Asti is a province in the Piedmont region of northern Italy and is an important area for the production of fine wines. Perhaps the wine most famously associated with Asti worldwide is the sparkling Asti (DOCG). The name is usually shortened to “Asti” in order to avoid associations with the many wines of dubious quality, which are labelled “Spumante”.
Asti is typically sweet and low in alcohol (often below 8%) and is made solely from the moscato bianco, a white muscat grape. A premium version known as Moscato d’Asti (DOCG) is sold outside Italy. Moscato d’Asti is a “Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita”, a sparkling white wine produced mainly in the province of Asti, is considered a dessert wine. Grown on Asti hilltops, Moscato d’Asti is made by small producers in small batches. Moscato is so named because of its earthy musk aroma. The petite berry grape ripens early and produces a wide range of wine styles: light and dry, slightly sweet and honey-like.
While technically a white grape, there are strains of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains vines that produce berries that are pink or reddish-brown. When the differing grape color is stable, the wines are typically classified as separate grape varieties: Muscat Rouge à Petit Grains for red skin color and Muscat Rose à Petit Grains for pink skin color.
While Asti province became famous around the world thanks to Martini and Rossi and Gancia and Riccadonnafor for their commercial Spumante wines, it is now becoming famous internationally for its classic red wines, such as Barbera d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, Grignolino d’Asti, Bonarda and Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato. These wines and many other local wines can be sampled during the week-long Douja d’Or wine exhibition which is held at the same time as the Palio and Sagre races.
Asti is also famous for its Asti’s Festival of Festivals, held in September, a week before the Palio race. During the festival, most of the towns in Asti’s province meet in a great square called “Campo del Palio”. Here, they offer local cuisine for which they are known and on the Sunday of the Sagre race all the towns involved stage a parade with floats with everyone in costume all along the Asti roads.
Asti province becomes a gourmet delight from October to December when the white truffle or “tartufo bianco” is in season. Some of the best truffles are found around Asti’s hills and every weekend there is a local truffle festival.
Among local vegetables, the cardo gobbo (artichoke)and the “square pepper” (bell pepper) of Asti stand out, and both are regarded as essential ingredients for bagna cauda (a garlic and anchovy dip).
The area around Asti is also renowned for its cheeses, such as robiola of Roccaverano and robiola di Cocconato.
Typical provincial dishes include agnolotti, potato gnocchi, ciotola di trifulau (cheese fondue with polenta and a sprinkling of truffles) and boiled meats.
Local desserts include amaretti (almond cookies), canestrelli (semolina biscuits), finocchini of Refrancore (fennel cookies) and hazelnut cakes.
Pearl Barley Soup with Moscato d’Asti
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 oz. smoked cooked ham, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
2 small carrots, finely chopped
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
1 medium leek, halved crosswise and thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, finely chopped
1⁄2 small celery root, finely chopped
1 cup pearl barley
4 cups chicken stock
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Moscato d’Asti, for serving
Finely chopped chives, to garnish
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the ham and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 6 minutes.
Stir in the carrots, onions, leek, parsnip and celery root and cook, stirring, until slightly softened, about 8 minutes. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the stock and 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is half-cooked, about 35 minutes.
Add the potatoes to the soup and cook until tender, about 25 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the cream and ladle the soup into serving bowls. Add a splash of moscato to each bowl and sprinkle with chives before serving.
Braised Leg of Lamb with Polenta
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
12 oz. lamb bones
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves
For the Braise and Polenta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (4-lb.) bone-in leg of lamb
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
Freshly ground black pepper
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1⁄2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 sprigs rosemary
1 bunch thyme
3 cups coarse-ground polenta
1 cup (4 oz.) grated robiola cheese
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
Make the lamb stock:
Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the lamb bones on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer the bones to a large saucepan along with half each of the celery, carrots, and onion; the juniper berries; bay leaves and 12 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook until the bones have released their flavor, about 3 hours. Pour the lamb stock through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard the solids.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. In a roasting pan over two burners, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper, add to the pan, and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a platter and add the remaining celery, carrots and onion to the pan along with the rosemary and thyme. Cook the vegetables, stirring, until browned and soft, about 6 minutes. Return the lamb to the pan along with the lamb stock and bring to a boil. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place the lamb in the oven. Braise the lamb until very tender, about 3 hours.
