Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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italia

Cagliari is a province on the island of Sardinia in Italy. An ancient city with a long history, Cagliari has been ruled several civilizations. Cagliari was the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia from 1324 to 1848, when Turin became the formal capital of the kingdom (which in 1861 became the Kingdom of Italy). Today the area is a regional cultural, educational, political and artistic center, known for its diverse Art Nouveau architecture and several monuments.

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For a spectacular view, the best way to arrive in Cagliari is by sea. According to the author, DH Lawrence upon his arrival in the 1920s, he said the Sardinian capital reminded him of Jerusalem: ‘…strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’ Yet, Cagliari is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities. Tree-fringed roads and locals hanging out at cafes are typical. Sunset is prime-time viewing in the piazzas and everywhere you stroll, Cagliari’s rich history is spelled out in Roman ruins, museums, churches and galleries.

cagliariciviccenterFollowing the unification of Italy, the area experienced a century of rapid growth. Numerous buildings combined influences from Art Nouveau together with the traditional Sardinian taste for floral decoration; an example is the white marble City Hall near the port. During the Second World War Cagliari was heavily bombed by the Allies. In order to escape from the danger of bombardments and difficult living conditions, many people were evacuated from the city into the countryside.

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After the Italian armistice with the Allies in September 1943, the German Army took control of Cagliari and the island, but soon retreated peacefully in order to reinforce their positions in mainland Italy. The American Army then took control of Cagliari. Airports near the city (Elmas, Monserrato, Decimomannu, currently a NATO airbase) were used by Allied aircraft to fly to North Africa or mainland Italy and Sicily. After the war, the population of Cagliari grew again and many apartment blocks and recreational areas were erected in new residential districts, often with poor planning.

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Cagliari is one of the “greenest” Italian cities and its mild climate allows the growth of numerous subtropical plants. The province has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and very mild winters. The city of Cagliari boasts a long coastline of eight miles and the Poetto, is the most popular beach.

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Excellent wines can be found in the province, such as Cannonau, Nuragus, Nasco, Monica, Moscau, Girò and Malvasia, which are produced in the nearby vineyards of the Campidano plain.

Pane Carasau - Sardinian Bread

Pane Carasau – Sardinian Bread

Cagliari has some unique culinary traditions. Unlike the rest of the island, its cuisine is mostly based on the wide variety of locally available seafood. Although it is possible to trace culinary influences from Catalan, Sicily and Genoa, Cagliaritan food has a distinctive and unique character. Sardinians prefer barbecued fish (gilt-heads, striped bream, sea bass, red mullet, grey mullet and eels), while spiny lobsters, crayfish, small squid and clams are used in making pasta sauces and risottos.

cagliari, sardinia, italy

Cagliari cuisine has numerous recipes for “pesce in carpaccio” or “pesce in burrida”. “Burrida” is fish and it is cooked in tomato sauce and vinegar or in a green sauce with walnuts. There are also numerous recipes for “gnocchetti” known as “malloreddus”, a type of passta which are different in size, color and taste because of the use of saffron and vegetables but they are all served “alla campidanese” with lots of tomato sauce, chopped sausage and grated Pecorino cheese.

Cagliari Style Lobster Salad

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Lobster, which is called aragosta in Cagliari, is smaller, clawless and sweeter than New England lobster.

2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cooked lobster tail meat
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, stemmed, washed and cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced Italian parsley
  • Grated zest of 1 large lemon
  • 3 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Whole arugula leaves, washed and dried, optional

Directions

Cut the lobster meat up into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl. Gently mix in the tomatoes, parsley and lemon zest.

In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the lobster mixture and toss gently with two spoons.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to serve, allow enough time for the lobster mixture to come to room temperature.

Line serving plates with arugula leaves, if using. Divide the lobster mixture evenly and spoon into the center of each plate.

Cagliari Style Pasta with Sardines

Linguine with sunblush tomatoes, parsley, sardines and fried bread crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large fennel bulb (1 1/4 lb) and fronds, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 (3 3/4- to 4 3/8-ounce) cans sardines in oil, drained
  • 1 pound perciatelli or spaghetti pasta
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs, toasted and tossed with 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste

Directions

Finely chop the fennel bulb and fronds.

Combine the saffron, raisins and wine in a mixing bowl.

Cook the onion, fennel bulb and seeds in oil with salt to taste in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the wine mixture and half of the sardines, breaking sardines up with a fork; simmer 1 minute.

While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a 6 to 8 quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente, then drain in a colander.

Toss the hot pasta in a serving bowl with the fennel sauce, remaining sardines, fennel fronds, pine nuts and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumbs and toss again.

Cagliari Style Clams with Fregola

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Fregola is a pebble-shaped pasta that is formed by hand and then lightly toasted until golden. Fregola comes in small, medium and large grains and is available at specialty markets. This is a very popular dish in Sardinia.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large plum tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup fregola
  • 2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped
  • Slices of Italian bread, toasted

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil.

Stir in the fregola, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 17 minutes.

Add the clams to the skillet in a single layer. Cover the pan and cook over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 4 minutes.

Discard any clams that do not open. Season the fregola with salt and pepper.

Spoon the fregola, clams and broth into shallow serving bowls.

Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped parsley and serve with toasted Italian bread.

Pizza Sarda

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb dough
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Grated Pecorino cheese
  • Sliced Sardinian sausage
  • Thinly sliced onion and artichoke hearts, optional
  • Italian green and black olives and a few capers
  • Oregano and fresh basil

Directions

Spread the dough in a pan.

Add a generous layer of mozzarella cheese.

Add slices of sausage, olives, capers, onion and artichokes, if using.

Sprinkle with Pecorino cheese and top with chopped tomato.

Bake in the oven at 300 degrees F until the edges are golden.

Remove the pizza from the oven and add a few leaves of fresh basil and oregano. Cut into serving pieces.

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The Province of Rovigo is located in the Veneto region in the northwestern section of Italy. Rovigo lies in the southern part of the region in the Po Valley and is crossed by two major rivers: the Po and the Adige. It is a land where a dense network of canals, drainage units, reclaimed lands and plantations coexist with nature. A quiet world, where silence is only interrupted by the sound of birds and the flow of the Po River.

The Medieval influence can be seen in the towers that look over the cities in the province, such as the tower in via Pighin and the two leaning towers: Donà – one of the highest Italian towers – and the Mozza tower. The Cathedral dedicated to St. Stephen preserves many sculptures and paintings. The National Archaeological Museum contains Etruscan and Roman artifacts.

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True to Italian tradition, many feasts and festivals are held throughout the Province of Rovigo, celebrating age-old customs that still flourish today. Strawberries, wheat and polenta are just some of the foodstuffs that are featured in these festivals in addition to the traditional Christmas and Easter celebrations. The Sagra degli Aquiloni (Kite Festival) is an event dedicated to children with prizes for the most beautiful and the highest-flying kite. The carnival celebration in Fratta Polesine might be one of the most beautiful events. The parade of carnival floats, games and events among the monuments of the old town on the last Sunday of carnival is very popular, as is the carnival cuisine.

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Many crops grow well in the fertile Po Basin. Beans, radicchio, asparagus, pumpkins, squash, corn, celery, artichokes and cherries. All lend themselves perfectly to the region’s cooking. Excellent honey is produced here. Wine culture is strong in the region, with many types of whites and reds being produced here. Wine and grappa making are  favorite hobbies because of the excellent quality of the region’s grapes. There are a great variety of excellent local wines, such as Refosco ai Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lambrusco and Raboso. White wines include Malvasia, Sauvignon, Riesling and Trebbiano.

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Rice production has been honed to a fine art in the region, with countless creamy risotto recipes giving testament to the fact that rice is important. Cattle farming and the dairy industry are highly prized in this area (butter is often used instead of olive oil in cooking) and cheeses find their way into many dishes.

The typical cuisine of the region is based on local products that, of course, would include rice. Along the coastline, fish and shellfish are favorite additions and typical foods include platters of steamed shellfish, pasta with cannucce (mantis shrimp) and gnocchi with baby mullet and fried local fish. Risotto (cooked with eel, mullet and bass), rice in a fish broth, guinea fowl “in tecia” (cooked in an earthenware pot) or the fòlaga (bald coot stewed with beans) are all popular dishes.

A well-known appetizer is “sarde in saor” (sardines in sweet and sour sauce). Another great food tradition in the region is cicchetti, small snacks or side dishes that are usually eaten with a small glass of wine at the popular wine bars. These snacks are often tiny sandwiches, plates of olives or other vegetables, halved hard-boiled eggs, small servings of a combination of one or more of seafood, meat and vegetable ingredients laid on top of a slice of bread or polenta and very small servings of typical full-course plates. Like Spanish tapas, one can also make a meal of cicchetti by ordering multiple plates.

