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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: sponge cake

Here are a few more popular recipes from the past. The Flounder recipe is one we like a lot.

Salisbury Steak 

4 Servings

Ingredients

Burger Steak

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Montreal Steak Seasoning
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
2 teaspoons oil
Salt and pepper

Gravy

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the ground beef in a medium bowl, breaking it up as you do.

Sprinkle the Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and parsley over the beef. Add the breadcrumbs and cream. Mix gently.

Divide the seasoned ground beef into 4 even portions and form into patties.

Season the outside with salt and a good amount of coarse black pepper. (Lots of pepper gives the hamburger steak great flavor.)

Place a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the 2 teaspoons of oil and swirl to coat the pan.

Add the burger steaks and cook for approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the burger steaks from the pan to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Turn the heat down to medium.

Season mushrooms with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute the mushrooms in the same pan as the meat, until brown, about 5 minutes.

Add butter, the onion, thyme and garlic. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour.

Add broth, slide meat back into sauce, cover and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.

Flounder Almondine

Ingredients

5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 flounder or sole fillets (about 1 pound)
All purpose flour
2 eggs beaten to blend
1/4 cup slivered almonds toasted
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lemon wedges

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter with the olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Dip fillets in flour then in beaten eggs.

Add the fillets to the skillet and cook until browned and just cooked through 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter, keep warm.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same skillet. Add the almonds and cook until heated through about 1 minute.

Add wine and lemon juice and simmer until thickened, stirring constantly. Pour the sauce over the fish. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Jelly Roll Cake

Servings 10

Ingredients

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar
About 2/3 cup of lemon curd or your favorite jelly

Directions

Heat the oven to 375°F. Line 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with parchment paper. Coat the paper and pan sides lightly with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on high-speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar.

Beat in water and vanilla on low-speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading to the corners.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Immediately loosen cake from the sides of pan and turn upside down onto a kitchen towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove the paper.

Trim off stiff edges of the cake if necessary. While the cake ¡s hot, carefully roll the cake and towel from the narrow end into a cylinder.

Cool on a cooling rack for at least 30 minutes.

Unroll the cake and remove the towel. Beat jelly slightly with a fork to soften and spread over the cake. Roll up the cake.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into ½ inch slices to serve.

Easy Lemon Curd

If you do not have access to Meyer Lemons, you can use regular lemons. Because Meyer Lemons are larger, you will need more regular lemons to get 1 cup and more sugar because regular lemons are less sweet than Meyer.

Ingredients

1 cup Meyer Lemon juice (2 large)
6 large organic eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) salted butter softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extra

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and continuously whisk the mixture until it begins to thicken – it only takes a few minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue whisking. The lemon curd will thicken – all at once.

Remove the pot from the heat and continue to stir with the whisk for one minute more. Pour into a clean container and let cool to room temperature.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

Jello molds from the 50’s and 60’s.

 

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Lunch Menu

Iced Tea
Deviled Eggs
Stuffed Mini Peppers
Mediterranean Grilled Tuna Salad
Spinach Triangles with Tzatziki Sauce
Bread Sticks, Pickles
Dessert: Almond Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Cream

Iced Tea

Republic of Tea: 1 Peach Ginger Iced Tea Bag and 4 Naturally Sweet Tea Bags
Slices of Lemon, Lime and Oranges
Prepare the tea according to package instructions. Pour into a serving pitcher and chill.
To serve: Pour into tall glasses, add ice cubes and fruit slices before serving.

Mediterranean Grilled Tuna Salad

Ingredients

Tuna Marinade

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus lemon wedges for serving)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic—grated
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 lb tuna fillet, one inch thick

For the Salad

2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup bottled roasted red peppers , drained and chopped
5 Kalamata (brine-cured) black olives , pitted and chopped
1 large celery rib , chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoon Italian parsley , chopped
1 teaspoon celery seed
Salt and black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons toasted pignoli (pine nuts) or basil for garnish

Directions

To grill the tuna:

Combine the marinade ingredients in a measuring cup. Place the tuna in a glass dish and pour the marinade over the fish. Chill for one hour.

Cook the tuna on a hot grill for about 10 minutes or cooked through, turning and brushing regularly with the marinade.

Cool the tuna and wrap in plastic. When cold, flake the tuna.

To make the tuna salad:

Whisk together lemon juice and mayonnaise in a bowl. Add the flaked tuna and the remaining ingredients and combine. Season with pepper. Chill until serving time. Garnish with toasted pine nuts just before serving.

Stuffed Mini Peppers

Ingredients

16 mini sweet peppers
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
3/4 cup Italian seasoned panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped finely
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large rimmed baking pan with heavy-duty foil. Spray lightly with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the peppers in half so they will lay flat. Lay the peppers on the baking sheet, cut side up. Season the insides of the peppers with salt and pepper.

Mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, anchovy paste, onion, celery. herbs, cayenne pepper and the lemon zest together in a bowl. Toss thoroughly.

Fill the peppers with a little of this mixture and then drizzle the olive oil over the peppers. (If you are making these ahead of time, just cover with some plastic wrap and put them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.)

Roast for 15 – 20 minutes, until the peppers are soft and the breadcrumb mixture is golden.

Deviled Eggs

Ingredients

6 large eggs
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Directions

Place the eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold the six eggs. Cover with cold water and place the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.

