Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: calamari

Preparing appetizers that can be made ahead or serving quickly prepared appetizers make entertaining for the holidays much easier. Here are a few of my favorites.

Stromboli

This stuffed bread recipe can be made ahead and reheated just before serving time.

Ingredients

2 (one pound) pizza dough balls, at room temperature
Olive oil
1/4 pound thinly sliced Genoa salami
1/4 pound thinly sliced capicola
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup marinara sauce
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls to a 15 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread half the marinara sauce over the dough.

Sprinkle with half the shredded cheese.

Layer half the meat over the cheese on the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Drizzle with a little olive oil.

Roll the dough up into a log and brush the seam edges with beaten egg.

Leaving the seam at the bottom and pinching the ends closed, brush the seams with the beaten egg mixture

Place the Stromboli on one of the baking sheets. Complete the other dough in the same manner.

Cut four small slits in the top of the log. Cover the Stromboli with kitchen towels and let rise for 45 minutes.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving

Directions

In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.

Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking slightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.

Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.

Sautéed Calamari

Ingredients

For the bread crumb topping:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

For the calamari:

1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Make the bread crumb topping:

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside

For the calamari:

Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.

Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.

Eggplant Caponata

Serves 6 as an appetizer. This also makes a good spread for bruschetta.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds eggplant (1 large)

1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for the baking pan
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
8 chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/4 cup minced jarred roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and score once or twice with a knife (not hitting the skin on the bottom.)

Roast face down on foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with oil, about 20 minutes or until tender. Let drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes, cut side down.

Scoop the eggplant out of the skin and finely chop.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil (or substitute vegetable broth) over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet. Add the onion, celery, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the Italian tomatoes, vinegar and agave and cook for 5 minutes more. Add the remaining oil, eggplant, capers, red peppers, olives and parsley and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes or until thickened.

Cool to room temperature. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and serve with your favorite Italian bread.

Greetings From The South

 


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During the holidays or for game events, I like to serve small plate foods. Guests can serve themselves and take what they like, when they want it. These plates look attractive and can often be prepared in advance. I set up a few hot plates and place the dishes on there so they stay warm for several hours. I often make Eggplant Parmesan and Greek spinach and Feta Pie and cut them into small squares as an option.

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For Christmas, I received a Himalayan Salt block for a gift. As the name suggests, a Himalayan Salt Block is a large block of pink salt and mine came with a tray with handles that holds the block securely. The block can be frozen to keep foods cold and it can also be used on the grill. I used mine for a get together of friends on New Year’s Day and served smoked salmon and whitefish on the block. It looked very attractive and gave the fish a little salt flavor.

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Other dishes that work well for small plates are Italian Sausage and Peppers, small sandwiches, celery stuffed with flavored cream cheese, shrimp salad and, of course, a cheese board.

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Here are some recipes for small plates that I like to serve.

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Mozzarella-Stuffed Arancini

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for cooking
2 shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
16-20 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 6 ounces)
2-3 cups cold risotto
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups panko or traditional bread crumbs
Marinara Sauce, for serving

Directions

In a medium saute pan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the shallots and cook for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add in the oregano and basil and stir until the herbs are wilted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the herb mixture to the mozzarella balls and stir to mix.

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Take approximately 2 tablespoons of cold risotto in your palm and flatten slightly. Add one mozzarella ball covered in the herb mix to the center. Cover the cheese with the rice and roll into a ball form. Dip the ball into flour, shaking lightly to remove any clumps, then into the beaten eggs, and finally, roll the ball in the bread crumbs. Place the coated balls on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining risotto until all of the risotto and/or cheese balls are used.

Pour enough olive oil in a deep skillet to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the oil and add the arancini. Cook on all sides until lightly brown all over. Drain on paper towels.

Note: I usually make them in advance and then reheat before serving in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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Sautéed Calamari

Ingredients

For the bread crumb topping:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

For the calamari:

1/2 pound cleaned squid cut into rings, dry on paper towels, air dry and then move to a plate
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Make the bread crumb topping:

Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet and add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for a minute. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until lightly brown. Set aside

For the calamari:

Heat a medium skillet and add the olive oil. Then garlic, butter and chili flakes. Add calamari, salt and pepper and parsley and cook 1-2 minutes Squeeze lemon over the fish and sprinkle lightly with the toasted bread crumbs.

Note: It is important not to overcook calamari or it will become tough. A minute or two is all it needs to cook.

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Roast Beef Rolls

Ingredients

½ lb deli sliced roast beef, cut very thin
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and cut into squares
3 cups baby arugula
Italian salad dressing
Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Pour a little salad dressing over the arugula and mix well. You just want the leaves moistened not drowning in dressing.

Place the roast beef slices on a work surface.

Place a piece of roasted pepper on top. Then add a spoonful of arugula salad.

Roll each slice up tightly and arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

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Chicken Pesto Sliders

Ingredients

12 small dinner rolls or slider rolls
½ lb deli sliced roast chicken, sliced very thin
2-3 plum tomatoes sliced thin
8 oz.fresh mozzarella, sliced
Basil Pesto

Directions

Spread a little pesto on both sides of the rolls.

On each roll place 2 slices of chicken, a slice of tomato and a slice of mozzarella.

Close the rolls and place them on a baking sheet.

Heat in a 325 degree F oven for 10-12 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt.

Remove the sliders from the oven and place on a serving tray.


Veduta del Golfo di Napoli

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.

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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.

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

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.

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Pasta with Meat Ragu

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Spaghetti alle Vongole

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.

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Sfogliatella.

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Zeppole

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.

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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.

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Making Limoncello

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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.

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Mozzarella di Bufala.

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.

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Neapolitan Ragu

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Pizza Margherita

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

Directions

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.

