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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: mussels

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Liguria is where pesto is originally from, one of the most popular sauces in Italian cuisine. Seafood is a major staple of Liguria, as the sea has been part of the region’s culture since its beginning. Another important aspect of the culture is the beach. Tourists have been flocking to the Italian Riviera for decades to experience its calm, deep blue water.

Liguria is the coastal region of north-western Italy, where Genoa is the capital. Liguria is bordered by France to the west, Piedmont to the north and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. This narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Mountains and steep cliffs that rise loftily out of the Ligurian Sea in the most northerly part of the Western Mediterranean.

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the region’s economic growth was remarkable: steel mills and shipyards flourished along the coast from Imperia to La Spezia, while the port of Genoa became the main commercial hub of industrializing Northern Italy. During the tragic period of World War II, Liguria experienced heavy bombings, hunger and two years of occupation by the German troops, against whom a liberation struggle was led. When Allied troops eventually entered Genoa, they were welcomed by Italian partisans who, in a successful insurrection, had freed the city and accepted the surrender of the local German command.

Steel, once a major industry during the booming 1950s and 1960s, phased out after the late 1980s, as Italy moved away from heavy industry to pursue more technologically advanced and less polluting productions. Ligurian businesses turned towards a widely diversified range of high-quality and high-tech products (food, electrical engineering, electronics, petrochemicals, aerospace etc.). Despite this new direction, the region still maintains a flourishing shipbuilding industry (yacht construction and maintenance, cruise liners and military shipyards).

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A good motorways network (376 km, 234 mi) makes communications with the border regions relatively easy. The main motorway is located along the coastline, connecting the main ports of Nice (in France), Savona, Genoa and La Spezia.

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San Remo

The capital, Genoa, one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean and home to Christopher Columbus, was a powerful maritime state in the Middle Ages. Today, one can find impressive buildings, elegant mansions and churches — all of which bear witness to Liguria’s glorious past and which blend in perfectly with the modern city. Numerous historical treasures and be found throughout Liguria. Sanremo is one of Italy’s most famous bathing resorts and the place where the annual Italian pop music festival takes place. Other important cities in Liguria are: Imperia, Savona and La Spezia.

Genoa Port

Genoa Port

Visit Liguria in the video below:

The forests are covered with pine trees, providing the fresh pine nuts (pignoli) for Ligurian dishes. Mushrooms and chestnuts abound in the hills, as do rabbits and other wild game, making the region ideal for producing hearty and rustic country dishes. The warm Mediterranean air helps create good conditions for growing olives, wine grapes, corn, herbs (particularly basil), garlic, chickpeas, zucchini, potatoes, onions and artichokes. Because of its wide coastline, fish and shellfish are the predominant proteins used in Ligurian cooking, though the region shares its love of pork and pork products with both its Italian and French neighbors.

Pasta is important to the region’s cuisine. A small lasagna noodle originated here, made from chestnut flour, is still popular today. The innovative Ligurians were skilled in making do with locally grown ingredients, like chestnuts and chickpeas, to produce flours to use in pasta, polenta and bread. Today, wheat is fairly easy to import to the region, so it is now the primary ingredient in pastas and breads.

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Pesto sauce is popular as a topping for pastas and is widely consumed, since basil and pine nuts are so readily available. Fidelini, a local favorite pasta, cut long and thin, is the perfect base for light sauces. Other favorites include, trenette a form of flat, thin pasta similar to linguine and hearty gnocchi, both of which can be found on almost every menu.

High on the list of Ligurian specialties is the bread known as focaccia. This flatbread is not meant to be stored for any length of time, but rather is best eaten straight from the oven. Though usually baked plain, the region’s abundance of herbs are often combined and sprinkled on top. Cheeses, meats and fresh vegetables are other regional additions to focaccia. Ligurian focaccias have a dense texture, perfect for sopping up rich sauces or simply a great tasting olive oil.

Regional Favorites To Make At Home

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Ligurian-Style Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup  extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
  • 1 cup  warm water
  • One ¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 3 cups  flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 2 tablespoons  rosemary or thyme leaves

Directions

Oil a large bowl and set it aside. Pour the water into a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.

Mix together the flour and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture into the well, then stir the yeast mixture into the flour with a wooden spoon until a slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Coat your hands with flour, then knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, 2-3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball, put it into the oiled bowl and roll it in the bowl to coat it lightly with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it in a warm spot until the dough roughly doubles in size, about 2 hours.

Lightly oil a 7-by-11-inch baking pan. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape it into a rectangle to fit the baking pan. Put it in the oiled pan and pat the top down gently so it is even. Using the handle end of a wooden spoon, make regular rows of slight indentations across the entire surface, spacing the indentations about 2 inches apart. Cover the pan with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise for another hour at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Brush the top of the dough lightly with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. (If desired, sprinkle 2 tablespoons rosemary or thyme leaves over the top of the focaccia after it has been in the oven for about 10 minutes.)

Serve warm or at room temperature and cut into wedges or squares.

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Cozze alla Maggiorana ed Aglio alla Ligure (Steamed Mussels with Marjoram and Garlic Ligurian-Style)

Serves 4

Mussels are plentiful along the rugged Ligurian coastline. Marjoram, a favorite herb in Liguria, is usually added to seafood dishes. Toss the mussels with 1 pound of cooked linguine for a first course.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, beards removed
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

Directions

Soak the mussels in cool water to cover with 1 tablespoon of the salt for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse thoroughly a few times. This step is essential for ridding the mussels of any dirt or sediment.

