Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Fruit



When choosing a pumpkin at the market, look for soft spots, mold, wrinkles or open cuts that would indicate damage or early spoilage. Choose a pumpkin with a solidly attached stem. A green stem indicates a freshly harvested pumpkin. Choose pumpkins between 4 to 8 pounds and labeled “sugar pumpkins” or “pie pumpkins.” Some specific names are Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina (which are white), Cinderella and Fairy Tale. Pumpkins have a long shelf life and can keep for months at cool room temperature.

Pumpkin Puree


  • 2 ½ pounds pie pumpkins


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut pumpkins into 5×5-inch pieces. Remove and discard seeds and strings. Arrange pieces in a single layer, skin sides up, in a foil-lined baking pan.

Cover with foil. Bake about 1 hour or until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop pulp from rind. Place pulp in food processor or blender.

Cover and process or blend until smooth. Measure 1 cup puree to use in risotto. Transfer remaining puree to an airtight container.

Store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months. Thaw frozen puree in the refrigerator.


Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Makes 12 – 15 depending on the size of your muffin tin.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ½ cup applesauce
  • ¼ cup reduced fat milk or almond milk
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • Vanilla sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-15 cup muffin pan with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Combine the remaining (wet) ingredients in another bowl.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture until just moist. Fill the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes (or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean).

Let rest for 10 minutes.Remove the muffins and cool on a wire rack.


Apple Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin butter is a delicious addition to waffles, pancakes, banana bread, oatmeal or as a spread for toast. It also makes a great and healthy topping for ice cream.


  • 4 cups pumpkin puree or two 15-oz. cans pureed pumpkin
  • 1 ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


In 5-quart Dutch oven combine all ingredients except nuts. Bring to boiling; reduce heat.

Cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, about an hour until thick. (If mixture spatters, reduce heat to medium-low). Remove from heat; cool.


Ladle into jars or freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Cover; store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freezer up to 6 months.

Acorn Squash


Acorn squash can have orange, dark green, or tan skin. To pick a good-tasting one, press it all around to make sure it’s devoid of soft spots. Don’t refrigerate-just store the squash in an airy dry spot for up to 3 weeks.


Roasted Acorn Squash Slices


  • 1 medium acorn squash (about 1-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Preheat the oven 350°F.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; remove and discard seeds and membrane. Cut each half into 1/2-inch slices; discard ends.

Place slices in a greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the maple syrup. Dot with butter.


Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.


Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash

6 servings


  • 3 large acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds and fibers scooped out
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced thin
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of 1/4-inch cubes of lightly toasted sourdough bread
  • ¾ cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley


Oven 400 degrees F.

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice off the bottom of each squash half so that they stand flat, being careful not to cut into the flesh.

Place in a baking dish large enough to hold the squash halves and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with the back of a spoon, until no traces of pink remain, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the thyme, salt, pepper, bread cubes and chicken broth until well mixed.

Divide the stuffing mixture among the squash halves. Add enough water to the roasting pan to make a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil.

Roast for 45 minutes.Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until the squash is tender. Place 1 squash half on each of 6 plates, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.



Trapani is a province in the island region of Sicily in Italy. The northwestern part of the province is rugged in comparison to the south. The province also includes the archipelago of the Egadi Islands, the volcanic island of Pantelleria, which is the largest in Sicily, and the Stagnone Islands. The Egadi Islands consist of three main islands, Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo and two islets, Formica and Maraone. The coast is one of the most impressive in Italy and comprises valuable naturalistic spots with its seafront full of cliffs and stacks alternating with beautiful beaches.



Marsala, a town in the province of Trapani, is the home of Marsala wine. Marsala became known when the English began their explorations for commerce and trade. As the legend goes….

In 1770, a violent storm forced a British ship to take shelter in the harbor of Marsala. John Woodhouse, a merchant, disembarked and went into town to sample the wine in one of the humble taverns. Although more accustomed to the liqueur wines of Spain and Portugal, his palate detected their similarity to the local Marsala wine, prompting him to risk purchasing a considerable consignment of wine (blended with alcohol to withstand the journey) to take to his native land to sound out the market. The response was positive, the merchant set up his own company in Marsala. A second English merchant, Ben Ingham, a connoisseur of fortified wines, gradually improved the wine’s quality by using carefully selected blends of different grape varieties.

