Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: figs

 

I make freezer jams because they are easy to make, don’t need packaged pectin and last a long time in the freezer. The secret ingredient is lemon. Lemon has natural pectin in it, but it needs sugar to gel. I also use a natural sugar substitute because we try not to eat sugary foods and it works just fine in the jam.

Freezer Blueberry Jam

Ingredients

4 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

Mix blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a large saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thickened and reduced by about half, about 30 minutes. Using a potato masher crush the berries several times during the cooking process. Pour the jam into clean freezer jars. Cool to room temperature. Store the jam in the freezer. When ready to use a jar, place in the refrigerator overnight.

Strawberry Preserves

Preserves are cooked the same way jam is, however, the only difference is that the fruit in preserves is cut into chunks, whereas with jam, the fruit is crushed. The texture of preserves is not as stiff as jelly or jam. It is easy to spread and makes a great topping for ice cream or pancakes.

Ingredients

1 quart of strawberries
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 long strip of lemon zest

Directions

Fill 4-pint jars with boiling water and place the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you make the preserves.

Wash the strawberries and remove the leaves. Cut them in half and place the berries in a large saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Stir well.

Bring the mixture to a boil and stir occasionally until mixture thickens, about 20-25 minutes or a candy thermometer registers 220 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the heat. Empty pint jars and remove the lids from the water.

Fill the jars with the preserves and place the lids on the jars. Cool for a few hours at room temperature. Store the jars in the refrigerator for a few weeks or freeze them for future use.

Fig Jam

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 lemon
1 orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 whole thyme sprigs
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

Directions

Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith. Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. (If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.) Discard the thyme and citrus strips.

Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for up to six months.

Blackberry Jam

For 2 1/2 pints

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe blackberries
2 cups sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions

Using a potato masher, crush the fruit until soupy. Measure this puree and note the quantity. Put the puree in a large, 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 seeds before proceeding with the recipe. For every two cups of fruit puree, add to the pot one cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

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
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.

Easy Homemade Peach Jam

4 cups

Ingredients

4 cups (1 kg) fresh peaches, pureed
2 cups (400 grams) white sugar or sugar substitute (I use Lakanto Monk Fruit)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Using a sharp knife, peel the peaches and remove the pits. Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth. You can do this in batches.
Pour the peach puree in a large and deep pot and add the sugar and one tablespoon of the lemon juice. Bring to a light boil and cook for about 20-25 minutes stirring very frequently. The jam will be ready when it reaches 221 °F/105 °C or when it’s thick enough when dropped onto a cold plate. Add the rest of the lemon juice, stir, and remove the pot from the heat.

Transfer the hot jam into pasteurized jars, making sure not to fill them all the way to the rim. Using thick gloves or a towel, secure the lids, invert the jars upside-down, and let them cool. Refrigerate or freeze.


Fresh fruit is so plentiful now that I can’t resist baking with some of it. The question is – which fruit to use? Cherries have a short season, so I take advantage of their availability now. Peaches are so flavorful at this time of year, you will want to bring home a bag full. Here in the south figs are everywhere and there are so many things you can make with them. What is your favorite summer fruit for baking?

Louisiana Fig and Pecan Cake

Ingredients

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped fresh figs
½ cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioner’s sugar, for serving

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a standing mixer, whisk the eggs briefly in the mixer bowl. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about one minute.

Add oil and beat until just combined.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and baking soda.

Beginning with the flour, add flour and buttermilk mixture alternately and mix until combined.

Add the chopped figs, cinnamon, cloves, salt and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan, or into 2 loaf pans (8x4x2½).

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the cake, 60-70 minutes for the tube pan and 50-55 minutes for the loaf pans.

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan. Allow the cake to cool completely.

Garnish with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Sweet Cherry Galette

Ingredients

1/2 package of refrigerated pie dough (such as Pillsbury), at room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch or other pie thickener
3 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface into an 11-inch circle.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Mix the pitted cherries with the brown sugar, salt and liqueur.

Spoon the cherries over the dough and leave a 2-inch border.

Drop pieces of butter over the cherries and fold the edges of the dough over, pressing lightly.

