July has an abundance of vegetables and fruits available, so I try to incorporate as many as I can into my weekly menu. I made a few dinners last week that utilize these seasonal fruits and vegetables and I hope you like them as much as we did.
Veggie Packed Frittata
Serve with a mixed green salad and some hot biscuits.
- 1 lb parboiled potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 links pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced thin
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- Half of a small onion, thinly sliced
- 6 mushrooms, sliced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
- 6 asparagus, cut into 2 inch lengths
- 8 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Heat an oven broiler.
Heat oil in an ovenproof 12″ nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the sliced sausage, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and onion until the vegetables are soft, 3–4 minutes. Add asparagus; cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
Stir in the sliced potatoes and salt and pepper. Stir in half the basil and the eggs and reduce heat to medium; cook until golden on the bottom, 8–10 minutes.
Sprinkle the cheese on top and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil until set and the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Garnish with remaining basil before serving.
Summer Melon Salad with Grilled BBQ Shrimp
Last week my CSA had melons aplenty. I received two Crenshaw and one yellow watermelon. So I came up with a few recipes to make. The melon salad is in this post and next week, I will share the melon soup recipe I made. When you make the salad try to use two different types of melon for contrast. I also like the balance of the tangy grilled shrimp with the sweetness of the fruit salad. I also served this salad dinner with some homemade cornbread. See the recipe for Cheddar Cornbread here.
For the salad
- 4 cups Crenshaw melon, peeled and seeds removed
- 4 cups yellow watermelon, peeled and seeds removed.
- 2 cups red grapes, halved
- 1 cup toasted pecans, toasted
For the shrimp
- 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1/4 cup Peach BBQ sauce, see recipe here
- Lemon quarters for garnish
Basil Honey Dressing
- 3 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a blender. Set aside in a serving bowl.
For the melon salad
In a mixing bowl combine the two types of melon with the grapes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Just before serving, mix the melon and grape mixture with the toasted pecans and a little of the basil dressing. Serve additional dressing with the salad.
For the grilled shrimp
Prepare an outdoor grill for medium hot heat or heat an indoor stove-top grill.
Thread the shrimp onto skewers and brush them lightly with BBQ sauce. Place the shrimp skewers on the grill directly over the heat. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Turn the skewers and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to overcook. Remove them to a plate and serve with lemon quarters, the melon salad and cornbread.
Stuffed Zucchini with Fresh Basil Pesto Spaghetti
Basil is so plentiful this time of year, so I try to think of different ways to use it in my summertime cooking. Of course, freezing basil pesto for the winter months is also another option. It is also a great addition to salad dressing and omelets, as in the recipes above.
For the eggplant
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for baking
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 link pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped bell pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoon dried Italian bread crumbs
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
For the spaghetti
- 8 oz spaghetti
- 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto, see recipe here
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cut a thin slice off the top of each zucchini. With a small spoon (I like to use a grapefruit spoon) remove most of the flesh from the zucchini without cutting into the outside. Chop the cut slice and the flesh.
Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet and add the chopped zucchini, chopped sausage and the garlic. Saute until the zucchini is completely cooked and has lost its moisture.
Add the onion, bell pepper and tomatoes, cook until soft. Add enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together, about 2 tablespoons.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the cheese and fill the hollowed out zucchini shells with the mixture.
Place the stuffed zucchini in a small baking dish. (The zucchini can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated until baking time.)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Drizzle the zucchini with olive oil. Pour about 1 inch of water into the bottom of the baking dish.
Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the zucchini shells are tender.
For the spaghetti
While the zucchini are baking, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the spaghetti.
Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and add the pesto with a little of the cooking water to thin the sauce a bit.
Add the Parmesan cheese and black pepper. Mix well and serve alongside the stuffed zucchini.
The province and metropolitan city of Messina are located in the northeast corner of Sicily on the Strait of Messina and sits on two different seas. It is also the 3rd largest city on the island of Sicily and the 13th largest city in Italy. Messina was originally founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC. In 1908, a devastating earthquake hit Messina, along with a tsunami, which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the City, which was rebuilt in 1919. The city was also victim to significant damage from bombing raids during the Second World War.