Let the eggs rest in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and add some ice cubes and cold water to cover the cooked eggs.

Let them cool until you can handle the eggs without burning your fingers.

Gently tap the eggs in several places and remove the shells. Place the peeled eggs on paper towels to dry.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully remove the yolks and place in a mixing bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork. Add the onion, celery, mayonnaise, mustard and salt and pepper. Mix well.

With a spoon fill each egg where the yolk had been with some of the mixture.

Place the eggs on a serving platter and chill. Sprinkle chives over the eggs and serve.

Spinach Triangles

Let the package of filo dough sit in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Any remaining dough can be kept in the refrigerator well wrapped in plastic for four weeks or it can go back into the freezer.

Makes about 16 triangles

Ingredients

One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 scallions (green onions), minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
48 sheets filo dough, thawed
Olive oil
Tzatziki, recipe below

Directions

In a mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the scallions, parsley, dill, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth.
Keep the filo dough not being used, covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying, while you work on the triangles.

Spread one sheet of the dough on a cutting board and brush with some olive oil. Place a second sheet of dough on top and brush with oil. Repeat with a third sheet.

Cut the layered filo in half lengthwise. Place one tablespoon of filling about 1″ from the corner of each strip. Fold one corner of fillo diagonally across to the opposite edge to form a triangle.

Brush lightly with oil. Continue to fold the triangle onto itself. Brush the outside of the triangle with oil and place the triangles seam side down on parchment covered cookie sheets at least 1” apart.Repeat until all the filling is used up.

Bake in a preheated 350ºF oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Rolls can be made ahead and reheated just before party time.

Serve hot with Tzatziki Sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup peeled and seeded cucumber, finely chopped
1/3 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place the chopped cucumber in a fine mesh colander and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of salt.

Place the colander over a bowl and let the cucumbers drain for one hour.

Turn the cucumbers over on paper towels. Squeeze all the water out.

Combine the cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Almond Flour Sponge Cake

Cake

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for the pan

For the strawberry topping:

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1-2 teaspoons sugar (or more, depending on how sweet your strawberries are)

For the whipped cream:

1 pint heavy cream, well chilled
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan with oil. Swirl the oil in the pan and make sure it goes up the sides.

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of the sugar listed in the ingredients onto the bottom of the pan.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites.

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Slowly beat in 1/4 cup sugar. Scrape the beaten egg whites into another bowl and set aside.

In the mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the almond extract until smooth.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients — flour, baking powder and salt — and add to the egg yolk mixture. Stir together to form a thick dough.

Fold in the egg whites, 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating them fully between each addition. The final addition should result in a smooth, fluffy batter.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake on the center rack for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides, then turn the cake out onto a serving plate.

Allow the cake to cool fully before topping with strawberries and cream.

For the strawberry topping:

Combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl, and set aside to allow the juices to release.

For the whipped cream:

Place the bowl and whisk attachment for your stand mixer or a metal or glass bowl and beaters for your hand mixer in the refrigerator or freezer until they are cold.

Add the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla to the chilled bowl, and beat on medium-high to high-speed until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat. Chill until ready to serve.


Labor-Day-Quotes-And-Sayings-6

Labor Day was created as an annual celebration of workers and their achievements. In the past, Labor Day was seen as a kind of “workingmen’s holiday,” and the first Monday in September was designated for its celebration. Today, Labor Day is seen as the last long weekend of summer and friends and families gather at picnic grounds or in their backyards to bid farewell to the season.

Here are some recipes to help you celebrate.

BBQ Ribs

IMG_0002 (2)

4 servings

Rub Mixture Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sweet paprika
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried onion
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Ribs

  • 2 St. Louis-cut or spare rib racks, about 2 lbs
  • Peach BBQ sauce, heated, see recipe link

Directions

Mix all the rub ingredients together and coat the ribs all over with the mixture. Place the ribs in a baking dish, cover the dish with foil and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the foil covered baking dish with the ribs in the oven and roast for about 2 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone.

Finish the ribs on a charcoal or gas grill.

Ten minutes before the ribs are done baking, heat the grill to medium-high. Grill the ribs, basting with the BBQ sauce and turning occasionally, until they begin to char, 5 to 6 minutes.

Cut into pieces and serve with additional sauce for dipping.

Old Fashioned Baked Beans

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See the link here for the recipe that was on my blog a few weeks ago.

Creamy Coleslaw

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I prefer to shred cabbage for this recipe rather than use a package of coleslaw mix. Those packages never taste very fresh to me. Pick out a deep green cabbage without blemishes at your market and use it for this recipe. Shredding half a cabbage doesn’t take more than 5 minutes with a good sharp knife.

Coleslaw is one of those recipes that I am never really satisfied with and I keep tinkering with the recipe to try to get it to taste the way I think it should taste. Needs more salt? Needs more sweetness? I may have found the right balance for us with the ingredients in my recipe below. See what you think.

For best flavor this coleslaw should be made one day ahead.

Serves 6

Salad Ingredients

  • Half of a head of green cabbage that weighs about 2 – 2 1/2 pounds
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup finely minced sweet onions
  • 1/4 cup diced sweet bread and butter pickles
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Shred the cabbage and the carrots and place them in a mixing bowl. You should yield about 8 cups of shredded cabbage and one cup of shredded carrots from the amounts listed above.

IMG_0002

Add the salt, sugar and vinegar; toss them together and set aside for an hour.

