The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey. This series continues with the country of Syria.
Think Mediterranean diet and Italian and Greek food comes to mind. But the Mediterranean coastline spans thousands more miles throughout the Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Israel. The Middle Eastern Mediterranean diet emphasizes healthy fats, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and red wine. However, it also offers delicious and different flavors not found in southern European food, such as unique spices, tangy fruits and healthy seeds, some of which include pomegranate juice, mint, sesame and yogurt.
Syrian cuisine mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb, mutton and poultry), dairy products, bulgur, sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, wheat flour, pine nuts, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, grape leaves, pickled turnips or cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, mint, a spice mixture called “baharat mushakkaleh” (Arabic: بهارات مشكّلة), hazelnuts, pistachios, honey and fruits.
One of the many highlights of Syrian food is mezza, the tapas of the Middle East. Mezza refers to a generous spread of small dishes, mostly eaten without cutlery, using flat bread, lettuce or grape leaves to scoop up dips or to wrap portions of salad. Baba ghanouj and hummus, both well-known in the West, are key elements of a traditional mezza. Another favorite in Syria is muhammara, a spicy pepper and walnut dip made with pomegranate molasses. Salads include tabbouleh, a parsley and bulgur mix; fattoush, a crunchy cucumber, radish, tomato and herb salad topped with toasted pita; and fateh, a salad with chickpeas, yogurt, tahini and garlic. Other finger foods include baked pastries filled with meat and spices called sambusic or spinach and baked lamb pies called sfeeha. Kibbeh is the national dish and comes in many varieties with the core element being cracked wheat and fresh ground lamb or beef that is seasoned with spices.
For Syrians, presentation is everything. Making the food look appetizing and setting the table appropriately are very important. Everything, even the simplest dishes, are garnished with fresh herbs.
Syrian Recipes To Make At Home
Syrian Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from a recipe from Mary Sanom
2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
1 lb. long grain white rice, uncooked
1 small onion (finely diced)
1 small green pepper (finely diced)
1 clove minced garlic
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz of tomato paste
10 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon black pepper to taste
Grape leaves (16 oz jar hold about 60 leaves)
Place the rice in a large bowl, pour boiling water over to cover it and let soak for 1 hour.Drain well.
Mix ground meat, soaked rice, onion, green pepper, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and tomato sauce in large bowl.
Place enough grape leaves in the bottom of a large pot to cover the bottom of the pot.
This will keep the filled grape leaves from sticking to the pot and burning.
To fill the grape leaves:
Lay out a grape leaf with the vein side up.
Place a small amount of the meat and rice at the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, tuck in the sides of the leaves over the meat and to roll up like a cigar.
Continue rolling the grape leaves and laying them in the bottom row in the prepared pot,
When the first layer of grape leaves has lined the bottom of the pot, start the new layer in the opposite direction, so that the rows criss-cross each other. This will allow the liquid to get to all the leaves.
Keep rolling up all the leaves and stacking the layers, until there are no more leaves/or no more filling/or the pot is ¾ full.
Place a plate upside down over the leaves. This will keep the rolls from floating during cooking and coming unrolled.
Mix together the tomato paste and water. Pour the tomato/water mixture over leaves until they are just covered.
If the leaves are not covered, add additional water until they are covered.
Add a teaspoon of salt and a squeeze of half a lemon into the pot
Cover the pot with a lid and bring the leaves and liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 30 – 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and the leaves are tender.
Take out a roll from the top of the pot and test it. Place the grape leaves on a platter to serve.
Retain some of the cooking liquid to reheat the leftover rolls.
Aubergine Fetteh (Fetteh Beitinjaan)
Layering food on toasted bread with a yogurt sauce is a Syrian speciality.
Olive oil, for roasting and drizzling
2 flatbreads or pitas
500g plain yogurt
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds
50g pine nuts, toasted
Salt, to taste
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
Cut the eggplants into quarters lengthwise, slice them into 1 inch chunks and place in a baking pan.
Pour over a generous helping of olive oil and a sprinkle with salt.
Roast in the oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.
Brush the bread with olive oil and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes until crispy. Then break it up into pieces.
In a bowl combine the yogurt, garlic and lemon juice.
Take the eggplant out of the oven and allow to cool. Place them in a shallow bowl then pour the yogurt mix on top.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with the crispy bread, parsley, pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts.