In 1833, the entrepreneur Vincenzo Florio, bought up large areas of land between the two largest established Marsala producers and set out to make his own vintage with a more specialised range of grapes. At the end of the 19 century, several more wine-growers joined the competition, including Pellegrino (1880). After the turn of the century, Florio bought out Ingham and Woodhouse and retained the two labels.

Marsala is registered as a DOC wine (a State-designated label of controlled quality); this means that production is restricted to an exclusive area around Trapani and a collection of additional vineyards in the provinces of Agrigento and Palermo. Only grape varieties with a high natural sugar content are used to make Marsala: these, once pressed, are left to ferment before being blended with ethyl alcohol to produce the different types and flavors of Marsala. Relative to the sugar content, Marsala may be categorised as dry, semi-dry or sweet. Its main denomination, however, is relative to the length of time it is left to mature: Marsala Fine (1 year), Superiore (2 years), Superiore Riserva (4 years), Vergine (5 years) and Vergine Riserva (10 years). Dry Marsala is usually served as an aperitif, while the sweeter forms are drunk as a dessert wine.

Marsala was traditionally served between the first and second courses. It is now also served, chilled, with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and other spicy cheeses.
Marsala is a fortified wine – this means alcohol is added to it. This also means that, just like you can keep an open bottle of vodka or rum on your shelf, you can also keep an opened bottle of Marsala around. Just keep it in a cool, dark area.

The City of Marsala

The City of Marsala

Cooking with Marsala

Should you use – sweet or dry Marsala – in a recipe? Do you like sweet or savory chicken dishes? Are you even going to notice the subtle difference? You might not even be able to taste any difference since both are going to taste “like Marsala”. So make your recipe one time with the sweet and one time with the dry, and see if you can even notice any difference.


Garlicky Marsala Mushroom Sauce

This sauce can be served over cooked pasta, folded into an omelet, served with pan-fried chicken breasts or over cheese grits (polenta).


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, caps quartered
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced and 2 minced
  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced rosemary
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 6 Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives


In a very large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the white and shiitake mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook over moderately high heat for 5 minutes, stirring once. Uncover and cook over high heat, stirring once, until the mushrooms are browned all over, about 3 minutes.

Add the sliced garlic, the shallot and rosemary and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the Marsala and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the minced garlic, chives, olives and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.


Maggiano’s Little Italy’s Rigatoni D (Marsala)

This dish was named after its creator, David DiGregorio, Executive Chef at Chicago’s Clark & Grand St. restaurant. David and his team spent about 3 months perfecting the Marsala Cream Sauce to compliment chicken.

Serves 4-6


  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3/8 cup Spanish, yellow or white onion, diced ½”
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups cold low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups rigatoni pasta
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 lb chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup dry white wine (Chardonnay)
  • ¾ cup sweet Marsala wine
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 3/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a 12 X 18 cookie sheet or tray, mix the diced onions, mushrooms, finely chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar together until all the ingredients are evenly mixed and coated. Bake for 15 minutes until the mushrooms are a deep brown color and almost all the liquid and moisture has evaporated. Set mixture aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the cornstarch with the cold chicken broth with a whisk. Set aside the mixture.

Prepare pasta as directed on the box to the al dente stage approximately 10 minutes before you plan on cooking the entire pasta dish. Drain pasta in a colander, shake out excess water, then toss in an 8 quart bowl with half of the olive oil.

Cut the chicken into pieces approximately 1” long x ¾” wide. In a 12”-14”.

In a pan or Dutch oven. heat the remaining olive oil and butter until melted and the butter begins to lightly brown, add the sliced chicken and cook for approximately 3-4 minutes until a light golden brown color is achieved.

Immediately add the white wine to the sautéed chicken, cook until the wine evaporates, add the Marsala wine and reduce by half, then add the cold chicken broth/cornstarch mixture, bring to a simmer. Then add the heavy cream, kosher salt, black pepper and the roasted mushrooms, onions. Bring to a simmer and allow the sauce to thicken.

Add the cooked rigatoni and simmer for 2 minutes. Finish the pasta and sauce with fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese.


Sage Meatballs with Marsala Wine Sauce

4 servings


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup soft unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves (about 20 leaves), very finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • All-purpose flour for dredging
  • 1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine


In a large bowl, combine the meat, Parmigiano, half the butter, the sage and salt until they are very well blended, using your hands. Form small meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter using cold wet hands to keep the meat from sticking. Roll the meatballs in the flour and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat, then cook the meatballs until brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Shake the skillet often so they don’t stick.

