To make this dish, you will need:

Marinara Sauce
8 Crepes for a main dish or 4 Crepes for a first course
Swiss Chard or Spinach Ricotta Filling

Crespelle Batter

Makes at least 8 crepes

Ingredients

1 cup milk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour also works)
2 eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
Butter for crepe pan

To make the crepes:

Add the flour gradually to the milk with a whisk in a medium bowl with a cover. Strain the mixture through a sieve to avoid any lumps. Return the mixture to the bowl..
Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the salt.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the crepe pan and butter the pan.
Pour a scant ¼ cup of batter into the hot pan. Tilt the pan around with a circular motion so that the batter thins out and forms a round crêpe about the size of the pan. Cook until the edges of the crêpe become whitish and the inner portion yellow and partially solid.
Using a spatula, turn the crepe over and cook briefly (about 30 seconds).
Remove to a plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining batter, buttering the pan for each crepe. Place a sheet of wax paper between the layers to keep them from sticking together.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (28-ounce) cartons Pomi finely chopped tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
4 fresh basil leaves, minced

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a cover. Add the garlic and onion. Sauce for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer the sauce with the cover ajar for 1 1/2 hours or until thickened.

Swiss Chard and Ricotta Filling

Ingredients

2 cups cooked (with garlic and olive oil) Swiss Chard or spinach, squeezed dry
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus extra for baking
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for baking
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Combine the filling ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the manicotti.

To assemble the Manicotti:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly brush 4 individual baking dishes with olive oil.
Spread about 4 tablespoons of the filling down the center of a crepe. Roll it up and place it, seam-side-down, in one of the baking dishes. Repeat with the remaining crepes and filling, placing one or two filled crepes in each baking dish. Top lightly with marinara sauce spreading it evenly over the manicotti, sprinkle with Parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake the manicotti for 30 minutes.


The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients.

Provence is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border in the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.The area also includes the Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera.

The food of Provence resembles more closely the cuisine of Italy, Greece and Spain than typical Parisian fare. Emphasis is on locally grown vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs and olive oil, Provence is the birthplace of three well-known dishes: salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse and ratatouille.

There are many common traits between the French diet and the other Mediterranean countries, not only with regards to food choices, but also in the organization and structure of meals during the day. For example, there is no snacking in France, they eat three meals a-day, each with three courses, they eat together, portion control is common and they avoid “junk food”.

While the French embrace a wide range of foods, they keep things simple and like to use cheese, eggs, potatoes, butter, yogurt, as well as pasta and bread in their meal preparation. France is renowned for some of the world’s best wines and cheeses, and wine and food pairing is taken seriously in France even at informal dinner parties.

Beyond French wine and cheese is a mixture of traditional French dishes, many which come with long histories, regional variations and modern adaptations. The French cuisine is to a great degree a culinary art. Traditional French cuisine relies on basic combinations and together with butter are the basic ingredients for the creation of their well-known sauces, appetizers and entrees. Full fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, in combination with small quantities of meat or poultry are the main ingredients in French recipes. Garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs are used to enhance those ingredients. Such recipes often include:

Appetizer Course: Provençal tomatoes, Scallops Provencal, Tapenade
Soup Course: Bouillabaisse, French Onion Soup, Saffron Mussel Bisque
Main Course: Coq au Vin, Lobster Thermidor, Ratatouille, Poulet de Provençal
Dessert Course: Orange Creme Brulee, Plum Clafouti, Poached Pears

Traditional French Recipes

Madame Saucourt’s Ratatouille

Hotel Mas des Serres in Saint Paul de Vence.

Source: Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert

Ratatouille, from the southeastern French region of Provence, is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients usually consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and herbs.

Ingredients

5 pounds eggplant
5 pounds zucchini
5 pounds sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, savory, peppermint, thyme, and celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry yet fruity white wine
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and seeded
5 pounds red bell peppers
A few drops of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs for garnish: basil, parsley, thyme

Directions

Stem and peel the eggplant. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place them in a deep kettle filled with very salty water. Keep submerged with a non-corrodible plate for at least 1 hour

Stem and peel the zucchini. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place in a deep colander. Toss the zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour.

In a very large heavy skillet or heavy-bottomed roasting pan cook the chopped onions in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup olive oil until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped herbs, bay leaf, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes with their skins in the work bowl of a food processor. Add to the skillet and continue cooking at a simmer for 11/2 hours. Whenever the onion-tomato mixture starts to stick or burn, “deglaze” with a few tablespoons of water and scrape with a wooden spoon.

Grill the peppers; when cool, peel, stem, seed and cut into small pieces. Set aside.

Rinse and drain the eggplant and zucchini and lightly press dry with toweling.

Slowly heat the remaining 3 cups of olive oil in a wide pan or fryer until medium-hot. Add the zucchini in batches, and fry until golden on all sides. Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a bowl to catch any excess oil. When all the zucchini has been fried, fry the eggplant in the same manner. From time to time return the drained oil in the bowl to the pan.

Spread the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers over the simmering onion-tomato mixture and pour in the remaining wine. Cover and cook at a simmer for 11/2 hours. From time to time remove the cover to help evaporate some of the liquid.

Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the skillet into it to drain. Stir carefully to avoid crushing the vegetables while trying to encourage any trapped oil and juices to drain. Quickly cool down the captured juices in order to remove as much oil as possible. If there is a lot of juice, boil it down until thick. Reserve all the frying oil and oil from the vegetables for another use. Pour the juices over the vegetables, taste for seasoning, add vinegar, and carefully stir to combine. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Coquilles St-Jacques

“Although coquilles St-Jacques simply means “scallops” in French, in the idiom of American cooks, the term is synonymous with the old French dish of scallops poached in white wine, placed atop a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell, covered with a sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid, and gratinéed under a broiler. This rich, classic recipe was a signature dish of most of the small French restaurants in New York when I came here in the late 1950s. While working at Le Pavillon back then, I must have made it thousands of times. These days, most chefs, myself included, have moved away somewhat from that dish, favoring lighter preparations. But I’ll tell you one thing: last time I made coquilles St-Jacques, it was for students at Boston University. I prepared two dishes for them: scallops cooked in a modern way, served with a green herb salad, and also the classic, gratinéed version. Now, these were not chefs-in-training; they didn’t know what they were supposed to like. And there wasn’t one student who didn’t choose the old way over the new. It just goes to show: Truly good food never really goes out of style.” —Jacques Pepin, chef, cookbook author, and PBS-TV cooking series host

Serves 6

Ingredients

8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Gruyère
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Heat mushrooms, 4 tablespoons butter, and 2⁄3 of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir the parsley and minced tarragon into the mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper.

Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and 3⁄4 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes.

Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 10 minutes; strain.

Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops.

Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.

French Cassoulet

This hearty dish from southwestern France, known as a cassoulet, is a one-pot meal. A slow-simmered mix of beans, pork sausages, pork shoulder, pancetta and duck topped with a bread crumb crust , takes its name from the earthenware casserole in which it was traditionally made.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 lb. dried great northern beans
10 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large ham hocks
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1″cubes
1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 duck legs
1 lb. pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs

Directions

Soak the beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, onions, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.

Sear the duck legs in 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown the sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2″ slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.

Heat the oven to 300˚F. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat.

Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook the cassoulet until the crust is golden, about 5 minutes.

Crêpes Suzette

Credit for inventing Crêpes Suzette is claimed by French restaurateur Henri Charpentier, who in 1894, at age 14, while an assistant waiter, accidentally set the sauce aflame when serving this dessert to the Prince of Wales. Once the fire subsided, the sauce was so delicious that the prince asked that the dish be named for a young girl in his entourage, Suzette.

Serves 6

For the Crêpes

6 tablespoons flour
6 eggs
6 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Unsalted butter, as needed

For the Sauce

3 oranges
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons Cointreau
1 tablespoons Kirsch
1 teaspoon orange flower water
5 tablespoons cognac

Directions

Make the crêpe batter:

Whisk together flour and eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk and cream, and whisk until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Prepare the sauce:

Use a vegetable peeler to remove rind from 2 of the oranges, avoiding pith; mince rind and set aside. Juice all the oranges and set juice aside. In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1⁄2 cup sugar on high-speed of a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rind to butter and beat for 1 minute. Gradually drizzle in juice, 2 tbsp. of the Cointreau, Kirsch and orange flower water, beating constantly until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.

