Planning what to cook based on what is in season can bring out the creative cook in you. Bell Peppers, Spinach, Potatoes, Sweet Corn, Cabbage, Tangerines, Radishes, Mangoes, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Squash, Blueberries and Carrots are all in season this month. With so many choices, it is difficult to decide what to buy.
What I do is think about what kind of recipe and what type of meals I want this week. Then, I look for the ingredients to match. For example, a soup would be good for dinner and the leftovers are good for lunch. Greens was beautiful in the market now, so a soup with greens added would be good to make. Also we will need is some delicious bread to go with it.
This thinking can apply to salads, light dinners and special entrees. Also, I like to take advantage of sales. For example, packages of pita bread were “buy one package and get one free” this week. Pita is a versatile bread to have on hand and they also make delicious and healthy chips.
When I finish grating a piece of Parmesan cheese, I save the rind in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. I add one to the soup pot for added flavor.
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 cups water
4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Parmesan cheese rind
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
6 oz fresh escarole, spinach or any seasonal greens
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan, for sprinkling
Remove stems and wilted leaves on the greens. Wash well in several changes of cold water and chop.
In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the water, broth, Italian seasoning, Parmesan cheese rind and salt and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the tortellini until just done, about 4 minutes for fresh or 12 minutes for frozen. Drain.
Add the spinach to the soup and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the tortellini.
Serve the soup sprinkled with grated Parmesan.
Spring Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
2 anchovy fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, peeled
2 cups lightly packed torn Boston or Bibb lettuce
Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice, tarragon, anchovies, and salt and pepper to taste in a food processor; puree until smooth. Chill to allow the flavors to blend.
Using a vegetable peeler, strip long ribbons from the carrot. Toss together the carrots and lettuce in a bowl. Add some of the dressing to greens and gently toss. (Reserve remaining dressing for another use.)
Stuffed Roasted Salmon Rolls
For 2 servings – this recipe is easily doubled.
12 oz center-cut boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut lengthwise into 2 strips
4 cups fresh raw spinach leaves, stems removed, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 cup cream cheese with onion and chives, if available, or regular cream cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a baking dish with olive oil.
Mix together the cream cheese, garlic and spinach until well blended then season with salt and pepper.
The mixture will be firm.
Season the salmon strips with salt and pepper and spread each fillet strip with the spinach filling.
Starting at one end, roll the salmon up tightly, tucking in any loose filling as you go.
Insert a toothpick through the end to keep the pinwheel from unrolling. Place the rolls in the prepared dish.
Repeat with the remaining salmon strip. Sprinkle the rolls with the lemon juice.
Bake the salmon rolls until just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the toothpicks before serving.
Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (Chicken Fattoush)
8 oz boned, skinned chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoons za’atar (Middle Eastern spice)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 of a red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 of a cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced
1 cup sliced tomatoes
1 cup pita chips, recipe below
1 cup sliced romaine lettuce
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 ounces block feta cheese, broken into chunks
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Oil the grill grates.
Coat chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with za’atar.
Cook turning once, until no longer pink in the center and grill marks appear, about 7 minutes total.
Let rest 10 minutes, then slice.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, remaining oil, oregano, garlic and pepper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the grilled chicken, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, romaine and pita chips.
Pour the reserved dressing over the salad mixture, add cheese and toss gently to coat.
Homemade Pita Chips
Za’atar seasoning is a Middle Eastern spice mixture that contains ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt and sumac.
1 package of pita pocket breads (6 pitas in a package)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil two large rimmed baking pans.
Separate each pita into two rounds. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning mix.
Cut each pita circle into 6 triangles.
Arrange the triangles on the baking sheets and bake until crispy and brown, about 20 minutes.
Rotate the pans after ten minutes, Cool and store in a large zip-lock bag until needed.
Warm Blackberry Sauce
This sauce is great to have on hand as a topping for ice cream, pancakes or plain pound cake.
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, washed
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
In a medium non-stick sauce pan, combine the sugar and cornstarch.
Add the water, maple syrup,lemon juice and berries.
Cook on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to break down and the sauce thickens.