Spiced Fish (Samaka Harra)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red chillies, finely chopped
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ cup/40g walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 whole fish, such as sea bream or snapper
1 bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, including the stems
1 lemon, plus ½ lemon, sliced
Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. In a bowl, mix together the garlic, chilies, cumin, walnuts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Stuff the fish with this mixture, reserving two tablespoons for later, then add a handful of coriander, saving some to garnish.
Squeeze the whole lemon over both fish, with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Place the fish in a large baking pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of stuffing on top and a couple of slices of lemon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Milk Pudding (Muhallabiyeh)
This is a very light dessert that is simple and can be prepared far in advance. Syrians say the name of this pudding comes from the Umayyad Prince of Damascus, Al Muhallab Ibn Abi Sufra. One day, the bored potentate ordered his servants to make him something different, a special pudding, and this is what they came up with using the only ingredients they had available – milk, sugar, starch and mastic. The pudding then became known as the ‘milk of the princes’, but commoners soon caught onto how simple it was to prepare and it became known amongst them as the ‘milk of the commons’. Today, people flavor the milk with a variety of spices, depending on each individual’s taste. This pudding has a smooth texture, with the nuts on top adding a crunch, which Syrians love.
1 quart/litre milk
1 cup/200g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch/cornflour, mixed with water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rose-water or orange blossom water
2 tablespoons/20g pistachios, crushed
Rose petals, to decorate (optional)
In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and sugar over low heat, stirring regularly.
Just before it boils, add the cornstarch mix and stir constantly until it thickens, then add the vanilla and rose or orange blossom water.
Once it reaches a thick consistency, pour the mix into individual bowls or trifle glasses and let cool.
Once cool, put them in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.
When ready to serve, sprinkle the tops of the pudding with the crushed pistachios and for extra color, rose petals.
Source: Syria: Recipes From Home by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi. Published by Trapeze.
Who can resist BBQ chicken? Sweet, savory and smoky flavors are what summer grilling is all about and when barbecued chicken is done right, it is delicious. For many of my northern readers, summer grilling will be over in a few months, so don’t let the summer go by without making this dish. Using a rub gives the chicken flavor and cooking it over indirect heat is important so that the chicken does not dry out or become burned. Finishing the chicken with a tasty sauce just adds to the overall flavor. Make your favorite sides and you have dinner. Oh, and don’t forget an easy homemade dessert.
The rub and BBQ sauce can be made in advance, even several days ahead, to save time.
7 to 8 lbs bone-in chicken, cut into 6 or 8 parts
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1 tablespoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Peach Barbecue Sauce
4 ripe peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Half an onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/3 cup cider vinegar
One bottle tomato ketchup (about 31 oz.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled
To make the spice rub:
Combine all the ingredients for the spice rub in a jar or mixing bowl.and blend well.
To make the barbecue sauce:
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter.
Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. (You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any sputtering.)
Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated. Set aside
To prepare the chicken:
Rinse and pat dry the chicken pieces. Sprinkle on the rub generously and let rest while the grill heats.
I have a three burner gas grill. When a recipe calls for indirect grilling, I like to heat all the burners on the highest setting.
Then I turn off the middle burner. Brown the chicken pieces over the direct side of the grill and them move to the center, indirect area.
Cook the chicken pieces for 20 minutes and turn the chicken over.
Cook for 15 to 20 more minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165°F in the meatier part of the thigh or breast.
When the chicken is cooked, pour some of the barbecue sauce into a separate container (to avoid contaminating the whole batch) and brush it onto the chicken.
Cook the chicken pieces an additional few minutes so that the sauce adheres to the chicken in a sticky glaze; watch the chicken carefully at this point and pull it off the grill if the sauce starts to burn.
Remove the chicken from the grill to a serving platter and serve with some of the barbecue sauce on the side.
1 ½ lbs whole medium-large red skinned potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pickle juice
¼ cup minced bread and butter pickles.
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
½ cup olive oil mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper to taste
Place the potatoes in a large pot with a lid. Cover the potatoes with cold water and add 1 teaspoon salt.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook the potatoes with the lid ajar until tender, about 15 minute.
Drain the potatoes and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes. Slice the potatoes into a storage bowl.
Add the pickle juice and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so.
Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and taste to see if the salad needs salt. Add black pepper to taste.
Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
Italian Fried Peppers
These peppers are in season and we never get tired of them.