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Once you go inland, away from the sea, the food of the hill and mountain towns becomes more hearty, with polenta, gnocchi, horsemeat and wildfowl, particularly duck, are the featured ingredients for main dishes. Bigoli are a rough, thick homemade spaghetti, usually made from wheat flour, that are laboriously extruded through a special tool used only for that purpose. Radicchio is popular with varieties all named after cities they are grown in or near: Treviso, Verona, etc.

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Sweet and Sour Sardines (Sarde in Saor)

Ingredients

  • 12 fresh sardines, cleaned
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 1 pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 50 g (1/3 cup) raisins
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • Toasted pine nuts and lemon wedges, to serve

Directions

Brush sardines with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large grill pan or frying pan over medium heat and cook the sardines, turning once, for 8 minutes or until just cooked. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a clean frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 10 minutes or until softened. Add wine and vinegar and simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly reduced, then add cinnamon, raisins and thyme. Simmer for a further 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Pour onion mixture over the sardines, then cool completely. Drizzle with remaining oil and scatter the pine nuts on top. Serve with lemon.

rovigocrostini

Crostini with Radicchio 

20 crostini

Ingredients

  • 7-8 oz (200 g) radicchio leaves
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 2/3 fluid oz (50 ml) red wine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ oz Grated Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 20 baguette slices

Directions

Cut the radicchio into thin strips. Sauté the onion and the radicchio in hot oil and deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Add salt and pepper and stir, making sure that the liquid doesn’t boil away completely. Mix the parsley into the dish and spread the mixture on the baguette slices.

Bake the baguettes in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F (220°C) for about 6 minutes, sprinkle them with cheese and serve.

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Supa da ajo (Garlic soup)

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 thin slices of stale bread, cut into small cubes
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of hot chicken stock
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • Chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions

Crush the garlic cloves.

Pour the oil into a large saucepan.

Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes on very low heat.

Remove the garlic.

Add the bread cubes. Stir.

Pour in the hot chicken stock.

Season with salt.

Let it simmer for 30 minutes.

Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them.

Pour them slowly into the hot soup.

Cook for 3 minutes stirring continuously.

Serve garnished with parsley.

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Italian Pumpkin Gnocchi

Ingredients

For the gnocchi:

  • 1 ½ lbs (700 g) pumpkin
  • 8 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ½ oz (100 g) flour, plus extra for the forming the gnocchi
  • 1 ¾ oz (50 g) grated Grana Padano cheese
  • Salt & pepper

For the sauce:

  • 3 oz (80 g)  butter
  • Sage leaves
  • 1 ¾ oz (50 g) grated Grana Padano cheese

Directions

To cook the pumpkin.

There are two ways:

  1. Cut the pumpkin into pieces, leaving the skin on, and put it in the oven (350ºF/180°C) for 30 minutes. Then peel it and mash the pulp.
  2. Peel the skin, cut the pumpkin into pieces and put it in the microwave with a couple of tablespoons of water and microwave on high for 15 minutes.Cool to room temperature.

Mix the pumpkin with breadcrumbs, egg and salt. Add the flour gradually until a soft dough forms.

Flour the counter or a pastry board and form the dough into 1 inch thick long ropes. Cut each rope into 1 inch pieces and gently press each with the prongs of a fork on two sides.

Put the prepared gnocchi on a floured cutting board or baking sheet. When all the gnocchi are formed, you can cook them.

Cut the butter and sage into small pieces and place them on a baking sheet. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F., then turn it off.  Place the baking sheet with the butter in the oven.

Boil a large pot of salted water and add the gnocchi, a dozen at a time. As soon as they rise to the surface, scoop them out with a skimmer and place them on the baking sheet in the oven.

As the gnocchi are cooked add them to the baking sheet.

When all the gnocchi are cooked, place them in a serving bowl with a generous amount of grated Grana Padano cheese.

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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.

seafoodsalad2

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.

seafoodsalad3

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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For an easy and economical alternative to fresh fish, consider canned fish. There are advantages in using canned fish:  safety, hygiene, nutrition and flavor. Moreover, in the kitchen, canned fish is ideal for making salads, pasta and rice dishes and appetizers

Tuna

Skipjack and albacore are good varieties to buy. Wild Planet brand is sustainably pole-and-line-caught. Mix it into a salad with fresh chard and white beans; use it for fish tacos; stuff it in tomatoes.

Salmon

Look for sockeye or the milder pink variety. The small pin bones are often cooked with the fish, adding extra calcium. Make salmon burgers or fish cakes; put it in a creamy chowder; try it smoked—Patagonia sells pouches that are perfect for hiking and camping.

Sardines

These tiny fish have a bold taste and are dense with omega-3 oils. Bela brand offers them smoked in different flavors. Add to an antipasto platter; top crostini; delicious grilled.

Anchovies

Small and salty, they’re not just for Caesar dressing—toss on Puttanesca pasta sauce; stir into fish stew; wrap around olives.

Crabmeat

While there are many subcategories and fine distinctions in the area of canned crabmeat, there are a few main categories. Knowing these will help you save money when deciding what type of crab meat to purchase for the meal you’re planning.

Lump crabmeat is best for fancy, impressive-looking dishes where appearance matters, like Butter-poached Crab, Crab Cakes or Crab Louis, where you want big chunks that will hold together with minimal binders.

Backfin grade is made up of smaller, broken chunks of lump crabmeat mixed in with flakes of white body meat. It’s less expensive than lump crab meat. Good for salads and pasta dishes.

Claw Crabmeat is the least expensive and most flavorful grade. It is pinkish-brown rather than white and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. Great for soups, crab meat stuffing, tacos, stir-frys, etc.

Clams

While overfishing has been an issue for some species that find their way to the market, that’s not the case with clams. Harvesting of both the Atlantic surf clam, also called the sea clam, and the ocean quahog have been well within the quotas, according to statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service.  Minced and chopped clams are good in chowders and pasta dishes.

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Crabmeat Artichoke Appetizer

Ingredients

  • 1 can(6 oz) Lump Crabmeat, drained
  • 1 can (13.75 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
  • ½ cup shredded Italian Fontina cheese

Directions

Place the drained crabmeat in a glass bowl and cover with cold milk. Set aside for 10 minutes. Drain well. (This technique gives canned fish a fresh taste.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a 1 1/2 quart baking dish, combine crab, artichoke, mayonnaise, yogurt and seasoning.  Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until hot.  Serve with crackers or sliced baguette.

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Artichokes with Bagna Cauda

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated, papery skin removed (but cloves left unpeeled)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 2-ounce tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large artichokes, stems trimmed, top 3/4 inch removed, tips of remaining leaves trimmed

Directions

Place unpeeled garlic cloves in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover garlic cloves by 1 inch. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until garlic is tender, about 25 minutes. Drain; transfer to plate. Chill garlic cloves until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Squeeze garlic cloves from their peels and place cloves in a small bowl. Using fork, mash garlic cloves until smooth.

Melt butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Add anchovies and sauté 1 minute. Add mashed garlic and olive oil. Simmer over low heat 10 minutes to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Rewarm before serving, stirring occasionally (bagna cauda will separate when served).

Add artichokes to large pot of boiling salted water. Cover and cook until just tender when pierced through stem with fork, turning occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size. Drain.

For serving:

Place 1 hot artichoke on each of 6 plates. Divide bagna cauda among small bowls or ramekins. Serve artichokes with warm bagna cauda. Pull a leaf off the artichoke and dip it into the sauce.

Tips:

To separate garlic cloves quickly, place the head of garlic on a work surface, then push against the top or bottom of the head of garlic with the palm of your hand.

Use kitchen scissors to cut off the tips of pointed artichoke leaves.

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Spinach Salad with Sardines and Crispy Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, zested, plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, torn into 3-inch pieces
  • 8 cups baby spinach (6 oz)
  • 1 can (4.25 ounces) sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced chives

Directions

Whisk the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir in raisins.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, arrange prosciutto in a single layer and brush with remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and deep golden brown, about 9 minutes.

Arrange spinach on a platter and top with sardines, prosciutto, lemon zest and chives. Drizzle with dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary.

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Tuna Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 3 cans or pouches (5 oz) tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) chicken broth plus water to equal 4 cups
  • 1 can (14-1/2 oz.) ready-cut Italian-style tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (15-1/4 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian dried herb seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry small shell pasta
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (zucchini, carrots, cauliflower, Italian green beans, etc.)
  • 3 cups fresh romaine lettuce cut crosswise in 1-inch strips
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine chicken broth mixture, tomatoes with liquid, kidney beans, tomato paste, herb seasoning, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and frozen vegetables; simmer 8 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tuna and romaine. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

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Salmon and Potato Gratin

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned and unpeeled
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound canned salmon, boneless, drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Grease a 12 inch oval baking dish or a 9 x 13 inch rectangular baking dish with butter.

Cut the potatoes crosswise in 1/4 inch slices.

Layer 1/2 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish in concentric circles. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cheese. Sprinkle with salmon and thyme. Layer remaining potatoes on top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

In a medium bowl combine cornstarch, milk, Dijon mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour the mixture evenly over the potatoes.

Cut butter into pieces and dot over the top.

