Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: granita

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In my area of the world, it is often too hot at this time of year to spend a great deal of time baking when guests are coming for dinner. So during the cooler months, I like to make a few simple sponge cakes to keep in the freezer. That way I can make a refreshing dessert for company in the summer without a lot of fuss.

During the summer months, ice cream desserts can really “hit the spot”. It is easy to pull together a really great tasting dessert when it is hot with just a few simple ingredients. Here are a few ideas.

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Simple Sponge Cake

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup cake flour

Directions

Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9″ round cake pans.

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

Add 1/2 cup sugar and a pinch of salt to the whites and beat until very stiff.

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

Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites.

Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed.

Do not over-mix.

Divide the cake batter and pour into the prepared pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper.

Cool completely.

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Tiramisu Ice Cream Parfaits

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee, cooled
  • 4 cups (1-inch) cubed sponge cake (you could also use angel food cake or pound cake)
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened
  • 1 (3-ounce) dark chocolate bar, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and cut in half

Directions

In a bowl mix the cake cubes with 2/3 of the coffee until well soaked.

Stir ice cream in a second bowl until spoonable, then layer cake cubes and ice cream in parfait glasses. Top each with a drizzle of coffee, a generous amount of chocolate shavings and a few cherries. Serve immediately.

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Pineapple Ice Cream Sandwiches

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (1/4-inch thick) fresh pineapple slices, cut in circles
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream, softened
  • Toasted flaked sweetened coconut

Directions

Grill pineapple slices over low to medium heat for 90 seconds on each side. Allow to cool briefly.

Sandwich the softened ice cream between the 2 grilled slices of pineapple. Coat sides in toasted coconut. Slice in half and serve immediately.

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Vanilla Affogato

Affogato is an Italian drink that makes a wonderful alternative to iced coffee on a hot summer day.  Affogato literally means “drowned”.  It generally consists of  gelato (Italian ice cream) that is topped with hot espresso or a liqueur. You can use freshly brewed espresso or instant or decaffeinated espresso, if you prefer. You may also top your drink with a liqueur such as Kahlua, Grand Marnier or Frangelico.  You can also add a little powdered chocolate milk mix to the coffee for a mocha flavor. Traditionally, affogato is served with a biscotti on the side.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 pint vanilla gelato or ice cream
  • Shaved chocolate

Directions

Beat the cream until stiff peaks form.

Cover and refrigerate.

Stir the espresso powder into the boiling water until dissolved.

Place one scoop of gelato into 4 tall glasses or large coffee mugs.

Pour 2 to 4 tablespoons hot espresso over each.

Top each with a dollop of whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Serve immediately.

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Sicilian Granita

Tip: If you don’t have an espresso maker, use instant espresso powder and water; store the powder in your freezer after opening. Instant coffee will also work in a pinch, it just won’t be as full-flavored.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups freshly brewed espresso
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Directions

Stir hot espresso and sugar in a medium bowl until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Place on a level surface in your freezer and freeze for 2 hours, stirring and scraping with a fork every 20 minutes to break up the ice crystals. Cover and freeze for at least 1 hour more.

Beat cream and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on high-speed until medium peaks form, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Scrape the frozen granita into ice crystals using a sturdy fork.

To serve, layer the granita in dessert goblets and top each with a tablespoon of whipped cream.

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Italian Coconut-Coffee Bites

24 bites

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder or 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 ½ tablespoons boiling water
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 ¼ cups finely crushed biscotti crumbs
  • 5 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Line twenty-four mini muffin cups with paper baking cups; set aside.

Dissolve espresso powder in the boiling water; set aside.

For the crust:

In a medium nonstick skillet melt butter over medium-low heat. When butter is bubbling, add coconut. Cook and stir until coconut is toasted and golden brown. Stir in finely crushed biscotti crumbs. Remove pan from heat.