12 Italian frying peppers, washed and dried
¼ cup olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ teaspoon crushed fennel seed
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a large saute pan over medium to high heat and add the olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the peppers and season with salt and pepper. Turn the peppers over a few times to coat in oil.
Add the fennel and Italian seasoning and cook for about 10 minutes until soft and beginning to brown. Serve at room temperature.
Almond Chocolate Pudding Dessert
Two 3.4 oz packages of Cook & Serve chocolate pudding
4 cups almond milk (or milk of your choice)
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup heavy(whipping) cream
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
Put all the ingredients for the pudding in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles a little and thickens.
Immediately pour the pudding into an 8 inch glass pan (or a similar size dish) and let cool on the counter for about 20 minutes.
Refrigerate the pudding until cold and set.
For the topping
Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate shavings in a medium bowl and beat the mixture until whipped and soft peaks form.
Spread the whipped cream over the chocolate pudding. Grate chocolate shavings over the cream and chill until serving time.
This is the second post in the series Cooking the Mediterranean Countries. You can read the first post with this link.
Europe’s exploration of the world began in the 15th century and it was Portugal who pioneered what came to be known as the “Age of Discovery”. Portugal was the first to explore the Atlantic Ocean and the west coast of Africa and the first to colonize the Azores and other nearby islands. In 1488, Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Dias, was the first to sail around the southern tip of Africa and in 1498 his countryman, Vasco da Gama, repeated the trip, making it as far as India. Portugal would establish ports as far west as Brazil, as far east as Japan and along the coasts of Africa, India and China. There were several reasons for the Portuguese to explore the world via the sea, but the overriding purpose was to discover a sea route around Africa to the east, with its rich promise of trade in valuable spices.
When Ancel Keys and his team of researchers studied and characterized the Mediterranean diet and compared it with the eating habits of most of the developed countries during that time period, they identified it as the “Diet of the Poor”. According to Portuguese gastronomist, Maria de Lourdes Modesto and Keys, Portugal was included in their observations and studies, and Keys considered Portugal to have a pure “Mediterranean” diet. However, Salazar, the leader of Portugal at the time, did not want the name of Portugal included in the “diet of the poor”.
While Portugal’s shores are technically not on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is considered to have a typical Mediterranean diet. The basics of the Portuguese diet include vegetables, fruit, good quality bread, unprocessed cereals, dried and fresh legumes (beans, chickpeas, broad beans, etc.), dried fruits and nuts (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, raisins, etc.), olive oil as the main source of fat and seafood instead of red meat.
A Portuguese breakfast often consists of fresh bread, cheese or jam, accompanied with coffee, milk, tea or hot chocolate. A small espresso coffee (sometimes called a bica after the spout of the coffee machine) is a very popular breakfast beverage.
Lunch, often lasting over an hour, is served between noon and 2 o’clock or between 1 and 3 o’clock, and dinner is generally served late, around 8 o’clock in the evening. There are usually three main courses for lunch and dinner. Soup is usually the first course. A well-known Portuguese soup is caldo verde, which is made with potato, shredded cabbage and chunks of chouriço (a spicy Portuguese sausage) There are a wide variety of cheeses, usually made from the milk of sheep, goats or cows. The most famous are queijo da serra from the region of Serra da Estrela, Queijo São Jorge from the Portuguese island of São Jorge and Requeijão.
Portugal is a seafaring nation with a well-developed fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of fish and seafood eaten. The country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita. Fish is served grilled, boiled, poached, simmered, fried, stewed (often in clay pot), roasted or steamed. Cod is almost always used dried and salted because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic was developed before the invention of refrigeration. Simpler fish dishes are often flavored with extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.
Eating meat and poultry on a daily basis was historically a privilege of the upper classes and meat was not often on the Portuguese table. When meat is eaten it is often in a dish with other ingredients. A typical way Portuguese eat meat is in a dish is called cozido à portuguesa, which somewhat parallels the French pot au feu or the New England boiled dinner.
Typical desserts include arroz doce (rice pudding decorated with cinnamon) and caramel custard.
Some Traditional Portuguese Dishes
COZIDO A PORTUGUESA
Portuguese stew is the perfect example of the importance of using all the meat an animal can provide. This stew can include beef, pork, chicken and a variety of pork derivatives such as blood sausages and smoked pork parts.
