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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: biscotti

Christmas baking has begun and I start with cookies. What are your favorite cookies to make for the holidays? Here are some of mine.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
2 cups butter ( 4 sticks)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups flour
Powdered sugar icing (see below) and red and green colored sprinkles for decoration

Directions

In a large electric mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and smooth.

Separate 3 of the eggs; Beat the 3 egg yolks and the remaining whole egg into the butter-sugar mixture.

Set aside the eggs whites and use for another recipe, such as the Pignoli cookies below.

Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour and mix well. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into four equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one-fourth of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with floured cookie cutters.

Transfer cookies to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough and re-roll scraps until all the dough is used.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned. Cool.

Frost the cookies lightly with the icing and sprinkle with colored sprinkles.

Store in tightly covered containers for up to one month in a cool place, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Powdered Sugar Icing

Ingredients

1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Directions

Mix together to make a thin icing.

Italian Pine-nut (Pignoli) Cookies

Use only almond paste, not marzipan or canned almond filling.

Makes 2 dozen. I usually double the recipe.

Ingredients

8-ounces almond paste, cut in small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg whites, from 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
Pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In mixer bowl beat almond paste, sugar, egg whites and almond extract with an electric mixer until smooth. Drop a heaping teaspoonful of dough 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets.

Sprinkle with pine nuts to cover, then press them gently to adhere.

Bake 20 minutes or until the tops feel firm and dry when lightly pressed. Cool completely on cookie sheet on wire rack. Store airtight at room temperature.

(Cookies are best eaten within 2 weeks, or they can be frozen.)

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

Ingredients

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so generally desserts are not often on my menu. When I do want something to go a cup of tea, it would be a biscotti. I tend to not make them very sweet. Here are two of my favorites. The chocolate ganache is optional. These cookies can also be made gluten-free, if almond flour is substituted for the all-purpose flour.

Pecan Pie Biscotti

Makes 14-15 biscotti

Ingredients

3/4 cup pecan meal (finely ground pecans)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 1 ¼ cups almond flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the chopped pecans.

In a small bowl combine the eggs, molasses and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn dough out onto parchment lined baking pan and form into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake about 25 minutes, until golden brown and just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the biscotti log cool for 20 minutes.

Using a sharp, straight-edge knife, slice into 14 or 15 even slices .

Space the slices a few inches apart on the baking pan and bake 10 minutes.

Turn the biscotti slices over and bake 10 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Pumpkin Pie Biscotti

Makes 12 biscotti

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour or 2 cups almond flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Ganache, recipe below

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl combine the pumpkin puree, egg, oil and vanilla extract.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix with a fork until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto the parchment lined baking pan and pat the dough into a log 4 by 10 inches.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the log is just firm to the touch.

Remove the pan from the oven and cool the biscotti log for 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.

Gently slice the log into 12 even slices using a serrated knife.

Place the slices back on the baking pan on their sides and place the pan back into the oven.

Let bake 15 minutes and then turn the biscotti slices over and bake 15 minutes more.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Slide the parchment onto the kitchen counter to cool the biscotti completely.

Dip one end of the biscotti in the chocolate ganache and let dry on the parchment paper.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

Makes enough for both recipes.

4 oz Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate 86% (or any high percentage chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter

Directions

Finely chop the chocolate and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds.

Add the cold heavy cream and microwave for 30 seconds. Add the butter and gently whisk to combine.

The ganache should be thick and glossy.


I titled this post Summertime Cookies because the cookie recipes are quick and easy to make and they are filled with flavors that go well with summer ingredients. They are also perfect paired with ice cream desserts.

Basil Pistachio Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising flour
3/4 cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped pistachios

Directions

Using an electric mixer on low-speed, blend together the flour, basil, sugar and lemon zest and mix well.

In a separate bowl, mix the olive oil, egg and vanilla. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients.

Beat with the mixer, gradually adding the lemon juice. The mixture will be crumbly and slightly moist. It should not be sticky, though.

Add the pistachios and mix well. Gather the mixture into a ball.

Roll the ball into a log about 1½ inches thick and 14 inches long. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Can also be overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cut the chilled log into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and reshape, if necessary, so they keep their round shape.

Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for 10 minutes more or until they are slightly brown.

Cool on a rack.