Sprinkle the crust with coarse sugar and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cherries are bubbling and the crust is brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Big Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

My children and grandchildren visit in the summer because they like all the water activities that are available at this time of year. A favorite dessert for all are chocolate chip cookies. I prepare a big batch before they arrive and store them in the freezer. Serving dessert is so easy – don’t even have to think about it.

If you do not want to make a big batch, the recipe ingredients can easily be cut in half.

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Heat the oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. I use four baking sheets for this recipe, so I can rotate them quickly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla.

Reduce speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (do not overmix). Mix in the chocolate chips by hand.

Use a cookie scoop to drop the dough onto baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Place 12 cookies on a sheet.

Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until golden around the edges but still soft in the center, 14 to 15 minutes.

Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then slide the parchment paper with cookies on it to the kitchen counter to cool completely.

Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

I store the cookies in the freezer and when company comes, I take out a dozen or two the night before and store them in an airtight container.

You won’t have to worry about them for the next day. They will be all gone!

Peach Crisp

Ingredients

6 ripe medium peaches
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Topping

3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the topping by combining all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and, using your fingers, work the butter into the mixture until crumbs form. Set aside.

For the peaches:

Peel and slice the peaches about ¼ inch thick and place in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a spatula.

Butter an 8×8 inch baking dish and pour the peaches into the dish. Spread the peaches to make an even layer.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the peaches.

Bake for about one hour until the peaches are bubbling away and the topping is brown and crispy.

Cool the baking dish on a wire rack. Serve the peach crisp warm with a spoonful of whipped cream on top.


Fig Tree

 

Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22. Worldwide, various events are held to demonstrate support for education about environmental issues. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

In honor of this idea, our family likes to add a new plant or tree in our garden every year. In the past, we have added a redbud tree, a palm tree, a star magnolia tree, a cypress tree, a lemon tree, a maple tree and, this year, a fig tree.

Cypress

Redbud

Star Magnolia

Palm

Meyer Lemon Tree

Maple

Figs are self-fruiting, so you need only one plant to produce fruit. Mature fig trees can grow be 15 to 30 feet tall. I don’t think I will see this in my lifetime, though. Figs can vary in size, shape, flavor, texture and time of harvest and can be black, green, brown, violet, yellow or purple in color.

Fig trees thrive in the heat of the southern US and Europe. Plant near a wall with southern exposure in the Middle South so they can benefit from reflected heat. In the areas with colder temperatures, plant cold-hardy selections, such as Brown Turkey and Celeste. You can grow figs in big pots and protect them during the winter by storing them in a cool garage or basement. During the first year, as the plants become established, water regularly and mulch. Once established, figs can be very drought tolerant. Fertilize with Espoma Citrus-tone (5-2-6) in late winter and early spring.

Figs are high in fiber and a good source of several essential minerals, including magnesium, manganese, calcium (which promotes bone density), copper and potassium (which helps lower blood pressure), as well as vitamins K and B6.

Figs must be allowed to ripen completely on the tree before picking. They can be enjoyed fresh or dried.

Figs can be eaten whole without any seasonings. They are an excellent addition to salads, cakes and ice-cream. Dried figs can be added to soups, stews or to enrich poultry, venison, lamb dishes.

I am looking forward to making my favorite fig recipes with my own home grown figs in the future.

Fresh Fig Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

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

Directions

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.

Fig Scones

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
10 ounces dried figs, diced small
2 cups heavy cream, cold
¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Small-Batch Fig Jam

Makes about 2 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 lemon
1 orange
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 whole thyme sprigs
2 pounds ripe fresh figs, stemmed and quartered

Directions

Remove the strips of rind from the lemon and the orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding the white pith.

Combine the rind strips and the remaining ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan or large Dutch oven.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium; and cook 50 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

To test for jam stage, place a small amount on a chilled plate. Tilt the plate and the preserves should move sluggishly.

(If testing with a candy thermometer, it should read 220°F.) Discard the thyme and citrus strips.

Pour into refrigerator or freezer storage jars. Store in the refrigerator for several months or the freezer for up to six months.


