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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: gelato

 

salernocanaloneOften overshadowed by its proximity to Naples and by the beauty of the Amalfi coast, Salerno is often overlooked. The province has a Mediterranean climate, with a hot and relatively dry summer (30 °C (86 °F) in August) and a rainy fall and winter (8 °C (46 °F) in January). The strong winds that come from the mountains toward the Gulf of Salerno make the area very windy but also one of the sunniest areas in Italy.

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The province is one of the largest in Italy and the Port of Salerno is one of the most active on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It handles about 10 million tons of cargo per year.

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Today, Salerno is an important cultural center and is divided into three zones: the medieval sector, the 19th century sector and the more densely populated post-war area, with its numerous apartment complexes.

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Salerno is located at the geographical center of a triangle nicknamed the “Tourist Triangle of the 3 P” (namely a triangle touching the corners of the towns of Pompei, Paestum and Positano). The characteristics of this area make Salerno attractive to tourists.

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Some of these sites include:

  • Lungomare Trieste (Trieste Seafront Promenade). This promenade was created from the sea during the 1950s and it is one of the best in Italy, similar to those in the French Riviera.
  • Castello di Arechi is a massive castle created by Arechis II during the Roman-Byzantine era.. Today, it houses rooms for exhibitions and meetings. The Castle offers a spectacular view of the city and the Gulf of Salerno.
  • Centro storico di Salerno. The “Historical Downtown of Salerno” is believed to be one of the best maintained in the Italian peninsula. Its Merchant Street is one of the main shopping streets in the city.
  • Giardino della Minerva, “Minerva’s Garden,” was the first European “orto botanico” (botanical garden).

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Salerno’s cuisine is rich in vegetables, legumes, olive oil, cheese and fish which are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. The star of Salerno’s cuisine is without any doubt the Campana DOP Buffalo Mozzarella and their San Marzano Tomatoes that are exported around the world. Some other culinary specialties include the White Fig, the Giffoni Hazelnut and the Amalfi Coast Lemon.

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Fruity Tomato Sauce (Pummarola) Salerno Style

Makes approximately 2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups (28 ounces) canned, peeled plum tomatoes in juice. (D.O.P San Marzanos are preferred.)
  • 4 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil, or more, to taste
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red or yellow onion, minced
  • 1 medium celery stalk, including leaves, minced
  • 1 small carrot minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Small handful of chopped fresh basil
  • Scant ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly milled black or white pepper

Directions

Drain the tomatoes in a colander, reserving their juice; chop and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in the garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley and sauté the vegetables until they are completely soft, about 12 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s coppery-colored, about 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and their juice, cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally and gently, until thickened about 45 minutes.

Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and blend in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more to taste.

Note:

If a smooth sauce is desired, take the pan off the stove and allow it to cool somewhat. Position a food mill over a clean saucepan and pass the sauce through it, being sure to press out as much of the pulp as possible. Place over medium heat just long enough to heat through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon olive oil.

The sauce can be made 4 to 5 days in advance and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Whether storing it in the refrigerator or the freezer, leave out the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir it into the sauce after reheating.

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Linguine or Spaghetti with Anchovies

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 400g linguine or spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 tablespoons olive oil
  • 60g pitted black olives, chopped
  • 2 small red chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 60g fresh breadcrumbs

Directions

Add the linguine to a large pan of boiling salted water and boil until al dente.

Heat half of the olive oil in a pan, add the olives, chilies, capers and anchovies and heat, stirring to dissolve the anchovies.

Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss with the sauce.

At the same time, heat the rest of the olive oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the breadcrumbs until slightly brown.

Mix the dressed pasta into the breadcrumbs.

Fry for a few minutes, until a crust forms underneath. Invert onto a warm plate, so the crushed side is on top.

Cut into portions with a knife and serve.

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Saddle of Pork with Milk and Giffoni Hazelnut

Ingredients

  • 1 kg saddle of pork
  • ½ liter of warm milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 100 gr of chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of potato starch
  • Sage and rosemary
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • Olive oil and salt as needed

Directions

Brown the onion with some sage and rosemary in warm olive oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides; add the wine and let the pork steam in it for a few minutes.

Then add the warm milk and let it cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the potato starch, stirring until thickened; then mix in the hazelnuts. Let the meat cool.

Slice the pork and place it into a baking dish. Pour the sauce over the meat and warm it into preheated moderate oven for 5 minutes. Serve it warm with mashed potatoes as a side dish.

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Lemon Gelato

Ingredients

  • 200 ml (7 fl oz/ 7/8 cup) lemon juice
  • 350 ml (generous 12 1/4 fl oz/ 1 1/2 cups) milk
  • 150 ml (5 1/4 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) single cream
  • 170 g (6 oz/ 7/8 cup) sugar

Directions

Bring the milk almost to a boil, then add the sugar and, off the heat, stir it until it dissolves.

Pour in the cream and lemon juice. Place the pan in a bowl of ice and, when the mixture is cold, transfer it to the ice cream maker. Follow directions for your ice cream maker.

Pour into a freezer container and freeze overnight. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.

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The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.

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Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.

The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).

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Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.

Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.

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Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.

Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.

Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.

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Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.

The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.

Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)

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“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.