In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups water to a boil. While whisking, slowly pour the polenta and the 2 tablespoons salt into the water and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring steadily, until the polenta is tender and smooth, about 1 hour. Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the cheese and butter. Season with pepper and keep warm until ready to serve.
Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and pour the pan juices through a fine sieve into a bowl. Skim and discard the fat and pour the juices into a small saucepan. Bring the juices to a boil and cook until the sauce reduces to 1 cup, about 15 minutes. Heat the broiler. Transfer the lamb to a foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning, until browned and crisp on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a large dish and serve with the polenta and sauce.
Potato and Scallion Fritters
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
2 1⁄2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz.) rye flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large russet potato, peeled and boiled until tender
3/4 cup ricotta
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
Freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the rye and all-purpose flours with the butter, 1 teaspoon salt, the egg, and 3/4 cup lukewarm water. Knead on medium speed until the dough comes together and is smooth, about 6 minutes. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Halve the dough and shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Grate the cooked potato on the large holes of a box grater and reserve 1 cup; use any remaining potato for another recipe. Place the potato in a medium bowl, mix with the ricotta and scallions, and season with salt and pepper.
On a floured work surface, roll each dough disk into a 1⁄8-inch-thick circle. Drop 1-tablespoon-sized dollops of the ricotta-potato filling evenly spaced over 1 dough circle. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the dough with water around each dollop of filling. Drape the second dough circle over the first and gently press the dough between the mounds of filling to adhere. Position a 3-inch-round fluted cutter over 1 mound of filling and stamp out the round. Repeat, stamping out all the rounds.
Pour enough oil into a 6-quart saucepan to come 2 inches up the side, attach a deep-fry thermometer, and heat to 350°F. Working in batches, add the rounds to the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, lift the fritters from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season the fritters with salt and serve while hot.
Skillet Cake with Berry Compote
Chef Norbert Niederkofler of St. Hubertus, Italy
1 1⁄2 cups fresh or frozen lingonberries or cranberries
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons white wine
2 teaspoons. fresh lemon juice
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 cup (4 oz.) “00” pasta flour
4 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons. unsalted butter
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Toasted, flaked almonds, to garnish
1 sprig mint, to garnish
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup lingonberries, 3 tablespoons sugar, the white wine, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt over medium and cook, stirring, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, about 8 minutes. Purée the sauce in a blender, scrape into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Stir in the remaining 1⁄2 cup lingonberries and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk the milk, flour, egg yolks and vanilla seeds until just combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, pour in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and whisk until soft peaks form. Scrape the egg whites into the batter and fold until combined.
In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the butter over medium and cook until it begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the skillet and cook, undisturbed, until set on the bottom, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip the pancake and cook until set, about 5 minutes. Slide the pancake onto a cutting board and tear into large pieces. Transfer the pieces to a serving plate and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Sprinkle with almonds, garnish with the mint and serve warm with the lingonberry compote spooned over the top.
Here are some suggestions on how to use July’s bounty to create delicious, seasonal meals. You may have noticed that in a few recent salad recipes, I have not cooked the corn before adding it to the salad. Corn, this year, has been plentiful and sweet and I found the salads taste better if the corn is uncooked. The dressing permeates the corn and it tastes quite fresh. Figs and Pecans are also in season here where I live, in fact, the figs are from a friend’s tree. If figs are not available in your area now, you can save this recipe until they are. Peppers and tomatoes are plentiful now and melons are at their peak.
Cold Salad Plate For 2
Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad
Cut 2 rounds from a the center of a ripe, peeled cantaloupe and remove the seeds. Center the rounds on 2 dinner plates.
Mix the tuna salad:
Combine one 6.4 oz package of tuna, ¼ cup diced onion, ¼ cup diced celery, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and ½ cup mayonnaise.. Place half the tuna salad in each cantaloupe round.
Make the deviled eggs:
Cut 3 hard-boiled eggs in half. Remove the yolks to a small bowl and mash them. Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion and 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery.
Add a little sprinkle of salt, ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise.
Mix well and use the fillings to stuff the egg whites. Arrange on the salad plate and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Add sliced fresh tomatoes to the salad plate and serve with warmed cornbread or rolls.