Make the crêpes:

Heat a seasoned crêpe pan or small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Grease pan with a little butter, then pour in 1⁄4 cup batter. Working quickly, swirl batter to just coat pan, and cook until edges brown, about 1 minute. Turn with a spatula and brown other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan only as needed.

To serve:

Melt orange butter sauce in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again. Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of the pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Remove pan from heat, pour remaining Cointreau and the cognac over crêpes, and carefully ignite with a match. Spoon sauce over crêpes until flame dies out, and then serve immediately.


fortwocover

Are you planning on going out for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s day this year?

You might want to reconsider. My husband and I prefer to have our special dinner at home because years ago we would go out and we were always disappointed. The restaurant charges were higher than normal and the food was not always up to expectations. The restaurant was crowded, they had lots of reservations, the staff were exhausted and we were rushed through dinner. Got to turn those tables! Some advice. Instead, stay home, cook a great meal and enjoy a romantic evening at home. Below is a special dinner you can make at home and, even with beef tenderloin and lobster on the menu, you won’t spend anything like what a restaurant meal will cost you on Valentine’s day.

First Course

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Lobster Risotto

For 2 divide the finished risotto in half and serve half for dinner with the lobster. Save the other half for another dinner or some great arancini. I am not in favor of making half a recipe for risotto because I think the taste is affected.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb frozen lobster tails (about 2 medium), thawed
  • 5 cups salt-free chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the lobster meat turns white.

Drain and set aside to cool.

When cool, remove the lobster meat from the shell and chop it into 1-inch pieces; set aside.

Warm the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep it hot over low heat.

In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and onion and cook, about 3 minutes.

Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.

Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, half of the lobster meat and 2 tablespoons parsley.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To serve:

Place in a serving dish and top with remaining lobster pieces; garnish with parsley.

Second Course

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Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Tomatoes

2 servings

Ingredients

  • ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, seeded tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (each about 4 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme

Directions

In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.

Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once.

Allow 7 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) and 9 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).

To serve:

Spoon the vinegar tomato sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with thyme.

fortwo4

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Shallots

Ingredients

  • 12 oz green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the green beans and season with salt and ground pepper.

Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and serve.

Dessert

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Chocolate Crepes with Raspberry Sauce

12 servings

For the sauce:

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Place water and 3 1/2 cups of the raspberries in a blender; cover and process for 3 minutes until smooth. Strain the raspberry puree and discard the seeds.

Place the puree in a small saucepan along with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar; bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Set aside.

In a blender, blend flour, milk, cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, eggs and oil until smooth.

Heat a small nonstick skillet on medium-low flame. When hot, spray with cooking spray to coat bottom of pan.

Pour 1/4 cup of the crepe mixture into the pan, swirling the pan slightly to make crepe thin and smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the bottom of the crepe is light golden brown.

Turn the crepe over and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until light golden brown. Repeat with remaining cooking spray and crepe mixture.

This should make 12 crepes. You can freeze the extra crepes for another time.

To serve:

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce into the center of each crepe. Fold into quarters, top with some of the remaining sauce, a few of the remaining fresh raspberries and dust each with powdered sugar. Serve warm.


chieticover

The province of Chieti is a located in the Abruzzo region on the eastern coast of Italy. The province is hilly and mountainous with many valleys that run along the rivers and creeks. The northern part of the province is pretty desolate, while the southern part is dotted with numerous tiny villages.

The province has  quite a history.

It was first settled by the Osci people around 1000 BCE. The area was also lived in by the Greeks, who named it Teate. The province and surrounding areas were conquered by the Romans in 305 BCE, but after the fall of Rome in 476 CE, it became a Lombard fortress. The area had been occupied by the Franks, the Normans, the Swabians, the Angevins and Aragonese rulers until it was taken over by Charles V of France. Later, it was ruled by the House of Bourbon.

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The Caracciolo nobility rebuilt the area of Chieti in Medieval times. Ferrante Caracciolo began teaching his house staff his cooking techniques, a tradition that continued within the noble family’s household for centuries. Many of the well-trained cooks were sent all over Italy and to other countries to work for royalty and heads of state. This training led to the creation of Villa Santa Maria’s culinary and hotel management school. Every year in October the province is host to La Festa dei Cuochi (the Cook’s Festival) in which locals and visitors from the world over gather to celebrate the local cuisine.

During World War II, the area was the place of a battle between German and predominantly British and Canadian forces where over 2,000 civilians died and many of the towns were  destroyed.

chieti1

The area is well-known for growing saffron but it has a different flavor from the saffron used in Spain. The first saffron bulbs were brought to Italy in 1400 by a Dominican friar named Santucci,  who brought them from his birthplace in Spain. He successfully planted the bulbs in his monastery garden and the spice was used to flavor sauces and as a curative herb.

During the autumn harvest, the first presses from the olives are often infused with chili. This is known locally as olio santo or holy oil and used on the table during meals. To experience the significance of this spicy ingredient in the region’s cuisine, visit their famous chili festival held in late August in the small town of Filetto in the province of Chieti.

Lamb is the predominate meat in cooking, vegetables are abundant and there are a large variety of herbs and the use of hot pepper called Peperoncino. Seafood dishes include fish stews, fried fish and fish sauces served over pasta, as well as fresh-water fish, mountain trout and river shrimp.

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This is a cheese loving land and they produce a number of cheeses, many of them flavored with the local herbs. Among the most famous cheeses are provolone, both mild and strong, ricotta and pecorino (made with sheep’s milk).

Desserts tend to be simple and include torroncini (a hard candy), pies and cookies often flavored with amaretto, dried figs, cinnamon, chocolate and  pine-nuts.

And not to be forgotten are the fine regional wines, such as the red Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and the whites Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Local liqueurs are also very famous, particularly the Amaro Abruzzese.

Italian Seafood Salad

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Serves 8

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Seafood:

  • 1 1/2 lbs calamari rings
  • 1 1/2 lbs small fresh shrimp, peeled
  • 1 1/2 lbs bay (small) scallops
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 3 lemons

Salad:

  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped yellow and red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

Directions

Combine the dressing ingredients and set aside.

In a large pot combine 10 cups water, the wine, bay leaves and crushed garlic. Cut the 3 lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp. Cook 2 minutes, then remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon or spider and place in a serving bowl.

Repeat the procedure with the calamari, cook 2 minutes and remove to the bowl with the shrimp.

Repeat the procedure with the scallops, cook 2 minutes and remove the scallops to the bowl with the shrimp and calamari.

Be sure to drain off any water that has collected in the bowl and return the fish to the bowl.

Add the celery and the peppers to the seafood, season with salt and pepper and pour the dressing over the mixture. Mix well, cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for at least six hours.

Just before serving, toss the salad and add the parsley and basil. Garnish with black pepper and serve with the lemon wedges.

Crepes in Broth (Crespelle-en-brodo)

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Broth:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 lb chicken wings
  • 1 lb beef bones
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 plum tomato, cored and halved

Crepes:

  • 1/4 cup minced parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving

Directions

Make the broth:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken wings and beef bones until browned, 35–40 minutes; transfer to a bowl.

Add the carrots, onions, celery and garlic to pan; cook until golden, 6–8 minutes. Return wings and bones to pan. Add parsley, bay leaf, tomato and 20 cups water; simmer, skimming as needed, for 4 hours.

Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean saucepan; keep warm.

Make the crepes:

Whisk the parsley, flour, cheese, oil, nutmeg, eggs and 1 cup water in a bowl until smooth.

Heat an 8″ nonstick skillet over medium-high. Working in batches, pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the skillet while tilting the skillet to let the batter cover the bottom completely.