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In a serving bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients.

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After an hour squeeze the cabbage to get as much liquid as possible out of the mix and place in the bowl with the dressing. Mix them well to blend and refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Almond Flour Shortcake

IMG_0010

This is a wonderful dessert to have on hand. Simple enough for a snack or dress it up for company with fruit, whipped cream or a frosting. I usually make an extra one to keep in the freezer.

8 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for the pan

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake pan with oil. Swirl the oil in the pan and make sure it goes up the sides.

IMG_0006

Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of the sugar listed in the ingredients onto the bottom of the pan.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites.

Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Slowly beat in 1/4 cup sugar. Scrape the beaten egg whites into another bowl and set aside.

In the mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks, the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the almond extract until smooth.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients — flour, baking powder and salt — and add to the egg yolk mixture. Stir together to form a thick dough.

Fold in the egg whites, 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating them fully between each addition. The final addition should result in a smooth, fluffy batter.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake on the center rack for 30 to 35 minutes, until it’s golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

IMG_0007

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides, then turn the cake out onto a serving plate.

Allow the cake to cool fully before topping with sliced fresh fruit and whipped cream or powdered sugar.

JEDEzhN


Little Italy in Chicago, 1909.

Italian immigrants to Chicago faced many drastic changes in their environments and way of life. The bustling new metropolis was very different from an Italian rural village. The mass of new Italian immigrants who entered the city in the late nineteenth century, primarily men from the small towns surrounding Palermo, Sicily were either single or had left their wives and children back in Italy. Frugality was essential. Most workers saved their wages to repay initial passage money, send funds to needy family members left behind or to purchase land in Italy.

In the summers many Italian laborers lived in railroad or mining work camps where food was provided by the padrone who recruited them. In the winter, workers returned to Chicago where they frequently lived cooperatively, sharing meals and kitchen chores.

Workers Sharing Living Spac

When possible, single men boarded with Italian families, a practice unknown in Italy. Boarding, freed men from the necessity of doing any of their own housework, while providing supplemental income for the families who housed them. Lodging and boarding continued in the Italian communities until immigration was curtailed by World War One. 

With time, many men had a new reason to economize. As months of saving stretched into years, most immigrants decided to settle permanently in the city, so passage money was put aside for wives, children and other relatives to come to the U.S. Eventually, family members joined the men.

While wages in Chicago exceeded those of Italy, the railway and street work at which many Italian men were employed, was intermittent and low paying. Garment work, done at home by Italian women, added only a meager amount to the family income. Italian laborers did much of the grueling ditch digging and manual labor which the growing city required. Women struggled to keep house in the cramped confines of tenement flats. Small flats of two to four rooms were common. Sinks and toilets were sometimes located in yards, halls or basements and water was unavailable when plumbing froze in winter. Basement and cellar flats were common due to the large number of homes below street level and “many a kitchen floor, the only playground for the children, was cold, damp and water-soaked.”

Confined to substandard tenement housing and severely restricted in employment opportunities, many Italian immigrant families took garment work into their homes and employed their children. The mother and her three eldest children in this picture earned a total of about two dollars a week—when work was available—around 1913, while the father sought day work on the street. (Library of Congress)

Settlement worker Edith Abbot reported that in tenement homes food was hung from the ceilings to keep it away from the rats. The kitchen sometimes doubled as sleeping space for family members or lodgers. As late as 1925, ice-boxes were uncommon on the Near West Side and window sills were often the best means available to keep perishable food cold. As city dwellers and renters, Italians lost the option of supplementing their diets with home-grown foods. Many made valiant efforts to garden in the minuscule backyards and on the fire escapes and porches of tenement homes, where tomatoes, peppers and parsley struggled for existence in the cramped spaces.

Cooking Classes at Hull House

Terese DeFalco, who grew up on the Near West Side, recalls that there was no room for gardening amidst the densely packed housing in her neighborhood. “Our garden was the alley,” she says. Most food was purchased and Italians spent a large proportion of their incomes on food. Under these conditions, lessons learned in Italy remained relevant. Diets consisting of bread, macaroni and vegetables remained the norm among Italian immigrant families. Homemade Italian bread, with its thick crust and heavy texture, provided bulk at the evening meal and stayed fresh long enough to be dunked in coffee the next morning. Working family members carried chunks of it to their jobs, along with peppers purchased from the numerous street vendors found in Italian neighborhoods or from neighborhood stores, which sold familiar Italian ingredients.

Phyllis Williams noted that one of the reasons Italians shunned the recipes taught in settlement cooking classes was that “Italians thought many of the dishes prepared were too expensive and would not satisfy hungry children.” In hot summer months, when putting on the stove would be unbearable in cramped tenement apartments, Rose Tellerino, born in 1899, remembered salads were the daily fare while macaroni was “all we ate” in the wintertime. Wine, usually made at home, continued to be drunk at meals and milk and water were not, much to the chagrin of the Hull House reformers.

The Italian communities of Chicago were enriched by a phenomenon all too rare in their towns of origin, voluntary associations. By the 1920’s the Italians in Chicago had church and school-oriented clubs and sodalities that worked at fundraising, as well as special-interest organizations, sponsored by the settlement houses. The Holy Guardian Angel and Our Lady of Pompeii served the Italian community. On the near Northwest Side, a varied community of Baresi, Sicilians and others grew up around the Santa Maria Addolorata Church. Perhaps the most colorful Italian sector was in the 22nd Ward on the city’s Near North Side. It was known as, “Little Sicily”, and this neighborhood was home to some 20,000 by 1920.