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Pasta con i Calamari

Small clams and other fish are sometimes added with the calamari.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 whole fresh squid
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 peperoncino
  • Fresh parsley
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 8 oz paccheri pasta

Directions

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.

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My favorite seafood market on the Gulf Coast.

My favorite seafood market on the Gulf Coast.

It’s a great time of year to enjoy some fresh seafood. Whether you buy it fresh from the counter at your favorite market, catch your own or buy it frozen, seafood is a great addition to your summer menu. Make salad your main course by adding some grilled fish to it. Include lots of leafy greens (choose from spinach, arugula, romaine or mixed baby greens) and add tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber and diced onion. Top your salad with a tasty homemade dressing.

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Italian Marinated Seafood Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound sea scallops
  • 1/2 pound medium unpeeled shrimp
  • 1/2 pound fresh mussels
  • 1/4 pound calamari rings
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups mixed salad greens
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to boiling. Add scallops, shrimp, mussels and calamari to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain.

Peel the shrimp and remove the mussels from their shells.

Place cooked seafood and olives in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, chives and red pepper flakes. Chill for 1 hour.

Divide salad greens onto 6 plates or salad bowls. Spoon seafood over greens. Garnish with slices of lemon and red onions. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Lentil Salad with Grilled Salmon

You can use canned salmon but for really good flavor, grill extra salmon one night so that you have leftovers for this salad.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup cucumber,seeds removed and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • Two 15-ounce cans lentils, rinsed, or 3 cups cooked brown or green lentils (see cooking note below)
  • 12 oz leftover grilled salmon fillet or 1 ½ cups flaked canned salmon

Directions

Whisk lemon juice, dill, mustard, salt and pepper in a large serving bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil. Add bell pepper, cucumber, onion, lentils  toss to coat. Let marinate for at least one hour or chill until ready to serve. Place leftover chilled salmon on top of the salad or flake and mix in with the lentils just before serving.

Cooking Note:

To cook the lentils: Place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 20 minutes for green lentils and 30 minutes for brown. Drain and rinse under cold water.

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Mediterranean Salad with Sardines

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 1 large cucumber, cut into large chunks
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives
  • Two 4-ounce cans sardines with bones, packed in olive oil and drained (see cooking note below)

Directions

Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a large serving bowl until well combined. Add tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, feta, onion and olives; gently toss to combine. Let marinate for at least an hour.

At serving time, divide the salad among 4 plates and top with sardines.

Cooking Note:

Look for sardines with skin and bones (which are edible) as they have more than four times the amount of calcium as skinless, boneless sardines. If you’re lucky enough to have fresh sardines available in your market, try them in place of the canned sardines. Lightly dredge them in salt-and-pepper-seasoned flour and sauté them in a little olive oil.

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Grilled Fish Fillet Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

Vinaigrette

  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salad

  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (5-6 medium), scrubbed and halved
  • 1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound halibut or striped bass or your favorite fish fillet (see cooking note below)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 large head tender lettuce
  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1/4 cup sliced pitted  Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

To prepare the vinaigrette:

Using a fork, mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl to form a coarse paste. Whisk in 5 tablespoons oil. Add 6 tablespoons orange juice, vinegar and mustard; whisk until well blended. Taste and season with more salt, if desired. Set aside at room temperature.

To prepare the salad:

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander. When cool enough to handle, slice and place in a shallow bowl. Drizzle with 1/3 cup vinaigrette; set aside.

Add beans to the saucepan and  bring to a boil; cook until the beans are bright green and just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain well. Place in a medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette.

Combine lemon juice, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper in a sturdy ziplock plastic bag; shake until the salt dissolves. Add fish and marinate for up to 20 minutes.

Heat a grill to medium-high and preheat for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium. (For a charcoal grill, wait until the flames subside and only coals and some ash remain—flames will cause the oil on the fish to burn.) Oil grill rack.

Grill the fish, turning once, until browned and just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side for halibut; 3 to 4 minutes per side for bass.

Arrange lettuce leaves on a large serving platter. Arrange the fish (whole or flaked into large chunks), potatoes, green beans and tomatoes on top. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Garnish with eggs, olives, parsley and pepper to taste.

Cooking Note:

Fish that flakes easily requires a delicate touch to flip on the grill. If you want to skip turning it over when grilling, measure a piece of foil large enough to hold the fish and coat it with cooking spray. Grill the fish on the foil (without turning) until it flakes easily and reaches an internal temperature of 145°F.

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Shrimp & Arugula Salad

Grill extra corn to use in this salad.

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover grilled fresh corn kernels, (from about 2 ears)
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, (21-25 per pound), peeled and deveined, tails removed if desired
  • Homemade croutons made ahead and cooled, (see recipe below)
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Asiago or Parmesan cheese, shaved

Directions

Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, turning from time to time, just until they turn pink and are opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. chill in the refrigerator.

Combine arugula, basil, corn and tomatoes in a large salad bowl.

Whisk 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.

Add to the arugula mixture along with the croutons.

Whisk the dressing again and drizzle over the salad; toss to coat. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Grind black pepper over the salads and sprinkle with cheese.

Homemade Croutons

Ingredients

  • 3 pieces of good quality Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

On a large baking sheet, spread out the bread cubes in one layer.

Evenly sprinkle the Italian seasoning, garlic powder and salt over the bread cubes.

Then drizzle the olive oil over the top.

Using your hands, toss to combine thoroughly and then spread back into one even layer.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until golden brown. The croutons will harden as they cool.

 


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As immigrants from the different regions of Italy settled throughout the various regions of the United States, many brought with them a distinct regional Italian culinary tradition. Many of these foods and recipes developed into new favorites for the townspeople and later for Americans nationwide.