Among the top attractions of Messina are the Cathedral of Messina, the Orologio Astronomico (the Bell Tower with an Astronomical Clock) and the Annunziata dei Catalani Church. The cathedral has largely been rebuilt following the earthquake damage and the bomb damage but some of the original building still remains, including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics. The attractive Bell Tower is home to one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks and its motorized figures emerge every day at noon to depict scenes of local history. Also, in the Piazza Duomo is the 16th century Fontaine de Orione.
The province’s main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges and olives).
Just off the coast are the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and they are a popular tourist destination in the summer, attracting up to 200,000 visitors annually. There are beaches and coves with black sand, pumice stone and tiny pebbles, steaming craters, bubbling mud baths, sulfur springs, strange-shaped grottoes, crystal-clear turquoise waters, craggy cliffs, and archaeological sites on the coastline and the adjacent islands.
Fish: fried, baked or grilled, is the province’s most popular food. The preparation can vary, but what matters most is its freshness. Swordfish from the Messina Strait is cooked in multiple ways. Crustaceans and mussels make a popular soup and are often used as a topping for rice and spaghetti.
Vegetables and fruits are important components of Messinese cooking. Caponata, eggplant with cheese and potato fries are three of the best known local vegetable dishes.
Dairy products include canestrato cheese in sweet or spicy versions, sheep pecorino cheese and provola cheese, all made according to ancient traditions.
Olive oil, honey, hazelnuts and pistachios are all part of the cuisine.
Local pastries are well-known classics: cannoli, cassate, almond paste, martorana fruit and pignolata.
The D.O.C. wines of Etna, the Malvasia di Lipari and citrus liqueurs are all produced here.
Sciusceddu ( Meatball and Egg Soup)
“Sciusceddu” is a dish that comes from the city of Messina in Sicily, where it is traditionally served at Easter. There are two theories for where the name “sciusceddu” comes from. One suggests that it derives from the Latin word “juscelleum,” meaning soup, and the other is from the Sicilian verb “sciusciare,” meaning to blow.
4 cups meat broth
7 oz veal or beef meat, chopped
2 oz breadcrumbs
3 ½ oz caciocavallo cheese, grated
3 eggs, divided
3 ½ oz ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper
Combine the minced meat, one egg, breadcrumbs, half of the grated Caciocavallo cheese (or Parmesan), chopped parsley and a little water; then form meatballs about the size of a small egg.
In another bowl, beat the remaining 2 eggs with the ricotta cheese, the remaining Caciocavallo cheese and a dash of salt and pepper.
Bring the broth to the boil in a saucepan and drop the meatballs into the broth.
Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the egg/ricotta mixture, stirring vigorously for a few moments. Remove from the heat and serve the “sciusceddu” piping hot.
Pesce Spada alla Messinese (Swordfish Messina style)
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb (600 gr) swordfish cut into palm-sized pieces slices
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
20 capers (if salted, rinse well first)
10 black olives, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
1 cup white wine
2 cups tomato passata (sauce)
15 oz can chopped tomatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
A pinch of crushed dried chili pepper
Brush the swordfish slices with olive oil and set aside.
In a skillet heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the spring onions, garlic, capers, olives, chili pepper and anchovy fillets and cook until the anchovies melt into the oil and the onion is soft.
Put the slices of swordfish in the skillet and add the white wine. Burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes. Mix well, cover and cook for 30 minutes on very low heat.
When ready to serve, sprinkle with parsley.
Pidoni, a popular dish from Messina. are pieces of pizza-like dough, stuffed with curly endive, mozzarella and anchovy, similar to a calzone but fried.
For the dough:
400 gr (3 cups) Italian 00 or pastry flour
200 gr ( 2 cups) bread flour
300 ml (1 and 1/3 cups) water
2 gr ( 1/2 teaspoon) active dry yeast
40 gr (6 tablespoons) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
For the filling:
500 gr (1 lb, about 2 bunches) curly endive which is also named chicory or frisee
600 gr /18 oz diced, canned tomato
400 gr (14 oz) fresh mozzarella
6-8 anchovy fillets
Salt and black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Twenty-four hours before you need it, make the dough. Mix the dough ingredients, oil the dough, cover it and let it rise in a draft-free area.
About half way through the proofing time, knead the dough briefly and cover again.
Make the filling.
Wash the curly endive thoroughly and chop it finely or pulse it in a food processor. Mix the chopped salad with the tomatoes, salt lightly and transfer in a colander for at least one hour.