Bake until potatoes are tender and the top is golden, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

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Linguine with Clam Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 pound linguine
  • 2 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams with liquid drained – reserve the liquid. I like the Bar Harbor brand.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.

In a large deep skillet add the oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and the drained clams. Cook on low about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Turn the heat down to very low and stir in the reserved clam liquid and the parsley.

Remove from heat and add the cooked pasta. Mix well and serve.


Boats on the island of rabbits- Lampedusa, Sicily

Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The community of Lampedusa e Linosa is part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento which also includes the smaller islands of Linosa and Lampione. It is in the southernmost part of Italy and is Italy’s southernmost island. Tunisia, which is about 113 kilometres (70 miles) away, is the closest land to the islands. Sicily is farther at 176 kilometres (109 miles); Malta is a similar distance to the east.

Politically and administratively, Lampedusa is part of Italy, but geologically belongs to Africa, since the sea between the two is no more than 400 feet. It has no sources of water other than irregular rainfall. The fauna and flora of Lampedusa are similar to those of North Africa. The south-western side is dominated by deep gorges, while the southeastern part is mostly shallow valleys and sandy beaches. The entire northern coast contains cliffs: gently sloping on the east coast and steep cliffs on the west coast. Lampedusa’s sea bed features a wealth of fish, coral, sea sponges and oysters in a myriad of shapes and colors.

lampedusa

Lampedusa, which has an area of 20.2 square kilometres (7.8 sq mi), has a population of approximately 4,500 people. Its main industries are fishing and tourism. A ferry service links the island with Porto Empedocle, near Agrigento, Sicily. Lampedusa has a semi-arid climate. It has very mild winters with moderate rainfall and hot, dry summers. The sea surrounding the island is relatively shallow. Water temperatures stay warm most of the year, with the warmest being in August when the sea typically reaches 27 to 28 °C (81 to 82 °F). The water stays warm until November, when temperatures range from 20 to 23 °C (68 to 73 °F). It is coolest in February and March, when it averages around 16 °C (61 °F).

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Over the last century much of Lampedusa has suffered from deforestation where, previously, it was home to numerous plants and trees. Several measures have been taken to improve the situation and although there is still very little agriculture, some parts of the island are full of beautiful and exotic plants and flowers such as palms, figs, olives, prickly pear cactuses and yuccas.

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The main attractions on the island are all centrally located and concentrated in one area which makes it easier to visit them on foot or by renting a scooter or a moped. Mopeds and scooters are available in several places on the island, however, visitors must be careful with their use of fuel, since there are only a few gas stations on the island. There are several hotels and restaurants located here and a number of stores that sell locally made pottery, wooden items, souvenirs and Italian wines.

The most magnificent beach on the island is the Spiaggia dei Conigli (Rabbit Beach) and a vast area around this beach has been declared a nature reserve encompassing both the land and sea areas. There are hardly any structures in the area and fishermen are not allowed to fish nearby, which means snorkelling is excellent. This is a protected area because the beach is one of the last remaining places where sea turtles regularly come to lay their eggs. There is a rescue center and hospital located here where the islanders care for the sea turtles, should they get accidentally injured. In 2013 Rabbit Beach, located in the southern part of the island, was voted the world’s best beach by the travel site TripAdvisor. The island got its name since it was once filled with rabbits, however, now only a few rabbits can be spotted here.

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Since the early 2000s, the island has become a primary European entry point for migrants, mainly coming from Africa. In 2011, many immigrants moved to Lampedusa during the rebellions in Tunisia and Libya. By May 2011, more than 35,000 immigrants had arrived on the island from Tunisia and Libya and by the end of August, 48,000 more had arrived. Most were young males in their 20s and 30s. The situation has caused division within the EU, the French government regarding most of the arrivals as economic migrants rather than refugees in fear of persecution. Italy has repeatedly requested aid from the EU in managing refugees, but has been turned down.

Historically, Lampedusa was a landing-place and a maritime base for the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Arabs. In 1553 Barbary pirates from North Africa raided Lampedusa and carried off 1,000 captives into slavery. As a result of pirate attacks, the island became uninhabited. The first prince of Lampedusa and Linosa was Ferdinand Tommasi, ancestor of the writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, who received the title from Charles II of Spain in 1667. A century later, the Tomassi family began a program of resettlement.

In the late 18th century, the Prince of Lampedusa leased the island to Salvatore Gatt, a Maltese entrepreneur, who settled on the island with a few Maltese workers. After Malta fell under British protection in 1800, they considered taking over Lampedusa as a naval base instead of Malta, but the idea was dropped as the island did not have deep harbors and was not well-developed. In the 1840s, the Tomassi family sold the island to the Kingdom of Naples. In 1860, the island became part of the new Kingdom of Italy, but the Italian government limited its activities there to building a penal colony. In June 1943, during the Second World War, as a precursor to the Allied invasion of Sicily, the island was secured without resistance in Operation Corkscrew by the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Lookout.

The first telephone connection with Sicily was installed only in the 1960s. In the same decade an electric power station was built. In 1972, part of the western side of the island became a United States Coast Guard LORAN-C transmitter station. In 1979, Lt. Kay Hartzell took command of the Coast Guard base, becoming “the first female commanding officer of an isolated duty station”.

In the late 1980s, an increase in tensions developed and the area around the island was the scene of multiple attacks. On April 15, 1986, Libya fired two Scud missiles at the Lampedusa navigation station on the island in retaliation for the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi and the alleged death of Colonel Gaddafi’s adopted daughter. However, the missiles passed over the island, landed in the sea without causing damage. On 4 January 1989, U.S. Navy aircraft from the carrier USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan fighters approximately 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the island. The base commander was advised by the U.S. Sixth Fleet Intelligence at La Maddalena that the Libyan president, Muammar al-Gaddafi, had threatened reprisals against the American commanders at Sigonella and Lampedusa. An Italian media frenzy followed that event which put Lampedusa in the spotlight. The NATO base was decommissioned in 1994 and transferred to Italian military control.

Seafood in Tomato Sauce

Seafood in Tomato Sauce

Pickled Seafood

Pickled Seafood

The Cuisine of Lampedusa

Until recently, the cuisine was distinguished in three ways. The first one was called the cuisine of the Monsù and it was prepared for the rich and noble people. A second type was the popular cuisine, basically dishes that the poor people, who were in the majority, cooked daily. They were trying to imitate the Monsù Cuisine by simply changing the main ingredient. If the Nobles had meat they had eggplant/aubergine instead. The third type was and is street food. Even today, you can find stands along the streets that sell chickpea fritters, potato croquettes or grilled lamb offal.

Fish and seafood are the specialities, however, and, even if you are not a big fish fan, you cannot fail to be impressed by the exquisite way the Lampedusans cook their fresh catch-of-the-day, often in a sauce of tomatoes, capers, potatoes and olives.

Here are recipes for some of their specialties:

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Caciocavallo all’Argentiera or Fried Cheese

1 serving

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 slices of Caciocavallo cheese
  • Oregano
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of vinegar

Directions

In a frying pan heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and after a minute add the slices of cheese. Let them cooked covered for a couple of minute,turn and cook until the slices become golden.

Add the vinegar, the pepper and sprinkle with oregano. Place on a serving dish with fennel and radicchio.

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Rigatoni Con Pesce Spada e Melanzane (Rigatoni with Swordfish and Eggplant)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. rigatoni pasta
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 lb. swordfish, into 1 inch squares
  • 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves diced garlic
  • Fresh basil or mint
  • Sea salt
  • Chili flakes

Directions

Keeping the skin on, dice the eggplant into half-inch squares.

Heat a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan on medium heat.

Add eggplant squares and cook until brown.

Remove eggplant and place on a white paper towel. Set aside.

Add 2 cloves of diced garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and add 4 torn basil or mint leaves to the sauté pan. Saute until garlic is light brown. Add the swordfish and saute until slightly browned. Add the cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and eggplant. Continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Boil water in an 8-quart pot adding 1 tablespoon of salt. When water comes to a boil, add the rigatoni and cook until al dente.

Add quartered cherry tomatoes and salt to taste. Continue to sauté for 2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce and then previously fried eggplant squares. Continue to sauté for 3 minutes.

Drain rigatoni and add directly to the sauté pan. Saute for 1 minute mixing well. Pour onto a serving platter and add remaining basil or mint and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Polpette di Sarde al Sugo (Sardine Balls in Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) fresh sardines
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) crustless day-old bread, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano here
  • 1 tablespoon raisins, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • A small bunch parsley, chopped
  • 2 cups (500 ml) marinara sauce, simmering in a pot
  • Flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dry white wine
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Clean the sardines, removing their heads and boning them; chop them and put them in a bowl. Soak the bread in warm water for a few minutes, squeeze it to remove the excess moisture, and add it to the bowl, together with the parsley, the cheese, the raisins, the pine nuts, the egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Moisten your hands and shape the mixture into small fish balls; roll them in flour, and sauté them in a large skillet with the olive oil to cover the bottom og the pan and the bay leaf. Once they are browned, sprinkle some white wine over them. When the wine has evaporated, use a slotted spoon to transfer the fish balls into the pot of simmering tomato sauce. Cover and cook over a low flame for 40 minutes.