Heading West

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Bloomfield is a neighborhood in Pittsburgh that is referred to as Pittsburgh’s Little Italy. In the decades following 1868, Bloomfield was settled by German Catholic immigrants. Beginning around 1900, they were joined by Italians from five towns in the Abruzzi region. Descendants from both groups, with the Italians outnumbering the Germans, still give the neighborhood its character today.

The residents are diverse, as the neighborhood has a combination of working class Italian-Americans, various other European populations, African-Americans and a substantial population of college students. It is a decidedly urban neighborhood, with narrow streets and alleys packed with row houses. Liberty Avenue is the neighborhood’s main business thoroughfare.

Ciao Pittsburgh is western Pennsylvania’s longest-running online magazine covering all things Italian. They write about Italian cuisine, culture and traditions that have been passed from generation to generation. The magazine advocates for Italian-Americans and provides readers a platform to connect and unite with other Italian-Americans. Each month, they highlight the people, places, traditions and events among the Italian community with in-depth features and articles. Visit the magazine site. Here is a local recipe from a recent edition.

Nicky D Cooks: Pesci Pizzaiola

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Copyright 2011  Check out Nancy’s blog.

“White Fish in herbed tomato sauce – a simple peasant dish that goes perfectly over rice pilaf, couscous or lightly dressed orzo in olive oil.”

Ingredients

  • 1 ½  lbs cod fillets or white fish fillets
  • 1 -2 cans small tomato sauce
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup (about) olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place the sliced onions on the bottom of the pan, then put fish on top of the onions. Pour a thin coat of the tomato sauce over the fish. Sprinkle oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil and cheese over the fish. Cover and bake fish in the oven about ½ hr (approximately) or until the fish is done. The fish will become white and flaky – this is when it is done.

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Marion County West Virginia

Italian heritage is especially strong in Mountaineer Country, where at least 11% of the population of the Mountaineer Country has Italian ancestry. Many Italians originally immigrated to West Virginia in the early twentieth century to work in the coal mines throughout the state. Specialty glass factories in this region were largely an Italian immigrant industry with factories in Fairmont, Mannington and Clarksburg. Italian stonemasons were also common in the early communities.

Today Fairmont, Clarksburg and Morgantown form a tri-city area with a strong Italian American network, where community members maintain strong family ties which often include distant relatives, godparents and family friends. Families keep in contact by gathering at significant life events, such as weddings, anniversaries and funerals.

Local organizations, like the Sons of Italy in Morgantown, provide an important meeting place for the Italian American community. These organizations promote various cultural programs. The Sons of Italy, for example, organizes an Italian language course at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Morgantown. Morgantown is also home to the recently formed Committee for the Preservation of Italian History and Culture. This group raises money for local cultural events and sponsors historical programs of special interest to the Italian community.

One important event of the year in the region is the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg. Held in September each year, this event features traditional and contemporary Italian music and dance, bocce tournaments, homemade wine contests and plenty of Italian food. The event is a focal point statewide for the Italian American community.

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Writer, filmmaker, Robert Tinnell, grew up in the small town of Rivesville, (Marion County) West Virginia, in an extended, Italian-American family.  His comic strips are based on his experiences. Robert Tinnell’s Feast of the Seven Fishes has taken on a life of its own. It began as his family’s story of Christmas Eve and became a ‘graphic novel’ or strip, telling an engaging story. Check out Robert’s blog.

Stuffed Calamari

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Here’s a recipe for one of Robert’s favorite Feast of the Seven Fishes dishes as described on his blog.

You Will Need:  2-4 pounds of calamari (squid), bread crumbs, salt, pepper, fresh grated Parmesan and/or romano cheese, eggs, garlic, basil, water, milk and additional chopped up portions of  various seafood. He recommends serving them in Tomato Sauce.

How You Do It:

Remove the tentacles from the calamari, leaving only the body cavity.
Prepare a homemade tomato sauce and allow it to simmer while preparing the stuffing.

The Stuffing – In a large bowl, combine two 15 oz. cans of bread crumbs (or four cups fresh bread crumbs), one head of minced garlic, cup of milk and an egg. Add cheese to preference and chopped seafood. Mix by hand until you get a thick moist mixture; add more milk if necessary.

Now, take the stuffing and fill each calamari tube (tight but not too tight) and place in an olive oiled casserole dish. Lay the stuffed calamari in rows.
Drizzle the stuffed calamari with olive oil and cheese, then pour your sauce over top the entire dish.
Cover with foil and place in an oven that’s been pre-heated to 450 degrees F for about an hour.

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Brier Hill is a neighborhood in Youngstown, Ohio, that was once viewed as the city’s “Little Italy” district. The neighborhood, which was the site of the city’s first Italian settlement, stretches along the western edge of Youngstown’s lower north side and encircles St. Anthony’s Church, an Italian-American Roman Catholic parish. Each year, at the end of August, the Brier Hill Fest attracts thousands of visitors from Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

The neighborhood was the birthplace of “Brier Hill pizza”, a home-style recipe with origins in the Basilicata region of Italy. Brier Hill pizza is prepared with a generous amount of thick “Sunday sauce”, bell peppers and romano cheese, as opposed to the more typical mozzarella topping. It is one of several dishes the Youngstown area prides itself upon, in much the same way New Yorkers value their distinctive thin-crusted New York-style pizza.

According to Tony Trolio, the organizer of the Brier Hill Memorial Tribute Plaque project, most of the Italians that lived in Brier Hill all came from the same area in Italy; Colobraro, Provincia, Matera and Basilicata. “My parents, Antonio and Nicolette Trolio, came to America in 1922,” said Trolio, who added that they lived on Pershing Street, near St. Anthony’s. Sharing that his father, who was a plumber, continued all of the traditional Italian customs, including having a huge garden and making homemade wine and sausage. Trolio added, “My mother, like all the mothers, made pizza.” He added however, that his mother made and sold about 300 pizzas every week. “We bought boxes for her and called it Mama Mia’s Pizza.”