Transfer the sauce to a serving dish. Store any remaining sauce in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the west and north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; and the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on the south. I will be writing about the Mediterranean countries and their cuisines during the next year. I will start with Portugal on the west side and work around the map to include all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea.
This region is rich in a wide variety of ingredients and spices that give ordinary food lots of flavor. The food of the Mediterranean region is prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients that are actually good for you.
The concept of a Mediterranean diet was developed to reflect food patterns typical of Crete, Greece and southern Italy in the early 1960s. Although this diet was first publicized in 1975 by the American biologist, Ancel Keys and chemist Margaret Keys (his wife and collaborator), the Mediterranean diet failed to gain widespread recognition until the 1990s. Objective data, showing that the Mediterranean diet is healthy, originated from results of studies in Naples and Madrid and later confirmed by the Seven Countries Study, with its first publication in 1970.
The essentials of the Mediterranean kitchen include extra virgin olive oil, several different kinds of beans, both dried and canned, long-grain and short-grain rice, cornmeal for polenta and flour for bread, pasta in a variety of shapes, canned tomatoes and condiments like dried mushrooms and herbs.
For me the best source on how to switch to a Mediterranean style of eating is Nancy Harmon Jenkins, in her well-known book,
Use olive oil as your go to fat for cooking. Use more whole grains. Even though Mediterranean cooks seldom use whole wheat pasta or brown rice, they still get plenty of whole grains through dishes like tabbouleh and bulgur pilaf. Also bread throughout the Mediterranean is often made with unrefined wheat and barley flours.
Begin each meal with a salad. Make it from crisp greens and whatever vegetables are in season—tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, scallions, carrots, fennel, celery, chicory and beans. Add dark green leaf lettuces like oak leaf and romaine. Make your own salad dressing made with olive oil.
Every day try to get in at least one serving each of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables—broccoli, broccoli rabe, cabbage, cauliflower, turnip and mustard greens—and bright-colored vegetables and fruits that are rich in antioxidants. Also carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and yellow squash, as well as fruits, like apricots and cantaloupe. Experiment with different vegetables, ones that may not be familiar—artichokes, leeks, fava beans, Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), celery root and a variety of greens.
Vegetables don’t have to be served separately—vegetable combinations, vegetables cooked in a sauce for pasta, vegetables served cut up in a soup, are all ways to increase the quantity consumed.
Cut down on the amount of meat consumed. One easy way to cut meat consumption is with stews that feature meat as an incidental to lots and lots of vegetables. Or make a hearty soup the main course, with bread, a little cheese and salad to accompany it.
Here are some basic dishes that are found across the Mediterranean table. They are great for tapas dishes, or on an antipasto, as a condiment or side dish.
1½ cups mixed black and green olives, a combination of Sicilian green olives, Greek Kalamata olives and Spanish green olives
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 sprig fresh rosemary,
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 pinch crushed red pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Remove the needles from the rosemary sprig. Discard the stem and chop the needles.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove the olives from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving to allow them to come to room temperature. Store any leftover olives in the refrigerator, covered, for up to a week.
Red Pepper Hummus
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
15 oz canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)—rinsed and drained
½ cup tahini
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup jarred or homemade roasted red peppers, chopped
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Extra virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. Pour into a serving bowl and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil.
1 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or mint
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Scrape the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon and discard.
Grate the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands,(a small handful at a time.
Place the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
Place the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors blend.
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
½ clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shake together all the ingredients in a jar until well combined.
Tapenade can be used to season grilled fish or chicken. It is also delicious spread on toasted baguette slices and topped with chopped tomatoes or simply serve it with crackers or crusty bread and vegetable crudités for dipping.
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted black olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Peppers and Onions
6 bell peppers, a variety of colors
2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
1 thinly sliced medium onion
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
To blister the peppers, place them on a hot grill or under the broiler. Turn on all sides until the skins are completely blackened.
Immediately transfer to a large resealable plastic bag or place in a large bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap to seal. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
Working with one pepper at a time, transfer to a work surface. Remove the skin, stem, and seeds.
Cut the peppers into 2-inch strips.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan (over medium-high heat).
Add the sliced onions and sauté until the onions soften. Reduce heat to low heat and add the garlic and the sliced peppers. Add the salt and black pepper
Cover the pan and let the mixture stew together for about 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a storage bowl.
Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or up to 4 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
Toss with the olive oil, vinegar and parsley just before serving.
3 lbs fresh greens, stems removed and washed in several changes of water
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice.
Place the greens with the washing water still clinging to the leaves in a large pot.Cook on low until completely wilted and tender, depending on the type of greens used.
Drain and cut the leaves into smaller pieces.
Place the olive oil, garlic and chili in the empty pot and heat over low until the garlic is tender but not brown.
Add the drained greens and cook just until hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in salt to taste and the lemon juice.
Often overshadowed by its proximity to Naples and by the beauty of the Amalfi coast, Salerno is often overlooked. The province has a Mediterranean climate, with a hot and relatively dry summer (30 °C (86 °F) in August) and a rainy fall and winter (8 °C (46 °F) in January). The strong winds that come from the mountains toward the Gulf of Salerno make the area very windy but also one of the sunniest areas in Italy.
The province is one of the largest in Italy and the Port of Salerno is one of the most active on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It handles about 10 million tons of cargo per year.
Today, Salerno is an important cultural center and is divided into three zones: the medieval sector, the 19th century sector and the more densely populated post-war area, with its numerous apartment complexes.
Salerno is located at the geographical center of a triangle nicknamed the “Tourist Triangle of the 3 P” (namely a triangle touching the corners of the towns of Pompei, Paestum and Positano). The characteristics of this area make Salerno attractive to tourists.
Some of these sites include:
- Lungomare Trieste (Trieste Seafront Promenade). This promenade was created from the sea during the 1950s and it is one of the best in Italy, similar to those in the French Riviera.
- Castello di Arechi is a massive castle created by Arechis II during the Roman-Byzantine era.. Today, it houses rooms for exhibitions and meetings. The Castle offers a spectacular view of the city and the Gulf of Salerno.
- Centro storico di Salerno. The “Historical Downtown of Salerno” is believed to be one of the best maintained in the Italian peninsula. Its Merchant Street is one of the main shopping streets in the city.
- Giardino della Minerva, “Minerva’s Garden,” was the first European “orto botanico” (botanical garden).
Salerno’s cuisine is rich in vegetables, legumes, olive oil, cheese and fish which are the foundation of the Mediterranean diet. The star of Salerno’s cuisine is without any doubt the Campana DOP Buffalo Mozzarella and their San Marzano Tomatoes that are exported around the world. Some other culinary specialties include the White Fig, the Giffoni Hazelnut and the Amalfi Coast Lemon.
Fruity Tomato Sauce (Pummarola) Salerno Style
Makes approximately 2 cups, enough for 1 pound of pasta
- 2½ cups (28 ounces) canned, peeled plum tomatoes in juice. (D.O.P San Marzanos are preferred.)
- 4 tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil, or more, to taste
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small red or yellow onion, minced
- 1 medium celery stalk, including leaves, minced
- 1 small carrot minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Small handful of chopped fresh basil
- Scant ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Freshly milled black or white pepper
Drain the tomatoes in a colander, reserving their juice; chop and set aside.
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir in the garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley and sauté the vegetables until they are completely soft, about 12 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s coppery-colored, about 3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes and their juice, cover partially and simmer, stirring occasionally and gently, until thickened about 45 minutes.
Stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and blend in the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more to taste.
If a smooth sauce is desired, take the pan off the stove and allow it to cool somewhat. Position a food mill over a clean saucepan and pass the sauce through it, being sure to press out as much of the pulp as possible. Place over medium heat just long enough to heat through, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon olive oil.
The sauce can be made 4 to 5 days in advance and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator, or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Whether storing it in the refrigerator or the freezer, leave out the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir it into the sauce after reheating.
Linguine or Spaghetti with Anchovies
- 400g linguine or spaghetti
- Salt and pepper
- 12 tablespoons olive oil
- 60g pitted black olives, chopped
- 2 small red chilies, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
- 6 anchovy fillets
- 60g fresh breadcrumbs
Add the linguine to a large pan of boiling salted water and boil until al dente.
Heat half of the olive oil in a pan, add the olives, chilies, capers and anchovies and heat, stirring to dissolve the anchovies.
Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss with the sauce.
At the same time, heat the rest of the olive oil in a large non-stick pan and fry the breadcrumbs until slightly brown.
Mix the dressed pasta into the breadcrumbs.
Fry for a few minutes, until a crust forms underneath. Invert onto a warm plate, so the crushed side is on top.
Cut into portions with a knife and serve.
Saddle of Pork with Milk and Giffoni Hazelnut
- 1 kg saddle of pork
- ½ liter of warm milk
- 1 cup white wine
- 100 gr of chopped hazelnuts
- 1 tablespoon of potato starch
- Sage and rosemary
- ½ cup chopped onion
- Olive oil and salt as needed
Brown the onion with some sage and rosemary in warm olive oil. Add the pork and brown on all sides; add the wine and let the pork steam in it for a few minutes.
Then add the warm milk and let it cook for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the potato starch, stirring until thickened; then mix in the hazelnuts. Let the meat cool.
Slice the pork and place it into a baking dish. Pour the sauce over the meat and warm it into preheated moderate oven for 5 minutes. Serve it warm with mashed potatoes as a side dish.
- 200 ml (7 fl oz/ 7/8 cup) lemon juice
- 350 ml (generous 12 1/4 fl oz/ 1 1/2 cups) milk
- 150 ml (5 1/4 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) single cream
- 170 g (6 oz/ 7/8 cup) sugar
Bring the milk almost to a boil, then add the sugar and, off the heat, stir it until it dissolves.
Pour in the cream and lemon juice. Place the pan in a bowl of ice and, when the mixture is cold, transfer it to the ice cream maker. Follow directions for your ice cream maker.
Pour into a freezer container and freeze overnight. Serve with a sprig of fresh mint.
My friend, Andy, recently gave me a cookbook titled, Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger. The author’s name was familiar to me because I have been cooking from her book, Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables, for a long time. You can also check out a column she wrote for The Atlantic Monthly by visiting this site: http://www.theatlantic.com/author/faith-willinger/
In the Adventures book, Faith takes readers to country markets and busy city shops, to wineries in rural villages, to kitchens in restaurants and into private homes where her friends share their recipes – real Italian recipes.
Additionally, Willinger introduces the reader to the people of Italy: the grocers who stock homemade artisan cheeses and salumi, winemakers, Tuscan bakers, butchers and chocolatiers. Each entry is followed by a recipe. The recipes include some classic Italian dishes that will be familiar, but most are as authentic and original as the people Ms. Willinger profiles in the book. Actually these profiles are one of the best features in the book.
Even if you’re practiced in making Italian food, there’s still much to learn from Ms. Willinger. She includes information on the most important ingredients, explaining such things as why certain dry pastas are superior to others, what goes into making Italy’s best cheeses, how to select the best olive oils and what distinguishes an artisanal ricotta from another more ordinary one.
The book can also function as a guidebook for travelers because she includes web sites, hours of operation and contact information that make arranging a personal visit easy.
Here are a few recipes from the book for you to try. The book is divided into three major areas of Italy: Northern and Central Italy; Tuscany and Southern Italy and the Islands.
From Chapter 1 – Northern and Central Italy
Willinger adapted this recipe from Walter Bolzonella’s recipe, a barman of the Hotel Cipriani in Venice.
For the peach puree:
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 to 3/4 pound ripe white peaches
- 2 teaspoons sugar
For the drinks:
- A few raspberries, if desired, for color
- 1 bottle Prosecco sparkling wine
Put the water and lemon juice in a bowl. Peel, pit and slice the peaches. Immerse them in the acidulated water, so they don’t discolor and macerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 6 hours.
Drain the peaches, reserving 2 to 3 tablespoons of the liquid. In a food processor or blender, puree the peaches with the sugar and reserved liquid. Use more sugar if the peaches are very tart
but this is not a sweet drink. If the peaches don’t have pink veins (which lend a Bellini its rosy hue), add a few raspberries to the mixture before pureeing.
Transfer the mixture to a jar or bottle and chill thoroughly.
Pour cold peach puree into a pitcher. Add one bottle of chilled Prosecco sparkling wine and stir gently. Pour into glasses and drink at once.