Place the garlic, marjoram, parsley and olive oil in a 4-quart pot. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, mussels and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Cover and cook until the mussels open, about 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed and serve hot, with the cooking juices.

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Ligurian Style Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Pesto, recipe follows
  • Besciamella, recipe follows
  • Butter, for baking dish, plus 2 tablespoons cut into small pieces for the topping
  • 1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no boil lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

BESCIAMELLA

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups of milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

PESTO

  • 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (about 4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of pignoli
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano Cheese
  • Salt and pepper

BESCIAMELLA

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.

Pour in the milk, whisking constantly, while bringing the mixture to a boil; simmer for about 15 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste.

PESTO

Rinse the basil and separate the leaves from the stems.

Grate the cheeses and peel the garlic.

Combine the basil, the garlic, the pignoli and the olive oil in a blender and process until a paste forms. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper and blend until smooth.

MAKING THE LASAGNA

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a 13″ × 9″ x 4″ pan layer the ingredients as follows:

– a thin layer of besciamella

– cover with a layer of pasta

– a thin layer of besciamella

– 4 tablespoons of pesto, gently spread across the surface

– sprinkle the layer with 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan

– cover with a layer of pasta

– repeat the layering until you use all the pasta

– top with a very thin layer of besciamella and remaining pesto, parmesan cheese and dot with the 2 tablespoons of butter

Bake the lasagna for 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and serve with extra parmesan cheese.

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Italian Plum Cake

10-inch cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unblanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/3 cup for topping
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 pounds Italian plums, pitted and sliced thickly

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 10-inch tart pan or springform pan.

Put the almonds and the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and salt and pulse once more. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Beat the eggs with the milk in another bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and whisk for a minute or two until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth with a spatula. Arrange the plum slices on top on a circular pattern. Sprinkle the 1/ 3 cup sugar over the plums.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a paring knife inserted into the center comes out clean.


dutch_oven_campfireWEB

Dutch ovens are cylindrical, heavy gauge cooking pots with tight-fitting lids that can be used either on a range top or in the oven. The heavy metal or ceramic construction provides constant, even and multi-directional radiant heat to the food being cooked inside.

The term “Dutch oven” is something of a misnomer in that the pots are neither Dutch nor actual ovens. Rather, it refers to the casting process developed in Holland by which brass vessels were cast in dry-sand molds. In 1704, an Englishman by the name of Abraham Darby traveled to the Netherlands to observe how the thick-walled cast-iron pots were made and, eventually, patented a similar process for use in England and its American colonies.

A Dutch oven has the advantage of using one pot from start to finish — you can sear protein in the same pan you use to braise. When using a Dutch oven, you can braise on the stove top or in the oven. Almost any cooking task can be performed in a Dutch oven.

All of my recipes below are cooked on top of the stove but you could easily finish the braising process in the oven. Cover and place the Dutch Oven on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 300° Fahrenheit and follow the cooking times below.

How to Make Dutch Oven Recipes in a Slow Cooker.

Converting from a Dutch Oven to a slow cooker is easy. If a recipe has any searing, sauteing or deglazing steps, complete those steps in a pan on the stove top. After adding the liquid, transfer everything to the slow cooker. For recipes that call for either stove top simmering or an oven temperature of 300 degrees F or more, set your slow cooker to HIGH. For recipes under 300 degrees F, use the LOW setting. Slow cookers prevent liquid from evaporating, so sauces come out thinner than in a Dutch Oven.

SLOW COOKER DUTCH OVEN
12 hours/Low 3 hours/325° F
10 hours/Low 2 1/2 hours/325° F
8 hours/Low 2 hours/325° F
6 hours/Low 1 1/2 hours/325° F
5 hours/Low 1 hour, 15 min./325° F
4 hours/Low 1 hour/325° F
4 hours/High 2 hours/325° F
3 hours/Low 45 min./325° F
3 hours/High 1 1/2 hours/325° F
2 hours/Low 30 min./325° F
2 hours/High 1 hour/325° F
1 hour/Low 15 min./325° F
1 hour/High 30 min./325° F

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Quick Cooking Pork and Vegetable Stew Italiano

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork loin cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, medium, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes
  • 14 1/2 oz canned low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil , torn
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped

Directions

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Add pork pieces and shake to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper and mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté pork on all sides, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Return sautéed vegetables to the pot. Add zucchini, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, until pork is tender. Stir in basil and oregano, season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Italian Vegetable Stew

6 servings

Ingredients

  • Half of a 1-lb. loaf sourdough bread, torn into 2” pieces (about 6 cups)
  • 1 bunch collard greens, center ribs and stems removed
  • 1 bunch Tuscan or other kale, center ribs and stems removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig marjoram or oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan (for serving

Directions

Scatter bread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Let stand at room temperature to slightly dry out, about 2 hours.

Cook greens separately in a large pot (Dutch Oven) of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 3 minutes per batch. Cool. Squeeze out excess water; roughly chop. Set aside.

In the empty pot heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and leek; stir often until softened, 8–10 minutes.

Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, beans, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and reserved greens; season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until flavors meld and soup thickens slightly, 40–50 minutes. Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf.

Just before serving, gently stir bread into the soup. Divide among bowls, top with Parmesan and drizzle with oil.

DO AHEAD: Stew can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing. Store bread airtight at room temperature.