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The Province of L’Aquila is the largest, most mountainous and least densely populated province of the Abruzzo region of southern Italy.  The outstanding feature of the Abruzzo region, one that distinguishes it from Tuscany, is its three national parks and 30 nature reserves. It is why the area is known as the “green heart of Italy”. However, the province has been badly affected over the years by earthquakes, particularly the capital city of L’Aquila and its surrounding areas.

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The province is also known for its many castles, fortresses and medieval hill towns. The province’s two major cities, L’Aquila and Avezzano, have had rapid economic expansion since the late 20th century, with growth in the areas of transportation, manufacturing, telecommunications and the computer industry.

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Throughout most of the 20th century, there were serious population declines in the rural areas, with the near collapse of the province’s agricultural economy, as people moved to cities for work. Since the founding of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga and Majella national parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park, tourists have been attracted to the mountainous landscapes. Tourism and associated services have boosted the economy and begun to reverse its decline.

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The province of L’Aquila is dotted with ruins of ancient pagan temples and Roman settlements. A well-known city landmark (below) is the Fontana Luminosa (“Luminous Fountain”), a sculpture of two women bearing large jars, that was built in the 1930s.

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L’Aquila is a good base for skiing in the Apennines. The two most popular resorts are Campo Felice and Campo Imperator. Both resorts offer routes for downhill skiing, as well as for cross country. Ski season usually lasts from December to April.

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The Province of L’Aquila often organizes open-air celebrations and folk festivals that recall the old traditions and offer the chance to taste traditional local products. Abruzzi’s cuisine is rich in local specialties, such as red garlic, sugar-coated almonds, goat cheese, lentils from Santo Stefano di Sessanio, mortadella from Campotosto and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC wines.

Abruzzo Food Map

Abruzzo Food Map

The famous “Maccheroni all chitarra” is amongst the best known in the Abruzzi cuisine. The pasta dough, made of eggs and durum wheat, is cut into strips using a “chitarra” (translated literally as “guitar”). This equipment is made up of a wooden frame, strung with parallel steel strands, and by pushing the sheets of pasta dough through with a rolling-pin, the characteristic shape of chitarra is obtained. Chitarra is served with various Abruzzo sauces that include: pork, goose or lamb ragout.

Abruzzo side dishes include, “sagne e faggioli”, bean soup with traditional thin pasta noodles made from flour and water, flavored with a thin sauce made from fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spicy peppers. Other well-known Abruzzo dishes, include “gnocchi carrati”, flavored with bacon, egg and ewes-milk cheese. “Scripelli” crepes are served in a soup or used to form a soufflé dish and are served with a little ragout or stuffed with chicken liver, meat balls, hard-boiled eggs or a fresh ewe’s-milk cheese.

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Chitarra Pasta Maker

Ravioli can also be stuffed with sugar and cinnamon and served with a thick pork ragout. The “Pastuccia” is a stew of polenta that is served with sausage, egg and grated ewe’s-milk cheese and “pappicci” are thin pasta noodles in a tomato sauce.

Roast lamb has several variations, such as “arrosticini”, thin wooden skewers with pieces of lamb, cooked over an open fire and often served with bruschetta – which is roasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil. Pecora al cotturo is lamb stuffed with herbs and cooked in a copper pot and “agnello cacio e oro” is a rustic fricassee.

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Pizzas, from the Easter Pizza, above, (a cake with cheese and pepper) to “fiadoni” that is often enriched by a casing of pastry and filled with everything imaginable: eggs, fresh cheeses, ricotta and vegetables with all the flavorings and spices that the mind can only imagine.

The spreadable sausage from Teramano flavored with nutmeg, liver sausage from the mountains, ewe’s-milk cheeses and mozzarella cheese are all local favorites.

Traditional homemade desserts include “Ferrarelle”, aniseed wafers, “cicerchiata”, balls of fried dough joined into ring shapes with heated honey, “croccante” a type of nougat made with almonds and caramelized sugar, flavored with lemon, “mostaccioli” biscuits sweetened with cooked must; “pepatelli” biscuits of ground almonds and honey; macarons and the airy “Sise delle monache”, triangular pieces of sponge cake filled with confectioners cream; almonds and chocolate.