4 servings

Ingredients

4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Directions

Combine the  minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.

In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.

Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.

Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.

Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)

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Ingredients (serves 4)

1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Parsley, chopped

Directions

Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.

In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.  

Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.

Pidoni

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Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.

For the dough:

400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

For the filling:

500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying

Directions

Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.

About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.

Make the filling.

Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.

It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.

Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.

Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.

Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.

Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.

Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork,  drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.

Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8

Pistachio Gelato

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Ingredients

4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below

Directions

In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.

Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.

Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.

Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.

Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.

When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.

Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.

Pistachio Cream

Ingredients

1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.

Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).

NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.

Makes approximately 1 cup.

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Porta Castello Tower

Porta Castello Tower

The Province of Vicenza is located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. The city of Vicenza is the capital of the province and it is a thriving and cosmopolitan city, rich in history and culture with many museums, art galleries, piazzas, villas, churches and elegant Renaissance palazzi.

Founded in the 2nd century B.C., Vicenza came under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The architectural work of Andrea Palladio (1508–80),  gives the area its unique appearance. Palladio’s urban buildings, as well as his villas scattered throughout the Veneto region, had a decisive influence on the region’s development of architecture. His work inspired a distinct architectural style known as Palladian, which spread to England, other European countries and North America.

The region was once under Napoleonic rule and, later, became part of the Austrian Empire. In 1848, however, the populace of Veneto rose up against Austria and the area received the highest award for military valor for the courage it displayed in the uprising. Later, as a part of the Kingdom of Lombardy, the province was annexed to Italy after the 3rd war for Italian independence.

Vicenza was a location of major combat in both World War I and World War II and it was the most damaged city from Allied bombings in the Veneto region.

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Palazzo Thiene Bonin Longare

In the 1960s the region experienced a strong economic development caused by the emergence of small and medium family businesses. In the following years, the region’s economic development grew and huge industrial areas sprouted around the city.

Vicenza is home to the United States Army post Caserma Ederle (Camp Ederle), also known as the U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza. In 1965, Caserma Ederle became the headquarters for the Southern European Task Force, which includes the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Behind the classical Palladian buildings, you will also find a more ancient Vicenza that goes back to the days of a less established social order. The daily strife and power struggles between rival families was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. If you walk down some of the smaller streets, you may still come across tall bulky houses with defensive turrets, each bearing the family’s coat of arms, and built to defend their ancestral rights and families. The combination of such towers that still watch over the town, led to Vicenza being known as the “City of a Thousand Towers”.

Also, in the province of Vicenza and within easy reach, are the castles of two very renowned rival families. In the town of Montecchio Maggiore, one will find the remains of the hilltop fortresses that belonged to the Montecchi (Montagues) and Capuletti (Capulets), the legendary protagonists of the Romeo and Juliet saga. The elegant villas around Vicenza would make the area worth visiting even without the town. Several were designed by Andrea Palladio, but there are plenty of others to be visited. Among the most well-known is the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (‘of the dwarves’), so-called because of its decorative statues. Nearby is Palladio’s famous villa, La Rotonda, a charming and less formal house. The grand Basilica di Monte Berico, with its three Baroque facades, a painting by Veronese and the views from the hillside are impressive.

Here are some personal photos of the villa a dear friend lived in while working in Vicenza. She was kind enough to share these photos, so you may have a close up view of these magnificent structures and gardens. I am sure you will enjoy viewing them as much as I have.

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Thank you to Dolly Alvarez Crooks for photos of my friend Barbara Ferg-Carter’s Vicenza Villa.

The Cuisine of Vicenza

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The quality and variety of Vicenza’s local produce and cuisine, is on a par with the very best that Italy has to offer: white asparagus in Bassano, delicate black porcini mushrooms from the Berico hills, cherries of Marostica and the peas of Lumignano. These products have found their way into the traditional pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes of the area.

The local specialty, Baccalà alla Vicentina, is made with salt-cured cod (stockfish) that is soaked for a couple of days and served with yellow or white polenta.

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The most famous local cheese, is Asiago, which comes from Asiago, located in the Vicenza Alps.

The province has numerous wine producers, a third of which are DOC. The cabernet, merlot, tocai and pinot grape varieties are well established and traditional wines include: Durello, Torcolato, Recioto and Raboso.

Make dinner in the Vicenza style with the following recipes:

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White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle white asparagus, cleaned & trimmed
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Sea salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 4 sprigs lemon thyme
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Directions

Using a wide, deep pan bring enough salted water to cover the asparagus to a boil. Add the asparagus and boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the asparagus and place in an ice bath. Drain the asparagus and place them on a serving platter.

Using a small saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high and add the minced shallot. Saute for 1 minute, shaking the pan. Be careful not to burn the shallot.

Remove the pan from the heat, turn away from the stove and add the wine. Place the pan back on the burner and add the lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue to cook until slightly reduced.

Add a pinch of sea salt and a couple twists from a pepper grinder. Add the butter and continue to saute until the butter is melted and the sauce is shiny.

Drizzle the sauce over the asparagus and garnish with lemon thyme and lemon slices to serve.

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Risotto with Peas

Ingredients

  • 6 to 8 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated Asiago cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves, plus several sprigs for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; reduce heat and keep at a low simmer.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes.

