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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: tiramisu

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
Bread Sticks

Chicken Salad

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

Directions

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

Directions

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.

Serves 2

Ingredients

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

Directions

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

Serves 4

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

Directions

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.

Chocolate Tiramisu

Makes 12 squares

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

 

 

 

 

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pumpkincover

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.

Italian Pumpkin

Italian Pumpkin

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:

Baking Method

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.

Boiling Method

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.

Microwave Method

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.

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Pumpkin and Leek Risotto

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Pumpkin Gnocchi

3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions

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.

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Penne Pasta with Pumpkin & Italian Sausage

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

pumpkin4

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.

Servings: 10

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Serve warm.

pumpkin 5

Pumpkin Tiramisu

Serves 9

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions:

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.


gardens

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.

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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.

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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).

gardens8

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.

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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.

Padua Hens

Paduan Hens

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.

gardens01

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Since Padua hens are not available everywhere, I offer an alternative.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Limoncello Tiramisu

Ingredients

SYRUP:

  • 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

FILLING:

  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2  cup sugar
  • 1 carton (8 ounces) Mascarpone cheese

Directions

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.

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The most common Valentine’s Day symbols are the heart, particularly in reds and pinks, and pictures or models of Cupid. Cupid is usually portrayed as a small winged figure with a bow and arrow. In mythology, he uses his arrow to strike the hearts of people. People who have fallen in love are sometimes said to be “struck by Cupid’s arrow”. Other symbols of Valentine’s Day are couples in loving embraces and the gifts of flowers, chocolate, red roses and lingerie that couples often give each other.

To celebrate this lovers’ holiday Italians give each other flowers, plan romantic dinners and present each other with chocolates, much like in the United States. The renowned Italian chocolate maker, Perugina celebrates this day by making a special edition of the Baci chocolate candies with a shiny red wrapper and a sweet red cherry and liquid center rather than the traditional hazelnut one. These chocolates are always a favorite and inside the foil wrapper there is a “love note” with a romantic phrase.

In some countries like Vietnam, there is a different way to celebrate it. Couples wear the same style and/or color of clothes.

Japan has its own interesting way, too. For them, there are two Valentine’s Days. On February 14th, girls give dark chocolate to the boys they like. On March 14th, boys give cookies or white chocolate to the girls they like.

In some parts of the Dominican Republic and El Salvador friends and family play games.

In Spain only people in love get and give presents. Friends or family don’t exchange notes or presents.

All over the world people celebrate Valentine’s Day by expressing love to sweethearts, spouses and special ones. However, customs and traditions of celebrating the festival vary in different countries due to social and cultural differences.

So where did the idea of giving chocolates on Valentine’s Day come from? From the moment chocolate was discovered it was considered valuable, divine and decadent, so what better gift to give a woman? The first chocolate candies (as we know them today) were invented in the 1860s by Cadbury, who was also the first to market them in a heart-shaped box for Valentine’s Day.

The brilliance of marketers have certainly helped sales and popularity, but its aphrodisiac effect is surely one of the dominating factors underlying its status as a gift of choice. In addition to the aphrodisiac effects, research suggests that there are many more health related benefits. A healthy component of chocolate is its high level of antioxidant polyphenols. These are the same compounds found in red wine, fruits and vegetables that are touted for their heart-healthy and disease preventing qualities.

A chocolate’s taste, its smoothness and its aroma takes over one’s senses. As a matter of fact, there are few foods that people feel as passionate about as chocolate, a passion that goes beyond a plain old sweet tooth. For the true chocoholic, just thinking about chocolate can evoke a sensation of pleasure. Chocolate is mood-enhancing and, when eaten in moderate amounts, it is harmless to your health.

tiramisu

Chocolate Tiramisu

Ingredients

Serves 10.

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese), room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 24 ladyfinger cookies (from a 7-ounce package)

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix cocoa powder with 1 1/2 cups very hot water until dissolved; set cocoa mixture aside.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, place 1/4 cup cream and chocolate; microwave in 1-minute increments and stir until melted. Cool to room temperature.