“I wrote two books about Brier Hill and, in fact, I claimed to be the first one to come up with the name Brier Hill Pizza,” said Trolio, adding that he also led the move to have four road signs installed claiming Brier Hill as the first Italian settlement in Youngstown. “This exciting event brings our tribute to our parents and neighborhood full cycle with two books written, four historic road signs installed honoring Youngstown’s first Italian immigrants and, finally, the memorial plaque,” said Trolio. The plaque is installed next to the parish’s cornerstone on the outside of the church where Trolio said he received his first communion, was confirmed, married and from where many of his family members funeral masses were held. (http://www.towncrieronline.com/)

 Steve and Marian DeGenaro in the kitchen at St Anthony Church in Youngstown Friday 4-24-09. They and about 25 volunteers make and sell several hundred pizza's/week as a church fundraiser. See more at: http://www.vindy.com/photos


Steve and Marian DeGenaro in the kitchen at St Anthony Church in Youngstown Friday 4-24-09. They and about 25 volunteers make and sell several hundred pizza’s/week as a church fundraiser. See more at: http://www.vindy.com/photos

St. Anthony’s Church still sells its Brier Hill pizza by the pie on most Friday mornings. It is a simple recipe consisting of red sauce, red/green peppers and romano cheese. It was a pizza that many early southern Italian immigrants could make from ingredients grown in their own backyards. Many years later, it has become a source of pride for a city that takes food very seriously. There are lots of great places in Youngstown that sell their own version of this style of pizza. However, for the real deal, you need to get a pie at St. Anthony’s church.

Modarelli Baking Company posted a recipe for the Brier Hill sauce on their Facebook page and writes:

“For those of you who aren’t familiar with Brier Hill Pizza… It’s a ‘style’ of pizza that originated in a Youngstown, Ohio neighborhood called Brier Hill just uphill from Youngstown Sheet and Tube. It was a neighborhood of Italian immigrants including my grandparents. From this neighborhood emerged a unique style of pizza that is Now called Brierhill. It was made from their gardens with tomatoes, peppers and garlic and had only pecorino romano cheese on top.”

This will make 2 – 12” or 4 – 6” pizzas

Sauce

  • 2 large cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 large can tomato puree
  • Dried Basil, .about 1-2  teaspoons
  • Dried Oregano, about 1/4 teaspoon
  • Dried Parsley, about 1/2 teaspoon
  • 4 Bell peppers (2 red & 2 green) chopped 1/2”- 1” chunks
  • 2- 4 large cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Romano cheese
  • …and MY secret ingredient 2-3 in. chunk pepperoni
  • Favorite pizza dough crust/shell, see recipe below

Directions

Slowly brown garlic in olive oil in a saucepan…when it starts getting soft and slightly yellow-i crush it with the back of a spoon and let it get a darker yellow.
Add peppers and let it cool slightly before putting sauce in or it will ”sizzles” at you.
Add tomatoes, herbs and pepperoni chunk and bring to boil then simmer on low heat for at least 45 min. You can pull out garlic when done.
“Sometimes I add 1 hot pepper sliced in half or put in hot pepper seeds while cooking. Sometimes I will add some onion powder and garlic powder (1 teaspoon each and some seasoned salt ¼ teaspoon).”

Spread sauce/peppers on pizza dough, sprinkle on a generous amount of grated pecorino romano cheese and bake.

Pizza Dough

  • 1-1/2 cup warm water (100* to 105* F)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1-1/4 oz Active Dry Yeast Packet
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 4 Cups of bread flour

(BY HAND) Pour the warm water into a mixing bowl, Add the sugar and packet of yeast. Stir the mixture slowly until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Let sit to allow the mixture to “mature” about 10 minutes or so, The mixture will begin to react: clouding and forming a foamy froth on the surface of the mixture.

Add the salt and olive oil and stir again to combine and dissolve the ingredients. Add one cup of flour and whisk in until dissolved. Add the second cup of flour and whisk it in. Add the third cup of flour and combine. The dough mixture should be fairly thick. Add the last cup of floor and with your hands begin to combine and knead the dough.

Remove the dough ball to the tabletop to knead it. You may need to add a dusting of flour from time to time to reduce the stickiness of the dough. Be patient, folding the dough ball in half, then quarters over and over again for about 8 minutes. You’ll know you’ve done well when the dough no longer sticks to your hands. Coat the dough ball with a thin layer of olive oil and place at the bottom of a large mixing bowl which has been coated on the inside with some olive oil and cover with a stretched piece of kitchen film or kitchen towel.

MIXER OR FOOD PROCESSOR: put all dry ingredients in as listed above and run the machine for about a minute on low-speed to mix the ingredients dry. Add the water slowly and mix/knead until a ball is formed (not usually more than a couple of minutes of machine running time).

Set in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise undisturbed for an hour or so until the dough ball grows at least twice its original size. Punch down lightly and let sit for another hour of rising before spreading in a pizza pan.

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The Hill is a neighborhood within St. Louis, Missouri, located south of Forest Park. Its name is due to its proximity to the highest point of the city, formerly named St. Louis Hill. The first Italians to move to St. Louis were Lombard villagers from the region around Milan. Fleeing poverty and overpopulation, they arrived in the 1880s to work in St. Louis’s clay mines and brick factories. At the turn of the century, Sicilians came to work in the same factories and were soon sharing the Hill with their northern cousins.