World War II changed everything for Italian Americans. It Americanized the second generation. The G.I. Bill opened up the first possibilities for a college education and the first opportunities to buy a new suburban house. Other government policies, such as urban renewal, public housing and the building of the interstate highway system combined to destroy their inner-city neighborhoods. First, was the building of the Cabrini-Green Housing Project, which destroyed the Sicilian neighborhoods in the Near North Side in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Then, came the construction of the expressway system on the near south, west and northwest sides which dislodged additional Italian families and institutions including many churches and schools.

Today, some 500,000 Italian-Americans, about the population of a medium-sized Italian city, live in Chicago. Though the group has been in the city for about a century, it maintains a lively array of civic, religious and cultural institutions and organizations that provide a sense of ethnic identification and recognition in a manageable area inside the larger metropolis. Because these institutions perform the functions of allocating recognition and ethnic identity, they will not die or fade quickly from the scene.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago and Jane Addams Memorial Collection

Taylor Street, in the Near West Side, became the hub of the Italian community, most notably, because of Jane Addams’ Hull House that was established to educate and help assimilate European immigrants and because of Mother Frances Cabrini, who started a school and founded two hospitals in the Italian community. Although parts of the Italian neighborhood were torn down when road construction and the University of Illinois at Chicago were completed in the 1960’s, numerous Italian and Italian American clubs and organizations helped maintain a strong sense of community.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, established in 1910 and the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame added more culture and heritage to the area. Major events include an Italian Street Festival in June and Taylor Street Festa Italiana in August. Italian food and regional specialties from the area’s restaurants, entertainment, merchandise from Italy and children’s activities are part of both celebrations. Festa di Tutti I Santi, a fundraiser for The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, is held in August.

Taylor Street is the main dining area in Chicago’s Little Italy, anchored with favorites like Pompei (1531 W. Taylor St.), opened by Sicilian, Luigi Davino, in 1909, Pompei has remained a family run business ever since, but don’t expect to find deep dish here: the pizza is still Sicilian style.

For a neighborhood specialty, stop at Al’s Beef (1070 W Taylor St.); Chicago’s well-known Italian beef sandwich was created here in 1938 and has grown from a humble depression era street food to a legendary Italian staple. Order yours with Italian sauce and eat it standing wide-legged and leaning over the counter.

There are many neighborhood grocers, but Conte Di Savoia (2227 W. Taylor St.) has been the neighborhood specialty market since 1948 and continues to serve the area.

Ferrara Bakery

Opened in 1908, Salvatore Ferrara’s Italian pastry legacy lives on today at Ferrara Bakery (2210 W Taylor St.), where the baked goods have been pretty well perfected over its century-plus existence. When Ferrara Bakery opened its doors over a hundred years, it was a staple in the Italian community of Chicago. Backed by a strong immigrant work ethic and an American public infatuated with pastries and confectionaries, Salvatore Ferrara opened a pastry shop on Taylor and Halsted Streets, with a candy shop located roughly a mile away on Taylor Street and Ogden Avenue. While the candy aspect of Ferrara’s business has boomed, distributing worldwide, the pastry shop maintains a more modest reputation. Forced to relocate due to the construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Original Ferrara Pastries resides in the old candy distributing facility at Taylor and Ogden.

The Food of Chicago’s Little Italy

If you’re craving deep dish, head about 15 minutes north of Sicilian Little Italy and pay a visit to Uno Pizzeria (29 E Ohio St.), home of the famous Chicago style pie.

Chicago pizza is a not your typical pizza. When Pizzeria Uno founders, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, invented it in 1943, they weren’t trying for true Italian. They believed Chicagoans needed something more substantial: deep dish pizza, which is more a casserole than a flatbread. It grew so popular that they opened a second location, Pizzeria Due, across the street in 1955.

The deep-dish pie spread throughout Chicago due to several pizza makers who left Uno. The first was Uno’s primary pizza chef, Alice Mae Redmond. It is said that Alice Mae was the one who developed Uno’s dough recipe. She left in the sixties, formed a partnership with three local businessmen, including cab drivers Fred Bartoli and Sam Levine, and opened Gino’s East. Gino’s has been through several changes in ownership, but still uses the same recipe at its thirteen locations.

Chicago’s Italian beef is a sandwich of thin slices of seasoned roast beef, dripping with meat juices, on a dense, long Italian-style roll, believed to have originated in Chicago, where its history dates back at least to the 1930’s. The bread itself is often dipped (or double-dipped) into the juices the meat is cooked in and the sandwich is typically topped off with Chicago-style hot giardiniera or sautéed green Italian sweet peppers. I posted a recipe for the Chicago Italian beef sandwich last July. You can see the recipe at https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/07/10/in-the-mood-for-a-really-great-italian-sandwich/

The Chicago style dog is a steamed poppy-seed bun with a Vienna beef hot dog hidden under relish, yellow mustard, onions, tomato, celery salt, hot peppers and a pickle spear.

 

UNO’S FAMOUS DEEP-DISH PIZZA

Recipe shared by Uno in celebration of the 65th anniversary of Uno’s Chicago-Style Pizza.

