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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: grapes

FALL BRIDGE—By Leonid Afremov

FALL BRIDGE—By Leonid Afremov (http://afremov.com/cats.php)

There is plenty of cool weather produce available in the fall that you can make into delicious, seasonal salads.

Apples

Apples are plentiful during the autumn months. For salads, choose varieties that are sweet and crisp. Popular salad apples include Red Delicious, Fuji and Winesap. Buy firm apples that smell fresh and have smooth skins.

Pears

It’s also the time of year to sample all types of pears. Select those with even color and a slight blush. Be careful when handling pears because they are delicate and bruise easily. Although there are thousands of known pear varieties in the world, there are a handful recognized especially for their superb flavor and fresh eating qualities, such as Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice.

Tip: To keep pear slices from browning, sprinkle them with lemon juice or serve them immediately after slicing.

Cranberries

Fresh cranberries are very tart and are usually sweetened before they go into a salad. Dried cranberries add beautiful color and sweet chewiness to salads.

Grapes

Grapes are harvested when sweet and ripe, so look for plump clusters that are firmly attached to green stems. Once at home, refrigerate grapes until ready to use and then rinse with cold water, halve them and mix them into your favorite salad.

Beets

Fall beets come in red, pink, orange, yellow and white varieties, as well as a range of sizes. Both the bulbous root and the leafy stalk are edible. For salads, select small to medium beets with firm, smooth skin and no soft spots or punctures. Those with stems and leaves still attached are best. The foliage should be green and fresh-looking. Store beets, greens and all, in a produce bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Tip: Use disposable latex gloves from the drugstore when peeling beets. They’re thin enough to allow dexterity while protecting your hands from stains.

Fennel

Fennel is available in the fall and adds a hint of fresh sweet licorice flavor to any salad. This aromatic plant is pale green with a celery-like stem and feathery foliage. Its root base and stems can be treated like a vegetable and baked, braised or sliced and eaten raw in salads. The greenery can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill to enhance many recipes. Fennel’s licorice-like flavor is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even milder and softer than in its raw state.

Cabbage

The cabbage family is wide and varied: broccoli and cauliflower are members. Some of the best heads of cabbage for salads are the crinkled-leaf “Savoy” types, also sold as Napa, January King or Wivoy cabbage. These are thin-leafed, tender and mild. When choosing a head of cabbage, look for fresh, crisp leaves that are firmly packed; the head should feel heavy for its size.

Cauliflower and Broccoli

These vegetables are available year-round, but they are especially plentiful in the spring and fall. When buying cauliflower, select one that is white or creamy white in color, firm and heavy. Cauliflower may be stored for up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep it dry and any brownish colored portions may be trimmed away before cooking.

When shopping for broccoli, look for leaves and stems with dark green heads. Look for tender, young stalks that are firm with compact buds in the head. Yellow flowers in the buds or very rough bumpy heads may indicate the broccoli is past its prime.

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Fall Spinach Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Salad

  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon chopped  pecans
  • 1/2 of an apple, cored and diced
  • 1 tablespoon diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons grated carrot
  • 1/4 of an avocado, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic salad dressing, or to taste

Directions

Stir the balsamic vinegar and honey together in a bowl; slowly stream the olive oil into the mixture while whisking continuously. Season with salt and pepper.

Place spinach, cranberries, pecans, apple, onion, carrot and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

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Wild Rice, Kiwi and Grape Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans

Directions

Place broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain excess liquid, cover and let cool.

Whisk together lemon juice, oil and honey in a small bowl until the honey is dissolved. Season with salt and pepper.

Place cooled rice in a salad bowl, along with kiwi, grapes and pecans. Add dressing, gently toss and serve.

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Cabbage Salad – Waldorf Style

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 head savoy cabbage
  • 4 unpeeled apples, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Slice cabbage into thin pieces 1 to 2 inches long. Do not use the large ribs of the cabbage, as they are too strongly flavored for this salad.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the cabbage, apples, walnuts and celery.

In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, honey and salt. Mix with the cabbage salad  until evenly coated. Serve immediately.

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Beet, Fennel and Apple Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetables

  • 1 medium cooked red beet, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored, and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 medium crisp tart apple such as Granny Smith, cored and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
For the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, toss together the beets, fennel, apple and parsley. Add the dressing and mix gently to coat all of the ingredients evenly. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours. (If refrigerating, remove from the refrigerator and let stand 30 minutes before serving.

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Fall Fruit & Nut Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup cashew halves
  • 4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Salad:

  • 1 (10 ounce) package mixed salad greens
  • 1 medium Bosc pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup halved seedless red grapes

Directions

In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cashews to a dish to cool slightly.

