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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: squid

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It’s the holidays and you want to invite friends over but don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen, then pasta is just right for such an occasion. Most people like pasta and it can become an elegant company meal with the right ingredients.

The menu can come together quickly by adding a simple appetizer, such as cheese and crackers or a light soup. Add a salad, some bread and cookies and the meal is done. Don’t forget the wine.

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Sausage Stuffed Shells

This dish can be assembled early in the day and refrigerated. Take the dish out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 24 dried jumbo shell macaroni
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cremini mushrooms
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 ½ cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade or store-bought tomato pasta sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Minced fennel leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain and place the shells on clean kitchen towels.

In a large mixing bowl combine eggs, ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese.

In a large skillet cook mushrooms, chopped fennel and bell pepper in hot oil over medium heat about 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetables to the ricotta mixture.

Add sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, using a wooden spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Drain off fat and add the cooked sausage to the vegetable ricotta mixture. Stir well.

Fill the cooked macaroni shells with the ricotta, vegetable and sausage mixture.

Spoon 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish, spreading evenly. Arrange shells on top of the sauce. Drizzle shells with remaining sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake, covered about 30 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with fennel leaves.

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Shrimp and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • One 12 ounce jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained and chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • ¼ cup snipped fresh basil
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb penne or ziti pasta

Directions

Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a large pasta serving bowl.

In a large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat until butter is melted. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or just until onion is tender.

Add shrimp and crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add roasted peppers and wine. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 2 minutes or until shrimp are opaque, stirring occasionally.

Stir in cream. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Stir in basil. Add shrimp mixture and cheese to hot cooked pasta; toss gently to combine.

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Meat Stuffed Manicotti

6 servings

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion (1 large)
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot (1 medium)
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery (1 stalk)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Two 26 to 28 oz containers of Italian crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 3 tablespoons snipped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 12 dried manicotti shells
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • Fresh basil for garnish

Directions

For the Marinara Sauce:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender but not brown, stirring occasionally.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, water, wine, parsley, basil, Italian seasoning, sugar, crushed red pepper, bay leaves, salt and black pepper.

Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes or until sauce thickens stirring occasionally. Remove and discard bay leaves.

For the Manicotti:

Cook manicotti for 2 minutes less than the package directs; drain. Place manicotti in a single layer on a sheet of greased foil.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl combine 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the onion, bell pepper, egg and pesto. Add ground meat; mix well.

Divide mixture into 12 portions. Shape each portion into a 5-inch log. Push a log into each cooked manicotti shell; arrange the shells in an ungreased 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Pour Marinara Sauce over filled manicotti.

Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, about 10 minutes more or until the cheeses are melted. Garnish with fresh basil.

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Artichoke Lasagna

8 servings

Ingredients

  • One 9 oz package of frozen and thawed artichoke hearts or 15 cooked baby artichokes
  • 9 dried lasagna noodles
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 15 ounce carton ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook lasagna noodles al dente; drain and place the noodles on clean kitchen towels.

Place the defrosted artichoke hearts on paper towels and cut each in half.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add artichokes, pine nuts and half of the garlic. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the artichokes are tender, stirring frequently. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Do not clean out the pan.

Stir in ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of the basil, the egg and salt into the mixing bowl with the artichokes..

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, combine broth and flour.

In the large saucepan used to cook the artichokes, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic; cook and stir until garlic is tender but not brown. Stir in flour mixture and half-and-half. Cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining 1/2 cup basil.

In a small bowl, combine mozzarella cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

To assemble the lasagna:

Spread about 1 cup of the sauce over the bottom of an ungreased 3-quart shallow baking dish. Layer three of the cooked noodles in the dish. Spread with one-third of the artichoke mixture and one-third of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the mozzarella mixture. Repeat layering noodles, artichoke mixture, sauce and mozzarella mixture two more times.

Bake, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes until edges are bubbly and top is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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Seafood Linguine

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces linguine or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
  • 1 28-ounce can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 18 littleneck or small cherrystone clams, scrubbed
  • 12 ounces sea scallops, muscle removed
  • 12 ounces grouper, tilapia or other flaky white fish, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 6 ounces calamari, cut into thin rings
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, plus more for garnish

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a large pasta serving bowl.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Add tomatoes, wine,chili flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Add clams, cover and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in scallops, calamari, fish and marjoram. Cover and cook until the scallops and fish are cooked through and the clams have opened, 3 to 5 minutes more. (Discard any clams that don’t open.)

Spoon the sauce and clams over the pasta and sprinkle with additional marjoram.

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Japanese Pizza with Mayonnaise

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Korean Pizza

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Hawaiian Pizza

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Escargot Pizza

Thai Pizza

Thai Pizza

A little too crazy for you? Try these instead.

Quick and Easy Pizza Crust

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A chewy pizza crust that can be made quickly with just basic pantry ingredients for when you are in a hurry. Makes 1 lb of pizza dough.

Ingredients

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Stir in flour, salt and oil. Beat until smooth. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat or roll into a round. Transfer crust to a lightly greased pizza pan and spread it to the edges or shape it into a 12-14 inch round and place on a baker’s peel dusted with cornmeal. Add toppings and transfer to a preheated pizza stone.

Three Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions

Cheese Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Red Peppers

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds store-bought or homemade pizza dough
  • 1/2 cup drained roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large onions (about 4 pounds in all), cut into thin slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces Italian fontina, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces Roquefort or other blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Oil two 12-inch pizza pans or large baking sheets. Press the dough into a 12-inch round or a 9-by-13-inch rectangle, on each prepared pan. Bake until the dough, without the toppings, begins to brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large nonstick frying pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onions and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the red peppers.

Divide the onion mixture between the 2  baked pizzas crusts. Top each with half of the fontina, Roquefort and Parmesan.

Bake the pizzas until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.

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Meat Lovers’ Veggie Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pizza dough, fresh or frozen (thawed) at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups marinara sauce
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 4 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 small green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 ounces pepperoni, sliced
  • 3 strips bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Oil a pizza pan.

Stretch dough round into small circle. Place on the pizza pan, stretching and pressing to form a 14-inch circle. Spread sauce on dough; top with mozzarella in single layer.

In a skillet cook bacon. Drain and set aside. Add sausage and saute until no longer pink. Add mushrooms and pepper slices and saute until tender.

Top pizza with the vegetable mixture, pepperoni and crumbled cooked bacon.

Bake 20 to 22 minutes.

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Chicago Deep-Dish-Style Veggie Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen (thawed and at room temperature) pizza dough
  • 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  • 3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, each cut in half
  • 1 can (14- to 14.5-ounce) chopped tomatoes with garlic and basil, drained
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Coat a 12-inch heavy ovenproof skillet with oil.

Pat dough into a 14-inch round  on a floured board and carefully transfer dough to the skillet. Carefully flip dough once, so both sides are evenly coated with oil. Gently press the edges of the dough up the side of the skillet.

Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the dough; top with broccoli, sun dried tomatoes, olives, tomatoes and Pecorino. Bake pizza 25 minutes or until the dough is puffed and golden brown. Cut pizza into slices to serve.

Roasted Chicken and Leek Pizza

Roasted Chicken and Leek Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 large leeks, white and tender green portions only, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick and separated into rings
  • 2 cups shredded skinless roasted chicken
  • 1/2 pound Italian Fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 1/3 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound pizza dough, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Generously oil a pizza pan.

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the leeks and cook over moderate heat until just softened but still bright green, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Stir in the chicken, half of the Fontina, the olives and season with salt and pepper.

Stretch the dough to the edges of the pizza pan. Spread the chicken and leek mixture on the pizza, leaving a 1-inch border of dough. Brush the border with olive oil. Sprinkle the remaining Fontina over the top and season with pepper.

Bake 16 -20  minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling. Transfer the pizza to a rack and let cool slightly before cutting.

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Squid Pizza with Saffron Aioli

Ingredients

  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Salt
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 6 ounces cleaned squid—tentacles halved, bodies sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 8 ounces pizza dough
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large plum tomato, diced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Preheat a pizza stone.

In a small bowl, crumble the saffron into the water; let steep for 5 minutes. In a blender or bowl, beat the egg yolk with the garlic and 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice. Gradually add the 3/4 cup of olive oil, beating constantly, until very thick. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and the saffron water and season the aioli with salt and cayenne.

In a skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Add the squid, season with salt and black pepper and cook over high heat until just starting to whiten, 30 seconds. Do not overcook. Transfer to a plate.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pizza dough to a 12-inch round, 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the round to a lightly floured pizza peel.

Leaving a 1/2-inch border of dough, brush the round with olive oil and sprinkle with crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper.

Scatter the onion slices over the round and top with the squid, tomato and marjoram.

Slide the pizza onto the hot stone and bake for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is crisp.

Transfer the pizza to a work surface and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the aioli. Serve aioli with the pizza or reserve the remaining aioli for another use. Garnish the pizza with the parsley, cut into wedges and serve.


Nemi

Lake Nemi, Diana’s Sacred Grove, is a small circular volcanic lake in the Lazio region of Italy, 30 km (19 miles) south of Rome. The shores of the lake were the setting for one of the cruellest religious rites in honor of a local divinity, Diana of Nemi also known as “Diana of the Woods”, an Italian version of the Hellenic goddess, Artemis. Her sanctuary was found on the northern shore of the lake, beneath the cliffs of the town of Nemi. The lake has often been referred to by poets and scholars as, “Diana’s Mirror.” Diana is one of the more complex goddesses of mythology and her cult at Nemi was especially violent.

The “Rex Nemorensis” or king of the sacred grove, was the high-priest of Diana’s temple. The legend says that in her sacred grove there grew a large oak tree from which it was absolutely forbidden to break off a branch. Only a runaway slave could break off a branch, thus earning the right to fight the presiding high priest of the temple to the death. If the slave won, he could take the place of the priest and adopt his title of “rex nemorensis”. This violent rite of succession was based on the premise that the High Priest of Nemi always had to be at the height of his powers. He could never be ill nor could he die of old age.