The most traditional of Portuguese soups is simply: onions, potatoes and kale or cabbage, cooked with garlic and olive oil in a clay pot. This soup would normally be served with a slice of “linguica” ( smoked pork sausage) and cornbread (broa).
BOLINHOS DE BACALHAU
These codfish fritters can be eaten as a starter or snack or along with rice and salad as a main dish. The fritters are made of shredded codfish, potatoes, eggs and parsley and cooked until crispy.
ALHEIRA DE MIRANDELA
Alheira is a type of Portuguese sausage made from meats that may include veal, chicken, duck and rabbit, compacted together with bread. If you have “alheira de caça” it means that it will only have game meat. This unusual sausage was created by the Jewish residents in Portugal when they were forced to convert to Christianity. Their religion wouldn’t allow them to eat pork but by preparing this sausage looking dish, they could easily fool others. The dish has become traditional throughout Portugal.
Charcoal-grilled sardines are the most typical dish served in Lisbon. You can eat it in restaurants or from a street vendor during the Santo António festivities in June. They are most often served on top of a slice of cornbread, or with a roasted pepper salad or boiled vegetables.
Cook Portuguese Style Recipes At Home
Caldeirada (Portuguese Fish Stew)
2 onions, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced (red or green)
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 laurel leaf (bay leaf)
2 lbs (1 kg) fish ( chose from various kinds, mackerel, swordfish, tuna, skate, sea bass, monkfish, hake, haddock, etc.)
6 large potatoes, sliced
4-5 saffron threads
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
In a large pot put layers of onions, tomatoes, fish, peppers and potatoes.
Continue to make layers until all the ingredients are used. Place the parsley, laurel leaf, saffron and salt on top.
Add the wine, water and olive oil.
Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for about 45 minutes. Shake the pan once in a while.
DO NOT STIR, just shake the pan.
Clams With Chouriço (Portuguese Sausage)
3 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
7 ounces chouriço sausage, sliced
1 sliced leeks or onion
1 chili pepper, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup white wine
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lemon slice, for garnish
In a large pan heat the oil and fry the chouriço until lightly browned.
Add the leeks, chili, bay leaf and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
Add the wine, diced tomatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Add the clams cover the pan and steam for 5 minutes until all the clams are opened.
Throw out any that do not open. Garnish with lemons and parsley.
Serve with bread to soak up the juices.
Portuguese Cornbread (Broa)
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast
1 ½ – 2 cups bread flour
Grind cornmeal to a powder in a food processor. You may skip this step, but the bread will not be as smooth.
Mix 1 cup of powdered cornmeal, salt and water until smooth.
Add olive oil and cool to lukewarm.
Blend in the yeast. Gradually add the remaining cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups of bread flour, mixing constantly.
Add more flour if the dough is still sticky. Knead until firm.
Let rise in a greased bowl until double in volume.
Shape into round loaf and let rise until double.
Bake at 350 degree Fs for about 30 to 40 minutes.
Grilled Red Snapper with Parsley Sauce
1 whole red snapper (2.2 lb or 1 kg), cleaned, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, mince
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea or coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (125 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) red wine vinegar
4 tbsp (60 mL) minced red onion
½ cup (125 mL) chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp (30 mL) capers
1 garlic clove, chopped
Preheat a barbecue or broiler until hot.
Make the parsley sauce in a bowl by whisking together the oil, vinegar, onion, parsley, capers and garlic. Set aside.
Season the fish with garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and brush or drizzle with oil.
Grill or broil the fish for five minutes on each side. Transfer to a heated platter, spread with parsley sauce and serve.
Portuguese Rice Pudding, Arroz Doce
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Peel of one lemon cut into long strips (avoid as much of the white pith as possible)
1 cup short-grain rice (arborio is a good choice)
2 cups hot milk (you can substitute some of this with cream, if you like, for a richer consistency and flavor)
Ground cinnamon to sprinkle on top
Place the water, salt and lemon peel into a medium pan and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and allow the water to simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lemon peel from the water with a slotted spoon and discard.
Add the rice to the water and bring it back up to a boil.
Then reduce it to a simmer and allow the rice to absorb all of the water (about 10 minutes).
Slowly add the hot milk, about 1/2 cup at a time, to the rice mixture. After each addition, allow the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next batch of milk.