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Spicy Cioppino

For 2

Ingredients

  • 6 fingerling potatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika (or half cayenne and half smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup clam juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 fresh plum tomatoes seeded and finely diced
  • 1 white fish fillet (cod, halibut, grouper) diced (about 8 ounces)
  • 6 sea scallops and 6 peeled shrimp, patted dry 
  • 6 mussels and 6 small clams
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley and/or basil
  • Sourdough bread

Directions

Place potatoes in a Dutch Oven, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon oil onion, garlic and jalapeno to the pan and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until vegetables soften, about 4- 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high, add seasonings, salt and pepper, wine, clam juice and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes.

Add the clams and mussels and cook until the shellfish open.

Season fish, shrimp and scallops with salt and pepper. Add the fish, shrimp and scallops, cooked potatoes, cream and capers to the pot, return to a simmer and cook until heated through and white fish is cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Garnish with parsley, if desired. Serve with sourdough bread.

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Italian Beef Stew

8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into cubes
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 4 cups diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8-ounce package whole cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 3/4 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch Oven.

Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and dredge in the flour.

Add half the beef to the pan; sauté 6 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from the pan to a bowl. Repeat procedure with oil and beef.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the pan. Add onion and chopped carrot; sauté 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté for 45 seconds, stirring constantly.

Add wine to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping bottom of the pan (about 5 minutes). Return meat to the pan. Add tomatoes and the next 6 ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and stir in sliced carrot. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour or until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, basil and parsley.

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Chickpea and Chicken Stew

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, sliced into ½ inch thick lengths
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed, drained
  • 1/2 cup diced, drained roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups 1′ cubes country-style bread
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt; add to the pot and cook, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to low and add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 30–60 seconds. Add oregano, tomato paste and red pepper flakes; stir until a smooth paste forms, about 1 minute. Add reserved, browned chicken with any accumulated juices, along with bay leaves and 4 cups water. Scrape up any browned bits. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, occasionally stirring, until chicken is tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Add chickpeas to the pot; bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add diced red peppers. Stir in lemon juice; simmer for 1 minute. Season with salt and more lemon juice, if desired. Divide bread cubes among bowls. Ladle stew over. Garnish with parsley.

 


Frasassi

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The Frasassi Caves are a remarkable cave system in the province of Ancona, Marche. They are one of the largest known cave systems in Europe and they have an impressive array of stalactites and stalagmites spread along 19 miles of accessible caverns. Inside the caves, natural sculptures have formed for over 190 million years. The water flowing on the limestone dissolved small quantities of limestone that fell to the ground. Over time, these deposits form stalagmites (columns that grow upward from the lower part) and stalactites (columns that grow down from the ceiling). They are among the most famous show caves in Italy. Show caves are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee. Unlike wild caves, they typically possess such features, as constructed trails, guided tours, lighting and regular touring hours.

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In 1948, Mario Marchetti, Paolo Beer and Carlo Pegorari, members of a speleological group (scientists who study caves) discovered the entry of the Cave of the River. In 1966, a member of the Fabriano Speleological Group, Maurizio Borioni, discovered an extension that was one kilometer long inside the River Cave. Five years later, in July 1971, a new discovery took place. This time a group of young men found a narrow opening in the River Cave where a strong air stream came out. The men were Armando Antonucci, Mauro Coltorti, Mauro Brecciaroli, Mario Cotticelli, Massimo Mancinelli, Giampiero Rocchetti and Roberto Toccaceli. They worked for about one month to widen the narrow path and, the following  August, they passed through what would be later called “Strettoia del Tarlo” (Worm’s narrow path). The young men discovered a series of new caves, burrows, wells and striking tunnels, that also contained animal prints that had been preserved for thousands of years.

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The next discovery, the Cave of the Wind, took place on September 25, 1971, when Rolando Silvestri discovered a small entrance in the north slope of the mountain, Valley Montagna. Helped by some friends, he was able to open a passage from a small opening. His initial disappointment caused by the small discovery was followed by the hope for something bigger. He found success and in the small opening there were many openings and, after further excavation, they discovered a cave about 100 meters deep. Their problem, then, was how to get into the cave and reach the bottom. Eventually, with the right equipment, they lowered themselves into the cave, later called “Abyss Ancona”. Their lights illuminated the splendour and beauty of this discovery. The explorations of the speleological group increased and their goal was to find a connection between the two caves, which they believed existed. Two months later, on December 8th, speleologists found a path between the Cave of the River and the Cave of the Wind and named it, Fabriano Conduit.

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Frasassi1The two huge caves were a labyrinth of underground rooms that followed one another for more than thirteen kilometers. At the time, only speleologists with the right equipment could explore this wonderful underground world. Late in 1972, the local government built an artificial tunnel 200 meters long between the two caves. The opening took place on September 1st, 1974 and since then many tourists have been able to visit these caves and appreciate the beauty of nature.

There are several possible routes inside the caves. The first one is the tourist route where you will be accompanied by professional guides. It is an organized underground route, easily accessible by everyone. It covers 1.5 kms and it lasts over 70 minutes. The second route, called the adventure route, is more difficult than the tourist route. The Frasassi Authority provides for two adventure routes of different difficulty levels: the blue route (lasting about two hours) and the red one route (about 3 hours long). Equipment is provided by the Authority and you navigate the paths on your own.

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The Cave of the Wind, also the largest cave in Europe, became well-known to the Italian public after being used in an unusual TV reality program, which involved seeing how well people got on when shut in a cave together for a long time. The region around the Frasassi Caves is a mix of quiet hill villages and very attractive scenery, including the Gola della Rossa Nature Park, which is also well worth exploring.