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- Chopped parsley
- Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips, see recipe below
Mix the corn, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato and red onion in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil, the lime juice, honey and salt. Mix well.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to marinate. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with tortilla chips.
Chili-Lime Tortilla Chips
Bake at 400 degrees F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, squeeze more lime juice over them. Serve with the corn salsa.
Summer Chicken Salad
- 8-9 oz boneless chicken breasts
- ½ sweet onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 1 cup red grapes, halved
- 1 tablespoon lemon Juice
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted
- Parsley for garnish
I like to poach chicken in broth for salads. Place 2 cups of water with a salt free chicken bouillon packet in a medium saucepan. Add a little salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and add the chicken. Lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook the chicken about 15-20 minutes or until they are white through the center.
Cool in the broth. Drain the chicken and dice. Save the broth for when you need chicken broth for a recipe.
Place the diced chicken in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients, except the pecans. Chill.
By hand, break half of the pecans into pieces and stir into the salad. Arrange the salad on a serving plate and decorate with the remaining pecans and garnish with parsley.
Makes 9-10 cakes
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels
- 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Roasted tomato salsa, recipe below
Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, pepper and cayenne in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, egg, honey and cooled melted butter.
Whisk together the wet ingredients, then incorporate the dry ingredients (do not over mix). Mix in the corn and cheese.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, drop heaping ¼-cup portions of the batter into the skillet and cook until golden brown and the cakes are cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Serve the corn cakes topped with Roasted Tomato Salsa.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
- 8 oven roasted tomatoes, finely chopped, see recipe
- 1 jalapeño chili, finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.
Fresh Fig Tart
- One 9-inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 1 pound fresh figs, stemmed and halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup apple jelly, heated
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Press the dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch tart pan.
Place the figs in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the sugar and lemon juice; toss gently to combine.
Spread the warm jelly over the pastry.
Arrange the figs in a circular pattern on the jam covered pastry. Sprinkle with pecans.
Bake for 35 minutes or until the fruit juices bubble and the crust is browned. Cool before cutting.
It is 90 degrees outside and you are thinking, “ I am not turning on the oven and heating up the house”. No need. There are plenty of light, delicious meals that you can serve cold or at room temperature for those hot summer days and nights. The Summer is filled with great seasonal foods like peaches, berries, melon, tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and cucumbers – all of which help keep us hydrated and cool during the heat. Turn these summer gems into light, easy meals.
Italian Cantaloupe Salad
This makes a great lunch. Just add a few bread sticks.
- 1/2 medium cantaloupe, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 10 basil leaves, sliced thin
- 12 Italian green olives
- 6 small sweet pickled Italian cherry peppers, diced
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup diced provolone cheese (or any cheese you like)
- 1 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. Toss with the oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. This salad is better chilled for a few hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
Carrot, Cucumber and Sweet Onion Salad
Good side for grilled meats or fish.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved carrot
- 1 small Vidalia onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 cups thinly shaved cucumber
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Combine the vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add the carrot and onion; toss to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.
Add the cucumber and parsley to the bowl; toss to coat. Let sit for an hour to allow the salad to marinate.
- 6 oz spaghetti, cooked al dente and drained
- 2 cups small heirloom or plum tomatoes of different colors, if possible, sliced thin
- 1/4 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup pitted and sliced Italian oil cured black olives, halved
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (chili)
- Basil leaves, sliced thin
In a serving bowl large enough to hold the pasta, add the the lemon juice, olive oil, onion, olives, red pepper flakes and a little salt and black pepper. Mix,
Add the sliced tomatoes and cooked spaghetti. Mix well and cover the dish until serving time. You can also serve this dish chilled.
Tuna Patty with Peach and Corn Salad
Using leftover grilled tuna gives the fish cakes much more flavor than canned tuna.
For 2 servings
- 6 oz leftover grilled tuna
- 1/4 cup finely diced celery
- 1/4 cup finely diced onion
- 1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup panko crumbs
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco (hot sauce)
- 1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon butter
- Ranch Dressing, recipe below
- Peach and Corn Salad, recipe below
Combine the tuna, celery, onion, bell pepper, mustard, lemon juice and zest, parsley, chives, hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste in a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Add enough mayonnaise to hold the mixture together. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill.