Spoon 1 teaspoon of the crumb mixture into each prepared muffin cup; press firmly to pack down. Place the muffin cup pan in the freezer. Keep remaining crumb mixture at room temperature to use for topping.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl beat mascarpone cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy, Beat in the sugar, cinnamon and salt until smooth and well mixed. Beat in vanilla and espresso.

Divide filling among the crumb-lined muffin cups. Top each cup with the reserved crumb mixture. With a fingertip, gently press topping into filling.

Freeze until firm, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.


 

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The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline considered to be Italy’s most scenic on the southern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno in Southern Italy. The Amalfi Coast is a popular tourist destination for the region and Italy as a whole, attracting thousands of tourists annually. The Amalfi Coast has a Mediterranean climate, featuring warm summers and mild winters.

The roads along the Amalfi Coast are famously winding, narrow and challenging to drive. All the towns of the Amalfi coast are connected by the scenic SS163 road built in the first half of the 19th century. Following the natural course of the coastline, the route is full of curves, nestled between the rock and the sea cliffs, giving spectacular views at the exit of every tunnel or hairpin bend. Before the construction of the coastal road, locals reached the region’s 13 towns via mules on footpaths that still exist.

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Caprese salad made with the area’s mozzarella di bufala.

Caprese salad made with the area’s mozzarella di bufala.

The cuisine, abundant in fish, seafood, fruit and vegetables ripened to perfection in the Mediterranean sun; will also appeal to meat eaters and cheese lovers, thanks to the protein-packed delicacies produced in the Lattari mountains. Not only is the world’s undisputed best pizza made in Naples but the region is also home to gelato, paccheri pasta, eggplant and sfogliatelle pastries and each village in the region has its traditional cuisine and specialized recipes.

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The Amalfi Coast is known for its production of Limoncello liqueur, as the area is a major producer of lemons, known as sfusato amalfitano in Italian, which are grown in terraced gardens along the entire coast between February and October. Amalfi is also known for making a hand-made thick paper which is called bambagina. Other local products are a particular kind of anchovies (alici) from Cetara and colorful handmade ceramics from Vietri sul Mare

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An Amalfi Inspired Dinner For Four

Appetizer: Stuffed Calamari

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 small squid with tentacles
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 balls fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 15 green olives

Directions

Rinse the squid inside and out and set aside.

Heat half of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the eggplant, bell pepper and zucchini. Season with salt and black pepper and remove the pan from the heat. Cool slightly. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, making sure it doesn’t melt.

Gently stuff the vegetable cheese mixture into each calamari. Don’t overstuff the calamari because when they cook, they will shrink, and the stuffing will pop out. Seal the opening by threading the tentacles through the body with a toothpick a few times.

Heat the remaining olive oil with the garlic in the frying pan. Add the stuffed calamari, cook about 1 minute and then add in the capers, tomatoes and olives.

Remove the garlic and add a pinch of salt. Cook about 3 minutes longer and serve immediately.

First Course: Spaghetti Mare e Monte

Spaghetti from the Sea and the Mountains

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4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 16 small fresh shrimp, cut in half
  • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Directions

Cook the pasta al dente. Drain.

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet placed over medium-high heat and add the chili pepper flakes. Heat and add the garlic and zucchini. Saute 1 minute and do not let the zucchini get brown.

Add the cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Cook until the zucchini and tomatoes soften. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 minute.

Add the cooked spaghetti and toss with the ingredients in the pan. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.

Second Course: Lamb in Tomato and Red Wine Sauce

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons (56 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • One whole bulb of garlic, cut in half
  • 3 lbs (1.35 kg) lamb rib chops
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 lb (450 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups (450 ml) red wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

Season the lamb chops generously on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until very hot and put the garlic halves face down, so that the cut sides are in the oil.

Add the lamb and rosemary sprigs and sear the lamb on all sides.

Add in the wine and let that cook until the wine has evaporated. Add the cherry tomatoes, lower the heat to medium and let the mixture simmer for half an hour.

Transfer the chops to dinner plates and serve with the sauce.