The Cuisine of Anacona, Marche Region

The influence of the neighboring regions, can be seen in the popularity of fresh egg pasta and oven-baked pasta dishes in Marche. Vincisgrassi is a regional favorite, a baked-lasagna stuffed with chicken livers.

You will also find a variety of soups, such as Minestra di lumachelle made with eggs, cheese and bread crumb pasta, similar to Passatelli. Tripe soup, or minestra di trippa, is also a regional specialty and is served with a battuto topping (lard pounded together with herbs). Along the coast, soup consumption continues but it takes the form of brodetto or fish soup. Brodetti are prepared with all types of fish and various other ingredients like vinegar, flour, garlic and saffron.

There are also a number of special, regional preparations such as porchetta, a combination of spices and cured pork and called potacchio, if cooked with white wine, tomato, lemon juice and spices, alla marinara, if stewed in tomato sauce or, if baked, gratinati al forno.

People from Marche are also meat-lovers and will eat everything from pigeon to lamb. Piolotto is a way to prepare meat by wrapping it in paper with a piece of lard, which melts into the meat during cooking. Another local favorite is a spit-roasted whole, boneless pig that has been stuffed with herbs. Milk-fed veal, on the other hand, is often cooked in Chianti wine.

Among the regional salumi is Prosciutto di Carpegna DOP seasoned with juniper, is well-known. There are also soppresse, salsicce, sausages and a particular salume called Ciauscolo, which has the consistency of a pate seasoned with garlic, thyme and fennel.

Some of the best cheeses made in Marche are Casciotta d’Urbino DOP, Raviggiolo del Montefeltro, Slattato and herb-flavored sheep’s milk cheeses. For a special treat, look for Olive Ascolane (plump olives are stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried).

Desserts in Marche are generally made using popular ingredients. Cicerchiata is a dessert made from yeast dough, shaped into balls, fried and covered with honey. Becciate are made with raisins and pine nuts. Adventurous eaters could try Migliaccio, a dessert made with pig’s blood, sugar and citrus peel. If Migliaccio is not your cup of tea, try Frusteri, a simple pastry made with sapa di mosto or cooked grape must.

One of the most well-known wines produced in Marche is Verdicchio, a white wine that pairs well with fish. The region is also famous for its Anisetta, aromatic liquor that smells and tastes like anise.

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Cozze al limone (Mussels with lemon)

The area is an ideal growing environment for mussels. As a result, mussels here are big and pulpy with a mellow sea flavor.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs mussels
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, cut into thin slices
  • Several sprigs of parsley;
  • 1 dried red chili pepper
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Clean and scrape the mussels under running water. Place them into a big, deep bowl filled with cold water and throw away any mussels that float.

10 minutes before serving, pour the olive oil into a large pan with a high rim. Add the garlic and the sprigs of parsley roughly chopped, the chili pepper broken into pieces and a little salt and pepper.

Drain the mussels and put them in the pan alternating with the slices of lemon.

Cook over a high heat until all the mussels open. Shake the pan from time to time.

Serve the mussels with their cooking liquid and some slices of toasted crusty Italian bread.

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Vincisgrassi – Special Lasagna

A dish from the Marches with an odd name. Vincisgrassi is the Italianization of the name of the Austrian general, Prince Windischgratz, who was commander of the Austrian Forces stationed in the Marches. The dish was allegedly created for the prince by a local chef.

For the lasagna sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 oz prosciutto, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 9 oz fresh chicken livers, cleaned and cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 cup warm beef or chicken stock
  • 9 oz calf’s brain and sweetbreads, cleaned
  • 1 thick slice of lemon
  • Salt
  • 2/3 oz dried porcini
  • 4 oz cultivated mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, squashed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Lasagna

  • 1 lb lasagna noodles
  • Salt
  • Béchamel Sauce made with 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Melt the 1 tablespoon of butter in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the chicken livers and the prosciutto for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the onion and carrot and brown the vegetables.Pour the white wine over the mixture and cook until it has evaporated. Add the tomato paste dissolved in the stock, mix well and bring the sauce to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer very gently for 1 hour.

Simmer the brain and sweetbreads in water with the lemon for 5 minutes. Drain and refresh. Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 1/4 cup warm water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Clean and slice the fresh mushrooms. Sauté them with the garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.

Strain the porcini liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Slice the porcini and put them, together with the fresh mushrooms and the porcini liquid, into the chicken liver sauce after the sauce has been cooking for 1 hour. Cut the brain and sweetbreads into small pieces and add to the chicken liver sauce with the milk, nutmeg and cinnamon. cook for another 30 minutes.

Make the béchamel sauce and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming.

Butter a lasagna pan 11 x 8 inches. Cook 3 or 4 lasagna noodles at a time in plenty of salted boiling water  Place on kitchen towels until ready to make the lasagna

Spread 3 tablespoons béchamel over the bottom of the pan and then cover with a layer of noodles. Cover with 4 tablespoons of the chicken liver and mushroom sauce and the same amount of béchamel. Cover with another layer of noodles and repeat until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of lasagna noodles and béchamel.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, so that all the flavors will combine. Remove from the refrigerator and allow the lasagna to return to room temperature.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until hot in the center.

Melt the butter and pour over the vincisgrassi as soon as it is removed from the oven. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Fried Sweet Ravioli with Ricotta

For the Dough:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 stick (8 oz) butter (softened)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten (reserve the white for sealing)
  • Oil for frying

For the Filling:

  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 2 ounces mini dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more to garnish)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more to garnish)

Directions

In a sieve lined with cheesecloth, strain the liquids from ricotta for a few hours in the refrigerator.