Diana

Diana

This ritual continued up until the Imperial era, according to the ancient Roman historian, Suetonius. Emperor Caligula, angered by the fact that the high priest of Nemi had been in his role for too long, ordered him to be killed by an opponent of greater strength. In the II century AD the fight to preside over the sacred altar became symbolic in nature and the cult of Diana itself began to wane, almost completely disappearing after the advent of Christianity. The origins of the cult of Diana are mixed with legend and it is probable that this ancient myth on the Italian peninsula had Greek origins.

The locals will tell you that the spirit of the “rex nemorensis” still wanders in the woods around the lake and that you should take special care when walking in these parts. However, the lake is most famous for its sunken Roman ships, discovered there in the XV century. These ships were very large and technologically advanced for their time.

Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, acquired the nickname Caligula when he was still a little boy, playing in soldier’s boots several sizes too big for his feet. People started calling him Caligula which means “Little Boots” and they still called him that when he became the Roman Emperor in 37 A.D.

Caligula

As one of his royal passions, Emperor Caligula ordered several large barges to be built to use on Lake Nemi. For centuries scholars and historians debated Caligula’s reason for building the barges. Some contend that Caligula built the barges to show the rulers of Syracuse, Sicily and Egypt that Rome could match any luxurious pleasure barges that they built. Caligula bragged that his ships were the most luxurious in the world. Other scholars argue that Caligula designed one of his ships as a floating temple to Diana and some say that the other ship may have been used as a floating palace where Caligula and his court could indulge in the depravities that history has credited to him.

Suetonius, the Roman historian, described the two biggest barges as being built of cedar wood adorned with jeweled prows, rich sculptures, vessels of gold and silver, sails of purple silk and bathrooms of alabaster and bronze. The floors were paved with glass mosaic, the windows and door frames were made of bronze and many of the decorations were costly.

The flat-bottomed Nemi barges were not self-propelled. Instead, they were attached to the shore by chains and bridges stretching across the water so people and commerce could travel back and forth. The two largest ships were about 250 feet long and 70 feet wide, nearly covering Lake Nemi.

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Nemi 2

Caligula had no suspicions that officers of the Praetorian Guard and members of the Roman Senate and of the Imperial Court were conspiring to assassinate him. Although they successfully assassinated Caligula on January 21, 41 AD., the assassins were unsuccessful in their goal of restoring the Roman Republic. After Caligula’s assassination, the Roman Senate and the Praetorian Guard attempted to destroy everything connected with him, including his barges, which they pillaged and sank.

Fishermen handed down memories of Caligula’s palatial Nemi ships to their descendants, some swearing that they could see the shadowy outlines of the ships in the waters of Lake Nemi. The ships were actually buried in the mud 200 yards distant from each other in five fathoms of water; one 150 feet from the bank and the other 250 feet from the bank.

Legends of Caligula’s sunken ships filled with fabulous treasures were passed down through generations of Lake Nemi citizens. For centuries local fisherman considered Caligula’s sunken barges local landmarks and some explored the wrecks and took small treasures from them, but it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that anyone tried to explore and raise Caligula’s legendary ships.

In 1446 Cardinal Prospero Colonna, an Italian humanist, and Leon Battista Alberti, a  renowned engineer, followed the clues in the local legends about the Nemi barges, but the wrecks lay too deep to be salvaged effectively at the time. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini worked to recover Caligula’s ships for about five years – from October 1928 to October 1932. Mussolini ordered the Italian Navy engineers to drain Lake Nemi. A London Times story reported that everyone on the site cheered as the waters receded to reveal the first Nemi ship.

With all of the water removed, the level of Lake Nemi dropped 66 feet and a mud shower occurred as a result of the sinking of the lake floor. Work stopped while the government and the archaeologists debated the future of the project and Lake Nemi began refilling with water. The second ship had already begun to dry out and re-submerging caused a great deal of damage to it. The Italian Minister of Public Works ordered the project and all of the research related to it to be abandoned on November 10, 1931. The Navy Ministry, which had participated in the original recovery, petitioned the Italian Prime Minister to resume the project on February 19, 1932 and the government granted permission. Pumping out the waters of Lake Nemi resumed on March 28, 1932 and the second ship was recovered in October 1932.

The hulls of the Nemi ships and their contents were recovered, as well as items scattered around the ships, including bronze and marble ornaments, tiles and utensils. The recovery of the Nemi ships settled a prolonged and contentious scholarly argument. Before the ships were recovered, many scholars scoffed at the idea that the Romans were capable of building large enough ships to carry grain, despite ancient sources that said they had built such ships. The size of the Nemi Ships proved that the ancient sources were correct.

Over the centuries, scholars have also debated whether or not the lead bars found on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea were from anchors used on Roman ships. The Nemi ships were built during the transition between the use of wooden and iron anchors and they were the first Romans ships found with intact anchors. The Nemi ships confirmed that the lead bars were from the anchors. Additionally, the Romans made ball bearings out of lead and they probably used the ball bearings on the Nemi ships to make the statues of the gods rotate.

Both of Caligula’s Nemi ships contained several hand-operated bilge pumps working like modern bucket dredges, the oldest example of this type of pump ever found. Piston pumps on the two Nemi ships supplied hot and cold running water through lead pipes. The Romans used the hot water for baths and the cold water for fountains and drinking water. This piston pump technology later was lost to history and not rediscovered until the Middle Ages.

The Italian government built a museum called the Lake Nemi Museum over both ships in 1935 and it opened in January 1936.

Source: History Because It’s Here

The Cuisine of the Roman Empire

Food, like the weather, seems to be a universal topic of conversation, endlessly fascinating and a constant part of our lives. In addition to art and archaeology, we have information on Roman food from a variety of written sources. Here are two ancient recipes for porridge written by Cato the Elder from De Agricultura.

Recipe for Punic porridge:

Soak a pound of groats in water until it is quite soft. Pour it into a clean bowl, add 3 pounds of fresh cheese, 1/2 pound of honey, and 1 egg, and mix the whole thoroughly; turn into a new pot.

Recipe for wheat pap:

Pour 1/2 pound of clean wheat into a clean bowl, wash well, remove the husk thoroughly, and clean well. Pour into a pot with pure water and boil. When done, add milk slowly until it makes a thick cream.

For those who could afford it, breakfast, eaten very early, would consist of salted bread, milk or wine and perhaps dried fruit, eggs or cheese. The Roman lunch, a quick meal, eaten around noon could include salted bread or be more elaborate with fruit, salad, eggs, meat or fish, vegetables and cheese. Dinner, the main meal of the day, would be accompanied by wine, usually well-watered. An ordinary upper class dinner would include meat, vegetable, egg and fruit.

An Ancient Roman Meal

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Roman Egg Drop Soup – Stracciatella

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts (liters) mixed meat broth
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1 tablespoon very finely minced parsley
  • 3 tablespoons semolina
  • A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Directions

In a bowl, combine the eggs, semolina, grated cheese, nutmeg and parsley. Add a ladle of cold broth and beat the mixture lightly with a fork or whisk.

Bring the remainder of the broth to a boil. Add the egg mixture all at once, stirring vigorously with a whisk or fork to break up the egg, which will form fine, light flakes or small rags (straccetti, in Italian) that give the soup its name.

Simmer for another 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, and serve with a little more grated Parmigiano on the side.

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Aliter Lenticulam (Lentils)

Ingredients

  • 750 ml sweet white wine
  • 250 g green lentils
  • 3 large leeks, sliced
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • Pinch of asafoetida (an ancient spice similar to garlic with an onion flavor)
  • Dash of bitters
  • Generous handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 225 g honey (This amount used in the recipe’s translation is excessive, as a reader kindly pointed out. After researching amounts of honey used in the Roman days, I would say no more than a half a cup should be used, if that. A couple of tablespoons would probably suit our current tastes. That was all I used when I tested the recipe.)
  • Generous splash of wine vinegar
  • Generous splash of must (grape juice boiled until it’s reduced to 3/4 of its volume)
  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a little oil to a pan and, when hot, stir-in the asafoetida and coriander seeds. Cook until the seeds begin to splutter, then grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Add the rosemary leaves and pound to crush them. Add just enough vinegar to bring the mixture together as a paste and add a dash of bitters.

Combine the sweet wine and lentils in a pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the lentils are tender (about 60 minutes). When the lentils are almost done add the leeks, honey, coriander and mint along with the spice and vinegar blend. Flavor with a little more wine vinegar and must.

Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the leeks are tender. Garnish with extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper, then serve.

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Aliter Sepias

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a classic dish of cooked squid or cuttlefish served in a spiced and herb white wine sauce thickened with an egg yolk.

1 kg cooked squid or cuttlefish

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 teaspoon lovage seeds (or celery seeds) 
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds 
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled 
  • 1 raw egg yolk 
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 60 ml fish stock 
  • 60 ml white wine 
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar 
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions

Pound together the pepper, lovage (or celery) seeds, coriander and mint in a mortar. Work in the honey, stock, wine, vinegar and olive oil then pour into a pan.

Heat slowly and, when warm, gently whisk in the beaten egg yolk. Bring to a simmer (do not boil) and cook on low heat until thickened.

Arrange boiled or fried squid (cuttlefish) on a warmed serving dish, pour the sauce over the squid.

Nemi 7

Honeyed Quinces

This is a traditional ancient Roman recipe for a dessert of quinces boiled in a sauce of white wine and honey. Pears can be substituted but quinces are more tart. If using pears reduce the honey by 1/3 and add the juice of half a lime.

Ingredients

  • 10 quinces 
  • 100 ml honey 
  • Cinnamon 
  • 250 ml sweet white wine

Directions

Peel, core and dice the quinces and put them in a saucepan. Add the wine and honey and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until they are soft (reduce the cooking time for pears). Chill before serving. Pour into individual bowls.