Add rice; cook, stirring frequently, until it is thoroughly coated, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it is completely absorbed.

Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to the rice mixture; stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it is absorbed.

Continue adding stock, 3/4 cup at time, stirring constantly after each addition, until the rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center and the liquid is the consistency of heavy cream, a total of 18 to 20 minutes.

About 12 minutes into the cooking time, stir in the peas. The rice should be al dente but no longer crunchy and the peas tender and bright green. The mixture will continue to thicken slightly when removed from heat.

Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the butter, cheese, chopped marjoram and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with marjoram sprigs.

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Cutlets in Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 medium veal or pork cutlets or skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Half of a small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens. Add the cutlets and cook until golden on all sides, around 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt and freshly ground pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve the cutlets with the sauce spooned over the top.

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Cherry Gelato

Ingredients

  • One 16 ounce package frozen pitted dark sweet cherries, thawed or 3 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • 2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a blender or food processor combine the cherries and orange peel. Blend or process until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the pulp. Measure 1 1/2 cups of the cherry mixture and set aside.

In an electric mixer bowl, combine the sugar and egg yolks. Beat on high-speed for 4 minutes. Set aside.

In a large saucepan the combine milk, cream and salt; heat just until simmering. Remove from the heat and let stand for 2 minutes.

Slowly stir 1 cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Return all of the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan and add the remaining milk mixture. Combine thoroughly.

Heat and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (185 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer). Be careful not to let mixture boil.

Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water; stir constantly for 2 to 3 minutes to cool.

In a large bowl combine cherry mixture and the egg yolk-milk mixture, stirring until well mixed. Cover the surface of the mixture with plastic wrap. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.

Freeze the chilled mixture in a 2 to 4 quart ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer the mixture to a covered freezer container and freeze in your regular freezer for 4 hours before serving.

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Garlic cloves come in a wide variety of sizes, so the numbers given in a recipe should be treated as a rough guide only. There are hundreds of named varieties of garlic, but all of them can be categorized into two major types: softnecked and hardnecked.

Hardneck garlic gets its name from the stiff stalks, or neck, of the garlic plants and prefer cold winter climates. Hardneck garlic bulbs are impressive with much larger cloves.

As they grow, they produce a stalk that coils from the top called a “scape” or garlic flower. When the scapes appear they curl and wind their way up and around the plants. Garlic scapes are completely edible and make for a true gourmet cooking experience.

Hardneck garlic include three varieties: Porcelain, Purple Stripe and Rocambole.

Almost all supermarket garlic is a softneck variety. This is because softneck garlic is easier to grow and can be mechanically planted. Softnecks are known by the white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, often forming several layers around the central core. The flexible stalk also allows softneck garlic to be formed into garlic braids (plaits).

There are two main types of softneck garlic: silverskin and artichoke.

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garlic4Buy firm, plump, heavy heads with tight, unbroken papery skins. The heavier the garlic, the fresher and better tasting it is. Avoid bulbs that are dried out or have soft spots or mold.

Store unpeeled heads of garlic in an open container in a cool, dry place away from other foods. Do not refrigerate or freeze unpeeled garlic. Properly stored garlic can keep up to three months.

As garlic ages, it will begin to produce green sprouts in the center of each clove. These thin green sprouts can be bitter, so discard them before chopping the garlic for your recipe.

You can buy a variety of garlic presses and other gadgets to help crush the cloves. If you’d rather avoid gadgets then it’s easy to crush garlic with only a knife and a little salt.

In general the finer the chop the stronger the taste. Crushed garlic has the strongest taste of all. When cooked whole, garlic has a much milder, rather sweet taste. Garlic also mellows the longer it is cooked. Garlic added at the end of cooking will give a stronger taste than garlic prepared the same way but added earlier.

To make garlic chips, use a paring knife to cut the clove into thin, vertical slices.

To make garlic flavored oil: heat the garlic chips in ½ cup extra virgin olive oil on medium-high heat. Stir chips several minutes or until lightly golden. Remove garlic from the oil in the pan.

It’s easy to overcook garlic, which results in hard, bitter pieces. Pour the oil over the drained pasta and serve. Or use the garlic flavored oil to brush on chicken or seafood before grilling.

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Warm Olives with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Strips of zest from 1 small lemon
  • 1 small rosemary sprig
  • 2 small garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 1 pound mixed oil-brined-cured olives, such as Kalamata, Niçoise, Moroccan, cracked green Sicilian and Cerignola (3 cups)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the oil with the lemon zest, rosemary and garlic and cook over moderate heat until the garlic just begins to brown, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the olives and let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD: The olives can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated; warm gently before serving.

Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth

Tortellini and Spinach in Garlic Broth

Don’t be tempted to cook the tortellini in the soup; they will soak up too much of the garlicky broth. Cook the pasta separately while the soup is simmering and stir them into the soup at the last moment.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 pound spinach, stems removed, leaves washed well (about 2 1/4 quarts)
  • Grated Parmesan, for garnish

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the water, broth, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just done, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tortellini. Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan and pass more of the grated cheese at the table.

Variations: Substitute one quart of shredded escarole for the spinach. Use meat-or cheese-filled ravioli instead of the tortellini.

garlic6

Garlic-Herb Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Generous pinch of sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, chives, and thyme)
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz. mixed greens

Directions

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a jar. Stir well with a fork.