In a measuring cup, mix the milk, vanilla and egg yolk and set aside

Prepare the dough by mixing flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, add the soft butter in pieces. Start working in the butter with your hands, then slowly add the milk mixture. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 to 2 hours to rest in a cool place (though not in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the filling by mixing all ingredients with a spoon in medium bowl.Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat the oil about 4 to 5 inches deep in a heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven to 350-370 degrees F.

Cut the dough into 4 equal sized pieces. Flour the work surface and roll out each section 1/8 th inch thick and large enough to cut out four ravioli with a 5 inch round pastry/biscuit cutter.

Place 1 tablespoon filling, on each ravioli circle and use the egg white to brush the edges of the circle. Fold ravioli in half; press with a fork to seal.

Place 2 to 3 ravioli in hot oil at a time and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to cool and sprinkle powder sugar on both sides once cooled slightly. Serve slightly warm garnished with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon.


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A health food for some, a gourmet food to others and a scary little fish for still others.

This tiny little fish swims in schools throughout most of the world’s oceans. Most become food for bigger fish, but sea-going cultures all over the world consume these tiny creatures and have incorporated them into their respective cuisines. This fish is a small, warm water relative of the herring, a Northern European staple, and just as the peoples of the north salted their herring to preserve them, the anchovy has long been salted by fishermen and packers in the Mediterranean where it is a staple. While they were usually consumed fresh and either grilled or marinated, they always preserved some of their catch for later use. Before the advent of canning and refrigeration, salt was the predominant way to preserve them. Salting anchovies changes both their taste and texture. Although Europeans seem to prefer buying whole salted anchovies from their local market, salted anchovies show up in the US mainly in the form of small flat or rolled fillets packed with olive oil – like sardines. Salt-packed anchovies are sold as whole fish with heads removed; while oil packed anchovies are sold de-boned or in pieces. Oil packed fillets are ready to use, while salt packed anchovies must be de-boned and soaked to remove the excess salt.

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After rinsing, salt-packed anchovies have a deep flavor with less saltiness; while oil packed anchovies are saltier due to being preserved in olive oil. In most cases they can be used interchangeably in recipes. Salt-packed anchovies can be stored covered in the refrigerator, where they will keep almost indefinitely. Salt-packed anchovies must be soaked prior for use in a recipe. There are three commonly used soaking liquids: cold water, milk or a combination of cold water and dry white wine. Whatever liquid you choose, use enough to completely cover the anchovies and soak them for approximately 30 minutes. (Many people will change the liquid after about 15 minutes.) You can soak the salt-packed anchovies before or after removing the backbone.

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Anchovy paste can make an acceptable substitute for anchovies in some recipes. (Use ½ teaspoon for every anchovy called for.) Anchovies can be used in recipes as a seasoning ingredient rather than as the main ingredient. Many recipes call for one or two mashed or minced fillets that disappear into the sauce as it is cooked. There are well-known recipes where the anchovy is the main ingredient For example, in an anchovy and garlic paste that is used to spread on slices of crostini or in Bagna Cauda, an anchovy and garlic dip, that is traditional in Northern Italy. The Italian cuisines of Campania, Calabria, and Sicily often rely on anchovies for pasta dishes, such as, Spaghetti con Acciughe that includes anchovies, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes and bread crumbs. Anchovies are often minced or mashed into vinaigrettes to season vegetables and salads.

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Bagna Cauda Pot

Consider the health benefits of anchovies:

  • Anchovies are high in Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Anchovies are also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Calcium and Selenium.
  • Anchovies are an excellent source of protein – delivering 9 grams of protein for only five anchovies.
  • Due to their size and short life span, Anchovies contain lower levels of heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic,) and other environmental toxins – especially when compared to tuna and other larger fish.

Equivalents:

2 oz Anchovy paste = 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup

2 oz Anchovy fillets in oil = 50g = 8 to 12 Anchovies in oil = 12 drained

1 ½ oz Anchovies, drained = 40g = 8 to 10 Anchovies

1/2 teaspoon Anchovy paste = 1 Anchovy fillet

Once a tin or jar of anchovies is opened, you can store the anchovies in the refrigerator (discard the tin and store them in a sealed container) for up to two months: just make sure the fillets are covered in oil during that time to keep them fresh.

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Here are some recipes where you can incorporate this tiny fish into your cooking. I prefer to purchase anchovy fillets packed in extra-virgin olive oil.

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Bagna Cauda

Serves 6

Bagna Cauda is the Italian version of fondue. Raw vegetable pieces are dipped into the hot, garlicky, anchovy-flavored oil until warm – and then eaten, catching every little garlicky drip on a fresh piece of Italian bread. It helps to have a Bagna Cauda “pot”, but a fondue dish with the Sterno flame underneath works — as does an electric wok on low.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 olive oil packed anchovy fillets, minced
  • 6 large garlic cloves – peeled and minced
  • Cubed raw vegetables for dipping: sweet peppers, fennel, cauliflower, endive and zucchini
  • Italian bread – sliced

Directions

Place the olive oil, garlic and anchovies in a skillet over low heat. Stir until the anchovies have “melted” and the mixture looks thickened. Whisk in the butter until melted, then remove the skillet from the heat and whisk again until creamy looking. Pour into a dish that can stay heated at the table — like a fondue pot, Bagna Cauda pot, or electric skillet or wok.