Stir frequently and keep the heat at low, so that the rice does not burn at the bottom of the pan. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.
Pour the rice into a serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon.
Chill before serving.
Trapani is a province in the island region of Sicily in Italy. The northwestern part of the province is rugged in comparison to the south. The province also includes the archipelago of the Egadi Islands, the volcanic island of Pantelleria, which is the largest in Sicily, and the Stagnone Islands. The Egadi Islands consist of three main islands, Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and two islets, Formica and Maraone. The coast is one of the most impressive in Italy and comprises valuable naturalistic spots with its seafront full of cliffs and stacks alternating with beautiful beaches.
Marsala, a town in the province of Trapani, is the home of Marsala wine. Marsala became known when the English began their explorations for commerce and trade. As the legend goes….
In 1770, a violent storm forced a British ship to take shelter in the harbor of Marsala. John Woodhouse, a merchant, disembarked and went into town to sample the wine in one of the humble taverns. Although more accustomed to the liqueur wines of Spain and Portugal, his palate detected their similarity to the local Marsala wine, prompting him to risk purchasing a considerable consignment of wine (blended with alcohol to withstand the journey) to take to his native land to sound out the market. The response was positive, the merchant set up his own company in Marsala. A second English merchant, Ben Ingham, a connoisseur of fortified wines, gradually improved the wine’s quality by using carefully selected blends of different grape varieties.
In 1833, the entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio, bought up large areas of land between the two largest established Marsala producers and set out to make his own vintage with a more specialised range of grapes. At the end of the 19 century, several more wine-growers joined the competition, including Pellegrino (1880). After the turn of the century, Florio bought out Ingham and Woodhouse and retained the two labels.
Marsala is registered as a DOC wine (a State-designated label of controlled quality); this means that production is restricted to an exclusive area around Trapani and a collection of additional vineyards in the provinces of Agrigento and Palermo. Only grape varieties with a high natural sugar content are used to make Marsala: these, once pressed, are left to ferment before being blended with ethyl alcohol to produce the different types and flavors of Marsala. Relative to the sugar content, Marsala may be categorised as dry, semi-dry or sweet. Its main denomination, however, is relative to the length of time it is left to mature: Marsala Fine (1 year), Superiore (2 years), Superiore Riserva (4 years), Vergine (5 years) and Vergine Riserva (10 years). Dry Marsala is usually served as an aperitif, while the sweeter forms are drunk as a dessert wine.
Marsala was traditionally served between the first and second courses. It is now also served, chilled, with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and other spicy cheeses.
Marsala is a fortified wine – this means alcohol is added to it. This also means that, just like you can keep an open bottle of vodka or rum on your shelf, you can also keep an opened bottle of Marsala around. Just keep it in a cool, dark area.
Cooking with Marsala
Should you use – sweet or dry Marsala – in a recipe? Do you like sweet or savory chicken dishes? Are you even going to notice the subtle difference? You might not even be able to taste any difference since both are going to taste “like Marsala”. So make your recipe one time with the sweet and one time with the dry, and see if you can even notice any difference.
Garlicky Marsala Mushroom Sauce
This sauce can be served over cooked pasta, folded into an omelet, served with pan-fried chicken breasts or over cheese grits (polenta).
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 pound white mushrooms, caps quartered
- 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps quartered
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 large garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced and 2 minced
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary
- 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the white and shiitake mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and cook over high heat, stirring once, until the mushrooms are browned all over, about 3 minutes.
Add the sliced garlic, the shallot and rosemary and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the minced garlic, chives, olives and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.
Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Rigatoni D (Marsala)
This dish was named after its creator, David DiGregorio, Executive Chef at Chicago’s Clark & Grand St. restaurant. David and his team spent about 3 months perfecting the Marsala Cream Sauce to compliment chicken.
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
- 3/8 cup Spanish, yellow or white onion, diced ½”
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups cold low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups rigatoni pasta
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 lb chicken breast, boneless, skinless
- 4 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup dry white wine (Chardonnay)
- ¾ cup sweet Marsala wine
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 3/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
On a 12 X 18 cookie sheet or tray, mix the diced onions, mushrooms, finely chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar together until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and coated. Bake for 15 minutes until the mushrooms are a deep brown color and almost all the liquid and moisture has evaporated. Set mixture aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch with the cold chicken broth with a whisk. Set aside the mixture.