Cook until the crepe is golden on the bottom, 1–2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minute more; transfer to a plate. Roll each crepe into a cigar shape.

To serve:

Divide the rolled crepes among soup bowls and ladle reserved broth over the top; garnish with parsley, Parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb Ragu

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This type of sauce is usually served over spaghetti alla chitarra, a regional pasta that is shaped on a tool that resembles a guitar. Since most of us do not have such a tool, bucatini or perciatelli pasta is just fine.

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 1 lb spaghetti alla chitarra or thick spaghetti
  • Grated Pecorino Romano, for garnish

Directions

Heat oil in a 6-quartt saucepan over medium-high. Cook lamb, stirring and breaking up the meat into small pieces, until browned, 6–8 minutes.

Add bay leaves and garlic; cook until garlic is golden, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine; cook until reduced by half, 2–3 minutes. Add stock, tomatoes, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 35–40 minutes. Stir in peppers; cook until peppers are tender but not falling apart, about 4 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, 10–12 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to the pan with the sauce. Using tongs, toss the pasta in the sauce. Divide pasta among serving bowls and garnish with pecorino cheese.

Ricotta Fiadoni

Samsung

Ingredients

  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 8 ounces (200 g) fresh ricotta
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup candied fruit
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 2 shots rum
  • 2 tablespoons anise seed
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable shortening
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus extra for the topping

Directions

Combine the 4 whole eggs, half the rum, half the anise, vanilla, lemon zest, the 1 tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder, and sufficient flour to make a homogeneous dough.

Combine the egg yolks, remaining rum and anise, raisins and candied fruit in a bowl, stirring well to mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).

Roll out the dough slightly less than 1/4-inch thick and cut out rounds with a round cutter or a glass. Place a tablespoon of filling on each round and fold them over to make half-moons. Seal edges with a fork.

Lightly beat the remaining egg white, brush the half-moons with it, sprinkle with sugar and transfer them to an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minute until golden brown.

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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

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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.


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Veneto includes the eastern part of the Po Valley and, to the north, a part of the Dolomites. Venice ruled for centuries over one of the largest and richest maritime republics and trade empires in the world. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it was ceded to the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence. Besides Italian, most inhabitants also speak Venetian. Veneto is, today, one of the greatest immigrant-receiving regions in the country, the most recent of whom are Romanian, Moroccan and Albanian.

The regional capital is Venice. Other important cities are: Verona, Padua, Vicenza, Treviso, Rovigo and Belluno.

Treviso Piazza

Treviso Piazza

Numerous and important Roman traces can be found in this region: the best known example is the Arena of Verona. In the area around Venice, Byzantine influences are visible (St. Mark and the Cathedral of Torcello) and there are many outstanding examples of Romanesque and Gothic art. The Renaissance palaces are still numerous. In Venice, the Academy Galleries house the major collections of Venetian paintings from the years 1300 to 1700; while the Guggenheim collection exhibits international works of contemporary art, as does the National Gallery of Modern Art.  The Correr Museum is reserved for the Renaissance masterpieces.

Venice Canals

Venice Canals

In Verona, the Civic Museum of Art, is devoted to Verona painters. Padua has the famous Scrovegni Chapel with its Giotto’s frescoes, the Civic Museum and the Botanic Garden, the oldest in Europe. In Treviso, there is the Museum of the Casa Trevigiana with its modern furniture and sculptures.

Take a tour of Veneto via the video below.

Cuisine is a very integral part of the culture of Veneto and the region is home to some of the most recognizable dishes, desserts and wines in Italian, European and World cuisine.

Veneto is an important wine-growing area and produces: Soave, Bardolino, Recioto, Amarone, Torcolato, Prosecco, Tocai Rosso, Garganega, Valpolicella, Verduzzo, Raboso, Moscato, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Nero, Pinot Grigio, and Merlot varietals. Homemade wine making is widespread. After making wine, the alcohol of the pressed grapes is distilled to produce grappa or graspa, as it is called in the local language.

Veneto Vineyards

Veneto Vineyards

Prosecco is a dry sparkling wine. It is made from a variety of white grapes of the same name, which is traditionally grown in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills north of Treviso. The name, Prosecco, is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco, where this grape variety is believed to have originated. Around the holidays, I like to make pre-dinner drinks with Prosecco and different fruit flavors. My family looks forward to this special drink.

Spritz, in the Venetian language also called “spriss” or “spriseto” depending on the area, usually consists of 1/3 sparkling wine and 2/3 Aperol. Campari or gin may also be used.

The cheeses of Veneto include: Asiago (PDO), Piave (PDO), Monte Veronese (PDO), Morlacco and Grana Padano (PDO). The sopressa vicentina (PDO) is an aged salami, cylindrical in shape and prepared with raw, quality pork meat. It may or may not include garlic in its ingredients and comes in medium and large sizes. Prosciutto Veneto Berico-Euganeo (PDO) is obtained from the fresh meat of a top breed of adult hogs. The aroma is delicate, sweet and fragrant.

Treviso Radicchio

Treviso Radicchio

Radicchio rosso di Treviso (PGI) is a vegetable with a faintly bitter taste and a crunchy texture. The production area encompasses many town districts in the provinces of Treviso, Padua and Venice. The radicchio, Variegata di Castelfranco (PGI, has a delicate and slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture. Veronese Vialone Nano Rice from Verona (PGI) is a type of rice with short, plump grains, which have a creamy consistency when cooked. They are commonly used in risotto dishes and have a high starch content. The Bean of Lamon (PGI) is particularly prized for its delicate flavor and extremely tender skin. The White Asparagus of Cimadolmo (PGI) has a characteristic scent and a very delicate taste. The White Asparagus of Bassano is a typical product of the northern part of the province of Vicenza. The San Zeno di Montagna (Verona) chestnut has Protected Geographical Status.

Tiramisù (a dessert made from mascarpone, coffee, Marsala wine, savoiardi and chocolate) originates from Veneto. Veneto is also home to a golden sweet bread, called Pandoro. This bread is produced in and around Verona according to an ancient recipe. Scalete, Pàndolo and Baicoli are all traditional sweets of the city.

Venetian Specialties

Veneto

Fritto Misto di Mare

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The Italian phrase “fritto misto” roughly translates as “mixed fry,” and it encompasses all sorts of fried foods: meats such as sweetbreads, vegetables and even desserts. But in Venice the term almost always applies to the city’s famous frutti di mare—fruits of the sea. The chefs of Venice’s restaurants and cafés feel that frying is one of the best ways to showcase the impeccably fresh fish and seafood from the Adriatic Sea.

In Italy, fritto misto is nearly always served as a first course. In Veneto, bite-size pieces of fish, fried and served with a squirt of lemon juice are a very popular antipasto. A  Venetian fritto is rarely vegetarian, given the city’s available fish. Consequently, you can sample all manner of fresh tiny fish, miniature soft-shell crabs, shrimp and many more. Natives stop by a trattoria at sunset for a plateful; then stroll for a while before dinner.

To serve 6, you will need about 4 pounds of fish. Here are some suggestions: fresh sardines, anchovies, baby squid, baby cuttlefish, small crabs, shrimp and other assorted shellfish, tiny whiting, sole or whatever else you would like to include.

For the Batter:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup seltzer or club soda

For Dredging:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Fritto Misto:

  • 4 cups vegetable oil, or a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1 pound cleaned squid, cut in 1/2 ­inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • 1 pound mussels, steamed and shucked
  • 1 pound smelts or sardines
  • Sea salt
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper for garnish, optional
  • Chopped parsley for garnish
  • Lemon wedges

Directions

Make the batter: Put the flour and salt in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the wine to obtain a smooth, lump free mixture. Rest 30 minutes. Add seltzer just before frying.

Near the stove, put the seasoned dredging flour in a shallow bowl. Place the finished batter next to it and an empty plate next to that. Put fish and other ingredients for frying and a paper towel lined baking sheet nearby.

Put oil in a large wide, deep pot and fasten a candy thermometer to the side. Heat oil to 375 degrees F.