Add olive oil, cover tightly, and shake well until combined. You can also use a blender and drizzle the oil in slowly while it is running.

Serve over mixed greens.

Rustic Garlic Chicken

Garlic Chicken

Yes, three heads of garlic. They soften during cooking and take on a subtle sweetness.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 chicken (about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3 heads garlic, cloves peeled but left whole
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat the oven to 400°. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderately high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Saute the chicken until well browned, turning, about 8 minutes in all, and remove from the pot. Reduce the heat to moderate, add the garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the garlic and stir until combined. Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the oven and put it on a burner. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot and keep warm. Over moderately high heat, whisk in the wine and simmer for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until the sauce starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, whisk in the butter, and pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle with the parsley.

Serve with mashed potatoes, egg noodles or rice.

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Gelato al Aglio Cioccolato

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Chop the chocolate and place in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan just to the point of boiling and add the garlic.  Remove the pan from the heat and steep, covered, for 15 minutes.  Remove the garlic, add the sugar to the milk mixture and reheat.

Whisk the egg and yolks until well-combined in a mixing bowl. Once the milk mixture is almost boiling, gradually whisk it into the eggs, constantly beating so that the eggs do not curdle. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and gently return to a boil over low heat and cook until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate melts. Cover the bowl and refrigerate to cool completely before churning. Overnight is best. Freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.


The vanilla bean is actually the fruit of an orchid. The vanilla orchid is the only one among over 20,000 varieties of orchids that produces something edible. The plant is a climbing vine that must have some type of support and partial shade. The vanilla orchid produces waxy greenish-yellow flowers that grow in clusters.

In the 14th century, the Spanish conquistadors under Cortez, watched Montezuma, Emperor of the Aztecs, pulverize vanilla beans, combine them with chocolate and serve it as a drink to his guests. By the middle of the 15th century, the Spanish were importing it to Europe to use as a flavor in the manufacturing of chocolate. When chocolate was first introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century, it was cinnamon that was usually used as a flavoring ingredient. It was not until the eighteenth century that vanilla took over that role, however, vanilla really came into its own as an ingredient in ice cream.

As European explorers traveled the forests of Central and South America, vanilla became more common in Europe. Europeans followed the example of the tribes in the New World and used vanilla as a nerve stimulant and as an aphrodisiac. The Spanish were responsible not only for importing the vanilla pod to Europe, but also for supplying Europe’s languages with a name for it. In Spanish it is vainilla, a diminutive of vaina, sheath, a reference to its long narrow pods.

By the early 1800’s vanilla plants were growing in botanical collections in Germany and France. Horticulturists were experimenting with conditions for its growth. From Europe, it was transported to Reunion, Mauritius and the Malagasy Republic. It there that workers discovered that hand pollination of the flowers was necessary to produce vanilla beans.

Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, because growing the vanilla seed pods is labor-intensive. Despite the expense, vanilla is highly valued for its flavor, which author Frederic Rosengarten, Jr. described in The Book of Spices, as “pure, spicy and delicate” and its complex floral aroma depicted as a “peculiar bouquet”.  As a result, vanilla is widely used in both commercial and domestic baking and in the manufacture of perfumes.

Interestingly, fresh vanilla beans have no taste or aroma. They must undergo an extensive curing process that results in the release of vanilla with its distinct aroma and flavor. In Mexico the traditional curing process involved spreading the beans on dark blankets in the sun wilting.  More commonly today, oven wilting is used for the initial dehydration. Then the vanilla is placed in special boxes wrapped in blankets or mats, to sweat. Next, the vanilla is alternately sunned and sweated for several days until the beans turn a deep chocolate-brown. Afterward, they are placed in sweating boxes or in beds covered with waxed paper to dry slowly at a moderate temperature for 45 days. Then they are kept for about three months in closed containers to develop their full aroma.

Vanilla Extract is the most popular and the easiest way that vanilla can be used. Here are a few tips for when to use the extract:

  • When baking and cooking, where the vanilla will be exposed to heat for long periods of time. Heat weakens vanilla bean’s fruit like flavor, so there isn’t much point in using the more expensive bean pod.
  • Extract can be used to flavor sweet and savory egg batters, for example, waffle and pancake batters.
  • When you need vanilla’s flavor quickly and don’t have time to steep a bean in the recipe’s liquid.
  • A small amount of extract can be used to cut the acidity in some sauces.
  • Do not add vanilla extract to hot liquids as the alcohol evaporates, along with some of the vanilla flavor.

Vanilla beans not only impart flavor to dishes, but add a special visual element. Here are a few tips for when to use the vanilla bean:

  • In lightly cooked sauces and syrups. By using the vanilla bean, you get all of the flavor elements of the vanilla bean in your cooking.
  • When the presentation calls for the actual bean. Adding vanilla beans to Crème Brulee is worth the extra expense.
  • If you object to the alcohol used in the extract but still want vanilla’s rich complexity.
  • To flavor coffee and other hot drinks. Drop a small piece of the dried bean in with the coffee beans before you grind them.