Green Bean Salad

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic; The Neelys

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (900 g) green beans, cleaned and trimmed
  • 5 tablespoons (75 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (28 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

Directions

Boil the green beans for three to five minutes until tender crisp — slightly soft but still with a bit of crunch.

Drain them well, pat dry with a clean towel and put them in a mixing bowl with a cover.

Add the olive oil, mint, red pepper, garlic, salt, pepper and red wine vinegar.

Gently toss the beans in the dressing. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Bring the salad to room temperature, sprinkle on the lemon zest and serve.

Dessert: Lemon Granita

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 6 large lemons, plus the zest of 2 of the lemon, minced
  • Mint garnish, optional

Directions

Heat 2 cups water in a saucepan and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Let cool, and then add in the lemon juice and zest.

Freeze the lemon mixture in a metal bowl, stirring every 20 minutes, until the liquid has become granular but is still slightly slushy, 3 to 4 hours.

Serve the granita in dessert bowls with a sprig of mint.


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According to the International Dairy Foods Association, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day in 1984. “He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with ‘appropriate ceremonies and activities’.”

A 2012 survey revealed that vanilla is America’s most popular flavor, followed by chocolate and cookies ’n cream. In truth, though, ice cream flavors are virtually limitless. Specialty flavors can be found in supermarkets, as well as individual ice cream shops and many of them feature seasonal flavors. If you look hard enough, it’s even possible to find grown-up flavors like bourbon butter pecan, blue cheese pear and foie gras or sea urchin.

No one knows who invented ice cream, although Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed a refreshing snack of snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. More than a millennium later, Marco Polo brought back from his travels a recipe for a frozen treat similar to modern sherbet. Historians believe that recipe eventually evolved into ice cream during the 16th century. “Cream ice” was served to European royalty, although it wasn’t until much later, when insulated ice houses were invented, that ice cream became widely available to the general public.

Types of Frozen Treats

  • Frozen yogurt is yogurt that is frozen using a technique similar to soft serve. While lower in calories and fat than ice cream, not all frozen yogurt is made with live and active cultures the way that standard yogurt is. To make sure that a frozen yogurt contains “yogurt” and a significant amount of live and active cultures, look for the National Yogurt Association (NYA) Live & Active Cultures seal. Without that seal, frozen yogurt does not contain any probiotics.
  • Gelato. Italian ice cream that doesn’t have as much air as traditional ice cream, so it has a much denser texture.
  • Ice cream. This frozen treat is made from milk or cream, sugar and flavorings. The FDA requires that ice creams with solid additions (nuts, chocolate, fruit, etc.) contain at least 8 percent milk fat, while plain ice creams are required to have at least 10 percent milk fat. “French” ice cream is usually made with a cooked egg custard base.
  • Ice milk is made with lower-fat milk, making it less creamy. However, it does contain fewer calories than ice cream.
  • Italian ice (also called Granita) is a mix of juice (or other liquid like coffee), water and sugar, usually in a 4:1 ratio of liquid to sugar. The ices are stirred frequently during freezing to give it a flaky texture. These are almost always fat-free, contain minimal additives and are the lowest in calories of all frozen desserts.
  • Sherbet has a fruit juice base but often contains some milk, egg whites or gelatin to thicken and enrich it. It’s a creamy version of sorbet (see below).
  • Slow-churned (double churned) ice cream is made through low-temperature extrusion, to make light ice cream taste richer, creamier and more like the full-fat variety. Extrusion distributes the milk fat evenly throughout the product for added richness and texture without adding extra calories. By law, “light” ice cream must contain at least 50% less fat or 33% fewer calories than regular full-fat varieties.
  • Soft-serve is a soft “ice cream” that contains double the amount of air as standard ice cream, which stretches the ingredients and creates a lighter texture. It’s lower in fat and calories, but it often contains fillers and additives.
  • Sorbet, softer in consistency than a sherbet, is usually fruit and sugar that has been frozen. Its texture more “solid” and less flaky than Italian ice.

