Who can resist BBQ chicken? Sweet, savory and smoky flavors are what summer grilling is all about and when barbecued chicken is done right, it is delicious. For many of my northern readers, summer grilling will be over in a few months, so don’t let the summer go by without making this dish. Using a rub gives the chicken flavor and cooking it over indirect heat is important so that the chicken does not dry out or become burned. Finishing the chicken with a tasty sauce just adds to the overall flavor. Make your favorite sides and you have dinner. Oh, and don’t forget an easy homemade dessert.
The rub and BBQ sauce can be made in advance, even several days ahead, to save time.
7 to 8 lbs bone-in chicken, cut into 6 or 8 parts
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Peach Barbecue Sauce
4 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Half an onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/3 cup cider vinegar
One bottle tomato ketchup (about 31 oz.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled
To make the spice rub:
Combine all the ingredients for the spice rub in a jar or mixing bowl.and blend well.
To make the barbecue sauce:
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter.
Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. (You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)
Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated. Set aside
To prepare the chicken:
Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Sprinkle on the rub generously and let rest while the grill heats.
I have a three burner gas grill. When a recipe calls for indirect grilling, I like to heat all the burners on the highest setting.
Then I turn off the middle burner. Brown the chicken pieces over the direct side of the grill and them move to the center, indirect area.
Cook the chicken pieces for 20 minutes and turn the chicken over.
Cook for 15 to 20 more minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165°F in the meatier part of the thigh or breast.
When the chicken is cooked, pour some of the barbecue sauce into a separate container (to avoid contaminating the whole batch) and brush it onto the chicken.
Cook the chicken pieces an additional few minutes so that the sauce adheres to the chicken in a sticky glaze; watch the chicken carefully at this point and pull it off the grill if the sauce starts to burn.
Remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter and serve with some of the barbecue sauce on the side.
1 ½ lbs whole medium-large red skinned potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pickle juice
¼ cup minced bread and butter pickles.
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
½ cup olive oil mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a large pot with a lid. Cover the potatoes with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook the potatoes with the lid ajar until tender, about 15 minute.
Drain the potatoes and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes. Slice the potatoes into a storage bowl.
Add the pickle juice and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so.
Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and taste to see if the salad needs salt. Add black pepper to taste.
Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
Italian Fried Peppers
These peppers are in season and we never get tired of them.
12 Italian frying peppers, washed and dried
¼ cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over medium to high heat and add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Turn the peppers over a few times to coat in oil.
Add the fennel and Italian seasoning and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Serve at room temperature.
Almond Chocolate Pudding Dessert
Two 3.4 oz packages of Cook & Serve chocolate pudding
4 cups almond milk (or milk of your choice)
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup heavy(whipping) cream
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Put all the ingredients for the pudding in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles a little and thickens.
Immediately pour the pudding into an 8 inch glass pan (or a similar size dish) and let cool on the counter for about 20 minutes.
Refrigerate the pudding until cold and set.
For the topping
Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate shavings in a medium bowl and beat the mixture until whipped and soft peaks form.
Spread the whipped cream over the chocolate pudding. Grate chocolate shavings over the cream and chill until serving time.
When the weather heats up, take advantage of the all the fresh produce that is available during the summer months. Many recipes for creating salads or cold soups do not require any cooking. If an ingredient needs to be cooked, do it early in the day and serve it chilled. Below are a few ideas to keep you cool, including a delicious dessert.
Cold Appetizer Plate
Burrata Cheese drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Olives, Roasted Peppers, Fresh Melon
The breasts can be cooked early in the day and the rest of the recipe can be prepared later. This makes enough so that there will be plenty for several meals. Serve over lettuce with sliced tomatoes and cut up veggies.
Cooking the chicken breasts
1 1/2 pounds of bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Roast for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer .
Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Remove the meat from the bones and save the skin and bones to make chicken broth.
Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.
For the salad
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet (Vidalia, Walla Walla) onion
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup red grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard together in a mixing bowl with a cover.
Add the celery and onion; stir, Add the chicken and mix carefully to keep the chicken from breaking up.
Fold in the pecans and grapes. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and chill.
