When the weather heats up, take advantage of the all the fresh produce that is available during the summer months. Many recipes for creating salads or cold soups do not require any cooking. If an ingredient needs to be cooked, do it early in the day and serve it chilled. Below are a few ideas to keep you cool, including a delicious dessert.
Cold Appetizer Plate
Burrata Cheese drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Olives, Roasted Peppers, Fresh Melon
The breasts can be cooked early in the day and the rest of the recipe can be prepared later. This makes enough so that there will be plenty for several meals. Serve over lettuce with sliced tomatoes and cut up veggies.
Cooking the chicken breasts
1 1/2 pounds of bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Roast for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken registers 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer .
Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Remove the meat from the bones and save the skin and bones to make chicken broth.
Dice the chicken into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.
For the salad
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped sweet (Vidalia, Walla Walla) onion
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup red grapes, cut in half
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard together in a mixing bowl with a cover.
Add the celery and onion; stir, Add the chicken and mix carefully to keep the chicken from breaking up.
Fold in the pecans and grapes. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Cover and chill.
Triggerfish with Caper Sauce
Triggerfish were once ignored by commercial fishermen, however, they are now considered among the finest fish on the Gulf seafood menu. Their clean white meat carries a uniquely sweet flavor when cooked. Since this fish lives in warm waters, you might not find it in your area. Use any thin mild white fish fillets in the recipe below, if you cannot find triggerfish. If you do see it in your fish market, be sure to give it a try. I like to serve this dish with the tomato salad shown below.
2 ounces butter, room temperature
1 lb triggerfish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 ounces white wine
Hot sauce, to taste
Half a small onion, chopped fine or one shallot
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon capers, rinsed
Add the butter to a saute pan or skillet and place over medium heat.
Season the fish with the salt and pepper and dredge the fillets in all-purpose flour.
Place each fillet in the skillet and saute until light golden brown.
Add a few drops of hot sauce to the pan as the fish browns.
After the first side is golden brown, turn the fish over and cook until the second side is golden brown.
Remove the fish from the pan to a plate. Reduce the heat to low and add the wine to the skillet.
Add the onion or shallot and stir slowly but continuously for about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and capers.
Continue to stir until a thin sauce forms. Return the fish to the skillet and spoon the sauce over the fillets.
Place the fish on serving plates and spoon any sauce in the skillet onto the fish.
Tomato Feta Salad
4-5 medium plum tomatoes, sliced thin
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons good quality white wine vinegar or Champagne vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Place the sliced tomatoes on a serving plate.
In a mixing bowl combine the onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and parsley and toss well.
Pour the dressing over the sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with the feta cheese. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 12 squares
1 (3-4 ounce) package chocolate pudding mix
Two 3-ounce packages ladyfingers, split
1/3 cup chocolate liqueur (Kahlua)
1/3 cup brewed espresso or strong coffee
One 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Do ahead: Prepare the chocolate pudding mix according to the directions on the package. Chill in the refrigerator.
Mix the coffee and Kahlua together in a shallow dish.
In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer just until stiff peaks form.
Add the chocolate syrup and mix until just combined.
To assemble the tiramisu:
Line the bottom of an 8 x 8 x 2-inch or 11 x 7 x 2 inch baking dish with some of the ladyfingers dipped in the espresso/Kahlua mixture.
Spoon a thin layer of chocolate pudding over the ladyfingers in the baking dish.
Spoon half of the mascarpone mixture over the chocolate pudding layer, spreading it evenly.
Sprinkle with grated bittersweet chocolate.
Top with another layer of ladyfingers dipped in espresso, followed by chocolate pudding and the mascarpone cheese mixture.
Cover and chill for 6 to 24 hours. Sift cocoa powder over the top before serving.
Pumpkins haven’t always been popular. In fact, pumpkins were hardly eaten by people for a considerable part of the 19th century. Now, we have pumpkin flavored yogurt, coffee, candies, muffins and more. While the round orange pumpkin is the most recognizable pumpkin, pumpkins come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Pumpkins are native to Mexico, but are grown on every continent except Antarctica. Americans love pumpkin, but so do the people on the other 6 continents who choose to grow them. America’s love is usually concentrated around Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Today, more pumpkins are grown in Italy than in America. In all of Italy’s diverse 20 regions, it is the people of Veneto, who give the pumpkin its highest esteem. The pumpkin — marina di Chioggia, also known as sea pumpkin, after its native town in the lagoon, is the most popular. The pumpkin’s bland and compact flesh make them an ideal canvas for the savory and sweet creations of Italians cooking, such as pumpkin risotto, pumpkin tortelli, cappelletti and gnocchi.
Smaller is Better
Choose sugar pie pumpkins or other flavorful varieties. Small and sweet with dark orange-colored flesh, they’re perfect for pies, soups, muffins, and breads.
A medium-sized (4-pound) sugar pumpkin should yield around 1½ cups of mashed pumpkin. This puree can be used in all your recipes calling for canned pumpkin.
Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o’-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking.
Choose A Cooking Method
There are three ways to transform an uncooked pumpkin into the puree used in baking:
Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp. Save the seeds to dry and roast.
In a shallow baking dish, place the two halves face down and cover with foil.
Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) oven for about 1½ hours for a medium-sized sugar pumpkin, or until tender.
Once the baked pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.
For silky smooth custards or soups, press the pumpkin puree through a sieve.
Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Peel the pumpkin and cut it into chunks.
Place in a saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a boil and cook until the pumpkin chunks are tender.
Let the chunks cool, then puree the flesh in a food processor or mash it with a potato masher or food mill.
Cut the pumpkin in half, discarding the stringy insides.
Microwave on high power for seven minutes per pound, turning pieces every few minutes to promote even cooking. Process as above.
You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to six months, so you can enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.
Pumpkin and Leek Risotto
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 leek
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin, peeled and diced
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for serving
Cook the pumpkin:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Toss the pumpkin with a tablespoon of olive oil and one, small minced garlic clove in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the pumpkin in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast until tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
Wash the leek well and dice the white and light green parts.
In a saucepan, bring 6 cups stock to a simmer.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add the diced eek. Stir for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Reduce heat to low. Add 2 cups Arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter.
Add 1/2 cup dry white wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed. Add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until all liquid is absorbed.
When rice is almost cooked, add the pumpkin. Continue cooking,.until the pumpkin is hot and the rice is tender.
Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, then stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve topped with extra Parmesan cheese.
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (plus more as needed)
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (packed)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Ground white pepper
- 11/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more as needed)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- Ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts,toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust it with flour; set aside.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. (Do not heat the water if you plan to freeze the gnocchi.)
Drain the ricotta in a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl for a few minutes. Place in a mixing bowl and add the pumpkin, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg and a few pinches of white pepper. Stir to combine. Add the flour and mix until the dough just comes together. (It will be very soft and slightly sticky, but don’t overwork the dough or it will become tough and heavy.)
Generously flour the work surface and turn out the dough. Pat it into a rough rectangle and cut it into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll 1 piece into an even rope about 3/4 inch in diameter, flouring the surface as needed.
Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Lightly flour your forefinger, your thumb and the tines of a salad fork. Using your thumb, lightly press the cut side of the gnocchi into the back of the fork tines, then roll it off with your forefinger; your thumb will leave a concave impression in the gnocchi that’s handy for holding sauce.
Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat rolling and cutting the remaining 3 dough pieces.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat.
Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Add a third of the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float, about 2 to 3 minutes, then let them cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more so they’re just cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat cooking the remaining gnocchi in 2 more batches.
Set aside a large serving bowl.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add 1 teaspoon of the sage. a pinch of black pepper and half of the gnocchi and cook, shaking the pan often, until the gnocchi are browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer with the slotted spoon to the reserved large bowl. Repeat with the remaining butter, sage, gnocchi and more black pepper..
Gently toss the gnocchi with the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with the hazelnuts, if using. Serve immediately.
Penne Pasta with Pumpkin & Italian Sausage
- 1 lb hot or sweet Italian Sausage
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 (14 ½-ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 pound penne pasta or any short pasta
- Grated Parmesan cheese and sage leaves for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the sausages until well-done, 165°F as measured by a meat thermometer. Slice into ¼-inch slices and set aside.
Add the garlic and onion to the skillet and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion is tender. Add the bay leaf and wine. Cook until the wine reduces by half; about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and pumpkin; cook, stirring, until sauce bubbles. Add sliced sausage and reduce heat and stir in cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.
Remove the bay leaf from sauce and add the cooked pasta. Toss together over low heat 1 minute. Garnish with grated cheese and sage leaves.