Crunchy Biscotti

Ingredients

6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Place the first 4 ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high-speed for 2 minutes until well blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour to the sugar mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in chips and pecans (dough will be sticky). Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. With floured hands, shape the dough into a 9 x 4 inch log; pat to 1/2-inch thickness. Place the log on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the log from the pan and cool 20 minutes on a wire rack.

Cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Place the slices, cut sides down, on the baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes, turn the biscotti over and bake for 10 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Oatmeal Date Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ, preferably toasted
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together applesauce and oil until completely blended.

Whisk in sugar, egg and vanilla; set aside.

In a second medium bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ and flour.

Add to the applesauce mixture and stir well to combine thoroughly. Fold in the dates and pecans.

Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon drop dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and bake until cooked through and golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

Carefully transfer to wire racks and set aside to let cool completely.


morningcover

Christmas cake is an English tradition that began as plum-porridge. People ate the porridge on Christmas Eve, using it to line their stomachs after a day of fasting. Soon dried fruit, spices and honey were added to the porridge mixture and, eventually, it turned into Christmas pudding. In the 16th century, oatmeal was removed from the original recipe and butter, wheat flour and eggs were added. These ingredients helped hold the mixture together, resulting in a boiled plum-cake. Richer families with ovens began making fruit cakes with marzipan, an almond paste, for Easter. For Christmas, they made a similar cake using seasonal dried fruit and spices. The spices came from the eastern countries and this cake became known as Christmas cake.

Christmas cakes are made many different ways, but generally they are variations on the classic fruitcake. They can be light, dark, moist, dry, heavy, spongy, leavened, unleavened and more. They are made in many different shapes, with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or  just left plain. The traditional Scottish Christmas cake, also known as the Whisky Dundee, is very popular. It is a light crumbly cake with currants, raisins, cherries and Scotch whisky. Other types of Christmas cakes include apples and mincemeat.

In Japan, Christmas cake is a frosted sponge cake with strawberries, chocolates or seasonal fruit. In the Philippines, Christmas cake is a yellow pound cake with nuts. Don’t forget the traditional British fruitcake that is soaked in brandy or rum, sugar syrup and water. Italy has a long culinary tradition of serving cakes and sweets during the Christmas season. The tradition of “dolci di Natale” is long and varied with hundreds of types of cakes, cookies and sweets on the Christmas table. Every table for sure has Panettone and Pandoro –  the symbols of Christmas in Italy.

Following are some modern day fruit style cakes.

Jam Filled Coffee Cake

morning1

Ingredients

  • One 8 ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam or your favorite jam
  • Powdered sugar
  • Fresh fruit for garnish

Directions

Grease a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan or a 3-quart rectangular baking dish; set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, granulated sugar and butter; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 3/4 cup of the flour, the eggs, milk, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and salt. Beat about 1 minute more or until combined. Add the remaining 1 cup flour, beating on low-speed just until combined.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan. In a small bowl stir jam with a spoon until nearly smooth. Spoon jam in eight to ten mounds on top of the batter in the baking pan.

Using a thin spatula or knife, swirl jam into the batter.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake portion near the center comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and, if desired, serve with raspberries or other fruit. Serve warm.

Date Coffee Cake with Orange Sauce

morning2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup orange or lemon yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup pitted whole dates, chopped

Orange Sauce

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded orange peel
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

To make the Orange Sauce:

Stir sugar, cornstarch, ginger and finely shredded orange peel in a small saucepan. Stir in orange juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly; cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in butter until melted. Cover pan and cool slightly. Serve warm. Makes about 1 cup.

To make the cake:

Grease and flour an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside.

Stir together the 1 cup flour, baking powder and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F oven.

Place softened butter and ginger in a medium mixing bowl; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Stir in yogurt and milk.

Add flour mixture, beating on low to medium speed until combined. Toss dates with 2 tablespoons flour and fold into the batter. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly (about 30 minutes) in the pan on a wire rack.

Cut into squares. Serve with warm Orange Sauce.

Cherry Crumb Cake

morning3

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups cherry, raspberry or strawberry preserves

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, oats, brown sugar, pecans, lemon peel and baking soda. Stir in applesauce and oil; mix well. If necessary, use your hands to combine.

Measure 1 cup of the oat mixture; set aside.