 


Like other art forms that aim to attract a mass audience (movies, television, Broadway shows), pop music has been and continues to be a melting pot that borrows and assimilates elements and ideas from a wide range of musical styles. Rock, r&b, country, disco, punk, Latin and hip hop are all specific genres of music that have influenced and been incorporated into pop music in various ways over the past 5 decades. Italian Americans have helped shape American popular music as composers and performers.

Louis Prima (1910-1978)

a trumpeter, composer and bandleader, who successfully crossed the line from jazz to swing, then to R&B and finally to rock n’ roll. Some of his famous compositions are “Brooklyn Boogie” and “Oh Babe.” His greatest achievement was his 1936 composition “Sing, Sing, Sing” which was later recorded by Benny Goodman and stands as the most powerful big band/ jazz hit of all time.

Prima was from a musical family in New Orleans. His father, Anthony Prima, was the son of Leonardo Di Prima, a Sicilian immigrant from Salaparuta, while his mother, Angelina Caravella, had immigrated from Ustica as a baby. Louis was the second child of Angelina Caravella and Anthony Prima. His older brother, Leon, was born in 1907. He had two younger sisters: Elizabeth and Marguerite. Louis’s mother, Angelina made sure that each child played an instrument. Louis was assigned the violin and started out playing at his church. He became interested in jazz when he heard the black musicians playing at Italian owned and operated clubs, such as Matranga’s, Joe Segretta’s, Tonti’s Social Club and Lala’s, where Blacks and Italians played together.

According to author, Garry Boulard, in his book, Louis Prima, Prima paid attention to the music coming from the clubs and watched his older brother, Leon, play the cornet. After dropping out of high school, Prima had a few unsuccessful gigs and he got a temporary job playing on the steamship, Capital, that docked on Canal Street. From 1931 to 1932 Louis occupied his time by performing in the Avalon Club owned by his brother Leon. His first break was when Lou Forbes hired him for daily afternoon and early evening shows at The Saenger.

New York was an attraction for hungry musicians during the Great Depression. Prima headed to New York City next to further his music career. While there he met Guy Lombardo, who was a positive influence on Prima’s career. In 1934, Prima was offered a contract with Brunswick label and recorded the songs: “That’s Where the South Begins,” “Long About Midnight,” “Jamaica Shout” and “Star Dust.” Prima generated positive responses from growing fans and critics alike with his records and formed his band called, The New Orleans Gang, which consisted of Frank Pinero on piano, Jack Ryan on bass, Garrett McAdams on guitar and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The band played gigs in and around New York and Prima’s stage presence became an attraction to the band’s live shows.

Prima’s style fused Dixieland and swing by the late 1930s. By 1935 Prima relocated to Los Angeles, where he found moderate success. Due to a knee injury, Proma was not drafted during WWII and continued to perform and build up a following. By the mid-1940s, Prima’s music was a huge success with the general public. When the war was over, the music industry had been affected and big bands were becoming a thing of the past as the 1950s emerge.

1954 saw Prima embark on the Vegas circuit with singer Keely Smith. The duo enlisted the legendary saxophonist, Sam Butera to perform with them. They also recorded “Old Black Magic,” which earned them a Grammy Award.

Harry Warren (1893-1981)

was born Salvatore Guaragna in Brooklyn and was the son of a Calabrian boot maker. One of Hollywood’s most successful and prolific composers during the 30s, 40s and 50s, he wrote “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “I Only Have Eyes For You,” “A Love Affair to Remember” and “That’s Amore,” among many other songs. Between 1935 and 1950, he wrote more hit songs than Cole Porter, Irving Berlin or George Gershwin, three of which earned him Academy Awards: “Lullaby of Broadway,” “You’ll Never Know” and “Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.”

Warren was one of eleven children of Italian immigrants Antonio (a bootmaker) and Rachel De Luca Guaragn and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. His father changed the family name to Warren when Harry was a child. Although his parents could not afford music lessons, Warren had an early interest in music and taught himself to play his father’s accordion. He also sang in the church choir and learned to play the drums. He played the drums professionally at age 14 and dropped out of high school at 16 to play with his godfather’s band in a traveling carnival. Soon he taught himself to play the piano and by 1915, he was working at the Vitagraph Motion Picture Studios, where he did a variety of administrative jobs, such as props man, played mood music on the piano for the actors, acted in bit parts and eventually was promoted to assistant director. He also played the piano in cafés and silent-movie houses.

Warren wrote over 800 songs between 1918 and 1981, publishing over 500 of them. They were written mainly for feature films. His songs eventually appeared in over 300 films and 112 of Warner Brothers, “Looney Tunes” cartoons. 42 of his songs were on the top ten list of the radio program “Your Hit Parade”, a measure of a song’s popularity. 21 of these reached #1 on “Your Hit Parade”. “You’ll Never Know” appeared 24 times. His song, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, is listed as one of the 25 most-performed songs of the 20th Century, as compiled by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). Warren was the director of ASCAP from 1929 to 1932.

He collaborated on some of his most famous songs with lyricists Al Dubin, Billy Rose, Mack Gordon, Leo Robin, Ira Gershwin and Johnny Mercer. In 1942 the Gordon-Warren song, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”, performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, became the first gold record in history. It was No.1 for 9 weeks on the Billboard pop singles chart in 1941–1942, selling 1.2 million copies. Among his biggest hits were “There Will Never Be Another You”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Forty-Second Street”, “The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Serenade In Blue”, “At Last”, “Jeepers Creepers”, “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me”, “That’s Amore” and “Young and Healthy”.

Guy Lombardo (1929-1977)

was born in London, Ontario, to Italian-Canadian immigrants, Gaetano Sr. and Lena Lombardo. His father, who had immigrated to Canada from Italy and worked as a tailor, was an amateur singer with a baritone voice and had four of his five sons learn to play instruments, so they could accompany him. Lombardo and his brothers formed their first orchestra while still in grammar school and rehearsed in the back of their father’s tailor shop. Lombardo first performed in public with his brother, Carmen, at a church lawn party in 1914. Forming “The Royal Canadians” in 1924 with his brothers Carmen, Lebert and Victor and other musicians from his hometown, Lombardo led the group to international success, billing themselves as creating “The Sweetest Music This Side of Heaven.” The Lombardos are believed to have sold between 100 and 300 million phonograph records during their lifetimes.

In early 1932, the band signed with Brunswick records and continued their success through 1934, until they signed with Decca (1934–1935). They then signed with Victor in 1935 and stayed until mid 1938, when again they signed with Decca. In 1938, Lombardo became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Although Lombardo’s “sweet” big-band music was viewed by some in the jazz and big-band community of the day as “corny”, trumpeter Louis Armstrong famously enjoyed Lombardo’s music.

Guy Lombardo is best known for his New Year’s Eve big band performances, first on radio and then on television. Lombardo’s orchestra played at the “Roosevelt Grill” in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City from 1929 to 1959 on New Year’s Eve and continued at the Waldorf Astoria until 1976. Broadcasts (and later telecasts) of their performances were a major part of New Year’s celebrations across North America; millions of people watched the show with friends at house parties. Because of this popularity, Lombardo was calleed, “Mr. New Year’s Eve.”

On December 31, 1956, the Lombardo band did their first New Year’s TV special on CBS; the program (and Lombardo’s 20 subsequent New Year’s Eve TV shows) would include a live segment from Times Square (long the focal point of America’s New Year’s Eve celebrations) showcasing the arrival of the New Year. While CBS carried most of the Lombardo New Year’s specials, there were a few years in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the special was syndicated live to individual TV stations instead of being broadcast on a network. By the middle 1970’s, the Lombardo TV show was facing competition, especially for younger viewers, from Dick Clark’s, “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”, but Lombardo remained popular among viewers, especially older ones. The Royal Canadians were noted for playing the traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne” as part of the celebrations. Their recording of the song still plays as the first song of the new year in Times Square.

Al Caiola (1920-)

was born Alexander Emil Caiola in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is a guitarist who plays jazz, country, rock, western and pop music. He has been both a studio musician and a stage performer. He has recorded over fifty albums and has worked with some of the biggest stars of the 20th century, including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Percy Faith, Buddy Holly, Mitch Miller and Tony Bennett.

Caiola was an active studio musician in the 1950s centered in the New York City area. He released some minor records under his own name during that decade. In 1960 he became a recording star on the United Artists (UA) label for over least ten years. He had prominent pop hits in 1961 with “The Magnificent Seven” and “Bonanza”. His style was inspired by Duane Eddy’s twangy bass guitar sound. The arrangements were typically by Don Costa, using a large orchestral backing. Caiola continuously released singles and albums throughout the 1960s and beyond, though no others appeared on the charts except for an entry in 1964 with “From Russia with Love”. UA used him to make commercial recordings for many movie and television themes. His popular and sought-after album was 1961’s, “Hit Instrumentals From Western TV Themes”, which included “Wagon Train (Wagons Ho)”, “Paladin”, “The Rebel” and “Gunslinger”. Solid Gold Guitar, probably his most impressive album, contained the popular songs of “Jezebel”, “Two Guitars”, “Big Guitar”, “I Walk the Line” and “Guitar Boogie”.

The Magnificent Seven album, other than the title track, consisted of a variety of pop songs with a jazzy bent. Guitars Guitars Guitars was similar. There was a wide variety to his albums — soft pop, Italian, Hawaiian, country and jazz. In the early 1970s he continued with the Avalanche Records label, producing similar work including the album, Theme From the ‘Magnificent 7 Ride’ ’73. Later, on other labels, came some ethnic-themed instrumental albums, such as Spanish Mood in 1982 and other Italian instrumentals. In 1976, Al Caiola accompanied Sergio Franchi, Dana Valery and Wayne J. Kirby on a concert tour to Johannesburg, South Africa.

During World War II Caiola played with the United States Marine Corps 5th Marine Division Band and also served in the Battle of Iwo Jima as a stretcher bearer.