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Zucca Rossa in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Pumpkin)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound sugar pumpkin or acorn squash
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint

Directions

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut the flesh lengthwise into wedges, each about the length of your hand from fingertip to wrist. Remove the rind. In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin wedges. Cook until soft and deep golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Turn the wedges over and add the garlic. Drizzle the pumpkin first with the honey and then with the vinegar over the pumpkin, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the liquids reduce to a glaze, turning the pumpkin pieces, if necessary. Add mint and transfer pumpkin wedges to a platter and drizzle pan juices on top. Serve room temperature or hot.

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Biancomangiare (Sicilian White Pudding)

Ingredients

  • 4-1/4 cups whole cold milk
  • 4 oz corn starch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Peel of 1 orange, cut into wide strips
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • Garnishes: cinnamon, chocolate or almonds

Directions

In a saucepan add the milk,  sugar and cornstarch in the cold milk. Stir until the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Add the orange peels and cinnamon, if using. Place over medium heat and let it boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon making sure you stir the bottom of the pan or it will burn. When it gets thick take the pan off the heat and remove the orange peels. Pour the mixture into a mold or in single-portion cups and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 to 8 hours. Add garnishes, if desired.


Venetian cuisine is usually divided into three main categories that are based on geography:  the coastal areas, the plains and the mountains. Each one (especially the plains) can have many local cuisines – each city with its own dishes and preparation. The most common dish across the region is polenta, which is utilized in various ways within the local cuisines.

Coastal areas serve mainly seafood dishes.

In the plains, it is very popular to serve grilled meat (usually a mix of pork, beef and chicken) together with grilled polenta, potatoes and vegetables. Other popular dishes include risotto made with vegetables, mushrooms, pumpkin, radicchio, seafood, pork or chicken livers.

Bigoli

Bigoli (a typical Venetian fresh pasta, similar to a thick spaghetti), handmade fettuccine, ravioli and the similar tortelli (filled with meat, cheese, vegetables or pumpkin) and gnocchi (made from potatoes) are pastas that are served with meat sauce (ragù), often made from duck, and, sometimes, with added mushrooms or peas or the pasta is simply dressed with melted butter.

The mountain area cuisine consists mainly of pork or game meat served with polenta, mushrooms or vegetables and cheese. You may also find some dishes from the Austrian or Tyrolese tradition, such as canederli (potato/ bread dumpling) and sweet or savory strudel. A typical dish is casunziei, hand-made fresh pasta similar to ravioli that usually contain a roasted beet and smoked ricotta stuffing.

Italian Canederli

Italian Casunzie

Venetian cuisine is typically seasoned with butter, olive oil, sunflower oil, vinegar, white wine, mostarda or salsa verde.

Antipasto

Sweet and Sour Sardines

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 lb. sardines, cleaned
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cups olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (pignoli)

Directions

Combine wine and raisins in a bowl. Soak for 30 minutes; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the broiler to high. Season sardines with salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Broil, until cooked, about 2 minutes; cool.

Heat oil in a 4-qt. pan over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until browned, 10–12 minutes. Add vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Stir in raisins, pine nuts and salt and pepper; let cool.

Place half the sardines in the bottom of an 8″ x 8″ dish; cover with half the onion mixture. Place remaining sardines on top; cover with the remaining onion mixture.

Marinate the sardines in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Serve with crusty Italian bread.

First Course

Bigoli in Salsa

Ingredients

  • 14 oz bigoli/whole wheat thick spaghetti
  • 5 anchovies
  • 2 large onions
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Directions

Chop the anchovies and set aside.

Peel the onions and slice as thinly as you possibly can. Heat oil in a skillet with a cover, then turn heat to medium low and add onions. Cover the pan and cook the onions for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions are a light gold color; do not let them brown.

Turn the heat down to low and add the anchovies, breaking them into a paste with a wooden spoon.

Add the wine, a little at a time, letting the wine evaporate before adding more. Add a big pinch of black pepper. Put the lid back on and cook gently on low heat for 10 minutes, so that the onions gradually melt into a creamy caramelized sauce.

Cook the bigoli/spaghetti in salted water according to package directions, then drain and add to the skillet with the onion mix. Turn the heat up high for a minute, mixing thoroughly.

To serve: grind additional fresh black pepper over each dish.

Second Course

Pollo del Borgo (Chicken of the Village)

Ingredients

  • 3 lb chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup tomato puree
  • ½ cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Griled Polenta, recipe below

Directions

Heat the butter and oil in a pan large enough to fit all the chicken in a single layer.

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Add the chicken to the skillet and brown the pieces on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions, rosemary and the garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions soften. Return the chicken to the pan.

Add the white wine and cook until it has all evaporated.

Add the tomato puree, the bay leaf, zucchini and chicken broth. Cook for another 40 minutes on a low heat, turning the chicken occasionally and adding broth when needed to keep the sauce from reducing too much. Serve with grilled polenta.

Grilled Polenta

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 2/3 cups polenta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Put salt into 7 cups of cold water in a medium heavy pot. Add polenta and whisk. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often; add oil, then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until polenta thickens and pulls away slightly from the bottom and sides of the pot, 20–30 minutes (depending on the polenta grind).

Pour into a greased square or rectangle glass dish; cool.

Turn out onto a bread board and cut into serving pieces with a wet knife.

Grill on a very hot, dry grill or sear in a nonstick skillet until golden brown.

Dessert Course

Pincia – Veneto Bread Pudding

The Pincia is one of the oldest sweets in the Venice region. It’s traditionally served at Christmas.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (3 cups) stale bread without the crust, cut into small cubes
  • 6 cups milk
  • 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel or mace
  • 1/4 cup dry plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Soak the raisins in warm water to cover. Put the bread cubes in a bowl and pour the milk over the bread.

let both soak for half an hour. Drain the raisins.

Beat the butter, sugar and eggs in an electric mixer. Add the flour, ground fennel and the soaked raisins. Mix well.

Pour butter/egg mixture over the bread/milk mixture and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sliced almonds.

Bake for about an hour until firm or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan; remove and dust with powdered sugar.


Mt Etna and the city of Catania, Sicily

Because Sicily is at a strategic point in the Mediterranean, on a route where east meets west, it’s not surprising that everyone wanted a piece of this fertile land. Yet to understand Sicily’s complex history, you have to understand the many peoples, who have come and gone from the island, and their legacies that are still embedded in the culture, the architecture and the language. Colonized by the Phoenicians and the Greeks and fought over in the Punic Wars, its architectural and artistic remains bear witness to its past grandeur found in the great Greek temples and Roman mosaics located in the Piazza Armerina. The Byzantine influence in Sicily begins with the capture of the island from the Ostrogoths in 535. The clash between the pope and the Byzantine emperor prompted the emperor to give the Patriarch of Constantinople jurisdiction over Sicily, removing it from papal rule. As a result a large number of Greeks moved there from the Balkans to flee from invasions by the Slavs. It was largely Byzantine in culture by the 9th. century, when a new threat emerged. In 827 the Arab peoples began arriving from North Africa, in what amounted to a slow conquest of the island.

The last Byzantine stronghold fell to the Arabs in AD 965, beginning a century of Muslim rule. Arabs settled in large numbers and many Christians converted to Islam. Sicily in the 11th. century was a mixed community of Arab Muslims and Greek Christians, when a third element arrived in a new wave of conquest. The newcomers were Latin Christians. The pope in 1059, wishing to recover Sicily, granted feudal rights over the island to the Normans. One of them, Roger I, the first Norman count of Sicily, completed the conquest of the island in 1091 and set a pattern which characterized Sicily for more than a century. Roger I brought Christianity to the island, but he also encouraged the Greeks and Muslims to continue to live in Sicilian towns and he employed them in his army. The complexity of this culture is evident in the fact that the Normans issued their official documents in three languages – Latin, Greek and Arabic. The small palace chapel in Palermo, with its walls covered in bright pictorial mosaic, is one of the most exquisite buildings of the Middle Ages. Known as the Capella Palatina (Latin for ‘palace chapel’), it was begun in 1132 and completed around 1189. The mosaics are in the Greek tradition, created by craftsmen from Constantinople. Round the walls are sequences of scenes from the Old Testament and scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul.

 

The roof of the Capella Palatina, by contrast, is unlike anything in a Byzantine church. Constructed in vaulted wood and carved and painted in intricate patterns, it would seem at home in a pavilion of a Muslim palace or in a covered section of a mosque. The sturdy round arches supporting the walls are from yet another tradition – that of European Romanesque. Classical pillars, inherited from an earlier period of Sicily’s rich history, complete the influences seen in this building. Sicily endured numerous rulers and ruling countries during the centuries that followed and in 1282 the Sicilians revolted against the Anjou French in the dramatic episode, known as the Sicilian Vespers, and ceded sovereignty to Peter III, King of Aragon [Spain]. In 1442 Alphonso V of Aragon reunited the Kingdom of Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples. 