Press the remaining oat mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

Carefully spread the preserves evenly over the hot crust. Sprinkle with the reserved 1 cup oat mixture; pat gently into preserves.

Bake about 30 minutes more or until top is lightly browned. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Using the edges of the foil, lift the cake out of the pan. Serve warm.

Prune Bread

morning4

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, snipped
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Two 6 inch wooden skewers

Directions

With the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough until soft and shiny.

Place in a greased bowl and let rise, covered with plastic wrap, until double.

For the filling:

In a small bowl, stir together chocolate and dried plums; set aside.

Remove dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface; punch down dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll dough into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle. Along the short side (10 inch) of the dough sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the prune mixture over a 3-inch-wide section of the dough.

Starting from the opposite side, fold dough over filling, allowing dough to extend beyond the prune-topped dough.

Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of the prune mixture on top of the filled layer, pressing filling down lightly. Fold dough back over prune mixture, accordion-style.

Repeat filling and folding dough, accordion-style, twice more.

Fold remaining dough over the top, pressing lightly. (You will have five layers of dough and four layers of filling.) Gently pat the sides of the dough to form a rectangle.

Lightly coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Place loaf on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (about 30 minutes).

You can use this dough and filling to make any shape coffee cake – horseshoe, ring, etc.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, make a shallow lengthwise cut down the center of the top layer, then make several crosswise cuts at 1-inch intervals.

To keep bread layers from slipping while baking, insert wooden skewers (one close to each end of the loaf, inserting each skewer at a slight angle) from top through the bottom layer.

Bake about 35 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. If necessary to prevent over browning, cover with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

Remove from the baking sheet; cool on a wire rack. Remove wooden skewers. Slice thinly to serve.

Christmas Biscotti

morning5

These are especially good with coffee.

Makes: 48 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs plus 1 egg for the wash
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons anise seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup pistachios, shelled
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, snipped
  • Powdered sugar glaze

Directions

Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high-speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; beat until combined.

Beat in the 3 eggs, vanilla and almond extract until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour, anise, fennel seeds, cranberries, pistachios, and apricots with a wooden spoon.

Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or until the dough is easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 12-inch-long log 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Place logs at least 3 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Flatten each log slightly to 3/4-inch thickness. Combine egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush over logs.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until light brown. Cool logs on cookie sheet 1 hour or till completely cool.

When logs are cool, preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Transfer logs to a cutting board. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Lay slices down on the cookie sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Turn slices over and bake 5 minutes more or until dry and crisp.

Remove and cool on wire racks. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze, if desired.


falldinnerparty2

With the weather getting cooler in many parts of the country, we may find ourselves entertaining friends for dinner rather than hosting casual, warm weather BBQs. There are so many good choices in the fall for your menu that it is difficult to know where to begin. Chicken is always a good choice but for a dinner party,  the chicken recipe should be something a little different; something your guests may not have had before – just to keep things interesting. Choose vegetables in season, a side of potatoes, noodles or rice and a great appetizer.

Please find below one of my fall dinner party menu suggestions and the recipes to go with it.

Entertaining Menu

Antipasto Stromboli

Wine: Pinot Grigio or Prosecco

Vinegar Braised Chicken with Pappardelle Noodles

Olive Oil Braised Broccoli Rabe

Wine: Barbera from Emilia-Romagna or a Chianti from Tuscany

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti and Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Fresh Fruit

Espresso

First Course

IMG_0066

Antipasto Stromboli

Ingredients

  • 2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa Salami
  • 1/4 Pound thinly sliced Pepperoni
  • 1/2 pound thinly sliced Provolone Cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced pickled cherry peppers
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Brush the dough lightly with olive oil.

Use half the meat, cheese and peppers, and cover the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border.

IMG_0063

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, place the roll on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other roll in the same manner.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg mixture and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Second Course

dinnerparty

Vinegar-Braised Chicken

Ingredients

  • 8-10 pieces of chicken – combination of bone-in breasts cut in half if large and thighs (skin on or off; your choice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced thin
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 oz pappardelle noodles

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F and position a rack in the upper third.

Coat the chicken in flour and season generously with salt and pepper.

In a Dutch Oven or large ovenproof skillet heat half of the butter and half of the oil. Add half the chicken, skin side up, and cook over high heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook the chicken for 1 minute. Remove to a large platter. Repeat with the remaining butter, oil and chicken. When brown place on the platter with the first batch of chicken.