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Prosciutto and Fichi

The prosciutto from near L’Aquila is a bit saltier and less sweet than the prosciutto from Parma or San Daniele.

Ingredients

Slices of prosciutto crudo
Fresh, ripe figs
Large basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar

Directions

Slice the figs in half (if they are the smaller ones or in quarters if they are the larger variety). Wrap the ham and basil around the figs. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with balsamic vinegar..

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Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)

6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans, soaked overnight and drained
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
7 lbs Swiss chard, trimmed, leaves and tender stems roughly chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon. crushed red chili flakes
12 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
3 carrots, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1⁄4″ pieces
2 cups chicken stock

Directions

Boil beans and 6 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Drain beans; set aside.

Fill a saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the chard and cook until wilted and the stems are tender, 4–6 minutes; drain and squeeze dry.

Add 1⁄4 cup oil and the chili flakes to the same saucepan and heat over medium. Cook garlic, celery, carrots and onion until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Add the reserved beans and chard, the stock, salt and pepper and simmer until the stock is slightly reduced, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with the remaining oil.

 

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Ragu’ all’Abruzzese (Abruzzese-style meat sauce)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
1/2 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 or 4 large pieces
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds chopped canned tomatoes, with their juices (about 7 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped

Directions

Warm the cooking oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Season the pieces of meat with a little salt and pepper and add them to the pot.

Brown for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pieces to a deep plate or bowl.

Press the tomatoes through a food mill. Discard the solids. Set the tomatoes aside.

Return the Dutch oven to medium heat and add the extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is shiny and beginning to soften.

Pour in the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer.

Return the meat to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.

Cover partially and let the sauce cook, stirring it from time to time, for about 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender and the sauce is thickened.

Add a splash or two of water, if the sauce thickens too much before the meat is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat. Remove the meat from the pot, shred it and return it to the sauce.

Note: The ragu may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

This sauce is traditionally served over pappardelle or chitarra pasta.

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Dolci: Pizzelle

Italian waffle cookies, or pizzelle (which literally means small pizzas), are quite popular in the Abruzzo region of Italy. You can add cocoa with the sugar and make a chocolate version, or spread some hazelnut cream on one and top with another.

Makes about 36 pizzelle

Ingredients

1¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons anise (or other extract)

Directions

Preheat the pizzelle maker. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the butter and sugar and mix until smooth. Add the anise and then the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Lightly spray the pizzelle maker with vegetable oil (unless you have a non-stick version).

Drop the batter by the tablespoon onto the hot pizzelle iron and cook, gauging the timing (usually less than a minute) according to the manufacturer’s instructions or until golden.

Serve with your favorite toppings.

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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

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Cantaloupe Rounds Filled with Tuna Salad

Cantaloupe:

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.

Corn Salsa

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Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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

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Lay corn tortillas out on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with chili powder. Cut the corn tortillas into fourths.

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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

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Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

To serve:

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.

Corn Cakes

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Makes 9-10 cakes

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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

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Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

Mix the ingredients together and allow to rest at room temperature until serving time for the flavors to blend.

Fresh Fig Tart

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Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Piave Broiled Tomatoes

Makes 2 – 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Lemon-and-Piave Pizza

Makes 2 rounds

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Piave Orzo with Peas and Asparagus

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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Figs, Piave Cheese & Honey

Ingredients

  • Wedge of Piave cheese
  • 4 large figs
  • Honey to drizzle, about 4 teaspoons
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint leaves, optional
  • Fresh cracked pepper

Directions

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.

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This time of year is great for baking. Spring has its own flavor profiles. Winter is a time for cinnamon, nutmeg, spice and chocolate. Spring is the time to shed those heavy flavors and transition to lighter flavors such as citrus, herbs and berries. This is the time to lighten up desserts and have a little fun trying out new flavor combinations. I do all our baking – breads and desserts- but I don’t like very sweet things, so our breads and desserts tend to be on the savory side or fruit based.