- 3 egg yolks at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons Moscato d’Asti wine
- Butter or hazelnut cookies or fresh fruit or berries
Place the ingredients in a 1 ½-2 quart pot (use a copper or stainless steel bowl with a rounded bottom, holding the bowl with a pot holder)
Begin beating at high-speed with a mixer until foamy. Place the pot over medium heat and continue beating. Mixture will grow greatly in volume and thicken. Remove the pot from the heat when the mixture feels warm and continue beating.
Place back over the heat, beating the whole time, removing the pot from the heat when it seems to be heating up too much. Practice makes perfect.
The zabaione will be thick and foamy, warm but not hot to the touch. Serve in individual glass serving bowls with butter or hazelnut cookies on the side. Or over berries or sliced fresh soft ripe fruit like peaches or mango.
Chapter 2 – Tuscany
Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
- 1 cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
- 12-16 fresh zucchini flowers
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then gently spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.
Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag — I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end. Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.
Drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and the place pan over the highest heat.
When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for four to six minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.
Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.
Etruscan Grape Tart
Serves 6 to 8
- 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
- ¾ cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons Chianti — drink the rest with dinner
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups soft wheat flour (Italian “00” or White Lily flour)
- ¼ cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Around 1 ¾ pounds wine, Concord, or red Grace grapes
- 6 tablespoons sugar
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, wine and honey in a large bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or until bubbles form. Stir in ¾ cup flour — it doesn’t have to be smooth because lumps will dissolve. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
Add the olive oil, salt and 1 ½ cups flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Add up to ½ cup additional flour if necessary so it isn’t sticky. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 ½ hours.
Punch the dough down and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 10 by 16-inch rectangle. Place one rectangle on parchment paper on a cookie sheet (or use a nonstick cookie sheet), scatter the dough with half the grapes and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar.
Use the second rectangle of dough to cover the bottom layer. Sprinkle the remaining grapes on the dough, gently press the grapes into the dough, and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and let rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until dark brown. Remove from the pan while still warm and spoon excess juice over the tart. Serve at room temperature.
From Chapter 3 – Southern Italy
Spaghetti with Walnuts and Anchovies
Serves 4 to 6
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 whole salt-cured anchovies, filleted, or 4–6 canned anchovy fillets
- 3–4 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts
- Chili pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- Coarse sea salt
- 14–16 ounces spaghetti
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic over low heat until it barely begins to color. Add the anchovy fillets and, with a wooden spoon, mash them until they dissolve into the oil. Add the walnuts, chili pepper and parsley; stir to combine and remove from heat.
Bring 5 to 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add about 3 tablespoons of sea salt, then add the spaghetti and cook until it offers considerable resistance to the tooth, approximately three-quarters of the package-recommended cooking time. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the starchy pasta cooking water.
Add the spaghetti to the sauce in the skillet along with 1/2 cup reserved pasta-cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring with a wooden fork, until the pasta is cooked al dente, adding a little more pasta water as the sauce dries.
Sweet & Sour Lemon Sauce
Use as a sauce for fish.
For the candied zest:
- 2 Meyer lemons
- 1 orange
- 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
- 1/2 cup wildflower honey
- 1 cup sugar
Peel the zest from the lemons in strips, leaving 1/4-inch pulp attached to the zest. Peel the orange the same way.
Put the zests in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons salt; add 1 cup water and weight down with a small plate to keep zests submerged for 1 to 2 hours. Rinse and drain.
Bring 10 cups of water to a rolling boil, Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of salt and the zests and when the water returns to a rolling boil, remove from heat and let zests cool completely in the salted water. Drain zests.
Combine the honey, sugar and 2 1/4 cups of fresh water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Add the drained zest and cook over lowest heat, less than a simmer, for 40 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let zest cool in the syrup overnight. The next day, bring the syrup back to a simmer, lower the heat and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
Repeat the process one more time, cooking zest on the lowest heat for 30 minutes. Store zest in its syrup in a jar.
For the sauce:
- 3 1/2 Meyer lemons
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 tablespoon minced celery
- Fine sea salt
- White pepper
- 3 tablespoons chopped candied lemon zest
Trim three lemons with a knife, cutting the rind away down to the pulp. Section the lemon into wedges, cutting between the white connective membranes.