MASTER DOUGH RECIPE

Yield: one 20-ounce ball of dough to make one 12-inch Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon. sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn oil
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12″ Deep-Dish Pizza Pan or Cake Pan

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast with water and sugar. Add the corn oil and blend. Add the flour and salt and mix thoroughly. If using a stand mixer, mix for 4 minutes at medium speed, until the dough is smooth and pliable. If kneading by hand, knead for 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand for two additional minutes. Add olive oil to a deep bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl and turn it twice to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.* Let the dough rise for two hours. Do not punch it down. Spread and push the dough ball across the bottom of the deep dish pan and up the sides.

*At this stage, the dough can be put in the refrigerator and allowed to rise slowly overnight. Take the dough out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you are ready to assemble the pizza.

PEPPERONI DEEP-DISH PIZZA

  • 1½ cups tomatoes, ground
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
  • 1 teaspoon basil, dried
  • 2 tablespoons Romano cheese, grated
  • 5 oz. part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella, sliced
  • 5 oz. provolone, sliced
  • 24 ea. pepperoni slices (about 2 oz.)

Directions:

In a mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, oregano, basil and Romano cheese. Set aside.

Lay the slices of mozzarella and provolone on top of the dough, overlapping the slices to cover all of the dough.

Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the cheese.

Dot the top of the tomatoes with the pepperoni.

Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 475° F. oven for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Allow the pizza to rest for 3-4 minutes before cutting and serving.

 

Eggplant Ravioli

Eggplant Ravioli is a specialty of Francesca’s On Taylor. Here is a similar recipe you can make at home. Francesca’s on Taylor features the earthy cuisine of Rome and the surrounding areas of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio. Chicago Magazine notes, “It brings a new kind of abbondanza to an old Italian neighborhood.”

Pasta Dough

(Makes about 1 pound)

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 to 3 tablespoon lukewarm water

Directions:

Put the flour, eggs, salt and olive oil in a food processor.

Pulse several times to blend the ingredients.

Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, just until dough starts to come together.

Avoid adding too much water or the dough will be too sticky to roll.

It may still look dry but can be gathered into a ball.

Gather the dough into a ball and place on a floured surface.

Knead lightly, just until the dough is smooth.

Divide in half and keep one-half covered while you work with the other.

Filling

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or oregano
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper

Marinara Sauce

Directions:

Saute garlic in olive oil over low heat about 2 minutes.

Add eggplant and dried herbs, cover and cook 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, cool, and pulse in food processor to finely chop.

Add remaining ingredients and fill ravioli.

Forming the Ravioli

Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness into strips about 4 inches wide.

Using a tablespoon, place mounds of filling 1-1/2 to 2-inches apart down the center of the dough.

Brush a little water across the top and bottom of the strip and between the mounds of filling.

Place another 4-inch wide strip of dough over the top.

Press the dough down around the mounds of filling to seal.

Cut the ravioli into rounds or squares using a ravioli cutter, pastry cutter or a knife.

Completed ravioli can be refrigerated for a few hours before cooking.

They can also be frozen by placing them on a cookie sheet and freezing until firm and then storing in a plastic bag for 2-3 months.

Cook ravioli in salted water until they rise to the top, 3-4 minutes for fresh ravioli or 9-10 minutes for frozen.

Serve with Marinara Sauce.

 

Maggiano’s Baked Ziti and Sausage Casserole

Maggiano’s Little Italy is an American casual dining restaurant specializing in Italian-American cuisine that is aimed at “re-creating the classic pre-World War II dinner house featuring family size portions”.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked ziti pasta
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 lb Italian sausages (casings removed)

WHITE SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese

CHEESE LAYER

  • 1 (1 lb) carton cream-style cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Paprika

Directions:

Set oven to 350 degrees. F. and grease a 3-quart baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until JUST tender (do not overcook the pasta as it will cook more in the oven). Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet; add in the sausage meat and cook until browned, remove to a plate.

For the white sauce; melt butter in a medium saucepan; add the onion, garlic and cayenne pepper if using) saute for about 3-4 minutes. Add in flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add in half and half cream; bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thickened.

Remove from heat; add in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta in the bowl; mix with a wooden spoon.

In a medium bowl mix together the cottage cheese with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, egg and chopped parsley, then season with salt and lots of pepper.

Spoon HALF of the creamed ziti mixture into the prepared baking dish, then spread the cottage cheese mixture on top, then spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top of the cottage cheese mixture.

Sprinkle the cooked sausage meat on the top.

Top with mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle paprika on top.

Bake uncovered for about 30-35 minutes or until bubbly and hot.

Let stand about 5 or more minutes before serving.

 

Cannoli Cake

Similar to the Ferrara Bakery’s Famous Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

9 inch ungreased springform pan

For the Pan di Spagna (sponge cake): Have the following ingredients at room temperature at least 1 hour before baking:  6 eggs, lemon juice, orange zest and sherry.

Ingredients:

FOR  THE SPONGE

  • 6 whole eggs, separated and at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup rum, for sprinkling the cake layers

FOR THE FILLING

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese
  • 6 tablespoons rum
  • 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, grated
  • 1/4 cup candied cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

TO MAKE FROSTING:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted finely chopped almonds

Directions:

TO MAKE SPONGE LAYER

Separate the 6 eggs and set the egg whites aside.

Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in sugar, lemon juice, orange zest and sherry.

