Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: cake

 

astimoscatograpes

Asti is a province in the Piedmont region of northern Italy and is an important area for the production of fine wines. Perhaps the wine most famously associated with Asti worldwide is the sparkling Asti (DOCG). The name is usually shortened to “Asti” in order to avoid associations with the many wines of dubious quality, which are labelled “Spumante”.

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Asti is typically sweet and low in alcohol (often below 8%) and is made solely from the moscato bianco, a white muscat grape. A premium version known as Moscato d’Asti (DOCG) is sold outside Italy. Moscato d’Asti is a “Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita”, a sparkling white wine produced mainly in the province of Asti, is considered a dessert wine. Grown on Asti hilltops, Moscato d’Asti is made by small producers in small batches. Moscato is so named because of its earthy musk aroma. The petite berry grape ripens early and produces a wide range of wine styles: light and dry, slightly sweet and honey-like.

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While technically a white grape, there are strains of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains vines that produce berries that are pink or reddish-brown. When the differing grape color is stable, the wines are typically classified as separate grape varieties: Muscat Rouge à Petit Grains for red skin color and Muscat Rose à Petit Grains for pink skin color.

While Asti province became famous around the world thanks to Martini and Rossi and Gancia and Riccadonnafor for their commercial Spumante wines, it is now becoming famous internationally for its classic red wines, such as Barbera d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Bonarda and Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. These wines and many other local wines can be sampled during the week-long Douja d’Or wine exhibition which is held at the same time as the Palio and Sagre races.

Asti is also famous for its Asti’s Festival of Festivals, held in September, a week before the Palio race. During the festival, most of the towns in Asti’s province meet in a great square called “Campo del Palio”. Here, they offer local cuisine for which they are known and on the Sunday of the Sagre race all the towns involved stage a parade with floats with everyone in costume all along the Asti roads.

astitruffle

Asti province becomes a gourmet delight from October to December when the white truffle or “tartufo bianco” is in season. Some of the best truffles are found around Asti’s hills and every weekend there is a local truffle festival.

Among local vegetables, the cardo gobbo (artichoke)and the “square pepper” (bell pepper) of Asti stand out, and both are regarded as essential ingredients for bagna cauda (a garlic and anchovy dip).

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The area around Asti is also renowned for its cheeses, such as robiola of Roccaverano and robiola di Cocconato.

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Typical provincial dishes include agnolotti, potato gnocchi, ciotola di trifulau (cheese fondue with polenta and a sprinkling of truffles) and boiled meats.

Local desserts include amaretti (almond cookies), canestrelli (semolina biscuits), finocchini of Refrancore (fennel cookies) and hazelnut cakes.

astisoupp

Pearl Barley Soup with Moscato d’Asti

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz. smoked cooked ham, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
2 small carrots, finely chopped
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
1 medium leek, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, finely chopped
1⁄2 small celery root, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Moscato d’Asti, for serving
Finely chopped chives, to garnish

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the carrots, onions, leek, parsnip and celery root and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the stock and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is half-cooked, about 35 minutes.

Add the potatoes to the soup and cook until tender, about 25 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the cream and ladle the soup into serving bowls. Add a splash of moscato to each bowl and sprinkle with chives before serving.

astilamb

Braised Leg of Lamb with Polenta

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Lamb Stock

12 oz. lamb bones
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves

For the Braise and Polenta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (4-lb.) bone-in leg of lamb
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch thyme
3 cups coarse-ground polenta
1 cup (4 oz.) grated robiola cheese
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Make the lamb stock:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the lamb bones on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bones to a large saucepan along with half each of the celery, carrots, and onion; the juniper berries; bay leaves and 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook until the bones have released their flavor, about 3 hours. Pour the lamb stock through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard the solids.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. In a roasting pan over two burners, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a platter and add the remaining celery, carrots and onion to the pan along with the rosemary and thyme. Cook the vegetables, stirring, until browned and soft, about 6 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the lamb stock and bring to a boil. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place the lamb in the oven. Braise the lamb until very tender, about 3 hours.

In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. While whisking, slowly pour the polenta and the 2 tablespoons salt into the water and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring steadily, until the polenta is tender and smooth, about 1 hour. Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter. Season with pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.

Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and pour the pan juices through a fine sieve into a bowl. Skim and discard the fat and pour the juices into a small saucepan. Bring the juices to a boil and cook until the sauce reduces to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Heat the broiler. Transfer the lamb to a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning, until browned and crisp on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a large dish and serve with the polenta and sauce.

astifritters

Potato and Scallion Fritters

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Ingredients

2 1⁄2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz.) rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large russet potato, peeled and boiled until tender
3/4 cup ricotta
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the rye and all-purpose flours with the butter, 1 teaspoon salt, the egg, and 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Knead on medium speed until the dough comes together and is smooth, about 6 minutes. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Halve the dough and shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Grate the cooked potato on the large holes of a box grater and reserve 1 cup; use any remaining potato for another recipe. Place the potato in a medium bowl, mix with the ricotta and scallions, and season with salt and pepper.

On a floured work surface, roll each dough disk into a 1⁄8-inch-thick circle. Drop 1-tablespoon-sized dollops of the ricotta-potato filling evenly spaced over 1 dough circle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the dough with water around each dollop of filling. Drape the second dough circle over the first and gently press the dough between the mounds of filling to adhere. Position a 3-inch-round fluted cutter over 1 mound of filling and stamp out the round. Repeat, stamping out all the rounds.

Pour enough oil into a 6-quart saucepan to come 2 inches up the side, attach a deep-fry thermometer, and heat to 350°F. Working in batches, add the rounds to the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the fritters from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season the fritters with salt and serve while hot.

asticake

Skillet Cake with Berry Compote

Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy

Ingredients

1 1⁄2 cups fresh or frozen lingonberries or cranberries
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 cup (4 oz.) “00” pasta flour
4 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons. unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Toasted, flaked almonds, to garnish
1 sprig mint, to garnish

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup lingonberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, the white wine, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium and cook, stirring, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender, scrape into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Stir in the remaining 1⁄2 cup lingonberries and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk the milk, flour, egg yolks and vanilla seeds until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, pour in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and whisk until soft peaks form. Scrape the egg whites into the batter and fold until combined.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium and cook until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook, undisturbed, until set on the bottom, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the pancake and cook until set, about 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a cutting board and tear into large pieces. Transfer the pieces to a serving plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkle with almonds, garnish with the mint and serve warm with the lingonberry compote spooned over the top.

astimap


july

At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.

Stuffed Cucumbers

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These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
  • 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons relish
  • Sweet paprika for garnish

Directions

Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.

Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.

Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.

Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.

Eggplant Rollatini

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Ingredients

Eggplant

  • 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
  • Olive oil

Filling

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Rollatini

  • 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.

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Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.

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Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.

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Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.

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Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder

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Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.

Ingredients

  • 12 ears fresh corn
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cups southern field peas
  • 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
  • Chopped fresh herbs for garnish

Directions

Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.

Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.

Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.

When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.

Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.

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Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.

Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.

Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.

Tomato Tart

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Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Directions

Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.

Heat the oven to 425°F.

Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan.  You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.

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Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.

Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.

Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake

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The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.

Ingredients

Simple Sponge Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cake flour

Gluten-Free Cake Mixture

Ingredients

  • 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon light rum
  • 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling

Ingredients

2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers

1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)

6 strawberries, cut into thin slices

1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin

12 whole small strawberries, stems removed

Whipped Cream Topping

Ingredients

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light rum

Directions

Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Directions for making the simple sponge cake:

Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.

Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.

Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.

Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:

Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.

Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.

Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.

Directions for making the whipped cream topping:

Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.

Directions for assembling the cakes:

Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.

Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.

Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.


						
						
					
		

june

This is the season of abundance. Now cherries, apricots, plums, summer squash, watermelon and tomatoes, etc.,  start showing up at the markets – and they’re not being shipped here, unripe, from Mexico, Guatemala or Chile. This is truly the hallmark of the beginning of the season of abundance. There is so much to choose from, you have to stop yourself from buying more than you can use in a week. I try to incorporate as many of these vegetables and herbs into my recipes to get full benefit from them. I also freeze some produce for the winter, when these items are not available.

Macaroni Salad

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I don’t like a lot of mayonnaise in my salads, but feel free to add additional mayonnaise if ½ cup is not enough for you. Use seasonal vegetables in the salad whenever possible.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 celery stalks, finely diced
  • 1/2 onion finely diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper finely diced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 cup spicy cherry peppers, diced or pickle relish
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch black pepper

Directions

Make the dressing by combining the ingredients and set aside while you cook the macaroni. Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water, drain and add the dressing while the pasta is warm.

Add the chopped vegetables and mix well. Add salt to taste, but I find this type of salad doesn’t need salt. The mayonnaise, pasta cooked in salted water and seasonings add enough.

Chill the salad for several hours before serving.

Herb Marinated Grilled Chicken

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The marinade used for this chicken recipe makes the chicken really delicious.