How healthy are these treats?

While ice cream does contain bone-building calcium, you’re better off getting calcium from other food sources, since ice cream contains about half the calcium as an equal serving of milk, which is lower in fat and calories. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re eating healthy by getting calcium from Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s—both of which can pack more fat per serving than a fast food hamburger!

Some ice creams, especially “light” varieties are sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Using an artificial sweetener in place of some or all of the traditional sugar can reduce calories, but these sweeteners aren’t for everyone and may cause stomach upset when eaten in high quantities.

In general, regular (full-fat) ice cream contains about 140 calories and 6 grams of fat per 1/2 cup serving. Besides the fat content, premium brands pack more ice cream into each serving because they contain less air—they are denser and harder to scoop than regular brands—meaning more calories, fat and sugar per serving. Low fat or “light” ice creams weigh in at about half the fat of premium brands but they still contain their fair share of calories, thanks to the extra sugar added to make them more palatable.

Toppings such as chocolate chips, candies and sprinkles send the calorie count even higher and don’t offer any nutritional benefits. Choose vitamin-packed fruit purée (not fruit “syrup”), fresh fruit or nuts, which contain healthy fat, protein and fiber. While chocolate does have some health benefits, most choices like chips and syrup are usually full of fillers with very little actual chocolate. If you want extra chocolate, use a vegetable peeler to shave dark chocolate over the top of your serving.

If animal-based products aren’t part of your diet or you can’t eat dairy, you can choose from a wide variety of non-dairy frozen desserts such as soy, coconut or rice “cream.” These desserts cut the saturated fat because they don’t contain milk or cream, but can derive around 50% of their calories from fat (usually by adding oil to the product for smoothness or “mouth feel”).

So what should you look for when you want to indulge in a creamy dessert but not go overboard? Check the nutrition label and choose a frozen dessert that meets these guidelines per 1/2 cup serving.

  • 120 calories or less
  • 4 g of total fat or less
  • 3 g of saturated fat or less (sorbet, sherbet and low-fat ice cream usually fit the bill)
  • 10 mg of cholesterol or less
  • 15 g of sugar or less (this is equal to about 3 teaspoons of actual table sugar)

Remember to keep portions small. A pint of ice cream is not a single serving; it’s FOUR servings. If you eat an entire pint, you have to multiply the number of calories, fat grams, etc. listed on the label by four. Stick to portion sizes and always scoop your ice cream into a small bowl, instead of eating it directly from the container to prevent overeating. And use a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon to take smaller bites.

If you want total control over what goes into your ice cream, consider buying your own ice cream maker. Experiment with the recipes that come with the machine, adding your own fresh fruit to create a treat that tastes good and is good for you at the same time.

Ice cream is by no means a health food or a vital component of a healthy diet. But it is a simple pleasure in life most people wouldn’t want to give up. Here are a few frozen dessert recipes to indulge in without blowing up your diet.

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Chocolate Banana Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Directions

In a nonstick skillet, melt the butter. Add the bananas in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Cook over moderate heat, turning once, until caramelized, about 8 minutes. Off the heat, add the rum and swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar.

Place three-quarters of the bananas into a food processor and add 3 tablespoons of the milk. Puree until smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and freeze until chilled, 15 minutes. Chop the remaining bananas and freeze until chilled. Chill the remaining milk and yogurt.

In another bowl, whisk the cocoa with the granulated sugar, salt, vanilla and the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk in the yogurt until smooth, then the banana puree.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions until nearly frozen. Mix in the chopped bananas and chocolate. Place the frozen yogurt into an airtight container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

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Watermelon Granita with Cardamom Syrup

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom seeds

Directions

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the water with 3/4 cup of the sugar and stir over moderate heat until dissolved, 2 minutes.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the watermelon with the sugar syrup and lemon juice until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Using a fork, stir the granita; continue stirring every 30 minutes, until frozen and fluffy, about 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar with the cardamom seeds and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the sugar is dissolved, 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the syrup and refrigerate.