Divide the mixture evenly into 2 rounds and coat in the panko crumbs, pressing the crumbs into the parry.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium skillet. Add the tuna patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Ranch Dressing
Combine a mixture of your favorite salad greens and spread them on two individual dinner plates.
Make the salad dressing according to the recipe link: Homemade Ranch Dressing.
Place a cooked tuna patty on each plate and drizzle the greens and tuna with ranch dressing.
Place the Peach and Corn Salad on the other side of the plate. The Peach and Corn Salad compliments the tuna very well.
Summer Peach and Corn Salad
Serve this on the side with the tuna patty or as a salad on its own.
- 2 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
- 2 peaches, diced
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1/2 pound fresh salad greens
- 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese
Whisk together the vinegar, honey and oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the, shallots, parsley, corn and peaches.
Chill for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve as a side with the tuna patties over greens and top with the shaved cheese.
You can also serve the salad over greens and top with the shaved cheese as a separate salad with an entree.
At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.
These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.
- 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
- 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
- 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
- 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons relish
- Sweet paprika for garnish
Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.
Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.
Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.
Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
- 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
- Olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.
Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.
Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.
Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.
Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder
Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.
- 12 ears fresh corn
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups southern field peas
- 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
- Chopped fresh herbs for garnish
Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.
Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.
Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.
Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.
Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.
Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.
Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.
- One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan. You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.
Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.
Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.
Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake
The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.
Simple Sponge Cake Mixture
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
Gluten-Free Cake Mixture
- 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons milk
Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling
2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers
1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)
6 strawberries, cut into thin slices
1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin
12 whole small strawberries, stems removed
Whipped Cream Topping
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon light rum
Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Directions for making the simple sponge cake:
Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.
Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.
Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.
Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:
Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.
Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.
Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the whipped cream topping:
Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.
Directions for assembling the cakes:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.
Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.
Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
Easy Homemade Jam
This is a basic jam recipe and it works with any fruit (other than citrus). You can make jam with whatever fruit grows well where you live. In each season, use the best fruit you can find.
Work in small batches. Three pounds of fruit will yield close to 2 ½ pints of jam. If you want more jars, make two small batches rather than one double batch. The quality of the jam will be much better.
You don’t need to process the jars in a boiling water bath for this recipe. Just store the jam in the refrigerator, where it will last for weeks.
You can also store the jam in the freezer. The Ball Company now makes great containers to store jam in for the freezer.
Unprocessed homemade jam will not make you ill, because most jams are made from high acid fruits which are not susceptible to botulism.
I made Blackberry Jam using this recipe. It is definitely worth making because the jam has such a fresh and distinct blackberry taste. Not at all like processed jam.
For 2 1/2 pints
- 3 pounds ripe fruit, such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, etc.
- 2 to 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 lemon
Clean and cut the fruit as you would for making fruit salad or fruit pie. For example: remove the caps from strawberries and cut into quarters; or peel, pit and slice peaches into pieces; or trim rhubarb and chop it into chunks.
Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a wide, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot.
The puree should be no more than 1 inch deep in the bottom of the pot. I placed half of the blackberry puree in a strainer to remove the seeds before proceeding with the recipe.
For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one scant cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Stir to combine and taste. Very tart fruit (such as sour cherries, some plums or blackberries) might need a little more sugar. Very sweet fruit (such as white peaches) might need a little more lemon juice. Adjust to taste.
Bring the fruit-sugar mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. After it boils, continue to cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 12 to 14 minutes, or until thickened.
Check the consistency by turning off the heat and putting a spoonful of hot jam on a chilled saucer in the freezer for one minute.
When ready, the cold jam will form a light skin that wrinkles when you push your finger through it and it will cling to the saucer when you tilt the saucer upright.
If the cold jam is too runny, bring the pot back to a boil for another minute or two, stirring constantly, then check the set again.
When the jam is set, ladle it into clean half-pint jars or other air-tight containers. Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Fresh Strawberry Syrup
Delicious over pancakes, cheesecake, ice cream or crepes.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 pint strawberries, stems and leaves removed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Place sugar and water in a small saucepan over high heat; stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool completely. Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add the syrup. Puree until smooth and pass through a fine sieve or colander.