Ingredients

  • One 3-4 pound chicken, wing tips removed

Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh herbs ( I used oregano, basil, sage, parsley, rosemary, chives and thyme because that is what is growing in my garden.)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

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Combine the marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl or measuring cup.

Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the chicken backbone; remove the backbone (Save it for broth).

Turn the chicken, breast side up, and press down firmly on the breast bone to crack and flatten it. Tuck the wings under the back.

Transfer the flattened chicken to a medium glass baking dish. Loosen the skin a little and rub the marinade under and over all the skin of the chicken.

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Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator one hour before cooking.

Heat an outdoor grill to high with all the burners on, then, turn one or two burners to the lowest setting to create a low heat area.

Grill the chicken, skin side down over the hot side of the grill, until the skin is browned and crisp, about 8-10 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up and move to the low heat side of the grill.

Cover and grill over low heat until cooked through, about 20 – 30 minutes. Internal temperature should be around 170 F.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Internal temperature should rise to 180 F. Carve the chicken and serve.

Big Batch Basil Pesto

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Pesto freezes well. I don’t add Parmesan cheese to basil pesto until I am ready to serve it.

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Wash basil well and drain in a colander.

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In the bowl of a processor, place the garlic, salt, pepper and walnuts. Process until ground. Add the basil leaves and return the top with the spout removed.

While the machine is running slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the mixture is smooth. Pour into a refrigerator container or into freezer containers.

Drizzle a layer of olive oil on the top of the pesto to keep it from turning dark.

Green Beans and Potatoes with Pesto

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes,  cut into thick slices
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup Basil Pesto, recipe above
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

Place the potatoes in a large steamer basket fitted over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam for 5 minutes.

Add the green beans to the potatoes in the steamer and continue to cook, covered, for another 5 minutes. Drain

Transfer the vegetables to a large serving bowl. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Add the pesto, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Stir to coat evenly.

Leftover Grilled Chicken Salad Plate

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • Leftover grilled chicken, sliced (see recipe above)

Any combination seasonal vegetables, such as :

  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Cooked corn on the cob, shucked
  • Red onion, sliced
  • Sliced bell pepper
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Cooked green beans
  • Slices of ripe cantaloupe melon
  • 3 cups fresh lettuce
  • Homemade Ranch Dressing, (see recipe here)

Directions

Line a serving platter with the lettuce. Arrange the chicken slices and vegetables over the lettuce in an attractive pattern. Drizzle with the Ranch dressing before serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa, plus extra for the pan
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini

Topping

  • 2 1/2 cups cappuccino chips or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • Chocolate sprinkles for garnish, optional

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly coat a  9″ x 13″ pan cake pan with cooking spray and lightly dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Squeeze the shredded zucchini dry in a paper towel to remove some of the moisture.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, butter and oil until well blended and light.

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Add the egg and continue beating. Beat in vanilla, buttermilk and applesauce.

Stir in the flour-cocoa mixture. Fold in the grated zucchini and mini chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the  prepared pan.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

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To make the topping:

Heat the chips and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Pour into a  bowl and chill.

When ready to frost the cake, whisk the topping and spread on top of the cake. Add the chocolates sprinkles, if using.

Store the cake in the refrigerator.

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milanovalentino

Valentino Collection

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Valentino Collection

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

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

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

Prada

Prada

Laura Biagiotti

Laura Biagiotti

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

Armani

Armani

Zegna

Zegna

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

Spring Fashion Week 2016

Laura Biagiotti

milano designs

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

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

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

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

milanocuisine

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

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

Milanese Tripe Soup

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Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

Milanese Ravioli

milanoravioli

Serves 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Involtini di Vitello alla Milanese

milanoveal

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Combine the prosciutto and chicken livers in a mixing bowl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torta Paradiso

milanocake

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

Serves 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch circular cake pan.

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

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

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

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

Mascarpone Cream

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

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

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

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

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

milanomap


Synagogue in Rome’s Jewish Neighborhood, Trastevere

Synagogue in Rome’s Jewish Neighborhood – Trastevere

Passover is a celebration of freedom that is appreciated not only by Jews, but by people all over the world. The Jewish community has long been a significant part of the Italian heritage and culture, as has been their celebration of this important holiday. Since the 2nd century BC, Passover festivities, in Italy, include religious rituals, family gatherings and, of course, food. Through the years, the Italian Jewish community, has developed an Italian style in preparing Passover dishes.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Even though the basic tradition of a Passover Seder remains the same, such as drinking four cups of wine and eating matzo, etc., the Italian influence can be recognized on the Seder table in Italy, as follows:

Maror and chazeret – bitter herbs are used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery.