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William “Bill” Conti (1942-)

is an American film music composer, who is frequently the conductor at the Academy Awards ceremony. Conti, an Italian American, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Lucetta and William Conti. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and also studied at the Juilliard School of Music.

His big break into celebrity came in 1976, when he was hired to compose the music for a small United Artists film called, “Rocky”. The film became a phenomenon and Conti’s training song, “Gonna Fly Now” topped the Billboard singles chart in 1977. He also composed music for the sequels “Rocky II” (1979), “Rocky II”I (1982), “Rocky V” (1990) and “Rocky Balboa” (2006). Conti also worked on some other films and, eventually, for television. In 1981, he wrote the music for the James Bond film, “For Your Eyes Only” and provided the score for playwright Jason Miller’s film version of his Pulitzer Prize winning play, “That Championship Season”, the following year.

In 1983, he composed the score for HBO’s first film, “The Terry Fox Story”. Conti composed music for the films “Bad Boys” and “Mass Appeal”. Then in 1984, he received an Academy Award for composing the score to 1983’s “The Right Stuff” followed by composing music for the TV series, “North and South” in 1985. He also composed the score for “The Karate Kid”, as well as, “Masters of the Universe”. Another Conti score was the 1987 film “Happy New Year”.

In 1991, he composed the score for” Necessary Roughness”, a college football movie starring Scott Bakula, Sinbad and Héctor Elizondo. In 1993, he composed and wrote the music for “The Adventures of Huck Finn” starring Elijah Wood. In 1999, he composed the score for “The Thomas Crown Affair” remake, starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo and, in the same year, he composed the original music of “Inferno”, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. He also composed the classic themes to television’s “Dynasty” as well as, writng the score for “The Cosby”s, “Falcon Crest”, “Cagney & Lacey” and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.  Conti also composed the theme song to the original version of “American Gladiators” and the themes for “Inside Edition” and “Primetime Live” for ABC News. Bill Conti was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Classic Italian American Recipes

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Stuffed Calamari in Gravy

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, basil, and marjoram
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomato
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup mixture of parmesan cheese and romano cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2–3 lbs. small squid bodies (3″–4″), cleaned

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy pot and cook the onions and 6 cloves garlic over medium heat until soft. Add oregano, basil, marjoram and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and 2 cups water. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, adding half the parsley when the sauce is cooked.

Combine bread crumbs, cheese mixture, remaining garlic, 1/3 cup parsley, eggs and salt and pepper to taste in a mixing bowl. Stuff squid with bread-crumb mixture and the secure tops with toothpicks.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet and sauté squid in small batches until browned on all sides, about 2–4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Place the squid in the tomato sauce and cook for 15 minutes longer. Garnish with remaining parsley.

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Chicken Parmesan

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten with a little water
  • 1 1/2 cups dried Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 4 slices provolone cheese (about 3-4 oz.)
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Heat oven to broil and place a rack 10″ from the heating element. Season chicken cutlets lightly with salt and pepper.

Place flour, eggs and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge in flour, eggs and bread crumbs and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 pieces of breaded chicken and cook, turning once with tongs, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to an

aluminum foil–lined baking sheet. Wipe out skillet and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

Top each piece of chicken with 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce, 1 slice provolone cheese and 1 1/2 tablespoons parmesan. Broil until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

manicotti

Baked Manicotti

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups Marinara Sauce
  • 1 8-oz. box dried manicotti shells (about 14)
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 7 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Directions

Coat a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce across the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the manicotti and cook until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain manicotti and set aside on kitchen towels.

Heat oven to 450°F. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer garlic to a medium bowl along with the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, 5 tablespoons chopped parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg and eggs and stir to combine.

Spoon some of the filling into both openings of each manicotti shell. (Alternatively, transfer the ricotta mixture to a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag, snip off a bottom corner of the bag, and pipe filling into pasta.) Repeat with remaining manicotti shells.

Transfer stuffed manicotti to prepared baking dish, making 2 rows. Spread the remaining marinara sauce over the manicotti and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Bake until hot and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

scampi

Shrimp Scampi

Ingredients

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Directions

Lightly dredge shrimp in flour and set aside on a plate.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, sauté shrimp until just pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel–lined plate to absorb excess oil. Repeat process until all shrimp have been sautéed.

Wipe excess oil from the skillet, then stir in wine, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice and stock. Heat over high heat to boiling and whisk in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium low and add shrimp to reheat, tossing to coat well with the sauce, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Serve with linguine, if you like.

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When you are looking for “true” Italian recipes of any kind, you may become very perplexed over numerous versions of the same recipe. Which one is the right one? Which is the “classic?” Let me try to shed some light on this quandary: In Italy, each person or restaurant, puts a personal spin on a recipe. The variations depend on personal taste, family background, specific area of Italy and what is easily available and very fresh in that area. Italians are notorious for being fiercely independent, even when it comes to recipes.

Using a musical analogy: Many musicians can play the same piece of music but it is the interpretation that makes one stand apart from another. Each recipe has a personal interpretation. To make it even more complicated, Italians will hardly ever be able to give you a precise recipe: It’s “A handful of this, a pinch of that” as cooking is often learned from watching other family members and done “a occhio” (by eye-balling) quantities. Cooking is not a chemistry formula, it is an artistic experience; it is a way to express your creativity, enjoy all the steps of the process and render a wonderful result. (http://toscanamia.biz/blog/)

Itaiian Chefs – Modern Yet Classical

Anna Dente Ferracci is preserving Roman cooking traditions at her cozy family restaurant, serving perfect versions of well known Lazio pastas like carbonara.

The small town of San Cesareo sits on rich farmlands on the Via Labicana, an ancient road connecting Tusculum and Praeneste –  two important towns of the Roman period. The chef at Osteria di San Cesario, Anna Dente, is known as the “Queen of Matriciana”. She not only makes the pasta and sauce herself, she draws on her family’s four decades in the butchering business to make her own guanciale (cured hog jowl).

Anna was born in 1943 in the small rural hamlet of San Cesareo near Zagarolo in the province of Rome (Lazio), a rich agricultural zone. Her mother and father ran a local butcher shop or ‘norcineria’, as well as, a few hectares of land producing grain, fruit and grapes, while her grandfather worked as a young man in the slaughterhouse of Monte Compatri. Her grandmother was a ciambellaia or biscuit maker and introduced Anna to the use of wild country herbs for use in bread, cakes and liqueurs. From an early age she would also frequent the kitchen of her Aunt Ada’s osteria. Not surprisingly, a passion for traditional Roman dishes and cooking soon took hold of young Anna.

Anna grew up helping her mother and father run their butcher shop and garden in San Cesareo, where she learned about fresh meats and vegetables. At a young age, she began cooking alongside her aunt in their family-run osteria in Rome. An osteria (Italian pronunciation: osteˈria) in Italy was originally a place serving wine and simple food. Lately, the emphasis has shifted to the food, but menus tend to be short, with an emphasis on local specialities such as pasta, grilled meat or fish and often served at shared tables. Ideal for a cheap lunch, osterie (the plural in Italian) also serves meals for after work or evening refreshment.

She learned to cook quality food with generations-old recipes that included fresh herbs and ingredients. Today, her family’s osteria guarantees the same quality of home-produced meats and vegetables with the aim of preserving traditions from generations past.

The lifetime culinary experience of the family was consolidated in 1995 with the opening of a restaurant in San Cesareo with emphasis on preserving the preparation of traditional dishes and, in particular, those originating from a zone between the Castelli Romani or Roman Hills and Prenestina. The restaurant was named after an osteria in the town dating from Roman times called ‘Lavicanum Caesaris’ when it was an important stop along the Via Labicana connecting Rome to Capua. It was also the site of the country villa of Julius Caesar.

Anna’s cuisine soon gained national and, then, international recognition from publications, such as, Gambero Rosso, Il Corriere Della Sera, L’Espresso in Italy, The Michelin Guide, Travel and Leisure and Italian Cooking and Living Abroad. Heinz Beck, three star Michelin Chef of La Pergola in Rome, even describes ‘Sora Anna’ as the ‘Queen of Roman cooking’.

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Chef Ferracci”s recipe for Rustic Vegetable Soup with Salt Cod

Ingredients

  • One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes—tomatoes chopped, juices reserved
  • One 3/4-pound salt cod fillet
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing and drizzling
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced crosswise 1 inch thick
  • 2 pounds fresh cranberry beans, shelled (2 cups), or canned pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 pound kale—stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped (3 cups)
  • 1/2 pound escarole—large stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped (3 cups)
  • One 1/2-pound baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of country-style bread

Directions

In a large bowl, cover the salt cod with cold water. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 2 days. Change the water three times a day.

In a large, enameled casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the zucchini, beans, onion, kale, escarole, potato and tomatoes with their juices. Add the water and crushed red pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 50 minutes. Season lightly with salt.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°. Set the bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Generously brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Bake for about 12 minutes, until browned and crisp.

Add the cod to the casserole and simmer over moderately low heat until the cod is heated through, about 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, gently break the cod into 2-inch pieces. Set the toasted bread in shallow bowls. Ladle the soup over the bread. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

Gennaro Esposito, chef at Torre del Saracino, where local Amalfi Coast favorites, such as, ricotta soup with red mullet and sea urchin are served.

“I was truly fortunate to have a mother who taught me all about genuine food products and our traditional regional cuisine. She and her father were tenant farmers, so in our house I grew up knowing the importance of organic foods. It was our way of life to eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, those cultivated without pesticides. These experiences are still of the utmost importance to me when I’m inventing a menu, because I always put these concepts and flavors in my new dishes. One of my uncles, the husband of one of my mother’s sisters, is a pastry chef. I began working in his shop when I was nine years old. It was thanks to this experience that I chose to remain in the kitchen.”