Add the scallions and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on top, skin side up and roast for about 25 minutes, until it is cooked through.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pappardelle and cook until the al dente stage. Drain. Place the noodles on a large serving platter.

Place the Dutch Oven on top of the the stove and transfer the chicken with a slotted spoon to the  platter with the noodles, arranging the chicken attractively over the noodles.

Bring the mixture in the pot to a boil over high heat and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add a little of the sauce to the sour cream, mix well and whisk the sour cream into the mixture in the pot. Simmer until the sauce is hot and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Do not boil or the sour cream will curdle. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve.

dinnerpartybroccoli

Olive-Oil-Braised Broccoli Rabe

Look for broccoli rabe with vibrant green leaves and plump stems.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 2 bunches (1 1/4 pounds each) broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest, plus fresh lemon juice for serving
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock

Directions

Heat the oil and garlic in a large straight-sided skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is sizzling and aromatic, but not browned, about 2 minutes.

Add the broccoli rabe, zest and 3/4 teaspoon salt, then use tongs to toss and coat in oil. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until broccoli rabe is tender, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer contents of pan (including liquid) to a serving bowl. Grind pepper over top and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Dessert Course

dinnerpartydessert

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place pistachios in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, mix toasted pistachios, cherries, sugars, baking powder and flour.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla extract until well blended. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush the loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti

Makes about 36 biscotti (3/4-inch-wide cookies)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the dough
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur

Directions

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Reserve one baking sheet for later when you bake the biscotti slices.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a third baking sheet and toast the nuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until just golden. Remove the nuts from the pan and set aside to cool. Chop the nuts into large pieces.

In a large bowl, mix toasted hazelnuts, chocolate chips, sugars, baking powder, cocoa, flour, cinnamon and espresso powder.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and coffee liqueur. Add to the flour mixture. Stir a few times.

Work the batter together with lightly floured hands. The mixture will be sticky, but persevere. Keep squeezing the batter with your hands, until a dough starts to form. Once the dough is firm, form a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal pieces.

On a lightly floured surface, place one piece of dough and, using your hands, roll into a log shape that is approximately 8 inches long and 2 inches wide. If it’s sticky, simply dust your palms with more flour. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Place the two logs on one baking sheet. Brush loaves all over with 1 lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through, or until the tops of the loaves are shiny and deep golden. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before slicing.

Place a loaf on a cutting board. Using a large serrated knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices, either straight or on the diagonal. Use a sawing motion to prevent crumbling. If the cookie is crumbling, then let it cool a few more minutes. Don’t let it rest too long, however, or it could become too hard to slice.

Place slices on their sides on the baking sheets. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake the biscotti for 20 minutes, until toasted and crisp. Turn the biscotti slices over and rotate the pans after ten minutes.

Remove the pans from the oven and cool the biscotti completely before storing in an airtight container.


part12cover

As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the local communities and later for Americans nationwide.

California

Italians were some of the first European explorers and settlers of California. Italians first came to the state in large numbers with the Gold Rush. While most found little gold, they did find success in farming, fishing, commerce and making wine. Though we often associate Italians in California with San Francisco, the initial Italian settlers established themselves in such diverse communities as Monterey, Stockton and San Diego. Italian fishermen established themselves in fishing villages along the coast.

part12a

Across the state, the Italians also settled the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

Another enterprising Italian was Domenico Ghirardelli, who traveled through the gold mines in the 1850’s, selling chocolates and hard candies. He settled in San Francisco after the Goldrush and founded the Ghirardelli chocolate empire.

part12d

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy, in the Italian neighborhoods, across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America.

part12c

Many Italian families have made their living from cattle ranching in the Mother Lode foothills at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. One can still find many Italian family ranches in the region.

The Italians also played an important role in developing the olive oil industry in the foothills. The rolling hills of the Gold Country, which resemble the Mediterranean hills of Liguria, are dotted with the remnants of early Italian olive tree orchards and with newly planted trees similar to those found in Italy.

part12b

The California wine industry also owes much to its Italian founders. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson.