Fluff the granita with a fork. Scoop into bowls, drizzle with the cardamom syrup and serve immediately.

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Caramelized Pineapple Sundaes with Coconut

10 servings

Ingredients

  • One pineapple—peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sweetened wide shredded coconut strips or regular cut
  • 2 1/2 pints fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Mint sprigs, for garnish

Directions
Light a grill. Brush the pineapple rings with the vegetable oil. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the pineapple is lightly charred and softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the rings to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces.

In a medium skillet, toast the coconut over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Scoop the yogurt into sundae glasses or bowls. Top with the grilled pineapple, sprinkle with the coconut, garnish with the mint sprigs and serve right away.

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Easy Soft-Serve Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, mangoes or blueberries
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Kosher salt

Directions
In a food processor, pulse the fruit with the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and a generous pinch of salt until the fruit is finely chopped.

Puree until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes; scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Serve soft or transfer to a metal baking pan, cover and freeze until just firm.

MAKE AHEAD: The soft-serve can be frozen for up to 3 days. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

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Sherbet Fruit Pops

Ingredients

  • 10 5-ounce paper cups
  • 3 peeled and chopped kiwi fruit
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 quart raspberry or tangerine sherbet
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 10 flat wooden craft sticks

Directions

Arrange cups on a baking pan.

In a small bowl combine kiwi fruit and sugar. Divide chopped kiwi fruit among the paper cups.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low-speed beat together sherbet and orange juice until combined. Spoon sherbet mixture over kiwi fruit filling cups.

Cover each cup with a square of foil. Use table knife to make small hole in center of each foil square. Slide wooden craft stick through each hole and into fruit mixture in the bottom of the cup.

Freeze at least 6 hours or overnight. To serve remove foil; carefully tear away cups. Serve immediately. Makes 10 pops

 

Note to my readers: I added a print friendly icon to the end of the share button row on the right. It follows the email icon but before the More box. When you click on the print friendly icon, a new window will open and you should be able to print the new page. Some of my readers said they had difficulty printing from my website with the regular print button on the left, so this is another option.


Sometimes it seems that there are as many types of coffee in Italy as there are pastas. And just like pasta, Italian coffee is an art form with many customs and traditions. Whether it’s a caffè corretto thrown back like a shot, a cappuccino and brioche for breakfast or a granita di caffè con panna to cool off from the hot midday sun, in Italy there is a coffee drink specific for every time and mood. It would be fair to say that Italians are passionate about coffee. So much so, you would think they had discovered it. They didn’t.

Around 600 CE Ethiopian goat herders noticed their hyperactive goats were eating leaves and berries from a strange tree with glossy green leaves. Coffee was discovered and cultivation soon spread to Yemen. Around 900, Arab physician, Rhazes, first mentions coffee in print but as a medicine. Around 1400 Ethiopians were roasting, grinding and brewing coffee beans. Coffee as we know it was born.

When coffee was first shipped from the Middle East to Venice, it caused a uproar and was almost banned from entering the port. Coffee houses were already established in Istanbul, but the fate of this drink was in the hands of Islamic preachers, who at first considered it on a par with alcohol. Eventually, it was accepted under Islamic law and trade began in the 16th century. Coffee houses in Venice sprung up and very quickly the black drink, which was until now solely consumed as medicine, achieved status and it became a luxury item, out of reach for most of Venetian society. However, as coffee plantations became established within the European colonies in South America and Asia, availability increased, the price decreased and, as it became more accessible to the poorer population, it’s popularity increased.

With over two hundred coffee houses along its canals, the reputation of this new drink soon spread to the neighboring cities of Verona, Milan and Turin. Coffee consumption soon spread to Rome, Naples, Bari and Sicily. The spread nationwide escalated and it wasn’t long before every household in Italy became familiar with the drink, eventually evolving in a culture that is still relevant today.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable images that depicts the importance of coffee in Italian society is the ‘macchinetta’. The famous aluminum stovetop percolator, designed and produced by Bialetti in 1933, can be found in most Italian kitchens. However, times change and now electric coffee machines stand on bar counters that force scalding water over ground coffee beans to create a rich, frothy drink.