Italian Pumpkin Strata
A strata is a brunch dish, similar to a quiche or frittata, made from a mixture of bread, eggs and cheese. It may also include meat or vegetables. The bread is layered with the filling in order to produce layers (strata) and baked.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb Italian bread, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 cups half & half (fat-free works fine)
- 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree, not pie mix
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet cook sausage, onion, peppers and garlic in oil until the sausage is no longer pink; drain.
Combine bread, cheese and sausage mixture in a large bowl.
Mix together the half & half, pumpkin, eggs, salt, pepper and seasonings.
Pour over the bread mixture and stir gently until bread is moistened.
Pour into a greased 13×9 inch baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until set.
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream, chilled
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese
- 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 cup Amaretto liqueur
- 25 Savoiardi Ladyfingers
- 6 ounces Amaretti cookies, crumbled
In an electric mixer beat cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese, pumpkin and spices and beat until smooth.
Pour the Amaretto liqueur into a shallow bowl. Dip each ladyfinger in the liqueur before arranging them along the bottom of a 13- by 9-inch baking dish, overlapping to fit.
Spread one-third of the filling over the ladyfingers, sprinkle evenly with one-third of the Amaretti cookie crumbs and repeat with two more layers.
Smooth the top of dessert and wrap tightly in plastic and foil. Refrigerate. Best when chilled overnight.
In 1630 the Barbarigo family, a powerful noble family from the Republic of Venice, owned most of the land in Valsanzibio. They took refuge in this location to escape the black plague outbreak that was spreading throughout Venice and the rest of Europe and that had already killed the wife of Zuane Francesco Barbarigo. Soon after, Zuane Francesco made a solemn vow that, if the rest of his family would be spared from this terrible disease, he would create a spiritual masterwork.
This vow was completed by his son, Gregorio and his grandsons. The garden plans were drawn by Luigi Bernini, a distinguished Vatican architect, and the sculptures were completed by Enrico Merengo (1628 – 1723), who was a well-known sculptor in Venice. The garden contains seventy statues all of which have engraved inscriptions. Symbolism abounds around every corner and down every path, as the gardens were designed to serve as an allegory of man’s progress towards perfection.
Diane’s Pavilion or ‘Diane’s Doorway’ was the main entrance by water to the Barbarigo estate in the 17th and 18th century and was one of the first works in Bernini’s project. This impressive doorway represents one of the most important areas of the complex, in fact, it was not only the entrance to the Barbarigo estate, but it represented, as it does still today, the beginning of one’s salvation’s itinerary, desired by Gregorio Barbarigo in the plans. Just in front of the doorway, on its outside, on two solid pillars, are the Barbarigo shields held up by two statues representing angels with a peaceful attitude. Thirteen other statues adorn the area.
The sculptures depict a world of buildings, streams, waterfalls, fountains, small ponds, game and fish ponds and hundreds of different trees and plants all over an area of more than 10 hectares (over 24 acres).
The labyrinth paths were created with six thousand boxwood plants, many of which are almost 400 years old, since they were planted between 1664-1669. The pruning work takes fifteen hundred hours of work, with the help of manual and mechanical cutters, ladders, levels and plumbed lines. The maze of labyrinths represent the complex voyage toward achieving human perfectibility. The paths are designed to disorient the visitor by the high boxwood walls, The right path to arrive at the exit is never the shorter one. Every promising shortcut considerably lengthens the walk or ends up in a dead-end. Symbolically teaching: whoever mends his way and finds the right path, will have to avoid repeating errors.
This symbolic garden was awarded the first prize, as ‘the most beautiful garden in Italy’ in 2003 and as the third most beautiful garden in Europe in 2007.
The gardens are near Padua (Italian: Padova) Italy. The city is sometimes included with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, The city is the home of the University of Padua, almost 800 years old and famous, among other things, for having had Galileo Galilei among its lecturers. Padua is also the setting for most of the action in Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.
The culinary tradition of Padua has its roots in the simple produce of the vegetable garden, the farmyard and the vineyard. Farmland products are represented by the well-known Paduan hen. Paduan hens are an ancient breed (a favorite subject of 16th-century European painters) of small crested and bearded chickens from the surrounding province of Padova, in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy, The Paduan hen is distinguished by the splendor of its plumage and elegant form. The crest is replaced by a tuft of long feathers on the head, which gives the appearance of a chrysanthemum flower in the male or of a hydrangea in the female.
DOC wines are produced in five areas and Extra Virgin Olive Oil comes exclusively from the area of the Euganean Hills. All varieties of chicory (a bitter green) are cultivated in the countryside of Padua. Prosciutto crudo dolce di Montagnana, a specialty of the area, has a festival designated in its honor on the third Sunday of May.
Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms
- One-ounce packet dried porcini (25 g, about a packed half cup)
- 1/2 of a small onion, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) short-grained rice, for example Arborio or Vialone Nano
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- The water the mushrooms were soaked in, strained and added to chicken broth to equal 4 cups
- One bunch parsley, minced
- 1 cup (50 g) grated Parmigiano
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
Steep the porcini in one cup of boiling water for fifteen minutes. Drain and reserve the mushroom water. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.
Strain the mushroom water and add chicken broth to equal 4 cups. Place in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Slice the onion finely and sauté it in oil in another large saucepan. Stir in the rice and cook for several minutes, until it becomes translucent, stirring constantly.
Add the wine and continue stirring until it has evaporated completely. Then stir in the first ladle of the chicken broth.
Add the mushrooms, 3/4 teaspoon salt and continue adding broth, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally.
About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning and add more salt if needed.
As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, a little ground pepper, the parsley and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cover the risotto for two minutes. Serve with the remaining grated cheese.
Hens with Garlic and Rosemary
Since Padua hens are not available everywhere, I offer an alternative.
- 4 Cornish game hens, about 1 lb each
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 24 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in the cavity of each hen. Place in a large, heavy roasting pan and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over the hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with the pan juices every 10 minutes.
Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and serve.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons limoncello
- 3 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers, split
LEMON CURD: or 1 (10-12 ounce) Jar Lemon Curd
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1-1/2 cups cold water
- 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, plus extra for garnish
- 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 carton (8 ounces) Mascarpone cheese
For the syrup: In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. Stir in limoncello; set aside.
For lemon curd: in another saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch. Stir in water until smooth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from the heat.
Stir a small amount of hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Return to the heat and bring to a gentle boil; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat. Stir in butter. Gently stir in lemon juice and peel. Cool to room temperature without stirring.
For the filling: In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold cheese and whipped cream into lemon curd.
Arrange a third of the ladyfingers on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Drizzle with a third of the syrup; spread with a third of the filling. Repeat layers twice.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Carefully run a knife around edge of the pan to loosen. Remove the sides of the pan. Garnish the top with lemon zest and mint, if desired. Yield: 16 servings.
Cooking healthy doesn’t mean you suddenly start counting calories, checking your cholesterol or monitoring your sodium intake. It means making better food choices. More whole grains, less white flour; more leafy, hardy greens; more heritage-breed pork instead of plastic-wrapped supermarket meat; more sustainable fish and organic chicken. When we build our meals around these ingredients, we don’t think “health,” we think “delicious.” Celebrate what good food has always been about: the best possible ingredients, prepared well and consumed with portion restraint. For many of us, learning to develop healthy eating habits takes a little more discipline than it does for others. By making small changes with every meal, you can start developing healthier eating habits in no time.
Here are a few small steps that can lead to giant leaps for you and your family’s health.
Start by changing the “snack ratio” in the house. Slowly and gradually have more fruit and healthier choices around, rather than the typical, higher-calorie junk food. For instance, have three types of fruit (apples, oranges, grapes) to replace some of the small bags of chips or candy bars. Start replacing unhealthy snacks with alternative choices, such as oatmeal bars, granola bars or peanuts and yogurt.
- Toss sliced apples, berries, bananas and a tablespoon or two of whole-grain cereal on top of fat-free or low-fat yogurt.
- Put a slice of low-fat cheese on top of whole-grain crackers.
- Make a whole-wheat pita pocket with hummus, lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
- Pop some low-fat popcorn.
- Microwave or toast a soft whole grain tortilla with low-fat cheese and sliced peppers and mushrooms to make a mini-burrito or quesadilla.
- Drink fat-free or low-fat chocolate milk (blend it with a banana or strawberries and some ice for a smoothie).
When shopping at the grocery store, spend more of your time in the outer aisles. That’s where you’ll find the healthier foods, such as fresh fruits, fish and vegetables, which are naturally lower in fat and cholesterol and do not have added sugar, salt and other preservatives that add on the pounds.
Begin reading the labels of the foods that you eat. Foods that are labeled “low in fat,” or “light,” are not always the healthiest choice. Many times, if a product is lower in fat, it may be higher in sodium, or, if it’s lower in sugar, it may be high in fat. Read the “Nutrition Facts” chart on the back of the box, can or bag, so you know what you are eating. Reading the label of every food item while you’re shopping is not easy. A better way to start is with your favorite packaged foods and snacks at home. Notice the differences in the amounts of sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and calories per serving between the different foods that you have in your pantry. The next step is to slowly begin making adjustments in your shopping choices by looking for alternatives with fewer calories, sodium and fats.