Gennaro Esposito was born at Vico Equense on the beautiful Amalfi Coast. There were two determining moments in his professional development, as Esposito explains: “an internship with Gianfranco Vissani, one of Italy’s top chefs and a coincidental encounter with Alain Ducasse during one of the many times “il maestro” had come to Positano on vacation.” Before he knew it, Esposito found himself in Ducasse’s kitchens at the Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo and at the Plaza Athénée Hotel in Paris. “In both,” he likes to tell, “I learned the exact meaning of perfectionism and of fanatic attention to detail. What’s particularly special about Ducasse is that he’s like a teacher during the Renaissance in that he brings out the aptitudes of his interns. He doesn’t impose his style; he proposes it very subtly but incisively. He encourages and supports his interns’ abilities through his wide experience. I was especially moved by his love for Mediterranean cuisine which he enriches with the grand tradition and competence of French cuisine.”

“From Vissani, I learned to use many unconventional ingredients. He broadened my awareness of ingredients and my skills. He also taught me that creativity combined with familiarity and skillfulness knows no limits in the kitchen and that I could create combinations unthought-of until then which would give my future guests unique experiences. That was my goal then and it still is.”

Back in his beloved home region in 1992, with his wife Vittoria, who is the pastry chef and in-charge of the dining room, he opened the restaurant, La Torre del Saracino.” I think that today top chefs must be cultured. They have to have time to expand their general knowledge, to learn more about local cuisine and food products and to invent their very own style. Secondly, they have to be creative, but must also have a solid base in traditional cuisine on which to build this creativity. Thirdly, they must know how to motivate and stimulate their staff, their team and must be able to transmit their passion for this profession.”

gennaro-esposito

Chef Esposito’s recipe: Risotto with tomato sauce, candied lemon and squids stuffed with smoked buffalo provola cheese

Ingredients for 2 people

For the squid

  • 4 squid
  • – 60 g (about 2 oz. or ½ cup) DOP smoked buffalo provola cheese from Campania

For the risotto

  • – 200 g (about 1 cup) Carnaroli rice
  • – 200 g (about 1 cup)“cuore di bue” (Italian heart shaped) tomatoes (cut into big cubes)
  • – 6 squid, finely chopped
  • – 20 g (about 2-3 tablespoons) DOP smoked buffalo provola cheese from Campania
  • – 30 g (1/4 cup) candied lemon
  • – 2 litre (8 cups) of seafood and vegetable light broth
  • – 100 g (7/8 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • – 10 g (3/4 tablespoon) butter
  • – 10 basil leaves
  • – 1 teaspoon of chopped onion
  • – the juice of half a lemon
  • – a clove of garlic
  • – salt and pepper to taste
  • – Garnish with tomatoes cubes and basil

Directions

Stuff four squid with the smoked provola cheese cut into pieces, close with a toothpick and bake at 100°C (210 F) for about 2 minutes.

Heat the broth to boiling.

Toast the rice with about half the oil and add the onion in a large saucepan. Finish toasting and add the boiling broth.

In the meantime brown a clove of garlic in half the olive oil in another saucepan. Add the tomatoes, the basil and the salt and cook for about 3 minutes. Add to the rice.

Cook the risotto until slightly underdone, stirring often, and add the finely cut squid. Continue to cook until rice is cooked to your taste and add the candied lemon.

Turn the heat off, add pepper, butter and the lemon juice to balance the sweet and sour taste.

Put the risotto in the center of the plate and place the cheese stuffed squid without toothpicks on it. Garnish with pieces of blanched tomatoes and basil leaves.

Paolo Lopriore, chef of Tuscany’s Il Canto Tuscany’s, reinvents classics, like cacio e pepe (pasta with pepper and cheese) as twisted rigatoni filled with black-pepper gelée.

Lopriore was born in Como in 1973 and his earliest inspiration was in his mother’s kitchen – a woman who was a self-taught and passionate home cook and one who instilled a strong sense for cooking with local, quality, seasonal ingredients. Chef Lopriore at a very young age, had discovered that he had a passion for food and cooking, so he approached Italian Chef, Luciano Tona, who taught him the basics in cooking. However, it was in 1990 that his real culinary training occurred. He went on to work at the Sole di Ranco under Chef Gualtiero Marchesi (a renowned Italian chef, considered to be the founder of modern Italian cuisine), and he stayed there for two years, learning the techniques and perfecting his own style, before leaving the restaurant to complete his military obligations.

Once his duty to his country was fulfilled, he went to work in Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri and eventually returned to work at Sole di Ranco. There, he completed his training under Chef Marchesi and went off once more to search for work in some of the finest restaurants in Italy. He found work at the Ledoyen and La Maison Troisgros. In 1998, Chef Lopriore met Norwegian Chef, Eyvind Hellström, and he went to work with him at the Bagatelle in Oslo for three years. However, something seemed to be calling him back home and, whether it was a challenge or a sense of nostalgia, he really cannot tell, but he found himself returning to his first teacher, Chef Marchesi. The relationship they had blossomed into more than just your typical master-and-apprentice relationship. What was developed was a friendship that has ample space for dialogues and debates, which inspires and promotes personal growth. Today, the two remain good friends. Chef Marchesi considers Chef Lopriore his brightest pupil and Chef Lopriore considers Chef Marchesi as a great influence in his culinary career.

In 2002, Chef Lopriore came to Certosa di Maggiano and became the executive chef of Il Canto, where he finally had the freedom to show his culinary style and ingenious way of presenting his dishes. Although he experiments with new ingredients, he always makes it a point to only use the freshest and finest ingredients and produce from his land’s very fertile countryside. in Il Canto can you enjoy exemplary non-native dishes made with wasabi or curry. Not long after he became the head chef, he began receiving awards and titles for his culinary accomplishments: 2011 Chef of the Year and The S. Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2011.

Lopriore

Chef Lopriore’s recipe for Elicoidale (Tube Pasta) with Black Pepper and Pecorino Romano

Ingredients:

  • 40 large rigatoni (tube pasta)
  • 40 g (1/3 cup) pecorino romano
  • 300 g (1 ¼ cups) water
  • 30 g fresh chili pepper, cut in half
  • 5 g agar agar
  • 25 g (1/4 cup+2 tbsp) olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper

Directions:

In a large pot, combine the water with half the chili pepper, bring to a boil; remove from heat and leave to infuse for approximately 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Return the infusion to the heat and bring it back to a boil; thicken with the agar agar and, after bringing it to a third and final boil over very high heat, cool it while stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove the pepper half.

Once cool, add the oil and whisk the mixture as if it were mayonnaise. Finally chop the remaining half pepper and incorporate into the preparation. Blend at the highest speed possible in a blender for 5 minutes. Refrigerate overnight.

Separately, cook the pasta in an abundant amount of salted water; drain, lightly dress with remaining oil.

Using a pastry bag, fill pasta tubes with the black pepper “mayonnaise”.

Heat the elicoidali in the microwave a few minutes and distribute onto 4 plates. Top with grated pecorino romano.

Serves 4.

Nadia Santini has been named the Best Female Chef 2013 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

The Veuve Clicquot World’s Best Female Chef award was presented by the British magazine, Restaurant, to Nadia Santini.  It celebrates the work of an exceptional female chef whose cooking excites the toughest of critics. Santini is the head chef at the Dal Pescatore Restaurant located in the small village near Mantua in Lombardy. The family-run restaurant opened as a trattoria in 1925 and Santini took over the running of the restaurant with her husband in 1974. She made history in 1996, when she became the first Italian woman to gain three Michelin stars for a restaurant and Dal Pescatore has retained the rating ever since. It is famous for its mix of traditional cuisine and modern influences.

Born in San Pietro Mussolino in the Veneto region, Santini was an extremely bright student, studying food chemistry and political science with sociology at the prestigious University of Milan, where she met future husband Antonio Santini. The couple married in 1974, soon returning to Antonio’s parents’ simple osteria alongside the river Oglio in Mantova, Lombardy, just south of Verona. Under the careful tutelage of Teresa and Bruna, Antonio’s grandmother and mother respectively, Santini learnt to cook traditional Mantuan cuisine: delicate handmade pasta dishes and home-cured meats and fish.

Signature dishes include tortellini stuffed with pumpkin, amaretto, Parmesan and mostarda, as well as turbot with a garnish of parsley, anchovies and capers in olive oil. Santini told Restaurant Magazine: “The cuisine is refined but not changed. Dal Pescatore is an expression of the evolution of the food on our table and the surrounding environment.”

In 2010, German filmmaker, Lutz Hachmeister created a television documentary called, “Three Stars”, in which Santini appeared with other chefs from Michelin starred restaurants. Her appearance in the documentary stood out, being described by critics as a “radiant personality and gentle, Old World approach to the nurturing of recipes, colleagues and clientele that provides the counterpoint to frenetic, confrontational kitchens run by scientist-chefs”

santini

Pasta à la Nadia Santini

The ingredients you will need for this is are:

  • 500 grams (about 1 ¼ pounds) spaghetti or pasta of choice
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 700 grams (7 cups) of tomato sauce
  • Non-refined salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  • Fresh basil, finely chopped

Directions

Boil water in a large pan.

Chop the onion and the garlic finely.

Once the water is boiling, add salt and the spaghetti and cook for half of the time as described on the package.

Simultaneously heat another pan.

Add in four tablespoons of olive oil.

To the hot oil add the chopped onions and sauté them at medium heat.

Once the onions are translucent add in half of the garlic, then the tomato sauce.

Add a cup of the pasta water and, then, add salt to taste and cover the pan and bring to boil.

Once the spaghetti has cooked for half  the time, drain and add to the tomato sauce. Cook it for the remaining time listed on the package in the tomato sauce.

Once the pasta is cooked add in the rest of the garlic, black pepper and fresh basil.

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California’s Mediterranean climate is similar to Italy’s, so the Italian immigrants felt at home and were able to bring their food and culture to this new land. The California soil was ideal for planting crops Italians were used to growing, such as eggplant, artichokes, broccoli and Sicilian lemons. Italians also brought with them a love of wine as well as a history of making it.