Chop remaining berries; stir into the strawberry puree. Store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days or freeze in small containers.
Makes 12 – 15 muffins depending on the size of your muffin pan.
- 2 1/4 cups (9 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) fresh blueberries
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons butter
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and either lightly grease 12 -15 muffin cups or use paper liners and spray the insides of the papers.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand-held or stand mixer, until light and fluffy and almost white in color.
Scrape down the bowl to make sure all the butter is incorporated, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed just until the batter is smooth. Fold in the berries by hand.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using 1/4-cup for each muffin.
To make the topping:
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over the muffins.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove them from the oven, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Summer Fruit Salad
Use summer fruits that are in season. I used about 6 cups of cut fruit in this recipe.
Fruit, sliced or cut into cubes
Mint-Lime Simple Syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
For the syrup:
Stir together the sugar and mint and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and boil 1 minute or until the sugar dissolves.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the lime juice, and cool 30 minutes.Pour mixture through a fine wire-mesh strainer into an airtight container. Cover and chill syrup 4 hours.
For the salad:
Gently toss together the fruit in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup Mint-Lime Simple Syrup, and gently stir to coat. Taste to see if the fruit needs more syrup.
Serve immediately, or cover and chill until serving time.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
This recipe makes one of the best tasting BBQ sauces I have made. It is especially good for grilled chicken.
Yields 4 cups.
- 2 cups peeled and chopped very ripe peaches, about 4 medium peaches
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoons onion salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups tomato ketchup
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 tablespoons butter, cubed and well chilled
Process peaches in a blender 1 minute or until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Add all the additional ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.
Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a few cubes at a time, until incorporated. Refrigerate covered until needed.
Belluno is a province in the Veneto region of Italy and is almost entirely occupied by mountain areas. The climate is among the most severe in the Alps. The Belluno area is representative of a typical alpine environment and a people who are proud of their traditions passed down from generation to generation through experience and oral narrative.
Belluno is one of the most important industrial sectors of northern Italy. The production of eyeglasses (Luxottica), home appliances (Zanussi and others) and bathroom fixtures (Ceramica Dolomite, Ideal Standard) are major industries.
Luxottica Group S.p.A., an Italian company, is the world’s largest eye wear company and is a designer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer of eye wear. Leonardo Del Vecchio and two financial partners launched Luxottica in Agordo, Italy in 1961.
Luxottica is the owner of Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. Its best known brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley. Luxottica also makes sunglasses and prescription frames for designer brands such as Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Miu Miu, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney and Tory Burch. Luxottica produces more than 130,000 eyeglass frames each day from six factory sites.
The cultivation of beans in the Lamon highlands and the production of Piave cheese in the Dolomites are important to Belluno’s economy. Large scale dairy cattle breeding in Belluno, began centuries ago by small mountain owners and valley sharecroppers. In more recent times, the Belluno area, like many other mountain areas in Italy, was hit with a serious economic crisis. In order to deal with the socio-economic downfall, a local parish priest, suggested a new form of joint management and the first social cooperative dairy was organized.
Piave is an Italian cow’s milk cheese, that is named after the Piave river. As Piave has a Protected Designation of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta or DOP), the only “official” Piave is produced in the Dolomites area in the province of Belluno.
Piave is a hard, cooked curd cheese, offered at 5 different ages:
Piave Fresco (20 to 60 days aging – blue label)
Piave Mezzano (61 to 180 days aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio (more than 6 months aging – blue label)
Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro (more than 12 months aging – red label)
Piave Vecchio Riserva (more than 18 months aging – black label).
Piave cheese has a dense texture, without holes, and is straw-yellow in hue. It has a slightly sweet flavor. Once fully aged, it becomes hard enough for grating and it develops an intense, full-bodied flavor.
Piave’s rind is impressed repeatedly in a vertical direction with the name of the cheese. Piave is sold throughout Europe and even in the US as a hard cheese. Its taste resembles that of a young Parmigiano Reggiano. The red label is aged at least 1 year and is called Vecchio (Piave Vecchio Selezione Oro), while the blue label is softer.