Don’t get caught up in the calories. Instead look at the portions and calories per serving. Most consumers read the number of calories and assume that’s the number of calories for the entire package, rather than the number of calories per serving – buyer beware.
|20 Years Ago||Today|
|Bagel||3” diameter||140||6” diameter||350|
|1 cup sauce
|500||2 cups sauce
|Soda||6.5 ounces||82||20 ounces||250|
|1.5 ounces||210||5 ounces||500|
Develop a healthy habit of selecting sensible-sized food portions. If your plate has a serving of rice that can’t fit into the cupped palm of your hand, then, in most cases, the amount of food you’ve chosen is too much. Using this “cup of your hand” technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate. Some people use the size of their fist as a measurement. The size of your fist, or a cupped hand, is about the same size of one measuring cup. You can also use the Healthy Eating Plate pictured at the top of this post as a guide to portion control.
Retrain your taste buds and attitude toward better food choices. The natural sweetness of an orange or apple can’t compete with the sugary taste of a candy bar. You can retrain your palate to like foods that are good for you. Eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks or as replacements for some of the fats that you would tend to add onto your lunch tray or dinner plate and your taste buds will get used to it.
The more color on your plate, the better. Not only does this keep things interesting and exciting for you and your taste buds, but it’s healthier. The nutrients that create the different colors in our fruit and vegetables, represent different nutrients for your body. Feed your body as many varieties as possible. The fight against the common cold, cancers and other illnesses can be prevented by having variety in your diet. Don’t skip meals (especially breakfast). Skipping meals, or starving your body will cause it to go into a starvation mode – it will start to hold on to fat rather than burn it. In fact, allow yourself to snack a little more, just make them healthy snacks. Your metabolism will actually pick up steam and start to burn more of what you’re giving it – especially with an accompanying daily exercise program.
Basic alternatives to fattening foods.
- Choose mustard instead of mayo (mustard naturally has less calories/fat).
- Choose brown rice, whole wheat, rye or oat bread over white bread (brown foods don’t have extra fats added to them to change their color).
- Choose the white meat of turkey or chicken over dark meat, red meat or pork (most of our fat intake comes from animal fat; white meat contains less fat).
- Choose baked or broiled instead of fried, battered or breaded.
- Choose water over juice and soda. Some juices contain just as many carbs and calories as a small bag of potato chips. Try slowly weaning yourself off caffeinated soda with tea or water – have two glasses of water or cups of tea for every can of soda you drink. (Also, don’t drink your calories – those 100 calories of juice could be two pieces of fruit or a cereal bar, a more filling feeling for you and your stomach.)
- Choose low-calorie sauces and ask to have sauces and dressings served on the side when dining at a restaurant. (Usually more sauce is poured on than is needed. Dip your fork into the sauce, then dip your fork into the food. This will give you the flavor with every bite, but without the extra, unnecessary fat.)
- Choose fat-free milk and skim milk cheese, as opposed to whole milk (again, most of our fat intake comes from animal fat).
- Choose vegetables as side orders over fries and chips. Oven roasted or stir fried veggies are preferable over creamed veggies (vegetables naturally carry less fat).
- Choose to pack fruit and nuts to hold you over to the next meal, rather than opting for fast food or snacks from a vending machine. Fruit snacks will help you get to the next meal without the extra fat intake). Fruits like bananas and oranges are convenient and have their own protective packaging.
Italian Sausage Soup
This soup stores well in the refrigerator for easy reheating. If you use a slow cooker, combine everything together except the cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes; add those during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking. Serve with rustic bread.
- 1 (20-ounce) package pre-cooked, all-natural Italian chicken or turkey sausage, sliced diagonally
- 1 cup chopped red onion
- 1 stalk celery with leaves, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 cups low-sodium stock or broth (chicken, beef, or a mixture)
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes)
- 1 cup peeled, chopped carrots
- 1 small fennel bulb, chopped (about 7 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 4 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
- 3 cups thinly sliced kale leaves, tough center stems removed
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
Brown sausage in a Dutch oven or large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add onion, celery and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes more. Drain off any fat in the pot.
Add stock or broth, potatoes, carrots, fennel, fennel seed, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are nearly tender.
Stir in cabbage, kale, beans and tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and crusty bread.
Quinoa-Stuffed Winter Squash
This vegetarian dish can be prepared up to three hours ahead and reheated just before serving time.
- 4 small acorn squash
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 3/4 tablespoon sea salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice, divided
- 1 red onion, cut in 1/4-inch dice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place halves, cut side down, in a lightly greased, large baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes, until just tender.
Turn cut side up, brush each half with olive oil and place 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable broth into each of the eight cavities. Season tops with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon allspice. Return squash to the oven and bake until browned on the edges, another 5–10 minutes. Remove from oven and drain any broth from the squash into a bowl with the unused broth. Set baking dish and bowl with broth aside.
Place 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat and add onions. Stir until they begin to soften and then reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic, cranberries, remaining salt, pepper and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for another 5–10 minutes, until the onions are tender. Add cooked quinoa and reserved broth; mix well.
Remove saucepan from the heat and stir in nuts, mint, parsley and salt to taste. Divide mixture among squash halves. Return to the oven and warm through.
Chicken and Gnocchi with Squash Sauce
- 1 pound shelf-stable potato gnocchi
- 1 small acorn (or butternut) squash, halved and seeded
- 1 pound chicken breast tenderloins
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons low fat milk
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Tiny whole sage leaves
- Grated nutmeg
Prepare gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. Cover and keep warm.
While the gnocchi are cooking, place squash, cut sides down in a microwave-safe baking dish with 2 tablespoons water. Cook in the microwave, covered, on high (100 percent power) 7 to 10 minutes; rearrange once. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
Sprinkle chicken with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. In large skillet cook chicken in 1 tablespoon hot oil over medium heat 4 minutes on each side, until no longer pink. Remove; cover, keep warm.
Scrape flesh from the squash; mash. Transfer to the hot skillet where the chicken was cooked; stir in broth and chopped sage. Bring to boiling; simmer 1 minute. Stir in milk. Add gnocchi and stir carefully.
Spoon gnocchi with sauce into 4 serving bowls. Top with chicken and sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese, sage leaves and nutmeg.
Creamy Spinach Lasagna
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 1/4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
- 3 cups reduced-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 (26-ounce) jar or 3 ½ cups homemade marinara sauce
- Cooking spray
- 12 cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- Chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Heat oil in a large skillet with a cover over medium heat. Add onion; cook 10 minutes or until onion is browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in garlic and spinach. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until spinach is tender. Set aside.
Combine flour, milk, salt, black pepper and red pepper in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.
Add 2 cups of the milk mixture to the spinach mixture. Cover remaining milk mixture and set aside.
Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce; top with half of the spinach mixture.
Top with 3 lasagna noodles, 1 cup marinara sauce and 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese.
Layer 3 more lasagna noodles, remaining spinach mixture and remaining 3 lasagna noodles.
Top with remaining marinara sauce. Pour reserved milk mixture over the top and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.
Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until lasagna is browned on top. Garnish with parsley.
Raspberry Tiramisu Parfaits
2 Servings (recipe is easily doubled)
- 1/4 ounce ladyfingers, cubed (6 halves)
- 2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
- 1/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
- 1/4 cup light dairy sour cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted
- Fresh mint sprigs and additional raspberries for garnish
Divide half of the ladyfinger cubes between two 5- to 6-ounce dessert dishes. Drizzle ladyfinger cubes with half of the espresso. Set aside.
In a medium bowl stir cream cheese to soften. Stir in sour cream, sugar and vanilla. (Beat smooth with a wire whisk, if necessary.) Stir in the defrosted raspberries with a spoon, mashing slightly.
Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture over the ladyfinger cubes. Add remaining ladyfingers and drizzle with remaining espresso.
Top with remaining cream cheese mixture. Cover and chill for 1 to 24 hours. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and a few raspberries before serving.
- How to Eat Healthy (nutritionwithbite.wordpress.com)
- 13 Keys to a Healthy Diet (ressurectionaphtharsia.wordpress.com)
- Small Changes = Big Change (mindbodyhealthytips.wordpress.com)
- 10 Tips to Cut Back on Salt and Sodium (herbalwrap4u.wordpress.com)
- Smart Food Swaps for a Healthier 2014 (freshwaddabrooks.com)
The second Monday in October is designated in the United States as Columbus Day. This day commemorates Christopher Columbus’ first voyage and sighting of the Americas on October 12, 1492. However, Columbus Day as a federal holiday was not officially recognized until 1937.