It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the vegetable mixture, so squeeze it in a cotton towel if necessary.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, add one tablespoon olive oil and season the filling with a sprinkle of black pepper.
Divide the risen dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place each ball on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a thin disk of about 20 cm ( 8 inches) in diameter.
Divide the filling among the 16 disks leaving a 2.5cm ( 1 inch) margin around the edge.
Place 1 slice of mozzarella and 1/2 anchovy fillet broken in 2-3 pieces over the filling and fold the disk of dough to form a small calzone.
Preheat the oil in a deep saucepan, until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden in about 25 seconds.
Seal the edges of the pidoni with a fork, drop them carefully into the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes per batch until golden.
Drain on kitchen towssl and set aside. Continue until all are finished. Serves 6-8
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Pistachio Cream, recipe below
In a small bowl combine 1 cup milk, cornstarch, and sugar. Using a wire whisk, combine the ingredients to form a slurry so that all the cornstarch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
In a medium-size saucepan over medium heat, combine the remaining 3 cups milk and the vanilla extract.
Stirring occasionally, heat the mixture to almost a boil; stir in the cornstarch mixture and let simmer from 5 to 12 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.
Another important tip is to stir slowly, (do not whisk) which will prevent too much air from being incorporated into the custard that will produce ice crystals.
Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, preferably overnight.
Prior to using the custard mixture, pour the chilled custard through a strainer into a mixing bowl to clear out any clumps that may have formed. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Whisk the prepared chilled Pistachio Cream into the strained and chilled custard. The gelato mixture is now ready for the freezing process.
Transfer the mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
With Gelato, it is best to not process it until it is hard. Instead, stop the ice cream maker at soft serve consistency, then put it in a container in your freezer until stiff for a delicate flavor and texture that differentiates it from ice cream.
When the gelato is done, either serve (best if eaten and enjoyed immediately, as gelato has a shorter storage life than ice cream) or transfer to freezer containers and freeze until firmer.
Makes approximately 1 quart of pistachio gelato.
1 cup hot water
8 ounces raw unsalted shelled and hulled pistachio nuts
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
In a medium-size saucepan, bring water to a boil.
Place the pistachio nuts, sugar and olive oil in a food processor. Blend/process, adding the hot water (1 tablespoon at a time to control the consistency of the cream) until the pistachios are a smooth, creamy consistency that spreads freely in the blender (It usually takes about 9 tablespoons of hot water).
NOTE: Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl several times during this process. When done, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in making the gelato.
Makes approximately 1 cup.
Here are some suggestions on how to use July’s bounty to create delicious, seasonal meals. You may have noticed that in a few recent salad recipes, I have not cooked the corn before adding it to the salad. Corn, this year, has been plentiful and sweet and I found the salads taste better if the corn is uncooked. The dressing permeates the corn and it tastes quite fresh. Figs and Pecans are also in season here where I live, in fact, the figs are from a friend’s tree. If figs are not available in your area now, you can save this recipe until they are. Peppers and tomatoes are plentiful now and melons are at their peak.
Cold Salad Plate For 2
Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad
Cut 2 rounds from a the center of a ripe, peeled cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Center the rounds on 2 dinner plates.
Mix the tuna salad:
Combine one 6.4 oz package of tuna, ¼ cup diced onion, ¼ cup diced celery, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ½ cup mayonnaise.. Place half the tuna salad in each cantaloupe round.
Make the deviled eggs:
Cut 3 hard-boiled eggs in half. Remove the yolks to a small bowl and mash them. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery.
Add a little sprinkle of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
Mix well and use the fillings to stuff the egg whites. Arrange on the salad plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Add sliced fresh tomatoes to the salad plate and serve with warmed cornbread or rolls.
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Chopped parsley
- Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips, see recipe below
Mix the corn, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato and red onion in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, the lime juice, honey and salt. Mix well.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to marinate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with tortilla chips.
Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips
Bake at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, squeeze more lime juice over them. Serve with the corn salsa.
Summer Chicken Salad
- 8-9 oz boneless chicken breasts
- ½ sweet onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 cup red grapes, halved
- 1 tablespoon lemon Juice
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted
- Parsley for garnish
I like to poach chicken in broth for salads. Place 2 cups of water with a salt free chicken bouillon packet in a medium saucepan. Add a little salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.