How To Use  Vanilla Beans

The first thing you need to do is split the bean lengthwise, using a paring knife. Then scrape the seeds free from both sides of the bean pod with the edge of the knife and add to whatever it is you are cooking. If you are cooking a sauce, add the pod to the mixture as well. After the mixture has steeped, remove the pod, but DON’T THROW IT AWAY!  Rinse the pod and allow it to dry at room temperature. Bury the used, dry vanilla pods in your sugar for a wonderful vanilla flavored sugar.

Vanilla can also be produced synthetically from wood-pulp by-products. Reading the labels of products supposedly made from vanilla may surprise you. In the United States, for example, while ice cream labeled “vanilla” is made from pure vanilla extract and/or vanilla beans, ice cream labeled “vanilla flavored” may contain up to 42 percent artificial flavorings and ice cream labeled “artificially flavored” contains imitation flavorings only. But as good cooks will attest, there is no substitute for the flavor of pure vanilla.

Cooking With Vanilla

Vanilla Gelato

You can also use all whole milk, no cream in this recipe

(Makes 1 quart)

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Directions

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk and sugar. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat. Scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk, add the bean pod and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain into a clean bowl removing the vanilla bean pod. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.

Without an ice cream maker: Spoon chilled mixture into a shallow metal pan; freeze until almost firm, about 3 hours. Break into chunks; purée in a food processor. Pack into an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Vanilla Zabaglione with Raspberries

Serves 10

Steeping the vanilla seeds in the Marsala adds flavor to this classic Italian dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Marsala
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1 dozen large egg yolks
  • 5 cups raspberries

Directions

In a small saucepan, whisk the Marsala with the sugar and vanilla bean seeds and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer; turn the heat to moderately low.

Fill a large bowl with ice water.

In a large stainless steel bowl, whisk or beat the egg yolks at low speed to break them up. Gradually add the Marsala mixture and beat until smooth.

Set the bowl over the simmering water in the saucepan. Beat the egg yolk mixture until it is hot and foamy and leaves a ribbon trail when the beaters are lifted, about 10 minutes.

Don’t cook the zabaglione for too long, or it will curdle. Transfer the bowl to the ice water bath and let stand, whisking the zabaglione occasionally, until cooled.

Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour or until thoroughly chilled.

Spoon the chilled zabaglione into small serving dishes and garnish with the raspberries.

Vanilla Almond Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Position rack in center of oven.

With a small knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and place in a small bowl. Add the sugar and use your fingers to mix the vanilla evenly into the sugar. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the vanilla sugar and mix until fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and almonds and stir into the butter mixture.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, shape each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 1/4 inches in diameter.

Place the logs on the baking sheet, spacing them as far apart as possible. Bake in the center of the oven until lightly browned, about 30 minutes.

Place the logs on a cutting board and let them cool slightly. With a serrated knife, cut the logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Place on the baking sheet, cut side down.

Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes, turning them once. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

YIELD About two dozen

Light Mascarpone Panna Cotta

This lighter version of a classic dessert delicacy is the perfect ending to a rich meal.

Ingredients

  • 6 panna cotta molds
  • 3 teaspoons gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons nonfat milk
  • 2/3 cup nonfat milk
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup lowfat sour cream

Directions

Sprinkle the gelatin over the 3 tablespoons milk and let sit for 15 minutes to soften.

In a saucepan, stir the milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla bean over medium heat until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and the sour cream until smooth.

Stir the gelatin mixture into the heated milk mixture and stir well for at least 2 minutes or until bits of gelatin are no longer visible.

Pour the mixture through a strainer into the mascarpone mixture to remove any bits of hard gelatin.

Spray  six 1/2 cup custard molds with cooking spray and pour the panna cotta into each mold. Chill overnight. Serve inverted onto a plate with a fruit or chocolate garnish.

Vanilla Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 6 large fresh figs, stems removed and cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 1/2 cup liquid egg substitute
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon tapioca starch
  • 4 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons light agave nectar
  • 2 packets stevia, such as, Stevia In The Raw, or ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the egg substitute with the tapioca starch in a large bowl until fully incorporated. Add the ricotta, yogurt, agave nectar, stevia, vanilla and lemon zest.

Whisk together until the ingredients are fully combined.

Coat a 9-inch springform cake pan with cooking spray and place the pan in a deep baking dish — one that’s a little larger than the cake pan.

Pour hot water in the baking dish until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan.

Pour batter into the pan.

Place in the oven and bake until the cheesecake is cooked through and set, about 60 minutes. Remove the cake pan from the water bath and cool completely on a wire rack.

Cover and refrigerate until fully chilled. Combine the figs and Marsala in a small bowl and set aside at room temperature until the cake is ready.

To serve: remove the cheesecake from the pan. Place slices of cake on serving plates and spoon the figs alongside, topping them with any Marsala remaining in the bowl.


The two most common major species of walnuts are the English Walnut and the Black Walnut. The English Walnut originated in Persia and the Black Walnut is native to eastern North America. The Black Walnut is full of flavor, but due to its hard shell and poor hulling characteristics, it is not grown commercially for nut production. The commercially produced walnut varieties are nearly all hybrids of the English Walnut. The United States is the world’s largest exporter of walnuts. The Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys of California produce 99 percent of the nation’s commercial English Walnuts.