Return skillet to medium-high heat, cook bacon strips until crisp on both sides, about 7 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Coarsely chop bacon.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the bacon, rosemary, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and toasted cashews.

In a small bowl, stir together white wine vinegar, mustard and honey. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large salad bowl, toss half the dressing with the greens, pear slices, grapes and sprinkle with nut/bacon mixture.

Serve with the remaining dressing in case anyone wants additional dressing on their salad.

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Apples
Look for apples that are firm, brightly colored and free of bruises. The skin should be clean and shiny; a dull finish indicates the fruit may be past its prime. Refrigerate apples up to two weeks. At room temperature, they ripen too quickly and become mealy. Apples are also good baked in pies, roasted or sautéed to accompany meat dishes.

Grapes
Look for grapes that are plump, unblemished and firmly attached to a flexible stem. Ripe white and green grapes should have a yellowish cast; red and purple ones should have no green. Refrigerate grapes in a ventilated plastic bag up to one week.

Pears
Pears ripen off the tree, so most of the fruit you’ll find at the market will need a few days to soften at home. Common varieties include: Anjou, which is egg-shaped with a green, rose-tinged green, or red skin; Bosc, which has a slender neck and a brown skin (Boscs are flavorful even before fully ripe so they are good for cooking); and Bartlett, which has a red skin or a green skin that yellows as it ripens. Let pears ripen at room temperature. When they’re ready to eat, the flesh on the neck of the fruit will give a little when pressed. Refrigerate ripe pears for up to five days. Cooking can really bring out their flavor, so try them baked or poached.

Pomegranates
This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades and the seeds can be mixed into salads to give them flavor.

Dates
This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is perfect braised in stews, chopped up in desserts, stuffed with cream cheese or almonds or baked into quick breads.

Kiwi
Use this sweet fruit to add a tropical flavor to your recipes. It’s great mixed with other fruits for a fruit salad or combined with pineapple to make a tangy chutney.

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Apple-Date Cake

12 servings

Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2/3 cup fat-free milk
  • 2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped peeled apple
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine milk, dates and salt; heat until steaming but do not boil. Remove from the heat. Stir in apple and vanilla; cool to room temperature.

Whisk in egg and oil and stir until combined. Set aside.

For the topping:

In a small bowl stir together pecans, brown sugar, butter, the 1 teaspoon flour and the cinnamon; set aside.

For the cake:

In a medium bowl whisk together the 1-1/2 cups flour, the baking powder and baking soda. Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Spoon batter into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with the pecan topping mixture.

Bake about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Serve warm.

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Italian Grape Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh, seedless purple grapes
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F

Generously butter and flour a 9 inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk and vanilla extract and mix until blended.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with the flour.

Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.

Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes.

Remove to a rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature. Cut the cake into thin wedges.

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Pear Quick Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped fresh pears (not too ripe – more hard than soft)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Mix together molasses, honey, egg white, buttermilk and oil in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.

Mix flour, bran, sugar, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and add the wet mixture all at once.

Stir in the chopped pears and walnuts.

Pour into a 9 x 5-inch lightly greased baking pan.

Bake at 350°F for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the bread tests done (cake tester inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean). Makes 1 large loaf.

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Pomegranate-Ginger Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for the topping
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/4 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (1/8 lb.) butter or margarine, melted and cooled

Directions

In a bowl, mix flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in crystallized ginger, lemon peel and pomegranate seeds. Make a well in the center.

In a measuring cup, blend milk, egg and melted butter. Pour mixture all at once into the well in the bowl with the flour mixture. Stir just until batter is moistened; it will be lumpy.

Spoon batter into 12 (2 1/2-in.-wide) or 24 (1 3/4-in.-wide) buttered mini muffin cups, filling each almost to the rim. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with granulated sugar.

Bake in a 425°F oven until lightly browned, about 16 minutes for the large muffin pan or 13 minutes for the small muffin pan. Remove muffins from the pan immediately and cool on a wire rack.

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Kiwi Ricotta Cheesecake

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (about 3 oz.) gingersnap cookie crumbs or biscotti crumbs
  • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger, divided
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 15 oz. (1 2/3 cups) ricotta cheese
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 kiwi fruit (about 1/4 lb. each)

Directions

Combine crumbs, 1/4 cup crystallized ginger and melted butter. Pat crumb mixture evenly the over bottom of a removable-rim 8-inch cheesecake pan.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the crust is lightly brown, 10 to 12 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process ricotta cheese, egg whites and lemon juice until very smooth.