Squeeze the juice from the remains of the lemons into a measuring cup and add the wedges. You should have about 1/2 cup.
Squeeze the juice from the remaining 1/2 lemon and add it to the wedges. In a small saucepan, add the oil and saute the garlic and celery over medium heat until the celery barely begins to color.
Add the lemon wedges and juice and cook, mashing the mixture with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is pulpy. Remove the garlic. Season the lemon mixture with salt and white pepper.
If the sauce is too tart, add a spoonful or two of syrup from the candied zest. Transfer lemon mixture to a blender and add candied zest. Blend until smooth.
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.
Turin (Torino in Italian) is an important business and cultural center in northern Italy and the capital of the Piedmont region. The city has a rich culture and history, and is known for its numerous art galleries, restaurants, churches, palaces, opera houses, piazzas, parks, gardens, theaters, libraries, museums and other venues. The city currently hosts some of Italy’s best universities, colleges, academies, lycea and gymnasia, such as the six-century-old University of Turin and the Turin Polytechnic. It is often referred to as the Automobile Capital of Italy and the Detroit of Italy, as it is the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
Alfa Romeo Automobiles, an Italian car manufacturer, has been involved with car racing since 1911. The company was owned by Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale between 1932 and 1986. It became a part of the Fiat group In 2007 and the Alfa Romeo brand was transformed into the current Alfa Romeo Automobiles S.p.A., a subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Italy.
Originally, the company was founded as Società Anonima Italiana Darracq (SAID) in 1906 by the French automobile firm of Alexandre Darracq, with some Italian investors. In late 1909, the Italian Darracq cars were selling slowly and the Italian partners of the company hired Giuseppe Merosi to design new cars. In 1910, a new company was founded named A.L.F.A., initially still in partnership with Darracq. The first non-Darracq car produced by the company was the 1910 24 HP, designed by Merosi. A.L.F.A.who ventured into motor racing with drivers Franchini and Ronzoni competing in the 1911 Targa Florio with two 24-hp models.
The firm’s initial location was in Naples, but even before the construction of the planned factory had started, Darracq decided late in 1906 that Milan would be more suitable and a tract of land was purchased in Lombardy where a new factory was erected.
In 1915, the company came under the direction of Neapolitan entrepreneur Nicola Romeo, who converted the factory to produce military hardware for the Italian and Allied war efforts. In 1920, the name of the company was changed to Alfa Romeo. In 1921, the Banca Italiana di Sconto, a backer for Nicola Romeo & Co, went bankrupt and the government stepped in to support industrial companies affected by the failed bank, among which was Alfa Romeo.
In 1933, the state ownership was reorganized under the name of the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale (IRI) by Benito Mussolini’s government. The company struggled to return to profitability after the Second World War and turned to mass-producing small vehicles rather than hand-building luxury models. In 1954, it developed the Alfa Romeo Twin Cam engine, which would remain in production until 1994. During the 1960s and 1970s, Alfa Romeo produced a number of sporty cars but struggled to make a profit and so it was sold to the Fiat Group in 1986.
Alfa Romeo has competed successfully in many different categories of motor sport, including the Grand Prix motor racing, Formula One, sports car racing, touring car racing and rallies. The first racing car was made in 1913, three years after the foundation of the company, and Alfa Romeo won the inaugural world championship for Grand Prix cars in 1925. The company gained a good name in motor sport, along with a sporty image. Enzo Ferrari founded the Scuderia Ferrari racing team in 1929 as an Alfa Romeo racing team, before becoming independent in 1939. It holds the world’s title of the most wins in the world.
Once motor sports resumed after the Second World War, Alfa Romeo proved to be the car to beat in Grand Prix events. The introduction of the new Formula One for single-seat racing cars provided an ideal setting for Alfa Romeo’s Tipo 158 Alfetta and Giuseppe Farina won the first Formula One World Championship in 1950. Juan Manuel Fangio secured Alfa’s second consecutive championship in 1951.