The walnut harvest season in California typically runs from late August through late November. Once the outer green hull of the walnut begins to dry and split, the nuts are ready for harvest. Thanks to their sturdy shells and leathery outer husk, walnuts are exceptionally well-protected from pests and rot. If stored and handled properly, they can be consumed up to one year after harvest.

The orchard floor is swept for debris and then a mechanical shaker is employed to vigorously shake each tree trunk, knocking the ripe walnuts off their branches and onto the cleared orchard floor. A separate machine is used to sweep the walnuts into neat rows so that mechanical harvesters can pick them up off the ground efficiently.

Shaking the walnuts out of the tree.

When consumed fresh from the tree, walnuts have a softer texture and a creamy, slightly bitter flavor. At this stage, they typically have a 20 to 25 percent moisture level. After the walnuts are cleaned and the leathery outer husk is removed, one of the first processing steps these walnuts will undergo is mechanical drying. Even those walnuts sold in the shell will be dried to achieve an 8-percent moisture level, which results in a taste familiar to consumers’ palates and also protects the nuts from rot.

While a little less than half of exported walnuts are sold in the shell, only about 5 percent remain in the shell stateside. The other 95 percent are cracked to order, as storing the nuts in their shells extends their shelf life.

After being initially screened for any debris, the nuts are air-separated from the cracked shells and sorted into a variety of sizes and colors. Generally speaking, lighter-colored intact halves sell at a premium price, while smaller darker pieces are sold at a lower price.

Workers inspect the processed nuts to ensure that they are clean, properly dried and of the correct size and color for the particular order at hand. After this step, the nuts are packaged and shipped. Additionally, a small sample is removed from each batch and sent for laboratory tests to ensure that they meet all food safety regulations set forth by the California Walnut Board, the USDA and the FDA.

When shopping, look for unblemished, clean-looking, creamy colored walnuts. If you are buying shelled walnuts, choose walnut halves for eating and decoration and broken nuts for garnishing or baking. Bags should have little or no “dust” which occurs with handling. To avoid rancidity, refrigerate or freeze shelled walnuts in an airtight container and store nuts in the shell in a cool dark cupboard up to six months or refrigerate.

One quarter cup of walnuts provides 90 percent of omega 3s known to benefit heart health and cognitive function. Walnuts also contain ellagic acid which supports the immune system and may fight cancer. Just 4 walnuts a day can be beneficial.

Walnuts are good in pasta, cereal, cooked vegetables, fruit or green salads or baked goods. They can be pureed into a walnut butter.

Walnut Crostini

For the caramelized onions

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper

For the walnut spread

  • One 3-inch chunk of carrot
  • One 3-inch chunk of celery
  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ½ cups (8 ounces) toasted walnuts

For the crostini and serving

  • Half a sourdough baguette, cut diagonally into slices about ¼-inch thick (for 24 – 30 slices)
  • 1/4 olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 ½ cups, lightly packed, small (baby) arugula leaves (about 1 ounce)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

To prepare the caramelized onions:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil and onion, season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Cook for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring frequently— until the onions are lightly brown. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

To prepare the walnut spread:

Wrap the carrot, celery, shallot and bay leaf in a double thickness of cheesecloth and tie the bundle securely with twine. Place in a medium saucepan, pour in the milk and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, reduce the heat, and poach in the simmering milk for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Strain the mixture, reserving the milk and walnuts separately. Discard the cheesecloth bundle. While the walnuts are still warm, put them in a food processor. Add 1/3 cup of the reserved milk and puree. Add additional milk by tablespoons, until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and set aside. Any remaining milk may be used in a soup or sauce.

To prepare the crostini:

Brush the baguette slices lightly with olive oil, put them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and place in a preheated 350ºF oven for about 5 minutes, to dry and crisp the bread. Remove from the oven and gently rub each slice with garlic.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of the walnut mixture on each crostini.

In a small bowl toss the arugula with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Place a few leaves of arugula over each crostini and top with about 1/2 teaspoon of caramelized onions.

Pasta with Broccoli and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces tri-color fusilli or any short pasta
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Garnish with herbs of choice

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes; transfer to a food processor and let cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove 3 strips of zest from the lemon. Thinly slice the zest; add it to the food processor with the walnuts along with the garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add the Parmesan, 1/4 cup broccoli florets, 2 tablespoons oil and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and purée until smooth

Add the wine to the onions and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup broccoli florets and cook, tossing, until heated through.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Add the walnut pesto and the reserved pasta cooking water and mix. Add the onion mixture and toss to combine. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice, additional Parmesan and herbs.

Bulgur Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 4 medium (6-ounce) red bell peppers
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing peppers
  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup finely minced chives or scallions
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup (packed) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots

Directions

Place a medium-small skillet (one that has a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat and wait about 1 minute. Pour in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the uncooked bulgur and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Keep stirring during this process to be sure it doesn’t burn. Pour in the water, place the lid on the pan, and turn off the heat. Let stand 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, fluff with a fork as you add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice. Stir in the chives, dill, parsley and feta and then add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the walnuts and apricots.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to fit the peppers.

Slice the top off each pepper; reserve the top. Reach inside the peppers with a spoon to scrape out the pith and seeds.