Working in small batches, dip a few pieces of fish, first into the seasoned flour to coat lightly, then into the batter. Put battered pieces on the empty plate.

Slip a few pieces into the hot oil and fry 3 to 4 minutes, until golden. Remove with tongs or a wire spider and drain on the paper towel ­lined baking sheet. Hold the fried food in a warm oven while continuing to fry additional fish. Make sure to regulate the heat below the pan to keep oil at the correct temperature (adding too many pieces to the oil will cause it to cool.)

Remove pieces of batter from the oil between batches with a fine meshed skimmer.

As soon as you have enough to serve, pile it onto a warmed platter. Sprinkle with sea salt (and crushed red pepper, if desired). Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges. Continue to fry in small batches until all the fish is used. (Recipe adapted from the New York Times.)

Crespelle with Treviso Radicchio

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The delicate flavor of the béchamel contrasts with the bitter taste of the radicchio, making a balanced and delicious dish.

4 Servings

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 4 ½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 oz butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 pinch salt

Filling

  • 1 ¾ lb radicchio from Treviso
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • White wine
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7 oz diced Italian Fontina cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

For the Bechamel Sauce

  • 4 cups milk, room temperature
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 oz butter
  • 3 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Prepare the crepes:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter without letting it brown. Then remove it from the heat and let cool. Reserve 2 tablespoons for brushing the pan and add the remainder to the bowl where you will mix the crepe batter.

Add the flour, eggs and a pinch of salt in  the bowl with the melted butter. Whisk together until you have a smooth, fairly dense batter. Add the milk, slowly, while whisking. You should have a smooth batter without lumps. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Heat a nonstick pan or crepe griddle. Once hot, brush the pan with the reserved melted butter. Use a ladle to add enough batter to cover the entire pan. Try to make the thickness even across the pan.

When the crepe begins to separate itself from the pan, flip the crepe quickly using a spatula and cook the other side. Once you have cooked both sides, place the crepe on a kitchen towel or on paper towels. Continue making crepes until you have finished the batter. Let cool slightly before filling.

Prepare the béchamel sauce:

Put a fairly large pot over low heat. Add the butter and let it melt. Be careful not to burn or brown it.

Sift the flour and add it to the butter with the salt. Mix using a whisk to make a smooth, uniform mixture, known as a roux. Continue cooking the roux until it is slightly golden, while whisking.

Add the milk and broth to the roux, a little at a time, and mix with a whisk. Be careful not to let any lumps form. Bring the sauce to a boil and continue cooking to thicken it. Remove the pot from the heat.

Prepare the filling:

In the meantime, wash and cut the radicchio into very small pieces. Add the oil to a sauté pan and heat.

Once hot, add the radicchio, salt, pepper, garlic and a little bit of white wine. Sauté for a couple of minutes.

Then add the egg yolks, Fontina cheese and the sautéed radicchio.

Assemble for baking:

Place a layer of crepes in a baking dish and cover with some of the radicchio sauce; repeat the layers ending with a layer of crepes. Sprinkle the top with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.

Marinated Grilled Tuna with Anchovy Sauce

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This is an old Venetian recipe for grilled tuna.

Tuna Ingredients

  • 6 slices fresh tuna steaks, about 3/8 inch thick (about 2 pounds total)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for basting
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 onion, very thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges

Anchovy Sauce Ingredients – Makes 1/4 cup

  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions for the tuna:

Place the tuna steaks in a 9 x 12-inch ceramic or glass baking pan and add the olive oil, white wine, onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 2 hours, turning once. Remove the fish from the refrigerator 15 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high. You may also use a stovetop grill pan.

Remove the tuna from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, basting with olive oil and turning only once, until deep black grid marks appear, about 3 1/2 minutes on each side.

Directions for the anchovy sauce:

In a mortar, pound the anchovy fillets, garlic and parsley with a pestle until a pest . Slowly pound in the olive oil and lemon juice.

Pour the sauce over the grilled tuna and serve with additional lemon wedges.

Zalti (Cornmeal, Pine Nut and Raisin Cookies)

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Zaleti” means “little yellow things” in the Veneto dialect. Zaleti are a traditional cookie from the Veneto region. They are often enjoyed together with a glass of sparkling, aromatic wine like Prosecco della Valdobbiadene.

Zaleti, a rustic type of cookie once served only during the Carnival season, are now available year round. Like all rustic, farmhouse recipes, zaleti can be prepared in many ways. Each home cook had her own recipe and would prepare the cookies using the ingredients she had available. The peculiar characteristic of these cookies is their yellow color, which comes from the corn flour – an ingredient present in all of the farmhouses in centuries past – that is used in the batter. Carlo Goldoni mentions the cookies in his 1749 book “La Buona Moglie”.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb cornmeal
  • 1/2 lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ oz sugar
    5 oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 oz raisins, soaked in warm water
  • 2 ½ oz pine nuts
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Lemon zest, grated

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and baking powder together.

With an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add the flour mixture and beat until smooth. Add the drained raisins, pine nuts, milk, grated lemon zest and vanilla and mix well.

With your hands, shape the mixture into small oval cakes about 3.2 inches long. Place them onto a lightly buttered baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minute. The baking time can vary according to the size of the “zaleti”.


You can find berries and melons in the supermarket in the winter, but these fruits do not have much taste. So instead, spend your money on fruit that actually tastes good now. We all know the winter holiday season is prime time for cranberries and yams, but have you considered persimmons, kiwi, citrus or pears? Winter is when most citrus fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest. Winter fruits are also excellent for baking. Here’s how to choose the best fruit, why it’s good for you and how to save money.

Oranges

How to buy:

In general, look for plump oranges that are free of blemishes or bruises. As the season wears on, you may find different varieties of oranges popping up, such as Cara Cara and blood oranges. Try them! Both of these varieties are very sweet and have a darker flesh, ranging from pink in the Cara Cara to dark red in the blood orange.

Why it’s good:

Oranges are loaded with vitamin C (a large orange has more than the daily recommended value of vitamin C), which may help smooth your skin. If you bite into a blood orange, you’ll also be getting anthocyanins, a compound that turns the flesh red and is associated with helping to keep the heart healthy and the brain sharp.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks. If you stumble across a few fruits with a grainy texture, use them for juicing or cooking.

Winter fruits for Kids Banana

Bananas

How to buy:

Bananas are in season year-round and are different from other fruits because they can be picked while they are still far from ripe. If you do buy green bananas, wait until the skin ripens to a yellow and the starches convert to sugars.

Why it’s good:

Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, which is associated with healthy blood pressure. Also, a medium banana is an excellent source of cell-building vitamin B6 and is a good source of vitamin C and fiber.

How to save:

Though bananas are relatively economical—ripening bananas cost about 70 to 90 cents per pound—overripe bananas are often on sale for less. Even if banana peels have started to brown, the insides often remain sweet, ripe and unblemished. Buy a bunch or two and peel the extras before sticking them in the freezer. They will keep for several months and are excellent in banana bread, pancakes and smoothies.

Pineapples

How to buy:

Avoid green pineapples—they are not ripe. A ripe pineapple should smell like a pineapple. There should be a golden color present—starting at the base—and the more yellow a pineapple is, the better it will taste throughout. Some people claim that pulling leaves easily from the top of a pineapple is an indication of ripeness, but this has not been proven. Your best bet is to go with color.

Why it’s good:

Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C, delivers a healthy dose of fiber and is an excellent source of manganese, a nutrient involved in bone formation.

How to save:

Cutting into a pineapple for the first time may be intimidating. But where your wallet is concerned, it may be worth learning how to do. Prepared pineapple chunks in the produce section cost more per pound—about 50 cents an ounce more—than a whole pineapple. Check your market for whole, peeled and decored pineapples. My market sells these pineapples at the same price as an unpeeled pineapple.

Winter fruits for Kids Pomegranate

Pomegranates

How to buy:

Color is not a good indicator of a ripe pomegranate. Instead, choose a fruit that feels heavy in your hand.