Prepare pasta as directed on the box to the al dente stage approximately 10 minutes before you plan on cooking the entire pasta dish. Drain pasta in a colander, shake out excess water, then toss in an 8 quart bowl with half of the olive oil.
Cut the chicken into pieces approximately 1” long x ¾” wide. In a 12”-14”.
In a pan or Dutch oven. heat the remaining olive oil and butter until melted and the butter begins to lightly brown, add the sliced chicken and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes until a light golden brown color is achieved.
Immediately add the white wine to the sautéed chicken, cook until the wine evaporates, add the Marsala wine and reduce by half, then add the cold chicken broth/cornstarch mixture, bring to a simmer. Then add the heavy cream, kosher salt, black pepper and the roasted mushrooms, onions. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken.
Add the cooked rigatoni and simmer for 2 minutes. Finish the pasta and sauce with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.
Sage Meatballs with Marsala Wine Sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves (about 20 leaves), very finely chopped
- Salt to taste
- All-purpose flour for dredging
- 1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine
In a large bowl, combine the meat, Parmigiano, half the butter, the sage and salt until they are very well blended, using your hands. Form small meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter using cold wet hands to keep the meat from sticking. Roll the meatballs in the flour and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat, then cook the meatballs until brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Shake the skillet often so they don’t stick.
Remove the excess fat from the skillet with a spoon and discard. Once the meatballs are brown, pour in the Marsala wine and continue cooking until it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Strawberry, Mascarpone, and Marsala Budini
Budini is Italian for puddings or parfaits.
Makes 6 servings
1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
- 6 tablespoons sweet Marsala (preferably imported)
- 3 tablespoons whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 3 cups sliced hulled strawberries (about 15 ounces)
- 2 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons; about 4 1/2 ounces)
Combine mascarpone, 3 tablespoons Marsala, cream and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in medium bowl. Stir gently until well blended.
Combine strawberries, remaining 3 tablespoons Marsala, and 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl; toss to blend. Cover mascarpone and berry mixtures; refrigerate 30 minutes.
Place 2 tablespoons crumbled cookies in each of 6 champagne goblets. Divide strawberry mixture with juices among the goblets.
Top berries with mascarpone mixture, then remaining cookies. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
Turin (Torino in Italian) is an important business and cultural center in northern Italy and the capital of the Piedmont region. The city has a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theaters, libraries, museums and other venues. The city currently hosts some of Italy’s best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the six-century-old University of Turin and the Turin Polytechnic. It is often referred to as the Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy, as it is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
Alfa Romeo Automobiles, an Italian car manufacturer, has been involved with car racing since 1911. The company was owned by Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986. It became a part of the Fiat group In 2007 and the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.
Originally, the company was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. In 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A.who ventured into motor racing with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models.
The firm’s initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and a tract of land was purchased in Lombardy where a new factory was erected.
In 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, a backer for Nicola Romeo & Co, went bankrupt and the government stepped in to support industrial companies affected by the failed bank, among which was Alfa Romeo.
In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the name of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars but struggled to make a profit and so it was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motor sport, including the Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and rallies. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motor sport, along with a sporty image. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins in the world.
Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new Formula One for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 158 Alfetta and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa’s second consecutive championship in 1951.
The track in the photo above was built on the roof of the factory that opened in Turin’s Ligotto district in 1923. The factory’s assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top-level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms. The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building and London’s “vertical city,” the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater to interested business travelers. You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of cars looping around the course are gone.
Turin cuisine shows the influence of its closeness to France in its use of butter and complex sauces. This area is also the home of solid chocolate, bread sticks (called grissini) , risotto and some of Italy’s most renowned wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. Italian vermouth, in Italy an aperitif, is another product of Turin and Turin is still the headquarters of many vermouth manufacturers, the most famous of which is Martini and Rossi.
Anchovies are used in many dishes. Bagna Caôda is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles. The sauce is served in a small earthenware pot that is kept hot while it is served. Vegetables are then dipped in the sauce.
A typical beef stew, bollito misto is usually made with four or more meats. Beef and chicken are staples of the dish, as is some type of sausage. These ingredients are often mixed with other meats that are available. The stew is served with a green sauce made from parsley, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and other ingredients according to the preference of the cook.