In a mixing bowl, stir together yogurt, sugar, lemon peel and vanilla. Add ricotta mixture and stir until well blended (the mixture is thin). Pour into the (hot or cool) crust.

Bake in a 350°F oven until the center barely jiggles when cake is gently shaken, 50 to 55 minutes. Run a thin-bladed knife between cake and pan rim.

Refrigerate cake, uncovered, until cool, at least 2 1/2 hours. (If making ahead, wrap airtight when cool and chill up to 2 days.)

Remove pan rim. Peel kiwi fruit and slice crosswise. Arrange fruit in a ring in overlapping slices on top of the cake and sprinkle with remaining ginger. Cut cake into wedges.


 

beachcover

One of my favorite things about living near the Gulf is that the beach is so close to us. There is nothing better than relaxing in the sun, digging your toes into warm sand and spending the day with friends. Beach trips require an adjustment in thinking about what foods to pack for a lunch, however. That means you don’t want snacks that will wilt in a cooler on a hot day or use food containers that will let sand inside. And you don’t want to have to deal with a lot of utensils or dishes.

Hands-down the most obvious beach must-have is bottled water. Without adequate hydration, you run the risk of heat stroke. Do not forget the sunblock, either. I have seen too many people turn lobster red before the end of the day.

By bringing snacks like nuts and dried fruits, which are packed with protein and carbohydrates, you’ll have delicious and easy snacks that will give you energy all day long. Pita, pretzels and chips are all delicious with dips like hummus or salsa, but dips are not the best idea for a snack at the beach. One gust of wind and you may get more sand in the container than you want. The less exposed your food is to the elements, the better.

Mayonnaise does not hold up once it leaves the refrigerator. Instead, opt for a vinaigrette or use sandwich condiments, like pesto, to add flavor. Dairy products are best left at home, as they are highly unstable if not kept at the right temperature.

Think of healthy, but filling food to take to the beach.

Choose pita bread or wraps for sandwiches instead of bread slices that may get soggy.

Keep all condiments separated from other food. Use small Tupperware containers for sauces or dressing.

Pack light and non-salty snacks for kids in individual ziplock sandwich bags. Prepare chopped fresh vegetables, like carrot slices, red, yellow and green pepper sticks, cherry tomatoes, celery, crackers and raisins that can be enjoyed as a small snack.

Go with light meats, such as turkey slices or grilled chicken. They are excellent choices to place in a sandwich wrap.

Try to create snacks that are based upon finger foods. Fruit that can be eaten out-of-hand, like grapes, apples, pears and peaches along with cheese that isn’t too melty — cheddar, Swiss and Gouda, for example, are best for the beach. Cookies and brownies are best for dessert.

How to pack the cooler.

Start with a great insulated cooler. Make sure it’s size appropriate for your entire family. It gets pretty tiring lugging lots of bags from the car to the sand.

Food and drinks that are going to be used last should go on the bottom of the cooler. You don’t want to be digging through the ice or other items just to get one thing.

Place the heaviest and biggest items on the bottom, while the lightest and smallest items should be placed on the top.

Always add ice cubes or ice packs to the cooler after the items have been added to act as a buffer between the food and the heat.

Bring cleaning supplies.

Baby wipes are recommended to take with you to the beach. Unlike napkins, baby wipes help to moisturize the skin and they remove sand more efficiently than dry cloths or paper napkins.

Take extra plastic bags with you. To minimize trash blowing away and litter in general, you can easily place your trash in the plastic bag. Toss the entire bag in a nearby trash barrel on your way out.

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Sunset Beach BBQ

Be sure you wrap up raw meats and pack them with individual ice packs. Make sure your cooler can keep any raw ingredients cool enough, long enough.

Marinate meat the night before, since the marinade will help preserve the meat.

Bring vegetables, like bell peppers and corn on the cob, to give you some variety on the grill. This will satisfy any vegetarians in your group and it will also free up space in the cooler since veggies don’t need to be kept cold.

Frozen fruits serve double duty. As an alternative to ice cubes, freeze grapes or berries, then add them to your cooler when you head to the beach. Not only are frozen fruits refreshing, but they will also help keep the temperature down in a cooler.

Beach Friendly Food

Gullible: those who believe they can have a picnic at the beach.

 

Crunch Mix

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6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cinnamon-flavored oat square cereal
  • 2/3 cup dried baked apple pieces
  • 1/2 cup shelled lightly salted pistachio nuts or coarsely chopped, toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

Directions

In medium bowl combine cereal, apple pieces, nuts and raisins. Divide evenly into 6 sandwich bags.

Chicken and Hummus Pitas

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (8 to 12 ounces)
  • 2 large whole wheat pita bread rounds, halved
  • 1 cup homemade of store-bought hummus
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

Directions

In a small bowl combine oil, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper.