Transfer cooled chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl; add cheese and sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until blended. Add remaining cream; beat filling until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread 1 cup of chocolate filling in the bottom of a 2-quart serving dish. One at a time, dip 6 ladyfingers in cocoa mixture, then arrange in a single layer in the bottom of the dish; spread with 1 cup of chocolate filling. Repeat with three more layers, ending with filling.

Cover tiramisu and refrigerate at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days). Dust with cocoa powder or shaved chocolate before serving.

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Chocolate Cakes with Apricot-Amaretto Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon Amaretto

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350° F and line 4 muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the chocolate chips with the butter, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and let the chocolate mixture cool slightly. Whisk in the whole eggs and the egg yolks.

Spoon the batter into the lined muffin cups. Bake for 10 minutes, until set around the edges and soft in the center. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the apricot jam with the Amaretto until smooth.

Invert the cakes onto plates and remove the paper liners. Spoon the apricot sauce around the cakes and serve.

Chocolate bark w/nuts & seeds. A101201 Food & Wine Chef's Diet March 2011

Dark Chocolate Bark with Roasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent cacao)
  • 1 1/4 cups roasted whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup salted roasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

Directions

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a sharp knife, finely chop the chocolate. In a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, heat the chopped chocolate, stirring occasionally, until it is about two-thirds melted; do not let the bowl touch the water.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir the chocolate until it is completely melted and the temperature registers 90° on a candy thermometer. If the chocolate has not melted completely and is still too cool, set it back over the saucepa of simmering water for 1 or 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly; do not overheat.

Stir the almonds and seeds into the chocolate and spread onto the prepared baking sheet in a 1/2-inch-thick layer, making sure the nuts and seeds are completely covered in chocolate. Refrigerate the bark for about 10 minutes, until hardened. Invert the bark onto a work surface. Remove the parchment paper, break into 25 pieces.

MAKE AHEAD The broken bark can be stored in an airtight bag or container at cool room temperature for up to 10 days.

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Chocolate Oat Cookies

Yield: 2 dozens

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup ground almonds (or nuts of choice)
  • 1 1/4 cups ground oats (grind in a blender)
  • 1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine ground almonds, ground oats, flour, cocoa, salt and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl.

Combine maple syrup and oil and mix with the dried ingredients until well combined and forms a dough.

Scoop out heaping teaspoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes; cookies should be just set. Remove to a cooling rack.

sherbet

Chocolate Sherbet

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces 60-percent-cacao chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions

In a medium saucepan stir together chopped chocolate, sugar, water and cream. Bring to boiling, whisking constantly. Boil gently for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and chill overnight.

Freeze mixture in a 1-quart ice cream freezer according to manufacturers directions. Store in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

To serve, scoop into small glasses or dishes and garnish with pomegranate seeds.

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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.

Easy snacks:

  • 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.

A better choice because these chips contain just corn, oil and salt and less than 150 calories per serving.

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.

Comparison of Portions and Calories 20 Years Ago to Present Day
20 Years Ago Today
Portion Calories Portion Calories
Bagel 3” diameter 140 6” diameter 350
Cheeseburger 1 333 1 590
Spaghetti
w/meatballs
1 cup sauce
3 small
meatballs
500 2 cups sauce
3 large
meatballs
1,020
Soda 6.5 ounces 82 20 ounces 250
Blueberry
muffin
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.

10 servings

Ingredient

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Quinoa-Stuffed Winter Squash

This vegetarian dish can be prepared up to three hours ahead and reheated just before serving time.

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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.

Columbus' boats at Rabida - Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria

Full scale replicas of Columbus’ three ships, Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria, moored at Rabida in Andalucia

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

http://www.galatamuseodelmare.it/jsp/index.jsp)

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)

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

Preheat broiler.

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

Fresh greens are all a salad needs

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

Tiramisu

Ingredients

SYRUP:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 1/3 cup Kahlua

FILLING:

  • 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

TOPPING:

  • 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa for dusting

Directions

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. third ward 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.

Catalano Square

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.”

Brady Street

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.

Peter Sciortino’s Bakery, Milwaukee’s Brady Street

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.

Cialdini Grocery Store

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.

The Milwaukee Italian American Community Center

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.

 

Strawberry Tiramisu

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/



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