Turin, Italy is perhaps best known for the white truffle, a rare food that is sought by cooks around the world. Rare is the person who can afford white truffles as they generally sell for between $2,500 and $3,500 per pound. The white truffle season runs from September through December. During the season many towns around Turin have truffle fairs and auctions where you can often get tastes of regional dishes made with truffles.
- 10 anchovies in salt
- 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Two handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- 1 peperoncino (small hot chilli)
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
- 1/2 cup of good virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
Wash the anchovies very well under cold running water to remove the salt. Remove the bones and allow the anchovies to dry.
Cook the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
Put the garlic into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the anchovies and puree until smooth.
Put a little of the sauce onto a serving dish and layer the anchovies over it. Put some more sauce on top.
Let rest at room temperature for at least 1 or 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Pasta with Mushrooms
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 oz pancetta, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 lb assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Crimini, Common White, etc.), thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb. long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
- 4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Combine the dried porcini and the wine in a small bowl and soak for thirty minutes.
Fill a large pot with four to six quarts of water and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to the water and stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain and pour onto a serving bowl.
Heat a large saute pan to medium high heat and add the pancetta. Cook until slightly crisp.
Add the butter and allow it to melt. When the bubbles have subsided, add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until the juices have all but evaporated.
Raise the heat to high and add the porcini and wine. Add in the shallots and the thyme. Saute, stirring frequently until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add salt & pepper to taste and the cream.
Allow the sauce to boil until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
Pour all of the mushroom sauce over the pasta and toss well. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
Chicken Torino Style
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 slices mozzarella cheese
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking dish.
Sauté the garlic in a medium ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until light brown.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cut a slit in each chicken breast and fill the pocket with 1 slice of mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and half of the sautéed garlic.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken breast.
In the same skillet used for the garlic, brown the chicken in the butter and remaining oil for about 2 minutes on each side.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Makes eight 6-ounce servings
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
- 12 egg yolks
- 4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
- 12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream
- 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts
Heat the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a saucepan.
Whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.
Once the milk mixture is hot, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.
Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated.
Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together.
Add the vanilla extract and combine.
Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.
*Cooking Notes: Gianduja chocolate is available at most gourmet food stores. If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatin. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for softening the gelatin in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.
Cuneo (Italian) or Coni (French) is a province in the southwest section of the Piedmont region of Italy. The province has an interesting history. Nicknamed the town of seven sieges, it still retains the organization plan of a military town. It was once surrounded by massive walls, had large squares and contained magnificent palaces for wealthy aristocrats.
Originating in the 12th century, it was first built as a fortified town. Its location, in a naturally strategic position protecting the roads to France through the Tenda and Maddalena passes, made it a natural choice to be used as a military location. The French eventually demolished the walls and you can tell where the old walls were, as they are now the main streets in the province. During World War II, Cuneo was one of the main sites in the country of partisan resistance against the German occupation of Italy.
Sections of this province were part of France until 1947. Cuneo borders the French region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur on the west, the province of Turin on the north, the province of Asti to the east and Liguria to the south. It is also known as the Provincia Granda (the big province) because it is the third largest province in Italy and the largest one in the Piedmont region. It is also the capital of the province. This has created problems in the past for inhabitants in the eastern sections of the province, who are frustrated by the long trip to Cuneo every time they have business with the provincial government. The issue of dividing the province into two has been brought up several times.
The province’s beautiful landscapes offer great variety that include valleys, hills and wildlife reserves. Some 75% of the area is mountainous. The Maritime Alps Natural Park with its high-altitude lakes and the Rio Martino Cave with its spectacular waterfall are distinctive sites in the province. Italy’s first forestry commission was established by the local government of Cuneo.
The economy is primarily based on the agricultural produce of the area, especially the wine industry. Engineering, paper products, metallurgy, rubber and cattle also play an integral role in its local financial system.
The Tour de France travels through here, as well. The Italian leg of the Tour often goes from Digne-les-Bains in France to Prato Nevoso in Piedmont, followed by a rest day in Cuneo. From there, bikers head on to Jausiers in France.
The majority of the region’s winemaking (about 90%) takes place in the southern part of the Piedmont region in Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria. The best-known wines from the area include Barolo and Barbaresco. They are made from the Nebbiolo grape. The Piedmont region is located in the foothills of the Alps forming its border with France and Switzerland. In addition to the vast mountainous terrain, the Po Valley consumes a large area of the region. The valley and the mountains contribute to the area’s noted fog cover which aides in the ripening of the Nebbiolo grape (which gets it name from the word nebbia meaning “fog”).