Place chicken on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Brush both sides of chicken with the oil mixture. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat for 7 minutes. Turn chicken; broil 5 to 8 minutes more or until chicken is no longer pink. Cool slightly; cut into strips.

Carefully open pita halves and spread each with a ¼ cup of hummus; add sliced chicken, tomatoes, cucumber and yogurt.

Wrap each sandwich well in aluminium foil. The foil will help hold the sandwich together while you eat it.

Cucumber and Apricot Sandwiches

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4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 8 slices firm-textured whole wheat bread
  • 2 large apricots or 1 nectarine, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup arugula leaves

Directions

Peel cucumber. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Thinly slice cucumber; set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the cream cheese, basil and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Spread about 1 tablespoon cheese mixture on one side of each bread slice.

Top four bread slices with cucumber, apricot and arugula.

Top with remaining bread slices, cream cheese side down.

Cut each sandwich in half diagonally. Wrap well in foil.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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40 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F.

In a small bowl, combine raisins and boiling water; set aside.

In a large electric mixer bowl, combine peanut butter and butter; beat with the electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Add sugar, egg, cinnamon, vanilla and baking soda. Beat until combined.

Add flour; beat until smooth. Stir in oats.

Drain the raisins; stir raisins and chocolate chips into the oat mixture.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks; let cool.

Pack into sandwich bags for individual servings at the beach.

Don't forget the frozen grapes.

Don’t forget the frozen grapes.


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Looking for a quick snack or an easy dish to make for a picnic, barbecue or party, fruit salad is a great option.

A few additions to a fruit salad can go a long way in adding color, flavor and uniqueness. A squeeze of fresh citrus juice prevents browning in some fruits and adds a bright flavor that will help balance out the sweetness of the fruit. Similarly, a chiffonade of fresh herbs (like mint, basil or cilantro) elevates and enhances a dish of fruit.

When making a fruit salad think about flavors that will complement and balance the sweetness (or sourness) of the fruit you are using. Smoky, spicy and salty flavors work well with very sweet fruits like berries or melon. A homemade simple ginger syrup complements tart fruits like pineapple.

To make the ginger syrup:

Bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add 1 piece (about 4 ounces and 10 inches long or use several small pieces) of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin rounds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep 30 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard ginger. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

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Fruit and Herb Salad

For the salad:

  • 1 pint strawberries, stemmed and halved
  • 1 half-pint raspberries
  • 1 half-pint blueberries
  • 2 oranges, peeled and cut into sections
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into large chunks
  • 1 cup cantaloupe or honeydew melon chunks
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, julienned, for garnish

For the syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Directions

Combine all of the fruit in a large attractive serving bowl. Refrigerate.

For the syrup:

Bring the water to a boil, add the sugar and then the mint. Boil until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.

Strain through a colander into a bowl. Let the syrup cool.

Gently combine the cooled syrup with the fruit just before serving.

Garnish with mint and serve immediately.

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Wine Soaked Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 3/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 2 cups rosé wine
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, tops removed and halved
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • Mascarpone cheese for garnish

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, Grand Marnier and both wines. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Next, add in all of the fruit, making sure that all the pieces are submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve:

Use a slotted spoon to remove the wine soaked fruit to individual dessert bowls. Top with a dollop of mascarpone cheese and serve.

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Basil Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (4 cups)
  • 3 cups seedless green grapes, halved
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Directions

In a large bowl combine the watermelon, grapes, blueberries and basil.

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and honey and drizzle over the fruit. Stir gently to coat.

Cover and chill for up to 8 hours.

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Melon, Berry and Cheese Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced preserved lemon peel or lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 honeydew melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cantaloupe melon (about 1 1/4 pounds)—halved, cut into wedges, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, parmigiano-reggiano or feta cheese, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tablespoons snipped chives

Directions

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, preserved lemon, crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the melon slices and blackberries on a large serving platter.

Drizzle the dressing over the fruit. Garnish the salad with cheese, snipped chives and serve.

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Red Fruit Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 pound seedless red grapes, cut in half
  • 1 pound strawberries, cored and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Mint for garnish, optional

Directions

Combine the fruit in a large bowl.

Toast the coriander seeds until fragrant in a dry skillet, then crush in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until finely ground. Work the sugar into the coriander one tablespoon at a time.

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the fruit along with the lemon zest and toss gently with your hands. Season with the lemon juice.

Set aside for at least ten minutes or even overnight before serving.