Nearly 200 members of the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society and the Folsom Historical Society attended the opening reception for the exhibit “Nostra Storia” on January 28, 2000. This is a unique story about that wave of people from Italy, primarily from the area around Genoa in the region of Liguria, who settled in the foothills of the Mother Lode region (Sierra Nevada Mountains) of Northern California in the Mid-19th century. This is the first time that an exhibit has been created to tell the story of these enterprising people who contributed so much to the economic and cultural fabric of California. The history of the Italian Americans is often relegated to the margins of American history despite the fact that the Italians are the 4th largest ancestry group in America with more than 25 million Americans and two million Californians of Italian descent (based on the 2000 Census).This exhibit is part of the determination of this current generation of Italians, to see that the Italian immigrant story is told and included in the history of the nation.

California’s gold country has been profoundly influenced by Italian culture for the last 160 years. Immigrants from Italy’s northern provinces were drawn here by the lure of gold, but it was the allure of the California foothills where they found the terrain and climate similar to that of Italy, that convinced them to stay. California’s fledgling economy provided unparalleled opportunities for Italian businessmen and unclaimed land was available for agriculturalists. Settlement soon brought women and children and, within a decade, Italians represented a significant portion of the population in the region, numbering among the gold country’s leading farmers, merchants and tradesmen. The Mother Lode also offered women unique advantages and Italian women proved wonderfully resourceful when necessity demanded. The 1870s saw a second wave of immigration, as Italian laborers arrived to work in the large, corporate-owned gold mines. Descendents of many of these Italian pioneers remain in the gold country to this day.

Del Monte

Across the state, the Italians also settled on the farmlands and played a prominent role in developing today’s fruit, vegetable and dairy industries. By the 1880’s, Italians dominated the fruit and vegetable industry in the great Central Valley of California. Italian immigrants also left their mark on the California food processing industry. Marco Fontana arrived in the United States in 1859 and along with another Ligurian, Antonio Cerruti, established a chain of canneries under the “Del Monte” label. Most of their workers were Italian and their cannery soon became the largest in the world.

One of the most inspiring of California’s Italians was Amadeo Pietro Giannini, who was born in 1870 to immigrant Italian parents from Genoa. He started the first statewide system of branch banks in the nation by opening branches of his Bank of Italy in the Italian neighborhoods across the state. He later changed the name of his bank to Bank of America, which became the largest bank in the world.

The California wine industry also owes much to the Italian founders of the industry. Italians have been planting vineyards and making wine in America since the early colonial days when Filippo Mazzei, planted vineyards with Thomas Jefferson. The founding of the Italian Swiss Colony at Asti in 1881 as a cooperative of Italian immigrants from the wine growing regions of Italy, promoted the widespread participation and success of the Italians in the California wine industry and the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Largest wine vat in the world, Asti, about 1900. The vat is still there, but today it contains water for fire protection instead of wine. (Cloverdale Historical Society collection)

Oakland, the other city by the bay, was a magnet for Italian immigrants in the early decades of the 20th century. Some relocated from San Francisco after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire; many more came to Oakland predominantly from Italy’s northern regions. As they established new roots and adopted new ways, they congregated largely in north Oakland’s bustling Temescal neighborhood and these Italian Americans nurtured their old country customs and traditions for generations–giving us a rare glimpse of bygone days.

Los Angeles’, “Little Italy”, presents a history of the city’s vibrant Italian enclave during the 100-year period following the arrival of the city’s first Italian pioneers in 1827. While Los Angeles possesses the nation’s fifth-largest Italian population today, little is known about its Italian history which has been examined by only a handful of historians over the past 50 years. Much of LA’s historic Little Italy has been masked by subsequent ethnic settlements, however, the community’s memory lives on. From pioneer agriculturalists and winemakers to philanthropists and entertainment personalities, Italian Americans left a lasting impression on the city’s social, economic and cultural fabric and contributed to Los Angeles’ development as one of the world’s major metropolises.

San Pedro Port

While the downtown cluster (St. Peter’s Italian Church, Casa Italiana and the Italian Hall) may loosely be construed a Little Italy, San Pedro today represents one of the few visible local nuclei of Italians. This clustering on the Los Angeles landscape has arisen for a unique reason. Until recently, San Pedro was geographically and occupationally compact due to its function as Los Angeles’ port and due to what was, formerly, a significant fishing industry. San Pedro Italians came from two Italian island fishing communities: Ischia and Sicily. Although they arrived with the migrations of the early 20th. century (the Sicilians later), the independent nature of this group’s trade and the relative geographic compactness of San Pedro, fostered the preservation of ethnic loyalty.

Attracted by the mild climate and abundance of fertile land, Italians came to the Santa Clara Valley from all regions of Italy. Beginning in the 1880s, Italian men, women and children filled the numerous canneries and packing houses, supplying the rest of the nation with fresh produce. Once the largest ethnic group in the valley, the Italians’ impact on the region has been profound. Here are some of their stories:

Rodolfo Mussi was born in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania in 1914 to an Italian immigrant father, who worked in the coalmines. Rodolfo’s mother died at a young age forcing the family to return to Italy. The village of Riccione in Northern Italy did not offer much hope to young Rodolfo, who at age sixteen returned with his father’s permission to the United States. His father let him leave Italy on one condition: that he head to California not Pennsylvania. At sixteen with little money, no family or friends or command of the English language, Rodolfo went to work in the mud baths in Calistoga. He later moved to Stockton and went to work on a farm. He noticed a plot of land that was not being farmed and inquired about the property. He had no money to purchase the land or equipment to farm it, but his determination impressed the landowner, Mr. Lucas, who leased the land to Mussi. After thirty years, Mussi secured a twenty-five year lease and his sons still lease and farm the same land today

Joseph Solari II’s great grandfather arrived in Stockton in 1877 and his family was among the first to grow cherries in the area. Four generations of the Solari family farmed in Stockton and their products are sold around the country through the California Fruit Exchange, founded in 1901. The cherries and plums are packed on the Solari Ranch and then sent to the east coast. The Solari family was also involved with the founding of two additional organizations: the San Joaquin Marketing Association (1922) and the San Joaquin Cherry Growers (1935).

In addition to cherries, Stockton was also known for its tomatoes. Two families cornered the market for quality tomatoes and tomato products. The Cortopassi family business began in 1942 with fresh-packed canned tomato products. Today, their products are available only through food service distributors in the United States and Canada. George Lagorio began farming in 1945 on thirty acres. Today the Lagorio family farms over 10,000 acres. The ACE Tomato Company founded in 1968 ships worldwide today. Their Specialty Products include olive oil, walnuts, cherries and wine grapes. George’s daughter, Kathleen Lagorio Janssen and her husband Dean expanded the family business a few years ago with the purchase of olive orchards. Now the company also produces extra virgin olive oil.

Italian immigrants to San Jose, located south of San Francisco in the Silicon Valley, came from many Italian regions, but a majority of them arrived from villages in southern Italy and Sicily. There were two primary Italian neighborhoods in San Jose,  as its population grew in the early to mid twentieth century. The Goosetown neighborhood included Auzarias Avenue and North 1st. Street. This neighborhood bordered Willow Glen, where many Italian Americans still reside. The second neighborhood was around North 13th. Street and it included Holy Cross Church and Backesto Park. One Italian immigrant who eventually made his home in San Jose was Mario Marchese, who was born in 1878 in Palermo Sicily. He left home for New York in 1903 with other family members and, when he arrived in NY, he took a job moving furniture. In 1907 he married his boss’s daughter, Domenica Pavia. Shortly after the birth of their first child, they took the train west to California in search of a better opportunity. Mario and Domenica had ten children and lived in the Italian neighborhood known as Goosetown. Mario initially worked as a prune picker and was eventually hired by Navelete’s Nursery to oversee the orchards.

 

Brothers Andrea and Stefano D’Arrigo were born in Messina, Sicily and emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and 1911 respectfully. They eventually settled in Boston, went to college and fought for the U.S. in World War I. They started D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of Massachusetts in 1923. Stefano travelled to California in 1925 on a wine grape buying trip. He observed the fertile farmland in San Jose and, soon after, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California was launched and they were growing vegetables in San Jose. The broccoli seeds arrived from Italy and were planted over twenty-eight acres, making them the first to introduce broccoli to the public under their brand, Andy Boy, trademarked in 1927. They remain one of the largest fresh produce growers in the country and the company is still family run.

Women Cannery Workers 

The Bisceglia Brother’s Canning Company employed many Italian immigrant women and was located on South First Street close to the Goosetown neighborhood. They earned less pay than the men but worked less hours. The women worked on the assembly line peeling, cutting, pitting and slicing by hand. By the 1930s and 1940s women were promoted to supervisors, better known to the employees as floor ladies. These women supervised thirty-five to forty-five women on the production line and they typically supervised their own ethnic group.

More than most people realize, the Italian Americans helped to shape the cultural landscape of California and the modern West. The enterprise and success of these Italian pioneers is a unique legacy – one shared by all of us. 

(Sources: We Are California: Stories of Immigration and Change A California Stories Project of the California Council for the Humanities.  www.weareca.org  The California Italian American Project is designed to make available to students and researchers basic information and resources about California’s original Italian communities.)                       

California is where pizza became “boutique” food, starting in the 1980s, as part of a larger attraction to the Mediterranean cuisine. Alice Waters put a wood-burning oven into her café at Chéz Panisse and Wolfgang Puck became famous by feeding Hollywood stars $100 caviar pies. Puck’s pizza man, Ed LaDou, went on to found the California Pizza Kitchen chain. The chain is widely known for its innovative and non traditional pizzas, such as the “Original BBQ Chicken Pizza”, BLT, Thai Chicken and Jamaican Jerk Chicken pizzas. They also serve various kinds of pasta, salads, soups, sandwiches and desserts. The chain has over 230 locations in 32 US states and eleven other countries, including 26 California Pizza Kitchen ASAP kiosks designed to serve passengers at airports and shopping malls. The company licensed its name to Kraft Foods to distribute a line of premium frozen pizzas in 2000 and Nestlé purchased Kraft’s pizza lines in 2010.