Remove the excess fat from the skillet with a spoon and discard. Once the meatballs are brown, pour in the Marsala wine and continue cooking until it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.


Strawberry, Mascarpone, and Marsala Budini

Budini is Italian for puddings or parfaits.

Makes 6 servings


1 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese

  • 6 tablespoons sweet Marsala (preferably imported)
  • 3 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 3 cups sliced hulled strawberries (about 15 ounces)
  • 2 1/4 cups coarsely crumbled amaretti cookies (Italian macaroons; about 4 1/2 ounces)


Combine mascarpone, 3 tablespoons Marsala, cream and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in medium bowl. Stir gently until well blended.

Combine strawberries, remaining 3 tablespoons Marsala, and 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl; toss to blend. Cover mascarpone and berry mixtures; refrigerate 30 minutes.

Place 2 tablespoons crumbled cookies in each of 6 champagne goblets. Divide strawberry mixture with juices among the goblets.

Top berries with mascarpone mixture, then remaining cookies. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.




Here in the south, October is still summer but the markets like to think it is fall. So lots of squash, greens, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, apples and grapes are available. I have posted below several recipes that take advantage of the fall harvest.

One of the Farmers' Markets Nearby

Nearby Farmers’ Market

If you have freezer space, this is also a good time to freeze some of fall’s abundance to use in the winter. Only use fruits and veggies in excellent condition that have been thoroughly cleaned. Most vegetables you plan to freeze should be blanched for two to five minutes. Blanching — the process of heating vegetables with boiling water or steam for a set amount of time, then immediately plunging them into cold or iced water — stops enzyme activity that causes vegetables to lose nutrients and change texture. The cooled veggies can then be packed into plastic freezer bags, jars or other freezer-safe storage containers.

Fruits or blanched vegetables can also be patted dry with clean kitchen towels, frozen in a single layer on cookie sheets and then put into containers. Using cookie sheets for freezing ensures that the fruits and vegetables won’t all stick together, so that you can remove a portion at a time from the container. Using this method is best for freezing berries. Berries should not be blanched, just washed and dried before freezing. Chopped onion and chopped bell peppers for cooking can also be frozen without blanching.

Here is a handy chart on how to blanch vegetables for freezing.

Mediterranean Tomato Salad


Serve this salad with grilled steak.


  • 2-3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced thin
  • One large red onion slice, cut ¼ inch thick and quartered
  • ½ cup oil cured olives, pitted and halved
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper


Whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano and black pepper.

Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate and distribute the onion, olives and cheese over the tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.

Let the salad sit at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Fall Vegetable Minestrone



  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 whole celery stalks with leaves, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
  • Two 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the diced celery, onion, carrot, garlic, oregano and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add orzo and green beans. Cook, uncovered, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and paprika.  

Cook over medium heat until steaming-hot, 3 to 5 minutes.Taste and add salt to your liking.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with cheese,

Lemon Leek Spaghetti


This recipe is a great side dish for grilled or baked fish.


  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • Salt & black pepper
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


Cook pasta, al dente, according to package directions. Drain.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, leek, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper; sauté 4 minutes.

Add broth and juice; cook 2 minutes or until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the skillet from the  heat; stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Add the pasta and capers to the leek mixture; toss well to combine and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

Butternut Squash Gratin


Serve this dish with ribs or pork chops.

Serves 6


  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a 1 1/2-quart gratin dish or other shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Place the garlic and sliced leeks in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the squash and apple cubes on top of the leeks. Season with salt and pepper. With a rubber spatula toss the mixture until evenly combined.

Cover the tightly with foil and bake until the squash is very tender, about 1 hour.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the remaining oil, the lemon zest and parsley. Sprinkle over the squash and bake, uncovered, until the crumbs is golden, 15 minutes longer.


That mound of apples and that mound of pears looked so beautiful at the market, so who could resist bringing them home. Now what to do with all this delicious fruit before it goes bad?

Here are a few ideas.

Apple Cinnamon Scones


Makes 12 scones


  • 2 3/4 cups Self-Rising Flour (flour that contains baking powder and salt)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Apple Pie Spice or ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold butter
  • 2 apples, peeled, in 1/2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
  • Topping: milk and cinnamon sugar


In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and apple pie spice.

Work in the butter with your fingers or a pastry blender just until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped apple and cinnamon chips.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and applesauce.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all the mixture holds together.