Although the winemaking regions of Piedmont and Bordeaux (France) are very close in latitude, only the summertime temperatures are similar: the Piedmont wine region has a colder, continental winter climate and significantly lower rainfall due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. Vineyards are typically planted on hillsides with warmer south-facing slopes.
One of the most commonly used meat in the local cuisine is veal. It is the main feature of festivals, such as the Fiera del Bue Grasso, which attracts thousands of visitors in December each year. The province of Cuneo also produces Italy’s only pork-free sausage. Pig farming, however, provides the ingredient for the famous Cuneo raw ham, which also has a well-known cooked variety.
Il Grande Fritto Misto” (the Great Mixed Fry), one of the most characteristic dishes of the Cuneo region, is made with veal and pork, to which vegetables, semolina and fruit are added. Provincial meat products also include: Morozzo capon, Sambuco lamb and Langa lamb; Piedmontese blond chicken and Saluzzo white chicken. Famous products include the Alba White Truffle, Castelmagno, Raschera, Bra and Murazzano, Toma Piemontese, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola Are cheeses, which are all produced in the province.
The cultivation and processing of chestnuts, both brown and white varieties, is a heritage of the area’s mountain tradition. They are used in pastry making and as an ingredient in other dishes. Hazelnuts are grown in the hills and form the main ingredient of Torrone di Alba and the region’s very famous glacè chestnuts and hazelnut cakes. “Alba torrone” (nougat); “paste di meliga” (cornflour cookies), which are also known as “Batiaje” because they are often made for baptisms and “baci di Cherasco” (hazelnut chocolates) are well-known desserts.
If you have a sweet tooth, Cuneo can help satisfy your cravings. The town’s specialty is Cuneesi al rhum, chocolates with a rum-based filling. The most widely known brand is Arione, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway.
Risotto with Hazelnuts and Castelmagno Cheese
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 14 oz (400g) risotto rice (carnaroli)
- 3 ½ oz (100g) hazelnuts
- 3 ⅛ oz (90g) Castelmagno cheese, diced
- 1 ¾ oz (50g) butter
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 4 ¼ cups (1 liter) hot broth (vegetable or meat)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- Salt and pepper
Toast the hazelnuts in a 350 degree F oven for about ten minutes. Cool and rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a deep saucepan and cook the onion until tender.
Add the rice and rosemary. Toast the rice for a minute then add the white wine.
When the wine has evaporated completely add a ladle of hot broth and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the broth is absorbed.
Continue adding the broth until it is all absorbed. Halfway through cooking add half of Castelmagno cheese and half of the hazelnuts.
When the rice is cooked, add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining the remaining cheese.
Garnish the dish with the remaining hazelnuts and serve.
Meatballs Cuneo Style
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 apple, peeled and grated
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup red wine
In a bowl combine the veal, grated apple, egg and salt. With wet hands form small meatballs. Coat each one in flour and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and brown the meatballs evenly, then add the wine. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve hot.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 cup chopped canned Italian tomatoes
- 6 bell peppers (3 red and 3 yellow) seeded and cut into ½ inch size strips
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon salt
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, jalapeno and bell peppers and cook briefly. Add the red wine and salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, another 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently toward the end of the cooking time, so the peppers do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Stir in the herbs and taste for salt and heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm as a side dish.
Bunet di Cuneo (Baked Chocolate Pudding)
- 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup (250 g) sugar
- 2/3 cup (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup (100 g) Amaretti cookie crumbs
- 3 cups (750 ml) milk
Put the 1/3 cup sugar and water in a heavy skillet over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and cook until the mixture is a syrup and the color of honey.
Remove from the heat and pour the syrup into a 9 inch loaf pan. Swirl the liquid in the pan around to coat all the edges.
Beat together the eggs and 1 cup sugar.
Add the cocoa and Amaretti cookie crumbs. Stir well.
Add the milk, stirring gently but thoroughly.
Pour into the loaf pan and set in a larger baking pan with at least 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water.
Bake at 400° F (200° C) for 1 hour.
Cool to room temperature before chilling overnight.
To serve, slide a knife around the outer edges and invert onto a platter. Cut into thick slices to serve.