Chéz Panisse’s wood-burning oven

Italian Recipes That Make Use of California’s Bounties

Sweet Pepper Martini

Makes 2 Drinks

Giuseppe Luigi Mezzetta, founder of G. L. Mezzetta, immigrated to America from Italy to start a new life. He eventually saved enough money to bring his new wife, Columba, to California where their son, Daniel, was born in 1918. Giuseppe continued to work hard and was soon able to earn a better wage as a janitor for two large import/export firms. In 1935, father and son decided to open a small storefront business and the new company began importing Italian peppers, olives and other staples of the Mediterranean table.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Mezzetta Roasted Bell Pepper Strips, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup or agave syrup
  • 2 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 basil leaves, cut into strips
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup vodka or gin
  • 4 Mezzetta Sweet Cherry Peppers, to garnish

Directions:

In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker add and mix all of the ingredients except the vodka. Fill the skaker with ice and add the vodka. Shake vigorously.

Strain the drink, using a fine mesh strainer, and pour into two martini glasses. Garnish with sweet cherry peppers.

(Note: to prepare simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. Boil until the sugar has dissolved. Cool the syrup before using.)

Pesto Arancini Stuffed with Mozzarella

During his 25 years as a chef/restaurateur, Michael Chiarello has been acknowledged by the Culinary Institute of America, IACP, Food & Wine Magazine and many more for his success as both a Chef and restaurant professional. He has developed over 10 restaurants, including his hugely popular Bottega Restaurant in Yountville, California (Napa Valley), his new Spanish restaurant Coqueta on Pier 5 in San Francisco and his first in California, Tra Vigne, of which he was executive chef/partner until 2000. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY.

I visited Michael Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega, two years ago when I was in California, and the food was outstanding. Restaurants don’t come any better than this one.

Recipe from Bottega by Michael Chiarello (Chronicle Books, 2010)

Makes 16 arancini; serves 4

Arancini, or rice-balls filled with a melting cheese, are for leftover-risotto days. I never make the rice from scratch when I’m making arancini at home. If you don’t have leftover risotto, you can make these balls from cooked Arborio rice but be sure to add a teaspoon or two of salt while the rice cooks. (Honestly, you’re better off making a big pot of risotto and then making arancini the next day.)

Arancini always remind me of my friend Mariano Orlando. He always made arancini the Sicilian way, his rice balls the size of oranges. We talked once about arancini and he kept saying in Italian, “telephone wire,” making a motion with his hands as if to stretch a length of cord. “What are you saying?” I asked him. “Why are you talking about telephone wire?” The cheese, Mariano said, should stretch like a telephone wire when you take a bite from a perfect arancini and pull it away from your lips.

Our arancini don’t have that same telephone wire of cheese; we use a little less cheese in the middle and a lot more cheese in the risotto. You can add more cheese to the middle if you want to go for the telefono filo effect. If you want to make these a few hours ahead, pour panko crumbs into a baking dish and rest the arancini on the panko before covering the dish in plastic wrap and refrigerating.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups leftover risotto or cooked Arborio rice, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups Blanched Basil Pesto, double recipe below
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, preferably bocconcini
  • Peanut oil, corn oil, or canola oil for frying
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Directions:

Line a platter with parchment paper. In a large bowl, stir the risotto and pesto together until blended. Divide the rice into 16 more-or-less-equal portions.

Cut off about 1/2 teaspoon of mozzarella and then with your hands ball up one serving of rice around the cheese so it’s completely encased in rice. Gently place on the prepared platter. Repeat to form 16 arancini. Slide the platter into the freezer for 30 minutes to allow the balls to firm up.

Before you take the rice balls from the freezer, set up your dredging station. Pour the flour into a shallow bowl; the eggs into another shallow bowl; and the panko into a third shallow bowl.

In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 3 inches oil over medium-high heat until it registers 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer. While the oil heats, dredge each rice ball in flour and lightly shake off the excess. Dip in the egg and then in the panko. Gently drop 4 to 6 balls into the oil and cook until lightly browned, 60 to 90 seconds. Don’t overcook them or the cheese will leak out into your oil. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Repeat to cook the remaining arancini. Serve at once.

Blanched-Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

Powdered vitamin C- also called ascorbic acid-is my secret for keeping pesto a fresh, appetizing green. The herbs go in boiling water and then straight into an ice bath, so I like to use a large sieve or colander to transfer all the herbs in one smooth move.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, preferably ground sea or gray salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Set up a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Place the basil and parsley leaves in a sieve or colander that fits inside the pan. Lower the sieve full of herbs into the boiling water, and use a spoon to push the leaves under so the herbs cook evenly. Blanch for 15 seconds, and then transfer the sieve to the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let the herbs cool in the ice bath for 10 seconds. Remove the sieve, let drain, and then squeeze any water that you can from the herbs. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop.

In a blender, puree the herbs with the oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and ascorbic acid until well blended and somewhat smooth. Add the cheese and whir for a second or two to mix. Transfer the pesto to a bowl; taste and adjust the seasoning.

Press plastic wrap directly top of the pesto to keep it from turning brown and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze it for up to 1 month.

Chef’s Note: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over low heat, shaking the pan frequently. Heat for just a minute or two; as soon as you smell the fragrance of the pine nuts, slide the nuts out of the pan and onto a plate so they don’t burn.

Chicken in Tomato & Olive Braise

Chef David Katz, owner of Panevino, and faculty member at the Culinary Institute of America created this recipe to specifically pair with Mirassou wine. Chef Katz has spent nine years in the Napa Valley as a working chef and instructor at CIA Greystone focusing on the business of cooking and on food and wine education.

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken thighs, 5-6 ounces each
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced about 1/8th inch thick
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch hot pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup Mirassou Pinot Noir
  • 1 large can (1 pound 12 ounces) excellent quality diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 teaspoons brine-packed capers, rinsed
  • 1 cup whole pitted green olives, rinsed
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 1 loose cup whole parsley leaves, plucked from the stem

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F.  Select a 3 to 4 quart oven-safe baking dish, and set it aside. Heat a large, heavy skillet over a medium-high burner. While the pan is heating, season the chicken with the salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the olive oil to the skillet, allow it to heat through, then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Cook until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes, then turn and brown equally on the other side, about 4 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet, and return it to the stovetop over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and stir often for 3 minutes, or until it smells sweet. Stir in the pepper flakes and fennel. Deglaze with the wine, stirring against the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the browned juices. Add the tomatoes, capers and olives, and bring the skillet to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning to taste, then pour the tomato mixture into the oven-safe baking dish. Arrange the chicken pieces over the tomato mixture, skin-side up, and sprinkle the shaved cheese over the chicken. Place the baking dish on the center rack of the oven and cook for 10 minutes, or until a thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center of the largest piece of chicken.

Garnish the dish with parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with soft polenta or your favorite short pasta and a crisp green salad.

Italian Padella

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

“Padella” is Italian for skillet, as “paella” is in Spanish.

Ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 peppercorns
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage
  • 1/4 pound sliced ham
  • 1/4 pound salt pork
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1-1/2 pounds squid, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups cooked peas
  • 24 mussels, scrubbed
  • 24 clams, scrubbed
  • 8 large prawns, shelled, deveined and cooked
  • 2 tablespoons pimientos

Directions:

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, oregano, peppercorns, garlic, salt and vinegar; mix with mortar and pestle to make a paste. Rub chicken with oregano paste.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; brown. Add sausage, ham, salt pork, onion, green pepper, capers and coriander. Reduce heat to low; cook 10 minutes.

Add rice and tomato sauce; cook 5 minutes. Add medium shrimp, squid, broth and saffron; mix well and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas.

Steam mussels and clams in water until open; add large prawns and pimientos. Transfer rice mixture to large serving platter; top with mussel mixture.


Newly Arrived Italian Immigrant Sitting On A Hill Overlooking Albuquerque

A close-knit Italian-American community has been a strong presence in Albuquerque, New Mexico since the transcontinental railroad first arrived there in 1880. These families established a foundation for the growth and development of a thriving Italian community in New Mexico’s largest city. Alessandro and Pompilio Matteucci, Antonio and Cherubino Domenici, Ettore Franchini and Orseste Bachechi (who is known as the “Father of the Albuquerque Italian Community”) were prominent residents. Colombo Hall, the city’s first Italian-American organization, and the Italmer Club, founded in the late 1930s, are located in the city.

Columbus Day Parade 1910

When Mexico ceded New Mexico to the United States in 1846, the Santa Fe Trail linked the United States with its new territory. When the railroad came to Albuquerque, El Camino and the Santa Fe Trail became obsolete.

American Lumber Company 1910

The railroad brought goods in quantity that freighters had previously hauled by wagons and mule trains. It also brought newcomers. Before the railroad, Albuquerque’s population was largely Hispanic with a sprinkling of Anglos. By 1885, the town counted more than 20 ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Chinese and Italians who were building the line.

Building the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad

With accessible transportation, the town’s economy changed dramatically. Albuquerque became a shipping point for livestock and wool and the lumber industry boomed. In the early 1900s, American Lumber Co. was second only to the railroad as Albuquerque’s largest employer. Its 110-acre complex was built between 1903 and 1905 near Twelfth Street. At its peak it employed 850 men and produced milled lumber, doors and shingles.

Cattle ranching and commerce on the Santa Fe Trail established the Raton area as a trade center. When the railroad roared over the Raton Pass in 1879, the city of Raton was born and its progress became unstoppable. The first coal mines opened that same year, providing additional economic opportunities for Raton.

“Raton” was the choice of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad’s chief engineer, A.A. Robinson. He fought hard for the shorter route over the steep mountains, avoiding the Cimarron Cutoff. A plentiful water supply and the promise of coal cinched the matter.

A typical Western frontier town, Raton had shootouts in the streets and theater in the opera house. Those who came to live and work in Raton were cattlemen from Missouri and Texas and immigrants from Greece, Italy, the Slavic countries and Asia. Nearby towns followed suit and grew with the railroad.