In 1738 the Treaty of Utrecht lead to the New Kingdom of Two Sicilies and in 1860 Garibaldi lead forces from the Kingdom of Savoy and conquered the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, creating the Kingdom of Italy, the first unitary government of Sicily and the Italian peninsula since the Roman Empire. 1860 was not the end of Sicily’s troubles, however. In the late 19th. century northern Italy was rapidly industrializing, while the south remained agricultural. Sicily in particular lost population to the north and in the 1890’s massive emigration to America began. Industrial growth was slow in Sicily, with the main non-agricultural activity being sulfur mining. In 1901 there were violent clashes between striking workers and police and in 1920 there was a full-blown farmers’ rebellion against landowners, in which kidnapping was first used as a political tool. The Mafia emerged as a major force in these years, being used to break up workers’ organizations and to assassinate state officials.

The right-wing Christian Democrat party was founded in Sicily. Socialist uprisings shut down Milan and Turin in 1920 and in 1922 Benito Mussolini’s Fascists seized the government in a coup. Political repression was the norm and in 1930 Mussolini sent a special prefect to try to stamp out the Mafia, who were helping Sicilian landowners fight the Fascists. Some of the Mafiosi (including the notorious Lucky Luciano) emigrated to America; those who stayed became the main anti-Fascist group in Italy. Sicily was the bane of Mussolini’s existence. Sicily suffered badly during the war. In July 1943 US forces landed in western Sicily and the British and Canadians landed in eastern Sicily. Many hard battles were fought and a number of cities were bombed. Postwar Sicily remained very troubled. Sicilian separatists waged an armed rebellion against Rome in 1944-46. Bandits, police and Mafiosi fought battles and also switched sides in complicated double-crosses, but all three generally united to suppress Communists, labor organizers and peasant cooperatives

The Truman Doctrine, an American commitment to helping democratic European governments rebuild and fight Communism, led to very flawed outcomes. Most historians think that by 1950 a covert alliance had formed between the Christian Democrats, the police and the Mafia, with American approval, in which, preventing land reform in Sicily, was the price of keeping the Communists out of power. Even in the late 20th. century and early 21st. century, the Mafia is a strong influence on the island, in spite of a campaign against it, by the leaders in power in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Modern Sicilians are a complex group who, dispossessed for centuries, now find themselves custodians of the cultural monuments of their oppressors and their history. The visitor to Sicily senses a resurgence of interest and pride in their past and the beauty and richness of their island and. with visitors all year round, it provides the locals with a source of sustainable economic income.

Mount Etna Eruption in 2001

A major interest of tourists is Mount Etna, an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily, close to Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe, currently standing 10,922 ft high, though this varies with summit eruptions and it is the highest mountain in Italy, south of the Alps.

The Food of Sicily

Sicily has gained more autonomy from mainland Italy since the end of World War II, but it has also faced many obstacles – Mafia interference, lingering ties with a defunct feudal system and devastating earthquakes – that have hampered progress and economic stability. To make ends meet many women now work outside of the home and depend on family to look after the children. Yet urban Sicilians struggle to hold onto traditional ways. Many prepare homemade meals and drive to the country to buy wine, olive oil and fresh vegetables from local growers. Those with country houses often have a garden and preserve their harvest for year-round consumption. Regardless of economic circumstances, all Sicilians consider food a priority; they demand quality and often, especially during holidays, turn a blind eye to cost.

Most people prefer a very simple cuisine for everyday using the products from the surrounding seas and the strong Sicilian sun drenched fields. Fresh fish particularly tuna, swordfish, octopus, squid, sardines and anchovies serve as a mainstay of the diet. Tomatoes have full-bodied taste, unlike any others, and sauces made with them give distinctive flavor to many favorite pasta and meat dishes. Vine-ripened tomatoes are available most of the year, but they are also sun-dried for the months when they are not. Likewise, olives and grapes are extraordinarily flavorful and, in recent years, fine Sicilian olive oils and wines have received international prizes.

Sicilian sweets are different from those you find in mainland Italy. Adorned with candied fruit, flavored with nuts and enriched with sheep’s milk ricotta (as compared with the milder cows’ milk version), they owe their origins, like lots of other Sicilian foods, to the island’s many layers of history, most notably the conquest by Saracen invaders from North Africa. By the end of the tenth century, the Saracens had introduced pistachios, oranges, lemons and dates, as well as, refined sugar and spices, such as cinnamon and cloves. They brought the art of preparing elaborate pastries, ices, candied fruit and almond and pistachio-based confections. Later, these traditions blended with others; chocolate arrived from Spain during the Renaissance and in the 19th century Swiss pastry chefs, who had migrated to Sicily, started blending it with ricotta in desserts. As a result, Sicilians have an astonishing repertoire of sweets, from gelato heaped into a brioche—the bun is a legacy of the French influence on Sicilian food—to thick puddings made with everything from coffee to watermelon juice to the ricotta-filled cannoli that are beloved around the world. 

Typical Sicilian Dishes

As you can tell from the recipes below, Sicilians love sardines, eggplant and anchovies.

Pasta alla Norma: Widely found all over Sicily, this dish consists of slowly-cooked eggplant chunks tossed into a basic tomato sauce with thyme, dried oregano, and grated Pecorino cheese, then tossed with pasta and garnished with grated ricotta salata. Impanata di Pesce Spada: (Swordfish pie) This pie is undoubtedly a legacy of the Spanish invaders. It is bursting with all the wonderful tastes of Sicily: swordfish, olives, raisins, pine nuts, caper, and cheese. Panelle di Ciciri: A fritter made with chickpea flour and parsley and then deep-fried in olive oil. In Palermo the fritters are sprinkled with a few drops of lemon juice and often used for bread or rolls. Maccu di Favi: This very old recipe is known all over southern Italy and is the oldest of all Mediterranean soups. It was served for centuries as the midday meal of peasants, who carried it with them when they went to work in the fields. The soup is made with dried fava beans, wild fennel and chili pepper. Toasted bread is placed in soup bowls and drizzled with olive oil and the soup is ladled on top. The name comes from maccare which means “to crush.” The Sicilian touch is to add wild fennel. Caponata: A slow-cooked ratatouille-like mix of eggplants, onions, tomato, olives, pine nuts and extra-virgin olive oil. Caponata is usually served cold or at room temperature. 

Cuscusu: The apex of Arab-Sicilian cuisine; its successful preparation is considered the height of culinary art. The starting point for all couscous recipes is the same. Semolina grains are slowly poured into a large, round terra-cotta dish with sloping sides called a mafaradda and formed into small pellets by hand. The process of raking, rolling, aerating and forming the pellets is called incocciata by the Sicilians. When the couscous pellets are formed they are then steamed over boiling fish broth in a couscoussiere. The fish broth is made using a three-to-one ratio of white fish to oily fish. The fish used to make the broth is not eaten. Small fish or shrimp are cooked and eaten with couscous. Frittedda: (Sicilian sweet and sour vegetables) Artichokes which have been cooked in water and lemon juice are sauteed with onions and sprinkled with nutmeg and salt and pepper. Fava beans and peas are added to this mixture. The mixture is tossed with sugar and vinegar and served cool.

Pollo all’Arancia alla Catanese: (Orange chicken Catania style) Chicken is not very popular in Sicily, presumably because the hens are kept for the eggs they produce. The cooks of Catania have taken advantage of the fragrant orange groves that cover their hillsides to come up with this unusual chicken dish. Chicken pieces are rubbed with garlic, rosemary, mint and nutmeg. The chicken is then sautéed with onion in olive oil until brown. Orange juice is added and the chicken is roasted in a covered skillet until tender. Tummala: (Rice Timbale) This is an elaborate casserole from eastern Sicily, which is said to derive its name from that of Mohammed Ibn Thummah, an emir of Catania during the Arab occupation. The casserole includes chicken, celery, onion, tomatoes, carrots, bread crumbs, veal meatballs, cheese, sausage, rice and eggs in layers as follows: a layer of rice, a layer of meatballs and chicken, a layer of cheese, a layer of rice, a layer of sausage and meatballs and a layer of rice and chicken topped by beaten eggs and cheese.

Sfingi or Zeppole di San Giuseppe: a fried dough delicacy resembling a holeless doughnut prepared for the feast of San Guiseppe (St. Joseph) on March 19. Cuccia: a sweet wheat dish prepared after soaking the wheat grains overnight. It is connected with the festival of Santa Lucia on December 13. Sorbetto and Gelato: the Arabs mixed the summer unmelted snows of Mt. Etna with fruit-flavored syrups to produce a cooling confection which later developed into sherbet and, with the addition of milk and/or cream, the dessert became gelato. Granita: simple ices made by pouring flavors like lemon, coffee and almond milk over granulated ice.