Why it’s good:

Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants, natural compounds found in plants that help protect the body from harmful compounds that damage tissues and may contribute to a variety of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Although you don’t get as many antioxidants eating the seeds as drinking the juice, you will get a bit of fiber and abundant punicic acid, a polyunsaturated heart-healthy oil.

How to save:

Pomegranates aren’t the cheapest fruit in the produce bin (about $2.50 each), but the good news is that one fruit goes a long way. Your best bet is to compare prices at competing stores, and buy the cheapest you can find.

Grapefruit

How to buy:

Like oranges, select fruits that are free of blemishes and bruises. Buying ripe grapefruit can be tricky—the skin color of the fruit is not always a reliable way to tell if the fruit is sweet inside. If the fruit is heavy in your hand, that may be a good indication of its juiciness.

Why it’s good:

Grapefruits are high in vitamin C and are a good source of fiber. Studies have shown that the soluble fiber in grapefruit may even be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. Half a medium grapefruit has only 60 calories. One exception: if you take statins to lower cholesterol levels, consuming grapefruit juice or the fruit may prevent the statins from breaking down in your system, causing the drug to accumulate in high amounts in the body.

How to save:

If you regularly buy organic, you may make an exception for grapefruit. According to the Environmental Working Group (a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization) it is a fruit that is less likely to be contaminated with pesticides.

tangerine

Tangerines

How to buy:

Choose tangerines with a deep orange color that are firm to semi-soft and heavy for their size. Avoid tangerines that have dull or brown coloring or soft spots.

Why it’s good:

One tangerine contains 2.3 grams fiber, 13% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A and 40% of vitamin C. Tangerines are smaller than oranges with bright orange skins and slightly looser peels than oranges. They are great for eating and you can also juice tangerines. Tangerines are less acidic than most citrus fruits. Use them as you would oranges in salads, stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese or as a topping for dessert.

How to save:

Buy them in bulk (they may be cheaper in a bag than when sold individually) and store them in the refrigerator to extend their life by a couple of weeks.

Making Healthy Desserts With Winter Fruits

lemon pudding

Lemon Pudding Cakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup skim or lowfat milk
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray six 6-ounce ramekins with vegetable oil spray. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the flour. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the butter until well blended. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the lemon mixture into the sugar mixture and whisk until smooth.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared ramekins and transfer them to a small roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake the pudding cakes for 35 minutes or until they are puffy and golden on top. Using tongs, transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Serve the cakes in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each cake and unmold onto plates. Serve warm or at room temperature. Pudding cakes can be refrigerated for 2 days.

crepe

Chocolate Crepes with Orange and Chocolate Sauce

8 crepes

Ingredients

Crepes

  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water

Orange Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest from 2 oranges, cut into very thin strips

Filling: 1 cup frozen yogurt (vanilla or flavor of choice)

Topping: Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

To make crepes:

Combine flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon oil and water in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour or for up to 24 hours.

To make orange syrup:

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, add orange zest, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the syrup has thickened and the zest is tender. Several times during the cooking, brush the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to keep sugar crystals from forming on the sides. Remove from heat and let cool.

To cook and assemble crepes:

Heat a small nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when sprinkled on the surface. Reduce heat to medium-low. Brush pan with a little of the remaining 1 teaspoon oil as needed to prevent sticking. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter on the skillet and swirl to coat the bottom evenly. Cook 30 to 40 seconds until the top of the crepe has a dull surface and the edges begin to curl. Flip and cook for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the crepe is firm. Remove to a plate and cover with a dry cloth. Repeat with remaining crepes. (The crepes may be stacked between wax paper sheets until serving time.)

Place a crepe on a dessert plate. Spread 2 tablespoons of frozen yogurt across the middle. Fold in half and spoon 1 tablespoon Chocolate Sauce over the top or beside it. Spoon 2 teaspoons orange syrup and zest over the folded crepe. Repeat with remaining crepes.

Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey or 1 1/2 tablespoons agave necter
  • 1/4 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Sift together cocoa, cornstarch and sugar in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in milk. Whisk in honey. Bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in oil and vanilla.

Garcia Studio, Inc. 933 Fielder Avenue NW Atlanta, GA 30318 404-892-2334

Orange Cranberry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup smooth, unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

Directions

Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in pecans and dried cranberries.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, applesauce, oil, orange zest and juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until well blended.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Roll the dough with floured hands (it will be very moist) into 1 1/2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the cookies until barely golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 1 minute; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

apple-cake-ck-222502-l

Cinnamon Apple Cheesecake

12 servings

The cream cheese in the batter makes the cake quite moist. Because it’s so tender, use a serrated knife for cutting.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup stick margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces block style low fat cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped, peeled baking apples (about 2-3 apples)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, margarine, vanilla and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Add 2 tablespoons or the cinnamon mixture to the apples and mix. Fold apple mixture into the batter.

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.

NOTE: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan; just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.

Perfect-Pear-Crisp-58320

Healthy Pear Crisp

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
  • 8 fresh pears (about 2-1/2 lb.), peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut up
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • Frozen yogurt, optional

Directions

Heat the oven to 375ºF.

Grate enough lemon peel to measure 1/2 teaspoon zest. Squeeze enough juice to measure 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Mix 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in large bowl. Add pears, lemon zest and juice; toss until pears are evenly coated.

Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Mix brown sugar and remaining flour, granulated sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and sprinkle over the pears.

Bake 40 to 45 min. or until topping is golden brown and pears are hot and bubbly. Serve warm topped frozen yogurt, if desired.

NOTE: You can also bake this dessert in 9-inch square baking dish or shallow 2-qt. casserole instead of the 8-inch square baking dish.


A few little facts: The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome. Note: The banana plant is not a tree. It is actually the world’s largest herb! The time between planting a banana plant and the harvest of the banana bunch is from 9 to 12 months. The flower appears in the sixth or seventh month. Bananas are available throughout the year – they do not have a growing season. Bananas are grown in tropical regions where the average temperature is 80° F (27° C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. They require moist soil with good drainage.

In fact, most exported bananas are grown within 30 degrees of either side of the equator. Plantations are predominant in Latin America and they require a huge investment in infrastructure and technology for transport, irrigation, drainage and packing facilities. Banana growing is, in general, labor intensive, involving clearing away jungle growth, propping up the plants to counter bending from the weight of the growing fruit, and installing irrigation in some regions. As well as implementing an intensive use of pesticides, the conventional production process involves covering banana bunches with polyethylene bags to protect them from wind, attacks of insects or birds and to maintain optimum temperatures.

After nine months, the bananas are harvested while still green. At the packhouse they are inspected and sorted for export. Buyers of the fruit want unbruised bananas and so very high standards are set. If the bananas do not meet these standards they are usually sold locally at a much lower price.They are then transported to ports to be packed in refrigerated ships called reefers. They are transported at a temperature of 55.94 degrees F. (13.3°C ) in order to increase their shelf life and require careful handling in order to prevent damage. Humidity, ventilation and temperature conditions are carefully monitored in order to maintain quality. When the bananas arrive at their destination port, they are first sent to ripening rooms (a process involving ethylene gas) and then sent to the stores and markets.

The true origin of bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. Bananas traveled from there to India where they are mentioned in the Buddhist Pali writings dating back to the 6th century BCE. In his campaign in India in 327 BCE, Alexander the Great had his first taste of the banana, an unusual fruit he saw growing on tall trees, and he is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. According to Chinese historian, Yang Fu, China was tending plantations of bananas in 200 CE. These bananas grew only in the southern region of China and were considered exotic, rare fruits that never became popular with the Chinese people until the 20th century.

Eventually, this tropical fruit reached Madagascar, an island off the southeastern coast of Africa. Beginning in 650 CE, the Arabs were successful in trading ivory and bananas. Through their numerous travels westward via the slave trade, bananas eventually reached Guinea, a small area along the West Coast of Africa. Arabian slave traders are also credited with giving the banana its popular name. The bananas that were growing in Africa, as well as Southeast Asia, were not the eight-to-twelve-inch fruits that have become familiar in U.S. supermarkets today. They were small, about as long as a man’s finger, therefore, the name banan, Arabic for finger.