Beat until foamy.

Sift flour 3 times and fold into the egg yolk mixture gently but thoroughly.

Beat egg whites until foamy, add salt and beat until stiff but not dry.

Fold into yolk mixture.

Pour batter into a 9 inch ungreased springform pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

TEST by pressing lightly with your fingertips, if the cake springs back at once, it is done.

Leave the cake in the pan to cool and invert on a wire rack.

Once the cake is completely cool, slice it into 3 layers.

Sprinkle layers with the 1/4 cup rum.

TO MAKE THE FILLING:

Crush ricotta very finely with a potato masher.

Add 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the 6 tablespoons rum, grated chocolate, chopped cherries and cinnamon.

Spread the ricotta filling over the sponge cake layers, using a 1/2 inch of filling on each layer.

Leave the top and sides of the cake plain.

TO MAKE FROSTING:

Cream butter with 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar.

Beat the 2 egg whites until stiff and gradually beat the remaining 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar into the egg whites.

Fold egg whites into the butter mixture and fold in 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Cover the sides and top of the cake with this frosting. Sprinkle nuts on the top and sides of the cake.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve it.


The city of Florence showing the Uffizi (top left), followed by the Pitti Palace, a sunset view of the city and the Fontana del Nettuno in the Piazza della Signoria

Florence is above all – a city of art. It is the birthplace of many famous people such as Dante, Boccaccio, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei. Artists like Botticelli , Michelangelo and Donatello made Florence one of the artistic capitals in the world.

It was during the reign of Julius Caesar that Florence came into existence. In the year 59 B.C. he established a colony along the narrowest stretch of the Arno, which is the point where the famous Ponte Vecchio crosses the Arno. After conquering the Etruscans during the third century A.D., the Romans established Florence as an important trading center.

In the fifth century, the Roman Empire crumbled after invasions from northern European conquerors. The “Dark Ages” had begun and Italian unity was lost for nearly 1400 years. After these hard times, Charlemagne’s army crushed the last of the foreign kings of Italy. However, this reprieve was short-lived. In giving thanks, Pope Leo III gave Charlemagne the title of Holy Roman Emperor to secure his loyalty.

Most of Italy came under the rule of Charlemagne and this led to future conflicts between the Emperor and the Pope that eventually led to civil war. The population of Florence became divided over their loyalty between the two factions: Guelf, those who supported the Emperor, and Ghibelline, those who supported the Pope. Over the following centuries, control of Florence changed hands many times between these two groups and families built towers to provide protection from their enemies within the city. At the end of the 13th. century, with the Guelfs in control, the conflict came to an end.

Despite this turbulent history, the region and Florence enjoyed a booming economy. At the end of the 14th. century, led by members of the wealthy merchant class, Florence became a gathering center for artists and intellectuals that eventually led to the birth of the Renaissance. During this period, the Medici family rose to power and fostered the development of art, music and poetry, turning Florence into Italy’s cultural capital. Their dynasty lasted nearly 300 years. Cosimo de’ Medici was a successful banker, who endowed religious institutions with artworks. He generously supported the arts, commissioning the building of great cathedrals and commissioning the best artists of the age to decorate them. Many artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Correggio, trained and completed some earlier work in Florence. One painting in particular done by Leonardo da Vinci captures the Renaissance essence of the 16th century: The Last SupperThe last of the Medici family, Anna Maria who died in 1743, bequeathed all the Medici property to the city.

The Food of Florence

Florentines call their cuisine il mangiare fiorentino—“Florentine eating”— and la cucina fiorentina, meaning both “Florentine cooking” and “the Florentine kitchen.” This language emphasizes what is important to them about food—its eating and cooking—both of which have traditionally taken place in the kitchen – the heart of family life.

Florentine Antipasto

The typical Florentine antipasto consists of crostini, slices of bread with chicken liver paté. The crostini are also served with cured ham and salami. Fettunta is another typical Florentine antipasto: a slice of roasted bread with garlic and Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. Last but not least, cured ham and melon are extremely popular even outside Florence.

Florentine First Courses  

 

Panzanella is a typically summer first course. Panzanella is a salad made of water-soaked and crumbled bread with tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and basil. Reboulia, a winter course, is a vegetable soup with bread. Another  famous Florentine soup is Pappa al Pomodoro, a hot soup made of bread and tomatoes. Pappardelle alla lepre (pasta dressed with a hare sauce) and pasta e ceci (pasta with chick-peas) are two Florentine specialties.  

Florentine Second Courses

A main course favorite is the bistecca alla fiorentina ( a grilled T-bone beefsteak ). For a long time, the beef only came from Val di Chiana area steers but nowadays it comes from several Tuscan areas because it is in much demand. 

Since the Florentine cuisine has peasant origins, people use every part of an animal; therefore, entrails are fundamental in the local cuisine and dishes like kidney, tripe and fried cow udder served with tomato are very common, as well as dishes based on wild animals like wild boar, rabbit, pigeon and pheasant.

Florentine Desserts                                                                                                                                               

A typical Tuscan dessert consists of almond biscuits, such as, Cantucci di Prato , that are often served with Vin Santo (a dessert wine). The Schiacciata con l’uva , a bun covered with red grapes is prepared in autumn, during grape harvest. Other Tuscan desserts are: the  Brigidini di Lamporecchio – crisp wafers made of eggs and anise, the Berlingozzo – a ring-shaped cake prepared during Carnival time in Florence – and  Zuppa Inglese, made of savoy biscuits soaked in liqueur.