Fig Scones

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These are not your typical scones. Instead of butter, the recipe uses cream. I serve them with lemon curd. You can also dust them with powdered sugar before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces dried figs, diced small
  • 2 cups heavy cream, cold
  • ¼ cup honey

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the diced figs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and honey.

Using a wooden spoon, stir the heavy cream mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the ingredients are moistened.

Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until a soft dough forms, sprinkling more flour in if needed. Divide the dough into two equal balls.

Working with one at a time, pat each one into an 8-inch circle and cut into 8 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pecan Sourdough Bread

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) fed sourdough starter, room temperature
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup pumpernickel flour
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

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Directions

Mix all of the ingredients (except the nuts) in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment.

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Add the nuts, kneading until they’re evenly incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours.

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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form it into a long loaf. Place the log into a long stoneware baker that has been lined with parchment.

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Cover the loaf, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it springs back very slowly when lightly pressed.

Place the covered stoneware baker into a cold oven, set the oven to 400°F and bake for 40 minutes. Take the cover off and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.

Check the bread. The internal temperature should be about 190°F when measured on an instant-read thermometer. If not, bake for a few minutes longer.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack. Yield: 1 loaf.

Blackberry Galette

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Ingredients

1 (9″) refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature or make the cream cheese pastry recipe below

Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 8 ounces cold cream cheese, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cold milk

Filling

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and thyme and pulse about 5 times to evenly distribute the thyme. Add butter and pulse until it is the size of peas.

Add cream cheese and pulse until a dough begins to form. Add milk and pulse until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 12-inch round. Fold the round in half, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and unfold the round.

In a bowl, lightly stir together the berries, lemon juice, ¼ cup sugar and flour.

Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch border uncovered around the edge.

Fold the edge up and over the filling, forming loose pleats.

Brush dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with the  remaining 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream or frozen yogurt.

Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread

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This savory bread goes very well with scrambled eggs or an omelet.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt (omit if you use salted butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 3 cups grated zucchini (from about 1 pound of zucchini), squeezed dry

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and dust the bottom with flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and rosemary.

Beat the eggs in a mixer until frothy. Beat in the sugar. Beat in the melted butter, olive oil and milk. Stir in the lemon zest and grated zucchini.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes. If you gently press down on the surface of the loaf, it should bounce back and a bamboo skewer or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven. Let cool for a few minutes and then remove the loaf from the pan to cool on a rack.

Healthy Fruit and Oat Bars

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These easy-to-make granola bars are lower in fat than many commercial snack bars and don’t have any of the additives or preservatives. I store them individually in zip-lock snack bags in the freezer. My husband is a golfer and he loves to put one in his bag on golfing days.

12 bars

Ingredients

  • ½ cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup dried fruit (apricots, berries, cranberries, etc.) chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts or nuts of choice, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips

Directions

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Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Use a silicone dessert bar pan and coat with cooking spray. Place the pan on a cookie sheet

In a large bowl, whisk the egg substitute, brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract.

Stir in the oats, dried fruit, nuts and flour.

Divide the mixture evenly in the pan and flatten each slightly with a spatula.

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Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool; turn out.

Put each bar in a zip-lock snack bag and place bags in a larger freezer bag to store in freezer.


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Tradition is important in the Italian-American culture. Second only to Christmas Eve in the way of Italian-American traditions, Easter is a big holiday and, as such, it is centered around food—as most Italian-American celebrations are. From Easter breads and ricotta pies to roasted lamb and asparagus, there are numerous dishes on the Italian American table. Here are some recipes for just a few of them.

Pizza Rustica

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Also, called Easter Pie. There are as many recipes for this dish as there are Italians. Most pies contain ricotta cheese, eggs and some type of Italian meat. Italian Americans love to make this pie for their family members.  I remember vividly, my father visiting his family at Easter time and coming home with pies made for him by his sisters and sisters-in-law. It twas a bit overwhelming.

Pastry Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons icy water as needed

Directions

Put the flour and salt into a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to mix the dry ingredients.

Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and drop them onto the flour and pulse the machine in short bursts about 10 times. The mixture should be crumbly.

Put in the eggs and pulse a few times to mix the eggs into the dry ingredients.

Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water on top of the dough. Pulse 6 times for just a second or two. The dough should resemble cottage cheese. Pick up some dough and press it together. If it doesn’t hold together, add another teaspoon of water until it does.

Scrape the dough onto a floured board and knead together just to form a smooth, tight dough.

Form a flat disc and wrap the dough in plastic. Refrigerate for a few hours before using.

Filling

  • 32 oz. ricotta, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut in a ½ inch dice
  • 4 oz diced Prosciutto di Parma
  • 4 oz sopressata cut into ½ inch dice
  • 1 cooked sweet Italian sausage link (4 oz.) cut into ½ inch cubes
  • Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with one tablespoon of water)

Directions

In a large bowl combine the ricotta, Pecorino, pepper and eggs.

Add the mozzarella, prosciutto, sopressata and sausage and mix well into the cheese mixture.

To Assemble the Pizza Rustica

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan or a 9 inch deep dish pie pan.

Cut off 1/3 of the dough and set aside.

With a rolling-pin, roll out the remaining pastry dough to about 15 inches in diameter. It should be about 1/8 inch thick.

Flour the board and top of the dough to avoid the dough from sticking.

Place the dough in the pan and pat the dough to cover the bottom and sides. If the dough breaks just patch it.

Pour in the ricotta mixture.

Tap the pan on the board to ensure the filling settles.

Roll out the remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round. (You can also cut the dough for the top into lattice strips.)

Place the dough over the filling. Pinch the edges of the dough together to seal, then crimp the dough edges decoratively.

Brush the egg wash over the entire pastry top. Bake on the bottom shelf until the crust is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Let stand 15 minutes. Release the pan sides and transfer the pizza to a platter. Cut into wedges and serve.

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Spring Minestrone

 

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces ground chicken
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, whisked
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup orzo or ditalini or other small pasta
  • 1 cup 1/2-inch rounds of peeled carrots
  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach
  • Chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix chicken, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 2 minced garlic cloves, chives, egg, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl.

Form into 1/2-inch-diameter meatballs (I uses a melon ball scoop). Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the meatballs on the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced leek to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining garlic; cook for 1 minute. Add broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.

Stir in pasta and carrots;turn heat to low and simmer about 8 minutes.

Add meatballs; simmer until pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, about 3 minutes.

Add spinach and remaining 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese; stir until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped parsley and additional Parmesan, if desired.

Spinach Lasagna

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For the white sauce

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions

In a medium saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat. Stir in flour and cook the roux, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add milk in a steady stream and bring mixture to a boil, whisking until thick and smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes, or until thickened. Transfer sauce to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.

Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 32 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1-10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Lasagna

  • 1 lb.mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • White sauce, recipe above
  • 12parboiled spinach lasagna noodles

Directions

Mix the ricotta with the spinach and the remaining filling ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.

Completing the Lasagna

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.

Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.

Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce.

Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Sprinkle the top with extra parsley for color.

Italian Baked Ham

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Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 jar fig jam
  • 1 large ham (8 to 10-pounds bone-in, spiral cut or 4- to 5-pound boneless)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on top.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and juice and olive oil.

Set the ham on the rack and rub the ham with the rosemary mixture. Season with salt and pepper and cover with foil.

In a small pot, heat the fig jam with a couple of tablespoons of water.

Bake the ham for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and glaze the ham with the fig jam.

Continue brushing the ham with the glaze every 15-20 minutes with a pastry brush, for another hour or until heated through.

If the ham starts to get too brown, loosely cover it with foil. Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Easter Lamb Cake

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Ingredients

  • 1 pkg store-bought pound cake mix
  • 1 cup water (use 1/4 cup less than the package directions-my cake mix calls for 1 1/4 cups of water)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Whipped Cream Frosting, recipe below
  • 1 lamb mold

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare the lamb mold by coating it with vegetable oil. Let sit for a few minutes then wipe clean with a paper towel.

Then grease (use a solid shortening) and flour the lamb mold, making sure to get all the creases.

Place the front of the mold on a baking sheet.

Prepare the cake batter according to the cake mix directions.

Fill the mold to the top for the front of the cake, do not fill the back side of the mold.