Piave Broiled Tomatoes
Makes 2 – 4 servings
- 3 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4” slices
- 3/4 cup | 175 mL panko breadcrumbs
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon | 15 mL fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 2/3 cup | 150 mL Piave cheese, finely grated
- 1/4 cup | 60 mL olive oil
- 1 teaspoon each | 5 mL each fresh herbs like sage, basil and parsley, finely chopped
Place tomato slices on paper towels to drain. In a medium bowl combine panko breadcrumbs, garlic, sage and Piave Cheese; stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to broil.
Arrange tomato slices on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Equally sprinkle breadcrumb mixture onto each tomato; drizzle with olive oil and place under broiler.
Broil for approximately 3 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from the oven, top with fresh herbs and serve.
Makes 2 rounds
- 1 pound Pizza Dough, divided in half
- 6 ounces Piave cheese, shaved, divided in half
- 12 very thin slices lemon, seeds removed, divided in half
- 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced, divided in half
- 2 tablespoons small sprigs fresh rosemary, divided in half
- Freshly ground pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Place a pizza stone on the floor of a gas oven (remove racks) or the bottom rack of electric oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 1 hour.
Stretch half the dough into a large round on a wooden pizza peel.
Arrange half the cheese evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half the lemon and onion slices. Sprinkle with half the rosemary and season with pepper. Drizzle with oil.
Turn the oven to broil. Align the edge of the peel with the edge of the stone. Tilt the peel, jerking it gently to move pizza onto the stone. When the edge of the pizza touches the stone, quickly pull back the peel to transfer the pizza to the stone. (Do not move the pizza once it is on the stone.)
Broil until bubbles begin to form in the crust, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the oven temperature to 500 degrees F and bake until the crust is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. (If not using the broiler, bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes total.) Remove the pizza from the oven with the peel. Repeat with the second pizza. Slice and serve.
Piave Orzo with Peas and Asparagus
- ½ cup | 125 mL heavy cream
- 1 cup | 250 mL chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon | 5 mL lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon | 10 mL lemon zest, grated
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL Piave Cheese, shredded
- 1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed into 2” lengths
- 1 ½ cups | 375 mL fresh or frozen peas
- 2 cups | 500 mL orzo | rice shaped pasta
- ¼ cup | 50 mL Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional shredded Piave cheese for garnishing
In a medium saucepan over medium heat bring cream, chicken or vegetable broth to a slow boil. Add lemon juice, lemon zest and Piave cheese, reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring often, until the cheese is melted.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, add orzo and cook for approximately 5 minutes; add asparagus and fresh peas (add frozen peas the last two minutes of cooking), continue cooking until the pasta is al dente and the vegetables are tender – approximately 4 additional minutes.
Drain pasta and vegetables and return to pasta pot; stir in cream cheese sauce and parsley. Garnish with additional Piave cheese and serve.
Figs, Piave Cheese & Honey
- Wedge of Piave cheese
- 4 large figs
- Honey to drizzle, about 4 teaspoons
- 1 sprig of fresh mint leaves, optional
- Fresh cracked pepper
Cut the cheese in half and slice off the rind on both sides. Cut into 12-15 thin triangle slices.
Cut the top of the figs off and then into quarters. Place the Piave slices on a plate with the figs.
Sprinkle the cheese and figs with cracked pepper. Then, drizzle with honey – about a teaspoon on each fig – and garnish with fresh mint leaves, if using.
Serve on individual plates with a dessert fork and knife.
With summer comes summertime food: steaming corn-on-the-cob, burgers, barbecue, ice cream sundaes and crisp red watermelon wedges. It is also the time you can make certain summertime homemade foods that are not usually available at other times of the year, such as pickles, ice pops, green tomatoes and oven roasted tomatoes. These summer favorites will remind you of what time of year it is. What are your favorite foods to prepare in the summer?
Easy Homemade Pickles
Yields 2 quarts or 4 pints
This pickling technique is safe and very easy adapt. In addition to cucumber pickles, you can also use this recipe to pickle any sturdy vegetable including green beans, zucchini, carrots, celery, onions and beets. If you stick to the basic ration of one part 5 percent vinegar to one part water, you can season the pickling brine to taste. (Commercial vinegar contains 5% -20% acetic acid)
Salt is always a key component, both for flavor and because the salt helps to crisp the vegetables. Almost all pickle recipes contain spices and you can add any combination of black peppercorns, dill seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, mustard seed, allspice, mace, cinnamon or cloves.