Drive down the California vineyard roads and you may think you are in Italy. The Italian winery names that are seen throughout the area stand as a reminder of the contribution of Italian-Americans in the growth of the California wine industry. Some of the most famous names in American wine got their start during the four decades leading up to Prohibition in 1919. Seghesio, Simi, Sebastiani and Foppiano all started in the late 1800s and are still operating today. Giuseppe Magliavacca’s Napa winery was by then a thriving business, Secondo Guasti had established the Italian Vineyard Company and Andrea Sbarbaro had founded Italian Swiss Colony.

Italian-Americans in California kept their vines in the ground and healthy throughout the Prohibition era. When Prohibition ended, they were rewarded but, more importantly, the families that had struggled to maintain their vineyards gave America a jump start in resuming the wine industry. Without the vineyards and the fully equipped wineries, America would have had to rebuild the industry from scratch, an industry that is synonymous with longevity and tradition.

Today, the California wine industry is dotted with Italian names. The Trinchero family name is hidden behind its non-Italian winery name: Sutter Home. Robert Mondavi, Ferrari-Carano, Geyser Peak (owned by the Trione family), Viansa, Cosentino, Atlas Peak (owned by Antinori), Dalla Valle, Delicato, Valley of the Moon, Parducci, Signorello, Sattui, Rochioli, Rafanelli and Mazzocco are all thriving wineries in America.

Recipes From California’s Wineries

part12e

Chilled California Garden Gazpacho

Recipe by Vicki Sebastiani from Viansa Winery.

Serve this course with Barbera, a wine flavored with plum, black cherry, wild berry and oak spice.

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 6 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced (about 6 cups)
  • 1/4 cup Italian white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash Tabasco sauce

Garnish:

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup croutons, preferably homemade

Directions

Set aside 1/2 cup each of the chopped cucumber, red onion, red pepper and zucchini. In a blender or food processor combine the rest of the vegetables with the remaining ingredients. Puree slightly, so the vegetables are left a little chunky.

Combine soup with the reserved vegetables, cover tightly with plastic wrap and chill 2 to 3 hours. To serve, top with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of minced chives and several croutons.

Makes 8 cups.

part12h

Risotto Milanese

From the kitchen of Ed Seghesio.

Serve this course with Arneis, which is both the name of the wine and the grape from which it is made. The name means “little rascal” in the Piedmontese dialect, so named because it can be difficult to grow. Arneis has a delicate aroma and flavor of pears, with a hint of almonds. The grape seems to have more acidity in California than in Italy, yielding a crisper wine.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Seghesio Arneis
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Simmer chicken stock in a separate pan.

Sauté onions in olive oil and butter until onions are clear in a large saucepan. Add the rice to the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the wine and garlic to the mixture and allow the liquid to cook down. Then add 1/2 cup of warm stock and the rehydrated porcini mushrooms with their liquid. Allow the liquid to cook down, stirring constantly.

As the liquid simmers, continue adding 1/2 cup of the warm stock. Repeat this process until the rice is tender, approximately 30 minutes.

With the last 1/2 cup of stock, add the saffron. When the rice is tender, stir in the Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a main dish and 4 as a side dish.

part12f

Grilled Chicken with Tapenade

Recipe courtesy of Louis M. Martini Winery.

Serve with Sangiovese, a Chianti-style wine.

Chicken

  • 1 chicken, about 3-1/2 pounds
  • 1/4 cup tapenade, store-bought or homemade (recipe below)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the chicken’s backbone (or have the butcher do it). Lay the chicken out flat. With your fingers, gently separate the chicken skin from the breast and thighs but do not detach it completely.

Rub oil all over chicken skin. Spread the tapenade evenly over the breast and thighs and underneath the skin. Season with rosemary, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature before grilling.

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire. Arrange coals in a ring around the perimeter of the grill and set an aluminum foil drip pan in the center. Grill the chicken over the drip pan for about 20 minutes skin side down, with the grill covered; then turn, cover again and cook until done, about another 10 minutes. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces. Serves 4.

Tapenade

  • 1/2 pound Greek or Italian black olives, pitted
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brandy

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until nearly but not completely smooth. Tapenade should have a slightly coarse texture.

part12g

Hazelnut Biscotti

Recipe courtesy of the Mosby Winery.

Serve with Tocai Friulano, a slightly sweet wine with aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom along with the flavors of citrus and tropical fruit.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups whole hazelnuts, toasted, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of hazelnut flour (finely ground hazelnuts, measured  after grinding)
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease 2 baking sheets.  