To serve: Dip vegetable pieces into the hot oil for a few minutes and use a bread slice to absorb the dripping oil on the way to your mouth.

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Tuna Stuffed Roasted Peppers

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • One 12 oz jar of roasted peppers, drained
  • Two 6-ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, optional
  • Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

Directions

Cut the peppers into 2-inches wide strips.

Combine tuna, lemon juice, capers and anchovies in a medium bowl.

Lay the pepper strip flat, inside facing up, and put a tablespoon of the tuna stuffing at one end.

Tightly roll up the pepper strip. Place the pepper roll-ups on a serving platter.

Grind some black pepper over the stuffed peppers and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, if using. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

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Spaghetti con Acciughe

A classic Neapolitan dish.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Spaghetti or Bucatini Pasta
  • 12 anchovies
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Big pinch of hot, red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, toasted

Directions

Mince 6 of the anchovies and chop the remaining six coarsely. Set aside.

Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until “al dente” – about 10 minutes.

While pasta is boiling, put olive oil, garlic, minced anchovies and chili flakes in a deep-sided frying pan or pot and saute over low heat until the anchovies are “dissolved.” Stir in the parsley and remaining anchovies and turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Transfer pasta into the pan containing the anchovy sauce and toss until pasta is well coated. Add some reserved cooking water if the pasta seems dry. Put 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs aside. Add remaining bread crumbs to the pasta and toss again.

Sprinkle remaining breadcrumbs on top ot the pasta before serving.

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Tomato Salad with Anchovy & Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 head garlic
  • 4 anchovies, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tomatoes, sliced

Directions

Halve the head of garlic crosswise and wrap them in foil, cut side up. Roast in a 450°F oven until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool, then squeeze the cloves into a medium bowl. Add the anchovies and mash them with a fork into a paste.

Whisk in chopped parsley, vinegar, fresh lemon juice, Dijon mustard, sugar and crushed red pepper flakes. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over tomato slices.

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Italian Fish Stew with Anchovy Pesto

Stew

  • 1 lb cod fillets or other firm white fish fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 1 28 oz container Italian plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 shrimp

Pesto

  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the chopped plum tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Rinse and dry the fish on paper towels and cut into 1 inch chunks.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and celery until soft.  Reduce the temperature to low and add the fish and the tomato mixture to the saucepan.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the wine.

Cook uncovered for 30 minutes or until the fish is just cooked and the liquid has reduced to a thick soupy consistency.

Add the mussels and shrimp and cook until the mussels open. Discard any that do not open.

Pound together the pesto ingredients with a pestle & mortar or process in a food processor to make a rough paste.

Remove the bay leaf and serve the fish stew in shallow bowls, topped with a tablespoon of the pesto.

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Lamb Chops With Anchovies, Capers and Sage

3 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 rib lamb chops (1 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 15 sage leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Lemon wedges, for serving.

Directions

Pat the lamb chops dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper and let rest for 15 minutes.

Over medium-high heat, warm a skillet large enough to hold all the chops in one layer. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add the anchovies and capers. Cook, stirring, until the anchovies break down, about 3 minutes.

Arrange the lamb chops in the skillet and cook, without moving them, until brown, about 3 minutes. Turn them over, and add the sage leaves and red pepper flakes into the pan. Cook until the lamb reaches the desired doneness, about 2 minutes for medium-rare.

Arrange the chops on serving plates. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute, then spoon the sauce over the lamb. Serve with the lemon wedges.

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Figs Stuffed with Anchovy Tapenade

Ingredients

  • 15 oil-cured black olives, pitted
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 12 ripe, small Mission figs

Directions

Puree olives, capers, anchovy, thyme, and olive oil together in a food processor or chop by hand.

Make a slit in the side of each fig and spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of tapenade into the fig. Pinch opening closed. Allow 3 figs per person.

 


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Gallipoli (beautiful town) is a village of 20,969 inhabitants in the province of Lecce in Puglia, southern Italy, in the heel of the boot. It is located by the Ionian Sea and is divided in two parts, the modern and the old city. The new town includes all the newest buildings including a skyscraper. The old town is located on a limestone island, linked to the mainland by a bridge built in the 16th century. It’s a picturesque town surrounded by high walls, which were built to protect it against attacks coming from the sea. The Angevine-Aragonese Castle was built in the 13th century by the Byzantines. The main additions were carried on by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who worked for King Alfonso II of Naples. In 1522, the eastern wall was added. Extending out into the sea, the impressive and majestic Castle remains a focal point of Gallipoli, as does the Cathedral in the town center. Started in the 12th century and not completed until the 16th, the Cathedral, with its decorative facade and Baroque interior, was built in honor of Saint Agata.

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Once an important fishing center; it feels more like a working Italian town, rather than what it is – a resort region. The attractive port is still used by fishing boats and one will see fishermen mending their nets and houses decorated with fishing baskets. Restaurants serve fresh seafood and sea urchins are a specialty of Gallipoli. Gallipoli has a mild climate and can be visited year-round but the main season is May through October, when the weather is almost always hot and clear. There are celebrations and festivals for Easter Week, Carnival (40 days before Easter), Sant’ Agata in February and Santa Cristina in July.

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Gallipoli7With its labyrinth of narrow streets and churches, palazzi and structures, Gallipoli’s history and mix of different influences and cultures is apparent. Strolling through the old town, it’s impossible not to be facinated with the charming alleys and courtyards that greet one at every turn. There are many places of interest in the city, beginning with the Greek-Roman fountain (III Century BC) above photo, which one will see after crossing the bridge that divides the new city from the old.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

The subterranean oil mill of Palazzo Granafei.