The first Columbus Day celebration took place in 1792, when New York’s Tammany Hall–held an event to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the historic landing.. Taking pride in Columbus’ birthplace and faith, Italian and Catholic communities in various parts of the country began organizing annual religious ceremonies and parades in his honor. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation encouraging Americans to mark the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage with patriotic festivities, writing, “On that day let the people, so far as possible, cease from toil and devote themselves to such exercises as may best express honor to the discoverer and their appreciation of the great achievements of the four completed centuries of American life.”
President Johnson signed the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill in 1968, making Columbus Day a federal holiday celebrated annually on the second Monday in October. The bill took effect in January, 1971.
Some historians have argued that Columbus came from Spain or Portugal, but such theories have been discounted thanks to the discovery of various documents. The Galata Museum of the Sea holds one of the most important documents to demonstrate the navigator’s Genoese origins. Known as the ‘Documento Assereto’ (Documento Assereto) after the man who discovered it in the Genoese state archives in 1904. The document was written in Genoa on 25 August 1479 by a notary. In it, the young Columbus declares that he is a Genoese citizen and about to set off in search of financial backing.
(Sources: http://www.italymagazine.com/ and
The fact that he was an Italian citizen and put America on the map is the reason why Italian Americans are proud to celebrate him. He only sailed for Spain, because they provided the money. In many parts of the United States, Columbus Day has evolved into a celebration of Italian-American heritage. Local groups host parades and street fairs featuring colorful costumes, music and Italian food.
Columbus was born in Genoa in the northwestern region of Liguria in Italy. So when you get home from the parade this afternoon, celebrate Columbus Day with a few authentic Genovese dishes that are easy to do.
Vongole al Forno (Baked Clams)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt/freshly ground black pepper
- 3 dozen Cherrystone Clams, cleaned, shucked & half the shells reserved
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Melted butter
- Lemon wedges
Combine the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For an easy way to open clams, see my post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/10/08/pasta-night/
In a small bowl, combine the shucked clams with lemon juice. Divide the clams one to each reserved half shell and top each clam with some breadcrumb mixture.
Drizzle melted butter over each clamshell and broil until the top is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with lemon.
Trenette with Basil Pesto
- 1 lb. trenette pasta or fettuccine
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 2 oz. grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 oz. grated Pecorino Cheese
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 oz. pignoli (pine nuts)
- Salt/freshly ground black pepper
Place basil, garlic and cheeses in a food processor. Pulse while slowly drizzling olive oil into the processor. Once creamy, transfer to a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir in pine nuts.
Cook the pasta until al dente, drain and place in a serving bowl. Toss pasta with pesto mixture, Adjust seasoning and sprinkle additional cheese over the dish, if desired.
Cheesy Garlic Bread
Serves 4 to 8
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 generous teaspoon dried basil
- 1 generous teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 large crusty baguette (whole-wheat preferred)
- 1 tight-packed cup (5 to 6 ounces) shredded Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients, except the bread and cheese, and set over medium-low heat. When the butter melts, cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes to soften the garlic. Take care not to brown it. Once the garlic is soft, uncover the pan and simmer until you hear the mixture sizzling. This is the signal that the water has cooked off. Take the pan off the heat immediately.
Split the baguette in half horizontally. Divide the garlic blend between the two halves. Sprinkle each with half of the cheese. Set them on a foil-covered baking sheet, cheese side up, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly. Slice, and serve hot.
Mixed Green Salad
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 cups torn Italian salad greens
- 1/4 of a red onion, sliced thin
In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, basil and pepper flakes; shake well.
In a salad bowl, combine the greens and onion. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.
Yield: 6 servings.
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup strong coffee
- 1/3 cup Kahlua
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3/4 cup light cream cheese
- 1/4 cup dark or light rum
- 1/3 cup ricotta
- 6 ounces vanilla yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 (3-ounce) packages ladyfingers
- 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa for dusting
To make the syrup, blend the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture for about 5 minutes and set it aside.
To make the filling, combine the sugar, cream cheese, rum, ricotta, yogurt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low-speed to blend well, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually pour in the whipping cream. Partially cover the bowl with plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t splatter while it whips, and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat until thickened (about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes).
To assemble, line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform or the bottom of a 9 x 13- inch pan with a layer of the ladyfingers. Drizzle 4 to 6 tablespoons of the syrup over the top. Spread half of the filling over the syrup-soaked ladyfingers. Cover with the remaining ladyfingers and drizzle about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the syrup over the top. Spread the remaining filling over the top and use a spatula to smooth.
Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Before serving, dust the top with cocoa (using a sifter or dusting cup).
Happy Columbus Day Everyone
Milwaukee’s Italian families have a distinguished heritage, one that began in a great rush to the city shortly before the turn of the 19th century, when Italian immigrants poured into Milwaukee and quickly formed two distinct communities. The Bayview settlement was dominated by newcomers from northern and central Italy, many of whom took jobs in the sprawling iron mill on the south lakeshore. The second Italian community, and by far the largest, was in the Third Ward, just west of today’s Summerfest grounds. The vast majority of Third Warders, whose numbers swelled to 5,000 by 1910, traced their roots to Sicily. Mario Carini, an Italian-American historian and author of the book, “Milwaukee’s Italians: The Early Years,” said nearly every region of Italy was represented in Milwaukee. He noted, “Some came from the northern regions of Liguria or Lombardy and some from the more central regions like Lazio.” However, the greatest number of Italians who emigrated to the U.S. came from the depressed and impoverished regions of il Mezzogiorno, the southern regions of the Italy, the ones left behind culturally, economically and socially after the unification of Italy in 1870. According to Carini, many of the Italian immigrants from il Mezzogiorno came from the regions of Puglia, Campania, Abruzzo and Calabria. They were once part of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and the transition to Italian unification was a difficult journey. The southern economy was mostly agrarian-based, in contrast to the industrial north, and the peasants of the countryside had to work non-stop to provide the simplest means of survival. The island and people of Sicily suffered most. Sicily thought of itself as an entirely different country. It was there that peasants faced the toughest of circumstances. A few very wealthy men owned nearly all of the workable land on the sun-baked island. The impoverished laborers hired to work the land toiled long and hard and received scant returns. Life in il Mezzogiorno soon became unbearable and the lure of America became more and more desirable. By 1910, four out of every five immigrants came from southern Italy. The quest for the American dream started soon after the immigrants passed through the doors of Ellis Island and stepped upon the real America. Carini said, “as the old axiom ‘go West, young man’ holds, so did the immigrants listen. A good number did stay and seek their fortune in the bustling metro of New York City, but others, intrigued by tales of a gold rush and general curiosity, embarked on their trek westward. But as they made their way, economic necessity forced the Italians to halt their journey to sunny California”, Carini said. With the huge metropolis that is Chicago and its some 16,000 Italians, so close, many sought their fortune just 90 miles north in Milwaukee. According to Carini, there was an Italian presence in Milwaukee as early as the Civil War, but the real influx of immigrants began in 1880 and, by 1910, records show 3,528 Italian-born immigrants lived in Milwaukee. Some natives of northern Italy chose the south side and suburbs, while others lived where work was found. But no neighborhood could compare to the Sicilian community of the Third Ward, where 2,759 Sicilians settled. Dubbed the Little Italy of Milwaukee, the Third Ward afforded a place to live and a place to work for the immigrants, which is really what they all came looking for in America.
Most of Milwaukee’s early Italian population consisted of working adult males, Carini said. However, as women joined their husbands in America, their primary duty was to the family. They cared for the children in the morning, walked to the factory and put in a full day’s work and, then, went back home to prepare meals. As soon as children could have a job they did, some even worked on the coal docks next to their fathers. Though many found work and a place to live, the Italian immigrants were hardly living the luxurious life. Many men took up a second job and working conditions were very harsh. Rosario Spella, born in Milwaukee to Italian immigrants, knew the hardships of immigrant life. “Our economic situation was dire,” Spella said. “I was the primary source of income at 18 years old, since my father had gone job-to-job. There was very little money to support all of us, so we had to do whatever we could possibly do to help out.”