Wash and trim the vegetables as you would for making a salad or a vegetable side dish. Cut them into bite-sized shapes you like—spears, sticks, chunks, rounds or chips.
You can pack the vegetables into storage containers with lids raw, blanched or cooked. Store the sealed containers in the refrigerator, where they will keep for weeks.
- 2-2 1/2 pounds fresh, firm vegetables, such as cucumbers, squash, green beans, etc.
- 2 cups 5-percent vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed for quart jars, halved for pint jars
- 4-6 three-inch fronds of fresh herbs
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon whole-seed mustard
- 2 small dried red chili or slices of hot pepper
Trim and cut the vegetables.
Pack the vegetables snugly into 2 clean quart or 4 pint jars adding the garlic and fresh herbs at the same time. Then add the peppercorns, mustard seeds and hot peppers.
Combine the vinegar, water, salt and honey in a small pot. Bring to a boil and ladle the vinegar mixture over the vegetables to fill the jar. Seal the jars. Allow to cool overnight and then store in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Creamy Fresh Blackberry Ice Pops
- 10 ounces fresh blackberries
- 2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, softened
- 2 tablespoons honey
- One 6-piece ice pop mold
Place the blackberries into a blender or food processor. Cover and puree until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the blackberry puree through a fine sieve placed over a large bowl to strain out the seeds.
Add the softened frozen yogurt and honey to the strained blackberry puree and mix well. Pour into ice pop molds and freeze.
“Fried” Green Tomatoes
- 2 to 3 medium-sized green tomatoes
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Salt and pepper
Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and place them on paper towels to dry for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the flour in a shallow dish and add the seasoned salt.
Place the egg in a second shallow dish.
Place the panko crumbs to a third dish and add the paprika.
Sprinkle the tomato slices lightly with salt and pepper.
Dredge the tomato slices in flour, then egg and then in the panko crumbs to coat evenly.
Place on a greased baking pan.
Bake for 15 minutes, turning the tomato slices over and continue baking for 10 – 15 minutes more until the tomatoes are crispy.
Remove and cool on a wire rack.
If creole seasoning is not available in your area, you can make it. See the recipe below.
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1/2 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
Mix all ingredients together and whisk to combine.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. This sauce is also good with grilled fish.
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine and store in a jar with a tight-fitting cover.
Slow Roasted Summer Tomatoes
Slow roasting caramelizes and intensifies the flavor of the tomatoes. You can eat these “as-is” from the oven. They are also great served on crusty bread with a little olive oil or as a side dish. Perfect for adding to pasta, salads, sandwiches or used as a topping for crostini. Roasted tomatoes can be used in place of sun-dried tomatoes in recipes. They can also be frozen to be used at a later time.
- 4 pounds fresh vine-ripened plum tomatoes*
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- * Or as many tomatoes as you want to make. You can also use beefsteak tomatoes, heirloom and/or cherry tomatoes for this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty foil (be sure to line the baking pan because it catches the juices and helps with cleanup).
Wash and dry the tomatoes; cut out the stem core and discard. Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, leaving as much pulp as possible.
If you are using large heirlooms, cut them into quarters or even eighths.
Place tomatoes, cut sides up, on the prepared baking pan. They can be placed closely together since they shrink considerably during baking.
Sprinkle garlic and olive oil evenly over the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake 6 to 8 hours or until the tomatoes are reduced in size but still retain their shape. They should have shrunk to about half their original size and still be moist.
The time the tomatoes take to cook will vary because of their size and moisture content, but they should be caramelized and crispy on the edges. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.
Roasted tomatoes will keep in an airtight container, 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 8 months in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before using.
Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil
- Slow-Roasted Tomatoes recipe (see recipe above)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh basil leaves
- Thyme sprigs
Allow the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes to cool.
Clean and sterilize a 1-pint jar; set aside and let cool.
Layer the tomatoes in a jar with fresh basil leaves and some sprigs of thyme.
Pour olive oil in the jar until the tomatoes are covered by at least an inch or oil (the oil will seal the tomatoes for longer lasting). Store in the refrigerator.
Makes approximately 1 pint.