Combine flour, baking powder, hazelnut flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend the ingredients.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar and beat well.  

Stir in the flour mixture, the coarsely chopped hazelnuts, espresso powder, vanilla and anise seed.  Cover the dough and chill for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each into a 9-inch log. Place the logs on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

Remove the loaves to a cutting board, cool and cut the pieces crosswise into 3/4” thick slices.

Return the slices, cut side down, to the baking sheets and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until dry and firm. Let the biscotti cool before serving. Store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

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tuscancover

Tuscany is known for its landscapes, traditions, history, artistic legacy and its influence on culture, yet, simplicity is central to the Tuscan cuisine. Legumes, bread, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms and fresh fruit are used. Olive oil is made from Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. White truffles from San Miniato appear in October and November. Beef of the highest quality comes from the Chiana Valley, specifically a breed known as Chianina used for Florentine steak. Pork is also produced for the region’s many excellent cured meats. Tuscany’s climate provides the ideal soil for the grapes grown to create the region’s world-renowned Chianti wine.

A soffritto can be considered the Italian version of a mirepoix and is a combination of olive oil and minced browned vegetables (usually onion, carrot and celery) that are used to create a base for a variety of slow-cooked dishes. Herbs (sage and rosemary) are used in many Tuscan dishes and seasonings can be added to the soffritto, as needed, to bring out the unique flavors of each different recipe.

Stracotto (braised beef) is a well-known favorite of the area, as are finocchiona (a rustic salami with fennel seeds), cacciucco (a delicate fish stew), pollo al mattone (chicken roasted under heated bricks) and biscotti di prato (hard almond cookies made for dipping in the local dessert wine, vin santo). Borlotti beans provide a savory flavor to meatless dishes and cannellini beans form the basis for many a pot of slowly simmered soup. Breads are many and varied in the Tuscan cuisine, with varieties including, donzelle (a bread fried in olive oil), filone (an unsalted traditional Tuscan bread) and the sweet schiacciata con l’uva  with grapes and sugar on top. Pastas are not heavily relied upon in Tuscan cooking but pappardelle (a wide egg noodle) is one of the region’s few traditional cuts.

Antipasto

tuscan8

Italian Bread

tuscan2

tuscan1

Marinated Olives and Mushrooms

Olives

  • 1 cup mixed Italian olives
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped mixed fresh herbs, (flat-leaf parsley basil, and oregano)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

Mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. whole cremini mushrooms, stemmed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel stalk (with some chopped fronds)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

To prepare olives:

Combine ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 1 hour. Serve at room temperature or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To prepare mushrooms:

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are just soft, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer mushrooms to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Mushrooms will keep in refrigerator for 1 week. Serve at room temperature.

tuscan3

Tuscan White Bean Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cannellini beans
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions

Soak the beans in water to cover overnight.

Drain the beans and simmer in water to cover until tender (about 45-60 minutes).

Combine the remaining ingredients and toss with the warm beans.

Correct seasoning to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Main Course

Stracotto translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy. There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

100_0817 - Copy

 

Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 lb chuck roast
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • One 26-28 oz. container Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Polenta, recipe below

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides. Put the roast on a plate and set aside.

Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock. Put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours. If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

When the meat is tender, remove it from the sauce and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, boil for a few minutes to reduce it. Remove the bay leaf.

Serve the sliced beef with the creamy polenta. An Italian red wine, like Montepulciano d’Abruzzo or Chianti, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.

tuscan5

Quick Creamy Polenta

Ingredients

  • 3 cups beef broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta

Directions

Bring the broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.

Dessert Course

tuscan6

Fresh Fall Fruit

tuscan7

Amaretto Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks and reserve one egg white
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 6 cups whole almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease two heavy cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light, about 2 minutes; the mixture will look somewhat curdled.

Beat in the vanilla, amaretto and anise seed. Beat in the dry ingredients, then the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough into four portions. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a flat log, just about the length the cookie sheet. Place two rolls on each cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze each log with some egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the logs are lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

Allow the logs to cool on the cookie sheet about 20 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°F.  With a serrated knife slice the biscotti on the bias into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheets in a single layer; Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, turning over halfway through the baking time or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep for 2-3 weeks.



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