By 1402 Portuguese sailors discovered this tropical fruit in their travels to the African continent and populated the Canary Islands with the first banana plantations. Continuing the banana’s travels westward, the rootstocks were packed onto a ship under the charge of Tomas de Berlanga, a Portuguese Franciscan monk, who brought them to the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo in the year 1516. It wasn’t long before the banana became popular throughout the Caribbean, as well as Central America.

It was almost three hundred and fifty years later that Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. Wrapped in tin foil, bananas were sold for 10 cents each at a celebration held in Pennsylvania in 1876 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Instructions on how to eat a banana appeared in the Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information and read as follows: “Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.”

Hafer & Bro. in Reading, Pennsylania, July 6, 1914

How did bananas get to Italy?

Italian Somaliland, also known as Italian Somalia, was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy from the 1880s until 1936 in the region of modern-day Somalia. Ruled in the 19th century by the Somali Sultanate of Hobyo and the Majeerteen Sultanate, the territory was later acquired by Italy through various treaties. In 1936, the region was incorporated into Africa Orientale Italiana, as part of the Italian Empire. This arrangement would last until 1941, when Italian Somaliland came under British administration. The two major economic developments of the Italian colonial era were the establishment of plantations and the creation of a salaried workers. In the south, the Italians laid the basis for profitable export-oriented agriculture, primarily in bananas, through the creation of plantations and irrigation systems. Banana exports to Italy began in 1927 and gained primary importance in the colony after 1929, when the world cotton market collapsed.

Italian Style Banana Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup amaretto-flavored non dairy liquid creamer
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package instant banana pudding mix
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 7 ounces of bite-sized amaretti cookies
  • 3 – 4 bananas, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces ( depending on size)
  • 1/3 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl place the coffee creamer, milk, pudding mix and vanilla extract. Whisk for 2 minutes until thickened; place the bowl in the refrigerator.

In a large mixer bowl place the 1/2 cup of heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and confectioner’s sugar. Whip at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1-1/2 minutes. Fold mixture gently into pudding mixture until well combined.

Place six 1-cup dessert dishes or ramekins on work surface. Spoon a few tablespoons of pudding mixture into each dish. Place 4 cookies on pudding; top with banana slices. Layer in the same way ending with pudding and making sure cookies and bananas are covered on the top layer. Cover dishes with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle each with chopped hazelnuts.

 

Banana Nutella Crepes

Serves: 8 to 10 crepes

Ingredients:

For the crepes:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons hazelnuts, peeled, toasted, chopped

For the filling:

  • 4 bananas
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 small jar hazelnut spread (such as, Nutella)

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Directions:

For the crepes:

In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl mix the flour and salt. Place a small sauce pan or saute pan over low heat and melt the butter; cook it until it is light brown.

Add the egg and milk to the flour and salt and mix well so that there are no large clumps. Add the browned butter and mix to incorporate, being careful not to overwork batter. The batter should just coat the back of a spoon. If seems too thick, thin it out with a little more milk or water. Let the batter rest for 1 hour prior to cooking crepes.

For the filling:

Peel bananas, cut in half lengthwise and then cut 1/2-inch slices widthwise. In a large saute pan over medium-high heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the bay leaves to the hot butter and cook until it crackles slightly, add the lemon juice and sugar, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Add the bananas and orange juice and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes so the flavors incorporate and the bananas are hot but not mushy. Add the raspberries. Stir gently to combine. Set this mixture aside and let cool slightly.

For the Crepes:

After the crepe batter has rested for 1 hour, heat 1 (10-inch) nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add 2 ounces of the crepe batter to the pan, remove pan from heat and tilt slightly to spread the batter over the entire pan. Return to heat and sprinkle the top with 1 teaspoon of the chopped hazelnuts. Cook for about 1 minute until the bottom side is lightly browned. With your fingertips and a spatula, carefully flip crepe and cook the second side for about 15 seconds. Set the cooked crepe on a baking sheet and repeat until you have used all of the batter. You should be able to produce 8 to 10 crepes.

Lay the crepes out on a flat surface. Spread each crepe with about 1 tablespoon of hazelnut spread. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the banana mixture on one section of the crepe and fold the crepe over in half and in half again so that it forms a triangular shape. Repeat this with all of the crepes.

For the sauce:

In a small saute pan over medium heat melt the butter and cook until lightly browned, add the lemon juice and brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Serve the crepes on a plate with the sauce spooned over the top and sprinkled with the remaining chopped hazelnuts and confectioners’ sugar.

Note: See how to make crepes in post:  https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/12/27/new-years-eve-party-time/

Grilled Bananas

Grilling bananas is a unique way to cook them. Prepare this dish when you can take advantage of a still very hot grill from a barbecue dinner, but remember to scrape the grilling grate with a grill spatula and let some of the bits burn off from any previous food that was cooked before placing the bananas on the grill.

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 unpeeled bananas
  • 4 tablespoons Italian liqueur of choice, such as Frangelico
  • Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill on high for 15 minutes.

2. Put the unpeeled bananas on the grill 1 to 2 inches from the source of the heat until they blacken on both sides.

3. Remove from the grill, slice the bananas open lengthwise, leaving them in their peels, and sprinkle a tablespoon of liqueur, a shake of powdered sugar and cinnamon on each and serve.

Olive oil Banana Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (has salt and baking powder included)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons instant expresso powder
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:

Spray a tube pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine bananas, eggs and oil in a small bowl.

Sift flour, expresso powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Mix in sugar. Make a well in the center and add the bananas mixture.

Stir until mixture is smooth. Pour into mixture into pan, spread eveningly and bake for 1 hour.

Allow the cake to sit on the wire cooling rack for ten minutes. Remove from pan. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool.

Gelato di Banana al Rum

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 slightly overripe bananas
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rum

Directions::

Peel bananas; cut into thirds. In heavy-bottom saucepan, bring bananas and milk to boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat and simmer until bananas are very soft, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In food processor, whirl banana mixture until smooth.

In electric mixer large bowl, whisk egg yolks with sugar until pale yellow and frothy. Slowly whisk in banana mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan; cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until banana mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the banana mixture surface; refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Stir in rum. Chill another 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Freeze banana mixture in ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Banana Chocolate Chip Nut Biscotti

Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana ( about 1 large banana)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chip

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine bananas, oil, egg and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into dry mixture along with nuts and chocolate chips, stir together.

Flour a working area and turn dough out onto it. Flour hands as dough is sticky. Form two 7 inch loaves about 2 inches wide.

Put loaves on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and turn temperature down to 250 degrees F.

Remove loaves from cookie sheet and let cool 10 minutes.

Cut loaves into 3/4 inch slices, return slices to cookie sheet.

Bake for an additional 18-20 minutes.


Hanover Street – the heart of Boston’s Little Italy.

Some of the many original Italian ports of origin.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston’s Italian neighborhood is called the North End. It has a strong Italian flair and numerous Italian restaurants. The North End is also Boston’s oldest neighborhood and it still possesses an old-world charm kept alive by its mostly Italian-American population. Since the completion of the Big Dig and the demolition of the old elevated Southeast Expressway, the neighborhood has found itself re-connected to the rest of the city. There is arguably no more vibrant area of Boston on a summer evening when the narrow city streets come alive with a blend of culture and cuisine.

The North End, often called Boston’s “Little Italy,” is a one-square-mile waterfront community, bordered by Commercial and Causeway Streets and Atlantic Avenue, located within walking distance of Boston’s financial district and Government Center. A highly desirable residential area for professionals who work nearby, the neighborhood also is a major attraction for tourists and Bostonians alike, who come seeking the best in Italian cuisine and to enjoy the decidedly Italian feel of the region. Hanover and Salem Streets, the two main streets of this bustling historic neighborhood, are lined with restaurants, cafes and shops, selling a variety of delectable edible goods. A trip to Boston would not be complete without including a meal at one of North End’s over one hundred fine Italian restaurants.