Triggerfish with Caper Sauce
Triggerfish were once ignored by commercial fishermen, however, they are now considered among the finest fish on the Gulf seafood menu. Their clean white meat carries a uniquely sweet flavor when cooked. Since this fish lives in warm waters, you might not find it in your area. Use any thin mild white fish fillets in the recipe below, if you cannot find triggerfish. If you do see it in your fish market, be sure to give it a try. I like to serve this dish with the tomato salad shown below.
2 ounces butter, room temperature
1 lb triggerfish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces white wine
Hot sauce, to taste
Half a small onion, chopped fine or one shallot
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed
Add the butter to a saute pan or skillet and place over medium heat.
Season the fish with the salt and pepper and dredge the fillets in all-purpose flour.
Place each fillet in the skillet and saute until light golden brown.
Add a few drops of hot sauce to the pan as the fish browns.
After the first side is golden brown, turn the fish over and cook until the second side is golden brown.
Remove the fish from the pan to a plate. Reduce the heat to low and add the wine to the skillet.
Add the onion or shallot and stir slowly but continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and capers.
Continue to stir until a thin sauce forms. Return the fish to the skillet and spoon the sauce over the fillets.
Place the fish on serving plates and spoon any sauce in the skillet onto the fish.
Tomato Feta Salad
4-5 medium plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Place the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate.
In a mixing bowl combine the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and parsley and toss well.
Pour the dressing over the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 12 squares
1 (3-4 ounce) package chocolate pudding mix
Two 3-ounce packages ladyfingers, split
1/3 cup chocolate liqueur (Kahlua)
1/3 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
One 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Do ahead: Prepare the chocolate pudding mix according to the directions on the package. Chill in the refrigerator.
Mix the coffee and Kahlua together in a shallow dish.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form.
Add the chocolate syrup and mix until just combined.
To assemble the tiramisu:
Line the bottom of an 8 x 8 x 2-inch or 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish with some of the ladyfingers dipped in the espresso/Kahlua mixture.
Spoon a thin layer of chocolate pudding over the ladyfingers in the baking dish.
Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over the chocolate pudding layer, spreading it evenly.
Sprinkle with grated bittersweet chocolate.
Top with another layer of ladyfingers dipped in espresso, followed by chocolate pudding and the mascarpone cheese mixture.
Cover and chill for 6 to 24 hours. Sift cocoa powder over the top before serving.
Sicilian Ricotta Birthday Cake
We recently celebrated a dear friend’s birthday with a special dinner to honor him. I offered to make his birthday cake, as I know, he is found of Italian cakes, especially if they are made with ricotta cheese. There are numerous versions of the Sicilian Cassata Cake, but this is my version. One, where, I have worked out the flavors that we like in a cake of this type. If you want to make a special occasion cake, this is a great cake to make.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 oz finely chopped good quality chocolate
Zest from one orange
Juice of one orange
½ teaspoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon white rum
2 cups heavy cream whipped
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
½ teaspoon orange extract
Candied orange peel
Cake writing decoration
To make the cake layers:
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Butter two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper cut into circles to fit, butter again and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not over-mix).
Transfer the batter to the prepared pans. The best way to get an even amount of batter in each pan is to weigh the pans on a scale. This is a tip I learned from Alton Brown and it works perfectly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans and 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.
To make the filling:
Combine the ricotta with the remaining filling ingredients in a storage bowl with a cover. Place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake.
Once the layers are completely cool, cut each layer in half with a serrated knife to form four layers.
To make the syrup:
Combine the orange juice with the rum and agave in a small dish.Brush the syrup over the cut sides of the layers until it is all used. Let the layers rest for 30 minutes.
Place one layer, cut side up on a cake plate and spread some of the ricotta filling over the layer leaving a ¼ inch edge all around the cake without the filling. (This way the filling will not ooze out of the layer when you place another layer on top.)
Place the next layer, cut side up, on top of the filling and repeat with another layer of ricotta filling.
Repeat with the third layer, cut side up. Place the fourth layer, cut side down, on top of the ricotta filling.