Haroset all’Italiana – a paste-like mixture of ground dates, oranges, raisins and figs, which are substitutes for the traditional Charoset, a brown compound that stands for the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build pyramids.

Antipasto of bresaola, air dried beef with arugula and lemon.

Stracciatella – an egg-drop soup, is a substitute for the hard-boiled egg that is a mourning food in the Jewish faith, but also signifies the cycle or circle of life.

Carciofi alla Giudia – Jewish style artichokes are fried and are a specialty of the Roman Jewish community.

passoverRoman-Fried-Artichoke

Marzoh Lasagna (Mazzagne) is prepared with vegetables, matzot and lamb meat.

Lamb is part of the meal because it represents the sacrifice before the destruction of the Temple. Many of Rome’s Jews arrived there just after the time of the destruction of the second Temple and brought (and kept) many of the ancient traditions.

Insalata Sefardita – a salad of romaine, dill and green onions with red wine vinaigrette.

Zucchini Tomato “Lasagne”

passover lasagna

Servings: 6

Ingredients

Lemon-Pignoli Filling

  • 2 cups raw pignoli nuts, soaked in water for at least 1 hour
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Tomato Sauce

  • 2 cups good-quality sun-dried tomatoes (dry-packed), soaked in water for at least 2 hours
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, diced
  • 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Pinch hot-pepper flakes

Basil-Pistachio Pesto

  • 2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup raw pistachios
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Lasagne

  • 3 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Garnish: whole basil leaves

Directions

Lemon-Pignoli Filling

Place the pignoli nuts, lemon juice and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times, until thoroughly combined.

Gradually add 6 tablespoons water and pulse until the texture becomes fluffy, like ricotta. Pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.

Tomato Sauce

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Basil-Pistachio Pesto

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Lasagne

Using a mandoline slicer or vegetable peeler, shave zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices, then cut in half crosswise.

Cut the tomatoes in half and each half into thin slices.

Line the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with two layers of zucchini slices.

Brush the zucchini lightly with olive oil, spread 1⁄3 of the tomato sauce over it, and top with small teaspoons of pignoli filling and pesto, using 1⁄3 of each.

Add 1⁄3 of the tomato slices and sprinkle with 1⁄3 of the oregano and thyme.

Add another double layer of zucchini and repeat twice more with the tomato sauce, pesto, filling, tomato slices and herbs.

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for a few hours before serving. Garnish with basil.

Passover Spring Lamb

passoverlamb

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds (1.5 k) kid or spring lamb chops
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 stems Italian parsley, leaves removed
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • The juice of one lemon

Directions

Tie the parsley stems together. Place the chops in a skillet with the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and water over low heat.

Simmer for about an hour, or until the meat is fork-tender, then remove and discard the parsley.

Whisk the yolks with the lemon juice, turn the burner off and pour the egg mixture over the meat. Give the skillet a brisk shake to mix in the sauce and heat for a minute or two. Serve at once.

Puréed Carrots

passover carrots

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ slices
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey⁄
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Combine the carrots, broth, sugar and salt in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the carrots are very tender, 20 minutes.

Drain the carrots, reserving the 1⁄4 cup of cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and fragrant, about 2–3 minutes.

Remove from the heat and place in a food processor along with the carrots and orange juice; purée until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Add 1–2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid to make a smooth purée. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Italian Passover Cake

passovercake

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • Garnishes: Powdered sugar and chopped almonds

Directions

Grease a 10 inch springform pan or round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Whisk the egg yolks until light in color.

Beat in the rest of the ingredients, except the egg whites, ending with the almond meal. It will be very stiff at this point.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Fold one third of the egg whites into the almond mixture.

Fold the rest of the egg whites into the mixture and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely in the pan.

Remove from the pan and sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar and chopped almonds.


Palermo by Alexey Petrovich Bogolyubov, 1850

Palermo by Alexey Petrovich Bogolyubov, 1850

Palermo’s history has been anything but stable as the area passed from one dominating power to another with frequency. Its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean brought invaders including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Saracen Arabs, the Normans, the Swabians, the French and the Spanish Bourbons, just to name a few. The result of this history is evident in the vast range of architectural styles, the names of places in the region that are obviously not Italian and the fusion of ingredients used in many local dishes.

Palermo,_Sicily

Human settlement in the Palermo area goes back to prehistoric times. It is one of the most ancient sites in Sicily. Interesting graffiti and prehistoric paintings were discovered in the Addaura grottoes in 1953 by archaeologist Jole Bovio Marconi. They portray dancing figures performing a rite with shamans. In 734 BC Phoenicians from Tyre (Lebanon) established a flourishing merchant colony in the Palermo area. The relationship of the new colony with the Siculi, the people living in the Eastern part of the Island, involved both commerce and war.