The many immigrants who originally settled in these neighborhoods, with their distinctive dialects, their history and their traditions of the regions in Italy from which they came, were carefully preserved and are celebrated during the summer months in the North End even today. Italian-Americans still comprise more than 41% of the resident population. It is one of the most vibrant and thriving neighborhoods of its kind. Old customs and traditions die hard (if ever at all). For despite the fact that 50 individual religious societies once existed in the North End and only 12 remain today, these societies with their religious feasts and processions remain an integral part of North End neighborhood life and culture, drawing large summertime crowds. Saint Anthony’s Feast is celebrated each year in the North End of Boston on the weekend of the last Sunday of August. Begun by Italian immigrants from Montefalcione, Italy, in 1919, it has become the largest Italian religious festival in New England. Italian foods, religious services, parades, festivities, games, live music and entertainment highlight this feast on the elaborately decorated Endicott and Thatcher streets in the heart of Boston’s historic North End. 

Tourism provides an economic boost to the area. However, many neighborhood grocery stores, fruit vendors, butcher shops, bakeries, shoe stores, clothiers and cobblers have simply disappeared to be replaced by restaurants. With a population barely one-quarter of its 44,000 peak in 1930, fewer services are required to sustain the community. Ten of its 12 schools have been subdivided and converted to condominium apartments. Church parishes have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Times have changed in Boston’s North End.

From 1880 to 1920, an estimated 4 million Italian immigrants arrived in the United States, the majority from 1900 to 1914. Once in America, the immigrants faced great challenges. Often with no knowledge of the English language and with little education, many of the immigrants were compelled to accept the poorest paying and most undesirable jobs. Many sought housing in the older sections of the large northeastern cities in which they settled, which became known as “Little Italys”, often in overcrowded substandard tenements.

The destinations of many of the Italian immigrants were not only the large cities of the East Coast, but also more remote regions of the country, such as Florida and California. They were drawn there by opportunities in agriculture, mining, railroad construction and lumbering. Many of the immigrants had contracted to work in these areas of the country as a condition for payment of their passage. Many of the Italian laborers, who went to these areas, were later joined by wives and children, which resulted in the establishment of permanent Italian American settlements in diverse parts of the country.

The Old North End

The first Italians arrived in the North End of Boston in the 1860’s, forced by unbearable conditions in Italy to leave their native land. Their numbers grew in the 1880’s and 1890’s. Although many of the first Italian immigrants worked as vendors of fruits and vegetables, they later found work in commercial fishing, in shipping, in construction, and as shopkeepers. They sought help from family members and acquaintances from the same regions of Italy who had already established themselves in the area. Over time, this resulted in enclaves of residents living together on streets segregated by a region of Italy – Sicily, Milan, Naples, and Genoa – from which they had come; preserving its language and customs as well. Over the next decades, the Italian population of the North End increased and other immigrant groups moved elsewhere. By 1900, Italians had firmly established themselves in the North End and by 1930 the North End was almost one hundred percent Italian.

The North End had also changed in a number of other significant ways. Protestant churches were acquired by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston – reflecting the ascendancy of Irish Catholicism throughout the neighborhood. The Seamen’s Bethel Church became the Sacred Heart Church in 1871. The Bulfinch-designed New North Congregational Society became St. Stephen’s Church. In 1873 St. Leonard’s Church was founded at the corner of Hanover and Prince Streets, becoming the first Italian church in New England and the second oldest in America.

In 1920, the North End had 28 Italian physicians, six Italian dentists, eight Italian owned funeral homes and, on every main street, four or five barber shops . Most North End businesses were of the “Ma and Pa” variety – small grocery stores, butcher shops, bakeries, dressmakers, cobblers and shoe stores.

There were two notable exceptions to the “Ma and Pa” businesses:

Luigi Pastene came to Boston from Italy in 1848 and began selling produce from a pushcart. By the 1870’s, he was joined by his son, Pietro, in establishing Pastene as a company specializing in selling groceries and imported Italian products. By 1901, Pastene expanded its operations to facilities along Fulton Street in the heart of the North End. Today, the Pastene Corporation is a major national brand with distribution and packing facilities established in New York, Montreal, New Haven and Havana, as well as in Italy in Naples and Imperia.

Three Sicilian friends- LaMarca, Seminara and Cantella – started a small macaroni and spaghetti manufacturing business in 1912. They became so successful that within five years, they moved their Prince Pasta Company to 207 Commercial Street. Then, in 1939 the three partners were joined by Giuseppe Pellegrino, another Sicilian immigrant with a talent for marketing. He created the famous slogan “Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day”. Eventually the company was sold to Borden, Inc. in 1987.      

 


These two business success stories aside, most Italian North Enders found life hard, both economically and socially. Like the experience of the Boston Irish before them, Italian-Americans began to accrue political power after the close of WW II and in 1948 Foster Furcolo was elected the first Italian-American Congressman and eight years later he became the first Italian-American Governor of Massachusetts.

Fred Langone, whose grandfather had been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1922, was elected in 1961 to the Boston City Council, a position he held for the next 22 years. Frank X. Belotti served as Lieutenant Governor from 1963 to 1965 and John Volpe was elected the second Italian-American Governor of Massachusetts in 1960.

Ravioli

Little cases of dough containing a savory filling — this is the definition given by Webster’s Dictionary. But Marguerite Dimino defines ravioli as “the one Italian food that everyone loves.” The following is a step-by-step recipe for, as many have called it, “the best ravioli in Boston’s North End.” It would seem unlikely that from the number of good cooks in the North End, one could emerge with a singular reputation as perhaps “the best.” But Marguerite DiMino, a vivacious mother of four grown children, has done just that.

Her ravioli is a culinary celebrity in Boston. She has prepared her ravioli for a television audience, as demonstration for an ethnic week at the Museum of Science and during an Italian festival at a leading department store. When the Consulate-General of Israel was served a North End specialty during Jerusalem month, it was Marguerite’s ravioli.

A Boston newspaper featured Marguerite’s ravioli and included her recipe in the article. Soon she was inundated with calls and letters from people homesick for “a ravioli like their grandmother’s.” She went on to write one of the most well known cookbooks from the region, The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane. Here is her recipe:

Dough:

  • 2½ pounds (about 10 cups) unbleached, unsifted flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Boiling water as needed

 Directions:

Make a well in the flour on a pastry board. Add salt. Partially beat eggs before adding to flour. Add eggs gradually, mix with fingers until dough resembles the texture of cornmeal. Sprinkle on the boiling water starting with only 1/4 cup, and work it into dough. Add more boiling water, as needed, until dough is smooth and pliable, but not too soft. Knead dough for about five minutes. Pat with some water, cover, and let sit for about half an hour. Prepare filling and meat sauce while waiting for the dough. 

Filling:

  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 5 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed
  • 8 finely chopped parsley sprigs

Blend all ingredients together.

Meat Sauce:

  • Oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Dash: sweet basil, red pepper flakes, oregano, and bay leaf
  • (Remove bay leaf before serving)
  • 1/2 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (beef may be substituted)
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1 can (1 Ib. 12 oz.) Italian peeled tomatoes
  • 1 can water (using tomato can)

Directions:

Put enough oil in a saucepan to coat the bottom. Saute garlic, onion, and seasonings over medium heat until onion is lightly golden. Add all the meat. Cook until slightly browned. Add the tomato paste and stir a few minutes. Add tomatoes and stir. Pour in water. Reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer for up to one hour, stirring frequently.

To Assemble:

Divide dough into fourths and roll out only one-fourth at a time, keeping the rest covered. Roll dough as thin as possible. Place heaping teaspoons of filling 1½ inches from edge of dough. Continue to place filling in straight rows on the dough, being careful to leave 1½ inches between each spoonful. Fold over the edge of the dough to completely cover the first row of filling. With your fingers, gently press down on dough around the mounds of filling. Using a 2½-inch ravioli cutter, cut around the mounds. A pastry cutter or small glass may be used instead — but be sure to seal the edges with a fork. Continue in this manner until all the dough is used. (The dough that you don’t want to use may be frozen in a plastic bag and used at a later date to make more ravioli or even pasta. It may also be kept in the refrigerator up to 5 days.)