Make Some Sicilian Inspired Recipes At Home

Stuffed and Grilled Eggplants 

This antipasto or side dish is pleasant and goes well with grilled food. It is a very convenient dish because it can be prepared in advance.
The stuffing of capers, anchovies and cheese gives a typical Sicilian taste to the stuffed grilled eggplants. Any leftovers are delicious the next day.

Serves 4 to 6 Ingredients

  • 2 medium size eggplants
  • ¾ cup of olive oil, divided
  • 12 slices of cheese (provolone or mozzarella)
  • 12 fillets of anchovies
  • 3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon of pine nuts
  • Chopped Italian parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Wash eggplants, remove stalks and slice horizontally with the skin on, about ½ inch thick. Remove excessive skin from first and last slice of each eggplant. Place eggplants in a colander, salt lightly and set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse the sliced eggplant and drain for a few minutes. Gently pat dry with a clean dish towel or paper towels. Brush both sides with oil and grill the eggplant slices until tender, about 3 minutes on each side. If a grill is not available use the oven broiler, cooking it for 5 minutes on each side or until tender. Place grilled eggplants in a pan or large dish and place a slice of the cheese on each slice, add one fillet of anchovy broken in pieces, a few capers, a few pine nuts, some parsley and a sprinkle of pepper. Fold and roll up each slice, starting at the narrow side of the slice and secure with a wooden toothpick and set aside. When ready to serve, grill the eggplant rollatini for a few minutes until hot and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. If a grill is not available, place rollatini in an oiled pan 11” X 7”, drizzle with oil and bake in a hot oven at 400 degrees F. for about 10 minutes. Place cooked eggplant in a serving dish; drizzle with olive oil and serve.    IMG_3151

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Mussel Pie

My friend Andy recently took a trip to Sicily and ate a variation of this Mussel Pie, called Pepata di Cozze, which means Peppered Mussels in Italian, in a restaurant in Sicily. He took pictures of this great meal and I am including his pictures in this post. I searched for a recipe that would come close to the dish he experienced in Sicily and, came up with this recipe that is close, but not exactly the same. You will have to take a trip to Sicily to get the original.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz pizza dough
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pints mussels
  • 4 leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped parsley
  • 1 sprig each marjoram and thyme
  • 1 oz butter
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 orange
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Scrub and clean the mussels. Melt the butter in the bottom of a large pan which has a lid. Cook the leeks in the butter until just transparent. Add the wine and the juice of one orange to the pan. Steam open the mussels in this liquid and reserve the liquor in which they are cooked. Put the mussels and herbs in a deep pie dish or casserole, pour the liquid with the leeks over the mussels. Season with salt and pepper. Roll pizza dough just large enough to cover the top of the casserole dish. Cover the top of the dish and seal the dough to the casserole dish. Cut a hole in the top of the dough. Heat oven to 425°F for 20 – 25 minutes until the dough is lightly brown. When the pie is done, remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes.

Sarde a Beccafico (Stuffed Sardines)

This filling will work in fish fillets, if you do not have access to sardines.

 4 servings Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 pounds sardines
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 salt-packed anchovies
  • 1 sprig parsley minced
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup almonds or pistachios toasted and chopped
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons black olives pitted and minced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 1 shallot chopped
  • 2/3 cup Pecorino cheese grated

Directions: Soak raisins in warm water for 20 minutes. Prepare the sardines: remove the scales and the head, but not the tail. Hold each sardine belly-side up and cut along its belly so the fish opens up like a book. Remove insides and bones. Leave tails intact. Rinse in cold water, dry and season by rubbing with bay leaf. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat, stir in fresh breadcrumbs and saute for a couple of minutes until golden. Set aside in a bowl to cool down slightly. Drain raisins and squeeze out all excess water. Rinse anchovies and capers in running water to remove salt. Add to the breadcrumb mixture along with chopped pine nuts and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Optional additions: chopped garlic, shallot or onion, pitted olives, toasted almonds and lemon zest and grated Pecorino cheese. Mix well and spread a teaspoon of this mixture on the inside of the sardines, pressing down lightly with your fingers. Roll up the sardines (keeping the filling inside) with the tail sticking up. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the stuffed sardines. Add the bay leaf, sprinkle each roll with a tablespoon of bread crumbs and drizzle on the remaining oil. Cook in a preheated 420°F oven for 15-20 minutes. Dress with lemon juice and serve.

    

Pasta alla Norma

This recipe originated in Catania , a city on the eastern side of Sicily that sits on the shadow of Mount Etna . Catania is a city subjected to the temperament of Mount Etna , the highest and only active volcano in Europe.
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have destroyed this city several times. Yet the city has managed to rebuild. It is a vibrant and modern metropolis, with wide streets and majestic palaces; ancient monuments reminiscent of the Greek and Roman occupation and contemporary buildings where the enterprising people of Catania live and work to make it the most industrious and energetic city of Sicily.
This dish is called Pasta alla Norma in honor of Vincenzo Bellini, who composed the opera Norma in 1831.
The chef who created this dish wanted to honor Bellini, but he also wanted to immortalize Mount Etna. The spaghetti and the fried eggplants were the mountains, the tomato sauce portrayed the lava and the grated ricotta salata, the eternal snow of the Mt. Etna.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 can of 14 oz. Italian peeled tomatoes, undrained and cut in small pieces
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 Italian eggplants cut into cubes, sprinkled with salt and placed in colander for 30 minutes
  • 1 lb. of your preferred pasta
  • 1/2 lb. grated aged Ricotta Salata cheese (if you cannot find it, use a mild aged feta cheese)
  • 12 whole basil leaves for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: The Sauce Over a medium flame, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 12 inch saute pan. Add diced onions and sauté until golden, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, raise heat to high and cook for an additional 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Add chopped basil, salt and pepper to taste. Lower the flame and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thick. The Eggplant Pat dry the eggplants with a clean dish towel or paper towels. Brown the cubes in the remaining olive oil. Place eggplants on paper towels to drain the oil and set aside. The Pasta Cook pasta according to package directions, reducing recommended cooking time by 2 minutes. Drain pasta well and put back in pot with the tomato sauce. Mix for 2 minutes on a low heat or until pasta and sauce are well combined.  Stir in reserved eggplant and toss to combine. Stir in remaining basil and season with salt. To serve, transfer pasta to a platter and garnish with ricotta salata.

   Cassata al Forno

Sicilian Cassata: Ricotta Cake

The ricotta cheese needs to be drained overnight before starting the recipe.

Serves: 10 servings Ingredients

  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup candied fruit with citron
  • 1 (10-inch) pre-baked sponge cake (homemade or store bought, pound cake may be used

Directions Place the ricotta into a fine mesh sieve and nestle this over a bowl, place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the excess moisture to drain out before proceeding with the cassata recipe. Place the ricotta into the bowl of a mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until the curds smooth out. Mix the drained and beaten ricotta with 1 cup powdered sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, chocolate chips and half the candied fruit. Set aside. Lightly spray a 10-inch springform pan with canola oil spray. Slice the sponge cake very thinly so that the springform may be lined with it in an even layer. Line the sides and bottom of the pan with the sponge cake. Pour the ricotta filling into the cake-lined pan. Place a final layer of cake over the ricotta filling; this now creates the bottom to the cassata. Refrigerate the cassata overnight to firm the filling. Invert the springform pan on a wide platter. Open the hinge and remove the springform sides and bottom. The cassata may now be finished by covering with a heavy coating of the remaining powdered sugar and the remaining candied fruits. Alternately, you can make a white glaze for the top of the cake or spread sweetened whipped cream over the cake and decorate it with fresh fruit. Some Italian cooks like to decorate the top with marzipan cutouts. Slice thinly and serve.


Calabria is one of the oldest regions of Italy with the first evidence of human presence in the region dating as far back as 700,000 years BC. Around 3,500 BC, the first villages in Calabria were settled. By the eighth century BC, the Greeks had control over the region and, in the second century BC, Calabria was conquered by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire the region was conquered by the Goths, the Byzantines and later the Longobards. It wouldn’t be until 1860 that Calabria would consolidate and became part of the larger region of Italy.

Medieval Ruins

Calabria’s economy is based mainly on agriculture. Chief agricultural products include olive oil, onions, mushrooms, wheat and other cereal grains, wine, eggplant, figs, chestnuts and citrus fruit. Calabria is the largest producer of bergamot oranges in Italy. The rinds of bergamot oranges are used to manufacture perfumes, teas, and other aromatic creations. Despite its small size and low population, Calabria is responsible for producing a third of all the olive oil produced in Italy.

Calabrian Hillsides

Calabria is fortunate to have a great deal of forested land and, as a result, most industry is developed around construction and building. Textile, clothing and chemical industries are also present in the region. A substantial portion of the region’s economic resources stem from the production and sale of handicrafts by individuals and very small family businesses. Tourism, which is increasing, also plays a major part in the Calabrian economy and is the motive behind some of the region’s most recent technological advancements.