Spoon a 1/2 cup of stuffing into each pepper. Place the tops back on the peppers.

Brush the outside surface of each pepper with a little additional olive oil and place them standing upright in the prepared dish.

Bake for 35 minutes in the center of the oven. Let sit for at least 5 minutes; serve hot or warm.

Fish Fillets with Walnut Brown Butter Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or any herb of choice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (6-oz each) boneless white fish fillets (cod, bass, tilapia, halibut, sole, grouper, etc)

Directions

Place the butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the butter begins to take on a light-brown color and gets a nutty aroma. Add the walnuts and cook for one minute. Pour in the lemon juice, turn up to high heat, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, and add the basil, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste; reserve.

Season the fish filets with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Sauté the fish in the olive oil over medium-high heat until done. Serve hot with the butter sauce spooned over.

Beef Sliders Stuffed with Walnuts and Gorgonzola

Serves 16

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 2 cups finely chopped button mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 4 oz Gorgonzola (or blue cheese), divided into 16 portions
  • 32 walnut halves
  • 16 small dinner rolls (or 2, 24-inch baguettes, sliced into 8 equal portions, then sliced horizontally)

Directions

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and sauté bacon until just cooked but not crisp.

Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add mushrooms and continue cooking until water evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and let cool. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and egg to mixture.

Add beef and gently mix by hand until all ingredients are incorporated, without overmixing.

Divide mixture into 16 equal portions. Form into thick patties, about 1-1/2 inches thick and 2-1/2 inches in diameter, tuck a piece of cheese and 2 walnut halves into the center of each patty.

Grill patties on medium-high heat until cooked to preferred doneness. Serve in small dinner rolls or between baguette slices with desired condiments. (Especially good with sauteed onions as a topper.)

Chocolate Walnut Gelato

Ingredients

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Dutch processed, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua
  • 1 cup very finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Directions

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring water, sugar and cocoa powder to a boil, whisking constantly.

Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved and cocoa is well blended, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in bittersweet chocolate until melted. Let cool completely.

Stir in Kahlua and walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold, about 4 hours.

Without an ice cream maker:

Spoon chilled chocolate mixture into a shallow metal pan; freeze until almost firm, about 3 hours.

Break into chunks; purée in a food processor. Pack into an airtight container and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

With an ice cream maker: transfer chilled mixture to ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 


Gelato is that dense, super-rich, intensely-flavored Italian version of ice cream. There’s really nothing else quite like it.

Gelato is a delicacy that dates back thousands of years. The earliest beginnings of frozen desserts are recorded in 3000 B.C. when Asian cultures discovered they could consume crushed ice with flavorings. Five hundred years later, it became a custom for Egyptian pharaohs to offer their guests a cup of ice sweetened with fruit juice. Italians joined in as the Romans began the ritual of eating the ice of the volcanoes, Etna and Vesuvius, and covering it with honey.

It was during the Italian Renaissance, when the great tradition of Italian gelato began. The famous Medici family in Florence sponsored a contest, searching for the greatest frozen dessert. A man named Ruggeri, a chicken farmer and cook in his spare time, took part in the competition. Ruggeri’s tasty frozen dessert of sweet fruit juice and ice (similar to today’s sorbet) won the coveted award. The news of Ruggeri’s talent traveled quickly and Caterina de Medici took Ruggeri with her to France. Caterina was convinced that only he could rival the fine desserts of French chefs – and had him make his specialty at her wedding to the future King of France.

Caterina de Medici

In the late 1500’s, the Medici family commissioned famous artist and architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, who was also known for his culinary skills, to prepare a beautiful feast for the visiting King of Spain. Buontalenti presented the King of Spain with a visually pleasing, creamy frozen dessert that we now call gelato. Buontalenti is considered the inventor of gelato.

But it was Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a famous restaurateur, who made gelato famous all over Europe. Procopio moved from Palermo to Paris and opened a café that soon became the hub for every novelty, from exotic coffee, to chocolate, to a refined gelato served in small glasses that resembled egg cups. The Procope, as the café was known, soon became hugely successful and gelato spread throughout France and into other parts of Europe.

Gelato made its way to the Americas for the first time in 1770, when Giovanni Basiolo brought it to New York City. At this point, there were two types of gelato – one made by mixing water with fruits such as lemon and strawberries (also known as Sorbetto), and another made by mixing milk with cinnamon, pistachio, coffee or chocolate. By 1846, the hand-crank freezer was refined and changed the way Americans made this frozen dessert. The freezer kept the liquid mixture constantly in motion and kept it cool throughout, making a product that was no longer granular, but creamy. This is where the history of industrial ice cream began, as the product contained more air and was less dense. Gelato did not make a name for itself in the U.S. until the late 1900’s – although its popularity still had a long way to go.

The process of making gelato has evolved over thousands of years. In the beginning, gelato was made with a few simple ingredients. Egg yolks were used as the main stabilizer and were added to other raw ingredients, such as sugar and milk (sometimes water for sorbetto), heated in a large pan/bowl and then chilled. Flavor ingredients (fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.) were then added and the gelato was batched. Batching gelato is also known as the process in which the gelato is frozen and air is incorporated into it to give it its dense, smooth texture. This tedious old fashioned process only allowed gelato makers to be able to make a maximum of 4 or 5 traditional flavors and the shelf life was not long. Few gelato makers still use this process, as technology has redefined the traditional gelato making process without compromising taste and flavor.