Place the cake in the refrigerator while you make the whipped topping.
Make the Whipped Topping:
In a mixing bowl combine the heavy cream, orange extract and powdered sugar.
Beat the mixture until the cream forms soft peaks.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the whipped cream on the sides of the cake and then on the top.
Decorate the edge of the top of the cake with candied orange peel.
Write Happy Birthday in the center, if desired.
Turin (Torino in Italian) is an important business and cultural center in northern Italy and the capital of the Piedmont region. The city has a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theaters, libraries, museums and other venues. The city currently hosts some of Italy’s best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the six-century-old University of Turin and the Turin Polytechnic. It is often referred to as the Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy, as it is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
Alfa Romeo Automobiles, an Italian car manufacturer, has been involved with car racing since 1911. The company was owned by Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986. It became a part of the Fiat group In 2007 and the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.
Originally, the company was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. In 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A.who ventured into motor racing with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models.
The firm’s initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and a tract of land was purchased in Lombardy where a new factory was erected.
In 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, a backer for Nicola Romeo & Co, went bankrupt and the government stepped in to support industrial companies affected by the failed bank, among which was Alfa Romeo.
In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the name of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars but struggled to make a profit and so it was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motor sport, including the Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and rallies. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motor sport, along with a sporty image. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins in the world.
Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new Formula One for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 158 Alfetta and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa’s second consecutive championship in 1951.
The track in the photo above was built on the roof of the factory that opened in Turin’s Ligotto district in 1923. The factory’s assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top-level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms. The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building and London’s “vertical city,” the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater to interested business travelers. You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of cars looping around the course are gone.
Turin cuisine shows the influence of its closeness to France in its use of butter and complex sauces. This area is also the home of solid chocolate, bread sticks (called grissini) , risotto and some of Italy’s most renowned wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. Italian vermouth, in Italy an aperitif, is another product of Turin and Turin is still the headquarters of many vermouth manufacturers, the most famous of which is Martini and Rossi.
Anchovies are used in many dishes. Bagna Caôda is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles. The sauce is served in a small earthenware pot that is kept hot while it is served. Vegetables are then dipped in the sauce.
A typical beef stew, bollito misto is usually made with four or more meats. Beef and chicken are staples of the dish, as is some type of sausage. These ingredients are often mixed with other meats that are available. The stew is served with a green sauce made from parsley, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and other ingredients according to the preference of the cook.
Turin, Italy is perhaps best known for the white truffle, a rare food that is sought by cooks around the world. Rare is the person who can afford white truffles as they generally sell for between $2,500 and $3,500 per pound. The white truffle season runs from September through December. During the season many towns around Turin have truffle fairs and auctions where you can often get tastes of regional dishes made with truffles.
- 10 anchovies in salt
- 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Two handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- 1 peperoncino (small hot chilli)
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
- 1/2 cup of good virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
Wash the anchovies very well under cold running water to remove the salt. Remove the bones and allow the anchovies to dry.
Cook the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
Put the garlic into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the anchovies and puree until smooth.
Put a little of the sauce onto a serving dish and layer the anchovies over it. Put some more sauce on top.
Let rest at room temperature for at least 1 or 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Pasta with Mushrooms
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 oz pancetta, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 lb assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Crimini, Common White, etc.), thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb. long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
- 4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Combine the dried porcini and the wine in a small bowl and soak for thirty minutes.
Fill a large pot with four to six quarts of water and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to the water and stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain and pour onto a serving bowl.
Heat a large saute pan to medium high heat and add the pancetta. Cook until slightly crisp.
Add the butter and allow it to melt. When the bubbles have subsided, add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until the juices have all but evaporated.
Raise the heat to high and add the porcini and wine. Add in the shallots and the thyme. Saute, stirring frequently until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add salt & pepper to taste and the cream.
Allow the sauce to boil until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
Pour all of the mushroom sauce over the pasta and toss well. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
Chicken Torino Style
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 slices mozzarella cheese
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking dish.
Sauté the garlic in a medium ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until light brown.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cut a slit in each chicken breast and fill the pocket with 1 slice of mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and half of the sautéed garlic.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken breast.