Line two  baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sprinkle flour on the work surface.

Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and divide it in half. Gently pat and round each half into a 5″ to 5 1/2″ circle about 3/4″ thick.

Stir together the coarse sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with the topping.

Using a bench knife, slice each circle into 6 wedges.

Carefully place each wedge on the parchment lined pans, at least a 1 inch  apart.


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the scones for 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Rotate the pans after 10 minutes.

Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they’re completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.

Apple Crunch Bagels




  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cups bread flour  
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar  
  • 1 teaspoon salt  
  • 1 tablespoon apple pie spice  
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples, about 2 medium apples


  • 1 egg 
  • 1/4 cup room temperature butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • Pinch of salt


In a medium saucepan, warm cider and butter just until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine two cups of bread flour, the brown sugar, the cooled cider mixture, salt, apple pie spice, apples and yeast with the paddle attachment on medium speed.

Keeping the mixer on medium, add the remaining bread flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough comes together and is just barely sticky.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and “knead” the dough for about 6 minutes or until the dough is elastic.


Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Cover 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down and separate into 12 equal sized balls. on a well floured surface.


Roll and stretch one ball into an 8 inch-long rope and don’t taper ends.

Wrap the rope around your fingers, overlapping the ends by 2 inches, to create a ring. Pinch the ends together.

Once the bagels are shaped, place them on a kitchen towel to rise for another 10 minutes.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil and heat the oven to 425 degrees F

To prepare the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, spice mix, salt and butter in a small bowl and mix until it is crumbly. Beat the egg with one teaspoon of water.

When the water comes to a boil, drop 4 bagels in at a time and boil for about 30 seconds per side. Remove with a slotted spoon to a kitchen towel.

After boiling, place the bagels on the parchment covered pans and brush with the egg mixture. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the bagels.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the bagels are golden brown, rotating the pans after 12 minutes.

Pear & Celery Salad


Serves 4


  • 4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons cider, pear, raspberry or other fruit vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe pears, diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 6 large leaves romaine lettuce, shredded


Soak celery in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Whisk vinegar, honey and salt in a large bowl until blended. Add pears; gently stir to coat. Add the celery, cheese and pecans; stir to combine. Season with pepper.

Divide the lettuce leaves among 4 plates and top with a portion of salad. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Pork Chops with Pear & Ginger Sauce


2 servings


  • Two 4-ounce boneless pork chops, 1/2 inch thick, trimmed
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium ripe pear, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 shallot, trimmed and sliced


Season the pork with salt and pepper and coat in the cornstarch. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the pork and cook until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add the sliced shallots and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the vinegar and honey; stir to dissolve. Add the wine and bring to a simmer, stirring.


Add the pears and ginger. Cook, uncovered, stirring the pears occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to low and return the pork and any accumulated juices to the pan; turn to coat with the sauce and heat through. Serve with a side of roasted acorn squash.



This past weekend, I had friends visiting us from Switzerland. I wanted to make a special Italian dinner for them. One that was not a typical Italian-American dinner but a dinner with dishes that are particular to Tuscany; one of their favorite places to visit. Dinner was big hit.

First Course


Italian Red Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Serves 6


  • Parmesan crisps, recipe below
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 8 cups vegetable broth


Melt the butter in a soup kettle and cook the onions, covered, for 10 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the salt, pepper, honey and wine and heat until the wine reduces a bit.

Add the broth, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 2 hours. Serve in individual bowls garnished with the crisps.


Parmesan Crisps

Makes 6 crisps


  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Do not use cooking spray.)

Mound 3 level tablespoonfuls of cheese in 5 inch long strips about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake until the cheese is melted, soft and a very light golden color, about 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Do not disturb the crisps until completely cooled and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Using a thin spatula or knife, lift the crackers from the baking sheet.

Make Ahead Tip: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.


Sourdough Cheese Rolls


  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (at room temperature)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup grated Italian cheese (half grated parmesan and half shredded mozzarella)
  • 2 teaspoons salt


Combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, yeast, sourdough starter, sugar, butter, egg and salt in an electric mixer bowl. Beat 3 to 4 minutes.

Add baking soda to the whole wheat flour and blend into the flour-yeast mixture. Add cheese and remaining flour to  make a soft dough.

Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth (5 to 8 minutes).

Place in a greased bowl; turn once. Cover; let rise until double (1 ½ to 2 hours). Punch the dough down. Cover; let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil 2 baking sheets.