Add mint if you like it before serving.


saladrutcover

Although the ancient Greeks and Romans did not use the word “salad,” they enjoyed a variety of dishes with raw vegetables dressed with vinegar, oil and herbs. Pliny the Elder, in Natural History, for instance, reported that salads (acetaria) were composed of those garden products that “needed no fire for cooking and saved fuel, and which were a resource to store and always ready” (Natural History, XIX, 58). They were easy to digest and were not calculated to overload the senses or stimulate the appetite.

The food writer, Marcus Apicius, of the first century C.E. offered several salad recipes, some of which were unusual. His recipe for bread salad:

Cover the bottom of a large salad bowl with bread, then add layers of sliced chicken, more bread, sweetbreads, shredded cheese, pine nuts or almonds, cucumber slices, finely chopped onions, then finish with another layer of bread. A dressing made of celery seed, pennyroyal, mint, ginger, coriander, raisins, honey, vinegar, olive oil and white wine is poured over the salad. 

Another dressing Apicius used on lettuce was a cheese sauce that included pepper, lovage, dried mint, pine nuts, raisins, dates, sweet cheese, honey, vinegar, garum (fish sauce), oil, wine and other ingredients.

Other Roman salads were similar to present-day ones, such as lettuce and cucumbers or raw endive dressed with garum (fermented fish sauce), olive oil, chopped onion and vinegar or a dressing of honey, vinegar and olive oil. Roman salad dressings eventually became more complex. Apicius gave a recipe for one containing ginger, rue (herb), dates, pepper, honey, cumin and vinegar.

With the fall of Rome, salads were less important in western Europe, although raw vegetables and fruit were eaten on fast days and as medicinal correctives. In his 1699 book, Acetaria: A Discourse on Sallets, John Evelyn attempted with little success to encourage his fellow Britons to eat fresh salad greens. Mary, Queen of Scots, ate boiled celery root over greens covered with creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and slices of hard-boiled eggs.

The United States popularized mixed greens salads in the late 19th century. Several other regions of the world adopted salads throughout the second half of the 20th century. From Europe and the Americas to China, Japan and Australia, salads are sold in supermarkets, at restaurants and at fast food chains. In the US market, restaurants will often have a “Salad Bar” laid out with salad-making ingredients, which the customers will use to put together their individual salad.

While we may not want to make Apicius’ salad, adding some different ingredients can bring new life to your old salad.

saladrut1

Insalata Nizzarda – Italian Version of Nicoise Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed
  • Two 7 oz jars or cans of tuna in olive oil, drained and the oil reserved
  • 4 salted anchovy fillets, halved lengthwise
  • 3 ripe plum, cores removed, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup pitted green or black olives
  • 4 cups arugula
  • Extra virgin olive oil added to drained tuna oil to equal 6 tablespoons
  • 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a medium pan of water to a boil, add the eggs, and boil for 10 minutes, drain and cool in cold water.

Drain the oil from the tuna and add enough olive oil, if needed, to the tuna oil to measure 6 tablespoons. Break the tuna into chunks or coarse flakes.

Whisk the tuna oil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and the capers in a large deep salad bowl, one that gives you enough room for tossing once you have layered all the ingredients.

Add the tuna to the dressing and turn to coat everything. Lay the anchovy fillets on top, then the tomatoes and the olives.

Pile the arugula on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place.

To serve, shell and quarter the eggs. Gently turn the salad over a couple of times and arrange the eggs on top.

saladrut2

Pea Salad

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups shelled fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 slices crusty bread, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups fresh torn lettuce leaves
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Directions

If using frozen peas just defrost them. Do not boil.

Boil fresh peas 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk well.

Cook bacon until crispy. Remove from the pan. Toss bread cubes in drippings and cook until crispy.

Combine peas, lettuce, vinaigrette and bread cubes. Top with cheese.

saladrut3

Strawberry Salad with Pine Nuts and Avocado

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado, preferably Hass variety, peeled, pitted and diced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup (heaping) strawberries, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, walnut oil or hazelnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Directions

Combine avocado with lemon juice in a large nonreactive bowl. Add berries, oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper and combine well. Place arugula on a serving plate. Top with avocado mixture and pine nuts. Serve.

saladrut4

Spinach, Grape and Feta Salad

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup red grapes, cut into halves
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sliced, skin-on almonds, toasted
  • 2 green onions (light green and dark green parts only), finely chopped

Directions

Whisk mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil; add salt and pepper.