The first restaurants on the Hill began as taverns catering to workers and evolved over the years into Italian American restaurants. On their menus you’ll find the standards: spaghetti carbonara, cannelloni, scampi, plenty of veal dishes and, usually, ”toasted” ravioli—a definitive St. Louis Italian specialty, said to have been born by accident about fifty years ago at a restaurant on the Hill when a piece of the stuffed pasta fell into a pot of hot fat.

Tony Catarinicchia, who left Palermo more than 25 years ago, says, ”Good Italian food doesn’t need too many ingredients and should never be over sauced,”. Catarinicchia draws crowds of locals to his restaurant with his  long list of dishes including fried artichokes, pennette all’arrabbiata and seafood ravioli. His eggplant parmesan is made in the summertime with ingredients picked from the restaurant’s garden.

The Hill is one of St. Louis’s least changed and most stable neighborhoods. Currently, about three-quarters of the residents are Italian-Americans. The neighborhood is home to a large number of locally renowned Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, salons and two bocce gardens.

Tony’s Eggplant Parmesan

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(http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Eggplant-Parmesan)

Serves 4

This southern Italian classic might be named after the cheese that tops it—but some Sicilians think the title comes from palmigiana , meaning ”shutter”, describing the way the eggplant slices are often overlapped.

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed Italian tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups dried plain bread crumbs, sifted
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 3/4 cup grated provolone cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°f. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs together in another shallow dish. Mix bread crumbs with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a third shallow dish. Set dishes aside.

Peel and trim eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2” pieces. Dredge each slice first in the flour, then in the egg, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.

Heat remaining ⅛ cup oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add breaded eggplant slices to the hot oil (working in batches, if needed) and cook until golden on both sides and dark brown on the edges, 2-3 minutes per side.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a large shallow ovenproof dish. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on top of tomato sauce. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Scatter basil on top of sauce and sprinkle with parmigiano-reggiano, then provolone. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.

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Roseto Pennsylvania

In 1882 a group of 11 Italians came to the United States from Roseto, Italy and found work in an area of Pennsylvania that later become known as the town of Roseto. Relatives of these immigrants followed and settled in the same area. By the early 1900s the town was flourishing and a near exact replica of the Roseto, Italy they had left behind. And that was how it remained for years.

By the 1950s the town was bustling with activity. The residents kept to themselves creating an Italian village similar to one in the “Old Country”. However, they didn’t necessarily stick to the “old world” style of cooking and eating. The light flatbread pizza of their homeland was exchanged for heavy bread and cheese. Sausage, meatballs and pasta were a normal dinner, biscotti and other sweets became daily treats and there was always wine.

A physician and University Professor named Stewart Wolf discovered Roseto. Wolf became interested in the townsfolk when he noticed that despite their diets and struggles with obesity, no one really seemed to get sick. He conducted a study of the residents and looked at the incidence of heart disease and heart attack fatalities. He and his team took EKGs of everyone, did blood tests, collected death certificates from decades into the past and conducted exhaustive interviews with the residents.

What he found was astounding. Virtually no one in the town of Rosetto died under the age of 55 from heart disease or heart attack. And the incidences of death from heart disease in men older than 65 was nearly half that of the national averages. In fact, deaths of all causes were 30%-35% lower than expected. There was virtually no alcoholism, no suicide, no drug addiction, no one on welfare and crime was practically nonexistent. There were also no occurrences of peptic ulcers or other stress related problems. The only real consistent cause of death appeared to be old age.

Researchers were baffled. How did this town of sausage eating, wine drinking, overweight and happy Italians manage to escape the ill-health fate of the rest of the country? The researchers came to realize that the people of Roseto were not only very social, but very kind. They stopped in the streets and talked. They had each other over for dinner. Three generations of family lived under the same roof. They laughed a lot. Everyone knew and respected each other, especially their elders. Thus, the town of Roseto illustrated the importance of feeling good about life.

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Italian American Lasagna

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 12 whole fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Filling

  • 16 oz ricotta cheese
  • 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano shredded
  • 4 oz Italian style dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 sprigs Italian parsley finely chopped

For the lasagna

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 12 whole lasagna either oven-ready or parboiled
  • 10 oz mozzarella, shredded
  • 5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, shredded

Directions

For the sauce:

Combine the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes, basil leaves, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and simmer until the sauce thickens, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, mix the ricotta, Parmigiano, bread crumbs, salt and parsley for the filling and set aside.

Brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Coat a large roasting pan or lasagna pan with olive oil.

Assemble the lasagna as follows (bottom to top): mozzarella, thin layer of sauce, layer of pasta, Parmigiano, ricotta cheese filling, mozzarella, meat, thin layer of sauce and layer of pasta.

Bake for one hour, covered with foil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice into squares and serve.

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Newark,  New Jersey

In its heyday, Seventh Avenue in Newark was one of the largest “Little Italies” in the U.S. with a population of 30,000, in an area of less than a square mile. The center of life in the neighborhood was St. Lucy’s Church, founded by Italian immigrants in 1891. Throughout the year, St. Lucy’s and other churches sponsored processions in honor of saints that became community events. The most famous procession was the Feast of St. Gerard, but there were also great feasts for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Our Lady of Snow, the Assumption and St. Rocco.

Joe DiMaggio loved the restaurants of Seventh Avenue so much that he would take the New York Yankees to Newark to show them “real Italian food”. Frank Sinatra had bread from Giordano’s Bakery sent to him every week until his death, no matter where in the world he was. New York Yankees catcher, Rick Cerone, also grew up in the First Ward. One of the nation’s largest Italian newspapers, The Italian Tribune, was founded on Seventh Avenue. Seventh Avenue produced stars, such as Joe Pesci and Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons. Congressman Peter Rodino, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, was a native of the First Ward as well.