Piazza-Pretoria-Palermo-Sicily-Italy-720x538

Piazza Pretoria

Between the 8th and the 7th centuries BC, the Greeks colonized Sicily. They called the area Panormus (“All port”) and traded with the Carthaginians, Phoenician descendants who were from what is now Tunisia. The two civilizations lived together in Sicily until the Roman conquest.

Streets-of-Palermo-Sicily-Italy

Situated on one of the most beautiful promontories of the Mediterranean, Palermo is an important trading and business center and the seat of a university. Palermo is connected to the mainland by an international airport and an increasing number of maritime links. The city of Palermo is vibrant and modern and its large harbor and international airport makes it a popular tourist destination. There are many events and festivals that take place throughout the year in Palermo, the most important of which is the feast day of the city’s patron saint, Saint Rosalia. There is a sanctuary dedicated to her at the top of Monte Pellegrino, just outside the city, and the mountain dominates the backdrop to the city. The surrounding area is a green and pleasant nature park and is a favorite picnic area for locals. Also in Palermo are the Catacombs of the Capuchins, a tourist attraction.

palermo-ballard sicily-8

Palermo Cuisine

In the Sicilian food culture there is no such thing as a “main course”, but rather a series of courses of varying number, depending on the occasion, usually a (primo) first course of pasta, soup, rice, etc. and a (secondo) second course of meat, fish or vegetable, often served with a (contorno) side dish of vegetables. Fresh fruit is usually served as dessert. For a more formal occasion an (antipasto) appetizer comes before the primo.

A number of popular foods are typically served as side dishes or “starters.” Arancini are rice balls stuffed with meat or cheese encrusted in a crispy coating. Caponata is a mixture made with eggplant, olives, capers and celery, and served as an appetizer. Sfincione is a thick form of pizza made with tomatoes, onions and anchovies, usually made in bakeries rather than pizzerias. Panella is a thin paste made of crushed or powdered ceci (garbanzo) beans and served fried. Maccu is a creamy soup made from the same bean, usually served in winter. Crocché (croquet) are fried potato dumplings made with cheese, parsley and eggs. Fritedda is a springtime vegetable dish or pasta sauce made with fresh green fava beans, peas and artichoke hearts.

Ricotta is a soft cheese made from sheep’s milk and Ricotta Salata is an aged, salty version. Caciocavallo is aged cow’s cheese used for cooking. Canestrato is similar but made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. Tuma and Primo Sale are sweeter and softer, aged only briefly. Gattò is similar to quiche and made with potatoes, ham and cheese.

Sicily is renowned for its seafood. Grilled swordfish (pesce spada) is popular. Smaller fish, especially triglie (red snapper), are sometimes prepared in a vinegar and sugar sauce. Seppia (cuttlefish) is served in its own black sauce with pasta. Another Sicilian seafood dish made with pasta is finocchio con sarde (fennel with herring). Ricci (urchins) are popular in spring. Beccafico are stuffed roasted sardines.

Meat dishes are traditionally made with lamb or goat.  Chicken is usually served on skewers and spiedini are small meat rolls (involtini), also, on a skewer similar to shish kebab. Salsiccia alla pizzaiola is a port sausage filled with onions, tomatoes and other vegetables. Couscous is usually served with meat or seafood.

palermobakery

Sicilian desserts are outstanding and popular. Cannoli are tubular crusts filled with creamy sheep’s milk ricotta. Cassata is a rich cake filled with the same ricotta filling. Frutta di Martorana are almond marzipan pastries colored and shaped to resemble real fruit. Sicilian gelato (ice cream) is popular with flavors ranging from pistachio and hazelnut (nocciola) to jasmine (gelsomino) to mulberry (gelsi) to strawberry (fragala) and rum (zuppa inglese).

palermocake

Not many people outside of Sicily are familiar with Torta Setteveli. The cake of the seven veils, named after the dance of Salome. The Torta Setteveli is the typical birthday cake in Palermo. It’s a combination of alternating chocolate and hazelnut layers, with a crunchy layer that combines both those flavors. There are many stories about who actually created the cake. You can find the cake throughout Sicily, but it is in every pasticceria in Palermo. The Palermitani see it as the ultimate dessert to enjoy on special occasions, especially for birthdays.