Living quarters were described as “sub standard” and immigrants were charged relatively high rents. Families were often crammed into small houses or apartments. “Housing was a big issue,” Carini said. “We used to move around a lot, but it used to always be within the Third Ward. We’d go from corner to corner or block to block. ” That was until the railroads started to take away housing property and the family was forced to leave the area, Carini said. However, Italian-Americans prevailed and fought through the arduous task that was immigrant life. The diet of the Italian immigrants in Milwaukee was apparently not better than what they were accustomed to Italy. In America they had meat more frequently, but less fruits and vegetables. Generally the families in Sicily had meat on Sunday, eggs daily (almost every family had chickens) and fruit of every kind grew abundantly in Sicily. Fruit was cheap, especially in the villages, and almost every family owned a little piece of land on which fruit trees and greens were cultivated for family use. This simple diet, accompanied by life in the open air and vigorous work in the fields, made the Sicilian peasants healthy and strong. In Milwaukee, instead of having fruit and greens, which were too expensive in America, they learned to substitute meat and stretch it with potatoes, which were more filling than nutritious. While macaroni was preferred to any other dish, the cost was too high and with the addition of tomatoes and oil, pasta became even more expensive. Since these were luxuries for the Italian laborers in Milwaukee, they learned to prepare cheaper food.
Like the immigrants who preceded them, most Sicilians worked as laborers and factory hands, but a sizable number entered the produce business, selling fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the city. The most successful merchants graduated to their own wholesale houses on a stretch of Broadway long known as Commission Row. Others moved into the Brady Street area. Not afraid to work, the Italians were railroad employees, fruit peddlers, refuse collectors, shopkeepers, tavern owners or skilled craft workers in the masonry and stone trades.
At the time there were in Milwaukee 45 groceries owned by Italians and 38 of them crowded into three or four streets in the Third Ward. Many of the stores were one small, unsanitary room with stock consisting of a few boxes of macaroni, a small quantity of canned tomatoes and some oranges and bananas displayed in the window. Generally women attended the shop, while their husbands were at work on the tracks or in the foundries. Only three or four groceries had a large stock and did a good amount of business, but the system of giving credit to their customers, especially during periods of joblessness, made development of their trade on a large scale impossible. Better conditions were found among saloon keepers, who did not give credit. In the Third Ward there were 29 Italian saloons, 12 of which were located on just 4 blocks on Huron Street. The immigrants engaged in other businesses, but on a smaller scale. Although almost every line of business was represented, Italian bakeries, meat markets, shoe repair shops, tailor shops and barber shops were typical of the businesses operated by Italians in the Third Ward. In 1905, the Sicilian immigrants adopted the Blessed Virgin of Pompeii Church on Jackson Street. The “little pink church” quickly became the neighborhood’s hub, both for worship and for the annual round of summer festivals that featured Italian bands, tug-of-war contests, food stands and fireworks. By 1939 many of the younger families had moved to the Brady Street area and they founded a new church, St. Rita’s, on Cass and Pleasant Streets, which then became the new center of their community. The descendants of those first arrivals, today, make up an extraordinary share of Milwaukee’s business leaders, politicians, clergy, restaurateurs, educators, police officers and military personnel. The warm and welcoming spirit that the Italian immigrants spread is still very much alive today. One need only take a trip to the modern-day Third Ward to find the epicenter of Italian culture in Milwaukee at the Italian Community Center. Paul Iannelli, a long-time Milwaukee resident and an Italian-American advocate, as well as a historian on the ICC’s history and executive director of Festa Italiana, said the Italians deserved their spot in Milwaukee. “We, Italian-Americans, have long entrenched ourselves in Milwaukee. We decided to build a sort of base for ourselves, as well as being a memorial to all those who came before us and laid the way for Italian-Americans in Milwaukee” Iannelli said. So after a challenging decade in the 1960s, when the city razed several blocks of the Third Ward including the local church, the Italian-Americans of Milwaukee began a revival of Italian heritage and culture. “Our first Festa was in 1977,” Iannelli says. “It was, initially, just a way to jumpstart the feeling of Italian-American heritage and pride.” Festa Italiana, an annual event now and in its 34th year, is an Italian-American festival featuring music, guests and authentic Italian food. Since the Festa became so popular a new headquarters was needed and in 1990 the Italian Community Center of Milwaukee opened its doors. “The ICC was built to house the organization and offices for Festa,” Iannelli said. “But it also was built to be a hub for Italian-Americans, which it became, and a place where old friends could connect.” A block-long building with a sandstone brick exterior, the ICC stands as an emblem of the Italian-American tradition. Three flags — the Italian flag, the American flag and Wisconsin’s state flag — fly high atop silver poles next to a black granite monument commemorating notable Italian-Americans associated with the ICC’s birth.
Italian Recipes From A Few Milwaukee Chefs
Vicenza Barley Soup
Bartolotta Ristorante, Milwaukee Chef Miles Borghgraef Serves 6 Ingredients:
- 4 quarts of broth (either chicken or beef broth will work)
- 6 oz. pearled barley (rinsed well)
- 1 cup white onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
- 1 head radicchio (shredded)
- 1 cup salumi* chopped fine
- 1 /2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
- 1 piece Parmigiano or Grana Padano rind
- 3 tablespoons cold butter
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 egg yolk
Directions: In large heavy bottom stock pot, on medium heat, saute the chopped salumi in 4 tablespoons of olive oil (reserve remaining 2 tablespoons of oil for plating) for 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook until the vegetables become translucent. Add rinsed barley. Mix ingredients well. Pour in broth, stir, bring to a light simmer and add cheese rind. After 30 minutes add shredded radicchio. Continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes. When barley is tender (after about 45 minutes), remove two cups of broth. In separate bowl, temper** egg yolk with the two cups of broth. Mix in 1 cup of parmigiano or grana padano, reserve the other 1/2 cup for plating. While mixing vigorously, return the tempered egg/broth/cheese mixture to the soup. Melt in cold butter stirring continuously until incorporated. To serve, ladle soup into a serving bowl and top with some reserved extra virgin olive oil and cheese. Notes: *Salumi is Italian cured meat ,such as prosciutto, pancetta, coppa and sopressata. **Temper is to add hot liquid slowly so eggs don’t cook.
Venetian Risotto with Peas and Bacon
LoDuca Brothers Wine Chef Lou Bruno & Assistant Jim LoDuca Serves 8 or more. Can be used as a side dish or main course. Ingredients:
- 1 lb. Carnaroli or Arborio Rice
- 1½ quarts chicken stock
- 2 onions, finely diced
- 8 oz. frozen peas, thawed
- 1 lb. cooked crisp bacon (cut into 2” pieces)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1½ cups Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/2 Bottle (750 ml) Pinot Grigio for stock
Directions: In 2 quart stock pot, bring chicken stock and Pinot Grigio to boil. Then reduce to a simmer. In a 6 qt stockpot, heat olive oil, add onion and saute until golden. Add rice and cook for several minutes, stirring constantly to coat rice. Add hot stock mixture to rice, a cup at a time, stirring constantly until the stock is almost absorbed. The rice should be never dry. When rice is still a little firm (after 15 minutes) add peas. When rice is cooked, add all the parmigiano cheese and mix well. Add more hot stock if necessary to keep rice wet and custard-like. Distribute bacon over top and warm. [Chef’s Hint: overly wet rice is best].
Sausage Rigatoni Rustica
Bravo Cucina Italiana, Milwaukee Chef Tony Evans 3-4 servings Ingredients
- 1/2 oz. olive oil
- 3 oz. Italian sausage
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic, chopped
- 3 oz. eggplant
- 2 oz. tomatoes
- 2 oz. Bercy sauce *
- 4 oz. Alfredo sauce
- 1 oz. each of Parmesan and Romano cheese
- 1 tablespoon herb butter
- 7 oz. rigatoni, cooked al dente
- 1 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
Directions: Preheat a grill or grill pan and oil the grill. Thickly slice eggplant and tomato. Leave sausage in one piece. Grill sausage and eggplant slices until brown and tomatoes until slightly charred. Sausage should be cut on the bias into 1/4” thick slices and then cut in half. Cook rigatoni according to package directions. In a saute pan, heat oil and add garlic. Stir for 30 seconds. Add sausage and eggplant and saute. Add charred tomatoes and saute. Add bercy sauce, alfredo sauce and salt & pepper to taste. Mix to combine and heat through. Add parmesan/romano cheeses and herb butter. Mix to incorporate. Add hot rigatoni to saute pan. Add mozzarella, toss to combine and heat through. Place in a serving dish and garnish with parsley. NOTE: *Bercy sauce is a white sauce made with white wine and sauteed shallots.