In the same skillet used for the garlic, brown the chicken in the butter and remaining oil for about 2 minutes on each side.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Makes eight 6-ounce servings
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
- 12 egg yolks
- 4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
- 12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream
- 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts
Heat the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a saucepan.
Whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.
Once the milk mixture is hot, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.
Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated.
Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together.
Add the vanilla extract and combine.
Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.
*Cooking Notes: Gianduja chocolate is available at most gourmet food stores. If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatin. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for softening the gelatin in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
4 to 6 servings
- 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
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
Asparagi alla parmigiana is a springtime favorite in northern Italy.
- Asparagus, trimmed — 2 pounds
- Butter, cut into pieces — 3 tablespoons
- Parmesan cheese, grated — 2/3 cup
- Salt and pepper — to taste
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.
Serve with cherries, as they do in Modena.
Serves 8 to 10
- 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
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.
The province of Trieste is located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste and throughout history it has been influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin and Slavic cultures. Trieste enjoys a beautiful natural location, as it is surrounded by the Carsic hills and the Adriatic Sea.
The province is located in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy and was first established in 1920. It contained the current territory of the province, as well as, significant portions of the Kras plateau and the region of Inner Carniola in present-day Slovenia. After the end of World War II, the Free Territory of Trieste was established as a free state. In 1954, Italy and Yugoslavia came to an understanding and the territory was divided between the two states. Zone A of the free state became the new Province of Trieste and Zone B was administered by Yugoslavia. The Province of Trieste formally became a part of Italy on 11 October 1977, by the Treaty of Osimo.
Trieste is composed of several different climatic zones according to the distance from the sea and/or elevation. The average temperatures are 6 °C (43 °F) in January and 24 °C (75 °F) in July. The climate can be severely affected by the Bora, a northern to north-eastern wind that can reach speeds of up to 124 miles (200 kilometers) per hour.
The Italian language is spoken within the whole province. In the city of Trieste, many people speak Triestine, a dialect of Venetian. Besides standard Slovene, which is taught in Slovene-language schools, three different Slovene dialects are also spoken in the Province of Trieste.
Trieste was one of the oldest areas of the former Hapsburg Monarchy (1382-1918) and it was one of the most important ports in Europe. As a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region, Trieste became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (after Vienna, Budapest and Prague) and was also known as an important hub for literature and music.
Trieste, which probably dates back to the protohistoric period, was enclosed by walls built in 33–32 BC by the Roman Emperor Octavian. Roman influence continued during the 1st and 2nd centuries. A Roman theater lies at the foot of the San Giusto hill, facing the sea and much of the theater is made of stone. The statues that adorned the theater are now preserved at the Town Museum.
Along the coast, one can admire three ancient castles and the city center boasts Venetian influences, complete with calli (narrow streets) and campielli (small squares) and a majestic cathedral. The Castello Miramare, or Miramare Castle, was built between 1856 and 1860 from a project by Carl Junker working under Archduke Maximilian. The Castle gardens provide a setting of beauty with a variety of trees, chosen by Maximilian. Today, the gardens include: two ponds, one noted for its swans and the other for lotus flowers, a bronze statue of Maximilian and a small chapel.
Since the 1970s, Trieste has had a huge economic boom, thanks to a significant commercial shipping business. Trieste is also Italy’s and the Mediterranean’s (and one of Europe’s) greatest coffee ports, as the city supplies more than 40% of Italy’s coffee. Coffee brands, such as Illy, were founded here and are headquartered in the city. Currently, Trieste is one of Europe’s most important ports and centers for trade and transport.
The cuisine in Trieste Province is rich and varied, due to Austrian, Venetian and Friulian influences and quite distinct from the rest of Italy. After years under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, many parts of this region prepare hearty cabbage soups and delicate pastries. Bean soup with sauerkraut is typically served as an antipasto. Frico, another antipasto, consists of shredded cheese with a bit of flour that is baked or fried until crisp.