In Trentino ask for a ‘Cappuccino Viennese’ and you’ll be served a creamy coffee with chocolate and cinnamon. In the Marche region, stop for a ‘Caffè Anisette’, an aniseed-flavored espresso, in Naples enjoy coffee flavored with hazelnut cream and in Sicily, a ‘caffè d’u parrinu’, is coffee flavored with cloves, cinnamon and cocoa powder.

The Italian Coffee

Like many hot coffee drinks, The Italian Coffee is defined by a single liqueur. In this case – Strega, an Italian digestif. Strega brings a distinct herbal blend to coffee with hints of juniper, saffron and mint. When made with dark roasted beans this drink makes an excellent after dinner cup of coffee.

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Strega liqueur
  • Hot black espresso coffee
  • Whipped cream for garnish
  • Nutmeg for garnish

Directions

Pour the Strega into a glass coffee mug.

Fill with hot coffee.

Top with whipped cream

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Handmade Cappuccino

Makes 1 large mug

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces water
  • 1/4 cup espresso ground coffee
  • 8 ounces milk
  • Sugar (optional)

Directions

Pour the water into the bottom chamber of a stovetop espresso pot. Fill the filter basket that fits over the water with the coffee, tamping down gently. Place on the stovetop burner over medium-low heat. Watch carefully and remove from the heat as soon as all the water has boiled through the filter into the top part of the pot.

Meanwhile place the milk in a 16-ounce coffee mug. Heat in the microwave until hot but not starting to bubble on the sides. (Alternatively, you may heat the milk on the stovetop in a small pan, then transfer to a mug.)

Hold the handle of a small 4-inch whisk between the palms of both hands. Put the whisk in the hot milk and twirl rapidly back and forth until foam appears on the top, about 20 seconds. Pour the coffee into the mug. Sweeten if desired and serve immediately.

Chocolate Espresso Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup brewed espresso coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Add buttermilk, eggs, coffee, oil and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes with the mixer at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the baking pan on wire rack.

This plain chocolate cake is very moist.

Optional: Frost it with sweetened whipped cream with a teaspoon of cinnamon added to the cream or use your favorite chocolate frosting.

Coffee Granita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) freshly brewed espresso coffee
  • ½ cup sugar

Directions

Put espresso and sugar into a medium bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves completely. Let rest until room temperature.

Pour coffee mixture into a medium baking dish and transfer to the freezer. Using the tines of a fork, stir the mixture every 30 minutes, scraping edges and breaking up any chunks as the mixture freezes, until granita is slushy and frozen, about 4 hours.

Divide granita into individual serving glasses or transfer into a plastic container, cover, and freeze until ready to serve.

Espresso Souffle

If you want your soufflé to rise above the dish, you can make this in a 4-cup soufflé dish. Make a collar by wrapping a strip of buttered parchment paper around the outside of the dish and securing it with a string. Serve this soufflé with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Ingredients

  • Butter to coat baking dish
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 3 tablespoons espresso brewed coffee
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4 egg yolks

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Thoroughly butter a 2-quart soufflé dish or 6 (8-ounce) ramekins and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

Combine espresso and chocolate in a glass bowl. Microwave about 1 minute; stir until chocolate melts.

Whisk egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

Beat egg whites in a clean, dry bowl with a mixer until frothy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Stir about 1 cup egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold remaining egg white mixture into chocolate mixture.

Spoon into the prepared souffle dish. Place on a baking sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes (soufflé dish) or 20 to 25 minutes (ramekins), until soufflé rises. Serve immediately.

Espresso Pudding Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups hot brewed espresso coffee
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Coat a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Whisk all-purpose flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk egg, milk, oil and vanilla in a glass measuring cup. Add to the flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Mix hot coffee and brown sugar in the measuring cup and pour over the batter. (It may look strange at this point, but during baking, cake forms on top with sauce underneath.)