Reggio Calabria in Italian spring

It is a place of contrasts, with high mountain villages seemingly built on the sides of mountains in the interior to red roofed villas on the coast, clustered around an ancient castle or church. Calabria hosts several world class seaside resorts, as well as, mountaintop resorts dedicated to winter sports. Tourists also enjoy watching local artisans produce any number of handicrafts, with pottery and ceramics being the most common.

The Food of Calabria

Bergamot Fruits From Calabria

Calabrians use the mountainous area covering most of the region to raise hill-loving pigs, goats and sheep and comb the woods for chestnuts, acorns and wild mushrooms to add rustic flavors to their cooking. Adventurous fishermen have little trouble finding swordfish, cod, sardines, and shellfish. The inland freshwater lakes and streams offer trout in abundance.

Most of the cuisine of Calabria is heavily influenced by the Mediterranean and is often spicy. Pasta dishes with peppers, onions and sausage sauteed with or without sauce are very common. Frittatas made with pasta and sausage are also prevalent. Eggplant is a favorite dish in the region and is served in a variety of ways.

Due to the humid climate and the high risk of rapid molding and spoilage, food preservation is important. Oiling, salting, curing and smoking – almost all of the area’s food products can be found preserved in some form or another. Calabria’s many varieties of cured meats and sausages are served alongside fresh produce. The local pancetta pairs perfectly with summer melons.

Calabrians do their best to utilize the entire animal letting nothing go to waste. The spicy-hot tang of nduja (also known as ‘ndugghi) is a singularly unusual flavor, made from pig’s fat and organ meats and mixed with liberal amounts of pepperoncinis. This salami-style delicacy (left alone to cure for an entire year) is a testament to the Calabrian patience of waiting until foods have reached their perfection before eating. Other salamis such as Capicola Calabrese and Sopressata di Calabria also come from the region and are served alongside local breads and cheeses.

Breads, cheeses and pastas are all important to Calabrian cooking.

Pane del Pescatore is a local bread specialty made with eggs and dried fruits. Focaccia and pita breads are popular in the region, reflecting the Greek and Arabic flatbread influences. Similarly, special pastries and dessert breads take on a Greek flavor with many being fried and dipped in honey.

Cheeses lean toward the goat and/or sheep milk varieties, though cow’s milk cheeses are becoming more common. Sciungata (a sheep’s milk cheese similar to ricotta), ricotta calabrese (a ricotta with the addition of  milk and salt), butirro (a buttery cow’s milk cheese) and the prized, caciocavallo silano, a cow’s milk cheese hung to dry thus developing its signature teardrop shape, are just a few of the cheeses found on the Calabrian table.

Calabrian pastas are hearty and varied, with the names of some of the more creative cuts like ricci di donna ( “curls of the lady”) and capieddi ‘e prieviti ( “hairs of the priest”) belying a whimsical spirit of the region’s people. Fusilli is a common pasta component in Calabrian dishes, as are Scilateddri, Lagane, Cavateddri and Maccheroni.

Make Some Calabrian Inspired Recipes At Home

Antipasto Course

Calabrian Eggplant

Serve with Italian Bread                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Serves 4 to 6 people

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 roasted chili peppers, packed in oil, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fresh oregano, minced or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 3 tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

Cut the eggplant slices into one inch strips and place in a bowl.

Salt the fresh cut eggplant and let it set for an 1 hour.

Rinse the eggplant thoroughly under cold water.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the eggplant for 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Drain.

Lay the eggplant out on a towel to dry.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chili peppers, garlic, oregano and pepper.

Lay the eggplant out on a plate and drizzle some of the oil mixture on top.

Place another layer on top and repeat until all the eggplant is used.

Refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours and serve chilled.

First Course

Pasta with Sardines

4-6 servings 

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, made from stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long, thick pasta, like perciatelli or bucatini
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 cans of sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil, undrained, (or 1/2 pound fresh, boned)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Put 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove.

Add the remaining oil and the onion and garlic to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers and sardines with the oil the fish was packed in; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and the reserved pasta water to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with parsley and remaining bread crumbs.

Second Course

Lamb Chops Calabria Style with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Olives

Lamb Chops Calabria Style with Tomatoes, Peppers, and Olives

Serves 4

  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite-size chunks
  • 8 lamb chops, each about 1″ thick
  • Sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups Italian chopped tomatoes, such as Pomi
  • 3 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green olives in brine, pitted and coarsely cut up
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Cut each pepper lengthwise, remove the stem, seeds, and core. Cut into approximately 1 1/2″ squares.

Salt lamb chops on both sides. Pour olive oil into a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add lamb chops. Brown thoroughly on one side, turn, and brown thoroughly on the other side (cook to your liking). Remove from the pan to a plate (cover with foil).

Add chopped onion to the pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it becomes soft and golden. Add the tomatoes, stirring occasionally, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, parsley, olives, salt and black pepper.  

Turn the heat down to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until the peppers are tender but firm.

Sprinkle the chops with freshly ground pepper and put them into the pan with the sauce. Turn the chops over several times to coat them well and after a minute or so turn the full contents of the skillet onto a warm platter and serve.


Many of the world’s religions employ some sort of numerology in their rituals, and Christianity is no exception. When it comes to the number of dishes served for Cena della Vigilia (Christmas Eve), however, there is no consensus. In many of Italy’s landlocked regions, three courses are prepared, representing the Three Wise Men, or in the Abruzzo region, where nine dishes are preferred for the Trinity times three and in parts of southern Italy, 12 are served for the number of the apostles. The norm however, seems to be seven dishes.

A traditional Christmas Eve dinner for many people of Italian heritage around the world is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. It is a tradition that goes back thousands of years and consists of at least seven seafood dishes and no meat.

The dishes and the types of fish served for Christmas Eve are ultimately dictated by geography. In Naples, for instance, the devout leave certain treats on the table overnight for the angel who heralds Christ’s birth; for this reason, many dishes are vinegar-based to preserve them. Around Lake Como in the north, large trout, which are only fished during the holiday season, are common.

These days, an Italian Christmas Eve dinner is still an important family affair; it is never served before 8 or 9 pm and the many courses are enjoyed slowly, one after another, giving people plenty of time for toasts, playful chatting and fun until midnight.

 

CLASSIC ITALIAN CHRISTMAS EVE MENU

 

ITALIAN CHRISTMAS APPETIZERS

 

Raw Oysters and Raw Clams

Fried Sardines

Smelts (small fishes that can be fried)

Fried Calamari

Cocktail Shrimp

Crabcakes or Oyster Shooters

 

ITALIAN CHRISTMAS EVE ENTREES

 

Mussels and Macaroni

Baccala or dried salt cod 

Stuffed Calamari

Linguini and Clams

Lobster Ravioli, Fried Shrimp, or Octopus Salad

 

SERVING SUGGESTIONS FOR ITALIAN CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER

Round the meal out with a classic antipasto of cheeses, olives, red peppers, anchovies, marinated artichoke hearts, and canned tuna.

On the side, serve sauteed spinach or escarole along with a great wine. For dessert, enjoy a classic Italian Panettone, biscotti, or cannoli with an after dinner drink such as Sambuca or Anisette.

Seafood Market

Christmas Eve dinner at my house is a bit more simple.

Antipasto

Italian Cheese, Salami, Roasted Peppers, Olives, Sardines

Italian Bread

Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Makes 8 crab cakes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed and diced into 1/4-inches pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
  • 1 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Roasted Red Pepper Pesto, recipe below

Directions:

In a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gently cook the onion and red peppers until soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Pick through the crabmeat and remove any shell or cartilage you may find.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, Old Bay, and cayenne.

With a rubber spatula, fold in the sautéed vegetables, crabmeat, and Panko or cracker crumbs. Season with salt. Refrigerate mixture for 1/2 hour for flavors to meld and breadcrumbs to absorb some of the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Divide the crab mixture into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball with your hands and place onto a cookie sheet lightly coated with vegetable oil or covered with aluminum foil. Press down gently on each ball to form a cake.

Put cookie sheet into the oven and bake until crab cakes are golden brown on each side, about 20 minutes. Turn the crab cakes over half way through. (Alternatively, you may also fry the crab cakes in oil or butter. About 3 minutes each side.)

 

Red Pepper Pesto

Ingredients

  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 3  chili peppers or other medium-heat red chili peppers, seeded
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or sliced almonds, toasted
  • A small handful basil leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano leaves, 1 tablespoon or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Roast peppers over a flame on stove top or under broiler to blacken the skins all over. Place peppers in bowl and cover with plastic wrap until cool. Peel skins and seed peppers.

Place roasted red peppers and chili peppers in a food processor and add the nuts, basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Add cheese, turn processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil to form a thick sauce.

Pasta Alfredo

 Ingredients:

  • 12 oz fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle pasta
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup freshly grated Italian Parmigiano Reggiano, at room temperature, plus extra cheese to pass at the table
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon Wondra (instant) flour
  • Salt and white ground pepper

Directions:

Boil the pasta cooking water. Add salt and pasta.