Toss spinach, grapes, feta, almonds and green onions in a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad, toss to combine and serve.

saladrut5

Chicken Salad with Zucchini and Pine Nuts

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 3-by-1/2-inch sticks
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby arugula leaves

Directions

In a large nonreactive bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the garlic, oregano, lemon zest, half of the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the zucchini and cherries and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow glass or ceramic dish, combine the minced shallot with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining lemon juice. Add the chicken breast halves, turning to coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning a few times.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing a few times, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Remove the chicken breast halves from the marinade, scraping off the shallot. Slice the chicken on the bias 1 1/2 inches thick and season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chicken slices and cook over moderately high heat, turning a few times, until lightly browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow serving bowl and let cool slightly. Add the marinated zucchini, toasted pine nuts, arugula and toss lightly. Serve immediately

 


watermelon7
One of the most common ways that Italians show their pride is by wearing or displaying the national colors (red, white and green). National pride might also explain why the similarly colored watermelon is so popular in Italy and why it’s not uncommon to see street vendors selling wedges of watermelon during summer festivals and other celebrations.

Watermelon also plays a key role in many Italian holidays. During the Assumption Day celebrations – a major religious holiday observed throughout Italy – a watermelon feast is held in Venice to help “keep community ties.” In the Italian city of Villa Lagarina, legend has it that when a truckload of watermelon arrived in the 1920s, the townsfolk were astonished by the look of the fruit and placed the bounty in the fountain at the center of town. The tradition continues to this day with the “watermelon fountain” being filled each year during the three-day celebration.

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Watermelons are about 93% water, the highest water content of all fruits. They are also rich in potassium, one of the elements the body loses through sweating, as well as vitamins A and C. Watermelon’s sweetness is due in large part to some of the aromatic compounds it contains, yet they are low in calories. Watermelons originated in Tropical Africa and are in the same family that also includes cantaloupes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. They were first cultivated by the Egyptians thousands of years ago and arrived in Europe in the 1200s with the returning Crusaders.

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People quickly realized the value of this fruit during the summer months and, as they became known amongst the country folk, they picked up local names: Anguria in much of Northern Italy, Cocomero in Tuscany and Melone D’Acqua (water melon) in parts of the south, especially around Naples. Their popularity continues and the annual Italian watermelon crop is between 550 and 600,000 metric tons, which translates to about 100 million watermelons. They first appear in the Italian markets in May and the season lasts until the beginning of September.

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Growing watermelons can be complicated. Not only because there are three basic types: normal, hybrid and seedless but each type needs a different culture. Watermelons need healthy, warm soil. Once the seeds are pollinated and there is sufficient heat, a watermelon will mature in about four months. Another important consideration is the fact that watermelon vines appreciate sufficient water, but overwatering can be a problem if the vines are not grown on fast draining sandy soils. Probably the single most common modern cultural practice in watermelon culture is the use of black plastic to cover the raised beds on which the melon plants are planted. The black plastic heats up the soil and this is quite beneficial. Watermelon fruits produced on black plastic will usually produce earlier and more quickly and with sweeter fruits.

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In Italy, many growers now grow watermelons in polytunnels – a tunnel made of polyethylene, usually semi-circular, square or elongated in shape. The tunnels significantly improve the speed of growth and sweetness of the fruits, as well as protecting the fruits from physical damage. Growers who use polytunnels are almost obligated to hand-pollinate, just because attracting enough bees inside the tunnels is a difficult task.

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Italian Watermelon Ice

Makes about 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3-pound piece chilled watermelon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a small saucepan simmer the water with the sugar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the syrup to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir occasionally until the syrup until cold.

Discard the rind from watermelon and cut the fruit into 1-inch chunks. In a blender purée the watermelon chunks, syrup and lemon juice. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a 9-inch square metal baking pan, pressing hard on the solids in the sieve. Freeze the mixture, covered, until frozen, about 6 to 8 hours. The mixture can be left in the freezer for 2 days. Just before serving, scrape the watermelon ice with a fork to lighten texture and break up ice crystals. Serve in the traditional paper cups.

watermelon3

Watermelon Smoothie

2 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups watermelon cubes
  • 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 2 pinches ground cardamom

Directions

Combine the ingredients in a blender and purée. Serve immediately.

watermelon4

Watermelon Salad with Hot Pepper and Basil

Ingredients

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups watermelon chunks
  • 3/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup seedless grapes, quartered
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced hot chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow the flavors to blend before serving.

watermelon8

Grilled Chicken Topped with Watermelon Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 medium-sized chicken breasts
  • 1/2 small watermelon, cut into large cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 Lemon, zested
  • 4 tomatoes, diced into large pieces
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
  • Half of a small eggplant, peeled and sliced
  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the grill
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat an outdoor or indoor grill. Brush with olive oil. Brush the chicken and eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken on each side for 5-6 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees F. Remove chicken to a clean plate to cool. Cook the eggplant about 2 minutes on each side, remove to a cutting board and cut into small dice.

Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, then add the diced eggplant, paprika, cumin and lemon zest. Cook for another minute.

Remove to a large bowl and add the fresh tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes and mix gently. Stir in the parsley leaves, watermelon and feta.

Cut chicken breast into thin slices and place on individual plates. Evenly divide the tomato watermelon salad between the plates.

watermelon9

Grilled Tuna with Watermelon Salsa

2 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 5 ounce fresh or frozen tuna steaks, cut 3/4- to 1-inch thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lime peel
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chopped seeded watermelon
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow or orange sweet bell pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons snipped fresh mint
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Directions

Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag set in a shallow dish. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the ground oregano, the lime peel, lime juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper and the salt. Pour over the fish in the bag; turn to coat fish. Seal bag. Marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes, turning bag occasionally.

For the salsa:

In a small bowl, combine the chopped watermelon, bell pepper, green onion, mint and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Drain fish, discarding marinade.

For a charcoal grill, grill fish on the greased rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 6 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, gently turning once halfway through grilling. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place fish on the greased grill rack over  direct heat. Cover and grill as above.)

Serve fish topped with watermelon mixture. If desired, serve with lime wedges.


Da-Vinci

Self-portrait red chalk on paper.

Born out-of-wedlock to Piero da Vinci and Caterina in a region of Florence, Leonardo received his early education in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his working life was spent in the service of Ludovico in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice and he spent his last years in France at the home awarded him by Francis I. Little is known about Leonardo’s early life. He spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, then in 1457 he went to live in the household of his father in the small town of Vinci. His father had married a woman named Albiera, who loved Leonardo but she died young. When Leonardo was sixteen his father married again, but it was not until his third and fourth marriages that Piero produced legitimate heirs.

Leonardo was and is renowned primarily as a great painter. Among his works the Mona Lisa is his most famous and The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time. Leonardo’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the Euro coin, textbooks and T-shirts. Only fifteen of his paintings have survived over time together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams and his thoughts on the nature of painting.

Leonardo was also revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a tank, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, the double hull and a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, were manufactured during his time. He made important discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, optic, and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on later science.

Milan was once filled with canals and they were used to ship rice to the outer territories and bring marble from the lake quarries into the city center. Canals were its lifeline and linked the city to everywhere else. Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, invited Leonardo da Vinci to be the state’s war, arms and engineering consultant for 20 years. While Milan’s canal system existed as early as the 12th century, da Vinci took it upon himself to improve its locks, which at the time were of the older ‘portcullis’ or ‘blade’ type that required two men and enormous amounts of effort to operate. Da Vinci came up with the miter gate (see drawing below) which works against the natural pressure of the water, so that only one person is needed to easily swing the doors open or closed. Da Vinci’s invention (two doors that meet at a 45 degree angle, pointing upstream, with a smaller gated culvert for flow) is still in use today. All the massive locks on the Panama and Suez canals, for example, use miter locks.

davinci 1

Leonardo worked in Milan from 1482 until 1499. He was commissioned to paint the Virgin of the Rocks for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception and The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In the spring of 1485, Leonardo travelled to Hungary on behalf of Ludovico to meet Matthias Corvinus, for whom he is believed to have painted the Holy Family. Leonardo was employed on many different projects for Ludovico, including the preparation of floats and pageants for special occasions, designs for a dome for a Milan Cathedral and a model for a huge equestrian monument.

At the start of the Second Italian War in 1499, the invading French troops overthrew Ludovico Sforza and Leonardo with his assistant, Salai, and a friend, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, fled Milan for Venice where he was employed as a military architect and engineer, devising methods to defend the city from naval attack. In 1500, he and his household were guests of the Servite monks at the monastery of Santissima Annunziata in Florence and were provided with a workshop, where Leonardo created The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, a work that won such admiration that men and women traveled long distances to see it. In 1502 Leonardo entered the service of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, acting as a military architect and engineer, travelling throughout Italy with his patron.

Despite the recent awareness and admiration of Leonardo as a scientist and inventor, for the better part of four hundred years his fame rested on his achievements as a painter and on a handful of works, either authenticated or attributed to him that have been regarded as among the masterpieces. These paintings are famous for a variety of qualities which have been much imitated by students and discussed at great length by admirers and critics. Among the qualities that make Leonardo’s work unique are the innovative techniques which he used in laying on the paint; his detailed knowledge of anatomy, light, botany and geology; his interest in physiognomy and the way in which humans register emotion in expression and gesture; his innovative use of the human form in figurative composition and his use of the subtle gradation of tone. All these qualities come together in his most famous painted works, The Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and The Virgin of the Rocks.