Bake the pudding cake until the top springs back when touched lightly, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or warm.


The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America, who thought the cranberry flower resembled the neck, head and bill of a crane. Another name used in northeastern Canada is mossberry. In 17th century New England cranberries were sometimes called “bearberries” as bears were often seen feeding on them.

In North America, Native Americans were the first to use cranberries as food. The Pilgrims learned about cranberries from the Native Americans, who recognized the natural preservative power in the berries and often mixed them into pemmican (dried meat mixture) to extend its shelf life. In the 1820s cranberries were shipped to Europe where they became popular for wild harvesting in the Nordic countries and Russia. Cranberry sauce came into the picture via General Ulysses S. Grant who ordered it served to the troops during the battle of Petersburg in 1864. Cranberry sauce was first commercially canned in 1912 by the Cape Cod Cranberry Company which marketed the product as “Ocean Spray Cape Cod Cranberry Sauce.” A merger with other growers evolved into the well-known Ocean Spray corporation now famous for their cranberry products. Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec.

Cranberry bog in NJ

Cranberries grow on vines in boggy areas. Fresh whole berries are hand-picked and are more expensive. The remainder is harvested by machine. Damage to the berries from the machines is unavoidable, making them suitable only for juices, sauces and drying. The bogs are kept dry until harvest time and then are flooded with water to a knee-deep level. Special machines run through the bog, shaking the vines to loosen the berries and they are skimmed off. The collected berries are bounced down a stair-stepped processor to separate out the old berries (which do not bounce) from the fresh berries.

Purchase cranberries that are quite firm to the touch. They should be shiny and plump and range in color from bright light red to dark red. Shriveled berries or those with brown spots should be avoided. Dried berries are also available and are similar to raisins. Canned cranberry sauce is a holiday favorite and is available in a smooth or a whole-berry sauce. Frozen cranberries are also available year-round. One 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries will yield about 3 cups of whole berries or 2-1/2 cups chopped.

Cranberry Storage

Store fresh cranberries for up to two months in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all berries, if one starts getting soft or show signs of decaying, it will quickly spread to the rest. Be sure to sort them out, if you plan on storing them for any length of time.

Cooked cranberries can last up to a month in a covered container in the refrigerator. If a liquor or liqueur is added to the cooked mixture, it can last up to a year in the refrigerator.

Fresh whole berries may be washed, dried and frozen in airtight bags up to one year at 0 degrees.

Cranberry Cooking Tips

• Cranberries are not only good in desserts, but also in savory dishes.

• To help neutralize their acidity, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda when cooking cranberries. You’ll find you will need less sugar.

• Try substituting sweetened, dried cranberries in place of raisins in recipes for a tangy change.

• Reconstitute dried cranberries just as you would raisins, by soaking them in hot water and letting them stand for 15 to 20 minutes.

• Cranberries should be cooked only until they pop. Otherwise, they will become mushy and bitter.

• Frozen cranberries need not be defrosted before using.

• Cranberries are easily chopped by pulsing in a food processor.

Cranberry, Sausage and Apple Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 3 tart apples – peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 4 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries
  • 12 cups Italian bread, cubed, baked until slightly dry
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Cook and stir sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, crumbling coarsely, for about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Clean out the pan.

Into the same pan heat the oil. Add the onions, apples, celery and poultry seasoning; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the cranberries and cooked sausage.

Mix the sausage mixture with the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chicken stock.

Pour stuffing into a large covered greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes to brown the top.

Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Balsamic Sauce

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
  • Salt & pepper 
  • 2 cups cranberries – fresh or frozen
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions

Heat a grill pan or an outdoor grill to medium heat.

Brush chicken breasts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill pan or outdoor grill, cook until both sides are browned and the center is no longer pink, about 7 minutes each side or until a meat thermometer reaches 160 degees F (depending on thickness).