Primo Course

ANEL-4T

Baked Anelletti

This dish is a popular “pasta bake” in Palermo and it is made with a very specific pasta shape called anelletti (little rings). In Sicily it is often sold in cafés as timbaletti, which are single portions that are shaped like a cone. When eaten at home, however, it is often made like a “pasta cake” to be portioned and shared by the whole family.

palermopasta

Ingredients

  • 1 lb anelletti pasta
  • 2 large, long eggplants
  • 1/2 lb mortadella, cubed
  • 1 lb mozzarella, cubed
  • Grated pecorino cheese

For the Ragu

  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb peas
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 2 basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt

Directions

Wash the eggplant, peel and slice them lengthwise about 1/4″ thick.

Coat each slice with olive oil, put them on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Set them aside. Turn the oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the ragu:

In a saucepan, add a 1 tablespoon of olive oil and brown the ground pork and beef.  Discard any fat that is produced. Set aside in a separate bowl.

In the saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Once the onion is translucent add the browned ground meat.

Saute the meat and onion for a few minutes and add the peas followed by the crushed tomatoes and the basil. Add salt to taste.

Cover and let the ragu cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta al dente and drain well. Place in a mixing bowl. Add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the pasta so that it does not stick together and set aside.

In a 10″ x 5″ bundt, tube or springform pan line the bottom and sides with the slices of baked eggplant so that part of the slices hang outside the top of the pan. Add a layer of pasta followed by a layer of the meat sauce, some grated cheese, a layer of mortadella and then a layer of mozzarella.

Repeat the layering process again.

Once finished, turn the eggplant slices hanging from the pan onto the top of the pasta.

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Let rest before cutting. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley or basil.

Second Course

palermocod

Merluzzo alla Siciliana (Cod Sicilian Style)

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs (800 g) cod fillets
  • 2 ½ cups (500 g) chopped fresh tomato pulp (seeds removed)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoon capers
  • 15 pitted green olives
  • 2 pinches of dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley

Directions

Heat a skillet and add the olive oil and crushed garlic.

When the garlic is browned, add the tomato, salt and pepper.

Add the wine and bring the sauce to boil, add the cod fillets and cook for 6-7 minutes, turning them over once.

Add some more salt and pepper (if needed), the olives and capers.

Sprinkle with oregano and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top.

palermofennel

Pisci di Terra – Sicilian Fried Fennel

Ingredients

  • 6 fennel bulbs
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
  • 1/2 cup fine, dry homemade breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean the fennel bulbs and cut them in half. Boil them until al dente (fork tender) in lightly salted water. Drain them well and quarter the halves.

Mix the breadcrumbs together with the cheese. Lightly beat the eggs with salt and pepper. Dredge the fennel slices in the flour to coat well, then dip the slices in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.

Fry them in abundant hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

palermocassata-siciliana

Cassata alla Siciliana

This is a classic Sicilian cake. The word Cassata derives from the Latin Caseus, which means cheese. Cassata is one of the world’s first cheesecakes. It comes as no surprise that there are a great many variations throughout Sicily.

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (280 g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Half a lemon, zested
  • Butter and flour for the cake pan
  • Marsala wine
  • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) fresh sheep’s milk ricotta (you can use cow’s milk ricotta)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces (50 g) finely diced candied fruit
  • 2 ounces (50 g) bitter chocolate, shaved
  • 9 ounces (250 g) blanched peeled almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract diluted in ¼ cup of water
  • Green food coloring
  • Potato starch
  • 5 cups (500 g) powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 egg whites
  • Strips of candied fruit

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

Whip 6 egg whites to firm peaks with a pinch of salt. In another bowl, beat the 6 yolks with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar until the mixture is frothy and pale yellow.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and slowly add it to the beaten yolks, together with a couple of tablespoons of whipped egg whites and the lemon zest and then fold in the remaining beaten egg whites

Turn the batter into a buttered and floured pan (9 inch square) and bake it for a half hour; remove the cake from the oven and let it cool before removing it from the pan.

To make the almond paste:

Grind the almonds in a food processor, using short bursts until finely ground. Add 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and the almond water; blend until the mixture is homogenous.

Dust a work surface with the potato starch before turning the paste out onto it (you can also turn it out onto a sheet of wax paper) and incorporate a few drops of green food coloring diluted in a few drops of water. Work the paste until the color is uniform and then wrap the paste in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator.

Press the ricotta through a fairly fine wire mesh strainer and combine it with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, the vanilla, the shaved chocolate and the diced candied fruit.

To make the cassata:

Line a 10-inch (25 cm) diameter springform pan with plastic wrap,

Roll the almond paste out to 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick and wide enough to cover the cake pan bottom and sides. Fit the almond paste into the pan.