Place the back of the mold on the front and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake tests done. (Test with toothpick through a vent hole in the mold.)

Remove the mold from the oven, wait 10 minutes and remove the back of body mold.

Stand the cake up and gently remove the front of the mold. Have clean towels rolled up and ready to support the head of the cake, while placing a rolled up towel in back of the cake to support the that part also.

Place a dab of icing on a plate and stand the cake in an upright position. Frost and decorate with jelly beans, raisins, cherries, or chocolate chips for the eyes and nose.

(Best results cool cake in the refrigerator before frosting, this makes a firmer surface for the icing.)  Place green tinted coconut around the base of the lamb; add jelly beans and a colorful bow at the neck, if desired.

Whipped Cream Frosting

This is a great whipped cream recipe because it does not weep after it sits on the cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Directions

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a electric stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.


Umbrian Olive Orchards

Umbrian Olive Orchards

The only landlocked region in Italy, Umbria is located in the center of the country. Wheat and spelt, pearl barley, grapes, olives, lentils, red potatoes, sunflowers and fruits and vegetables of all kinds grow well in the fertile lands of Umbria and provide the basis for hearty Umbrian cooking. Abundant, as well, are forest animals like deer, wild pigs and venison that provide hearty proteins for the Umbrian table.

Some of the best lentils come from Umbria, in particular from Castelluccio, therefore a hearty lentil soup is a typical regional dish served as a first course or for lunch. With such a strong meaty tradition where meats are often cooked whole on a spit, Umbrian second courses appeal to meat lovers.  Late summer is fig season in Umbria and they are often baked into sweet breads and pastries.

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The wines of Umbria include: Sagrantino di Montefalco (DOCG) and Montefalco Rosso (DOC), but the most prestigious Umbrian wine is Torgiano Rosso “riserva” (DOCG). Orvieto produces one of Italy’s best-selling DOC whites.

The dinner menu below is inspired by the cuisine and regional foods of Umbria, Italy

First Course

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Umbrian Vegetable and Sausage Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Italian sausage links, sliced thin and each slice cut in half
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 oz. container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Directions

Heat the oil in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot. Add the sausage and brown; remove to a plate.

Add all the vegetables and garlic to the pot and saute until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth, water, tomato and seasonings. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook the vegetables for 15 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and bring back to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Serve with crusty Italian bread

Second Course

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Pork Scaloppine with Peppers and Onions

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 lb.
  • 1/2 cup refrigerated egg substitute or 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 an onion, sliced
  • 3-4 Italian frying peppers, depending on their size
  • 1/2 cup pureed Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Trim and cut the pork chops in half lengthwise to make 6 pieces. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the countertop. Put one pork piece on top of the plastic and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap.

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With a meat mallet (or heavy skillet), pound the meat into 1/4-inch thick scaloppine.

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Repeat with the other 5 pieces.

Dip the scaloppini in the egg and then coat in the bread crumbs. Place breaded meat on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.

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Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add the 3 scaloppini slices and brown on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining oil and breaded cutlets.

Add the garlic, peppers and onions to the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until heated through.

Serve the scaloppini with the pepper and onion sauce.

Contorno

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Roasted Cauliflower Parmesan

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cauliflower, broken into large florets
  • 3 eggs or 3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour mixed with ¼ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Grease a large baking sheet with olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the flour and seasonings in a large plastic bag. add the cauliflower florets, close the bag and shake until the cauliflower pieces are covered in flour.

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In a deep bowl beat the eggs with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese.

Dip each piece of floured cauliflower into the egg and cheese mixture, making sure they are coated evenly on all sides.

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Put them on the greased baking pan and bake for 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve.

Dessert Course

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Fresh Fig and Almond Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 refrigerated single 9 inch pie crust dough, at room temperature
  • 15 Mission figs, tips cut off and halved
  • 1/2 cup fig jam (or another jam)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla granulated sugar or regular granulated sugar

Directions.

Unroll pastry and place in a buttered 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Flute edges.

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Spread the fig jam over the bottom of the crust. Arrange the figs in a decorative pattern on top.

Sprinkle with sliced almonds and sugar.