The track in the photo above was built on the roof of the factory that opened in Turin’s Ligotto district in 1923. The factory’s assembly line began at the ground floor and ended on the top-level, where cars were taken for a test run around the track. Spiraling ramps inside the building allowed the cars to be driven back down and into showrooms. The factory closed in 1982, after which Fiat held a competition for its redevelopment. Architect Renzo Piano, whose work includes the New York Times building and London’s “vertical city,” the Shard, secured the commission. His workshop transformed the old factory into a public space complete with shopping center, theater, hotel, convention center and art gallery. A helipad and bubble-shaped, blue glass meeting room were added to the roof to cater to interested business travelers. You can still visit the rooftop test track, but the days of cars looping around the course are gone.
Turin cuisine shows the influence of its closeness to France in its use of butter and complex sauces. This area is also the home of solid chocolate, bread sticks (called grissini) , risotto and some of Italy’s most renowned wines, including Barolo, Barbaresco and Barbera d’Asti. Italian vermouth, in Italy an aperitif, is another product of Turin and Turin is still the headquarters of many vermouth manufacturers, the most famous of which is Martini and Rossi.
Anchovies are used in many dishes. Bagna Caôda is a sauce made of garlic, olive oil, butter, anchovies and occasionally truffles. The sauce is served in a small earthenware pot that is kept hot while it is served. Vegetables are then dipped in the sauce.
A typical beef stew, bollito misto is usually made with four or more meats. Beef and chicken are staples of the dish, as is some type of sausage. These ingredients are often mixed with other meats that are available. The stew is served with a green sauce made from parsley, garlic, anchovies, olive oil and other ingredients according to the preference of the cook.
Turin, Italy is perhaps best known for the white truffle, a rare food that is sought by cooks around the world. Rare is the person who can afford white truffles as they generally sell for between $2,500 and $3,500 per pound. The white truffle season runs from September through December. During the season many towns around Turin have truffle fairs and auctions where you can often get tastes of regional dishes made with truffles.
- 10 anchovies in salt
- 1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Two handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- 1 peperoncino (small hot chilli)
- 1 hard-boiled egg yolk
- 1/2 cup of good virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic
Wash the anchovies very well under cold running water to remove the salt. Remove the bones and allow the anchovies to dry.
Cook the garlic cloves in boiling water for 3 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins.
Put the garlic into a food processor with all the other ingredients except the anchovies and puree until smooth.
Put a little of the sauce onto a serving dish and layer the anchovies over it. Put some more sauce on top.
Let rest at room temperature for at least 1 or 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Pasta with Mushrooms
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 oz pancetta, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 lb assorted mushrooms (Portobello, Crimini, Common White, etc.), thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 lb. long pasta (spaghetti, linguine, etc.)
- 4 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
Combine the dried porcini and the wine in a small bowl and soak for thirty minutes.
Fill a large pot with four to six quarts of water and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta and salt to the water and stir. When the pasta is al dente, drain and pour onto a serving bowl.
Heat a large saute pan to medium high heat and add the pancetta. Cook until slightly crisp.
Add the butter and allow it to melt. When the bubbles have subsided, add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until the juices have all but evaporated.
Raise the heat to high and add the porcini and wine. Add in the shallots and the thyme. Saute, stirring frequently until the wine has nearly evaporated. Add salt & pepper to taste and the cream.
Allow the sauce to boil until it has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat.
Pour all of the mushroom sauce over the pasta and toss well. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
Chicken Torino Style
- 2 slices prosciutto
- 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese
- 2 slices mozzarella cheese
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly oil a baking dish.
Sauté the garlic in a medium ovenproof skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until light brown.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Cut a slit in each chicken breast and fill the pocket with 1 slice of mozzarella, 1 tablespoon of Gorgonzola cheese and half of the sautéed garlic.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken breast.
In the same skillet used for the garlic, brown the chicken in the butter and remaining oil for about 2 minutes on each side.
Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Makes eight 6-ounce servings
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
- 12 egg yolks
- 4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
- 12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup lightly sweetened whipped cream
- 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts
Heat the milk, cream and half of the sugar in a saucepan.
Whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.
Once the milk mixture is hot, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pan from the heat.
Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated.
Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together.
Add the vanilla extract and combine.
Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts.
*Cooking Notes: Gianduja chocolate is available at most gourmet food stores. If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatin. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for softening the gelatin in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.