Cool in the broth. Drain the chicken and dice. Save the broth for when you need chicken broth for a recipe.
Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients, except the pecans. Chill.
By hand, break half of the pecans into pieces and stir into the salad. Arrange the salad on a serving plate and decorate with the remaining pecans and garnish with parsley.
Makes 9-10 cakes
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Roasted tomato salsa, recipe below
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, honey and cooled melted butter.
Whisk together the wet ingredients, then incorporate the dry ingredients (do not over mix). Mix in the corn and cheese.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop heaping ¼-cup portions of the batter into the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cakes are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Serve the corn cakes topped with Roasted Tomato Salsa.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
- 8 oven roasted tomatoes, finely chopped, see recipe
- 1 jalapeño chili, finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.
Fresh Fig Tart
- One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.
Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.
Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.
Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.
It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers – all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.
Italian Cantaloupe Salad
This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.
- 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
- 12 Italian green olives
- 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad
Good side for grilled meats or fish.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
- 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.
Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.
- 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
- 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
- Basil leaves, sliced thin
In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,
Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.
Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad
Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.
For 2 servings
- 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery
- 1/4 cup finely diced onion
- 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup panko crumbs
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
- 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- Ranch Dressing, recipe below
- Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below
Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.
Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.
Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.
Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.
Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.
Summer Peach and Corn Salad
Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.
- 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
- 2 peaches, diced
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
- 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.
Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese.
You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.
The Province of Naples is a mixture of colors, culture and history. The beautiful islands that dot the blue waters of the Mediterranean are like jewels in a necklace. In a sea so blue that it blends with the sky, three islands can be found: Capri, Ischia and Procida. Mt. Vesuvius overlooks the city and the beautiful bay. The sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are of great archaeological value and are famous worldwide. The entire area is interspersed with finds from a long-ago past, especially those that saw the presence of the Roman emperors that first recognized the beauty of this terrain.
Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Bronze Age Greek settlements were established in the area in the second millennium BC and Naples played a key role in the merging of Greek culture into Roman society. Naples remained influential after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Naples between 1282 and 1816. Later, in union with Sicily, it became the capital of the Two Sicilies until the unification of Italy in 1861.
Naples has the fourth-largest urban economy in Italy, after Milan, Rome and Turin. It is the world’s 103rd richest city by purchasing power and the port of Naples is one of the most important in Europe with the world’s second-highest level of passenger flow, after the port of Hong Kong. Numerous major Italian companies are headquartered in Naples. The city also hosts NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command Naples, the SRM Institution for Economic Research and the OPE Company and Study Center.
Neapolitan cuisine took much from the culinary traditions of the Campania region, reaching a balance between dishes based on rural ingredients and seafood. A vast variety of recipes are influenced by a local, more affluent cuisine, like timballi and the sartù di riso, pasta or rice dishes with very elaborate preparation, while some dishes come from the traditions of the poor, like pasta e fagioli (pasta with beans) and other pasta dishes with vegetables. Neapolitan cuisine emerged as a distinct cuisine in the 18th century with ingredients that are typically rich in taste, but remain affordable.
The majority of Italian immigrants who went to the United States during the great migration were from southern Italy. They brought with them their culinary traditions and much of what Americans call Italian food originated in Naples and Sicily.
Naples is traditionally credited as the home of pizza. Pizza was originally a meal of the poor, but under Ferdinand IV it became popular among the upper classes. The famous Margherita pizza was named after Queen Margherita of Savoy after her visit to the city. Cooked traditionally in a wood-burning oven, the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza have been strictly regulated by law since 2004, and must include wheat flour type “00” with the addition of flour type “0” yeast, natural mineral water, peeled tomatoes or fresh cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, sea salt and extra virgin olive oil.
Spaghetti is also associated with the city and is commonly eaten with a sauce called ragù. There are a great variety of Neapolitan pastas. The most popular variety of pasta, besides the classic spaghetti and linguine, are paccheri and ziti, long pipe-shaped pasta usually topped with Neapolitan ragù. Pasta with vegetables is also characteristic of the cuisine. Hand-made gnocchi, prepared with flour and potatoes are also popular.
Other dishes popular in Naples include Parmigiana di melanzane, spaghetti alle vongole and casatiello. As a coastal city, Naples is also known for its numerous seafood dishes, including impepata di cozze (peppered mussels), purpetiello affogato (octopus poached in broth), alici marinate (marinated anchovies), baccalà alla napoletana (salt cod) and baccalà fritto (fried cod), a dish commonly eaten during the Christmas period.