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The continued admiration that Leonardo commands from painters, critics and historians is reflected in many other written tributes. Baldassare Castiglione, author of Il Cortegiano (“The Courtier”), wrote in 1528: “… Another of the greatest painters in this world looks down on this art in which he is unequalled …”, while the biographer Anonimo Gaddiano wrote, c. 1540: “His genius was so rare and universal that it can be said that nature worked a miracle on his behalf.” The interest in Leonardo’s genius has continued unabated; experts study and translate his writings, analyse his paintings using scientific techniques, argue over attributions and search for works which have been recorded but never found. Liana Bortolon, writing in 1967, said: “Because of the multiplicity of interests that spurred him to pursue every field of knowledge … Leonardo can be considered, quite rightly, to have been the universal genius par excellence, and with all the disquieting overtones inherent in that term. Man is as uncomfortable today, faced with a genius, as he was in the 16th century. Five centuries have passed, yet we still view Leonardo with awe.”

The Cuisine of Milan

Like most cities in Italy, Milan and its surrounding area has its own regional cuisine, which uses more rice than pasta and butter instead of oil. Milanese cuisine includes “cotoletta alla milanese”, a breaded veal (pork and turkey can be used) cutlet pan-fried in butter. Other typical dishes are cassoeula (stewed pork rib chops and sausage with Savoy cabbage), ossobuco (stewed veal shank with gremolata), risotto alla milanese (with saffron and beef marrow), busecca (stewed tripe with beans) and brasato (stewed beef or pork with wine and potatoes). Season-related pastries include chiacchiere (flat fritters dusted with sugar) and tortelli (fried spherical cookies) for Carnival, colomba (glazed cake shaped as a dove) for Easter, pane dei morti (“Deads’ Day bread”, cookies flavored with cinnamon) for All Soul’s Day and panettone for Christmas. The salame milano, a salami with a very fine grain, is widespread throughout Italy. The best known Milanese cheese is gorgonzola from the namesake town nearby.

davinci 10

Walnut Gorgonzola Crostini

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces gorgonzola, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 20 fresh sage leaves, washed and patted dry
  • Olive oil
  • 1 ciabatta loaf, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • Kosher salt or fine sea salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup red grapes, sliced in half
  • 1 large pear, sliced thin

Directions

Combine gorgonzola, cream, walnuts and Parmesan in a medium-sized bowl. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon until a creamy spread forms.

Pour olive oil into a heavy saute pan, about a 1/4 inch full. Heat over medium high heat, but not smoking.

Place sage leaves in oil and fry on each side about two to three minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.

Sprinkle the sage lightly with salt. Repeat until all sage leaves have been fried. Once cooled, crumble the leaves.  Save the oil for cooking other foods.

Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Place ciabatta slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.

Slice garlic in half. Rub each slice of crostini with garlic. Spread a layer of gorgonzola walnut mixture on to each crostini. Garnish with grape halves and pear slices.

Sprinkle the top of each crostini with fried sage leaves and serve.

Gorgonzola walnut mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.

davinci 7

Brasato

Beef

  • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Italian dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3 cups water

Potatoes and carrots

  • 2 1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots

Equipment: a wide 6-to 8-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid
Accompaniment: crusty bread

For the beef:

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Heat butter or oil in the pot over medium heat until it melted, then brown meat, without crowding, in 3 batches, turning, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.

Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 12 minutes. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to the cleared area and cook paste, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir into vegetables. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, bay leaves and thyme and boil until wine is reduced by about two-thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add broth to pot along with water, beef and any juices from the platter and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in the oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

For the potatoes and carrots:

While the beef braises, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Slice carrots diagonally into 1-inch pieces.
Add potatoes and carrots to the stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer in the oven, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 40 minutes more.

davinci 8

Biscottini di Milan

If you have bread flour, it will be perfect here. Since it’s denser than white flour, you’ll need less volume — 4 cups minus a tablespoon — for 500 g.

Ingredients

  • 4 1/5 cups (500 g) unbleached white flour or bread flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, broken up into bits
  • 4 egg yolks
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Directions

Combine the flour and the sugar on a pastry board, make a mound and scoop a well into it. Drop the yolks and the water into the well together with the butter and the zest and work the dough until it is smooth and homogeneous.

Roll the dough out into a moderately thick (1/4-inch or 1/2-cm) sheet and cut it into rounds using a round cookie cutter or into squares/rectangles with a sharp knife.

Put the cookies on greased and floured cookie sheets and bake them in a 350 degrees F (170 C) oven until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

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