To Freeze:

This recipe may very well make much more than you will want to serve at one time. The ravioli can be frozen before it is cooked. Sprinkle flour or cornmeal on cookie sheets and place ravioli in a single layer on the sheets and freeze. This takes about 20 minutes. After the ravioli is frozen it may be placed in plastic bags. This way the pieces won’t stick to one another.

To Cook:

Bring 6 to 8 quarts of salted water to a boil. Gradually add the ravioli and cook until tender (15 to 20 minutes) . It is best not to overcrowd the pot, because you will need to continually press ravioli to bottom of pot so that they will cook evenly.

To Serve:

Carefully remove ravioli and let them drain well. Place them in a serving dish and cover with meat sauce and a layer of grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Continue in this manner until you have used all the cooked ravioli. Serve with a tossed salad, garlic bread, and wine. Enjoy your meal and all the compliments you will receive!

The North End Italian Marinara Sauce

This recipe for Marinara Sauce is adapted from The North End Italian Cookbook by Marguerite DiMino Buonopane, one of the North End’s most celebrated cooks.

This sauce is perfect for adding sliced black olives, clams, mushrooms or crab. Use your imagination. This is a spicy sauce due to the red pepper flakes. Good over cooked thin spaghetti or linguini.

 I like to serve this sauce over Chicken Parmigiana.

Ingredients     

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 2- 26.4 ounces Pomi chopped tomatoes salt and pepper, plus
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper, more of the above seasonings
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Directions

In a large heavy skillet, on low heat, very slowly heat the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil and mint.

Cook for 5 minutes or until garlic is light golden brown.

Raise the heat to medium high and carefully add the tomatoes.

Let the sauce come to a soft boil.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add a pinch more of red pepper, basil and mint.

Add the chopped parsley.

Let sauce simmer, uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Frankie’s Gravy and Meatballs

This recipe was one of four chosen from more than 1500 submissions to the Food Network’s Italian recipe contest. It earned Frankie Imbergamo an appearance on the “Emeril Live” TV show. Growing up on Hanover Street in Boston’s “Little Italy” where he attended both the Eliot and Michelangelo schools, Frankie still identifies closely with the neighborhood. It’s his point of reference. “It’s where it all began for me,” he says. “I have so many special memories of people – family and friends – and of times – both good and bad. A common thread, it seems, through all these memories has been love, comfort and a feeling of belonging – a feeling of home.”

Partly as a result of his newly-found mini-celebrity status, family members and friends urged Frankie to assemble some of his favorite home-style recipes into a cookbook. “Through the years, I’ve enjoyed creating my own meals, in my own style and always with the finest ingredients,” he explained.

So, with assistance from his wife, Maureen, the husband-and-wife team produced, The Good Life! Favorite Italian Recipes by Frank J. Imbergamo. The volume contains 40 recipes, including “Pork Chops with Vinegar Peppers and Potatoes,” “Haddock Pizzaiola” and “Baked Lobster Pie.” It also includes a useful reference list pairing recipes with suggested wines. Here is the recipe that won him first place.

Meatballs:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups plain bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Gravy (sauce):

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (Flotta or Pastene)
  • 1 (6 oz.) can water (use empty tomato paste can)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans Pastene Kitchen Ready tomatoes
  • 3/4 can water (21 oz. use empty Kitchen Ready can)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1 tsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

In a bowl, mix all ingredients for meatballs with hands for about 5 minutes, until well mixed. Form about 16 meatballs and place on a platter. In a frying pan add olive oil and, when hot, add meatballs and cook on medium heat until browned. Repeat until all meatballs are browned. Place meatballs on a new platter. Do not discard the oil.

Saute chopped onion and chopped garlic in the oil for approximately 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring all the while. Add can of water (tomato paste can) and cook and stir for 1 minute. Take off heat and set aside.

In an 8-quart pan, add tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 3/4 can of water (Kitchen Ready can), tomato paste mixture from fry pan and browned meatballs. Mix thoroughly, stirring carefully with wooden spoon as not to break meatballs. Add salt, ground pepper and parsley and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, then cover and cook on low heat for 2-1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes to prevent sticking and burning on bottom of pan, until done.

Serve over al dente pasta and sprinkle with some grated Pecorino Romano cheese, along with crusty Italian bread and a good bottle of red wine.

Crespelle Al Forno

 Recipe from one of Boston’s North End restaurants, Tresca:

Crepe:

  • 2 egg yolks, 4 whole eggs
  • 6 oz. all purpose flour
  • 6 oz. water
  • 6 oz. milk
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 bunch of chives

Directions:

Mix all ingredients, let sit 5 minutes. Mix again and strain. Heat a nonstick pan with oil over medium heat, add 1 oz. of mix turning pan to coat evenly. When sides pull away from the pan, flip over and cook 10 seconds. Remove to a plate.

Filling: Mushroom mix

  • 1 cup each of mixed mushrooms, shiitake, oyster and baby bellas, sliced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1/4 cup marjoram, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil

Directions:

Saute mushrooms with shallots, add marjoram, salt and pepper. Reserve some mushrooms for garnish.

Pulse remaining mushrooms in food processor until coarsely chopped.

Mix ricotta with mushrooms and truffle oil, then chill.

Scoop mushroom mix into crepe and roll.

Heat skillet used to cook mushrooms with some olive oil. Brown crepes on both sides and place pan in a preheated moderate oven. Heat crepes until hot in the center. Serve with sauteed mushrooms and a drizzle with truffle oil.

Baked Cod with Lemon & Olive Oil

From the North End Fish Market

Two girls gone fishing !  According to Liz Ventura and Keri Cassidy: They traded successful careers in software and human resources for the opportunity to own their own business. “Why food? Because they love to eat. Why fish? Easy, there wasn’t a fish market in the north end at the time. In the small predominantly Italian neighborhood where food is taken very seriously it was the only missing piece. When they found out that the tiny produce store that they loved to frequent was closing, a light bulb went on, and the North End Fish Market was open for business a year later.”

4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 cod fillets (6 ounces each)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Arrange the fillets in a 13 x 9 baking dish. Drizzle with the lemon juice and oil, and sprinkle with the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the paprika and lightly rub it in. Top with roasted red peppers. Bake until the flesh is completely opaque but still juicy, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with the pan juices spooned over the top. Garnish with basil.

Sfogliatella

Recipe courtesy John Picariello and Sara McGee, Modern Pastry Bakery

“The Modern Pastry Shop is an award winning, family owned Italian bakery that was created over 70 years ago, on Hanover Street in Boston’s North End. The world may have changed since the 1930’s, but their original recipes and time honored traditions for creating their confections have not. The recipes and the baking procedures are the same since their family brought them over from Italy, so many years ago.”

Recipe for Italian Custard Cream: http://www.academiabarilla.com/italian-recipes/how-to/confectioner-cream.aspx

Serves: 16 to 20 pieces

Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1 3/4 pounds bread flour
  • Vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 1 pound semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon oil
  • 15 eggs
  • 1 1/4 pounds ricotta
  • 3/4 pound custard cream
  • 1/2 pound sugar

Directions

For the dough: Mix the bread flour and 1 cup water in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with a hook attachment until firm. Take the dough out of the bowl, completely wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.

Press the dough as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Apply oil to the surfaces and roll the dough into a salami-shaped roll about 3 inches thick. When done, wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator overnight.

For the filling: Put 4 cups water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the semolina and mix until thoroughly firm and cooked. When the semolina is cool, put it in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer and add the cinnamon oil. Mix at speed 2 and add the eggs one at a time. Add the ricotta and custard cream and mix thoroughly. Add the sugar, little by little while mixing thoroughly. If mixture is still extremely firm, add a couple more eggs.

To assemble: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the “salami roll” into 1/4-inch discs. Each disc should be smoothed out between your palms. Using an ice cream scoop, fill the middle of the disc with filling and fold over into the shape of a clam shell. Put on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crispy, about 1 hour.

 



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