Popular Neapolitan pastries include zeppole, babà, sfogliatelle and pastiera, the latter of which is prepared for Easter celebrations. Another seasonal dessert is struffoli, a sweet-tasting honey dough decorated and eaten around Christmas.
The traditional Neapolitan flip coffee pot, known as the cuccuma or cuccumella, was the basis for the invention of the espresso machine and also inspired the Moka pot.
Naples is also the home of limoncello, a popular lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced in southern Italy, especially in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri. Traditionally, limoncello is made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons, also known as Sorrento or Sfusato lemons. The lemon liquid is then mixed with simple syrup. Varying the sugar-to-water ratio and the temperature affects the clarity, viscosity and flavor.
Tomatoes entered Neapolitan cuisine during the 18th century. The industry of preserving tomatoes originated in 19th century Naples, resulting in the export to all parts of the world of the famous “pelati”(peeled tomatoes) and the “concentrato” (tomato paste). There are traditionally several ways of preparing tomato preserves, bottled tomato juice and chopped tomatoes. The famous “conserva” (sun-dried concentrated juice) tomato is cooked for a long time and becomes a dark red cream with a velvety texture.
Buffalo mozzarella is mozzarella made from the milk of the domestic Italian water buffalo. It is a product traditionally produced in the region. The term mozzarella derives from the procedure called mozzare which means “cutting by hand”, that is, the process of the separation of the curd into small balls. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture. The buffalo mozzarella sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana has been granted the status of Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC – “Controlled designation of origin”) since 1993. Since 1996 it is also protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication labels.
Neapolitan ragù is one of the two most famous varieties of Italian meat sauces called ragù. It is a specialty of Naples, as its name indicates. The other variety originated in Bologna. The Neapolitan type is made with onions, meat and tomato sauce. A major difference is how the meat is used, as well as the amount of tomato in the sauce. Bolognese versions use very finely chopped meat, while the Neapolitan versions use large pieces of meat, taking it from the pot when cooked and served it as a second course. Ingredients also differ. In Naples, white wine is replaced by red wine, butter is replaced with olive oil and lots of basil leaves are added. Bolognese ragù has no herbs. Milk or cream are not used in Naples. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday Gravy”; the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, including meatballs, sausage and pork chops.
- 1 pound rump roast
- 1 large slice of brisket (not too thick)
- 1 pound veal stew meat
- 1 pound pork ribs
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, pureed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Tie the large pieces with cooking twine to help them keep their shape. In a large pot heat the oil and butter. Add the sliced onions and the meat at the same time.
On medium heat let the meat brown and the onion soften. During this first step you must be vigilant, don’t let the onion dry, stir with a wooden spoon and start adding wine if necessary to keep them moist.
Once the meat has browned, add the tomato paste and a little wine to dissolve it. Stir and combine the ingredients. Let cook slowly for 10 minutes.
Add the pureed tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper and stir. Cover the pot but leave the lid ajar. (You can place a wooden spoon under the lid.)
The sauce must cook very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. After 2 hours add few leaves of basil and continue cooking.
During these 3-4 hours you must keep tending to the ragú, stirring once in a while and making sure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Serve with your favorite pasta.
Pizza Dough Ingredients
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups (350 cc) warm water
- 3 1/2 cups (500 g) flour (Italian OO flour)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Pinch of salt
Topping for 1 pizza
- 1 cup (250 g) tomatoes, puréed in a blender
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt and pepper
- 5 fresh basil leaves
- 2 oz (60 g) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
For the pizza dough:
In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and stir to dissolve it. Set aside until the yeast starts forming bubbles, about 5 minutes.
Sift the flour. Pour the flour into a large bowl or on a work surface. Form the flour in a mound shape with a hole in the center. Pour the yeast mix in the center, then the olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Using a spatula, draw the ingredients together. Then mix with your hands to form a dough. Sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Place the pizza dough on the floured surface.
Knead the pizza dough briefly with your hands pushing and folding. Knead just long enough for the dough to take in a little more flour and until it no longer sticks to your hands.
With your hand, spread a little olive oil inside a bowl. Transfer the dough into the bowl.