There was a time when oil was as valuable as gold and the subterranean cisterns of Gallipoli were full of it. We are talking about lamp oil, needed to light the chandeliers in palaces and aristocratic mansions or transformed into soap for the great ladies of Paris. Apparently from the by-products of Gallipoli’s oil mills the famous “Marseilles kitchen soap” was made.

The oil from Gallipoli was the best in the Mediterranean and the most popular. From the 17th to the 19th century ships crowded the port of Gallipoli,  loading precious liquid that reached the seaports of Northern Europe and Russia. That was because this oil, thanks to its purity, was the only one allowed to burn along with incense in front of the statues in the Moscow orthodox churches.

Even the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg was only lit with the lamp oil from Gallipoli, which made less smoke as compared to other oils and gave more sheen in the vast salons. The Czarina, Catherine, sent envoys to try and discover the secret. The secret, yes olive oil, had its origin in the ancient Gallipoli subterranean oil mills that did not depend just on the quality of the olives, but also, on the stone in the cisterns, in which the oil was often stored for long periods. The carparo (tuff) stone filtered the oil, giving it a special pureness. Many historians believe that the rough stone in these ancient subterranean oil mills blended the olive oil with the saltiness from the sea below to give it its uniqueness..

In the old town center there once were about thirty oil mills. It was not only the production of olive oil (which in the 19th century employed about 8,000 workers from October to May) that had developed, but also a number of satellite activities, such as the production and marketing of casks, whose wood was aged in salted water so as to make it more resistant and ideal for long voyages. A rich class of craftsmen and traders established themselves, which made possible investments in the restructuring and building of new churches. A donation of the “dockers” was the church of Santa Maria della Purità and the lamp oil trade gave the town of Gallipoli an international atmosphere. The ships that loaded oil brought to the town a variety of goods, which even came from America, England, France, Germany, Venice and Trieste, trays from Sheffield, Limoges porcelain, glasses from Murano, cheese from Bavaria and foreign wines.

All European languages were spoken on the quays of Gallipoli and merchants and consul authorities abounded, with the British playing a leading role. The trade of lamp oil was controlled from London and a number of families related to the industry moved to the area to oversee the oil trade. This can explain why in the region, even today, one can find the descendants of numerous families with English surnames and that the relations between the United Kingdom and this far corner of the boot have been close throughout the centuries.

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The Cuisine of Gallipoli

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Friselle Bread and Tomato Salad

Friselle are ring-shaped rolls, similar to bagels. They’re partially baked, removed from the oven and divided into two halves, which are returned to the oven and allowed to bake until done, then dried completely.

Serves four

Ingredients

  • 4 whole wheat friselle
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 clove
  • 4 basil sprigs
  • A pinch of dried oregano
  • A pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Soak the Friselle for a couple of minutes in a bowl of cold water before using. Drain and break them into chunks. Place in a serving bowl. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, basil and oregano and mix well. Season with a generous pinch of salt and dress with the vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately or keep chilled until ready to eat.

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Mussels au Gratin

Cozze al gratin is a classic dish from this region. It’s easy to make, especially if you buy pre-cleaned mussels.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds live mussels, washed and purged
  • 6 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup freshly minced parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Carefully wash the mussels, passing them multiple times under running water to remove any dirt and impurities. Place a saute pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, add 1 clove of peeled garlic.

When the garlic becomes golden, add the mussels and 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the mussels open, then remove the pan from the heat and let cool. When cool, remove the half-shells without mussels and discard.

Mix the breadcrumbs with 2 ½ tablespoons of the oil, the minced parsley, 1 minced garlic clove and the crushed red pepper. Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spread the mixture over the mussels, put them in a low-sided oven-proof dish, drizzle the remaining oil over them and bake them until the bread crumbs brown, about 10 minutes.

Gallipoli0

Ciceri e tria (Tagliatelle with Chickpeas)

Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups dried chickpeas
  • 1 pound fresh egg tagliatelle
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

Soak the chickpeas in water the night before (for about 12 hours) adding a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Saute the onion, celery and garlic and then add the tomatoes, the chickpeas and the bay leaves. Cover the mixture with ample water, season with salt and pepper and simmer until the chick peas soften.

Add the fresh pasta simmer until the pasta is cooked. Remove the bay leaves. Serve in pasta bowls.

Gallipoli6

Gallipoli-Style Swordfish

Ingredients

  • 4 swordfish fillets
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon oregano, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 orange, sliced

Directions

Combine the herbs with the breadcrumbs and mix well.

Rub some olive oil on both sides of the swordfish, then dredge in the breadcrumbs to coat them well.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the fish, about ten minutes per side. Serve with the orange slices on the side.

Gallipoli11

Sesame Seed and Olive Oil Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

Beat the egg with the sugar, honey, vanilla and olive oil. In another bowl combine all dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.

Use a rubber spatula to stir the liquid mix into the dry one, then use your hand to mix until you have a smooth ball of dough.

Roll it out roughly between two pieces of parchment paper and place it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Take the pastry out of the fridge, unwrap it and roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. Then cover with sesame seeds.

Place the cookies onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and prick them with a fork.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool a couple of minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool further.


seafood

As the seasons change, so do our appetites and nutritional needs. Between the spring and summer, our food habits undergo a gradual metamorphosis. By the time the hottest months have arrived, most of us are naturally inclined to avoid heavy foods and the long cooking preparations required for them. Leggero (light) or restare leggeri (staying light) is the Italian credo in the summer—fresh, light, colorful and simple foods are what everyone craves on hot days.