If you are using fresh fettuccine, it can cook in as little as 2 minutes (plus the time it takes the water to boil), so have all ingredients and cooking utensils ready.

Stir Wondra into milk

In a pan large enough to hold all the pasta , melt the butter over low heat.

Slowly add the milk and whisk or stir continuously with a wooden spoon until it is hot and slightly reduced. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the cooked and drained pasta. Mix well. Add cheese and stir carefully.

Peas

Defrost a package of frozen peas. Saute in a little olive oil and season with black pepper.

Dessert

Christmas Cookies

See post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/12/14/my-childrens-favorite-christmas-cookies-part-2/


Bari, Italy, the second largest city of Southern Italy, is capital of the Apulia (or Puglia) region, located on the Adriatic Sea. Named the fifth largest province in Italy, Bari carries a population of about one and half million. The area is composed of limestone hills, near the edge of the Bari basin, a depression formed when the underlying limestone is eroded by underground water and collapses.

As a very prominent seaport, Bari’s port faces the Adriatic Sea and connects to other Adriatic ports via railways, boats and roadways. Bari has become one of the top commercial and industrial leading areas in Italy.

Believed to be originally Illyrian, Bari was controlled by Greeks, and then later, Romans. During the Roman era, Bari was a connection between the coast roadway and the Via Traiana, and was thought to be valuable as a seafood asset. As early as 181 BC, Bari’s harbor is noted in recorded history.

Bari was conquered and ruled, at various times in history  by the Goths, Lombards, Byzantines and the Normans.  Crusaders often sailed from Bari and during the Middle Ages, Bari was ruled by lords such as Hohenstaufens and the Sforzas of Milan. All these influences created the culture of Bari.

The city suffered damage in World War II. Through a tragic coincidence intended by neither of the opposing sides in World War II, Bari gained the unwelcome distinction of being the only European city to experience chemical warfare in the course of that war.

On the night of December 2, 1943, German Junkers Ju 88 bombers attacked the port of Bari, which was a key supply center for Allied forces fighting their way up the Italian Peninsula. Several Allied ships were sunk in the overcrowded harbor, including the U.S. Liberty John Harvey, which was carrying mustard gas; mustard gas was also reported to have been stacked on the quayside awaiting transport. The chemical agent was intended for use, if German forces initiated chemical warfare. The presence of the gas was highly classified, and authorities ashore had no knowledge of it. This increased the number of fatalities, since physicians—who had no idea that they were dealing with the effects of mustard gas—prescribed treatment proper for those suffering from exposure and immersion, which proved fatal in many cases.

On the orders of allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Dwight D. Eisenhower, records were destroyed and the whole affair was kept secret for many years after the war. The U.S. records of the attack were declassified in 1959, but the episode remained obscure until 1967. The affair is the subject of two books: Disaster at Bari, by Glenn B. Infield, and Nightmare in Bari: The World War II Liberty Ship Poison Gas Disaster and Coverup, by Gerald Reminick.

The Basilica of St. Nicola 

Bari is divided into parts which include a modern area called “quarters”, which was developed in 1820, and an ancient district, located on a peninsula to the north, which contains many beautiful Romanesque-Pugliese structures and churches where tourists can relive history, such as the Cathedral of San Sabino (dating back to 1035). There is also a major shopping district: the famous Via Sparano and Via Argiro are located there.

Via Sparano

Via Argiro

Besides being a major seaport in Italy, Bari also has much to offer from an industrial point of view. Chemicals, machinery, printed materials, petroleum and textiles are among the city’s economic contributions. Agriculture is notable in Bari, which includes cherries, tomatoes, artichokes, grapes, table wine, olives and almond production. Bari also takes great pride in its seafood industry, which provides delicious local cuisine.

The ancient district is the place to visit for a historical perspective. Chiesa di San Giacomo is a church which is worth seeing. Other great sites in this district are the Lungomare (promenade), a railway station which was constructed in 1875, the Fiera del Levante, which is one of the largest fairs in Italy. The fair takes place in September and is located close to the shore. The ancient seafaring center is located here as well. On the more modern side of Bari, there are villas and supermarkets. Buses are available for travel in the city. There’s plenty to do during every season: from spending a day at the beach to going horseback riding through the countryside. Cinemas, theaters, museums and churches are abundant in Bari, combining modern entertainment with a taste of history. Winter days are filled with festivals and nativity scenes.

Beach in Bari Italy

The Cuisine of Bari

Potato, Rice and Onion Casserole

Bari offers many creative dishes with colorful vegetables such as turnip tops with orecchiette pasta or cavatelli. Red-yellow peppers stuffed with meat or rice and baked in the oven are another specialty. The cuisine also includes seafood, such as, bass, clams, cuttlefish, mussels, oysters, cod, prawns, sea bream, lobster, anchovies and sole, which are cooked in a variety of methods. There are pizzerias for every type of pizza.

Pizza with Prosciutto and Sage

Pasta is made with simple ingredients such as water, flour and salt and is the star of most  main courses. Handformed orecchiette, cavatelli and fricelli have the right shape and consistency to absorb the traditional sauces of the area based on vegetables, fish or meat.

Tiella of Gaeta

The artisanship of bakers here is evident in the preparation of pizza, focaccia, spicy taralli and the famous Altamura bread (see recipe below), protected by its DOP label and delicious when seasoned with the area’s extra virgin olive oil, Terra di Bari DOP, and garnished with the famous Apulian vegetables and greens.

Among some of the other treats are barattiere, small vegetables, to eat raw in salads, table grapes and sweet Termite olives, seasoned with salt, vinegar, olive oil, spices and natural herbs.

Make Some Bari Inspired Recipes At Home 

Pane di Altamura

Yields 2 Loaves

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1¾ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2–3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal

Directions:

To create the sponge:

Combine in large bowl of electric mixer: 1 cup water and yeast, stir to dissolve, and let stand 5 minutes. Add all-purpose flour and beat for 1 minute. Cover and let stand at room temperature 8–12 hours.

To make the bread:

Add to the sponge 1 cup water, olive oil, semolina, salt, and enough bread flour to make a soft dough. Mix with the paddle attachment until the ingredients come together in a ball. Switch to the dough hook and knead 8–10 minutes. Add more flour to reduce stickiness. Dust with flour, cover the dough in the bowl with plastic, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch dough down, fold it in half, and let it rise again, until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface, and divide into 2 equal portions. Shape into round loaves, place on prepared pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and set aside to proof for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Dust the top of the risen loaves generously with flour. Using a serrated knife, cut decorative slash marks into the surface of the dough, about ½″ deep. Place a pan of cold water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 30–40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.

First Course

Pasta With Sardines, Bread Crumbs and Capers

Ingredients:

  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, ideally made from stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound long pasta, like perciatelli
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 cans sardines packed in extra virgin olive oil (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish.

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

Put half the oil (2 tablespoons) in a medium skillet over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, less than 5 minutes, and then remove. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just tender; drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat under the onions to medium-high and add the lemon zest, capers and sardines; cook, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, about 2 minutes.

Add the pasta to the sardine mixture and toss well to combine. Add the parsley, most of the bread crumbs and some reserved water, if necessary, to moisten. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnishing with more parsley and bread crumbs.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

Second Course

Pork Chops Pizzaiola

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 center-cut loin pork chops, cut 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • ½ bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup drained canned tomatoes pureed through a sieve or food mill
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ pound green peppers, seeded and cut in 2-by-1/4-inch strips (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • ½ pound fresh mushrooms, whole if small, quartered or sliced if large

Directions:

In a heavy 10-to 12-inch skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until a light haze forms over it. Brown the chops in this oil for 2 or 3 minutes on each side and transfer them to a plate. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, bay leaf and salt to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the wine and boil briskly to reduce it to about ¼ cup, scrapping in any bits of meat or herbs in the pan. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and return the chops to the skillet. Baste with the sauce, cover, and simmer over low heat, basting once or twice, for 40 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in another large skillet. Cook the green peppers in the oil for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mushrooms and toss them with the peppers for a minute or two, then transfer them to the pan with the pork chops. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes longer, until the pork and vegetables are tender and the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon heavily. (If the sauce is too thin, remove the chops and vegetables and boil the sauce down over high heat, stirring constantly). To serve, arrange the chops on a heated platter and spoon the vegetables and sauce over them.

Braised Peas with Prosciutto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onions
  • 2 cups fresh green peas (about 2 pounds unshelled)
  • ¼ cup chicken stock, fresh or canned
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut in 1 by ¼ inch julienne strips (about ¼ cup)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a heavy 1 to 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat and cook the onions for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring frequently until they are soft but not brown. Stir in the green peas and chicken stock, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. When the peas are tender, add the strips of prosciutto and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes more, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Taste for seasoning, Serve the peas in a heated bowl.

NOTE: One 10 ounce package of frozen peas may be substituted for the fresh peas. Defrost the peas thoroughly before using them, and add them to the onions without any stock. Cook the peas uncovered, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, then add the prosciutto, heat through and serve.

 



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