Seventh Avenue was devastated by urban renewal efforts during the 1950s. Eighth Avenue was obliterated by the city council, scattering the Italian American residents. Most businesses never recovered. The construction of Interstate 280 also served to cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. Following these events some of the First Ward’s Italians stayed in the neighborhood, while others migrated to other Newark neighborhoods, such as Broadway, Roseville and the Ironbound section.

Belmont Tavern

The Belmont, founded in the 1920s, moved to its current location on Bloomfield Ave. in 1965. Chef Stretch has passed away, but his Chicken Savoy recipe is still a popular menu item. Celebrity spottings are not uncommon. Clint Eastwood bought the cast of his movie, Jersey Boys there while they were filming in NJ.

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Stretch’s Chicken Savoy

Serves 3 or 4

This is a restaurant recipe and you must keep the chicken pieces well-separated in the pan. If the pan is crowded, the chicken will not brown because too much liquid will accumulate. In a restaurant kitchen, the oven goes to 700 degrees F or more, which means the juices evaporate before they have a chance to accumulate. For years the recipe was a family secret and Stretch’s daughter Annette, pulled the old, “If I tell you, then we’d have to kill you” line when Saveur Magazine came calling for the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, cut into 6 pieces (two drumsticks, two thighs, two breasts with wings)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 teaspoons grated Locatelli or other Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (preferably 7% acidity)

Directions

In a 10 1/2-inch cast iron skillet or other heavy, oven-proof pan, arrange the chicken pieces so that they do not touch each other, skin side down.

Sprinkle the chicken with garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and grated cheese, in that order.

Place chicken in a preheated 500-degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and pour on all the vinegar at once. It should sizzle.

Return the chicken to the oven for another minute or so.

Arrange chicken on a platter and pour the vinegar sauce over the chicken. Serve immediately.

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Café Gia Ristoranté

Baltimore

The “Little Italy” of Baltimore is located close to the Inner Harbor area and Fells Point, newly renovated and very popular for its great restaurants. This neighborhood has been occupied by Italians since the 1890’s and still retains a large Italian community. During the warm months, the neighborhood is home to bocce games and open-air film festivals. “Little Italy” is the end point for the nation’s oldest Columbus Day parade, celebrated since 1890 and hosted by the Italian American community. In June, Baltimore’s “Little Italy” celebrates the Feast of Saint Anthony and the Feast of Saint Gabriel in August.

In 1953, Giovanna Aquia, along with her father Pasquale, her mother Rosa and her little brother Salvatore (Sammy) embarked on a journey that would forever change their lives. The family boarded the famous Italian luxury liner the “Andrea Doria” and made their way to America from Cefalu, Sicily. They entered the U.S. via NYC and arrived to their final destination in Baltimore on June 23, 1953. Giovanna likes to say, “At a time when no one liked to move around, our family traveled 3500 miles and we haven’t moved 200 feet since.”

Giovanna goes on to say that ” family life always revolved around the dinner table. It was there that a great appreciation of simple Sicilian cuisine became rooted in them. Their house was always open to friends and family. On Sundays and holidays, Nonna Rosa, would cook up a feast. We all just sat together, enjoyed each other and talked and laughed while we were feeding their faces. Our family is the only family with 4 generations still living in Little Italy.”

It was the desire to share their Sicilian heritage and Sicilian cuisine that prompted the family to buy an older neighborhood diner and create a warm, comfortable family ristoranté in “Little Italy”, called Café Gia Ristoranté. “We strived very hard to recreate a Sicilian bistro, a place where one feels like they are in Sicily while dining,” she said. “Our walls are embraced with hand painted colorful murals, our tables are also topped off with great hand painted murals. The exterior echoes an old Sicilian bistro and we have created a little bit of Italy with fresh, delicious Italian food and friendly, family service.”

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Insalata di Mare Calda

Chef Gia Daniella

“Growing up, Christmas Eve was a big deal at my house,” says Chef Gia Daniella, the owner of Cafe Gia Ristorante in Little Italy. That night, her family hosted the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand seafood meal with Italian roots. “We always entertained and had a spread of seafood and side dishes — all Italian and Italian-American,” she recalls. “My mother is from Italy — Sicily,” she explains. “The Seven Seafoods is actually a regional tradition in the south.” The mixed seafood salad was always one of Gia’s favorite Christmas Eve dishes. The recipe below is served warm but is equally appealing when chilled, she says. And best enjoyed when surrounded by loved ones.

4 servings

For the salad:

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 pound clams, cleaned
  • 1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
  • 1 ½ cups celery, finely chopped
  • 4 cups arugula 
  • Chopped roasted red peppers for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ cup capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large pot, combine 3 cups of water, bay leaves and crushed garlic.

Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the pot, then place the lemon rind in the pot.

Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.

Add the shrimp to the pot for two minutes, then remove with a strainer and set aside in a bowl.

Add the calamari to the water for 1 ½ minutes. Remove with a strainer and add to the bowl with the shrimp.

Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cook until their shells open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a strainer and combine with the shrimp and calamari.

Add the chopped celery. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and gently fold.

To make the dressing:

In a processor combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gently toss the seafood with the dressing. Add another dash or two of salt and pepper. Garnish with roasted red peppers.

For an attractive presentation, serve over fresh arugula.