1906 Gelato Makers

At the turn of the 21st century, a new way to make gelato, known as the Hot Process, was introduced. Widely used today, the Hot Process involves the use of a pasteurizer, which heats the gelato ingredients up to 85°C/185 F for 5 seconds and then drops the temperature to 5°C/41 F. This controlling of the process allows for stabilizers and emulsifiers to perform properly and creates a microbiologically safe mixture.

After the going through the pasteurizer process, the gelato is placed in a batch freezer. Here, the mixture is quickly frozen, while being stirred, to incorporate air that produces small ice crystals necessary to give gelato a smooth, creamy texture with a satisfactory percentage of air. There are some gelato machines that contain both a pasteurizer and a batch freezer, which can simplify the process. The Hot Process is generally used for gelato because it can allow for more flexibility in the customization of a recipe and offers a slightly longer shelf life than all of the other processes.

In the 1980’s, the Cold Process was developed to provide a simpler gelato making process. The ingredients used in the Cold Process are already microbiologically safe which eliminates the need for a pasteurizer – not only saving gelato shops costs, but also space, as it is one less piece of equipment. In the Cold Process, the raw ingredients are mixed with a Cold Process base and flavor, and placed directly in the batch freezer, where the gelato is batched and prepared for serving. While the shelf life is slightly less than the Hot Process, the Cold Process is the answer to the gelato makers’ need for a process that achieves a greater amount of gelato in a quicker timeframe without compromising taste. 

While the gelato market continues to develop, the needs of the gelato maker have continued to grow and/or change. The Sprint Process is the newest process to make its way into the industry, offering an even easier and quicker way to produce gelato without the intervention of a skilled gelato master. The Sprint Process is simple; add a liquid ingredient (water or milk) to a prepackaged mixture containing all of the raw ingredients including, flavors, stabilizers and emulsifiers. Then, the mixture is poured into the batch freezer. The Sprint Process allows little room for error and provides complete consistency in flavor every time. For gelato shop owners producing large varieties of flavors in a short period of time, the Sprint Process works best. On the downside, the Sprint Process doesn’t leave much room for flavor experimentation and creativity.

Regardless of the process used, when the gelato has completed its cycle in the batch freezer, the next step is extraction into the gelato pan. Here’s where the difference in presentation between gelato and American ice cream reveals itself. Gelato is extracted using a spatula, rather than an ice cream scooper. The spatula helps to create creamy waves of gelato that are visually appealing in the display case and truly give gelato its artisanal feel.

In some instances, gelato makers do not immediately serve their gelato, but utilize a blast freezer. The blast freezer contributes to the life of the gelato by freezing it at a lower temperature than a standard freezer. This also helps it maintain its artisanal presentation.

 

The final step in all gelato processes is decoration. Here the gelato maker can add to the gelato texture, flavor and appearance by adding toppings and fillers (also known as Arabeschi®).

Home Gelato Maker

Making Gelato At Home

Thankfully, we don’t have to travel all the way to Italy every time we crave a scoop. Mario Batali shared a few tips on how to make gelato successfully at home.

• Use Whole Milk – Batali points out that cream tends to coat the tongue and mute the taste of other ingredients. Whole milk delivers cleaner and more vibrant flavors.

• Look for Overripe Fruit – Overripe fruit might not be great for eating, but they’re fantastic for delivering intense fruit flavor in gelatos. Here’s where to use those last few bruised peaches or the slightly-shriveled cherries.

• Under-Churn the Base – Gelato is supposed to be less airy than American ice cream and should actually end up fairly dense. Batali recommends stopping the ice cream machine when the mix looks like a thick custard and then freezing.

Italian Pistachio Gelato

Yields: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups whole milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Pistachio Cream (see recipe below)

Directions:

In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients until the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract. Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 8 minutes, or until thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.

Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Prepare the Pistachio Cream (see below).

Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.

Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions, remembering Batali’s recommendation to under churn.

When the gelato is done, either serve immediately or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firm.

Pistachio Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup hot water 
  • 7 to 8 ounces raw unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • Directions:

In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.

Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that blends freely in the blender (You may not need all of the hot water).

NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process.

When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes approximately 1 cup.

Chocolate Gelato

Chocolate Gelato

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped

Directions:

Bring 2 1/4 cups milk just to a boil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. While milk is heating, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt and 1/4 cup (cold) milk in a bowl until smooth, then whisk into boiling milk and bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking. Boil, whisking frequently, 3 minutes (mixture will be very thick). Remove from heat.

Place choclate in a bowl. Bring remaining 1/2 cup cold milk to almost a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and then pour over the chocolate in the bowl. Let stand until chocolate is melted, about 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Stir into the cornstarch-milk mixture and force through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cool slightly, stirring frequently to prevent a skin from forming, then cover with wax paper directly on the surface of the mixture and chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours (overnight is even better).

Freeze mixture in ice cream maker, then transfer to an airtight container and freeze until hardened, about 3 hours. Let soften 5 minutes before serving.

Note:  Gelato keeps 1 week.



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