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Place the tart pan on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack until serving time.


 

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This is definitely pie baking for those who are intimidated by making traditional pies. Think rustic tarts — they don’t even require a pie plate. First, you roll out just one sheet of dough (since there’s no top) as perfectly or imperfectly as you like. Then you add the fruit filling in the center and fold over the edges of the dough. There you are – ready to bake.

A crostata is an Italian baked tart or pie, also known as coppi in Naples and sfogliate in Lombardy. The earliest known use of crostata in its modern sense can be traced to the cookbooks Libro de Arte Coquinaria (Art of Cooking) by Martino da Como, published circa 1465, and Cuoco napoletano (Neapolitan recipes), published in the late 1400s containing a recipe (number 94) titled “Crostata de Caso, Pane,” etc. The French version is called a Galette.

A modern crostata is a “rustic free-form version of an open fruit tart that may also be baked in a pie plate. Crostatas have a status as being one of the premiere Italian pastries. A crostata can be made with just about any type of fruit filling, the pastry can be prepared with fruit that is in season, as well as any range of home canned preserves and even with canned fruits and jams that are purchased in the supermarket. The fact that the crostata may be prepared as an open-faced dessert or be covered with a top crust allow this Italian pastry to easily adapt to all sorts of occasions.

Since peaches looked absolutely beautiful this week, I bought some for eating and some for baking. So I am making a peach crostata for you here and recipes for other types of fruit fillings follow. Just follow the directions for the peach crostata for the other fruit fillings. Take your pick. Not only is this dessert easy to prepare but if you serve it to guests, they will think you are a pastry chef.

The traditional pastry in Italy is pasta frolla but you can also use 1 large sheet of defrosted puff pastry or 1 refrigerated round pie crust dough. The traditional pastry recipe is below, if you would like to use it. I keep it simple and use the refrigerated store-bought pastry crust. I don’t peel the peaches either.

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Peach Crostata

I like to brush the bottom of the crust with a little jam or marmalade to keep the crust from getting soggy and to add an additional layer of flavor. Traditional recipes do not call for this step.

Ingredients

  • One refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons apricot or peach preserves or orange marmalade
  • 3 large peaches, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour, cornstarch or tapioca flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Water or cream
  • 1 tablespoon coarse sugar

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°F. Remove the pie crust dough from the paper pouch and place flat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the crust with the preserves.

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In medium bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the peaches and vanilla. Mix well.

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Rather than spooning the fruit mixture onto the center of the crust, I prefer to arrange the fruit in a decorative pattern to within 1 1/2 inches of the edge. Use tongs to arrange the fruit and pour any juice left in the bowl over the arranged fruit. If there are any slices that don’t fit just arrange them in the center on top of the first layer, as I did for this crostata. Dot with the butter.

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Fold the crust edge over the filling to form a border, pleating the crust as necessary. Refrigerate the tart until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush the crust edge with water or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is tender. Serve warm. This dessert is sometimes served with sweetened mascarpone cheese or whipped cream.

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Pasta Frolla (Italian Sweet Pastry Dough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 small orange
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks

Directions

Put the flour, sugar, salt, lemon and orange zest in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse briefly to combine the ingredients. Distribute the butter around the bowl and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg and egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gather it together. Knead it briefly and shape it into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or until well chilled (overnight is fine). Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes, or until it is just pliable enough to roll, but not too soft to work with. Roll out into an 11 inch circle.

Blueberry Crostata

  • 18 oz blueberries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon flour
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Blackberry Crostata

  • 12 ounces blackberries
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Plum Crostata

Note: For this recipe you want firm but slightly ripe plums, and preferably freestone, such as the Italian prune plums.

  • 2 pounds firm ripe Italian prune plums, cut into sixths or eighths
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or other flavored liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Fig Crostata

Use fig jam for the crust, if you can.

  • 1/2 lb of ripe figs
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Apricot Crostata

  • 1 1/2 lbs of fresh ripe apricots
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • Coarse sugar

Cinnamon Apple Crostata

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups thinly sliced, peeled cooking apples or 3 large apples
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans or walnuts

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