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Judiciary Square

Washington, D.C.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the eastern side of Judiciary Square became an enclave of Italian immigrants in Washington; the equivalent of a Little Italy. The Italian neighborhood rested on the eastern edge of the square, stretching eastward to about 2nd Street NW. The heart of the community was Holy Rosary Church, a chapel built at 3rd and F Streets NW. It was a government town without mills, factories or a commercial port and there were fewer opportunities for unskilled laborers without language skills to support themselves. Instead, the area drew smaller numbers of skilled immigrants, such as the construction workers, artists and tradesmen, who labored on the government buildings erected in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Casa Italiana

The neighborhood grew throughout the 20th century, with an increased surge of Italian immigrants in the 1950s and 60s. However, the construction of Interstate 395 through the city in the 1970s razed about half of the neighborhood and forced its remaining residents to move away. Today, the former Italian enclave is dominated by Federal office buildings and law offices. The Holy Rosary Church remains standing, though, and continues to draw a heavily Italian congregation, along with its “Casa Italia” cultural center next door. Casa Italiana offers classes on cinema, literature,  cuisine, wine tasting and majolica, the ancient Italian art of ceramic pottery, Visitors can still hear a Catholic Mass in Italian every Sunday at Holy Rosary.

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Campono Meatball Subs

What sets a great meatball sub apart from all the others is the quality of its ingredients. Campono’s popular sandwich is made with ricotta cheese in the meatball mixture and made in-house mozzarella and marinara sauce for the sandwich. The meatballs are neither too firm nor so tender that they fall apart.

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for your hands
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 slices white/country bread, crusts removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 pounds ground veal
  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork shoulder (butt)
  • 8 ounces finely chopped or ground prosciutto
  • 1 cup freshly grated pecorino-Romano cheese
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups “00” flour, for dusting

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 28 ounces canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A few fresh basil leaves

FOR ASSEMBLY

  • 6 sub rolls, partially split
  • 12 thin slices good-quality mozzarella cheese
  • 6 slices deli provolone cheese

Directions

For the meatballs:

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, garlic, dried oregano and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook just until the onion and garlic have softened but not browned; transfer to a very large mixing bowl.

Combine the bread pieces and milk in a medium bowl; let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the milk is completely absorbed.

Add to the large bowl with the onions, the ground veal, ground beef, ground pork shoulder, prosciutto, pecorino-Romano, ricotta, eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper and the soaked bread pieces; use clean hands to blend the mixture until well incorporated.

Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the “00” flour in a wide, shallow bowl.

Grease your hands with a little oil. Form the meatball mixture into 65 meatballs of equal size (the size of shell-on walnuts). Coat each one lightly with “00” flour, dividing them between two parchment-paper-lined rimmed baking sheets. Roast on the upper and lower racks for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until the meatballs are browned and cooked through. Discard any remaining flour.

For the sauce:

Use a food mill to puree the tomatoes. Discard the seeds; reserve the drained juices for another use, if desired.

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and dried oregano. Cook just until the garlic starts to brown, then stir in the tomato puree. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes then taste, and season lightly with kosher or sea salt and cracked black pepper. Stir in 6 to 8 basil leaves. Turn off the heat. Transfer 30 of the meatballs to the saucepan, turning them until coated. Cool and freeze the remaining meatballs for another time.

When ready to assemble, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Open the sub rolls, keeping the halves partially attached and laying them on two rimmed baking sheets. Tear out some of the inside bread to create room for the meatballs. Spread a tablespoon or two of the marinara sauce over both halves of each open-faced roll; toast in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes; keep the oven on.

Line each sub roll with the mozzarella and provolone slices, overlapping and/or tearing the slices so the inside roll surfaces are covered. Place 5 sauced meatballs at the center of each sub roll; return to the oven just until the cheese melts.

Close each sandwich and cut crosswise in half. Serve hot.

*View Recipes From America’s Italian Communities: Part 1  here .


BvH_20090801_056

Marche (in English, this region is also known as the Marches) is a mountainous and hilly region facing the Adriatic Sea that allows for very little travel north and south, except on twisting roads over the passes. The mountain area is rugged, with narrow valleys, deep gorges and numerous rushing, sometimes inaccessible, streams. The coastline presents a succession of gently rolling hills and flat plains crossed by rivers. The regional capital is Ancona. Other important cities are Ascoli Piceno, Pesaro, Urbino and Macerata.

marche

Prior to the 1980s, Marche was considered a rather poor region, although economically stable in some sectors, thanks to its agricultural and crafts industries. Today, the contribution of agriculture to the economy of the region is less significant. Their main products are cereals, vegetables, animal products and grapes. Olives are also produced and managed by various harvesters. The sea has always furnished a plentiful supply of fish with the main fishing centers located in Ancona, San Benedetto del Tronto, Fano and Civitanova Marche.

Ancona

Ancona

Many of the small craft workshops scattered throughout the rural settlements have modernised and become small businesses, some of which have become major brands known all over the world (Indesit, Tod’s, Guzzini, Teuco). This evolution led to the emergence of specialised industrial areas, which are profitable for the region, such as footwear and leather goods in  the provinces of Macerata and Fermo; furniture in the Pesaro area; household appliances and textiles in Ancona, where engineering companies are also found (including ship building, petrochemicals and paper, as well as consumer goods). The region continues to draw tourists, whose increasing numbers have been attracted by the region’s rich heritage, as well as by the attractive seaside resorts.

marche2

One can visit the various workshops of local craftsmen, like those of violin makers, which attest to the skill and creativity of the region’s inhabitants. On the first Sunday of August, the streets of Ascoli serve as the background for the Quintana, in which expert horsemen challenge each other in a joust. The Cathedral of San Ciriaco rises on the site of an ancient Greek acropolis and is considered to be one of the most interesting Medieval churches in the Marches. Another site to visit is the fortress at Gradara, a magnificent example of medieval military architecture. According to legend, the fortress is where Paolo and Francesca kissed, as written about in “Canto V” of Dante’s Inferno.