Many desserts boast medieval origins. One of the most famous is the Panforte, cakes made of almonds, candied fruit, spices and honey, Buccellato, a cake filled with anise and raisins and “confetti di San Jacopo”: little sugar balls filled with an anise seed that have been produced there since the 14th. century.  

Florentine Wines

Florence stands at the heart of one of the most famous wine regions in the world. During the month of May, many Florentine wine producers open their cellars to visitors, who can taste some of the wines from their vineyards. Tuscany is renowned not so much for the quantity but for the quality of its wines. In fact, despite being the third Italian DOC wine-producing region, Tuscany ranks only eighth, as far as the quantity is concerned. Only a small part of the Tuscan territory can be cultivated with vineyards; this is the reason why since the 1970’s Florentine and Tuscan wine producers have decided to aim for quality of their product instead of quantity. Of the 26 Italian DOCG wines, six are produced in Tuscany: the Brunello di Montalcino, the Carmignano, the Chianti, the Chianti Classico, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The flower of Tuscan oenology is the red Chianti Classico, which is produced in seven areas with different procedures. The Sangiovese vine is the basis of all Chianti Classico wines; to that, several other species of vines are added in variable quantities. The emblem of the Chianti Classico is the Gallo Nero (the black cock).

The Sangiovese vine is the basis of another Tuscan wine: the Brunello di Montalcino, a red wine produced in the province of Siena. The Brunello, one of the most refined and expensive Italian wines, ages four years in oaken barrels and two more years in its bottle. A third wine, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is produced with Sangiovese vines. Like the Brunello, the Vino Nobile comes from the province of Siena. In the late 1980’s, many wine producers began to use different species of vines and procedures to produce a new generation of wines, called super Tuscans. The first representative of this new generation of wines is the Sassicaia, that a branch of the Antinori family began to produce with some cabernet vine shoots coming from Bordeaux, that the family had planted in 1944 in its estate in Bolgheri, on the southern coast of Tuscany. The Antinori family created Tignanello using Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

At present, wine producers increasingly blend Sangiovese with Cabernet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and other foreign vines. Tuscany also produces white wines. The most famous Tuscan white wine is the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Another excellent Tuscan white wine is the Bianco di Pitigliano, which is produced in southern Tuscany.                                                                                                                    

Spaghetti with Peas and Prosciutto

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 lb. Prosciutto, in one piece
  • 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
  • 15 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh peas, shelled or 1 pound “tiny tender” frozen peas
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Italian parsley for garnish

Directions:

Cut prosciutto into small pieces. Finely chop the garlic and coarsely chop the parsley.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over low heat. When the oil is warm, add the prosciutto, garlic and parsley; saute for five minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the peas and the broth. Simmer until the peas are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

To cook the pasta: bring a large pot of water to boil over medium heat. When water comes to full boil, add salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepan with the peas. Mix very well. Cook for one minute more, mixing continuously, while the pasta absorbs some of the sauce. Transfer to a large warmed serving platter and sprinkle with parsley leaves.

Braised Pork Loin                                                                                                                                             

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless pork loin
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 oz. capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or use canned)
  • 1 tablespoon parsley
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Slice the pork loin three-quarters of the way through lengthwise and flatten slightly with a wooden mallet.

Chop 2 of the cloves of garlic finely, mix with the raisins, pine nuts and capers. Place this mix over the pork and roll the pork into a cylinder. Tie with string.

Brown the remaining garlic in oil, and then remove it. Add the pork roll, brown on all sides, add tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste , cover and cook for 25 min. over a low flame. Add parsley, remove from heat. Let rest a few minutes before cutting into one inch slices.

Zuccotto                                                                                                                                                       

Ingredients:

  • Sponge Cake, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons liqueur (Grand Marnier, Benedictine, Framboise)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh ricotta
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
  • 1 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

Cut the sponge cake into 1/2 inch thick strips. Spray a 1 1/2-quart bowl lightly with vegetable spray. Line bottom and sides with cake strips, ensuring a tight fit to completely encase the filling. Sprinkle with liqueur and set aside.

Whip cream until it holds soft peaks. Separately, beat ricotta and sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Fold together whipped cream and ricotta. Fold in half the nuts.

Pour half the mixture into the cake lined bowl. Make a well in the center large enough to hold the remaining cream mixture.

Thoroughly blend remaining cream mixture with chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, then spoon mixture into the center. Sprinkle remaining nuts on top, cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze until very firm, at least 6 hours.

Fifteen minutes before serving, remove from freezer and invert onto a plate. Slice into 8 servings.

Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • A pinch of salt
  • A teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Spray a 10-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and flour bottom of the pan.  Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Separate the yolks and put them in a bowl with the sugar. Beat the mixture until very fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, add a pinch of salt and gently fold them into the beaten yolks. Fold the flour into the batter and pour it into the pan.

Put the cake in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake the cake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake is dry and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Turn the oven off. Open the oven door and let  the cake cool for one hour in the oven. Turn out onto a wire rack and let rest for an hour before cutting


My husband has a sweet tooth and when we married, I learned a meal wasn’t complete for him without some type of dessert.  Thankfully, he was content with a couple of cookies or an occasional fruit pie to satisfy that sweet tooth. When my children came along, they too enjoyed those cookies – made having to eat peas or spinach something they could get through. They seemed to have survived those cookie years and became healthy adults – who still look for mom’s cookies around the holidays or on visits with us. As my husband and I aged, though, we realized healthy choices were better for us.