On the top of the pizza dough, make two incisions that cross, and spread with a very small amount of olive oil. This last step will prevent the surface of the dough from breaking too much while rising.
Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth, and set the bowl aside for approximately 1½ – 2 hours or until the dough doubles in volume. The time required for rising will depend on the strength of the yeast and the temperature of the room.
When the dough is about double its original size, punch it down to eliminate the air bubbles.
On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into three equal pieces. On the work surface, using a rolling-pin and your hands, shape one piece of dough into a thin 12 inch round layer.
Transfer the dough to a pizza pan. Using your fingertips, push from the center to the sides to cover the entire surface of the pan.
For the pizza
Preheat the oven to 500 F (260 C). In a mixing bowl place the tomatoes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomato mixture evenly over the pizza.
With your hands, break the basil leaves into small pieces. Distribute the basil uniformly over the pizza. Spread the rest of the olive oil on the pizza. Add salt to taste.
Bake the pizza for approximately 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and add the mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 10 more minutes. Lift one side to check for readiness. Pizza is ready when the bottom surface is light brown. Top with few more fresh basil leaves, if desired, and serve immediately.
Pasta con i Calamari
Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.
- 2 whole fresh squid
- 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 peperoncino
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh basil
- 1 cup white wine
- Olive oil
- 8 oz paccheri pasta
Cut the squid body into slices and halve the tentacles if they are large.
Clean, remove the seeds and finely chop the tomatoes. Rinse and chop the parsley. Peel and slice the garlic.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the peperoncino. Stir in the calamari and cook 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes and parsley and stir through. Salt to taste.
Cover and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
While the calamari is cooking, cook the pasta al dente. Remove some of the pasta cooking water.
Stir a bit of the pasta water into the sauce and cook a few minutes longer.
Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and stir through.
Garnish with a few basil leaves.
Father’s Day can be a great day for the whole family. Plan a family event, getting everyone in the family together for a fun day. Since the weather is warmer and the days are longer, why not celebrate Dad’s special day outdoors with a delicious family BBQ? Of course, you will want to choose foods your Dad enjoys. The recipes I picked for this menu are easy to do and most of the preparation can be done a day before, so you have plenty of time to spend with Dad.
Beef & Shrimp Kebabs with Italian Salsa Verde
Serves 4 – Recipe is easily doubled.
- 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 pound filet mignon (beef tenderloin), cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 teaspoons steak seasoning, divided (I like Pensey’s Chicago Seasoning)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 4 wooden or metal skewers 6 inches long
Soak wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes before using.
Place the shrimp in one bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add 3/4 teaspoon steak seasoning and toss again.
Place the beef in another bowl and add 1 tablespoon oil. Toss. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons steak seasoning and toss again.
Thread the beef and shrimp on the skewers, alternating beef and shrimp.
Prepare an outdoor grill for moderate heat. Oil the grill grates. Place skewers on the grill and cook 6 to 8 minutes or until the steak is cooked medium rare and the shrimp turn pink, turning the skewers over once.
Italian Salsa Verde
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons capers, chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
To prepare the salsa verde: combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside to let the flavors develop.
Summer Potato Salad
- 2 ½ lbs small to medium red potatoes
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup pickle juice from the jar
- 1/4 cup minced pickles
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- ½ cup finely diced sweet onion
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Place the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt in a large pot of water.
Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes.
When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and cut them into thick slices. Place in a bowl and pour the pickle juice over the warm potatoes and let sit for one hour.
Add the pickles, celery, onion and mayonnaise. Mix well. Add salt if necessary. Add the parsley and mix. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the salad for a few hours.
- 6 ears corn, husked and cleaned
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife.
In a large serving bowl, toss together the uncooked corn kernals, tomatoes, onion, celery, basil, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the salad to marinate. Serve chilled.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Refrigerated pie crusts (or your favorite pie crust mix) for a double 9 inch pan, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon milk
In large bowl combine:
- 2 1/2 cups hulled, sliced strawberries
- 2 1/2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour or other pie thickener
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Fit one pastry crust into a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan and place the pan on a baking sheet.
Add the fruit mixture and dot with the butter.
Cover with the top crust and flute the edges. Make several slits in the crust with a knife.
Brush the top crust with the milk and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until golden and the pie juice begins to bubble through the slits.
Let cool on the baking sheet (to catch the drips).