Dawson – Italian American Miners

In 1895 coal was discovered in the area that is now known as Dawson. Then in 1901 the property was sold to the Dawson Fuel Company for $400,000. The Dawson coal mine subsequently opened, a railroad was constructed from Dawson to Tucumcari and the town of Dawson was born. The company worked the mine for several years, before selling the mine and town to the Phelps Dodge Corporation in 1906. Upon purchase, the Phelps Dodge Corporation was determined to transform the town and developed amenities to attract miners. It featured schools, a theater, bowling alley, modern hospital, golf course and even an opera house. Through extensive advertising in areas such as St. Louis, Missouri and similar cities, miners from the U.S. and immigrants from Greece, Italy, China, Ireland and Mexico flooded into the town. (During its height, coal mined in Dawson fueled an area equal to one-sixth of the United States.)

During its operation, Dawson experienced two mine large tragedies, one in 1913 and another in 1923. The first occurred on October 22, 1913, when an incorrectly set dynamite charge resulted in an enormous explosion in Stag Canon Mine No. 2 that sent a tongue of fire one hundred feet out of the tunnel mouth. Rescue efforts were well organized and exhaustive; Phelps Dodge sent a trainload of doctors, nurses and medical supplies from El Paso; and striking miners in Colorado ceased picketing and offered to form rescue teams. But there was little need for anything except caskets. Only a few miners escaped. A total of 263 died in what was declared one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history.

Almost ten years later, on February 8, 1923, a mine train jumped its track, hit the supporting timbers of the tunnel mouth and ignited coal dust in the mine. Approximately 123 men perished, many of them children of the men who had died in 1913. These miners had been mostly immigrants, who had traveled here from Europe to work. A large percentage had been Italian.

 The original church of San Felipe de Neri was started in 1706 under the direction of Fray Manuel Moreno, a Franciscan priest who came to Alburquerque [the spelling was later changed to Albuquerque] with 30 families from Bernalillo in 1704 or 1705. The church was initially named San Francisco Xavier by Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdez, who founded the city of Alburquerque and named it after the Viceroy of New Spain. Jesuit priests from Naples, Italy, came in 1867 at the invitation of Bishop Lamy. The Jesuits oversaw a major facelift to the church and adjacent buildings. In 1878 they built a school for boys on the northwest side of the church. At the same time, the land to the east was enclosed for a playground, stable and corral. Today, the former school building is leased for use as retail shops. (Source: Coal Town – The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico”, ©Toby Smith.)

The first Spanish explorers and settlers, beginning in the early 1500’s, brought their European wines grapes with them as they made the sunny, fertile Rio Grande valley their new home. These original grape stocks remain the source of many of New Mexico’s vinters to this day. In the 1580s, Missionary priests were busily producing sacramental wines. By the 19th century, vineyards and wineries dotted the Rio Grande valley from Bernallilo south to the Mexican border. Census data in 1880 identified 3,150 New Mexico acres dedicated to producing 905,000 barrels of wines per year.

European farmers from Italy and France settled in the Corrales valley in the 1860s. Among the Italian families who settled there were the Palladinis, Targhettas and Salces and by the 1880s they were successfully growing several varieties of grapes (up until that time the only type of grape grown in Corrales was the Mission grape). By 1900 Corrales was known for its vineyards and the making of wine, much of it by French and Italian families.

1908 Champion Grocery and Meat Market

New Mexico’s Italian American Shopkeepers

A Few of New Mexico’s Italian Americans

PIETRO VICHI DOMENICI

Pietro Vichi “Pete” Domenici (born May 7, 1932) is an American Republican politician, who served six terms as a United States Senator from New Mexico, from 1973 to 2009, the longest tenure in the state’s history. Domenici was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Italian-American parents.  Alda (née Vichi), an illegal immigrant, and Cherubino Domenici, who were both born in Modena, Italy. Growing up, Domenici worked in his father’s grocery business after school. He graduated in 1950 from St. Mary’s High School in Albuquerque. After earning a degree in education at the University of New Mexico in 1954, where he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, he pitched for one season for the Albuquerque Dukes, a farm club for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He taught mathematics at Garfield Junior High in Albuquerque. He earned his law degree at the University of Denver’s law school in 1958 and returned to practice law in Albuquerque. In 1966, Domenici successfully ran for a position on the Albuquerque City Commission and in 1968 was elected Commission Chairman. This position was equivalent to that of mayor under the structure of the city government at the time. In 1972, Domenici successfully ran for a position in the U.S. Senate

LOUIS ANDREA SAVIO

Louis Andrea Savio who was born June 22, 1879 in Valperga, Italy. He emigrated to the US from Le Havre, France on December 20, 1901. He married his first wife, Regina, in 1905. In 1910, he operated a saloon in Rockvale, a mining town in Colorado. His passport application shows, he resided only in Rockvale, Colorado and Dawson, New Mexico during his lifetime. He obtained citizenship April 16, 1909 in Canon City, Colorado. His second marriage was on July 6, 1918 to Ernesta. In September, 1918 he was listed as a musician employed by the Phelps Dodge Corporation but his occupation was listed as baker, when he and his wife planned to travel to Italy to visit his mother in 1925. His father, Antonio, was deceased. Mr. Savio was active in supporting the Dawson community. He was the Dawson High School Band Director. He donated a piano and art work to support the high school activities. He always led the 4th of July Parade with his band. He was Treasurer for the Loyal Order of Moose. He also belonged to the Dawson Club and participated in men’s basketball and baseball games. The 1920 census shows him to be Manager of the Bakery Shop. In 1938 he was elected to the Board of Governors of the New Mexico Bakers Association. He was residing in Raton, NM at that time. He died on March 8, 1960.

MOLLY’S BAR

Shortly after the end of Prohibition in the 1930’s, Romeo Di Lallo, Sr. and his wife, Molly, both Italian immigrants, opened one of the first old-time nightclubs in New Mexico, the “Monterrey Gardens.” Less than two years later all was lost in a fire, so Romeo and Molly had to start all over. In 1938 after Romeo became ill with miner’s lung disease (having worked in New Mexico coal mines for a number of years), Molly opened ROMEO’S BAR on Bridge Street in the South Valley of Albuquerque and that same year their son, Romeo, Jr. was born. Romeo, Sr. passed away in 1946 and in 1947 Molly married a builder named Tony Simballa. One year later Tony built a new and larger facility for ROMEO’S BAR, on Isleta Boulevard in the South Valley. In 1948 their son, Albert Simballa, Jr. was born. In 1952 Molly, Tony, Romeo, Jr. and Al moved to Tijeras in the mountains just east of Albuquerque where they opened MOLLY’S BAR. At TRAILRIDER PIZZA, next door to MOLLY’S, you can enjoy Pizza, Sandwiches and Italian Appetizers. The sign over MOLLY’S front door states, “The Greatest People On Earth Walk Through This Doorway.”  Source: The italian Experience: Library of Congress and Center for Southwest Research (UNM)

New Mexico’s Italian Food

Zero otto pasta

Squid Ink Spaghetti with Calamari

Squid-ink noodles are now readily available from many shops. If you cannot find them, you can make your own pasta.

Serves – 4 

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium-sized calamari
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons or more of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ oz white wine
  • 2 cups peeled tomatoes
  • 1 small chili (fresh or dried)
  • salt and pepper
  • finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 lb squid ink pasta

Directions:

Clean the calamari and cut the tubes into rings. Cut the tentacles into smaller pieces.

Fry the onion and garlic in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Add the calamari and wine and allow the wine to evaporate. Add the tomatoes, chilli, salt and pepper and cook until the calamari is tender, 30-40 minutes.

Finish with parsley, more oil if needed and the lemon zest.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain and combine with the sauce.

Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 10 flour tortillas, quartered
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup jarred salsa
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 16 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

Layer half of the tortillas on the bottom of a lightly greased 13×9 baking dish.

Heat oil in a skillet and brown the beef. Drain on paper towels.

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, salsa, tomato sauce, oregano and chili. powder

Layer half of this mixture on the tortillas.

In another bowl, combine ricotta cheese, beaten eggs and garlic powder.

Layer over the meat mixture.

Spread remaining meat mixture on top.

Layer remaining tortilla quarters over the meat mixture.

Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake at 375 degrees F. for 30 minutes.

Enchilada Chicken Parmesan

4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups red enchilada sauce, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, optional
  • Chipotle hot sauce

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Pat chicken breast halves dry and season to taste – on both sides – with salt and pepper.

On a large plate, combine the flour, cumin, coriander and cayenne; whisk to combine.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs.

On a third large plate, pour out the breadcrumbs in an even layer.

Spread 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of a baking dish large enough to comfortably fit all four chicken breasts.

Lightly dredge one chicken breast half in the flour mixture; tap off excess.

Dip the chicken breast half in the eggs, letting any excess drip off.

Finally, coat the chicken breast half on both sides with the panko bread crumbs, pressing to adhere. Set aside on a clean plate.

Repeat  with the remaining chicken breast halves.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Place chicken breast halves into the hot skillet and cook, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 6 minutes total.

Place chicken in the baking dish with the sauce.

Spoon the remaining 1 cup enchilada sauce evenly over the chicken breast halves. Top with both cheeses and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and the chicken is cooked through.

Serve topped with cilantro and/or chipotle hot sauce.

Lemon Pudding Cake with Raspberry Sauce

Popular restaurant dessert.

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 4 cups raspberries
  • Powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Beat the egg yolks and 1 cup of the sugar until light. Add the flour and mix well. Whisk in the lemon juice, salt and milk until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture.

Pour the batter into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool slightly, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To make the raspberry sauce:

Reserve 16 raspberries for the garnish. Puree the remaining berries with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar for 2 minutes or until smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve.

Place a piece of plastic wrap over the pudding cake and flip it onto a flat surface. Cut eight 3-inch circles with a ring cutter. Serve with sauce and garnish with raspberries. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.



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