The Renaissance Town of Urbino

The Renaissance Town of Urbino

If you love classical music, Pesaro hosts the Rossini Opera Festival with two weeks of complete immersion into the music of Gioacchino Rossini (a native of Pesaro) every August.

Take A Tour Of The Marches

The cuisine of Marche has been greatly influenced by other regions and by invading peoples throughout its long history.

Marche Kitchen

Marche Kitchen

Creamy sauces made from chicken giblets are used liberally in Marche cooking. Pork recipes rely on generous chunks instead of the traditional thin prosciutto style servings. Since pork is so readily available, there are many types of sausage made in Marche. A local favorite is a smoked sausage called ciauscolo and it is made with half pork and half pork fat and it is seasoned with salt, pepper, orange peel and fennel seed.

Polenta made from corn, seasoned with oil, cheese, lard, onions, ricotta, tomatoes, greens, legumes, etc.; bread made from a mixture of cornmeal and flour, wine and occasionally salt pork, is the typical diet of Marche shepherds and farmers.

Olives grow well in Marche and are often stuffed with savory meat fillings. Grapes, grains, mushrooms and a wide variety of vegetables are found throughout the region.

Casciotta d’Urbino is a sheep and cow milk cheese, hand-pressed into rounds, that are then salted and cured in a moist environment, producing a velvety texture. Ambra di Talamello is made from goat, sheep or cow milk and is cured in a pit lined with straw, resulting in an earthy flavor. Cacio La Forma di Limone is a sheep milk cheese made with lemons, then formed into small balls (that look a bit like lemons). They are rubbed with a salt and lemon mixture for curing, resulting in a refreshingly light lemon tang. Pecorino cheeses can be found in the region as well.

Pasta in the Marche region is rich with eggs that are formed into wide noodles, like lasagna and pappardelle. The region’s signature dish is vincisgrassi, a pasta casserole with meat sauce. Other pastas like spaghetti alla chitarra, spaghettini, tagliatelle and maccheroncini are typical of Marche dishes.

Along the coast, soup is popular, but it takes the form of brodetto – fish soup. Brodetto are prepared with all types of fish and varying other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron. Other seafood favorites include dried codfish, sole, bream, clams and mussels.

Marche desserts include a Pizza Dolce or sweet pizza and Frustenga a cake made with raisins, figs and walnuts.

Traditional Recipes From Marche

marche6

Calamari Marche Style

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs small squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 1 fresh flat leaf parsley sprig, chopped
  • 2 salted anchovies
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 5 tablespoons white wine
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Remove the anchovy heads, clean and fillet them, if they are not bought as fillets. Soak them in cold water for 10 minutes and drain.

Chop the anchovy fillets.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet with the garlic and parsley.

Add the squid and anchovies. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Stir in the wine and 3 tablespoons water. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes until tender. Serves 4.

marche5

Mussels and Clams in White Wine

Serves 4

  • 1 lb or 500 grams of mussels, rinsed, cleaned & beards removed
  • 1 lb or 500 grams of clams, cleaned
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • Red pepper or chili flakes
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnishing

Directions

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat and slowly cook the garlic until brown all over.

Turn the heat up, add the chili flakes and clams – cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then add in the mussels.

Turn up the heat and toss in the cherry tomatoes, sauteing for a moment or two.

Add the white wine and cover the pan. Allow to cook covered 1-2 minutes until the shells open.  Then shut off the heat and add the parsley. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

marche4

Spaghetti alla Marchigiana

Ingredients

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/3 pound guanciale or pancetta cut into little cubes
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 fresh chili pepper left whole
  • 1/3 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • Salt to taste

Directions

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the spaghetti al dente.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan sauté the guanciale and fresh chili pepper in the olive oil.

When the guanciale is crispy and golden, add the onion and garlic and continue to sauté. Add salt to taste.

Once the onion and garlic have become golden, take the pan off of the heat and set aside.

Put the drained spaghetti into a serving dish and sprinkle the pecorino cheese on top.

Pour the onion, olive oil and guanciale sauce over the top of the pasta. Mix well and serve.

Additional pecorino cheese can be sprinkled over the pasta as a finishing touch.

marche7

Polenta with Beans and Cabbage

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 pounds (5-600 g) finely ground cornmeal (polenta)
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dried fava beans
  • 6 ounces (150 g) dried white beans
  • 1 to 1 1/3 pounds (5-600 g) green or red cabbage
  • 1/4 pound (100 g)  guanciale or pancetta, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

Directions

Soak the beans and fava beans separately in water to cover overnight and cook them separately until tender.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the tomato paste, the minced herbs and the guanciale, reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the mixture gently for about 30 minutes, taking care to not let it brown.

Lightly salt and shred the cabbage,

In the meantime, heat 2 quarts of water.  When it comes to a boil, add the cornmeal in a very slow stream (you don’t want the pot to stop boiling), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to keep lumps from forming. Add the cabbage and continue stirring, in the same direction, as the mush thickens, for about a half-hour (the longer you stir the better the polenta will be; the finished polenta should have the consistency of firm mashed potatoes), adding boiling water as necessary. The polenta is done when it peels easily off the sides of the pot.

Stir the beans and the sauce into the polenta when it’s ready, let everything rest for a minute and then turn the mixture out onto the polenta board or large platter.

marche8

Funghetti Di Offida

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ lb sugar
  • 1 large pinch anise seed
  • Water

Directions

Using a mixer work together the flour, sugar and anise seed with a little water until you have a smooth dough.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls and allow them to dry for thirty minutes on parchment paper.

Place the balls in a mini muffin tin, one ball in each mold. The molds should be small enough so that the dough touches the edge.

Bake the cookies in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and serve hot. Reheat before serving, if you plan to serve them later.



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