No need to skip dessert when you are planning healthy meals.  Fresh fruit can round out a meal and make you feel satisfied.  Sweetened strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar or pears baked in a red wine sauce or grilled peaches served with a scoop of frozen yogurt can make you feel you are not missing out on anything.

There are occasions when you want to make a special dessert. My mother made an Italian dessert for birthdays and other celebrations that consisted of a sponge cake with a ricotta filling. This dessert was asked for and enjoyed often in our household.  Of course, an occasional over indulgence cannot be harmful.

When I entertain friends at a dinner party, I like to prepare a special dessert to end the meal, but I don’t want to go overboard on calories either.  I have developed several light recipes for these occasions and, so far, everyone seems to enjoy them and does not realize that they are lower calorie versions of some of the traditional Italian desserts popular in many Italian restaurants. Italians often eat fruit and cheese for dessert,  but some of those classic desserts are cannoli, a pastry filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and tiramisu, a coffee flavored mousse type dessert.

Lightened Panna Cotta

Light Marscapone Panna Cotta


6 servings
  • 3 teaspoons gelatin
  • ⅔ cup plus 3 tablespoons nonfat milk
  • 2 ½ cups fat free half and half
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 whole vanilla beans, split open
  • ½ cup marscapone cheese
  • ½ cup lowfat sour cream
  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the 3 tablespoons milk and let sit for 15 minutes to soften.
  2. In a saucepan, stir the ⅔ cup nonfat milk, half and half, sugar, and vanilla beans over medium heat until the mixture just starts to boil. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the marscapone and the sour cream until smooth.
  4. Stir the gelatin into the heated milk mixture and stir well for at least 2 minutes or until bits of gelatin are no longer visible.
  5. Pour the mixture through a strainer (to remove any bits of hard gelatin)  into the marscapone mixture .  Whisk thoroughly.
  6. Pour the panna cotta into 6 half-cup molds. Stemmed wine glasses could be used instead. Chill, covered, overnight. Serve with raspberries and garnish with mint leaves or chocolate curls.

Cannoli

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

    Cannoli

  • 2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, drained overnight
  • 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons blanched slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoon mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur
  • 4 cannoli shells, purchased
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

In a large bowl, stir ricotta cheese with 1/3 cup confectioners sugar until combined. Add almonds, chocolate chips and almond liqueur.

Carefully spoon into cannoli shells (or pipe from a pastry bag), filling from the center out.

Sprinkle individual cannoli with powdered sugar and cocoa.

Lazy Tiramisu

I call this recipe lazy because it is a quick preparation in comparison to traditional Tiramisu. Many authentic recipes use uncooked eggs in preparing the filling and some recipes call for making a pastry cream.  I really do not want to eat raw eggs and I cannot taste a difference between a cooked pastry cream and the quick fix filling listed in my recipe.  Why do all that work if there isn’t a big difference in taste?  The coffee flavoring in this dessert is the taste that dominates and not the cream filling.  Anytime I can lower the calorie content of a recipe and still have it taste delicious, is worthwhile to me.

Coffee Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso granules
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur

Mascarpone Filling

  • 1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) carton mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur

Additional Ingredients

  • 24 ladyfingers (2- 3-ounce packages)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated

Directions

To prepare espresso drizzle, combine first 3 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons liqueur. Cool completely.

To prepare filling, combine cheeses in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons liqueur; beat at medium speed until well blended.

Split ladyfingers in half lengthwise. Arrange 24 ladyfinger halves, cut sides up, in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Drizzle half of espresso liquid over ladyfinger halves. Spread half the filling over ladyfinger halves, and repeat procedure with remaining ladyfinger halves, espresso liquid, and filling. Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa and chocolate; sprinkle evenly over top of filling. Cover and chill for 2 hours.

Note: Place toothpicks in the center and in each corner of the dish to prevent the plastic wrap from sticking to the tiramisu as it chills.

Schiacciata alla Fiorentina (Florentine Sponge Cake)

Fat Tuesday is the end of Carnevale and a huge celebration in many parts of the world, particularly in Italy. Two very big festivals take place in Italy, one in Venice and the other in Viareggio on the Tuscan coast. In Florence, children dress up in costumes and throw confetti into the air. At home, they are usually treated to a delicious piece of Tuscan sponge cake, otherwise known as Schiacciata alla Fiorentina. This light and airy dessert is eaten throughout the year but is a favorite around Carnevale. Lighter than American sponge cake, it can be eaten in a variety of ways.

12 Servings

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

  • Zest and juice of 1 orange

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Powdered sugar, for topping

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray..

    Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and orange zest in a mixing bowl.

    In another bowl mix orange juice, eggs, milk, and oil and pour into bowl with flour.

    Beat with a hand mixer until thoroughly mixed together, about 3 to 4 minutes.

    Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick inserted into the center. If it comes out clean, the cake is done.

    Let cool for about 30 minutes on the counter, then turn the cake out of the baking pan. Slice and serve sprinkled with powdered sugar.

    You can make this more elaborate with fresh strawberries and a few tablespoons of sweetened ricotta cheese with each serving.



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