In a saucepan combine cranberries, water, sugar and balsamic vinegar and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 more minutes to allow sauce to thicken. Serve warm over grilled chicken breasts.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup dried or frozen cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped pistachio nuts or almonds

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and orange extracts; then beat in the eggs and orange zest.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts.

Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12×2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky so wet your hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.

Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven or until logs are light brown. Remove baking pan from the oven and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).

Cut logs on the diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay slices on their sides back on the parchment covered cookie sheets. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry.

Cool before storing.

Fig and Cranberry Semifreddo with Blackberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 2 3/4 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1/3 cup dried Calimyrna figs, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger

Blackberry Sauce

  • 1 16-ounce bag frozen unsweetened blackberries, thawed
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons blackberry brandy (optional)

Directions

Line a 9x5x3-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, extending the wrap over the sides by 3 inches. Whisk egg yolks, sugar and white wine in a metal bowl to blend. ( I use the electric mixer bowl.) Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; whisk egg mixture constantly until a candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes. Beat in orange peel.

Beat chilled whipping cream in a separate bowl until peaks form. Add egg mixture and gently fold together. Fold in chopped figs, chopped cranberries and minced ginger. Transfer mixture to the prepared loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang; freeze overnight. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)

To make Blackberry Sauce: Puree all ingredients in processor. Strain into a medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and cover and refrigerate liquid until cold. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

To serve:

Turn semifreddo out onto platter. Peel off plastic wrap. Let stand 5 minutes to soften slightly. Slice semifreddo. Place slices on serving plates and drizzle Blackberry Sauce over each slice and serve.

Cranberry Almond Crostata

ingredients

For pastry dough:

  • 1/4 pound whole raw almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For filling and assembly:

  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (10 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Make dough:

Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour just until finely ground.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Remove 1 tablespoon of the beaten egg to a small bowl and refrigerate the for egg wash. Beat the remaining egg into the butter mixture, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well.

At low speed, mix in almond mixture, lemon zest, salt and remaining 1 3/4 cups flour until mixture forms a dough consistency.

Halve dough and form each half into a 5- to 6-inch disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Make filling:

Bring cranberries, orange juice, marmalade, brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium pot, stirring, then simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Cool filling quickly by spreading it in a shallow baking dish and chilling in the refrigerator until lukewarm, about 15 minutes.

Bake crostata:

Preheat oven to 375°F with a foil-lined large baking sheet on the middle rack. Generously butter a 9 inch springform pan.

Roll out 1 piece of dough between sheets of parchment paper into a 12-inch round (dough will be very tender). Remove top sheet of paper and invert dough into the springform pan. (Dough will tear easily but can be patched together with your fingers.) Press dough over bottom and up the side of pan. Chill crust lined pan in the refrigerator.

Roll out remaining dough into a 12-inch round in the same manner. Remove top sheet of paper, then cut dough into 10 (1/3-inch-wide) strips with a pastry wheel while still on the parchment paper and slide the paper onto a tray. Freeze strips until firm, about 10 minutes.

Spread filling in chilled shell and arrange 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart on filling. Arrange remaining 5 strips of dough 1 inch apart diagonally across the first strips to form a lattice with diamond-shaped spaces. Trim edges of all strips flush with the edge of the pan. Brush lattice top with reserved beaten egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place the crostata pan on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until pastry is golden and filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes. (If pastry gets too brown after 30 minutes, loosely cover crostata with foil.) Cool crostata completely in pan on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (to allow juices to thicken).

Cranberry Granita

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Mint sprigs (optional)

Directions

Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan and stir well. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Let sugar syrup cool completely.

Combine cranberries and juices in a food processor and process until pureed. Combine pureed mixture and cooled sugar syrup in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish; stir well.

Cover and freeze at least 8 hours or until firm.

Remove mixture from the freezer; scrape entire mixture with the tines of a fork until fluffy.  Place in serving dishes and garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.



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