The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar, Milwaukee Chef Suzette Metcalfe Ingredients
- 1 1/4 cups strawberry preserves
- 1/3 cup + 4 tablespoons Cointreau or other orange liqueur, divided
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 1 lb. Mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
- 1 1/3 cups chilled whipping cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups espresso
- 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
- 1 ½ pounds strawberries, divided
- About 52 crisp ladyfingers (Boudoirs or Savoiardi)
Directions: Whisk preserves, the 1/3 cup Cointreau and orange juice in a 2-cup measuring cup. Set aside. Place mascarpone cheese and 2 tablespoons Cointreau in large bowl; fold just to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat cream, sugar, vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoons Cointreau to soft peaks. Fold 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture into mascarpone mixture. Then fold in the remaining whipped cream. Hull and slice half of strawberries. Spread 1/2 cup of the preserve mixture over the bottom of an oblong serving dish or a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. Arrange enough ladyfingers, dipped in espresso, over strawberry preserve mixture covering the bottom of the dish. Spoon 3/4 cups strawberry preserve mixture over ladyfingers, then spread 2 1/2 cups mascarpone mixture on top. Arrange 2 cups sliced strawberries over mascarpone mixture. Repeat layering with remaining ladyfingers, dipped in espresso, strawberry preserve mixture and mascarpone mixture. Cover with plastic and chill at least 8 hours or overnight. Slice remaining strawberries. Arrange over the top of the tiramisu and sprinkle with chocolate.
The Italians In Texas (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/06/14/little-italy-new-orleans-style/Birmingham, Alabama’s “Little Italy” (jovinacooksitalian.com) West Virginia’s Little Italy Communities (jovinacooksitalian.com) Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com) Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com) Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/08/new-yorks-other-little-italies/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/03/15/little-italy-new-jersey-style/ https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/04/12/delawares-little-italy/ The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com) The Hill” St. Louis’ Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com) https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2013/05/24/indianas-little-italy-communities/
When the fire hydrants begin to look like Italian flags with green, red and white stripes, you know you’re on “The Hill”. With an Italian American style all their own, featuring Provel cheese and fried ravioli, there’s an unmistakable St. Louis flair in this town’s Italian flavor.
Settlement of what’s now called “the Hill” began in the 1830’s, but the area boomed later that century with the discovery of rich clay mines. The expansion of clay pits and plant production brought Italian immigrants from northern Italy and Sicily to St. Louis and they settled north of the city on the Hill, named for being close to the highest point in the area. Able to find work within the neighborhood, the immigrants, first, bought houses and, then, started businesses — grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, barber shops and tailor shops, to name a few.
With the growth of Italian immigration came the growth in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. The Parish of Our Lady Help of Christians, was founded in the downtown area of St. Louis in 1900 to serve primarily Sicilian immigrants and the Parish of St. Ambrose was founded to serve the northern Italian immigrants. By the time the new church of St. Ambrose was built in 1926, the parish had already been an influence in the area for over 20 years. The structure is modeled after Sant Ambrogio Church in Milan, in the Lombard-Romanesque style of brick and terra-cotta. It became a parish church for the area in 1955, after 30 years of focusing on those of Italian heritage. When Our Lady Help of Christians Parish closed in 1975, St. Ambrose became the center of Catholic life among many Italian-Americans in the St. Louis area.
The neighborhood is still predominantly Italian, about 75 percent of the population, and St. Ambrose Catholic Church is still the center of the community. A statue of “The Italian Immigrants” at the entrance of the church demonstrates the bond between the immigrants and their religion. The Hill is also one of the city’s most tight-knit communities. Just as they did a century ago, families on the Hill greet each other warmly at church, local bakeries or while working on their front lawns.
The Hill has flourished over the last century and somehow managed to repel the decay, neglect and suburban flight that have wracked other neighborhoods. Of all the ethnic-immigrant settlements in St. Louis in the late 19th century and early 20th century (including German, Irish, Czech and Polish), The Hill is the only one that remains intact. The Hill’s streets are virtually free of litter and crime. Its homes are modest but impeccably maintained, and these homes recall an era that predates the three-car garage and bedroom for every child. Some homes, according to Rosolino Roland DeGregorio, a local historian, are framed with free lumber that immigrants hauled in wagons from the disassembled 1904 World’s Fair exhibits.
Yards are lovingly embellished with small flower and herb gardens, fountains, brightly painted flower pots, strings of lights and statues of the Virgin Mary. Across from the Missouri Baking Co., Salvador Palmeri, an immigrant from Sicily, hoses the alley behind his home every day because, he said, “I like to keep it clean.” His wife, Josephine, paints ceramic flower pots and animal figures for a patio menagerie. “I love the area,” said Frank DiGregorio, 49, who arrived from Italy as an 8-month-old baby and helps run family-owned DiGregorio’s Imported Foods. “I can walk up and down the streets and talk to Italian people. It’s a community. We’re a small town in a big city.” Bill Holland, who married into the family that runs the 101-year-old John Volpi Co. Inc., an Italian meat company, said, The Hill is St. Louis’s only 24-hour neighborhood, a fragile ecosystem that has been immune to urban blight and whose anchor is St. Ambrose Catholic Church.” He said the neighborhood has a healthy balance of homes, businesses and entertainment that spins positive energy around the clock. “When the restaurants shut down at midnight, the bakers all come in at 2 a.m.,” Holland said. “We start our business at 6 a.m. There’s always something positive in the neighborhood.” http://www.thehillstl.com/history.html
The Hill is located south of Manchester Avenue, between Hampton Avenue on the west and Kingshighway Avenue on the east. Its southern border runs along Columbia and Southwest Avenues. One city block of the neighborhood is famous for hosting the boyhood homes of Baseball Hall of Fame members and producing approximately half of the 1950 U.S. soccer team that upset top-ranked England in the World Cup.
The best way to visit the area is with a walking tour of the neighborhood which includes an Italian grocery in business for more than 50 years, a gift shop with a variety of Italian products, a ravioli store and an Italian meat market founded in 1902. Take a stroll down Baseball Hall of Fame Place, a renamed section of Elizabeth Avenue, (between Macklind Ave and Marconi Avenue) where Yogi Berra, Joe Garagiola and broadcaster Jack Buck grew up. You can find their homes, marked by granite plaques listing the names and dates of their inductions into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The streets are loaded with specialty shops, including Volpi Foods (5250 Daggett Ave.), opened by Giovanni Volpi in 1902, which continues to produce cured meats for the city (some argue they’re the best in the country). Viviano and Sons (5139 Shaw Ave.), opened by a macaroni factory worker, John Viviano to supplement his income, has blossomed into a neighborhood go-to shop, selling an array of Italian wines, olive oils and cheeses.
Lunch options are limitless, but will probably include an item made with Provel, the signature shelf stable cheese of the St. Louis Italian community. Amighetti’s (5141 Wilson Ave.), has been offering its namesake sandwich, a classic featuring Provel cheese, since 1921.
Two St. Louis restaurants are credited with the toasted ravioli appetizer’s invention in the 1940s: Charlie Gitto‘s (now a popular chain) and Oldani’s (now Mama’s) in The Hill neighborhood.
Dinner at Mama’s On the Hill (2132 Edwards Ave.), is a must. Opened under the name Oldani’s in 1940, Mama’s claims to be the birthplace of toasted ravioli and Mama will tell you all about it over dinner. Start with the two-pound meatball resting atop a mount of spaghetti soaking up Mama’s marinara sauce. Take Mama’s ultimate meatball challenge and, if you manage to finish the dish, Mama’s will pick up your tab and throw in a t-shirt.
Charlie Gitto’s “On the Hill” While there are other claimants, Charlie Gitto’s is generally recognized as the birthplace of the ‘toasted ravioli” when the restaurant was called Angelo’s. Toasted ravioli was invented here in 1947,” says Charlie Junior. “Louis Townsend was the guy who accidentally dropped ravioli in the breadcrumbs. He decided to fry them and brought them to Angelo, who thought it was a great idea, because he could quickly get them out to the bar. In the post-war era, the bars were really busy and Angelo served ravioli as bar food.” Apparantly, this was much quicker than serving ravioli the traditional way.
The Hill is known nationally for its great Italian restaurants. It’s often the dining destination of visiting celebrities, as well as, for out-of-town guests. Great places to try include:
Zia’s – A favorite of locals, Zia serves classic Italian dishes. Portions are generous, the atmosphere is simple but warm and prices are fairly moderate.
Lorenzo’s Trattoria – As a relatively new restaurant on the Hill, Lorenzo’s can’t rest on tradition. Actually, it does just the opposite, bringing modern twists to classic Italian dishes.
Rigazzi’s – Best known for its “fishbowls” of beer, Rigazzi’s offers everyday Italian dishes and pizza.
Adriana’s – The Hill’s own Yogi Berra’s famous quote “no one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded,” could easily be applied to Adriana’s. Its classic Italian sandwiches bring in a full lunch crowd.
The Hill also has quite a few independent shops selling everything from cutlery to ceramics. Here are just three of the shops on the Hill:
Girasole – Girasole sells a wide variety of Italian products, including ceramics, jewelry, handbags, beauty products and books. Located at 2103 Marconi Avenue.
Bertarelli Cutlery – Although geared toward serving the restaurant business, Bertarelli can be exciting for anyone that loves to cook. Shop for new knives and other quality kitchen supplies or take your current knives in for sharpening. Located at 1927 Marconi Avenue.