White fish soup (made with mullet, bream, flounder, etc) is cooked in a cast iron pot with a little oil, whole garlic cloves and fish flavored with white vinegar and black pepper. Pickled turnips are used to accompany roasted or boiled meats. They are made by cutting turnips into small slices and slow cooking them in a pan with olive oil, bay leaves and a piece of pork. Polenta is cooked with cheese and ravioli are made with a potato, cinnamon, raisins and a herbs. In Trieste, lasagna is kept simple and sprinkled with a special sauce made with butter, sugar and poppy seeds.
Desserts include strudel made from a thin layer of dough rolled around a sweet or savory filling and they are either baked or boiled. Gubana, “guba” meaning “piega” (to fold) in Italian, is a very traditional pastry that somewhat resembles strudel and usually comes with a minced apple and grappa filling. Presnitz is a dessert of puff pastry rolled up with walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, figs, prunes, apricots, raisins, grated chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and rum filling. Legend has it that a Trieste baker invented this cake in honor of Princess Sissi of Austria. The cake is popular during Christmas time.
Wines are mostly white and remarkable for the number of grape varieties that are used in their blends, like Refosco, Terrano, Malvasia, Tocai and Rebula. Italy’s popular grappa, distilled from the skins, seeds and stems of many types of grapes left over after wine making, is also produced here. Beer is popular here also. Many Italians, especially in the northeast, finish off their meal with a glass of distilled grappa.
Jota (Bean and Sauerkraut Soup)
- 10 ounces dried cranberry (borlotti) or kidney beans
- 1/2 pound pork shoulder, trimmed and cubed or 1 ham hock
- 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 4 bay leaves
- Sea salt to taste
- 10 ounces sauerkraut, drained
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Place the cranberry beans in a large container and cover with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight. Drain.
In a large Dutch Oven or soup pot bring the cranberry beans, pork, bacon, onion, water, garlic, bay leaves and salt to a boil. Cover and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 1 hour.
Rinse sauerkraut thoroughly in a large bowl of cold water, then drain in a colander and rinse again. Add the drained sauerkraut and potatoes to the pot with the beans. Continue simmering, partially covered, until the potatoes are soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30-45 minutes. Discard bay leaves before serving. Garnish with parsley.
Goulash (Gulash) Trieste style
- 800 g (1 3/4 lb) stewing beef (chuck), cubed
- 800 g (1 3/4 lb) onions, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Italian diced tomatoes
- 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Saute the onions in oil in a large saucepan, over low heat. Add the meat with the herbs and simmer until the meat begins to brown.
Dissolve the paprika in a little warm water and add it with the tomatoes along with enough warm water to make enough liquid to just cover the meat.
Season with salt and simmer over very low heat, covered, for an hour or until the meat is very tender. Serve over polenta.
Brodetto alla Triestina (Trieste-style fish stew)
- 1 ½ pounds cleaned, whole sea bass, without the head, tail and fins, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- 2 pounds cleaned, whole striped bass, without the head, tail and fins, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
- ¾ pound cleaned squid, cut into 1 inch rings
- 2 eight-ounce lobster tails in the shell, each cut into four pieces
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped onions
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 4 cups fish stock
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- Salt, if desired
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 medium-size shrimp, shelled and deveined,
- 12 littleneck clams, scrubbed
- 14 mussels, scrubbed
Heat the oil in a very large pot with a heavy bottom and, when it is hot and almost smoking, add the onions. Cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Arrange the pieces of sea bass, striped bass and lobster tails in the pot. Cook, turning the pieces occasionally, over high heat for three minutes. Add the vinegar and stir. Cover and cook about one minute.
Add the fish stock and bring to a simmer. Cover. Cook five minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and cover. Cook three minutes.
Add the squid, salt and pepper to taste and partly cover the pan. Let cook eight minutes.
Add the shrimp, clams and mussels and cook five minutes longer or until the mussels and clams open. Serve immediately.
Trieste Chocolate Mousse Cake
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 4 eggs, separated
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 tablespoons dark rum
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the cake:
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly roll (baking) pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add cooled melted chocolate and beat in egg yolks one at a time.