Divide the dough into 24 pieces and shape into balls. Place on the oiled baking sheets. Cover; let rise until double (25 to 30 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees F about 20 minutes.

Second Course


Grilled Italian Sausage with Grapes


  • 2 pounds sweet Italian sausage grilled and cut into 2 inch serving pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
  • 4 shallots sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons excellent quality balsamic vinegar


Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the grapes, shallots and broth and heat.

Stir pepper and salt into the grape-onion mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the grapes are soft but still retain their shape, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium, stir in the grilled sausages, wine and oregano and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine is reduced and the sausages are hot.

Arrange the sausages on a serving platter and spoon the grape mixture over the top. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve.

Quick Creamy Polenta


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Bring the broth and cream to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta.

Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, stir in the Parmesan and turn off the heat. Cover the pan until ready to serve.


Italian Style Peas


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 ounces frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic; cook about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas, and stir in stock. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover, cook until the peas are tender, about 5 minutes and serve.

Dessert Course


Ricotta Cheesecake with Cherry Sauce


  • Soft butter for the pan
  • ½ cup crushed Amaretti cookies
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Cherry Sauce

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen dark sweet cherries, pitted


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter a 9 inch springform pan. Sprinkle the pan with amaretti cookie crumbles to cover the bottom and sides of the pan.

Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, combine the ricotta, orange zest and sugar. Mix to combine. Beat in the flour.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the amaretto liqueur and salt.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 75 minutes, until a light golden color.

Make sure the center is firm and the point of a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, overnight or at least for 2 hours.

Remove the sides of the pan and serve with fruit sauce.

For the sauce:

Combine the water, lemon juice, amaretto, sugar, salt and cornstarch in a small pot. Whisk until smooth.

Add the cherries and stir. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

If you want to serve it warm, you may do so; simply let it cool until it is warm, not hot or cover and refrigerate to store.




It’s harvest time and the last of summer’s fresh fruit and vegetables are coming to market. Salad ingredients, beets, cucumbers and peppers are all still available. And there should still be plenty of zucchini, green beans, spinach and corn to play a supporting role on your dinner plate.

The first autumn/winter vegetables are putting in an appearance now in the shape of Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, pumpkins and mushrooms,

Apples and pears are plentiful, too. It’s also time to enjoy the last of the berries, plums and tomatoes. Comfort food is back.

Spinach Bacon Quiche



  • One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Half a sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cups leftover cooked spinach or frozen and defrosted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup half & half
  • 2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided


Fit the pastry into a 9 inch pie plate and crimp the edges. Place in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the bacon until crisp in a medium skillet. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Crumble when cool.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and saute the chopped onion in the remaining bacon fat. Add the spinach, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool.

In a measuring cup, combine the eggs and half & half.

Take the pie shell out of the refrigerator and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle 1 cup of cheese evenly on the bottom of the pie crust. Then sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Spread the spinach onion mixture over the bacon.


Slowly pour the egg mixture over the spinach. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Place the baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake the quiche for about 40-45 minutes until the top is golden and puffy and the quiche does not “wobble” in the center when gently moved

Let the quiche rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Fall Beet Salad


2 servings


  • Olive oil for coating the beets
  • 3 golden beets
  • 1 Valencia orange, peel removed and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/4 fennel bulb, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, coarsely chopped


  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Make the dressing: Whisk the orange zest, raspberry vinegar, honey, and salt and pepper together in a small  mixing bowl. Set aside.

For the beets:

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Place the beets on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool. Peel and cut into thin rounds.

Arrange the beets, orange slices and sliced fennel on a serving dish and sprinkle with the chopped shallots. Drizzle with half of the dressing of the dressing and reserve the remaining dressing to serve with the salad,

Cover the salad with plastic wrap and chill until serving time.

Chicken with Corn Salsa


2 servings

Corn Salsa (see recipe link here)

For the rub:

  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning (see recipe link here)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Combine to make a paste
  • Rub the paste over both sides of 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
  • Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

For grilling on a gas grill:

Prepare a gas grill for indirect heat: Turn all burners to high and close the lid. When the temperature inside the grill reaches 400°F, lift lid and turn off one of the burners.

The area over the turned-off burner is the indirect heat area.

Brush the grill with vegetable oil. Place chicken skin side down over the indirect-heat area; close the lid and cook 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, close the lid and cook another 10 minutes.