Next, line the bottom and sides of the pan with half-inch thick pieces of the baked cake.

Make a syrup by diluting some Marsala with a little water and a little sugar, and sprinkle it over the cake. Fill the empty space with the ricotta mixture and cover it with more of the cake, sprinkling again with the Marsala syrup.

Lay a dish on the cassata, press down gently, and chill the cassata for several hours in the refrigerator. Turn the cassata over onto the serving dish and remove the pan and the plastic wrap.

Beat the remaining two egg whites and sift the remaining powdered sugar into them, beating continuously until thick. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and spread it over the cassata. Let the glaze set for a few minutes, then decorate the cassata with candied fruit. Chill the cake for several more hours before serving.

palermomap


modena5

Modena is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and it has been inhabited since the prehistoric era by various ethnic groups, whose traces are in the archaeological finds. According to some Roman historians and to archaeological finds, the area was once occupied by the Etruscans and the Celts. It was the period of the great Roman expansion and in 187 BC, the route, via Emilia, from Rimini to Piacenza, was built. Four years later, in 183 BC, the Roman colony of Mutina was founded. Like all the Roman towns of the period, it was square, with two perpendicular main streets. In 78 BC, Modena was besieged during the civil wars and just six years later, in 72 BC, Spartacus won a battle against Cassio Longino there. However, the most important historical event that occurred in Roman Modena was the battle of Modena. After Caesar’s assassination, Brutus decided to take refuge in the city but he could do nothing against the army sent from Rome.

A really dark age began for Modena in the centuries after Christ’s birth, suffering like many other Italian cities after the fall of the Roman Empire. At the end of the IV century, the bishop and Patron Saint of Milan, Ambrogio, passing through the area near Modena, could not help noticing the decay of the previous thriving community. In the VIII century conditions improved by the foundation of Nonantola Abbey and the building of city walls around the cathedral.

modena4

The Renaissance was for Modena, as for the rest of Italy, a period of great cultural development. Modena became a European capital and the center for the Emilia region. For this reason, when after the French Revolution Napoleon conquered Italy, he chose Modena as his headquarters. It was also a period of great upheaval and the Congress of the Cispadane Republic was held in Modena, followed by the approval of the Constitution and by elections. Also, at this time, the Italian flag as we know it today (green, white and red) was raised.

When this Republic fell, in 1799, Modena was conquered by the Austrians and then re-occupied by the French. Napoleon returned in the city as Emperor in 1805. When the Napoleonic era ended, in 1814 the Austro Duke Francesco IV entered Modena to govern during the period called the Restoration. Those years were a good time for Modena, though the conservatism of the Duke repressed cultural life. During that era, many edifices were built that are still standing in Modena today.

Province of Modena - road to the Italian farmer household

Following the Unification of Italy, Modena was downgraded to a city and a less interesting period began for the area. Modena, Italy, is a study in contrasts. The inner city is a perfectly preserved medieval town with cobblestone streets and one of Italy’s most striking cathedrals, while the outer city is a modern industrial business park of factories and industry.

Modena is also one of northern Italy’s culinary capitals and is famous for not only its high quality balsamic vinegar, which is exported all over the world, but for its Vignola cherries, Modenese Ham and Nocino, a bitter liqueur made from the husks of walnuts.

Modena is known for its stuffed pastas, like cannelloni and tortellini, which are usually stuffed with pork and Parmesan cheese, and for its heavily spiced pork sausages. The local Lambrusco red wine is inexpensive and goes with most Modenese dishes.

modena2

Balsamic Vinegar has been made and used in Modena for centuries. While no one seems to know quite how many, the first documentation about this product can be found in 1046. It appears to have been used for just about everything, from a disinfectant to an aid for digestion. In the archives of Modena, on public view, is a wine list from a secret Ducal cellar dated 1747 and balsamic vinegar is listed alongside the wine. There are writings from 1508, recalling balsamic vinegar and talking about it in the court of the Duke of Modena, who was Lucrezia Borgia’s husband. Small casks were given to new brides in Modena and the tradition continues today.

modena3

Balsamic vinegar is not made from wine, like regular vinegar, but from the must (cooked liquid from grapes) of the Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes. The grapes are slowly cooked to create a concentrate, which is then aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels. The barrels vary in size and are made from different woods, from the largest to the smallest usually oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, ash and juniper. The newly reduced must is placed in the largest barrel and as the evaporation process each year reduces the content in the barrels, each is topped off with content from the next largest one. It is a long and laborious process that yields a syrupy product, whose taste is a perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. Only balsamic vinegar that has gone through this process can be labeled” tradizionale”.