Atomic Neon – Glassworks studio selling everything from simple glass bead necklaces to elaborate neon signs and art glass. All crafted on site. Located at 4140 Manchester Road.
Italian Recipes of St. Louis
St. Louis-Style Pizza
With its cracker-thin baking powder crust and square slices, there are those who’d claim this dish isn’t pizza. But to residents of St. Louis, it’s one of their city’s culinary icons. There are many “authentic” St. Louis Pizza recipes, but all seem to stem from one particular St. Louis chain: Imo’s, a “mom and pop” business with over 90 stores in and around St. Louis.
- 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Self-Rising Flour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 tablespoons water
*No self-rising flour? Substitute 2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour; add 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and increase the water to 1/2 cup.
- 2/3 cup pizza sauce
- 1 cup grated or shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated or shredded smoked provolone cheese
- 1/2 cup grated or shredded Swiss cheese
- Pizza Seasoning or dried Italian herbs
*To add smoky flavor without using smoked provolone, add 1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke flavoring.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two 12″ round pizza pans, or a couple of baking sheets.
To make the crust: Combine the flour, oil and water, mixing until cohesive. Gather the dough into a ball, divide it in half and shape each half into a flat disk, the rounder the better.
If you have time, let the dough rest, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes; it’ll be easier to roll out once it’s rested.
Grease a piece of parchment paper about 12″ square or a piece of waxed paper. Place one of the dough pieces on the paper and top with another piece of lightly greased parchment or waxed paper.
Roll the dough very thin, 1/8″ thick or less. Place the dough on the prepared pans.
Top each pizza with 1/3 cup sauce. Mix the cheeses together and spread half over each pizza. Sprinkle lightly with Pizza Seasoning or dried Italian herbs.
Bake the pizzas for 9 to 11 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown, and the edges and bottom of the crust are golden brown.
Remove the pizzas from the oven, transfer to a rack to cool very briefly, cut in squares, and serve hot.
Yield: two pizzas, about 4 servings total.
The Original Toasted Ravioli
Makes 12 to 14 appetizers.
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
- 2 pounds ripe fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut up
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 slightly beaten egg
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 -16 to 20 ounce package frozen meat-filled ravioli, thawed
- 2/3 to 1 cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
- Cooking oil for deep-fat frying
- Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
For sauce: In a medium saucepan, cook onion and garlic in hot olive oil or butter until onion is tender. Stir in tomatoes, dried basil, salt and pepper. Cover; cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Uncover and stir in tomato paste. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until mixture reaches desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Stir in fresh basil Cover sauce; keep warm.
In a small bowl, beat together egg and milk. Dip each ravioli in egg mixture; then dip in bread crumbs to coat.
In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, heat 2 inches of cooking oil to 350 degrees F. Fry ravioli, a few at a time, in hot oil about 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 300 degree F. oven while frying the rest.
To serve: Sprinkle ravioli with Parmesan cheese, if you like. Serve with warm sauce for dipping.
Zia’s restaurant on the Hill uses provel in this grilled chicken dish. It’s a cheese made in the neighborhood that tastes like a blend of cheddar, Swiss and provolone.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 1/4 pounds chicken breast tenderloins
- 2/3 cup Italian salad dressing
- 3/4 cups seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup halved fresh mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped prosciutto
- 3/4 cup shredded provel cheese or mozzarella cheese (3 ounces)
- 1 lemon, quartered
Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Pour salad dressing over chicken. Seal bag; turn to coat chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.
Drain chicken, discarding marinade. Place bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dip chicken in bread crumbs to coat. On five to six long metal skewers, thread chicken, accordion-style, leaving 1/4-inch space between each piece.
For a charcoal grill: Grill skewers on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 10 to 12 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink (170 degree F), turning once halfway through grilling.
For a gas grill: Preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place skewers on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as directed above.
For oven directions: Arrange skewers in a 15 x 10x 1-inch baking pan. Bake in a 375 degree F. oven about 15 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (170 degree F.)
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook mushrooms and garlic in hot butter until mushrooms are just tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add prosciutto; cook and stir 2 minutes more.
Remove chicken from skewers; arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle the chicken with half of the cheese. Spoon the mushroom mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Squeeze a lemon wedge over each serving.
Salsiccia is Italian for sausage and it’s a tasty part of the filling in this recipe from Di Gregorio Imported Foods, which also sells the salsiccia.
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
- 8 ounces bulk Italian sausage
- 1/2 cup chopped peeled potato
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 of a 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
- 8 ounces canned or homemade pizza sauce
- 2 tablespoons drained, snipped oil-packed sundried tomatoes
- 1- 16 – ounce loaf frozen bread dough, thawed
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
For filling: In a large skillet, cook sausage, potato and garlic until sausage is brown and potato is tender. Drain off fat. Stir in spinach, 1/3 cup of the pizza sauce and sundried tomatoes. Set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12×9-inch rectangle, stopping occasionally to let dough relax a few minutes for easier rolling. Spread sausage mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Starting from a short side, roll up dough into a spiral. Moisten edge and ends; pinch seams to seal. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double (30 to 45 minutes).
Lightly brush loaf with oil. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until loaf is golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack; cool about 30 minutes before cutting. Serve with remaining pizza sauce for dipping. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Note – Store leftovers, wrapped in foil, in the refrigerator up to 2 days. To reheat, bake wrapped loaf in 350 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated.
This recipe from Gian-Tony’s on the Hill.
Makes: 16 servings
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee powder
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
- 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
- 2 -8 ounce cartons mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons dried egg white powder
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 3 – ounce packages ladyfingers, split
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
For syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the 1/2 cup water and coffee powder. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in amaretto and hazelnut liqueur. Cool.
For filling: In a medium bowl, stir together mascarpone cheese, the 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. In a chilled medium mixing bowl, combine whipping cream and the 3 tablespoons sugar. Beat with chilled beaters in an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold 1/2 cup of the beaten whipped cream mixture into the mascarpone mixture to lighten; set both mixtures aside. In another medium mixing bowl, beat dried egg whites and 1/2 cup water to stiff peaks according to package directions, adding the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while beating.
To assemble: Arrange half of the ladyfinger halves in the bottom of a 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Brush with half of the syrup mixture. Spread with half of the mascarpone mixture, half of the whipped cream and half of the egg white mixture. Sprinkle with half of the cocoa powder. Arrange the remaining ladyfingers on top of the layers in the pan. Brush with the remaining syrup mixture. Spread with the remaining mascarpone mixture, the remaining whipped cream and the remaining egg white mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cocoa powder. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours before serving. Makes 16 servings.
- Baltimore’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Western Pennsylvania’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Philadelphia’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Chicago’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Cleveland’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- New England’s “Little Italies” (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Italian American Neighborhoods – Boston (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Ybor City – Florida’s Little Italy (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- Little Italy – Manhattan (jovinacooksitalian.com)
- The “Little Italies” of Michigan (jovinacooksitalian.com)
Although Italian immigration to the United States peaked between 1900 and 1914, Italians could be found in New Jersey as early as 1800. These early immigrants were mostly from the northern part of Italy. One of the first Italian immigrants to settle in New Jersey, Giovanni Battista Sartori, settled in Trenton and founded the first spaghetti factory in America and the first Catholic Church in New Jersey. The mass immigration of Italians to America began in the 1870s. Most of the Italians who settled in New Jersey during this time were from the southern regions of Italy.
Italians leaving Italy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries did so to escape diseases, droughts, poor soil and oppressive landlords. The unification of the Italian states in 1861 failed to bring economic peace to the land, prompting many Italians to look for opportunities elsewhere. In New Jersey, Italians worked in agriculture, as skilled and unskilled laborers, bakers and tailors and in many other fields. Some were recruited to work in agriculture because of a labor shortage in New Jersey. Italian agricultural workers formed settlements in Vineland and Atlantic City. Italian immigrants became an important part of New Jersey society and served as an example of the difficulties that were indicative to immigrants who spoke a different language or had different beliefs.
The story of my heritage is the story of so many Americans of Italian descent.
I grew up in New Jersey because both sets of grandparents came to the United States during the great wave of Italian immigration and eventually moved to Elizabeth, NJ. New Jersey had and has many cities with large Italian populations, but Elizabeth was not one of them. It is an old city that has a history dating back to colonial times. It is a port city, highly industrialized at one time, and the factories that were there, such as The Singer Sewing Machine Company and Phelps Dodge Copper Refining Corporation, attracted workers to the area. My father was one of those skilled laborers, who worked in the copper plant for many years.