Move chicken over direct heat and cook, turning once, until skin is well browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

Watch carefully; dripping fat or any added oils catch fire easily (a small spray bottle filled with water is handy for taming flames).

Place the cooked chicken on individual plates and place corn salsa on the side.

Zucchini Vegetable Kebabs


The kebabs go well with any grilled meat or fish.

For the Marinade

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small measuring cup.

For the Kebabs

  • 2 skewers
  • Vegetables cut into one inch pieces:
  • 1 cup zucchini
  • 1 cup red bell peppers
  • 1 cup red onion


Combine the marinade and vegetables in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Remove vegetables from the marinade and thread on skewers, alternating the vegetables. Place the skewers on the grill and cook 7 to 10 minutes on each side or until tender.

Mac & Cheese


This makes a wonderful side dish for grilled meat or fish.


  • 1 lb dried short pasta (mezze penne, elbows)
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup butter, diced
  • ½ cup instant flour (Wondra)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried yellow mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 oz 2% milk Velveeta processed cheese, cut into cubes
  • 8 oz mild cheddar, shredded
  • ½ cup dried plain breadcrumbs


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot mix the cold milk with the instant flour; add the butter and place the pan on medium heat.

Stirring often, bring the sauce to boiling, reduce heat and cook until thickened, whisking often. Add the salt, mustard and cayenne. Add the velveeta cheese and heat until melted.

Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Pour into a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.

Mix the breadcrumbs and shredded cheddar together and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

(The casserole can be made ahead to this stage and refrigerated until baking time. Add 15 minutes to the baking time if the casserole is refrigerated.)

Bake for about 25-30 minutes until heated through.


img_0008No Yeast Required Cinnamon Rolls



Makes 16 small or 8 large rolls

Cinnamon Filling:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, very soft


  • 2-1/2 cups self-rising flour (all-purpose flour mixed with baking powder and salt)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided


  • 1-2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the filling ingredients in a small bowl, then mix with a fork until well blended.

In a another, larger bowl, combine the self-rising flour, sugar and baking soda.

Whisk together the buttermilk and 4 tablespoons melted butter in a separate bowl, then pour into the middle of the dry ingredients. Stir together until the dough just comes together (do not overmix.)


Knead slightly with your hands until the dough forms into a ball, then slice it in half.

On a lightly floured surface, roll each half into a 12×8 inch rectangle.

Spread half the filling mixture into the center, leaving 1/4″ of the dough clear on all 4 sides, then roll up jelly roll style.. Pinch together the seam and roll into an 8 inch log.


Cut into 8 one inch slices. Repeat with the other dough half and place the rolls in a greased 13×9 inch pan.


Note: If you like larger rolls cut each roll in 4 (about 2 inches each) and place in a smaller baking dish and cook for 10 minutes longer.


Brush the cinnamon rolls with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and milk, one tablespoon at a time, until creamy. Drizzle onto hot cinnamon rolls and spread evenly.

Quick Pumpkin Bread



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice mix
  • 1 cup solid pack pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.Grease and flour a 9×5 inch baking pan.

Whisk the flours, baking soda, salt and pumpkin spice mix in a large bowl. Mix the pumpkin, brown sugar, buttermilk, egg and oil in another bowl until well blended.

Fold the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Add the pecans and mix.

Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a rack for ten minutes.

Turn the bread over onto another rack to cool completely.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf



  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup soft butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup light sour cream (or yogurt)


  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Garnish with candied lemon peel, if desired


Coat a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick vegetable spray

Preheat the oven to 350°F).

In a large bowl of an electric mixer or a food processor, beat together the sugar, butter, egg, lemon zest and lemon juice, mixing well. Add the buttermilk, mix.

Combine the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder and baking soda in a mixing bowl; add to the sugar mixture alternately with the sour cream, mixing just until incorporated. Do not overmix.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out dry. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the cake to a wire rack to finishing cooling.


Combine the powdered sugar with the lemon juice and spread over the cooled loaf. When the frosting is set, garnish with candied lemon peel.

Morning Apple Cake


8 servings


  • Cooking spray
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.

Beat the eggs and the 1/2 cup of sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla extract.

Combine flour and cornstarch and fold into the cake batter. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Layer the apple slices in a circular pattern on top of the cake. Combine the cinnamon and 1 teaspoon sugar in a cup and sprinkle over the apples.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a knife or metal skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center of the cake. Cool on a wire rack.



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