To find the best product, look closely at the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be the must of grapes and not vinegar. Caramel should not be listed as an ingredient, nor should there be added flavorings either natural or artificial. Also, look for a bottle that says that it has been aged in wooden barrels, as sometimes “aged in wood” simply means that wooden chips were added as the vinegar ages. The price tag will be revealing: aceto balsamico tradizionale is sold for many hundred dollars per liter. Some traditional producers will put on the market a diluted version of balsamic for a much more reasonable price tag that will not carry the word tradizionale on the label.

Meat dishes are delicious with aceto balsamico, but one of the best pairings for it is with slices of Parmigiano Reggiano- as well as other aged cheeses. It is also good drizzled over strawberries or ice cream.

Cannelloni Modena Style

modenapasta

4 servings

For the pasta

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs

For the sauce

  • 3/4 lb lean ground pork
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion, small
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 oz all-purpose flour
  • Nutmeg to taste
  • 3 oz butter, plus extra for the baking dish
  • ½ cup tomato (pasta) sauce
  • 3 ½ oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl of warm water. Let soak for 20 minutes

To make the cannelloni pasta 

Place the flour on a flat work surface and shape it into a well. Add the eggs in the center and incorporate the flour into the eggs by hand. Alternatively, you can use a food processor. Work the dough until it is smooth and even, then let it rest for 20 minutes covered with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.

Use a rolling-pin or pasta machine to roll out the dough into very thin sheets. Cut them into 4-inch squares. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add 2 or 3 pasta squares at a time and cook for about 30 seconds.

Once the squares have been cooked, remove them from the water and place them on a damp cloth to cool. Repeat with all the squares.

To make the sauce

Finely chop the carrot, onion and celery. Place a pan over medium heat and add the butter to the pan. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped vegetables and chopped parsley. Cook until the onion becomes translucent. Next add the ground pork to the pan. Stir and let brown for a couple of minutes, then add the chopped prosciutto and previously soaked mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the wine and cook for 20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Stir the sauce while adding the flour. Also add chopped tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Cook for over medium heat for an additional 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Place a tablespoon of the sauce in the center of each pasta square. Roll the squares (jelly roll style to make the cannelloni.

Place the cannelloni in a single layer in a baking dish greased with butter. Cover the cannelloni with the remaining sauce, top with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano and small pieces of butter.

Bake the cannelloni in a 350°F for about 20 minutes or until they are brown and the filling is hot.

Pollo di Modena

for white29 - photo by Evan Sung. Pollo al lambrusco

4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix together the chicken, vinegar, garlic and sage. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Pat the chicken dry and season with the salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the chicken in batches until browned on all sides.

Reduce heat to medium-low and return all the chicken to the pot. Pour in the reserved marinade and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover tightly and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally. Add a little water if necessary to keep the marinade from drying out.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce and pour it over chicken. Serve with good crusty bread and a salad.

Asparagi alla Parmigiana

modenaasparagus

Asparagi alla parmigiana is a springtime favorite in northern Italy.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • Asparagus, trimmed — 2 pounds
  • Butter, cut into pieces —  3 tablespoons
  • Parmesan cheese, grated — 2/3 cup
  • Salt and pepper — to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Butter a shallow gratin or baking dish that is just large enough to hold the asparagus. Place a layer of asparagus in the dish, with the tips all facing the same direction. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and some of the cheese. Keep adding layers until all asparagus and all cheese is used, finishing with the cheese.

Dot the top of the dish with the pieces of butter and place the dish on the top rack of the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the asparagus is cooked through and beginning to brown and the cheese is melted.

 

Torta Barozzi

modenacake

Serve with cherries, as they do in Modena.

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted on a cookie sheet for 4 minutes in a 350 degree F oven
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (not commercial balsamic vinegar used for salads, but the much more expensive, artisanal version.)
  • 1/4 cup coffee
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 9 x 2-inch springform pan with butter, or cooking spray, dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess, and fit a sheet of parchment paper in the base of the pan. Butter the paper. Set the pan aside.

Grind the almonds to a powder in a food processor. Set aside.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl set over hot water.

Beat the yolks and sugar until lemon colored and very fluffy; stir in the almonds, chocolate mixture, rum and coffee. Set aside.

Beat the whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center is slightly damp. Do not over bake the cake. It should remain moist.

Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack. Cool completely. Carefully run a butter knife along the inside edges of the pan and release the spring. Remove the pan sides.

Place the cake on a serving dish. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small sieve and dust the top of the cake.

Cut into thin wedges to serve.

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