Italians tend to eat lukewarm or cold food in the summer; tables are often laden with all kinds of variations of salad—from lettuce-based and raw vegetable salads, to insalata di pasta (pasta salads), insalata di riso (rice salads) and insalata di mare or polpo (seafood or octopus salad).

Insalata di mare (Seafood salad) is a delicate preparation usually made with boiled fresh octopus, clams and mussels; the shellfish open when cooked in a covered pan. Sometimes this salad includes shrimp—previously boiled and cleaned—and baby calamari. Crabmeat or other fresh seafood can also be added. The freshness of the fish, the quality of the extra virgin olive oil and the addition of good-quality lemon make all the difference. The dressing for this salad is made simply with two essential ingredients of the Italian cuisine—lemon and olive oil, along with a bit of garlic, parsley, salt and white pepper. Insalata di polpo (octopus salad) is another favorite in Italy, especially along the coasts. It consists of just boiled fresh octopus and tiny slices of celery, seasoned with the same dressing as in the seafood salad. Sometimes it’s served cold or at room temperature, but it can also be served warm with potatoes.

seafood 1

Crab Risotto

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 fennel bulbs with tops
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, such as shiitake, porcini, or button
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth, heated
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups fresh crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Directions

Trim fennel bulbs, reserving tops. Quarter bulbs lengthwise and slice. Measure 1 cup sliced fennel. Snip enough of the fennel tops to measure 1 tablespoon; set aside.

In a large saucepan heat olive oil and cook the 1 cup fennel, the mushrooms, pepper and fennel seed in until tender. Stir in rice. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 broth and bring to a boil.

Gradually add the remaining warm chicken broth, one cup at a time, until all the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Remove saucepan from the heat. Stir in crabmeat and green onions. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the snipped fennel tops and serve. This dish can also be served at room temperature.

seafood 2

Shrimp Pizzettas

Ingredients

  • 1 pound homemade or refrigerated pizza dough
  • 4 medium plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 8-10 oz cooked shrimp (cut in half lengthwise)
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves

Directions

Lightly grease a baking sheet; set aside. Unroll the pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16 inch rectangle. Cut dough into eight squares.

Place squares about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. If desired, fold over about 1/4 inch of the dough on each edge; press with a fork.

Bake in a 425 degrees F oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

Divide tomato slices among the squares. Divide shrimp among the squares. Sprinkle with snipped oregano and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 5 to 6 minutes more or until cheese melts. If desired, garnish with basil.

seafood 3

Fettuccine and Scallops in Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh scallops
  • 6 ounces fettuccine or linguine
  • 3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (2 cups)
  • 8 green onions, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

Cut any large scallops in half.

In a 4 to 5-quart Dutch Oven, bring 3 quarts of water to boiling. Add pasta; return to boiling. Cook for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, carrots and green onions. Return to boiling.

Cook, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes more or until pasta is tender but al dente and vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain pasta and vegetables; keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl stir together wine, lemon juice and cornstarch; set aside.

In the empty pasta pot melt butter. Add garlic; cook over medium-high heat about 1 minute. Add scallops, wine mixture, lemon zest, Italian seasoning, parsley and pepper to the pan.

Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes more or until the scallops turn opaque.

Arrange pasta mixture on a large platter. Spoon the scallop mixture over the pasta mixture. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

seafood 4

Seafood al Cartoccio (Grilled Red Snapper and Shellfish)

Ingredients

Seafood

  • 4 red snapper fillets, 6 ounces each, skin on, scaled and bones removed
  • 6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined or clams or mussels or a combination of all
  • 1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Herb Butter

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 oregano sprigs, chopped
  • Juice of 3 fresh lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Foil Packets

  • Aluminum foil, heavy strength
  • Olive oil cooking spray

Directions

To make the herb butter

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until butter is blended evenly.
2. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To make the foil packets

1. Cut 4 sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, approximately 14 x 18 inches in size.
2. Place sheet of foil shiny side down, narrow edge toward you, on the work surface.
3. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Arrange 1 fish fillet skin side down, 3 to 4 shrimp, a few scattered cherry tomatoes and scallions on each foil sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Using a teaspoon, place several small dollops of the herb butter on the fish and shrimp.
4. Fold the foil over the seafood and bring the top and bottom edges together. Fold the edges over several times to make a tight seal and turn edges up.

Grilling

1. Preheat grill to highest setting.
2. When ready to cook, place the foil cartoccio(skin side down) in the center of the hot grate. Cover the grill and cook until foil pouches are dramatically puffed, approximately 7 to 9 minutes.
3. Remove the packets directly from the grill to a plate. Using a sharp knife, cut the center of the foil pouch lengthwise and open. Be careful of the hot steam.

seafood 5

Marinated Seafood Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound fish fillets of choice
  • Poaching liquid
  • 1/4 pound small bay scallops
  • 1/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
  • 1/4 cup sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup black olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

Directions

Gently poach fillets, scallops and shrimp in liquid of your choice: water, broth, white wine or a mixture of the liquids.

When fish and shellfish are firm to the touch and cooked through, remove from poaching liquid and cool.

Cut fillets into 1-inch chunks.

Combine fish, scallops, shrimp, celery, olives and green onions in a large mixing bowl. Season with olive oil, lime juice, parsley, salt and cayenne.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.



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