In a separate medium bowl, beat egg whites and a pinch of salt until the whites cling to the beater. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Fold 1/3 of the whites into the chocolate mixture. Then, carefully, fold in the remaining whites. Sprinkle the flour over the batter and, carefully, fold it in without decreasing the volume.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake 12-15 minutes, or until cake starts to pull away from the sides. Do not overbake. This makes a thin cake layer.
Cool a few minutes on a wire rack and then invert onto the rack. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely.
For the filling:
Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in the microwave or in a saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 10 minutes.
Add rum and vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate 1 hour. When cold, whip the filling until its volume has doubled.
Cut the cake in half and place one half on a rack. Spread the filling over the cake and top with the remaining cake half. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
For the glaze:
Place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a microwaveable bowl. Heat on full power 1 minute. Add vanilla and stir until completely melted and smooth. Let cool 10 minutes.
Set the rack holding the cake over a pan or wax paper to catch the drips. Holding the glaze 2 inches above the cake, pour the glaze evenly, using a spatula to cover the sides, if necessary.
Refrigerate 20 minutes or until the glaze is set. This cake is very rich. Cut it into small squares. Refrigerate leftovers.
Are you planning on going out for a romantic dinner on Valentine’s day this year?
You might want to reconsider. My husband and I prefer to have our special dinner at home because years ago we would go out and we were always disappointed. The restaurant charges were higher than normal and the food was not always up to expectations. The restaurant was crowded, they had lots of reservations, the staff were exhausted and we were rushed through dinner. Got to turn those tables! Some advice. Instead, stay home, cook a great meal and enjoy a romantic evening at home. Below is a special dinner you can make at home and, even with beef tenderloin and lobster on the menu, you won’t spend anything like what a restaurant meal will cost you on Valentine’s day.
For 2 divide the finished risotto in half and serve half for dinner with the lobster. Save the other half for another dinner or some great arancini. I am not in favor of making half a recipe for risotto because I think the taste is affected.
- 1 lb frozen lobster tails (about 2 medium), thawed
- 5 cups salt-free chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the lobster meat turns white.
Drain and set aside to cool.
When cool, remove the lobster meat from the shell and chop it into 1-inch pieces; set aside.
Warm the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep it hot over low heat.
In a large saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and onion and cook, about 3 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add 1/2 cup of the hot stock and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.
Cook until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter, half of the lobster meat and 2 tablespoons parsley.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Place in a serving dish and top with remaining lobster pieces; garnish with parsley.
Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Tomatoes
- ½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped, seeded tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 beef tenderloin steaks, cut 3/4 inch thick (each about 4 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon snipped fresh thyme
In a small saucepan bring vinegar to boiling. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes or until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the tomatoes into the hot vinegar reduction. Set aside.
Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once.
Allow 7 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees F) and 9 minutes for medium (160 degrees F).
Spoon the vinegar tomato sauce over the steaks and sprinkle with thyme.
Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Shallots
- 12 oz green beans, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the green beans and season with salt and ground pepper.
Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and serve.
Chocolate Crepes with Raspberry Sauce
For the sauce:
- 4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup sugar
For the crepes:
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened dutch cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups reduced fat milk
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 large whole egg
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Non-stick cooking spray
- Powdered sugar
Place water and 3 1/2 cups of the raspberries in a blender; cover and process for 3 minutes until smooth. Strain the raspberry puree and discard the seeds.
Place the puree in a small saucepan along with the cornstarch and 1/4 cup sugar; bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Set aside.
In a blender, blend flour, milk, cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons sugar, eggs and oil until smooth.
Heat a small nonstick skillet on medium-low flame. When hot, spray with cooking spray to coat bottom of pan.
Pour 1/4 cup of the crepe mixture into the pan, swirling the pan slightly to make crepe thin and smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the bottom of the crepe is light golden brown.
Turn the crepe over and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until light golden brown. Repeat with remaining cooking spray and crepe mixture.
This should make 12 crepes. You can freeze the extra crepes for another time.
Spoon 2 tablespoons of the raspberry sauce into the center of each crepe. Fold into quarters, top with some of the remaining sauce, a few of the remaining fresh raspberries and dust each with powdered sugar. Serve warm.