My paternal grandparents came from Cosenza in southern Italy and, after a short stay in New York, moved to a section of Elizabeth called Peterstown. Peterstown is a middle-class neighborhood in the southeastern part of the city that is ethnically diverse. It was once predominantly occupied by newly immigrated Italians and their descendants, but is less so today. Peterstown has a “village” feel and the area contains the historic Union Square that is home to produce stands, meat markets, fresh fish and poultry stores. Unfortunately, I never met my paternal grandfather because he died, young, a year before I was born. However, my paternal grandmother lived in Peterstown for the rest of her life. I can remember visiting her and my many aunts and uncles, who all lived in Peterstown, when I was young. They all spoke Italian, so I never knew what they were talking about. I just smiled a lot.
My maternal grandparents grew up in Monteverde, Italy, married there, but came to the United States separately. My grandfather came in September, 1913 and my grandmother came in July, 1914 with their two-year old daughter. At first, they lived in Pennsylvania, because my grandfather was working in a coal mine. He told us that he did not like that type of work and, in his spare time, he learned how to cut cloth, which eventually led to a tailoring career. My grandfather had relatives who lived in Elizabeth and he was told about the Singer Sewing Machine Company. They moved to Elizabeth and he was able to find work with Singer, where he learned the garment business.
My grandfather’s story is the “American Dream” story that so many Italian immigrants hoped to achieve. My grandfather became successful in his career and evetually owned his own clothing factory in Elizabeth. He employed many workers from the area and he was considered a great boss. I can remember, every fall, he would tell my mother, bring the children to the factory to pick out a winter coat. We used to have great fun running all around this huge building with hundreds of sewing machines.
Unfortunately, my grandmother died when I was 16, but my grandfather was a part of our lives for many years after. He always came for Sunday dinner, where he enlightened us, in English, about life in Italy as it compared to the United States, stories about his youth and his “philosophy” on all things. I don’t think my siblings and I realized, at the time, what a great thing our grandparents did for us by leaving their homeland and creating a new life in America. I sure do now !
As I was doing research for this post, the following statistic surprised me. According to the 2010 census and the latest American Community Survey figures, 44.6 percent of Hammonton’s 14,791 residents are of Italian ancestry, the highest percentage in New Jersey and the second highest percentage in the U.S. Passaic County and Essex County follow in size. I grew up in NJ and never knew that the area in and around Hammonton had so many Americans of Italian descent in the state.
The Italians came to southern New Jersey for the same reasons that settlers came from other areas of the U.S. They were looking for homes not too far from the seashore, where the climate was congenial and the land cheap. Southern New Jersey was new territory. Up to 1850 the pine barrens were looked upon as waste land. The climate and the forest did not attract settlers prior to 1860, when the land was first offered for sale. However, the Civil War stimulated a demand for fruits and vegetables and New Jersey’s sandy soil was perfect for farming. After 1865 the opening of wholesale markets in the large cities made fruit growing a profitable industry. Despite the need, the development of southern New Jersey was slow because a great deal of labor and expense was required to clear the land and immigrants who were attracted to farming preferred the more fertile western lands. If it had not been for the Italian settlers, the vicinity of Hammonton might still be a wilderness. What they did, when they arrived, was pick the berries for market; clear the land, save their earnings from their labor and buy the farms of retiring owners whose sons had gone to the city or farther west.
How this Italian community developed can best be told by of the stories of the Italians who came to Hammonton. The first family were the La Grassos, a family of musicians, who settled in a section now largely built up by Italians. Soon after Salvatore Calabrase, who was born in Sicily and was a gardener by trade, came to Hammonton after working in a nursery in Flushing, N.Y. He and La Grasso worked together on the farms, and later bought land to start their own farms. Calabrase wrote to his relatives in Sicily and soon many of them joined him in Hammonton.
Other groups soon followed. Dominico Tonsola. a Neapolitan, settled in a different part of the town. He came from a small town, Casalvelino, near Naples. Finding no work in Philadelphia when he first arrived, he journeyed to Hammonton to work on a farm he later owned. He was also a successful ice dealer. He had been instrumental in bringing the Neapolitan element to Hammonton.
In fact, the Italians cleared all the southwestern part of the town of pine growth and erected many houses in that section. They came at a time when the Americans were leaving the farms, when labor was growing scarce and when the development of the pine lands was critical.
Once upon a time, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest Little Italies in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.
Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher Rick Cerone also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue.
Seventh Avenue produced stars such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon was a native of the First Ward as well. However, Seventh Avenue and Eighth Avenue were disrupted by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s and the Italian American residents were scattered. Most of its businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. After the devastating urban renewal, some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods like Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound sections.
Typical Jersey Italian Recipes:
Italian Sausage Heroes with Peppers and Onions
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 large bell peppers (1 red and 1 green), cut into thin strips
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 sweet or hot Italian sausages
- 4 hoagie or other Italian rolls
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Prick the sausages all over, add them to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning frequently, until browned all over, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the sausages to a cutting board and halve lengthwise. Return the halves to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until no trace of pink remains within, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
Add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until golden, 10 minutes. Stir in the paprika and red and green bell peppers. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened, about 12 minutes. Stir in the water and oregano. Season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm.
Halve each roll (keep it hinged). Pull out some of the bread within. Toast the rolls.
Drizzle the cut sides of the rolls with the remaining olive oil and set 2 sausage halves on each roll. Top with the sautéed onions and peppers, close the sandwiches and serve immediately.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small white onion, finely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 (26.4 oz.) containers Pomi chopped plum tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley leaves
- 4 pounds fresh mussels, debearded, scrubbed and rinsed
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil leaves
- Italian bread for dipping
- Crushed red pepper, optional
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until cooked. Add the wine and reduce it by half, then add the plum tomatoes, oregano and parsley. Add the mussels to the pan and allow to cook for about 10 minutes until all the mussels are open. Transfer mussels to a platter. (Discard any mussels that do not open.)
Adjust the seasoning for the sauce with salt and pepper, as necessary. Coat the mussels with the sauce and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and crushed red pepper just before serving.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 4 tablespoons red wine
- 14 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 12 cleaned calamari
- 1 cup bread crumbs
- 1 cup finely grated pecorino
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped oregano
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add dried oregano, garlic and onions; cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook until caramelized, about 2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons wine, tomatoes and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in remaining wine and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.
2. Heat oven to 350°F. Heat remaining oil in a 10″ skillet over medium heat. Chop tentacles and add to skillet;cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in breadcrumbs, pecorino, parsley and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff each calamari body half full with bread crumb mixture; place in a 9″ × 13″ baking dish. Pour sauce over calamari; bake until warmed through, about 30 minutes.
Cavatelli With Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
- 1 medium-size onion cut into small dice
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 12 ounces coarsely ground fennel sausage, casing removed.
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, tender tops and tender stems only, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces,
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon hot chili pepper flakes
- 1 pound fresh cavatelli
- 6 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Place extra virgin olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 10 minutes but do not brown. Remove onion and garlic from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the same pan, add ground sausage meat and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until sausage has rendered its fat and is lightly brown.
Add broccoli rabe and saute until soft but still green and firm. Next, add in onion, garlic and chili pepper flakes and simmer sauce for 5 to 10 minutes longer.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, then add pasta. Cook fresh or frozen cavatelli according to directions.
Drain pasta and add to the sauce in the skillet. Mix well and add Parmesan.
Lemon Blueberry Tiramisu Trifles
- 2 fresh lemons, juiced and zested
- 2 tablespoons Limoncello liqueur
- 1 17.6 oz container plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup prepared lemon curd
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 30 ladyfingers
- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
Combine lemon juice and Limoncello, then set aside. Reserve the lemon zest to add later.
In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, blend together yogurt, lemon curd and sugar, beating until well blended. Cut each ladyfinger crosswise into 3 pieces.
Arrange 5 ladyfinger pieces into each of 9 wine glasses or small bowls, then drizzle each serving with about 1 teaspoon Limoncello mixture.
Spoon on 1 tablespoon of blueberries, then top with 2 tablespoons of yogurt mixture in each glass. Repeat layers, then sprinkle evenly with reserved lemon zest and a few fresh blueberries. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
Number of Servings: 9
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.
Light Marscapone Panna Cotta
- 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
- Sprinkle the gelatin over the 3 tablespoons milk and let sit for 15 minutes to soften.
- 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.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the marscapone and the sour cream until smooth.
- 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.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer (to remove any bits of hard gelatin) into the marscapone mixture . Whisk thoroughly.
- 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.
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 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
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.
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.
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons instant espresso granules
- 2 tablespoons coffee-flavored liqueur
- 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
- 24 ladyfingers (2- 3-ounce packages)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
- 1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate, grated
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.
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
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.
- Cannoli Cream Dessert (cheeseandbutter.wordpress.com)
- Italian Dessert: It has to be Tiramisu (kosherblogger.wordpress.com)